Sermon: Sunday, May 15, 2016: Day of Pentecost

The following sermon was preached by Pastor Erik Christensen & Pastor Liz Muñoz at the bilingual, ecumenical worship service held by St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square (ELCA) and Nuestra Señora de las Americas Episcopal Church on Sunday, May 15, 2016.

title845264485Recently I’ve begun reading the daily reflections of Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest in Albuquerque, New Mexico sent out by the Center for Action and Contemplation. This last week he began a new series on the relationship between action for justice in the world and the inner contemplative life. He quotes another American monastic, Thomas Merton, who wrote,

“[Those who attempt] to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening [their] own self-understanding, freedom, integrity, and capacity to love, will not have anything to give others. [They] will communicate to [others] nothing but the contagion of [their] own obsessions, [their] aggressiveness, [their] ego-centered ambitions, [their] delusions about ends and means, [their] doctrinaire prejudices and ideas.”

Writing to the church in Rome, the apostle Paul contrasts two different states of being: the spirit of adoption and the spirit of slavery. Far too often Christians try to spiritualize the concept of slavery so that it stands in for any irritating personal habit or private struggle. To do so is to erase the real experiences of those in Paul’s day and our own who are fighting a life and death struggle for existence against the powers and principalities of this world that treat human beings as commodities that can be used to enrich a very few and then thrown away.

To those who feel thrown away by this world, and to those held captive by the dream of wealth, Paul reminds us that “all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” (Rom. 8:14) Because the first step to liberation from the shackles of poverty and the false illusions of wealth takes place inside the self, when we can look at our own face in the mirror and say with a confidence we may not yet feel, “I am somebody.”


title406527677Antes de que esta tierra tenia forma, cuando todo er un mar profundo cubierta de oscuridad el Espiritu de Dios se movía sobre la superficie de las aguas. Este aliento de Dios, ruach en Hebreo, ha estado presente desde antes del comienzo de nuestra historia.

Fuente de toda creación y sabiduría nunca se ha mantenido indiferente a su bellas criaturas.  Los salmos elogian esta presencia en nuestra historia humana “si envías tu, Espiritu, tu aliento de vida, somos creados, y así renuevas el aspecto de la tierra” (Salmo 104:30).

Los profetas como Eliseo y Elias reconocían el poder de este espíritu. Se atrevían a profetizar y hacer milagros por medio del poder de este Espiritu (2 Reyes 2:9, 13-15). Cuando Moises no pudo mas con su carga el Espiritu compare su poder con los que son escogidos por el pueblo y con otros que no han sido escogidos por ese pueblo. Porque el Espíritu Santo no conoce limites (Números 11:17, 25-29).  Como Jesus dice en Juan  este Espiritu santo es como viento sopla donde quiere, y oyes su sonido, pero no sabes de dónde viene ni adónde va (Juan 3:8).

El Espiritu de Dios se movió entre esa primera generación de discípulos y se mueve en esta generación que encontramos en la lectura de Hechos. Desde el comienzo del tiempo el poder de ese Espiritu se mueve se siente en cada vision y hecho compassion y amor. Es un poder tan suave para sanar el alma herida y tan fuerte como para agitar y encender el corazón mujeres y hombres, jóvenes y viejos en todos los rincones del mundo para actuar en nombre de la paz y justicia de Dios.


title845264485To be “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4) and given a spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15) makes us “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,” (v.17a) which sounds amazing — until we hear that word, “if.”  “If, in fact, we suffer with him, so that we may also be glorified with him.” (v. 17b)

“If” is conditional — if A then B. We feel set up. Are we only heirs if we suffer? Is suffering the condition for inheritance?

No. Suffering is the inheritance. Suffering is the consequence of being adopted by God and becoming “joint heirs” with Christ, which is another way of saying “sisters and brothers with Christ and, therefore, to one another.”

