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Forgiveness Unbinds Us


by Rev. Dr. Fritz Ritsch
Ezekiel 34: 11-16
2 Timothy 4: 6-8
Matthew 16: 13-22

Life may change, but it may fly not;
Hope may vanish, but can die not;
Truth be veiled, but still it burneth;
Love repulsed -but it returneth.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 –1822), Prometheus Unbound

I discovered through our interim organist choir director that this Sunday is traditionally held to be “Saints Peter and Paul” Sunday, a day of celebration of the the founding of the church. It’s the day the church remembers the words that Jesus pronounces to Peter today, that he is the rock on which the church will be founded. Protestants tend not to celebrate it, because, I guess, of the fact that we aren’t Roman Catholic, and the RCs refer to this blessing of St. Peter as the beginning of the papacy. Since last week I preached positively about Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, you all may be wondering if I’m changing teams and secretly saying “Hail Mary’s” in my office. I’m not, but I’d like to refer you to something I heard Methodist theologian Stanley Hauerwas’ say once that “we should all become Roman Catholics, just as soon as they start ordaining women.” He meant by this that we need to stop viewing the church as splintered and work towards reconciliation—we need to look at our traditions, though disparate, as part of a whole church, what we call in the creeds “The Holy Catholic Church.” When we say that in the Apostles’ Creed, what we mean is that the church of Jesus Christ is united; and Hauerwas meant that his hope is that one day our differences will all be resolved and we will be united again under the banner of the one church.Read More »Forgiveness Unbinds Us

Be A Prophet: Pentecost


Acts 2: 1-21

What does “prophesy” mean? We tend to use it to mean “predict the future.” But actually that’s not what it means at all. The ancient prophets sometimes got their predictions wrong. Remember the story of Jonah? He predicts “Yet thirty days, and Nineveh will be destroyed.” He gets angry because in the end God doesn’t do what was predicted. Why? Because the people of Nineveh repented of their evil and turned to God, and so God showed them mercy.Read More »Be A Prophet: Pentecost

Love the Vine

Love the Vine, All Loves Excelling
by Rev. Dr. Fritz Ritsch
May 3, 2015
1 John 4:7-21
John 15:1-8

Bear Fruit.

That’s a consistent message in the gospel. Jesus says in the Parable of the Sower, “the ones sown on the good soil… hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” The Apostle Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5: 23-24).Read More »Love the Vine

Butterfly window

Thomas is Us

Peace Be With You
John 20: 19-31

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)

Thomas’ doubts are really ours. That’s why the Gospel of John tells this story. The gospel writer tells us himself that there are so many stories that could be told about Jesus, that he couldn’t begin to tell them all; so he clearly has chosen the story of Thomas’ doubts to make a point. And the point is that Thomas doubts the same thing that we do. How does a pie-in-the-sky religion address our concrete reality here on earth? People are wounded, people are bleeding. A spiritualized, other-worldly faith really doesn’t offer much hope for a wounded, bleeding world, does it?Read More »Thomas is Us

Stop Trying to Understand, and Believe!

Appearances Deceiving
By Rev. Dr. Fritz Ritsch
Easter Day, 2015
John 20: 1-18
Isaiah 25: 6-9

How do we believe what we don’t understand?

That’s what happens to the disciple who loved Jesus when he entered the tomb and saw Jesus’ shroud lying there where Jesus’ body had once lain. The Bible says, “He saw and believed,” but then adds, “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” So the disciple who entered the tomb—John, the gospel writer—believes, even though he doesn’t understand. Apparently his theology is not sufficient to cope with what he is experiencing. Apparently he doesn’t fully grasp the intricacies of the Chalcedonian Definition of the Dual Nature of Jesus, or the Five Points of Calvinism. Worse, he doesn’t understand the most basic, basic, core principle of Christianity: the actual resurrection of Jesus our Lord. John, the apostle, the Gospel writer, the Disciple who Jesus loved, John himself doesn’t understand that Jesus is raised from the dead!

And yet, he believes.Read More »Stop Trying to Understand, and Believe!

The Irresistible Gravity of the Grace of God

The Irresistible Gravity of the Grace of God

John 12:20-33

Jeremiah 31: 31-34

Probably the best known story about Jesus is the story of his prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, before He is about to be arrested, tried, and executed. Jesus knows what’s coming, so he goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. As Mark tells it, Jesus “fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

After he prays though, God has shored up his confidence, and Jesus goes to his sleeping disciples and says, “Awake, the hour has come.” And right then Judas comes leading a mob to capture Jesus and take him to the high priest.Read More »The Irresistible Gravity of the Grace of God

The Myth of Redemptive Violence

Rainbow Connection
by Rev. Dr. Fritz Ritsch
February 22, 2015
First Sunday of Lent
Genesis 9: 8-17

Chaos. Disorder. That’s what seems to be on the news all the time. The rise of ISIS. The spread of diseases. Civil unrest. And let’s be honest—ever since 9/11 people have been afraid. Certainly we’ve been afraid of things real and tangible, but fear has also been exploited—by politicians, by the news media, by entertainment. It’s a fear of a rising tide of chaos and unrest.

And yet, our Gospel tells us (Mark 1: 9-15) that Jesus came to proclaim “good news.” How can we proclaim–and believe–good news in these challenging times?Read More »The Myth of Redemptive Violence

St. Stephen's Resurrection Windows

Sin: Off Target


Off Target

by Rev. Dr. Fritz Ritsch

Ash Wednesday 2015

2 Corinthians 5: 20b-6:10

I’ve only shot a firearm once, when I was pastor of my first church in Virginia. It was not AT one of my parishioners, but WITH one: one of my deacons, Don Herring, was a retired Navy firearms instructor. He took me out to his private firing range out in the woods to fire a musket–Don and his wife were big Civil War re-enactors as well. He showed me the complicated loading process, which involved ramming the powder, wadding, and ball in exactly right, and in the right order. He pointed out that to this day they’re finding old muskets on Civil War battlefields loaded with unfired balls stacked up on top of one another, from panicked troopers loading their muskets incorrectly.Read More »Sin: Off Target