19th Sunday After Pentecost
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from our God
who calls us to faith, prayer and acts of justice. Amen
We have another parable for our gospel today,
commonly titled the parable of the widow and the unjust judge,
now another parable doesn’t really surprise us
because Jesus loves telling parables,
these little teaching stories
that have multiple meanings
and often leave the listener more confused
at the end of hearing them than enlightened.
Which is why we should be suspicious
when Luke tells us what the parable is about
before giving us the parable.
“Then Jesus told them a parable about the need to pray always and not to lose heart”
Luke pre-interprets the parable for us
and I’ve got to say,
if this parable is only about prayer
then I’m not sure I like the picture it paints.
We’ve got two characters the unjust judge,
who we’re told right at the beginning that is bad at his job,
he doesn’t respect the law,
or God or other people,
and we have a widow
who in terms of the law
has very little power
a woman’s legal status and protection
came through either her father or her husband,
which meant if a woman were widowed
she had not only lost her husband
but legal protection as well,
additionally wives were not allowed
to inherit their husband’s property
leaving widows in an extremely vulnerable state,
which is why the law emphasizes over and over again
that special care is to be taken for widows
So in our parable we have a widow in a legal dispute with someone
and we assume her cause is just,
and we have a judge whose job it is to settle the dispute
and he refuses to do his job
but this widow doesn’t give up
, she keeps coming to him
asking him to do his job,
again and again she comes
until finally the judge grants her justice,
not out of any concern for God or the law or the widow
but purely out of self preservation,
we hear his inner monologue
“Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone,
yet because this widow keeps bothering me,
I will grant her justice
so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’
Now I discovered this week
that the translators really toned down the imagery
when the judge says the widow keeps bothering him
and gives her justice so that she won’t wear him out,
that seems pretty mild right,
more annoying than anything,
when in fact the greek uses boxing imagery,
this is a boxing match
and the direct translation is
: “so that in the end she may not come and strike me under the eye”
in other words, give the judge a black eye.
This widow is persistent,
in her pursuit of justice until it is granted to her.
I love this image,
the two characters in a boxing ring
the widow cornering the judge
landing punches until he gives up,
a true underdog match
but if this is about prayer
then I have a problem with it,
because at least at first glance
it seems that God is the unjust judge
and we are all the widow
and prayer is a relentless pursuit of God
to get what we want.
And I don’t think God or prayer work that way,
neither does Jesus by the way
his concluding remarks contrast God to the judge,
he says unlike the judge God doesn’t have to be badgered into giving justice
but will listen and respond quickly,
but I’ve got to say the contrast isn’t strong enough for me,
the image I am left with
is of the boxing match
and the widow throwing punches until she gets justice.
Now, if there were no pre-interpretation to this parable
that’s what I would think the parable is about.
Justice and the pursuit thereof,
the widow keeps coming
until justice is granted,
it often takes that kind of persistence
to get justice in the world
and we know we have a God who cares about justice,
In fact God fits the description of the widow,
one who continually comes to those in power in the world
until they do the right thing.
Think of the defining story of the exodus
where God sends plague after plague on Pharaoh
until the Isrealites are set free.
Jesus in his ministry
has been preaching and enacting justice too,
mostly among people in the place of the widow
with no power and few options,
he’s told them the world doesn’t have to be this way,
when someone is hungry, feed them,
when someone is sick offer medicine/ healing,
that is God’s vision for the world,
a vision that Jesus has been living all along the way
now Jesus is headed to Jerusalem and the cross
where the justice of God will be completed,
there are a variety of different ways to try to explain
what happens on the cross,
the words debt and substitution are often used
but these all fall short
but we do know the result,
for the sake of Jesus
God forgives us all the injustices we commit,
the breaches in relationship we’ve created
and God welcomes us with open arms.
Jesus concludes his interpretation of the parable like this:
“Listen to what the unjust judge says,
and will not God grant justice to his chosen ones
who cry to him day and night,
will he delay long in helping them?
I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them.”
and this interpretation makes sense to me
given what has taken place in the parable
and in the interactions between God and people.
