Blog

Luke 9 Transfiguration - March 3, 2019

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras

Once upon a time, an Orthodox Romanian monk was trying to find God. But he could not find God. One day he realized “I must find myself!” He tried to find himself in prayers, in work, in books, but he could not. After a while, he said: “I must find my neighbor!” At that moment he found all three. He found God and himself by looking for his neighbor.

The three disciples Peter and John and James encountered Jesus as a divine person. They found God standing before them. They were able to glimpse his divinity. The transfiguration story concludes the epiphany season by revealing the divinity of Jesus Christ and calling us to listen to him. The three disciples saw Jesus’ glory. In the Old Testament, glory refers to the presence of God. The evangelist Luke employs the Greek term. δόξαν, doxan, “glory.” The Septuagint or the Greek translation of the Old Testament doxan is equivalent to יְהוָה כְּבוד kavod God. The apostle Peter in his second letter gives us a testimony about the divinity of Jesus.

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:17-18)

 

Besides the glory of Jesus, the apostle Peter witnesses Jesus' honor and majesty. These three terms are ascribed to God in the Old Testament and to the kingly majesty of the Messiah. Honor and glory and majesty belong to Christ. His honor refers to his exalted status, and his glory and majesty refer to the splendor of his outward appearance.

Moses and Elijah also appeared in glorious splendor δόξῃ to talk with Jesus about his departure. But Jesus has a higher status than both of them. Luke reports a cloud appeared and covered the apostles. “A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him” (v. 35). In the book of Exodus, cloud refers to the presence of God. A cloud covered the Mt. Sinai when God came down to give Moses the 10 Commandments (Exodus 24). Elijah also encountered God on the same mountain (1 Kings 19:11-13). The evangelist Luke and the apostle Peter attribute to Jesus the same honor, glory, and majesty that belong to God the Father. Scholar Howard McPhee explains the purpose of the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ.

The transfiguration pointed to the future glory of the incarnate Son in terms of his whole person, both his divinity and his humanity. Just as the Son’s taking the form of a servant veiled his deity, the glorification of his humanity unveils and displays his deity and majestic splendour, for his glorified humanity is designed for that purpose. The transfiguration glory is Jesus’ hope and proclaims hope for perishing sinners, for attached by faith to the exalted Jesus. “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:43).[1]

Transfiguration was common events in antiquity. Greek and Roman gods transfigured. Myths about goddess Demeter and Athena and god Zeus’s transfiguration confirm their divinity. Usually, these gods disappeared after their transfiguration. But Jesus Christ’s transfiguration is not a myth as the apostle Peter emphasizes. After his transfiguration, Jesus Christ remained with his disciples and went down the mountain to heal a sick boy.

Jesus Christ, our Lord, is with us and is walking among us. You can find him not at the top of the mountains because he did not remain there. He came down to continue to take care of us. Jesus is glorified in each one of us, and he gives us the hope that we will be glorified just like him. We find and see Jesus every day even though we do not see him in the same way that Peter, John, and James did.

You can recognize the face of Christ in the face of your neighbors. Jesus gives you the opportunity to find and see him face to face when you take care of your neighbor. Jesus calls us to exhibit the grace of God, with which we have been blessed, to all of those around us. When you do so, you will find the glorious splendor of Jesus Christ in your life. You will be able to see your neighbor in the same way Jesus sees them. Take a moment to look at each other's faces. What do you see? I hope you see the face of Jesus Christ shining in your neighbor’s face.

 

[1]Howard McPhee, “The Transfiguration of Jesus Matthew 17:1-8 - Mark 9:1-8 - Luke 9:28-36 In Defense of Jesus’ Humanity,” (July 20, 2015), https://www.academia.edu/14259777/The_Transfiguration_of_Jesus

 

NAOMI Monthly Meetings

As Immanuel's Representative for NAOMI, I'm happy to announce that NAOMI will start offering bi-monthly meetings for its members and all meetings will take place right here at Immanuel. Immanuel is a member of NAOMI.

