Blessing (Oct Newsletter)

by jpserrano on October 7, 2015 · 0 comments

Blessing Josh bird 10 2015

Since last year we’ve (Good Shepherd) done several blessings during our celebration of the liturgy on Sundays.  We’ve blessed bikes, chalk, backpacks, ashes, palms, people, and this month we are blessing our pets.  But, that’s not even the half what we could do.  The ELCA also publishes resources to bless new communion-ware, bells, organs, windows, paraments, vestments, houses, and more—there’s a lot of blessing going on.


I am partial to these kinds of rites because of what it means for us to bless.


Blessing doesn’t magically make something special.  When we as a community bless things we are committing them to God’s service.  The rite of blessing is meant to be a reminder that with this chalk, or backpack, or bike, whatever it is, we are receiving it from God, and using it in God’s service.


As a part of the blessing we first bring it before God with thanksgiving.  We acknowledge that this person, animal, or object is a gift from God.  We are saying that the blessing of God is the foundation for us in our living out our relationship with God and we are called to be a blessing to the world. When we pronounce God’s blessing, we are saying that something will  function for the good of creation.  Ultimately, with blessing we are reminded that we live purely by God’s grace, protection, and ask for favor. 


Often, we think of a division between spiritual and physical.  We attribute prayer, meditation, worship to the spiritual and work, play, and service to the physical.  But, those lines are only imaginary.  The physical activities we do are spiritual acts; the two are intimately intertwined.


Everything we do is spiritual.  


Blessings are a part of the Church’s rites of pastoral care.  Blessings are not sacraments, but they are a way for us to remind ourselves that there’s no division between the sacred and secular for the Christian.  In fact, we carry with us the sacred with us wherever we go.  Blessed objects remind us of that.


Christians are called to be a blessing in the world; to remind people of God’s love, to serve the marginalized, to be witnesses to grace, forgiveness, and charity.  We bless so often because we need a reminder that what we do for the world must first be done in us.




Get up: A Sermon on Mark 5:21-43

by jpserrano on July 3, 2015 · 0 comments

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen


Who do you identify with?

So, who do you understand most in this Gospel?  That’s to say, 

who do you identify yourself with the most here?


Are you the crowd?

The crowd doesn’t know what to make of Jesus.  They follow him around seeing what he’s going to do next.  Wondering what he’s about. But, they’re the crowd because they observe but don’t participate.


Are you Jarius?
Jairus is a leader of the synagogue, but more importantly here he’s a distraught parent of a little girl whose young life is being cut short. He’s upset about the situation his family’s in and he’s coming to Jesus for help.


Are you the hemorrhaging woman?

The woman here is never named, but her life has been in pain, dominated for 12 years by a terrible, life-demanding illness. She is desperate for healing, desperate for newness.  She takes matters into her own hands and holds on to Jesus for dear life.


Are you one of the disciples?

The disciples throughout the Gospel of Mark are baffled.  They don’t quite understand Jesus.  They follow him around,  the do what he tells them to do, but aren’t really sure what where he’s going.  They know he’s a good guy and he does good things.  But they are both perplexed and devoted.


So, where are you? 


Maybe where you are isn’t even mentioned, and that’s ok.



Because where-ever you find yourself in the Christian faith. Jesus sets himself at the center.  Whether you are orbiting—the outer limits, mingling in the crowed, following with the disciples, or hanging on to Jesus for dear life. 


Jesus is the Rock.  He is the strong foundation, the steady one, the alpha and the omega—the beginning and the end.  Jesus is there AND he’s calling you to come closer.  To trust deeper.


Jesus will summon you where you are and ask you to trust even more.


Today’s Issues

There are some paradigm shifts happening in society today.  There are many people who feel like we’re on shaky ground as the Church and as a Nation and there are others who are celebrating the shifts.


We as members of the Body of Christ, are going to identify, empathize, and fight for different sides of issues that face our church and our nation.


In fact Good Shepherd has already been doing that.


As I get to know y’all,  I hear personal stories of Pastor Ridenour departure. When Pastor Ridenour left, that caused division in our congregation.  People had strong feelings wanting him to leave and other’s had strong feelings wanting him to stay. 

Both are people—who faithfully and honestly disagree.


In the interim when Good Shepherd wanted to call a pastor, but the Synod wouldn’t allow you, it caused you to be divided and separated from the larger body of Christ.  Some understood why you couldn’t call him, but other’s didn’t.  

