Sermons written by Pastor Ickert

All Saints Sunday (2013)

Luke 6:20-31

On All Saints the church remembers the lives and celebrates the contributions of the faithful who have gone before us. Later in our service we shall read the names of all those for whom we conducted a funeral or memorial service in the past year; and this year we shall also include a couple of names of those recently departed during the past year, who played key leadership roles in the life of this congregation.

Read more: All Saints Sunday (2013)

Reformation Sunday (2013)

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Today we commemorate the Reformation, the start of which in the 16th century is attributed to the theological stirrings, questions and criticisms of Martin Luther. It caused profound and lasting changes in church and state. Martin Luther and others were advocates of church reform that also led to fundamental social, political, economic, and educational reforms. On the one hand, the Reformation was a gift that provoked a new and in some ways a more profound exploration of and reflection on the meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the core belief and proclamation of the church. But it also created deep divides that resulted in cruel and bloody conflict.

Today the word, "reform" is bandied about a lot. It is often used to refer to the alleged changes needed to politics, economic life, and social conventions. But as I read the situation, these "reforms" seem more to be about con-forming, getting into line with prevailing systems, ideas, mores, policies, and power structures, the very opposite of what the 16th century reformers of the church were advocating.

Read more: Reformation Sunday (2013)

Pentecost 18 (2013)

Luke 16:1-13

The great 20th century theologian Karl Barth famously reflected on our gospel from Luke by describing one of his weekend experiences. On a Saturday night he attended a variety show that he described as "perfect in all its items," a show that was executed with what he called "a real righteousness of works." He was impressed not only by how entertaining it was, but mainly by how well it was organized and performed. The next morning he went to church. His experience there, sad to say, was quite different. He had to suffer through what he called "an extremely poor sermon, a real piece of theological bungling." Barth, who was not known to mince words, then offered the following observation: "Vengeance is swift if...we think that we need not do our best in the same modest but definite sense in which this is almost taken for granted by the children of the world." The children of light, who have so much to offer that is of real and lasting value should be just as, if not more, clever and accomplished in what they do, as the children of this world are in the things they do.

Read more: Pentecost 18 (2013)

Pentecost 16 (2013)

Deuteronomy 30: 15-20

No matter our age or station in life or whatever circumstance that may be staring us in the face at any given moment, we must make certain choices. There's no avoiding it. Even refusing to take a decision is to take a decision. There is no escaping the pressure to decide. Life is about the decisions we must take, whether we want to or not; and those decisions can have serious, even monumental and life-altering consequences, for ourselves, our families, and possibly given the kind of responsibilities we may have and the kind of work we do, consequences for many others besides ourselves. Our decisions affect the state of the environment and determine war and peace. The stakes related to the decisions we take are very high indeed.

So choose and decide we must, and those choices and decisions are never easy. While some of our decisions are clear and obvious from a vantage point in the future when we can look back at them, they are seldom so obvious in the moment. I may have to wait a long time to learn if the decision I took earlier was the right one.

Read more: Pentecost 16 (2013)

Pentecost 12 (2013)

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Mark Twain is famous for having quipped, "Faith is believing what you know ain't so." Mark Twain might have summarized well what many people in his own generation and many people in our generation as well think about faith, especially those in both generations who preferred or prefer not to think much about faith at all, but is Mark Twain's famous definition an adequate description of how the Bible deals with faith? Did Abraham, the example of faith as described to us today, who in fact is the primary example of faith for the entire Christian tradition that regards him as "the father of faith,"—did Abraham actually believe what he reckoned was not so? Would Abraham have believed something he regarded as untrue? Who in the world would do that? Consciously believing something that is untrue is crazy or illogical. Would anyone in his right mind put his faith in something that is manifestly untrue?

Read more: Pentecost 12 (2013)