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Sermon: Luke 13: 31-35 - March 17, 2019

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras

 

 

My parents love animals. They raised ducks, hens, roosters, cats, dogs, goats, and one donkey. It was hard for them to keep the ducks, hens, and roosters safe. They tried their best to keep the coop secure. But foxes found a way to attack the hens at the throat. My parents fed up with the foxes and decided not to continue raising poultry. In Middle Eastern culture, the fox is perceived as cunning, devious, and intelligent. No wonder, foxes made my parents stop raising poultry.

That Fox! Jesus called Herod. Some Pharisees told Jesus he had better hide, Herod was after him. Herod who wants to kill Jesus is called Herod Antipas. He is the same Herod who killed John the Baptist. Herod thought that John the Baptist came back from the dead. ‎ Luke tells us in chapter 9 that "Herod said, “John, I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see him [Jesus]. In chapter 13, Luke tells us that Herod wants to kill Jesus.

In response to Herod threat, Jesus gives two metaphors of animals—a fox and a hen. Our Lord calls Herod “that fox.” This statement is harsh and implies that he is a cunning and devious person. Jesus was attacking Herod verbally. Jesus determines to continue his ministry despite Herod threat.   He states that he will work “today and tomorrow, and on the third day, I [he] finish my [his] work” (v. 32).  Jesus was referring to his death and resurrection in Jerusalem. Because Jesus’ ministry is part of God's plan, Herod cannot kill him. Jesus also emphasizes the impossibility for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.

We can conclude that the purpose of Jesus calling Herod “that fox” is to tell him that he is like a fox who lacks great status and thus cannot carry out his threat.[1] Jesus enjoys greater status than Herod who represents the imperial power of Rome.

After Jesus called Herod “that fox”, he turned his face to Jerusalem and mourns the city. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! (v.34).” Jesus, like a mother, laments Jerusalem and its inhabitants. He does not mourn himself, but he laments over the tragedy of a lost opportunity in accepting him as the Messiah. Jesus’ lamentation indicates that he is fulfilling his destiny as a prophet. He will be killed in Jerusalem. In killing Jesus, Jerusalem, the holy city of God, turns against God’s mission. 

Jesus continues speaking for God, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (v. 34).”  Jesus relates himself to a mother hen who wants to protect her chicks under her wings, but her chicks reject their mother’s protection. Jesus draws upon the feminine image of a hen to reveal his motherly love. This metaphor implies that Jesus as a mother is willing to give his own life to save his children.

While Jesus refers to Herod as a fox, he refers to himself as a hen, which is about as far from a fox as you can get. Preacher Barbara Brown Taylor has captured the way Jesus felt when he mourned Jerusalem:

If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the depth of Jesus’ lament. All you can do is open your arms. You cannot make anyone walk into them. Meanwhile, this is the most vulnerable posture in the world—wings spread, breast exposed.[2]

After 2000 years, Jesus prophetic message still speaks to the church today. The church needs to choose between the fox and the hen. The church needs to decide whether to continue Christ mission or to fear the rules of this world. In other words, are we going to follow Christ to the cross? A fox will always threaten the church that accepts to be a hen. The church history proves that the church of Jesus has encountered many foxes. But Jesus assures us that mother hen is not afraid of the fox; to the contrary, she is willing to fight for her children. This is the ultimate love of Jesus Christ. When we refuse to come under his protection, he will never give us up. Jesus Christ accepted his death on the cross even though Jerusalem rejected him. This story is important for us as we are walking on our Lenten journey. Jesus is determined to love you. No matter what you will face in your life, you are under Jesus’ maternal wings.

 

[1] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1997), 536.

[2] Barbara Brown Taylor, “As a Hen Gathers Her Brood,” The Christian Century, February 25, 1998, page 201.

Deuteronomy 26 - March 10, 2019

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras

In 2002, I went down to Egypt to study at Presbyterian seminary in Cairo. I had to escape the war in Palestine to continue my seminary education. My seminary promised to grant me a student visa upon my arrival. But the Egyptian government refused to grant me a visa because of my religious background. The immigration department gave me two weeks to leave Egypt. I asked the Palestinian Embassy to intervene, but the Egyptian government rejected their appeal. However, they made a deal with the Palestinian Embassy to keep my visa application pending until I finished my studies. I was unable to go back to Palestine because of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. As a result, I became an illegal immigrant in Egypt. I avoided any contact with the police. Deportation became my nightmare. One of my colleagues stole my money. Neither I was able to prove his sinful behavior to my seminary, nor I reported to the police because I was afraid of deportation. However, God blessed me in miraculous ways in Egypt. Jesus provided me everything I needed. God’s faithfulness followed me wherever I went. I have experienced God’s faithfulness that flows out of God unchanging nature and love for me.