NAOMI is a faith-based, values-based organization that works for racial and economic equity, focusing especially on the issues that impact the most vulnerable members of our community. We are united based on shared values of equality, human dignity and mercy. We work towards social justice for all community members and some of our platforms include; childhood poverty, treatment instead of prison, climate change, immigration reform, tolerance & respect for our citizens of color and transit issues for the disabled.

Our first meeting will be on Tuesday, March 12th, offering two different meeting times. A lunch meeting from 11:30 to 1 pm (bring your own Brown Bag lunch), and an evening meeting from 7 to 8:30 pm. Both meetings will be downstairs in Fellowship Hall. Come and learn about Naomi. We will also be discussing our bus trip to Madison on March 26th to meet with legislators and discuss topics important to both our community and citizens. For more information, contact Sally Scinto-Reinertson.

Lenten Bible Study

Lenten Bible Study: We are going to study the Passion of Jesus Christ and cover the following topics:

  • March 10 - The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus. Was Jesus a Roman Hoax to Trick the Jews?
  • March 24 - The Passion of Christ and anti-Semitism (John 19:15; Matthew 27:25)
  • April 14 - Did the Passion Week of Jesus last a week?

The Bible study starts at 10:45am in Emmaus Room.

Fat Sunday

Sunday - March, 3, 2019

We are having Fat Sunday this year instead of Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday falls on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It is called Fat Tuesday because Tuesday is the last day to enjoy all the meaty and fatty delicacies you can muster up.

Pastor Niveen invites you to join her after the service on Sunday, March 3 to enjoy a delicious serving of pancakes. Are there any pancakes chefs out there? If anyone would like to volunteer to cook pancakes, please let the church office know.

Preparing for Lent 2019

Lent 2019 The theme for Lent is “Perfect Love Casts Out Fear”. The scripture readings each week will explore dimensions of God’s love for us and the love of Christ we share. ILC will be participating in a round robin.

Wednesday services will be at 1:00 pm in the sanctuary and 6:00 pm in the chapel.

  • March 13 - Erik Olson First English Lutheran Church
  • March 20 - Jen Dahle St. Stephen Lutheran Church
  • March 27 - Phil Bogen Trinity Lutheran Church/St. Peter
  • April 3 - Dan Sire St. John Lutheran Church
  • April 10 - Niveen Sarras Immanuel Lutheran Church

Holy Week services will be held in the sanctuary:

  • April 14 - 9:00 am Palm Sunday
  • April 18 - 6:00 pm: Maundy Thursday with washing of hands or feet, Communion
  • April 19 - 1:30 pm: Good Friday
  • April 20 - 6:00 pm: Easter Vigil, Communion
  • April 21 - 9:00 am: Easter, Communion

Sermon February 17, 2019 - Luke 6 Beatitudes and Martyrdom

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras

Martyrdom and sainthood are not an everyday language for us Lutherans. We believe that all of us are sinners and saints. Our Lutheran theology does not exclude any Christian from sainthood. We do not call Martin Luther, Saint Luther, but we have martyrs in our history. For instance, Johann Esch and Heinrich Voes were the first two Lutheran martyrs were executed for their adherence to reformation. They were burned at the stake in Brussels on 1 July 1523. Sir Patrick Hamilton was also burned at the stake on 29 February 1528. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by hanging on 9 April 1945 at the hand of the Nazi. These four men and I believe we have more martyrs suffered because of their faith in Christ Jesus and their commitment to the gospel. You might feel pity for them because they underwent brutal execution, but the gospel of Luke calls them blessed.

 

The word blessed in ancient Greek is “Makarios” it was used in the three ways.

“The ‘blessed’ ones lived in a higher plane than the rest of us. They were gods. They were humans who had gone to the world of the gods. They were the wealthy, upper crust. They were those with many possessions. The blessed were those people and beings who lived above the normal cares, problems, and worries of normal people.”[1]

 

Jesus reversed the usage of Makarios and employed it to refer to the disadvantaged. According to Jesus, those who are blessed are not the wealthy or the dead, or gods but those who endure persecution, including physical, mental, and social ramifications.

