Sermon: 10/1/17

Sermon: 10/1/17

I wanted to preach a sermon about doing the mission of God, not just talking about doing the mission of God. I thought a sermon about how we can change our minds in the process of determining what God is calling us to do would be interesting. I would have loved to talk about how Jesus deems tax collectors and prostitutes more worthy of the kingdom of God than the chief priests and elders and what that might mean in our context. I would have settled for a sermon about how everyone in the parable enters into the kingdom of God whether or not they actually do the will of God.  

Unfortunately, none of these lovely sermon ideas actually reflect the point of Jesus’ parable and encounter with the chief priests and elders.

Bishop Eaton's Leadership Initiative

Bishop Eaton's Leadership Initiative

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton reminds us, “It’s not only the job of our seminaries and universities to identify and raise up leaders in the church. This is something that belongs to all of us.” The Leadership Initiative encourages all of us to seek out and inspire gifted people in our congregations and communities to consider a call to the ministry of the gospel. If you know someone who shows a gift for ministry, help mentor and foster them. Together – pastors, deacons, lay people – we can bring the word of God to the world. Find resources and testimonials to guide discussions and offer inspiration for becoming a leader within the ELCA.

50 things Luther taught that you may not know

As we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Living Lutheran is exploring 500 of its unique aspects, continuing the series this month with 50 Reformation things you may not know about the Reformation.

This list is not meant as an all-encompassing compendium of everything essential to the Reformation and its theology, but rather as a glimpse of the variety of ways the movement that Luther sparked in 1517 would influence the history of the world.


We know that Martin Luther considered justification by grace through faith the most important teaching of Christian faith—the one by which everything else we say and believe is judged (Luther’s Works, Vol. 21, page 59). But what we need to remember is that salvation is not something yet to come; justification is already complete (LW, Vol. 34, pages 152-153).


Every baptized Lutheran is a “born-again Christian.” And since that’s who we are, Luther said we are to start living that way—living our baptisms (Book of Concord, pages 359-360).


The righteousness of God is not something God is, but what he does to us—he makes us righteous (LW, Vol. 34, pages 336-337). Luther tells us that this insight is the essence of the spiritual experience that changed his life, the famed “Tower Experience.”


Luther often said justification involves a pronouncement by God, declaring us sinners righteous (LW, Vol. 25, page 46). But more frequently he compares justification to a marriage. We receive all that Christ has in the marriage, and having his love and righteousness qualifies us for salvation and makes us more loving in faith (LW, Vol. 44, pages 26-27).


Luther wanted us to be sure that Christ’s work is  “for us” (LW, Vol. 34). But the strength of one’s faith is not his hang-up. Even a weak faith saves, Luther said (LW, 12:262). In fact, when it comes to salvation, we’re passive—getters, not givers (LW, Vol. 52).


The reformer also taught that we can’t even believe on our own—it takes the Spirit, who gives us faith (The Small Catechism, II.III.6). Lutherans are, in fact, big on the Spirit, believing that the Spirit is active in every aspect of our lives. Every good idea we have is a work of the Spirit, who sets us on fire, Luther said (LW, Vol. 24, pages 130, 89; Complete Sermons, Vol. 3/1, page 188). 


But grace isn’t cheap for Luther! Christ’s love starts moving us to do good like a spouse’s love moves us to faithfulness to our marriage vows (LW, Vol. 44, pages 26-27). We’re so filled up with the goodness God pours into us that we can’t help but spill out to others (LW, Vol. 31, page 367).


Indeed, Luther said we’re so filled up with God’s goodness that it’s as if we were intoxicated with him, doing the bidding of God and the Spirit without being in control of ourselves (LW, Vol. 31, page 349).


Good works transpire without our willing them, like a good tree can’t help but produce good fruit (LW, Vol. 34, page 111). Faith is such a busy thing, Luther added, that it’s impossible for the faithful not to be doing good works (LW, Vol. 35, page 370).


Luther taught that the Christian life is “hidden,” that one can’t judge Christians by their lifestyles, and that sometimes non-Christians will do more external good deeds than the faithful (LW, Vol. 26, 376). God himself acts in hidden and surprising ways, as he did with Jesus on the cross (LW, Vol. 31, page 39).