Suffering is the inheritance of love, as any parent will tell you. To love a child as they encounter all the hate and fear and misunderstanding that fills this world is a lesson in protracted suffering. God knows this suffering well, as God has both created us and adopted us (which, by the way, I love as a theological affirmation that God not only creates/births us, but then subsequently chooses/adopts us all over again. What do you think it would do for the state of interfaith dialogue if we replaced the phrase “chosen people” with the phrase “adopted people.” Would we hear it differently?).

To be adopted by God is to inherit what Jesus inherited as he came into the world — a family filled with suffering, a family that cries out for liberation from all the slaveries of this world. But a family! Which is what we are to one another whether we know it or not. Which is what we all are. Not the family which we were born into, which may have been wonderful, or may have been horrible, and was probably a bit of both. But God’s family, created by love and chosen for love, so that none of us might suffer alone.


title406527677Seguimos este camino, aunque sea difícil a veces parece imposible, porque es aliento Divino esta la promesa de verdad y vida. Seguimos ese camino porque no es verdad que este mundo y sus habitantes están condenados a morir y perderse en el vacío.

We follow the way, difficult, at times seemingly impossible, because that breath of God is where truth and life are found. We follow the way because it is not true that this world and its inhabitants are doomed to die and be lost in the void.

No es verdad  que la violencia y el odio tendrán la última palabra, y que la inhumanidad, la pobreza, la guerra y la destrucción han venido a quedarse para siempre.

It is not true that violence and hatred shall have the last word, and that inhumanity, poverty, war and destruction have come to stay forever.*

No es cierto que tenemos que esperar a los que están especialmente dotados que sean los profetas de la iglesia antes de que podamos hacer nada.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted to be the prophets of the church before we can do anything.*

Y por eso me atrevo a profetizar: nuestros sueños para la liberación de la humanidad, nuestros sueños de justicia, de dignidad humana, de la paz son para esta época y esta historia. Y nosotros y nosotras somos los que somos llamados por el Espiritu para encarnar el rugido de la justicia, la fiebre del amor, el susurro de la paz y la compasión, que lleva las palabras de esperanza y alegría a un mundo quebrantado y angustiado.

And so I dare to prophesy: our dreams for the liberation of humankind, our dreams of justice, of human dignity, of peace are meant for this time and this place in history.  We are the ones that are called by the Spirit to embody the rush of justice, the roar of love,the whisper of peace and compassion, that carries the words of hope and joy to a broken and grieving world,

Así que me atrevo a pedir que se atreven a compartir su sueño, visión y la profecía conmigo de los días de gracia del Señor para toda la creación.

So I dare to ask you to dare to dream, vision and prophesy day of the Lord’s favor will mean for all of creation.

Yo profetizo/I prophesy that…(Church responds)

Y todo el que invoque el nombre del Señor será salvo.

Y todo el que invoque el nombre del Señor será salvo

Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.


1.  Prayer adapted from prayer written by Alan Boesak found in Holy Ground: Liturgies and Worship Resources for an Engaged Spirituality, pg 65

Sermon: Sunday, January 24, 2016:Third Sunday after Epiphany (Week of Prayer for Christian Unity)

[The following are portions of a sermon that was jointly preached by Pastor Erik Christensen (St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square) and Pastor Liz Muñoz (Nuestra Señora de las Americas).  Because Pr. Liz’s portions were preached extemporaneously, only Pr. Erik’s portions are provided here. Missing from this transcript are the moments of improvised interaction between the two on what was an entirely delightful Sunday morning of bilingual ecumenical worship celebrating a new partnership between the two congregations.]


Text: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

“For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into the one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:13)

This is the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  All around the world, in Roman Catholic cathedrals and Protestant college chapels, in citywide ecumenical prayer services and Sunday morning gatherings just like ours, Christians are coming together to acknowledge the fact that — although Christ has prayed for our unity, that we would be one as Jesus and the one he called Father are one (John 17:21) — we, the body of Christ, the church, have not been unified in our witness to the forgiveness and the love that defined Jesus’ ministry.

