All posts by Pastor Karl Hanf

Jesus is Risen! Now What?

The scripture for this sermon is Acts 4:32-5:11.

Jesus is risen!  Alleluia! Now what? As unpopular as the answer might be today, scripture is pretty clear that the command is to go forth and build a church. By church, scripture isn’t referring to a building or a denomination.  They mean a community with a hierarchical structure, internal expectations and a guiding mission. All of which is unpopular because people today don’t seem to have a lot of trust in the church. The cover of Newsweek last week was a picture of Jesus with the headline that read, “Forget the Church, Just Follow Jesus”.  A hot viral video last year was a posting by a guy titled, “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus”. For many, the church represents a wrong turn in their relationship with God not the natural next step after encountering the risen Lord.  Continue reading Jesus is Risen! Now What?

Thoughts on Foot Washing

In the nine years I have been at Messiah, one of the greatest gifts for me personally is to walk with people in their last days. It is an honor to be invited into this most private and vulnerable time. People are full of worry for their loved ones, regret at not seeing children or grandchildren grow up, questions come up about God and the bad cards they had been dealt, but also inspiring witnesses of trust and faith in the midst of their pain.  Continue reading Thoughts on Foot Washing

Holy Week, The Entire Story

I got to tell you about a movie that I saw this week. It ended with Miriam showing up at the wedding, dressed like a man, can you believe it?  Her ex husband who was there in full military uniform could not, but since his commanding officer Colonel Gary was the guy marrying his daughter Joann, he didn’t dare cause a scene.  All of this caused the Joann to start crying.  When the priest, Father Tim tried to calm her down, he tripped and fell and inadvertently grabbed at the bride’s best friend and maid of honor Jennifer, who was wearing a low, cut red number in honor of their high school prom, a very significant earlier scene in the movie. The priest grabbed the top of that dress and just pulled down trying to catch his balance and Jennifer was left completely naked at the front of the church. Everyone realized including Tim and Susan what all of us already knew from the boating scene in the middle of the movie that Jennifer was really Justin. What a movie! Continue reading Holy Week, The Entire Story

Paying Attention to the Ten Commandments

The text for this sermon is Exodus 20:1-17, which contains the Ten Commandments.

Test.  Find a list of the Ten Commandments.  Read them carefully.  When you hear one that you have broken in the last few weeks, you can stop. 

What is going on here?  Why is there not one person among us with their hands raised?  What is that all about? The great church founder in the New Testament Paul himself at one point said that he was blameless under the law and he encouraged other Christians to strive to be blameless, too. Even though he preached we were freed from the law, he still thought that we should be following the law. Have we forgotten this as Christians? Does it matter if we are all saved by grace anyway and God promises to forgive us no matter what laws we break? Continue reading Paying Attention to the Ten Commandments

Snakes on a Stick

The scripture text for this sermon is Numbers 21:4-9.

So there were these slaves in Egypt, who had been enslaved for a couple of hundred years or so. They were the Israelites. The one and true God had a special heart for these slaves. Don’t ask me why, they looked like you and I, acted just as bad as you and I, nothing really special about them, but God thought they were special. God heard their cries in Egypt and decided to free them from slavery.

Continue reading Snakes on a Stick

Transfiguration Sunday

The biblical text for this sermon is Mark 9:2-9.

This is what every person of faith hopes for, to brush this close to heaven. Scholars take pains to explain the rich symbolism in the story, for example why Moses and Elijah meet Jesus and not David and Abraham, or what the whole booth thing is about that Peter wants to build. But, you don’t have to be a scholar to understand what happened. Three humans get this close to God, a breath away from heaven. This is a fascinating idea for all of us. I’ve got books on my shelf about near death experiences, following the light, that sort of stuff. We all want to know what heaven looks like, what God sounds like. The disciples hit the jackpot on the mountain that day.  Continue reading Transfiguration Sunday

2011: A Blessed Year at Messiah

A number of years ago now, I decided to shake things up in the summer by preaching on several controversial topics in a row. My hope was that it would increase attendance. Homosexuality, abortion, the death penalty, heaven and hell, it was a smorgasbord of tough issues for the church. To make sure people knew that the sparks were going to fly, we sent out postcards to all of our members telling them to come and hear.

The hordes of people we hoped for did not come, but something else did happen. It made a nervous wreck of me. I was so afraid I was going to say something that would get you mad that I was overly observant of your reactions. Any movement or facial change, would startle me, “I think Charlie just grimaced. Did I hear Ron groan? Does Charlotte look mad? Why are Howard’s eyes closed? Oh, he is just asleep. That’s normal.” Continue reading 2011: A Blessed Year at Messiah

Thoughts on a Cell Phone Incident

In the news in January was a story about Alan Guilbert, conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, stopping a performance because of the interruption of a ringing cell phone.  It was a quiet part of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony and the cell phone ring tone was a Caribbean Marimba. The contrast by all accounts was very stark. The audience helped him locate the fifty something man in the front row that had the ringing cell phone in his pocket.  Only when confronted by the conductor, did he reach into his pocket and turn it off. The audience started shouting at the man, to leave and for Guilbert to take his tickets. The director using his microphone asked if it was off now. He nodded yes. Guilbert then apologized to the audience for the interruption. They rose to their feet clapping wildly. Continue reading Thoughts on a Cell Phone Incident

Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary with Mama’s Glasses

The text for this sermon is Luke 2:1-20.

When my kids were little, they were always so proud of their art work.  Ben would get an Origami book and spend hours folding and creating what he saw on the pages.  Nathan would spread out with his Lego sets and go off the reservation, combining the different objects from the prescribed “recipe”.  Abbey would knead and push on blue, green and yellow Play-doh concentrating on making what she was envisioning in her mind. Continue reading Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary with Mama’s Glasses