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The Holy Spirit is Like Glitter

Pastor Cheryl Hoffman's sermon from Sunday, April 30, 2023.

Readings: Acts 2:1-21, Psalm 104:24-35, 1 Corinthians 12:3-13, John 20:19-23.


If you were here last week, you saw an example of how the Holy Spirit works. She takes a seemingly sane pastor with a perfectly good sermon and puts an idea in her head that will not let her go until she obeys it.


After the service last week many of you said that I am full of surprises. I didn’t plan to veer off course last week, and by now, the Holy Spirit’s playfulness with my sermons shouldn’t be a surprise – although it has been awhile since she totally usurped a prepared sermon.

Interestingly, this never happened during my 13 years of preaching in Pennsylvania. I don’t know, maybe it is the Connecticut air – or the pollen. Or, maybe it’s the bravery that comes with being a widow and moving 300 miles from everyone you know on earth. Or maybe it comes from walking with God long enough to know that when the Spirit taps you on the shoulder, or extends her hand, you might as well take it, and let her lead you onto the dance floor, because she won’t go away until you do.


That’s why I think the Holy Spirit is like glitter. There’s a sparkly personality, and after showing up, you can’t get rid of either one, no matter how hard you try. You can try to ignore them, but they’ll still be there making being a pest.


The truth is, the Holy Spirit is more like a rumble from within than a glittering fashion element. Have you ever watched a mime at work, being pulled by an imaginary rope? Well, the Holy Spirit is the one that pulls, or pushes, you in a direction when you weren’t intending to go that way. Or opens your mouth to speak when you were fully intending to keep it closed, or raises your hand to volunteer when that wasn’t the plan.


In the case of the disciples, the Holy Spirit had them proclaiming the good news of the gospel to their neighbors in a language, and with words, they hadn’t understood just a few minutes before. And, in the case of Peter (who has clearly shown himself to be a coward), bravely standing up before a crowd of strangers, preaching his first sermon.


Now, here’s the kicker, the good news. This tenacious, unsuspecting, sometimes pushy, full-of-surprises Holy Spirit has been given to you. Yep, this is what’s prayed for when hands are laid upon you at baptism. Now, you can think of the Spirit as being upon you, or within you, or even beside you, if you prefer. But, what you cannot think is that the Holy Spirit is not for you— baptized or not.


The words of Paul are these, “ each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” To EACH is given. This is one “bug” we all have.


Exactly how this Holy Spirit “bug” manifests itself, which color glitter it comes in, which language it speaks, or which dance it dances, will be different in different people. I can’t even come up with a single metaphor to use to describe her.


And I say her because the Hebrew word for spirit ruach is feminine. The Greek word pneuma is neuter. Yet, in truth. it’s likely that the Spirit, which descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove, is both male and female, yet neither male nor female.


But, it’s not the gender of the Spirt that’s important, nor its shape: dove, flame, gushing wind, still small voice. What’s important is its purpose and its power.


For the past seven weeks, we’ve been talking about the power of the resurrection, how it changed everything. How, after Easter, nothing was the same, not even death, and certainly not life. Now, here on the eighth week, the week of weeks, comes the Holy Spirit, which changes everyone.


No longer are the disciples hiding in an upper room. No longer is Peter tongue tied and rambling. No longer is the good and powerful news of the resurrection limited to a few disciples, women and family members. No longer is it possible to remain silent.


The genie is out of the bottle, or the messiah out of the tomb, and the there is no putting him back in, no matter how hard the religious authorities try, and they will try.


The power and purpose of the Holy Spirit, here on this day of Pentecost, is all about spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, that he has risen from the dead, sins are forgiven, and death is no more. And, the Spirit’s job is to equip us with the ability to spread the good news when the opportunity arises.


Whether it be through the utterance of wisdom, or knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, speaking in tongues, or the interpretation of tongues, whatever it is we need. It’s the Spirit’s job to see that we have it, to put the right tool in our hand, at the right time, for the right job.


This is why we need not be afraid when the Spirit taps our shoulder, or extends her hand, and asks us dance, or pushes, or pulls, us to do this or that.


