calendar May 2, 2014 in 2014 Assembly, Assembly, Communications

Look at Your Selfie

“Take out your imaginary cell phone and take an imaginary selfie,” the Rev. Dr. Mark S. Hanson, former Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, challenged the assembly. Dr. Hanson was preaching the sermon at opening worship on May 2 for the 2014 Assembly of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Look at that selfie, Hanson instructed – accompanied by laughter from those gathered. “Look at your eyes… mouth… nose… ears… mind… brain… hands… feet…” He suggested some would see good news in what they saw, others bad news, all what we know already – but nothing that we would see in that selfie will save us, make life whole, raise us from the dead or make us alive together with God. No part of us, or all of us, will save any of us. That is God’s work.

Look at Your “Selfie” from on Vimeo.


For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. – Ephesians 2:4-10

Ephesians describes God’s Word, but do we hear it? Do we hear what makes us alive together with Christ? What can we expect through God’s Word? Hanson asked the assembly to think what God’s work was going to be, and tell somebody near them. God is here, rich in mercy, loving all of you in that selfie. In this polarized world, our work is to save, to do God’s work of reconciliation, not work of meanness and divisiveness. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, Hanson says, is ahead of the church in living reconciliation. Guilt and shame are our activities, not God’s work – God is not in the sin accounting business. As Luther points out in the Third Article in the Small Catechism, not even our faithfulness will save us. We are saved through the Holy Spirit.

Hanson preaching

Mark Hanson preaching to open Assembly 2014.

Hanson returned to the Gospel for the day, where God raised Jesus, and Jesus appeared before the disciples, saying “Peace be with you.” Jesus didn’t ask how the disciples were or what they were doing. He showed them His hands and feet. We can’t look at our selfie, at our hands and feet, to be set free. We need to look at the hands and feet of the crucified and risen Jesus.

Hanson asked, why did Jesus have the disciples look at His hands and feet? Did they see what He did with those hands and feet as He did His work? Did they see those hands carrying the cross, those hands bleeding, nailed to the cross? Did they see Jesus’ feet, worn from the miles He walked to bring God’s Word, especially to those deemed by not be part of the realm by the civil and religious authorities. He knew that they had not seen Him crucified. They had hidden themselves, yet they needed to look at those hands and feet.

We need to look at Jesus, Hanson said. See, hear, believe what we see in those hands and feet, how they show that God has been faithful to His promise, to Abraham, to Sarah, to us. No authority could hold Jesus back, and we cannot be held back in loving and forgiving, in making us together, alive in Christ.

Hansen asked the assembly to look at that imaginary selfie again, recognizing that there is nothing we can do, and asking, “so, what is that selfie to do?” We can’t delete this selfie into cyber trash. What we can do is do God’s work. Look at Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith,” which he sees as so Lutheran that perhaps Luther wrote it and passed it to the authors of Ephesians.

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Dr. Hanson and ELCA Representative Judith Roberts distribute Communion.

What follows? We are what God has made us, for good. God has given us ears – ears to hear the cries of the suffering, ears to hear joyful words, ears to hear the Good News. Ears are “the birth canal of faith,” Hanson said.

Look then at your neighbor’s beautiful feet, Hanson told the assembly (more laughter). What makes them beautiful? In the words of Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” (NRSV) Hanson recalled the sermon by Pastor Heidi Newmark at his installation as bishop, where she said to him that she would be “watching your feet tomorrow,” not who put their hands on his head. Would those feet be standing with those in need? Where will the feet of the church be tomorrow?

“Your God Reigns…” Ponder that selfie again, Hanson suggested. Ponder the mind in that selfie – the thoughts, the curiosity, the tears, the fears. God will use all of you. We are joined to Christ crucified and risen, set free to do God’s work.

Hanson reminded the assembly to remember the Last Promise. From the power on high, we live on this side of Pentecost, of the Holy Spirit send, anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit. The assembly is asked to look at their hands, and put those hands on someone’s head (laughter again). “The Holy Spirit is in this place,” he said. And what God has promised has been delivered through the power of the Holy Spirit. – John Kahler


View the video of Bishop Hanson’s sermon:


(Readings for the day: Isaiah 52:7-10, Ephesians 2:4-10. Gospel for the day: Luke 24:36-49)