God is so in control that the good we do is really God’s work (LW, Vol. 34, page 111). We’re nothing but the hands of Christ, Luther asserted (LW, Vol. 24, page 226). In the good we do, we are just “little Christs” to each other (LW, Vol. 31, pages 367-368).


Living as “little Christs” entails life having afree, easy quality, filled with happiness (even when plagued with the suffering that comes from being Christian) (LW, Vol. 24, page 230; Complete Sermons, Vol. 3/2, page 257). That’s why Luther wants us to look at our jobs as good things—a chance (or “mask”) to serve God and other people (LW, Vol. 35, pages 40-41).


Luther knows that sometimes we can be  our own worst enemy. That’s why he said Christ takes us away from ourselves, making us dependent on what is outside ourselves (LW, Vol. 26, page 387). The righteousness of God given to us is external or alien, not something that is in us or belongs to us (LW, Vol. 31, page 297).


The reformer didn’t teach universal salvation, insisting that we must have faith. But he expressed an openness to hoping for the salvation of all, that God might give the gift of salvation to all, even in death (LW, Vol. 43, page 54).  


We sin in everything we do because everything we do is inspired by selfishness (Luther calls this “concupiscence”). The best we can do is sin bravely—confess we are sinning in all we do and yet seek to do God’s will anyway (LW, Vol. 48, pages 281-282).


Even when we do good, we act in selfish ways (LW, Vol. 33, pages 263-264). We are free: The law and failure to do works can’t condemn us (LW, Vol. 31, page 356). But we are also free from the law in the sense that we may break the law to do good (Complete Sermons, Vol. 3/1, page 166). 


While the reformer read the Bible critically (LW, Vol. 34, page 317), at times he referred to Scripture as “inerrant” (Weimar Ausgabe, Vol. 40 III, pages 254, 618). He suggested there are two kinds of word of God in Scripture—the word that has to do with us and our context and the word that does not (LW, Vol. 35, page 170).


The reformer spoke of the three persons of the Trinity as speaker, sermon and hearer (LW, Vol. 24, pages 364-365), or as the mind, intellect and will of God (LW, Vol. 1, page 50).    


Church and state weren’t separate for Luther in the sense that he didn’t see the state as secular, for it is still ruled by God. However, Christian values on Luther’s grounds aren’t imposed on the state. Political judgments are to be made on the basis of reason (LW, Vol. 45, pages 82-89).


Although the majority of the time Luther spoke of God as male, he did refer at times to God as “mother” (LW, Vol. 17, pages 139, 16).


He called the church “a hospital for sinners” (LW, Vol. 25, page 263)—the church is only for sick people like us.


The reformer focused on the authority of Scripture, but not without tradition. Tradition mandated for him the desirability of maintaining liturgical worsgip, and was the basis for the validity of infant baptism—do it because God has always had the church do it (LW, Vol. 40, pages 255-257).


The reformer preferred immersion in baptism (LW, Vol. 35, page 29). He also embraced the ancient African Christian practice of kissing infants before they are to be baptized to honor the hands of God that the baptized child will become (LW, Vol. 45, page 41).


Luther was open to maintaining a papacy if the pope would acknowledge that sinners have free forgiveness and submit to Scripture (LW, Vol. 26, page 224; LW, Vol. 39, pages 101-102).


Contrary to any notion that he may not have been strong on evangelism, Luther taught that the only reason God lets us live is so we can bring others to him (LW, Vol. 30, page 11).


Although different from Calvinist doctrine, Luther gave God so much credit for all that we have that he even sometimes arguably supported predestination (LW, Vol. 33, page 190).


Sometimes Luther taught that works did not cause salvation, but that they were necessary for salvation and outward righteousness (LW, Vol. 25, page 186).


Other times, he even said we become divine in faith (Complete Sermons, Vol. 2/1, page 216).


Luther believed that we are all religious to some extent. He taught that what you trust and believe with your whole heart is your god (Book of Concord, page 386). He urged us to be sure that we have the true God, not an idol.


Although he was referring to Europeans enslaved by feudalism, not the enslavement of Africans, Luther seemingly opposed slavery. He advocated that slaves run away and that a just government would guarantee the life and livelihood of the freedmen (LW, Vol. 9, page 232).