Remember in last week’s Gospel, Jesus told his disciples the good news about eternal life, and also, that going forward, they would be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. Fast forward to today and we are those witnesses. These are the ends of our earth. It is up to us, because if not us, then who?


May the Spirit’s presence upon us be as evident as the flames that danced among the disciples. May we be as open to the Spirit’s power, as were those disciples on that first Day of Pentecost, so all the world around us might truly know the goodness of God’s love, grace and forgiveness. Amen.

© 2023, The Rev. Cheryl Lynn Hoffman. All rights reserved.

Who Are the Disciples?

Pastor Cheryl Hoffman's sermon from Sunday, April 30, 2023.

Readings: Acts 2:42-47. Psalm 23, 1 Peter 2:19-25, John 10:1-10.


Normally I would never give up an opportunity to preach on sheep. I mean, let’s face

it, I have more sheep in my flock than do some real shepherds. They are a mild fascination of mine, and this is the one Sunday each year that I get to showcase my very well-behaved flock.


But this year, Good Shepherd Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Easter, also falls on the Sunday of our annual meeting. With this in the back of my mind, the first lesson, the reading from Acts, spoke a little louder to me this time around.


I’m curious. I’m going to read the first two verses again, and then I want to ask you a question, so listen carefully. “[The baptized] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.”

In these verses, where do you see yourself? With whom do you identify? The baptized who devoted themselves to the apostles, or the apostles?


Let me ask you another question. Let’s go back a couple of weeks, to Easter Sunday. Remember that story from the gospel of Matthew (or John)? The disciples were hanging out, while the women were at the tomb, discovering it was empty. Put yourself in that story. Where did you see yourself? With whom did you identify? The disciples, the women, or the rest of the residents of Jerusalem?


When you think about the gospels in general, and Jesus’ three years of ministry, all his parables, travels and miracles, in the whole scheme of things, where do you see yourself? With whom do you most relate? Where do you think you are meant to be?


So, my last question, if in other times, and places, you see yourself as a disciple, why today do you see yourself as one of the baptized followers, devoted to the apostles; as one awed by the wonders and signs being done by the apostles, and not as an apostle doing the wonders and signs, and inspiring awe?


Perhaps, somewhere along the line between Easter and Pentecost, maybe on Good Shepherd Sunday, as our attention is drawn to being woeful sheep that follow, the wool is pulled over our eyes. We forget WE are the disciples, the apostles, the ones called and sent to teach the good news, to pray and break bread together for the good of all the baptized. WE are the ones walking in Jesus’ footsteps, doing many wonders and signs, inspiring the awe of others.


If you haven’t read the annual report from cover to cover, please do so. It’s filled with awesome things. There are examples of teachings, fellowship, the breaking of bread and praying together, the distribution of proceeds to others as they have need, and many wonders and signs. It, truly, is awe inspiring.


The Acts of the Apostles is the full title of the biblical book about how the disciples used the gift and power of the Holy Spirit (what Jesus taught them and gave them, while he was with them) and went about doing what he instructed them to do. “As my Father sent me, so I send you.” In essence, it’s about the formation of the Christian community, also known as “the church.”


Of course, the church looks a lot different now than it did at the time of the first apostles. It should be about the same things: teaching the gospel, fellowship, breaking bread, prayer and praising God. And, it’s still the disciples’ responsibility, to see this is being done.


Remember way back, before COVID. It seems like forever ago doesn’t it? Think back to 2018, 2019, even 2017, after I arrived here as your new pastor. When I did, I made a change to the bulletin. Specifically, I made a change to the list at the back of the bulletin – the list of people serving in the worship service on that day. I, The Rev. Cheryl Hoffman, was listed as the Minister. I changed that so The Rev. Cheryl Hoffman was listed as the Pastor and the Ministers were listed as the people of Saint Mark.


It was a subtle but significant change. What happens here at the Lutheran Church of Saint Mark is a joint ministry. It’s one, for which, we are all responsible – as leaders, not just as devotees.