 

Let us imagine the scene of Luke chapter 6. The “disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed” (vs. 17-18). Jesus looks at his disciples whom he has chosen earlier in this chapter and calls them blessed, and the crowd was witnesses.

 

Jesus uses the second person rather than the third person throughout his beatitude. The beatitudes are concerned about the present time of the disciples and the crowd. The disciples possess the Kingdome now. It is not a future event, but it is present now. To you now is the kingdom of God.

 

“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.

 

The disciples are blessed because they left everything and followed Jesus. “Now they are living in want and privation, the poorest of the poor, the sorest afflicted, and the hungriest of the hungry. They have only him, and with him they have nothing, literally.”[2]

Luke says “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God,”

But

Matthew says “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

 

We might think that the evangelist Luke might refer to the economically impoverished person whereas the "poor in spirit" in Matthew's gospel refers to the pious person. The answer is no. Both Luke and Matthew are talking about pious poor who for the sake of Jesus Christ lost everything.

Social and economic oppression are attendant to a faith commitment. Jesus wanted his followers to know that they were getting into a situation of oppression for the duration of their earthly sojourn; he was not instructing them on how to get out of oppression. The only way out is up.[3]

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets (v. 23).

I summarize the beatitudes in one statement: following Jesus Christ means suffering. The world teaches us that prosperity, success, and peace are signs of God’s blessing, but Jesus teaches us that God blesses those who become destitute, hungry, bearer of sorrow, and persecuted on account of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.

 

The Lutheran martyrs like Esch, Voes, Hamilton, and Bonhoeffer are blessed because they renounced the world and all its false promises to follow Jesus. They faced execution with courage and faith. Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his prison in Tegel, Germany, a few months before his execution, he wrote a hymn “By Gracious Powers” that expresses his trust and total submission to Jesus Christ, despite his torment. We are going to sing his hymn shortly.

I like to end with the testimony of a camp doctor H. Fischer-Hüllstrung, who witnessed Bonhoeffer's execution.

"The prisoners … were taken from their cells, and the verdicts of court martial read out to them. Through the half-open door in one room of the huts, I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued in a few seconds. In the almost 50 years that I have worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God."[4]

 

[1] Brian P. Stoffregen, “The History Of The Word 'Makarios' ('BLESSED'),” Cross Marks Christian resources, accessed February 15, 2019, http://www.crossmarks.com/brian/allsaintb.htm; Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Abridged in One Volume, s.v. “Makarios.”

 

[2] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship (SCM Classics). Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd. Kindle Edition. 1485.

 

[3] Gary T. Meadors, “The 'Poor' In The Beatitudes Of Matthew And Luke,” Grace Theological Journal 6, no. 2 (1985): 315, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6481/11318032e0fb5e0436e23716486d8b2ecb51.pdf

[4] H. Fischer-Hüllstrung, Bericht aus Flossenbürg, in: W. Zimmermann,(Hg.), Begegnungen mit Dietrich Bonhoeffer, München 1964, S. 170-171.

Weekly Bulletins

You'll find a list of current and past Worship Bulletins here. Click on a date below to view the bulletin for that particular worship gathering. If there is a specific bulletin you would like to have but do not see it here, please contact the Administrative Assistant in the Church Office.
 

Sermon February 10, 2019 - Isaiah 6 Costly Calling

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras
Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras

Isaiah 6 Costly Calling

I was worshiping at that immaculate of conception Catholic Church in Bethlehem when I ‎strongly felt the Lord calling me to the ministry of word and sacrament. The moment the priest ‎concentrated the Holy Communion was the moment God called me. My journey to fulfill God’s ‎call was tough and challenging. It took me almost 16 years to become a pastor. My Palestinian ‎and Egyptian friends and professors did not believe that God calls a woman to be a pastor. ‎Coming to the United States was not easier. I am still following God’s call, and I learned no ‎matter what God’s call is, it will always be challenging.

