All posts by Pastor Karl Hanf

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

When Jesus Was Born, They Laid Him In a Dog Food Bowl

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

Every month, Thadd or I lead the preschool children in chapel. We sing, pray, and tell a bible story. In December, of course I told the nativity bible story.  I stumbled on the part of the story where they put Jesus in a manger. These kids, even though they are 3, 4 and 5 know about the manger. They have been singing Away in a Manger, since they could talk. Yet, they hadn’t quite got what a manger was. This is Reynoldsburg. None of them are farmers; they haven’t seen animals eat out of mangers, feeding troughs or anything else. Continue reading When Jesus Was Born, They Laid Him In a Dog Food Bowl

The Gender of God

When I grew up, there was an expected way that boys acted and it was different than the way girls acted. I learned this from my very traditional middle class suburban home.  My dad brought home the bacon and my mom fried it up, so to speak. She took care of the house and the kids while my dad worked. Dad had a few responsibilities around the house, the yard, garage and discipline. If we did something especially horrible during the day, my mom would put us in our room and tell us to stay there until dad got home.  This would give us hours to stew and wait. We knew that when dad would come through that door he would be mad that we had ruined his peaceful evening. Continue reading The Gender of God

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