All posts by Pastor Karl Hanf

Our God of Mercy, A Sermon on Divorce

The biblical text for this sermon was Mark 10:1-16.

Our God is a God full of mercy. We are called to reflect God in this world. The church is to be a place full of mercy.

The book of Genesis teaches that the goodness of relationship was at the center of creation. God, like Chef Marty thinking that our stew needs just a little bit of something else, was not quite satisfied with the beginnings of this world. While God was immediately enamored with the clay and mud that life had been breathed into from God’s own breath, God thought something is missing still. It is not good for humanity to live alone. Our God is a God of mercy. God took mercy on this lonely being in this big, giant planet and set about to create a helper, another life, similar, yet different, so unique bonds of relationship could be built. The friendships and communities that have enhanced and made our lives whole, are a result of God’s first work of mercy in this world. Continue reading Our God of Mercy, A Sermon on Divorce

Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 3: Scripture

  1. Opening Prayer
  2. Review
    • The Kingdom of God
      • This should be the focus of our faithful lives. Seeking to live and be in the world in a way that reveals the Kingdom of God to our neighbor.
        • Questions of sinfulness and judgment are simply less important because our focus is on mercy, peace and forgiveness.
          • Pope Francis, “Who am I to judge?”
    • Sodom and Gomorrah
      • The sin of Sodom is inhospitality, not homosexuality.

Continue reading Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 3: Scripture

Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 2: Scripture


  1. Opening Prayer
  2. Review
    • Three legged stool of Christian ethics: Tradition, Scripture, Culture
      • ethics around slavery, banking, remarriage, female leadership have changed over the centuries within the church as the culture has changed, scripture that had been used to support one point of view was either seen as not contextually relevant to a very different world or other scripture seemed more relevant
      • Christian Ethics is always about faithful living, not salvation. We don’t try to live perfect lives in order to get to heaven. We try to live faithful lives as we wait for the Kingdom of God. Why? Because faithful lives bring us closest to the presence of God.
        • Christian Ethics is about trying to create something like the Kingdom of God in the middle of the Kingdom of Man.
    • Sweep of history in the church , understanding our heterosexuality from unnatural to natural
      • Should homosexuality be reconsidered, too?
    • Why didn’t the ELCA just decide this issue for us in 2009?
  3. The Kingdom of God
    • What does this phrase refer to?
    • What do you picture when you hear this phrase? What will the Kingdom of God look like?
    • Read Matthew 5:1-11,
      • How does Jesus describe the Kingdom of God?
    • Why is this a good discussion to have now in this lesson?
  4. Genesis 19:1-11
    • Retell the story
    • What is the point of this story?
    • What is disturbing about this story?
    • What is the role of sexuality in this story?
    • What is the sin of Sodom?
      • OT and NT references
    • Does this story speak to us today about the faithfulness of homosexuality?
    • What scholars say.
    • Another story for home, Judges 19:16-30

Continue reading Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 2: Scripture

Loving Invisible People

The text for this sermon is Mark 9:30-37. Please note that the names have been changed of the clients at HEART mentioned in my sermon. 

I was rushing out of Mt Carmel East Hospital last spring, wearing what I always wear, jeans and a casual shirt. I had just visited one of our members in the emergency room. It was Wednesday, an especially busy day for me. I had to get back to the church to finish up my lesson for Messiah Night. I mean it wasn’t as if I was rushing off to a bar or anything. I was doing God’s work. I bolted through the Emergency Room sliding doors, helping them move a little faster as I do when I am especially anxious about time. Then, before I even saw her, I heard her. Excuse me. Excuse me, sir. Continue reading Loving Invisible People

Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 1: Church

Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society

Session 1: Church

  1. Opening Prayer
  2. Outline of class
    • Three legged stool of Christian ethics: Tradition, Scripture, Culture
    • Session 1-Church, Session 2, 3-Scripture, Session 4, 5-Society
    • Covenant
      • Respectful language, empathy for each other, don’t assume what you think you know about your neighbor, careful sharing
      • I am not trying to convince you about this.
      • Taping the first three classes, no confidentiality
    • Goals
      • Council alone can decide whether this church can bless same sex marriage. Pastors are forbidden by our bishop to do so even outside of the church unless our church council grants permission.
      • To inform our congregation and give space for discussion and discernment on this issue.
      • To enable our council to create a clear statement of welcome to the homosexual community with the limits of our welcome stated.

Continue reading Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 1: Church


Change is good. Change is hard. Change is a part of living because if you “ain’t” changing you are dying. Pick your cliche about change. Depending on the change that you are thinking about, one of them has likely applied. The huge changes in our society can both excite us and worry us. Who would have predicted just twenty years ago that gay marriage would be a thing? The huge changes in science daily alter our lives. The first smartphone was released just eight years ago, now it is hard for me to imagine life without one. What will I be saying that about eight years from now? Huge changes in our economy eliminate jobs for some and create opportunities for others. A robotics scientist in a lengthy interview on Fresh Air, predicted that robots would change warehousing in ten years so much that nearly all big company warehouse jobs would be eliminated. What would that mean to the thousands of Columbus workers in the large warehouses that ring our city? And of course all of our personal lives are constantly changing. When I came to Messiah in 2003 I had three kids in high school. Now, those three kids have given me three grandkids. Other changes that happen in our personal lives are less joyful, the death of a relationship, friendship, friend or family member. Continue reading Changes