 

In his final speech, Moses reminds the Israelites of God’s faithfulness to God’s promise to redeem them from their slavery in Egypt. To express their gratitude to God who brought them to the Promised Land, Moses commands them to celebrate the first harvest in June “by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the Lord your God has given you” (16:10 NRSV). “Now, in chapter 26, Moses provides the actual liturgy for that first-fruits celebration ritual.”[1]

 

Moses commands the Israelites to bring the first fruit of the gifted land to the altar. The fruit is not a gift to the temple, but it should be shared among the Levites, the oppressed, the afflicted resident aliens. The alien identity of Israel is the center of their faith. They always need to remember their alien identity in Egypt. Moses needs them to remind themselves of God’s faithfulness and steadfast love when they were oppressed and afflicted resident aliens in Egypt. He commands them to offer a liturgical recitation along with their first fruits. “The recitation is confession of faith similar in form to the Christian creeds, which are also structured as narratives.”[2]

Because the Israelites were oppressed and afflicted resident aliens in Egypt, Moses commanded them to sympathize with the resident aliens and the Levites by sharing the bounty of the land with them. The Levites were landless Israelite tribe. They did not inherit land because God was their portion. They were dedicated priests of God. The Israelites were obligated to take care of the Levites. They also needed to support the resident aliens among them. The Israelites shared a common story with the resident aliens because they were resident aliens in Egypt. An alien in Hebrew is (gēr); Scholar K. J. Tromp summarizes the use of gēr in the Old Testament as the following:

An alien (gēr) being, ‘a man who (alone or with his family) leaves village and tribe because of war, famine, epidemic, or blood guilt and seeks shelter and residence at another place, where his right of landed property, marriage, and taking part in jurisdiction, cult and war has been curtailed.[3]

 

All of us are immigrants to this country. All of us share a common story with the new coming immigrants. All of us resonate one way or another with the story of the immigrants. This Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent. We focus on fasting and meditation. We come to worship services on Sundays and Wednesdays to be fed spiritually and contemplate on the passion of Christ. But the question is, what do you do for your afflicted neighbor when you leave the church? What do you do for the resident alien in your neighborhood after you finish meditating on the word of God? How do you express your faith? Giving up food is not the only answer. The answer is to take care of those who are powerless and disadvantaged. The Levites and the resident aliens are all over our country. How do you share the love of Jesus Christ with them? The book of Deuteronomy reminds the Israelites and us that God acts on behalf of the disadvantaged and blesses them with abundance. But God also invites us who experienced hardship and redeemed by God to act on behalf of the disadvantaged in the same way that God has acted. Jesus is inviting us to bless the afflicted resident aliens and the marginalized with abundance. This is the kind of fasting that God enjoys. Let us become agents of Jesus Christ in the world by redeeming the vulnerable and blessing the marginalized among us.

 


Oppressed [1] William Yarchin, “Commentary On Deuteronomy 26: 1-11,” Working Preacher, accessed March 8, 2019, https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2761.

[2] Brian C. Jones, “Commentary On Deuteronomy 26: 1-11,” Working Preacher, accessed March 8, 2019, https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3989.

[3] K. J. Tromp, “Aliens and Strangers in the Old Testament,” Vox Reformata (2011): 23.

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

 

Pilgrimage to Peace Panel Presentation

April 1, 2019 - April 3, 2019
  • Monday April 1, 2019 - Immanuel Lutheran Church, 6:30pm
  • Tuesday April 2, 2019 - YWCA, 613 5th St, Wausau, 6:30pm
  • Wednesday April 3, 2019 - Holy Cross Clare Center, 1600 O'Day Street, 6:30pm

A Date for Your Calendar. Please reserve April 1st on your calendar - no fooling!  On that day Immanuel will be privileged to host a Pilgrimage to Peace panel presentation by the Churches for Middle East Peace CMEP). Wausau is one of three sites on their national spring tour.  The four panel members will be in the Wausau area April 1-3 and will be presenting to a variety of audiences. During the presentations, they will discuss realities affecting the Palestinian refugee community
and the importance of advocating for human rights in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and with refugees throughout the Middle East.  The occupation of the Palestinian territories impacts people living on all sides of the conflict, including both Israelis and Palestinians.

The panel features Suzann Mollner, Executive Director of Beirut and Beyond, a Palestinian refugee support organization, and Obada Shtaya, formerly of One Voice Movement, now with Zimam, empowering young Palestinian leaders.  CMEP Outreach Director, Sara Burback and Development Director, Alison Glick complete the panel.

The presentation will begin at 6:30 pm.  Following the presentation and discussion, a reception will be held in the Gathering Room. If there are individuals from Immanuel who might like to welcome those attending, assist with the reception or host the panel members for dinner prior to the presentation, please call and talk with Claudette Harring.  Sign up sheets will be available in the Northax.

Your interest is encouraged and your involvement will be welcomed and appreciated.

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 Jackie at the Church Office.