Category Archives: Sermons

Noticing Lazarus

This sermon is based on the parable that Jesus told to the Pharisees, Luke 16:9-31.

 Have you seen pictures of the holocaust?  The grainy, black and white gruesome ones of people stacked like cord wood.  Those pictures make your heart ache, but it is still a distant crime.  It isn’t until you read a diary written by a young teenage girl fruitlessly living in hiding for years to avoid this fate does this crime become something that we know and understand.  Each one of these images is a person, like Anne Franke with dreams, talents, annoying behaviors and endearing qualities.  Each one is human.  When that sinks in the enormity of this evil sinks in and we become resolute to do something about it. Continue reading Noticing Lazarus

One Lord of All

Ephesians 4:1-5

4:1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

 My grandfather Karl Michael Hanf was in elementary school when he became a Lutheran.  When his mother and father and their children immigrated to America they were devout Roman Catholics.  When it came time for their only American born son, Karl, a gift of their old age, to enter school, she enrolled him in the parish school where they lived in Toledo.  The priest, who incidentally was not German, angered my great grandmother by insisting on charging her for school books on top of his tuition. She thought this was outrageous.  My grandfather was pulled out of school and immediately enrolled in the German Lutheran parish school nearby.  The Hanfs are Lutheran due to school fees. Continue reading One Lord of All


I remember looking at my schedule my Jr year of college and chill went down my spine. The very first class listed was Greek 101 and it was at 8:00 in the morning Monday-Friday. I just knew this was going to be an awful combination. Not only would I have to learn an ancient foreign language, but I would have to do it at the earliest time possible five days of the week. I arrived to my class the first day half asleep wondering how I will be able to stay awake. However, I quickly realized that there was something different about this professor. He was extremely passionate about Greek, as most people are about the subjects they teach. But it went beyond that, Professor Kumpf was a great storyteller. He went way beyond participles and verbs of ancient Greek by telling interesting tidbits about his days in college or why this verse was his favorite or about his yearly pilgrimage to Greece. He clearly enjoyed being a professor and we loved getting him off on tangents about Alexander the Great. He did the impossible, he actually made an 8:00 Greek class fun. Professor Kumpf stood out as someone who was using the gifts that God has given him to the fullest. He was very clearly called to his vocation as a Greek professor.

Continue reading Vocation

Throwing a Great Party!

This sermon is a consideration of Luke 14:7-14.

Now, I am not judging, but I am guessing that most of you really did not pay attention to the scripture.  The way our worship service is set up, it is difficult.  You just get to hear it read once quickly before the next thing starts, my sermon.  Then human nature kicks in and keeps us from focusing.  Jesus eating, reminds us of the family picnic we are going to this afternoon up in Findlay.  Findlay reminds us of our grandmother’s house, right outside of Findlay in Fostoria.  Fostoria reminds us of a real cool candy store you used to walk to with your cousins when you stayed at grandma’s for a week.  They had sweet and sour Charms suckers.  You can’t get those anymore.  I wonder why not.  Suddenly, the pastor is saying, The Word of the Lord and the congregation responding, Praise to you Oh Christ.  And you are thinking, what, it’s over?  I am not judging.  I have been there, in your place in the pews. I know how it is. Continue reading Throwing a Great Party!


Growing up on a farm there is not much time for rest. There was barely time for a Sabbath hour, let alone a Sabbath day. There is always something to be done. We had to feed the cattle, fix the tractor, pickup rocks in the field, walk the pigs (my city friends got a kick out of that one…they even came over one time to take pictures of me doing that…they were sure that I would have a leash around the pigs like a dog and walk them around the yard…not quite how it works…but anyway) There was always something to be done on the farm. This was especially true during the spring and fall. During Planting season in the Spring and Harvest season in the Fall there was barely even time for sleeping and eating. However, amidst all the busyness I remember riding on the combine with my dad while he was harvesting the corn and soybeans. In middle school, I would be sitting in class counting down the minutes and seconds until I could ride on the extremely loud combine with my dad. Heck even when I go home now, I get excited to ride the combine with my dad. In the midst of all the equipment and loud noises, I found a place of sanctuary. It was a place where I have had some of my favorite conversations with my dad. It is also a place where I have found Sabbath. Often those moments were fleeting because something would often breakdown on the combine and my dad would have to go and fix it. But on an International combine, in a cornfield on cold fall evenings I found a place of rest, a place that felt safe. In the midst of a clanking combine I found a place to experience freedom.

Continue reading Sabbath

The Miracle of Healing

This sermon was preached on a Sunday when we held a service of healing within our worship.