But those of you who are paying close attention
know that there is actually one more sentence to Jesus’ conclusion:
“and yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
What? Where does faith come into this?
Just when we’d finally figured something out about the parable
faith gets thrown into the mix.
Just before telling this parable in Luke,
Jesus has been teaching his disciples
about the return of the Son of Man,
he’s told them that he will die,
rise three days later,
ascend to his father
and then after an extended absence return-
this is what we confess in the second article of the apostle’s creed
when we say “he will come to judge the living and the dead”
Jesus understands that this gap
will be long enough for people to lose faith,
but what does that have to do with justice,
or even prayer?
What is this parable about? Prayer? Justice? Faith?
Perhaps it’s all three,
Barbara Lundblad is a professor of preaching
and an amazing interpreter of scripture
and in a sermon on this text at the festival of homiletics last year
she suggested just that,
that this parable is actually about all three things,
prayer, justice and faith
because they are connected,
we can’t have one without the other,
if we pray but don’t seek justice
our prayers are empty-
this is why people react so strongly now
when politicians offer thoughts and prayers after a tragedy
without acting to correct the injustice that created the tragedy,
those thoughts and prayers mean nothing
if not followed by meaningful action.
On the other hand
if we work for justice and don’t pray
we will come to think everything depends on us,
we neatly cut God out of the equation
when in fact while our work is important
it is God who will bring about the full realization of justice in the world,
our actions are drops in the bucket,
meaningful drops, but drops all the same.
And finally Barabara Lundblad suggests
that if we manage to both pray and work for justice
but have no faith
we will give up when justice doesn’t come.
Think, how many times the widow appealed to the judge
before justice was granted her.
each round of the boxing match is harder to get up for.
Faith is often defined as trust,
lately I’ve been thinking that another good definition of faith
the willingness to wait for God.
Jesus wonders if he will find faith on earth when he returns,
so in the end,
perhaps the parable is about what Luke said in the first place,
about the need to pray always and not lose heart,
to work for justice in the world
as Jesus has commanded his followers to do
requires constant prayer
not so much to badger God
but to remind ourselves that we have a relationship with God
who acts for justice,
and it requires faith,
the trust that God will help us
and the patience to wait for the time when that justice will be realized.
So in whatever boxing match you may find yourself
pray, work for justice, have faith,
and don’t lose heart,
Christ is coming. Amen
18th Sunday After Pentecost
2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15
2 Timothy 2:8-15
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from God who is powerful and gracious. Amen
Hallelujah! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart
the psalmists exclaims this morning
and goes on to extol why whole hearted thanksgiving
is appropriate for God,
Great are your works O Lord,
Majesty and splendor mark your deeds,
and your righteousness endures forever,
you have shown your people the power of your works
and so on and so forth,
painting a picture of a powerful God
capable of anything,
one who should inspire awe
and even a little fear
as the Psalmist concludes “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”
we start to become wise
when we realize how little power we have,
how limited our understanding of what God is capable of is.
And yet, as humans
we seem to frequently both expect great displays of power from God,
and miss or almost miss them when they occur
because God who is gracious and merciful and full of compassion
rarely acts as we humans expect,
namely in the same way that we would do something.
In fact it’s usually the opposite,
God frequently uses power
in ways we least expect
among the people we think don’t deserve it,
that is the grace of God,
forgiveness, mercy, salvation,
given because of the goodness of God
not because it is earned or deserved
And we’re generally okay with that
when that grace is directed toward us,
but it seems to really upset us
when others, especially our enemies
are on the receiving end of grace as well.
In fact that’s the key to grace
It’s for everyone
I was at fall theological conference earlier this week
and Bishop Maas reminded us all that
“It’s not grace until it upsets you”
(he used slightly stronger language than that).
God extending grace in the world
Will invariably upset someone
Take the story of Naaman,
God’s grace and mercy are on display
but in all the unexpected and dare we say wrong ways.
Naaman is not an Israelite,
in fact he’s spent a good amount of time
waging war on the Israelites
and has been successful enough to take captives as slaves,
and yet it’s that small girl from Israel
whose faith in the power of God
suggests that the prophet in service of the God of Israel
could heal her captor.