After the death of King Uzziah, the ‎Judeans were under kingship transition and experienced a military crisis. The Assyrian Empire ‎threatened to invade Judea. At the time of Isaiah 6, the Assyrians were militarily advanced and ‎had a strong economy‎. “In contrast, Jerusalem was a city with hastily erected defenses filled with refugees from the countryside and other captured cities.[1]

God called Isaiah in a very critical moment in the life of Juda. The Judeans were afraid of the Assyrians. They expected invasion at any moment. Unlike my call, Isaiah’s call was dramatic. He saw the heavenly court and heard the seraphim singing in Hebrew:

קָדֹ֛ושׁ קָדֹ֖ושׁ יְהוָ֣ה צְבָאֹ֑ות מְלֹ֥א כָל־הָאָ֖רֶץ כְּבֹודֹֽו קָדֹ֛ושׁ

“Kadosh kadosh kadosh adonai tseva'ot. Melo kol ha'aretz k'vodo.”

 

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

 

We sing this hymn when we celebrate the Holy Communion. We declare that God is holy and ‎powerful and mighty. The Hebrew text describes God as God of ‎צְבָאֹ֑ות , hosts. Have you ever ‎thought of the meaning of hosts or Sabaoth? It means army forces. God is the God of army forces. ‎The Judeans were afraid of Assyrian army forces, but Isaiah's vision emphasizes that God is the ‎God of the heavenly army forces that will defend Judah.‎

Isaiah accepted God’s call by saying “here I am, send me.” The seraphim purified his mouth with ‎a goal. Who were the Seraphim? We usually think that Seraphim have a human face and six ‎wings.

The seraphim are snakes (Num. 21:6) with wings. They are also fiery.‎

Isaiah followed God’s call by preaching the message of judgment on Judah if the Judeans do not ‎repent. Isaiah struggled with his people who rejected ‎his message. He is often called the naked prophet because God asked him to walk naked and ‎barefoot for three years as a symbol of the victory of the Assyrians over Egypt and Ethiopia, and ‎make all prisoners march into captivity naked and barefoot (Isaiah 20:3 - 4)! ‎

Isaiah was persecuted, but the Bible does not report his death. However, “The Talmud ‎‎[Yevamot 49b] says that he suffered martyrdom by being sawn in two under the orders of ‎Manasseh[2] To follow God’s call for your life is difficult. God calls each person for a special vocation: religious or nonreligious vocation. God calls you to be a teacher or nurse or plumber. Jesus still calling us to follow ‎him. To follow Jesus Christ means to suffer. Suffering is not limited to persecution or ‎martyrdom for the sake of Christ or have physical pain. Dietrich Bonhoeffer explains how suffering accompanies ‎Christ call to you: ‎

I have no doubt that when Christ calls a man [or a woman], he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time – death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call. [3]

 

The apostle Peter in his letter teaches that God calls us to suffer for doing good.

If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:20-21.

A staff accountant who refuses to commit fraud because of her/ his faith in Christ might suffer the ‎consequences of losing his/her job. A lawyer who wants to be faithful despite facing ‎professional and governmental regulations that may conflict with the requirements of his or her ‎faith may struggle and suffering for the sake of Christ. Christian parents and grandparents are fearful and concerned that they cannot properly rear their children to trust Christ in this lawless and wicked age. Their fear and concern can make them suffer. ‎They are suffering for Christ. Resisting evil and doing good for Christ can make you suffer. ‎

Many people in the world believe in Jesus Christ, The Son of God, but not all Christians are his ‎disciples. Not all Christians are willing to follow God’s call for their lives. Not every Christian ‎response to God as Isaiah did by saying “here I am, send me,” or like Peter, James and John who left ‎everything and followed Jesus. Discipleship is difficult and tough. Many Christians are not ‎willing to pay the price of discipleship. Being the disciple of Christ means you are called to ‎suffer. I will end with a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:‎

“Salvation is free, but discipleship can cost you your life.”

 

[1] Roger Nam, “Commentary On Isaiah 6: 1-8,” Working Preacher, November 13, 2016, https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2989.

[2] John F A. Sawyer, The Fifth Gospel: Isaiah in the History of Christianity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 47.

