My Sermons

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

by jpserrano on April 5, 2015 · 0 comments

You can hear this sermon here.


Christ is Risen!

Grace and peace to you from Jesus Christ, our resurrected Lord. Amen.


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 walk in my bedroom when the door is closed.  

First you knock.  

Then I say ‘who is it?’ 

Then you say ‘who it is.’ 

Then I tell you if you can come in—Got it? 

So, go back outside the door and let’s try that again,.”


I hear the door close then.  (Knock knock knock)


Jessica said: “Who is it?”

Benny responded: “Who it is.”


Sometimes kids just don’t get it.  I’d like to think that as adults, with all our wisdom and life experience and education, that we are immune to that, but there are just too many times we as adults don’t get it either. 


I’ve had this long tradition on Good Friday after the liturgy of going out with other Christians and having a beer—‘cause that’s what you do when a friend dies—you have a drink. Usually we talk theology and Bible and the meaning of Holy Week.  This year I posted on Facebook that this was my tradition and a pastor friend of mine, on Good Friday, asked, “Who died?”


As adults we can miss it too.

In our Gospel story this morning, Mary Magdalene, at first, misses what’s going on as well. 


Mary Didn’t Get It

In her love for Jesus she gets up on the first day of the week, in darkness, and goes to Jesus’ tomb.


But, this is no ordinary first day. In Greek the word that is used for “first day” in this verse is the same word that is used in Genesis in the creation story.  So this is the first day of God’s new creation.  Of God’s new work in the world.  Unbeknownst to Mary, this first day is the beginning of new era.


But Mary doesn’t understand that yet, and like so many of us whom go to the place where our loved one has died, or where they are buried, or where their ashes are interned—she is going to just be with Jesus’ and mourn her loss. When she got there, though, something was wrong.  


As she approached the tomb, the stone was rolled away.  Not even looking inside, she runs and tells Peter what she thinks happened.  “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”


Grief can do all kinds of things to a person and have varying effects on the body:  crying and sighing, headaches, loss of appetite, aches, loss of memory. It can make you not even think straight.


The tomb was empty, and the first thing Mary thinks is that someone had taken Jesus.  


Mary had forgotten Jesus’ words.  When he said:


“Destroy this temple (meaning his body) and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).


“Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25).


“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31).


Mary doesn’t understand what was going on, and she goes for help. 


Peter went in the tomb first. Then the other disciple.  The story tells us that the other disciple “saw and believed.”  But it wasn’t that he believed in the resurrection; he saw the empty tomb and believed Mary’s story.  He saw and believed that Jesus was taken.


So he and Peter returned to their homes having believed that Jesus’ body was stolen—They didn’t get it either.


But, Mary doesn’t leave. She stays at the tomb.   She waits . . . and mourns . . . and waits some more.  


Mary Waits

The Prophet Isaiah says:


Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,

    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

    they shall walk and not faint.


Friends, we’re called to be like Mary.

We’re called to wait in the darkness. 

We’re called to wait when all seems lost.

We’re called to wait at death’s door, in the garden, at the tomb.


We’re called to wait in faith.

But unlike Mary, we know the end of the story.

The hardest thing to do is to wait for the unknown to happen. In September of 2013, Jess and I had to wait for biopsy results to come in to find out if she had breast cancer.  Those were the longest two days of our lives.  Filled with worry and fear.


We didn’t know what the test results would be, but we trusted the God of new life to be present in that situation. In that period, we found that faith was not how tight we were holding on to God, but instead realizing that God was holding on to us. There will always be times where our faith seems weak or thin.  Waiting for a job. Waiting for the move. Waiting for test results.  Waiting for death to come. Waiting for the unknown to be known.


Mary shows us what it means to be a faithful disciple.  She lingered by the tomb, not knowing what she was looking for.  She was unsure of the future, but she waited.


Jesus Comes

She was confused and in mourning, and then the resurrected Jesus calls to her by name.




We see Jesus’ words from earlier in the Gospel come to life.  “The Shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”


Jesus leads Mary out from her waiting, 

He leads her out of her grief

He leads her out of her uncertainty

Jesus leads her from his own death to her new life.


Mary is called by name, and she experiences the resurrection of Christ first hand.  


The Resurrection.

Jesus calls us by name daily.  

In our grief, confusion, worry, and fear, Jesus is offering us new life.

The resurrection of Jesus is not only an event that happened in the past, but it provides a glimpse, a taste of what is already here, and what will come.


The resurrection is a now and a not yet event.  


Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we know that all believers will be resurrected after they die into eternal life.  But the resurrection is so much more than waiting for our eternal birthday.



Here and Now

The resurrection is here; the resurrection is now.  We can experience new life through Jesus.  Romans reminds us that in baptism “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life.” 



Easter shows us that Evil doesn’t win.  


Death is not the end. Jesus himself conquered death.  And he promises that in him we will conquer death as well.  We will be raised to new life and he offers us new life now.  Joy can be found in the middle of the worry and pain and fear. Joy can be found in Jesus.


Christ is Risen!



May you wait for Jesus like Mary. 

May God renew your strength so you don’t grow weary.

And may you hear the Shepherd calling your name, giving you new life.



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