And Naaman who must be really itchy
decides to give it a try
and sends a letter to the King of Israel,
who thinks, this is a trap
another way to provoke war
why else would he write?
but Elijah the prophet tells the king to let him come,
and so Naaman comes in a great display of wealth
to meet this supposedly great and powerful prophet,
and what happens?
Elisha doesn’t even come out of his tent,
he sends a messenger telling Naaman to wash in the Jordan river seven times,
and this upsets Naaman,
he was expecting a display of power,
a great show at the very least
and all he gets is a messenger
telling him to go wash in a piddly little stream,
and he throws a temper tantrum
refuses to do as Elisha instructs
until his servants point out to him
that if the prophet had told him to do something difficult
he would have done it,
so why not try doing the easy thing that was actually instructed.
And seeing sense in that
Naaman goes and follows the instructions and he is healed.
He almost missed being healed,
witnessing the power of God
because the way God chose to work
didn’t seem powerful enough,
let alone the fact that from the perspective of Israel
he was an enemy of the people of God,
he certainly didn’t deserve to be on the receiving end of the grace of God,
and yet God acted with power, and grace.
It’s not grace until it upsets someone.
Equally potentially upsetting is our gospel story for today.
Jesus displays the power and grace of God
and even though it’s Jesus,
it’s still not what we expect from God
On the way to Jerusalem
Jesus passes through a boarder region
between Samaria and Galilee.
Remember in the Bible Samaritans
are the stand in for everyone
that we think doesn’t deserves the grace of God.
So Jesus is traveling through Samaria,
the proverbial wrong side of the tracks
and he is doing it intentionally,
there was a route from Galilee to Jerusalem
that avoided this region
As Jesus approaches a village in this borderlands
ten people with leprosy approach him,
in a place that is already on the margins
these are the marginalized,
those with leprosy were excluded from community life,
they were taught to keep a safe distance from everyone
because they were considered religiously unclean.
and even more than that,
logic of the day said
that these people were sick
because they were being punished by God
for something they had done,
even God doesn’t like them they were told
the people with leprosy call out to Jesus for mercy.
And Jesus see them.
and responds with mercy,
he heals them,
not with some flashy display
but by telling them to go show themselves to the priests,
And as they go they are made clean.
These people that conventional wisdom says
do not deserve the grace of God
And then one out of the ten
sees that he has been healed,
he recognizes God’s mercy at work in Jesus
and he turns back praising God with a loud voice and thanks Jesus.
And the punchline of the story
is that the one who gets it is a samaritan,
a leperous Samaritan, two strikes against him
and yet he is the one that returns and praises God.
Now to be fair
if I was one of those other nine
and I saw I was healed
I would continue to follow the directions of Jesus precisely,
he said go and show the priests
and that’s what I would do,
which makes it all the more upsetting
that the one who is praised
is the one that doesn’t follow through on the instructions.
See how easy it is to be upset by the grace of God?
And yet This is our God,
gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,
love so great that God became human,
and walked among us preaching and healing
even though God knew
that it would eventually lead to a brutal death on the cross
because that way of life
would be so upsetting to those in power,
or at least what passes for power among humanity
and even then
death could not contain God
and on the third day Jesus rose from the dead.
All so that we would no longer be tormented by the finality of death.
This is our God,
the one who offers mercy first and asks questions later,
Who extends grace to all,
even and especially to those who don’t deserve it,
grace that often goes unnoticed by us
and upsets us when we do,
grace that causes us to proclaim
Hallelujah! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. Amen
17th Sunday After Pentecost
Habbakuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
2 Timothey 1:1-14
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace, mercy and peace to you from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord Amen.
Today our lessons are talking about faith,
which is one of those things
that can be hard to talk about or even define
and yet each year I have the students about to be confirmed
write statements of faith,
I give them a pad of paper and say go for it,
write about your faith,
and each year they stare back at me for a few moments
unsure of where to begin
but after a moment and a few prompts
they figure it out
and each statement truly reflects the person who wrote it.
