WORSHIP THIS WEEK: This Sunday, June 16, we worship on the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (the time after Pentecost).  Jesus highlights the mysterious horticulture of the kingdom of God, in which we can never underestimate the magnitude of what can be done with something small.  We welcome Pastor Arden Krych, who will preach and preside. Join us at 10:00 in our physical sanctuary at 300 Shunpike Road or in our digital sanctuary for worship:https://www.youtube.com/live/BVwInjrcBG0?si=931YpLrC1LksyemF

Acts 2:1-21

June 5, 2022

Today’s sermon, as is our tradition, is addressed to the confirmands.  I invite all of you to listen in and find a word for your life as well.

Dear Ellie, Peyton, Alex, Gabriela, and Anika,

It’s been a wild and winding path to this day, hasn’t it?  Your confirmation group has had the most number of adjustments to make along the way.  We started our classes outside.  For a while we met in the narthex with the doors and the windows open and our chairs really spread out.  We eventually made our way to the Fellowship Hall, masking and putting our chairs in all kinds of weird configurations.  We masked until fairly recently.  I think there were a few Zoom sessions thrown in there.  You have had to be flexible, ready to try something different at a moment’s notice.  You have found your way through all of that with generosity and kindness, and I thank you for that.

In today’s world you know how tricky communication can be.  Misunderstandings among friends can create all kinds of drama.  And each generation, including yours, comes up with its own new language.  The language of texting isn’t all that new anymore, and it’s changing all the time, but I remember a story in which a particular abbreviation created confusion between a high school student and her mom.  The teenager would send a text to her mom about something important, like “Freaking out about math test” or “I feel really sick.”  Her mom would often text back LOL.  This young woman finally asked her mom why in the world she would be laughing out loud about these situations, and that’s when they both realized that the mom thought LOL meant “love you lots.”

That’s a funny example, but oh my goodness, there are so many times we just don’t understand each other because we aren’t communicating clearly.  Poor communication is at least partially to blame for most of the fights that happen in relationships.  It can even lead to larger conflicts like wars.

That’s one of the things I love most about this Pentecost story from Acts.  We have these scared disciples who aren’t really sure what to do now that Jesus has returned to heaven.  Jesus had promised them that this Spirit, this Advocate, would show up, but I don’t think they ever could have imagined how that would happen.  And then the Holy Spirit comes rushing in, empowering the disciples to speak in front of all of these people from all of these different places.  The disciples really couldn’t have imagined that all of those people from all of those places would be able to understand the disciples in the people’s own languages.   It’s bonkers.

I love how God is bringing people together in this story, connecting people across all kinds of differences in geography and identity.  Notice that God doesn’t ask any of those people in the crowd to give up their identities or languages, but instead makes it possible for them to communicate and build community in the midst of that diversity.

As you know, I appreciate the people in the crowd who ask the question: “What does this mean?”  That’s a more helpful response than just saying “These guys are drunk!”  I hope we can all stay in that place of curiosity, especially when it comes to understanding people who are different from us.  What does this mean?  What does this person mean?  What does their story mean?  What does this mean for my own learning and growth?  What does this mean for how I can show up in the world?

That same Holy Spirit is at work in our own time, helping us connect with people who are different than we are and giving us power to do things we never imagined.  The Holy Spirit works to build diverse communities of peace and purpose even when some people try to stir up conflict and division.

The Holy Spirit is there with each of you when you are worried about all kinds of thing: doing well in school or being a good person or treating other people with kindness or supporting your family’s well-being or meeting other people’s expectations.

The Holy Spirit is there with you when you are dreaming dreams about joining the military or going to college or finding something that makes you happy or helping others who need it or playing the sports that you love.

The Holy Spirit has already given you powerful visions for our world and for our church.  These are visions we all need to hear.  You have named visions for an end to war and violence, for an equal world for everyone, for good communication that leads to peace everywhere.  You want our church to be a place where we can come together to help people who need help, to give back to our community, and to spread the word of God.

I love your dreams and visions.  God loves your dreams and visions.

Remember that as you pursue your dreams and visions, you are not alone.  That same Holy Spirit was there when you were baptized.  The Spirit has been there with you as you took your first steps and started school and started to discover your gifts and passions.  That Holy Spirit has surrounded you with people who love you and support you.  That Spirit is with you on the stage, in the art room, or out there playing baseball or soccer or lacrosse.  That Spirit follows you as you begin high school and all the adventures that await you there.

But there will be times when you will feel overwhelmed.  You’ll be stressed – by the expectations that you feel from others and by the expectations you place on yourself.  I want you to remember in those moments most of all that God loves you even when you fall short of all those expectations.  When you feel broken or anxious, when you feel like giving up, when you think no one understands you, know that God is with you.  God loves you no matter what, and nothing – nothing – can change that.

Notice, as we heard in today’s gospel, what Jesus says to his disciples as he faces his own death.  He wishes them peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”  He reminds them that his peace is not like the world’s peace.  Jesus knows that the world’s peace often comes with conditions.  The world wants to make us earn that peace, hustle for it.  The world sometimes wants us to buy that peace with the lastest app or TikTok trend.

Jesus offers peace, like so much of what he offers, as a gift.  Simply a gift.  One that we can receive and share without having to “deserve” it.  A peace that we can’t even understand.  A gift of peace that moves within and among us, connecting us with each other and reminding us that we are held by God in every moment of every day.