[3] Bonhoeffer,. The Cost of Discipleship (SCM Classics) (Kindle Locations 1279-1281). Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd. Kindle Edition.

 

Sermon January 13, 2019: Water

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras
Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras
Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras

Water is very precious. Who can live without water? Imagine that you don’t have access to water ‎for two or three months. Israelis deny Palestinians an equitable share of the shared water ‎resources. So, Palestinians end up living for a few months without water. They only buy water to ‎drink. People and countries fight over water. Countries that are enemies end up setting in one ‎room to talk. “In parts of Africa and the Middle East, water is contaminated…In California and ‎parts of the Middle East, water is scarce… In Ethiopia and Egypt, Florida and Georgia, water is ‎contested.” Water crisis divides nations but also unite them and bring even enemies together. ‎

The three states: Georgia, Florida, and Alabama struggle over access and control of their shared ‎waters. This problem forced their governors to talk to resolve the conflict. You heard about ‎California four-year drought. Lack of water created ecological and political water crisis and ‎conflict between southern and northern California. I lived in California in 2015, in a city called ‎Morgan Hill. The city imposed restrictions on water use. I could not have my garden. ‎

ELCA World Hunger published a video tells the story of a 14-year-old girl, DIKO Marie, in the ‎village of Niem, in the Central African Republic. DIKO Marie goes to the water source and fills ‎a 5-gallon bucket with water for the day. Fetching water is her daily work struggle. Let us watch ‎her story. ‎

How the story of DIKO Marie and water crisis help us to have a new understanding of our ‎baptism. How can our baptism help us to recognize water as a sacred gift instead of a commercial ‎commodity? ‎

Our faith story begins with water. The narratives of the creation, the flood, crossing the Red Sea ‎and the Jordan into the Promised Land, Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, the waters of eternal ‎life promised by Jesus are central to our faith. ‎

Baptism is a symbol of life and death. We immerse into Christ’s death, and we rise with him into ‎eternal life. As the apostle, Paul says, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into ‎death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we ‎too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). In our baptism, we meet life and death. Freshwater gives ‎life, but contaminated water brings death. In baptism, we become in contact with the vital element ‎for our lives. ‎

The water of baptism is not merely H2O, but it is a visible sign of an invisible Grace of God. ‎Baptism is not our work. It is not ours, but baptism is God's gift to us. We become children of ‎God through our baptism. We do not belong to ourselves, but God's owns us forever. “Water is a ‎sign and instrument of God’s saving work in the world. In multiple ways, baptism shows us that ‎water is not our commodity, but a vital gift of God. Therefore we should not protect and defend ‎water as if it belonged to us, but recognize that it is a gift for all.” ‎

Christian calling starts at our baptism. Jesus calls us to follow him and be his witnesses to the ‎world. “Baptism is a costly calling, not just a cultural rite.” Baptism turns our eyes to the world ‎water crisis and invites us to help our neighbor like Diko Marie to have access to fresh water. ‎baptism invites us to be in solidarity with wounded creation like contaminated water. ‎

God’s gift of water is for the whole world. It is for all God’s creatures. Water is not meant to be ‎treated as a commercial commodity or to serve our vested interest, but water intended for ‎the common good. Thousands of activists from 30 countries gathered in the winter of 2018 in Brazil for ‎the Alternative World Water Forum (FAMA). Their statement states that “We declare that the ‎waters are sacred beings. All waters are one water in permanent movement and transformation. ‎Water is a living entity and deserves to be respected.”‎

Water is God's gift, and it is sacred. I will leave you with a question to consider. What are some ‎ways you can reduce your water consumption? Have you thought to shut the water off while ‎brushing your teeth? Or to take a shower over a bath or to use eco-friendly instead of chemical ‎cleaning supplies? Think of my question. ‎

Monthly Church Newsletter

Read all about what's happening each month at Immanuel Lutheran Church. If there is a specific newsletter you would like to see, please contact Jackie at the Church Office.
 

 

Subscribe to our Digital Monthly Newsletter

* indicates required