When the apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth, he was writing to a community that was being torn apart by its differences. He writes, “for in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” Jews or Greeks, slaves or free. He’s not talking about minor differences. He’s not talking about some of us being Lutherans and others of us being Episcopalians; some of us enjoying incense, others not so much; some of us singing hymns in four part harmony with gusto, others not so much. He’s not talking about the little things that divide us. He’s talking about the big things that divide us. Jews or Greeks: Race. Slaves or free: Wealth.

The church at Corinth gets a bad rap, often being described as the most dysfunctional congregation in the New Testament. But, you know what they had going for them? The had both Jews and Greeks in their congregation — people of different ethnic backgrounds. They had both slaves and free people in their congregation — people of different class backgrounds and levels of wealth. Of course their community was full of conflict! They were trying to create a society completely different from anything they’d ever seen before, the kind of community where people who’d been told their whole lives that they had nothing to do with each other could come and be washed in the same waters and eat from the same table and drink from the same cup and bear the same name: child of God.

As dysfunctional as they were, at least the church in Corinth was still trying to live out the full implications of the vision Jesus had cast for the world that was coming into view: a world of good news for the poor, and release for the captives, and sight for those blinded by racial privilege and wealth, and freedom for those who’d endured oppression. Today we know that Sunday morning worship remains one of the most segregated hours of American life (and that even includes the Oscars). Today the body of Christ rarely even tries to bridge the gap between Jew and Greek, slave or free. Anglo and Latino. Rich and poor.

But Paul says, “we were all baptized into one body … and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:13) We share the same sacraments as a sign that we remember, however old and dim the memory, we remember that in Christ we belong to each other. And we have gathered this morning, at the beginning of a new day, at the dawn of a new partnership between our two congregations, because we know that our future together needs to be better than our separate pasts. Because we need each other the way the eye needs an ear, the way a hand needs its feet.


IMG_9261“But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the parts may have the same care for one another.” (1 Cor. 12:24b-25)

[Pastor Liz Muñoz preaches on this verse in Spanish.]


“Now you are the body of Christ and individually parts of it.” (1 Cor. 12:27)

My first inclination is to read this verse with the emphasis on the word “you.” “Now you are the body of Christ …” But I wonder what it would mean if the emphasis were on the word “now.” Now you are the body of Christ …

We are the body of Christ, because we are God’s baptized people. We are the body of Christ whenever we eat at the table of God’s forgiveness and mercy. Now, already, we are the body of Christ. The body of Christ that rose from the dead but still had pierced hands and a gash in the side, so that Thomas could touch them and know that his suffering Lord brought life and healing to even those wounds everyone thought could never be healed. Even racism. Even classism. Even nationalism. Even sexism. Even heterosexism. Even ablism. Even the ways we kill each other that we’ve not yet learned to name. Our God brings life and healing to people and places left for dead, now. Not someday.

We don’t become the body of Christ once we finally solve all these problems. We are the body of Christ now. This is what God’s promise of shalom, what God’s peace, looks like. First attempts. Awkward efforts. Nervous energy. Joyful noise. Surprising gifts. Delightful discoveries. Renewed enthusiasm. Shared mission. Disappointing setbacks. Hopeful dreams. A new creation.

And we each bring something different, something necessary and unique, to God’s plan to save the world. God is not bringing to birth the kind of world where every person and every place is the same. God is not bridging the gap between Jew and Greek, slave and free, so that we can remain segregated, keeping the gifts God has placed in each of us to ourselves. Paul calls us “members of one body” to remind us that we each have beautiful, necessary gifts that find their purpose only when they are shared. Christian unity is not Christian uniformity. There is room in our worship for the Book of Common Prayer and the new red Lutheran hymnal. There is room on our walls for the paraments that have draped our altars and the Virgin of Guadalupe. More importantly, there is room in our shared life for trial and error, for the benefit of the doubt, for generous hospitality and shared wisdom and a willingness to experiment.

We are already the thing we wonder if we might become. Now we are the body of Christ, and individually parts of it.


“But strive for the greater gifts.” (1 Cor. 12:31a)

[Pastor Liz Muñoz preaches on this verse in Spanish.]