Both are people—who faithfully and honestly disagree.


This last week the Supreme Court voted to allow gay marriage in all 50 states.  For some this was a resounding victory for equality.  But, for others it was seen as a step in the wrong direction.  

And in our congregation there a people—who faithfully and honestly disagree.


After the shooting in Charleston the issue of Gun control again came front and center of the national conversation.  There are some in our congregation who want to fight for an outright ban to all guns and there are others who own guns and participate in shooting sports. 

Both are people— who faithfully and honestly disagree.


But none of these is the defining issue for the Christian.  

The defining issue for the Christian is Jesus.


The truth is, the church of Jesus has never been good about agreeing with each other on everything.  In the 500 years since the Reformation, the church has split thousands of times.  But, we even see disagreement in the church in scripture.


In the first letter to the Corinthians we hear some of the story of the Corinthian church.  Friends let me tell you the Corinthian church had some problems.  


One group in the church began saying, “We follow Paul”  and another group “We follow Apollos.”  And Paul comes in and says to them, “What are talking about?  We follow Jesus!  We follow where HE leads.”


And that’s what we do.


It’s our calling friends to come together as a church and work out as a community, where Jesus is leading us.  We use scripture and conversation and love to determine how we should live together as a community.


We as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America say that “all are welcome” and it’s issues like gay marriage that test that.  Are those who are gay welcome here?  Are those who oppose gay marriage welcome?  Who would Jesus turn away from our doors?

By the way, the answer to that is—neither.


There is beauty in our struggle together.  There is beauty in saying that no matter where you are on this or that issue, we share a common God in Christ Jesus who loves and accepts us. And we urge each other to trust in God more deeply.



I believe that we as the church are the little girl being brought back to life.  


Jesus is saying to us “get up.”


“Get up” from our complacency and love the unlovable.

“Get up” from our divisions and bring peace.

“Get up” from our politics and feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, care for the homebound.

“Get up” and be the hands and feet, voice and presence, of God in the world.

“Get up” and be the church even when you faithfully and honestly disagree.

“Get up” together and stay together.


Wherever we find ourselves in the Christian faith. 

Wherever we find ourselves in our politics.


Jesus is calling you to seek his will, and friends, you may have to change some things.


So “Get up.”


“Get up” and sing.

“Get up” and go.

“Get up” and let Jesus work in and through your life.





Easter Sermon

You can hear this sermon here.   Christ is Risen! Grace and peace to you from Jesus Christ, our resurrected Lord. Amen. Intro This last week, I heard a scene unfold between my wife and 4-year-old son that was straight out of the Cosby Show.   I heard her say,    “Benny, you can’t just […]

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Keep Awake!

Preached @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Concord, CA)

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Lasting Security

Preached @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church 11.16.2014 23rd Sunday After Pentecost

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Confession & Christian Identity (Sermon on Matthew 16:13-30)

Preached @ Faith Lutheran Church of Castro Valley on 8.24.2014

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Pentecost Sermon 2014

Preached @ Faith Lutheran Church (Pentecost in the Park)

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If You Love Me (Sermon on John 14:15-21)

Preached @ Faith Lutheran Church of Castro Valley on May 25, 2014.

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Lust, Length, and Looking

The News Story Making the Internet rounds is the story of a 17-year old girl who was kicked out of a homeschool senior prom.  She was wearing a dress that was deemed inappropriate in length for the dance by the chaperones.  As someone who has seen some of the dresses and Halloween costumes that pass […]

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Doubting Thomas (Sermon on John 20:19-31)

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Intro When people speak about Thomas, especially from today’s Gospel reading, he is almost universally called what?  Doubting Thomas.  I am not sure that’s accurate.  I think that history hasn’t really understood Thomas.  But mostly, I think he gets a […]

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Worship in the Park

For the last couple years I’ve had the opportunity to share some ideas with the congregation I’m currently serving.  One idea that I am particular fond of is taking Sunday worship to a local park. This is a little outside the comfort zone of most Lutherans, so I put together the following proposal for consideration […]

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How to Help Your Child During Communion

I believe that all baptized children are welcome to the Altar. The following is a guide that will hopefully help parents with bringing their children forward to receive communion.   First, for all children, it’s important to see what’s going on at the altar.   There is a drama unfolding at the the table during the liturgy […]

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