This weekend I met with our two 9th graders
who will affirm their baptisms at the end of the month
and As Mira and Aiden were writing
I went back through and read the faith statements from the past years
and while each had their own particular flair
common themes emerged,
The theme of Family as crucial to faith,
acknowledging that their faith grew out of parents
who got them baptized,
read them the bible
and made them go to Sunday school
The theme of belonging and acceptance
showed up again and again,
both as relates to God and community,
faith means knowing you belong to God
and that you belong to a community.
And lastly the theme of trusting God,
trusting that God will guide and be present in hard times
and in the way forward,
trusting God by following God in how life is lived.
All these expressions and definitions of faith
are found in our readings for today
but the readings go a step further,
they also address the times when faith is difficult,
Times where we cry out with the prophets
“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?”
because it seems like God is not listening,
that our prayers are going unanswered,
or even worse that not only do our prayers go unanswered
but that bad people,
the ones doing evil are succeeding in life
where we are failing,
they are prospering while we are left in the dust
and while the psalmist urges us not to be provoked by evildoers,
that they will fade away like grass,
that holds little consolation now in the midst of suffering.
Why don’t you just snap your fingers and make it all go away God?
We ask at times,
or we starting thinking,
maybe it’s not God,
maybe it’s me,
my faith isn’t strong enough,
and we stand with the disciples from our gospel for today
and demand of God “increase our faith.”
Jesus has just told them by the way,
that they should be continually forgiving those who sin against them
and the disciples feel that perhaps
they don’t have enough faith for that momentous task,
Jesus responds to their request
with his odd illustration of faith the size of a mustard seed
being able to replant a mulberry tree in the ocean
which is a little different from the mustard seed parable in Matthew
then goes on to talk about expectations for servants,
and what he’s saying
is that faith is not magic,
more faith does not equal greater things happening,
the existence of any faith is enough,
even the smallest amount is sufficient,
and this goes against everything that living in the world has taught us,
that more is better,
and not only is more better
but that we are responsible for acquiring it (whatever it is) in the first place
and then it is possible to work to increase it
based on our own hard work and merit.
That’s not how God works, Jesus says,
and it’s definitely not how faith works
because faith at its core is a gift from God,
we only have faith because God has given it to us.
Paul, writing to Timothy
reminds him that God
“saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
God has done all the work
and given us the gift of faith freely
and so we are tempted to wonder,
what’s our role?
Well, what do we do with gifts?
What does a kid on Christmas afternoon do?
They play with the toys they opened that morning,
take them out of the box and try them out,
and yes sometimes interest in the toy will wane
and it ends up on a shelf or more realistically in a pile in the closet
but just because the toy isn’t being played with
doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist
or was never given,
it just means that it’s waiting to be taken out,
dusted off and played with again.
And even if the kid forgets the toy exists,
Mom knows it’s there
and keeps it safe until it’s time to play with it again.
Our faith is a gift from God,
and though there are times when we lose interest
or put it on a shelf,
or even times when we fear we’ve lost or broken it
it is still ours
Paul writing to Timothy reminds him
that he’s been given the gift of faith by God,
and now it’s time for Timothy to reclaim it as his own,
much as our confirmands will do
as they take over responsibility for the promises made on their behalf
at their baptisms.
Paul uses the image of fire,
urging Timothy to
rekindle the gift of God that is within him
and just like the mustard seed image
the fire image shows that the smallest amount is enough,
it only takes a spark to light a forest on fire,
it is sufficient,
a little faith is sufficient to change our lives.
And yes a fire that is tended will grow
just as faith that is tended will also grow
and we may at times feel like we’re responsible for that growth and our faith
but we also have times in life when our faith seems insufficient
no matter what we do
and these are the times when the community steps in
and takes care of faith for us,
because we’re not in this alone,
those times when we have a hard time praying,
the community prays for us,
when we have a hard time waiting,
the community waits with us,
when we have a hard time believing
the community believes for us,
they take care of the gift for us because faith,
trust in God
is not just an individual thing, it is also a communal thing,
And yes, there are times when the faith of a community seems insufficient
and in those times,
Christ takes care of faith for us
and the faith of Christ is sufficient,
it is enough,
it is for us.