Luther defended the virtues of African culture (LW, Vol. 2, page 305) against detractors. In fact, he taught that the Greek philosophers got their ideas from Africa (LW, Vol. 1, page 4).


The reformer praised the ancient African churches—especially the Coptic church in Egypt. He said they were valid churches without acknowledging the pope’s authority, so the Reformation movement had much in common with them (LW, Vol. 31, page 281).


While Luther said some notoriously vicious things in anger against the Jewish community, earlier in his life he demanded equal rights for Jewish citizens (LW, Vol. 45, pages 199-229).


The first reformer admired Islamic society. He may have criticized the Quran and feared Islamic invasions in Europe (LW, Vol. 46, page 177, 183), but he praised Islamic morality and Muslim culture (Weimar Ausgasbe, Vol. 30II, pages 189, 206).


The reformer advocated generous safety nets for the poor (LW, Vol. 45, pages 169-194). Luther believed that God has a bias toward the poor and weak, as he claimed that it is God’s nature to feed the hungry and comfort the miserable (LW, Vol. 26, page 314).


Critical as he was of the free market (Book of Concord, pages 416, 419), the reformer opted for government to set interest rates and manage the economy (LW, Vol. 45, page 249).


The reformer also said that God doesn’t tell time like we do—that from his perspective, all time is one (LW, Vol. 30, page 196). This affirmation, suggestive of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, entails that, in God’s sight, your mother is caring for you in your infancy at the same time that your great-grandchildren are being born. In God’s time you are never alone, bereft of your loved ones.


Although Luther predates the development of the theory of evolution, his view of God’s way of telling time entails that God’s six days of creation are not completed, for God is still creating (LW, Vol. 4, page 136).


Luther envisioned God in a way compatible with the Higgs boson particle (the idea that there is a field that holds all the subatomic particles together and makes matter possible)—as being in every single thing individually, present at the same time in many ways (LW, Vol. 37, page 60).


As a result, the reformer recognized that God is always “meddling” in our affairs—that everything that we have, even our homes, families and the food on our tables, is God’s work (Book of Concord, page 354).


Luther believed that the universe is a body never in one place, a bit like how the Big Bang theory posits that the universe is ever expanding (LW, Vol. 38, page 60).


Luther also said the church was our mother—“the mother of all Christians” (LW, Vol. 51, page 166). In fact, he said the church can get along fine without us (LW, Vol. 47, page 118)—but we need our mom.


Luther didn’t always teach only two sacraments. Sometimes he claimed that there were three—and once even said there are seven (LW, Vol. 41, page 166).


In communion, at least at one point, Luther believed we actually swallow Jesus—that he enters our bodies (LW, Vol. 37, page 100).


Since we all receive Christ’s body in the Lord’s Supper, Luther said we receive all the members of his body. You can lean on them and support all others who receive the sacrament, so their problems and joys are now yours too (LW, Vol. 35, pages 50ff). Luther seems to have been open to the communion of infants as well (LW, Vol. 35, page 110).


Luther taught that we should regard the possessions we have as a traveler does the items in a hotel room: they are yours for a while, but they are the owner’s. This makes it easy to leave behind to others what we think of as ours—they’re just on loan (LW, Vol. 21, page 13).


Luther called Mary “the Mother of God” (LW, Vol. 21, page 308) because he believed everything said of Christ’s divinity must be said of his humanity (LW, Vol. 22, page 346). The reformer even remained open to believing the perpetual virginity of Mary and her immaculate conception (LW, Vol. 45, page 205; LW, Vol. 21, 327.)


Inasmuch as all that happens to Christ’s humanity happens to his divinity, Luther said it follows that God himself suffered on the cross and still suffers with us (LW, Vol. 30, page 223).


The reformer believed that we are already in the “end-times”: the kingdom is already present when the Spirit works faith in us or compels us to do good (Book of Concord, page 356).


Luther believed that the dead “sleep in God’s bosom,” not that their souls go directly to heaven (LW, Vol. 4, page 313).