But, it’s not all up to us. Imagine if the success of the early church depended only upon the likes of Peter, the Sons of Thunder, James and John, or doubting Thomas. And, what good could come from Nazareth Nathanael? Oh, I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry at that image. But, God knew better.


The wonders and signs the apostles did in the sight of others, they were able to do because of the gift of the Holy Spirit. And when they needed some help, direction or correction, God sent them what they needed, like the vision to Peter about eating unclean food before he was called out by the gentile Cornelius. They didn’t always get it right, but they knew what they were about. They knew why they were about when doing it, and they sought to live faithfully.


Day by day, the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. The saving and the growing were also at the hands of God through the Holy Spirit. We sometimes tend to forget that we’re about being, and growing, God’s ministry. We are about tending God’s flock and feeding God’s sheep, for the sake and goodwill of ALL the people, not any one church, or building, or denomination.


As we take the time to reflect on this past year, and look toward the year to come, may we have the eyes to see God’s vision for us, the ears to hear his voice calling us, and the courage to be the leaders he has taught and shaped us to be.


© 2023, The Rev. Cheryl Lynn Hoffman. All rights reserved.


Wounds & Scars

Pastor Cheryl Hoffman's sermon from Sunday, April 16, 2023.

Readings: Acts 2:14, 22-32, Psalm 16, 1 Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31.

It is said that there is only one thing that wasn’t changed by the resurrection—the wounds of Christ. “Look, put your fingers here and see my hands. Reach out and put your hand in my side.” And don’t forget there are also wounds in the feet of Christ. Battle scars we sometimes call them.


Do you have battle scars and wounded war stories to go with them? I have a wound story. I actually have several, but the most interesting one is about the scar in my right eyebrow.


I don’t remember the incident that led to this scar, but I am told that I received this wound when I was three. The story is that my parents had bought me a red flyer little red wagon for my birthday. Do you remember those?

Well, Mom and Dad took the wagon, and me, on a trip to see my great-grandmother, or Memmie, as we called her. Memmie’s house was built at a leveling off spot towards the bottom of a hill that started over a mile away at the top of a mountain.


I’m not sure who thought of this “bright idea,” but they took the wagon part way up the hill, put Mom and me in the wagon, and intended to let gravity return us to Memmie’s house.


Sounds like it could be fun, right? It probably would have been, if I had not decided I wanted out of the wagon, before the ride came to a complete stop. As it was, the ride went wild as my mom tried to keep me in the wagon while steering down the hill, without the benefit of any brakes.


Now Memmie lived in farm country. There was a ditch and cornfields to the right of the road, and a cow pasture to the left, the boundaries of the pasture marked with a barbed wire fence.


Can you guess the ending?


Yep, Mom steered us into the barbed wire fence. I caught it just above the eye. We were both very lucky that this was the only injury. I was extra lucky the barbed wire didn’t catch me IN the eye.


Today this is a funny story to share, but there was a lot of pain and emotion at the time. Apparently, I was so hysterical it took four people to hold me down for the Novocain and stitches.


Is there anyone who doesn’t have a scar and a wound story to go with it? It’s hard to imagine that it is possible to go through life without any scars at all.


Sometimes our scars become badges of honor. They prove we survived. Other scars are a tender, constant reminder of our “woundedness.” I have a scar on my right ankle, the result of surgeries to fix the foot I broke twice. Those surgeries occurred when I was in high school, but to this day, the scar is sensitive. A touch, or the rubbing of my shoe in just the right, or wrong, way, will send me through the roof.


Of course, not all of our scars are visible. Perhaps some of the most sensitive scars are the invisible emotional scars we carry inside. The scars from having been bullied, or abused, or the scars of a mental illness, or poverty, or unemployment, or the scars from a chronic illness, or the loss of a child, or the scars from being the victim of any other of life’s cruelties.


These scars, it seems, take the longest to form, as the wounds are often deep, and extremely susceptible to being bumped-open, again and again.


