All posts by Pastor Karl Hanf

The Beginning of Advent

The text for this homily is Psalm 80.


God, come back!

Smile your blessing smile:

That will be our salvation.

Have you ever prayed a prayer like that?  My niece Kirsten surely did last week.  She is a school teacher in Toledo raising her 8 year old daughter.  She lives in a house my sister, her mom owns in an older neighborhood in Toledo.  My sister was just saying at Thanksgiving that she would like to get rid of the house before she retires.  She isn’t charging her daughter enough to make it worthwhile as a rental and for obvious reasons she doesn’t want to kick her out to make it a more profitable asset.  Kirsten doesn’t want to buy it, which kind of irritates my sister and there was an awkward silence when the subject got broached on Thanksgiving.  Continue reading The Beginning of Advent

Just Thinking about the Penn State Scandal

The scandal at Penn State has got me thinking.  For those of you who do not pay attention to the news, the alleged crime is that a prominent assistant coach for 30 years at Penn State used a charity that he founded and the facilities and legitimacy of Penn State to systematically abuse young boys for at least the last thirteen years, both while he was a coach and in retirement. Further, in 1998 and 2002 the school was made known of these alleged crimes and failed to respond in a way that would have definitively stopped the actions of the assistant coach.  Continue reading Just Thinking about the Penn State Scandal

Living Holy Reckless Lives

The text for this sermon is Matthew 25:14-30.

What keeps us from taking risks? Maybe we should start with a different question, what makes most young people so risky?  My oldest son when he was in college took a photography class. He came home from Christmas with really cool pictures of an old railroad trestle in the mountains around Pittsburgh. Fall colors, sun setting, great shadows captured with white steel beams against a blue sky made for some really interesting photographs. As Paige and I admired them it started to occur to us, how did he get this picture underneath the bridge looking up into the sky, or this one on the middle of the bridge looking to the other valley, or this one seeming to look down past the iron framework to the tiny river hundreds of feet below? Like any good parent, we went from complimenting his skill to yelling at him about the obvious risks he took to get them.   What if a train had come across, what if you had slipped, what if… Continue reading Living Holy Reckless Lives

All the Saints

Our little church on the hill in Reynoldsburg took quite a hit last year with the loss of some very special people.  There are nearly 200 years of membership represented in these eight candles. Peg Pfautsch died suddenly just a few weeks ago, still a shock for this congregation who worshipped with her days before she died. Peg started coming here when only Fritz Hall stood on this land.  Millie Peck, too started attending with her husband and two children in the sixties. Well into her 80’s, she worshipped every Sunday at 8 with us.  Husband and wife Jim and Dorothy Morris, both passed away this year.  They were active in our Senior Lunch Bunch, came to Messiah Night and Dorothy raised her voice in song for our Senior Saints.  Susan Wright had not been able to attend the last few years because of a chronic illness, but she too worshipped and served faithfully for years, raising her kids here, allowing us the honor of grieving with her when her son died and later celebrating the baptism of her grandchild.   Phyllis Moder died nearly a year ago but her encouragement and support of our worship life is still missed.  I am sure our Chancel Choir will be remembering her place beside them when they sing at 11.  We also grieve today with Florence Mbekem who lost her husband William, who we were never honored to meet.  And our hearts break with Don Searls and his wife Julie as they continue to grieve Andrea who died at way too young of an age, just as she was graduating from college and beginning a life of serve to those in need.    Continue reading All the Saints

A God of Weal and Woe

The text for this sermon is Isaiah 45:1-7.

I want to look at the last verse of our Old Testament text this morning, Isaiah 45:7. This is God speaking through the prophet, I form light and create darkness, I will make weal and create woe. I the Lord do all these things.  I will make weal and create woe.  Weal is an Old English word that is related to our present day words well and wealth.  It is a noun that describes a content or prosperous state of being.  So weal is a good thing.  Through the prophet God is saying that I am the same God behind lives that are content and prosperous and lives that are full of woe, despair, chaos and difficulties. Continue reading A God of Weal and Woe

Is Mitt Romney a Christian?

Is Mitt Romney a Christian?

This question recently came up at a gathering of Republican political candidates at the Values Voters Summit.  Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas was called to introduce Governor Perry of Texas. In that introduction he indicated that candidate Mitt Romney was not a Christian because he was a Mormon. All traditional Christian denominations recognize that Mormonism is a cult, Pastor Jeffress later said in an interview.  Romney was a moral man the pastor said, but he would only vote for someone who had given their life to Jesus.  Governor Perry later said he did not agree that Mormonism is a cult. Continue reading Is Mitt Romney a Christian?

God’s peace is often not very peaceful.

The text for this sermon is Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4:1-9.

My pastor when I was growing up started every sermon with this line from Philippians 4:7, The peace of God that surpasses all understanding, keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. This seemed the perfect thing to say before the start of a sermon. It was such a peaceful moment, the lights were dimmed, the place was quiet and I knew soon I would be fast asleep while he preached. This is what church should be like all the time, I thought. Continue reading God’s peace is often not very peaceful.

Emptying Ourselves

The text for this sermon is Philippians 2:1-13.

Preparing for the sermon this week I read this story in an article written by Dick Underdahl-Pierce in Lectionary Homiletics.  Retired archbishop Dom Helda Camara of Brazil gathered with Mother Teresa waiting to appear on national TV in America. As they waited for their turn on the show, they talked about their shared worries about the fame they were achieving. So together they prayed a prayer of Cardinal Newman that includes these words: “Lord Jesus…Don’t extinguish the light of your presence within me. O Lord, look through my eyes, listen through my ears, speak through my lips, walk with my feet….For, to the degree that others notice me, it is a sign that I am, unfortunately, still opaque and not transparent. Take away whatever is opaque in us, O Lord, and help us become transparent.” Continue reading Emptying Ourselves

The Good and Bad of Having Churches like Families

The text for this sermon is Matthew 18:15-20.

Now, this is complicated, so pay attention.  There was this cousin who did not go to a baby shower because, well because it was a baby shower and really who wants to go to baby showers?  She had a reason of course, a big project due at work. She sent a present with her sister and then went to Easton with friends. Continue reading The Good and Bad of Having Churches like Families

Faith Is A Full Contact Sport

The text for this sermon is Exodus 3:1-15.

In the Matthew text read this morning, we heard Jesus say “If any of you want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”  Preaching professor at Luther Seminary in St. Paul says the same thing differently, “Faith is full contact sport.” The implication of following Jesus is that where we are is not necessarily where God needs us to be.  But to leave where we are and go somewhere else is tough and scary. Continue reading Faith Is A Full Contact Sport