We have some very sick people at Messiah, physically and emotionally. People I love that I long to declare healed in God’s name. Cancer gone. Heart mended. Cane thrown away. Depression lifted. Disorder disappeared. I want that to happen today, but I don’t believe it has to for a person to be healed. Continue reading The Miracle of Healing

Central issues

One of the first movies I remember seeing in the theatre was Home Alone.  This movie fits well with what we are talking about this morning.  In Home Alone, the whole family is getting ready to go on a family vacation to France.  The parents are busy trying to make sure they have all their clothes, their toothbrushes, and other assorted items that while important, are certainly not as important as their 8-year-old son.  The family ends up focused so much on their own suitcases and belongings that they forget Kevin.  They end up leaving him behind because they are focused on peripheral things, not things that matter like their son/brother.  I am sure many of us have stories of our parents, family members, or maybe even friends forget about us because they were focused on something else.  It can be easy for us to focus on things on the periphery.  They seem important at the time and sometimes it is only later that we realize they were not quite as important as they once seemed.  I am sure this was true as the parents in home alone realized they left their 8-year-old son at home.

Continue reading Central issues

Mission Trip 2010

As our text points out it is important not to hoard our possessions or resources.  But it is also important to share those resources with God and with other people.  This week we found out all about sharing our gifts with God and other people.

We met a woman named Rita, whose house had been devastated by a flood in Ironton.  She had Crohn’s Disease along with other physical maladies that do not allow her to do much physical work.  As you saw in the video her basement had been flooded with 8 feet of water and most of her one story house had seen close to a foot of water.  When we arrived, about 5 days after the flood, she had not even looked at the basement because she was afraid what it might look like.  When she opened up the basement she broke down in tears seeing all that she had lost.  She was a broken person.  The youth began rummaging through the mud and muck searching for some items she hoped made it through the flood (like the American Flag her father was buried with).  We were not able to restore the items that were ruined in the flooded basement, but with each item brought out of the basement we were able to assist her on the road to recovery.  By the end of our two days at Rita’s house we were able to clear out her entire basement (a task that she said would have taken her family over a month to complete) and taken out all the furniture from her house along with the carpet.  These 16 youth and chaperones shared their resources and gifts that God has given them to provide a glimpse of hope to a woman who as in desperate need of a light.

Continue reading Mission Trip 2010

Strive for Faithfulness Rather Than Success

The biblical text for this sermon is Mark 10:35-45.

This is the fourth in a sermon series using the themes of Tattoos on the Heart, by The Rev. G. Boyle

James and John don’t come off looking that great in this lesson.  This kind of raw grab for power, prestige and recognition is just not done, not in the day of Jesus and not in our day either. Even the gospel writers are embarrassed by this story.  Luke retells something like 80% of Mark’s stories, but does not tell this one.   Matthew retells the story, but adds James and John’s mother as the one who tries to secure a good spot for her sons.

I get what’s going on in James and John’s head.  They are success oriented.  When we are success oriented, we have in our mind a desired outcome then create a plan to get us there.  These guys believed they were following the Messiah, a Jewish King sent by God to restore the Jewish people to greatness.  They figured when Jesus gets to Jerusalem, he is going to be crowned king through the power of God.  Their goal wasn’t to be king, but to have the best seats next to the king. Continue reading Strive for Faithfulness Rather Than Success

Preparing for Sunday: What is Christian Success?

I am in the midst of preparing the sermon for the week.  It is the last week in our use of the book Tattoos of the Heart, by Father Gregory Boyle.  This last week we discuss the unique way that followers of Jesus understand success.

All but the most dysfunctional among us have some vision of what a successful life looks like and a positive or negative judgment on how their life has lived up to this vision.  Christians need not be different in this respect.  A life with purpose and goals can be fruitful.  The problem becomes when Christians accept the world’s vision of success and ape the purpose and goals of the world.  

Father Boyle in the first chapter tells a story of a gang member named Scrappy who in his mid thirties after twenty years in a gang and ten in jail, finally decides to follow a different path.  He begins to work in Homeboy Industries and to be ministered by God’s grace.  The change in Scrappy is remarkable and celebrated. 

In one of the last chapters of the book, Father Boyle tells the rest of the story of Scrappy.  He is killed in a gangland execution a few months after beginning his new life.  Boyle asks some difficult questions.  “Was he a success story?  Does he now appear in some column of failure as we tally outcomes?  The tyranny of success often can’t be bothered with complexity.  The tote board matters little when held up alongside Scrappy’s intricate, tragic struggle to figure out who he was in the world.” p.169  Good things to ponder as I prepare for Sunday.  Peace, Pastor Karl