It’s a curious thing Jesus came through the resurrection with his wounded scars intact. We usually imagine, and talk about, people who have died as being restored, renewed, made whole, and healed. This is the gift, or at least one of the gifts, of heaven, in which we place our hope and find comfort in our grief.


But Jesus, having been restored, renewed, and resurrected maintained his scars. Why?


Well, the one thing all scars do is remind us of where we’ve been. They’re windows into our past and reminders, whether we like it or not, of our “woundedness.” And, our “woundedness” is one of the things that makes us human.


Jesus’ wounds mark his humanity. They assure us he really does understand suffering, and the trials and temptations that scar our lives. In truth, few of us really want a Messiah who is fully divine, all God and glory, sitting on a throne, high and mighty, lording himself over us. We wouldn’t accept such a God as friend and shepherd, let alone, as good and loving.

So, it’s the wounds of Christ which make him real, believable, and worth listening to. The same is true for us. It’s precisely because we ourselves have been wounded in the battle of life, that we can offer understanding, empathy, and hope to others. Writer and theologian Henri Nouwen calls it being a “wounded healer.” He writes, “in our own ‘woundedness,’ we can become a source of life for others.”


James Howell, the author of Yours are the Hands of Christ, The Practice of Faith, also addresses this reality. In his section, “God uses broken things,” he writes, “We are able to share the pain of others because we know our own brokenness. We are all broken, wounded. And, it is precisely those places where we have been hurt that we can discover our giftedness. It is out of our pain that we can become healers.”

Notice, he says “it is out of our pain that we CAN become healers.” We CAN become healers. It’s not an automatic reality.


I said earlier that one of the things scars do, is tell us where we’ve been. Well, some people also allow their wounds and scars to dictate where they will go.


Certainly, you’ve encountered such people — people who can’t let go of the pain of a past hurt, people who constantly blame current troubles on some past life injury or injustice, people who refuse to take responsibility for their own health or financial predicament. Do you know such people?


Jesus could have been such a person. He could have refused to come out of the tomb. I would have understood, if he said to God, the Father, “Thanks, but no thanks! I’ve spent 33 years with these thankless, obtuse people. They tortured me, and killed me, and you, you turned your back on me! You want a messiah to save these eejits? You find someone else!”


Jesus could have used his wounds to shame his disciples. “Here, look at these wounds, and they are your fault! Some disciples you turned out to be.”


Jesus could have used his wounds as the rally cry for a pity party, or allowed his scars to lead him down the road of despair and hopelessness.


But Jesus did none of these things. Though the scars on Christ’s wounded body told the story of where he had been, he refused to allow them to dictate where he would go. Instead, Jesus used his scars to reveal himself, and to bring comfort and joy to his disciples. “Look! Here! It is I! I am the one you mourn, only I am not dead.”


Jesus used his wounds as windows that allowed the light of the resurrection to shine through. His scars became a source of life and hope for his disciples.


In Romans, Paul writes, “We know that all things work together for good. This does not mean that all things are good, nor, do I believe, that it means all things happen for a reason. But it does mean that God can use our wounded, broken selves to bring about good even to bring forth new life and joy and hope.”


Today, the resurrected Christ offers you his scars, and extends his wounded hands in peace. He shares with you his humanity, and in so doing, solidifies the integrity of his divinity.


Now it’s your turn. Will you allow God to heal others through your wounds, your cracks, your imperfections? Will you be a wounded healer? Will you allow the light of life to shine through your wounds? Will you be the one, through whom others experience peace, and the new life of the resurrection today?



© 2023, The Rev. Cheryl Lynn Hoffman. All rights reserved.


Who Are You Going to Tell?

Pastor Cheryl Hoffman's sermon from Easter Sunday, April 9, 2023.

Readings: Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2+14-24, Colossians 3:1-4, Matthew 28:1-10.

Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!


Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!


Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!


You know, in truth, there isn’t much else to say. The news doesn’t get any better than this. He is not here. He has been raised from the dead! What else do you want to know?

Wait, but I want to know something. Who are you going to tell? This great, there is no better than this news – with whom are you going to share it?