Living Lutheran: 'Thy kingdom come'

Living Lutheran: 'Thy kingdom come'

Martin Luther believed God is at work in the world in and through the created world and through the gospel. This has often been known as Luther’s “two kingdoms” doctrine, but Lutheran theologians today say the “kingdom” language can be confusing and misleading. The August Living Lutheran cover story explores the distinctions between the spiritual authority of the gospel and the earthly authority. It also covers the history of this doctrine and what it means for Lutherans today.Read the full article.

PBS to air 'Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World'

PBS to air 'Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World'

On Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 8 p.m. EDT, PBS gives the Reformation television exposure when it airs “Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World.” This one-time, nationwide showing is a great reason for congregations and communities to gather together and explore Luther’s lasting impact on Christianity. The film is also available for private showings for those unable to watch that evening. Check your local PBS listings for specific air times. Learn more about the film at

Subscribe to ELCA newsletters

Subscribe to ELCA newsletters

Do you want to hear the latest news and stories from the ELCA? Now you can subscribe to many ELCA newsletters in one place. Keep up-to-date with the ministries that mean the most to you, or share with a friend and encourage them to subscribe. Sign up for news about the global church, Lutheran Disaster Response, stewardship and ELCA World Hunger at

Donate children's books and clothing for New Life in Christ Fellowship

Books and clothes needed for a new school in Tonga. 

New Life in Christ Fellowship worships at Grace on Sunday afternoons, and is also a church body in the South Pacific nation of Tonga. They are constructing a new parochial school in the village of Ha'ateiho, Tonga for approximately 300 students in grades 1-6. Mothers of the students are the primary construction workers.

In preparation for the opening of the school, they are looking for donations of used children's books in English and used children's clothing, including pants, tops, and shoes. If you have items you would like to donate, please bring them to the Grace church office.

Thank you for your support of our sisters and brothers in Christ!

Heat Respite 2017 Wind Up

As I reflect on the past several months, I would like to say it has been an honor and a privilege to be a part of the team here at Grace In The City, directly serving primarily those experiencing homelessness, overseeing this summer’s Heat Respite program. As I’ve gotten to know many of our guests one-on-one, I am reminded that each of us has our own unique stories of how we got to where we are today, and how to make changes for our future. This experience for me has truly been life changing.

We welcomed 10,816 visitors over 12 weeks -- nearly the same as last year's count -- and total volunteers (counting each person each day) numbered 997, for a grand total of 11,665 souls. It took 4,571 volunteer hours to make it happen. The big numbers may be attributed to the higher than normal heat this summer, the Burton Barr Library closure due to water damage, the stronger enforcement of the city’s loitering and camping laws, and a host of other outside forces. Whatever the reason, our guests were so appreciative of Grace’s hospitality and generosity, sentiments we heard every single day.

As Heat Respite 2017 draws to a close, I offer heartfelt thanks to those who made this program a success -- without the incredible continuing support of our ministry partners, friends and neighbors all, Heat Respite at Grace doesn't happen. 

I would like to recognize professional organizations that provided a variety of behavioral health, social, and medical services for our guests as well this summer. They include:

  • Community Bridges, Inc.
  • Terros Health
  • Circle the City’s Parsons Family Health Center’s Mobile Medical Unit
  • Southwest Behavioral Health
  • The Veteran’s Administration’s Healthcare for Homeless Veterans, Community Resource and Referral Center
  • Native American Connections
  • One N Ten
  • Shot in the Dark
  • City of Phoenix Police Department
  • City of Phoenix Fire Department 

Also, the Heat Respite program would not have been successful without the generous support of our donors. We received overwhelmingly generous financial donations. We also collected more than 1,500 cases of water in that time, and had almost 5,000 sack lunches donated; sack lunch donors included Lord of Life Lutheran, First UCC, New Journey Lutheran, and Peace Lutheran Churches. No donations were turned away, as even a single case of water helped people to stay hydrated. I would like to thank the following groups and individuals for their wonderful donations:


  • All Saints Lutheran Church
  • Alleluia Lutheran Church
  • Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • Christian Brands, Inc.
  • The City of Phoenix Heat Relief Network
  • Copperpoint Insurance Company & Employees
  • Desert Cross Lutheran Church
  • Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • Faith Lutheran Church
  • First UCC Phoenix
  • House of Hope
  • Life in Christ Lutheran Church
  • Living Water Lutheran Church
  • Living Water Lutheran Church’s Women's Bible Study
  • Lord of Life Lutheran Church
  • Love of Christ Lutheran Church
  • Mana House
  • Midwest Food Bank, Arizona
  • Mount of Olives Lutheran Church
  • Mountain View Lutheran Church
  • New Covenant Lutheran Church
  • New Journey Lutheran Church
  • Our Saviors Lutheran Church (Mesa)
  • Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church (Phoenix)
  • Peace Lutheran Church
  • Resurrection Lutheran Church
  • Saint Andrew Lutheran Church
  • Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church
  • Spirit of Hope Lutheran Church
  • Super Radiator Coils
  • Walk A Mile In My Shoes
  • Waste Not of Arizona
  • West Valley Lutheran Gift Shop


  • Alice Bauder
  • Alvin and Virgina Trtree
  • Andrews Petre
  • Barbara Schaffer
  • Caroline Cerda
  • Christine Robinson
  • Clarence Harvey
  • Daniel Sechrist
  • DoraJean Littrell
  • Doris Wilk
  • Elsie Szecsy
  • Eric Eggert
  • Gail Turner
  • Harry and Sharon Vaughan
  • Jack and Lucille Beyer
  • James and Ann Gardner
  • Jim and Kathy Spitler
  • Jo Lazo
  • John and Linda Erickson
  • Katherine Roxlo
  • Laura Tatreau
  • Linda Wall
  • M.J. Reed
  • M.L. and C.E. Vinson
  • Mark and Susan Henderson
  • Robin Patryas and Frank Hinojos
  • Sheila Wright
  • Smith Gilmore
  • Solveig Muus
  • Teri Traaen & Frank Morris
  • Wayne & Jorge Triplett

Last, but certainly not least, I like to thank the wonderful team of volunteers we had one site, some nearly every single day. The old adage “it takes a village” certainly is true with Heat Respite, and it is physically (and even emotionally) impossible for one person to do this program solely on her own.


  • All Saints Episcopal Day School
  • Arizona Rock Products
  • Arizona State University College of Public Service
  • Boys Hope Girls Hope
  • Grace’s own Youth Group
  • Luke Air Force Base Command Staff and Service Men and Women
  • Saint Mary’s Basilica (multiple visits)


  • Adam Wohlbrandt
  • Brendan O’Connor
  • Caroline Cerda
  • Charles Mack
  • Consuelo Arroyo
  • Curtis Bradbury
  • Daryl Sherrer
  • Frank Soto
  • Gail Turner
  • Greg Silva
  • Jeff Jirele
  • Kathy Spitler
  • Kim Hall
  • Lee Berlanger
  • Liz Davidson
  • Lori Thompson
  • Margie Betz
  • Marlene Haller
  • Pastor Mary Louise Frenchman
  • Charles “Moses” Elder
  • Olga Gilchrist
  • Roy Larkin
  • Stephanie (last name withheld)
  • Suni Eckert
  • Sven Lenkewitz
  • Travies Mayweather
  • Tim Lee
  • Vonda Bennett
  • Yvonne Park

Again, thank you for this wonderful opportunity to be a part of this wonderful program. I look forward to being a part of Grace Lutheran Church for a long time to come. Looking back, being the Outreach Coordinator has been one of the most rewarding as well as challenging positions I’ve ever had, and I will be forever grateful.


Kim Davidson, MSW, MPA

Greg's Volunteer Story

A cool story I learned this week that I wanted to share about Greg Silva, one of our steady volunteers who typically oversees the water and cleans up every day.  

Greg let it be known by accident (through another conversation) that he gave up his worldly processions to be a community member and is volunteering at Grace as part of his personalized two-year service project towards his Fourth Degree Sword in the Knights of Columbus as a Roman Catholic. He chose to do this particular "difficult and hard" project to be of charity to others and more importantly, to humble himself before God. He showed me his paperwork, asked me to provide some documentation for this part of his journey, which is over in a few months. He goes home to Chandler every other weekend to see his family, and when I asked him what his family thought of this project he came up with, he said that while they are scared of him being on the streets, they are also very proud of him.  I told him I am too.  

I love how Grace draws so many different people to it's ministries, and Greg's story is unique as is every else's here.

