“A Fine Sabbatical Experience”
Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon on September 11, 2005, the first Sunday following his return from a three-month sabbatical. The gospel text is Matthew 18:32b-33.
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Resurrection People, I’m back! These three months of my sabbatical have been good for me mentally, spiritually and physically. I pray that the good Lord will permit my new burst of enthusiasm and learning to really benefit our ministry together at Resurrection.
Last week, Pastor Carol and I
1. What did I do on my sabbatical?
The focus of my sabbatical was on
the patriarch of Lutherans in
While you were worshipping here
on Sundays, I was worshipping at a number of congregations that were served in
some way by Muhlenberg. I read the
I also worshipped at some
congregations locally to see how they do it: Tabernacle and
My longest trip without Carol was
to the ELCA Assembly in
2. what did I learn that could be good for
Resurrection and myself?
· The congregations I visited are more similar than I might have imagined.
Most offer both traditional and contemporary liturgies; most put
all the liturgy in the bulletin like we do; the early service time in most
start at one of these times: 8:15 or 8:30; the attendance patterns are just the
same as ours in the summer.
· As a visitor, I was more impressed by what was happening in the congregation than what was happening up front. It mattered to me and
helped my worship that people were participating in the singing and listening
to the sermon. It really mattered to me after the service if people acknowledged me and greeted me.
Church finances are a constant concern of
congregations, especially in the summer.
Muhlenberg came from
I told the folks in some of the congregations in
where I led worship, “I serve a congregation that is just 16 years old. I am
most interested in how a congregation such as yours can exist for over 200
years, how you get through the hard times, where you get your strength and
resiliency…” A good number of folks shared their insights with me and I
plan to tell some of that in the month of October during the 10:00 Teaching
3. The heart of the Gospel
Pastor Carol and I spent 3 days
The word that came to us today out of the gospel lesson is the word “forgive.” Remember that in Jesus’ parable a slave owing a big debt to his master receives forgiveness of that debt. And then, that same slave does not forgive the debt of a fellow slave. So Jesus concludes that God the Father expects us to treat one another as we expect God to treat us.
The Catholic Church in Jesus’ day seemed to have made forgiveness a matter of business. “You want to get forgiveness from God?, just put some money in the box, say some Hail Marys, perform some deeds, and you will receive the forgiveness that God has entrusted to the church to give out as it sees fit.” The recovered message that Luther and the church reformers wanted to emphasize is this: “On the cross, Jesus has paid the price for the forgiveness of our sins. Now, how we respond to that good news is how we show our gratitude and thanks. The Church can’t charge for forgiveness. It is the Gracious Gift of our Loving God.” Our gracious forgiving of others is a demonstration that we appreciate the forgiveness that God extends so freely to us.
In the journals I read that one of the first things Henry Melchior Muhlenberg did upon arriving at his new congregations in Pennsylvania was make this very Lutheran announcement: from now on you will not be charged for receiving the sacraments of baptism and holy communion as pastors before me have done. When you and I receive the sacrament today, remember to give thanks for the God-inspired witness of the reformers who have gone before us.
I’ve selected “Ein Festerburg”
for the hymn of the day. The last time
that Pastor Carol and I sang “A Mighty Fortress” was in the