As we celebrate your Confirmation today, I pray that you will be filled with that peace – and that you will carry it out into the world to share peace wherever you go.  Amen.

S.D.G. – The Rev. Dr. Christa M. Compton, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Chatham, NJ


May 23, 2021

As is our tradition here at Gloria Dei, the sermon this morning is addressed particularly to you.  As always, I invite everyone else who is here with us in person or online to listen in for a word of hope for you too.

I watched a fascinating short film called “Wearable Tracy” this week.[i]  It’s about a woman named Kim who launched a year-long project kind of on a whim.  It started on the day that Facebook reminded her that it was her friend Tracy’s birthday.  Kim felt bad that she hadn’t gotten Tracy a gift, so she decided to improvise a little.  She bought a bunch of pipe cleaners from a nearby dollar store, and she fashioned them into a wild and elaborate kind of hat.  She took a picture of herself wearing this crazy birthday crown and sent it to Tracy with happy birthday wishes.

Then Kim started walking around the city while still wearing this wacky headgear.  Kim is normally a person who likes to remain anonymous.  She does not like to attract attention to herself.  But on this day she couldn’t help but attract that attention.  She noticed how people stared at her, but how they also struck up conversations with her that she normally wouldn’t have had.  That’s when she decided to try making what she called a “wearable Tracy” – a new creative headpiece – every day for a year.

The project had three rules: she had to twist fresh pipe cleaners into a brand-new design every morning; she had to wear the piece all day long (from nine to five); and she had to ask the name of anyone who spoke to her about her hat, even if she wasn’t feeling particularly talkative.  She found that this project helped her connect with so many complete strangers in a way she never would have been able to do before.  She said: “The fear of judgment turned into ‘Who am I going to meet today?’”

I think about how the disciples must have felt on that first Pentecost long ago.  They were doing what Jesus had told them to do – waiting in Jerusalem for this Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised would show up.  And suddenly there’s this rush of a violent wind, and now they have some unexpected headgear – tongues of fire hovering above their heads.  These friends and followers of Jesus, who honestly would have preferred to stay unnoticed at this point, are now the center of everyone’s attention.

And that’s when the Spirit does something else – giving the disciples this power to communicate in the native languages of all the people gathered there.  No matter where you were from, you could understand what the disciples were saying about this person named Jesus and what Jesus had done and taught.  The Spirit makes possible these new connections in ways the disciples never imagined.

Notice the two very different ways that the people in the crowd respond to what the disciples are sharing.  Some people get really snarky and dismissive.  They accuse the disciples of being drunk, even though it’s pretty early in the morning.  Others in the crowd stay in a more curious place, asking “What does this mean?”

As you probably already know, when we live our faith – or just live our lives – there will always be voices that will be dismissive, just like those people who said the disciples were drunk.  Those voices will try to tell you that you’ll never be successful, that you’re not enough, that you need to look differently or act differently or be a different person altogether.

When you encounter those moments where people are doubting you – or perhaps when you are doubting yourself – I want you to remember two important things from this Pentecost story.

First, I hope you will remember to stay curious.  Ask the question that other people in the Pentecost crowd ask: What does this mean?  What does it mean that this person is dismissing me?  What does this mean about their lives or the ways they’ve been hurt?  Ask that same question in other parts of life, as you encounter new experiences and continue to figure out your relationships with the important people in your life. And of course keep asking that question about the Bible and about God and about faith.  What does this mean? Stay curious.  Stay open. May your fear of being judged turn into “Who am I going to meet today?  Who am I going to see in a new way today?  Who am I going to help today?”

The other thing I want you to remember is what Peter preaches in that short sermon of his: The Spirit is given to all fleshall people – of every age, race, background, culture, language, family situation, economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental or physical health, or anything else that makes people uniquely themselves.  All people.  No exceptions.

Peter reminds people that everyone – young and old – will see visions and dream dreams.  Everyone gets to dream.

You have important dreams and visions – for yourself, for the church, for the world.  You’ve told me that you want to make a positive change in the world, no matter how small.  You want to make our community, our country, our world better. You want for everyone to respect one another, for there to be peace, for the world to become more accepting and less harsh.  You want an end to crime, abuse, racism, sexism, and all the things that traumatize people.  You want an end to world hunger, and you want churches to help people in need.

Those dreams and visions you have named are God’s dreams and visions too.  And God has given all of us the gifts and the courage to make those visions real.

In the gospel Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth.  Here’s the ultimate truth:  God loves you more than you can ever comprehend.  No ruler, no scale can measure it.  No equation or smartphone can calculate it.  God’s love for you has been there from the beginning.  It was there when you were baptized all those years ago.  It’s here with you now this morning as you are confirmed.  And it will be with you for all of your days to come, no matter what.  Even when it might feel far away – more of a flicker than a tongue of flame – it’s always, always around you and in you.

That love will hold you as you move forward, as you dream your dreams and discover some new ones.  As you pursue your visions for a more just and loving world.  As you, with the Spirit’s urging, set the world on fire.  Amen. S.D.G. – The Rev. Dr. Christa

[i] You can read about the project and watch the documentary short here: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-new-yorker-documentary/wearable-tracy-and-connections-forged-through-funky-hats?utm_campaign=likeshopme&client_service_id=31202&utm_social_type=owned&utm_brand=tny&service_user_id=1.78e+16&utm_content=instagram-bio-link&utm_source=instagram&utm_medium=social&client_service_name=the%20new%20yorker&supported_service_name=instagram_publishing

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