--Kim D., Heat Respite coordinator

2017 Heat Respite at Grace Lutheran Church

Weeks 4-5

At Grace, we are In The City For Good and Heat Respite is doing that on a daily basis! For the first two weeks in July, we had 1,657 entries for our program, including almost 650 total volunteer hours. We celebrated the 4th of July with a special holiday lunch prepared by St. Mary’s Basilica. We have had some other great volunteer groups, donating their time, meals, water, and finically supporting our program. We could not do this program without all of your help so thank you very much!

I would like to thank the following persons for volunteering their time and hard work almost every day of the past two weeks:

Marlene Haller

Frank Soto

Sven Lenkewitz

Lori Thompson

Stephanie A.

Tarvies Mayweather

We also several groups either donate food for lunches as well as volunteer their time with us. We are so grateful of their time and talents!

  • First UCC

  • Peace Lutheran Church

  • New Journey Lutheran Church

The program is using up to 3 to 4 cases of water every two hours, and I would like to thank some very large water donors recently. They include:

  • Mountain View Lutheran Church, Phoenix

  • New Covenant Lutheran Church, Scottsdale

  • Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Peoria

  • Love of Christ Lutheran Church, Mesa

Also, thank you to St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Phoenix, and Our Savior's Lutheran Church, Mesa, for donating snack items several times over the past several weeks.

Week at a glance for Week Five: July 10th – July 14th

If you interesting in volunteering or donating to the Heat Respite Program, please contact Kim Davidson, Outreach Coordinator, at or at 602-651-1182 to discuss opportunities available for you and/or a group! Thank you and God Bless.

2017 Heat Respite at Grace Lutheran Church

Weeks 1-2

We have had a great first two weeks of our Heat Respite Program. We had 1,898 entries for our program, including almost 700 total volunteer hours. We spent most of the first two weeks under an Excessive Heat Warning, with a nearby sign reading 125 degrees on Tuesday the 20th! Obviously, we’ve had our “speedbumps”, but we got through them, never stopping to strive to be In The City 4 Good and always working towards the Heat Respite Program’s mission to provide a space for heat relief while building community through the sharing of community resources, meals, water, and ourselves in a place of being, belonging, and becoming.

Week at a glance for Week Two: June 19th – June 23rd

I would like to thank the following persons for volunteering their time and hard work almost every day of the past two weeks:

Marlene Haller

Frank Soto

Moses Elder

Charles Mack

Lori Thompson

Stephanie A.

Roy Larkin

Tarvies Mayweather

We also several groups either donate food for lunches as well as volunteer their time with us. Thank yous go out to:

  • First UCC

  • Peace Lutheran Church

  • Next Generation Service Corp (NGSC) students through the Public Service Academy in the ASU College of Public Service & Community Solutions along with active duty service men and women from Luke Air Force Base. (For more information on this group, please see the upcoming July Grapevine. There were approximately 75 volunteers on site on Friday, 6/16!)

  • Boys Hope Girls Hope

  • Grace Lutheran’s own Youth Group

The program is using up to 3 to 4 cases of water every two hours, and I would like to thank some very large water donors recently. They include:

  • Mountain View Lutheran Church

  • City of Phoenix Heat Relief Network

  • New Covenant Lutheran Church

Also, thank you to St. Andrews Lutheran Church for donating snack items several times over the past several weeks.

If you interesting in volunteering or donating to the Heat Respite Program, please contact Kim Davidson, Outreach Coordinator, at or at 602-651-1182 to discuss opportunities available for you and/or a group! Thank you and God Bless.

Sermon: June 18, 2017

Sermon: June 18, 2017

Compassion.  Jesus had compassion for the crowds, verse 36 reads.  Out of Matthew’s account of Jesus summoning the disciples and giving them authority to heal and cleanse and sending them to cure the sick and raise the dead, the word compassion jumps out at me.  When we practice compassion, we see the world from the perspective of someone else.  We at least momentarily step into the head and heart space of another person.  If the person is sick, we imagine ourselves in the hospital, poked by nurses and doctors who are working to heal us, releasing control over who comes in and out of our room, enduring a roommate with noisy relatives or constant TV-watching, feeling lousy all the long, long days that we are there.