“Come see, then go quickly and tell them.” These are the angel’s instructions. Well, you have come. You can see for yourself. He is risen, just as he said. Are you going to keep this news to yourself?

You don’t have to leave quickly. You’re all invited to stay for fellowship and some very good yummies. But then after you do leave, are you going to share the good news? Because if you keep it to yourself, if you don’t tell anyone, how will the word get out?

You know they call next Sunday “Low Sunday,” because there’re usually only a third of the people present on the Sunday after Easter as are present today. I think I finally figured out why. No one follows the angel’s instructions. No one leaves today, having heard the good news of the resurrection and tells anyone, because if they did, there would be twice as many people in the pews on the Second Sunday of Easter.


Give it some thought. This news really is too good to keep to yourself.


I mean, it is, right? Good news, that Jesus is risen? Because there’s enough bad news already and I wouldn’t want us to go around spreading even more. So, we are agreed. It really is good news. Great!


You know why it’s good news don’t you? I mean, you wouldn’t want to go up to your best friend after you leave here and say, “Hey Bestie, I just heard this really great news and I want to share it with you, because you are my bestest friend in the whole wide world! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!”


And then your bestie says, “Yeah, so what? What is so great about that?”


Then what do you say? “Umm, I don’t know, some preacher lady told us that an angel said Jesus wasn’t in the tomb, and we’re supposed to go share the good news.”


Well, that might work. Then you could bring your bestie along to church next week and we’ll try to fill in some of the gaps.


But it would be better if you just explained why the empty tomb is so important. Why he is risen, is indeed, such good news.


Of course, if Jesus is risen, that means that he’s not dead. And, if he’s not dead, then God is not dead. And, we serve, and worship, a living God.


And, if our God is a living God, then God, through the resurrection of Jesus, has conquered death. And, because he lives, though we die, we, too, will also live.


Death is no longer something to fear.


And, if God has conquered death, then there’s nothing God cannot do.


Even the impossible is possible with God.


And that my friends is indeed pretty great news.

Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!


Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!


Now it is your turn to go and tell them what the angel said. Amen.

© 2023, The Rev. Cheryl Lynn Hoffman. All rights reserved.


Pastor Cheryl Hoffman's sermon from April 2, 2023

Readings: Matthew 21:1-11, Isaiah 50:4-9, Psalm 31, Philippians 2:5-11,

Matthew 26:14 -27:66.


Hands, big and little ones, old and new ones

smooth and callused ones, worried and worn ones.

Hands both open and fisted, wringing and pleading,

praying and reaching, grasping and clinging, beating and throwing.

Hands of chief priests and scribes, slaves and pharisees,

the governor, the romans, the Jews,

citizens and foreigners, friends, family and foe.


They were all there:

To untie the donkey and her foal

To spread their cloaks

To cut tree branches

To pour oil


To prepare for Passover

To dip into the bowl of betrayal

To break the bread and give the cup


To plead and to pray


To carry clubs and swords

To cut off an ear

To arrest

To strike and slap

To bind

To handover


To throw down

To hang one’s self

To wash away the guilt

To flog

To strip naked

To dress in scarlet

To twist thorns into a crown

To mock

To carry a cross not one’s own

To crucify

To offer wine and gall

To divide another’s clothes

To cast lots for a prize

To do nothing but wait and watch and see


But the hands that matter most

Are those stretched out

Bleeding, dripping,

Pinned and pining

For you and for me

And the ones we can’t see

Holding the crossbar

Bearing the weight of the world

And of his only son

Longing for this to be done

The hands come

To remove the corpse

To wrap in linen

To lay in a tomb

To roll a rock

To create a seal

   To be sure it secure.

   To be sure it is finished

And Now

The hands of the Jews will honor the Sabbath

The hands of the women will wait

The hands of the disciples will lock their doors

And your hands

How will they wait and mark the time

How will they honor the holiness of this week

What will they hold,

What will they open

What will they lock up and seal tight

What will they give

What will they receive

Will they know how precious the gift

         When they hold the

         Body of Christ broken for thee?


© 2023, The Rev. Cheryl Lynn Hoffman. All rights reserved.


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