Paul says “I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.”
Ultimately faith is from God
and that is enough,
it is always ours,
even when we may not feel like it,
it is always held in trust by God
even when we feel responsible for it.
We are God’s,
we are enough. Amen
16th Sunday After Pentecost
Amos 6:1a, 4-7
1 Timothey 6:6-19
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from the one who calls us to eternal life. Amen
Over and over
our lessons for today
emphasize the message
that we are to place our hope in Go
and anything else,
will let us down.
This message is present in Jesus’ story
about the rich man and Lazarus,
often Jesus’ stories are confusing
but this one is pretty clear.
There are two characters,
the rich man who has everything in life
and a poor man named Lazarus
who in life longed for even a crumb from the rich man’s table.
Both men die,
Lazarus is taken by angels to Abraham
while the rich man is tormented in hades
and as he’s being tormented
he looks up and sees Abraham,
his ancestor, the original ancestor
and he calls to him
“Father Abraham have mercy”
he longs for even a drip of water to cool his tongue,
“send Lazarus” he says.
And Abraham replies,
“that’s not going to happen,
what you did in life determined your location for eternity
and there’s no going back.”
So the rich man says
“well at least can you send a message
to my brothers who are still living before it’s too late”
and Abraham replies
“they have Moses and the prophets for that”,
but the rich man insists that they will really change their ways
if they see someone from the dead
and here’s the punch line,
Abraham, in the voice of Jesus who is telling the story,
says “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
I sense a little Jesus snark here,
Jesus, who knows that he will rise from the dead,
also knows that not everyone will believe him,
especially those who are comfortable in this life
“Alas for those who are at ease in Zion,
and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria”
the prophet Amos cries out in our first lesson
those that lounge around eating and drinking,
singing idle songs, anointing themselves with oil,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph,
they will be the first ones taken into exile
when the Assyrians come conquering.
And while it seems at first
that Amos is railing against the riches,
the real reason the people he’s addressing
will be taken into exile first
is because they are neglecting the troubles of the nation,
these are presumably the leaders
and instead of taking care of all the people
they focus on their own comforts
and as long as they are comfortable,
nothing else matters
to the point where it will become their ruin.
“Put not your trust in rulers”
the psalmist proclaims
“in mortals in whom there is no help.
When they breathe their last, they return to earth,
and in that day their thoughts perish.”
and here we start getting to the crux of the matter,
human rulers and rules will pass away,
but then the psalmist sings “Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help,
whose hope is in the Lord their God
and goes on to explain all the reasons to trust God:
God created the heavens and the earth
God keeps promises forever
God gives justice, food, freedom, healing to those who need it
God cares for the stranger and the abandoned
God is forever
God is the one in whom we should place our hope,
and when we do,
the concerns of God become our concerns,
justice, food, freedom, healing,
care for the stranger and the abandoned,
and that means that we will probably not be comfortable all the time,
and this is the exact opposite message
than the one that we receive from the world around us
that more is better,
we’re to look out just for ourselves
because comfort even at the expense of others is the goal,
and here we get caught in the in between nature of the kingdom of God,
the one that has already begun
but it not yet completed,
we see the need for justice around us
and we live within the systems of the world
that are designed to maintain injustice
We are caught in the middle,
So what are we to do?
Paul in his first letter to Timothy suggests this:
“As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.”
Paul has already acknowledged
that the love of money leads people astray,
it does so by promising security,
a promise it cannot keep
but there is another promise out there
the promise of God of eternal life,
a promise which Christ has already kept
and calls us to accept,
it is ours
place your trust there Paul says,
and if you do happen to have resources,
use the resources as tools to take hold of the life that really is life.
And what is the life that really is life?
I think Dan Erlander paints the picture,
well draws it actually,
at the end of his book “A Place For You: My Communion Book”
it’s the book I use to teach the first communion class,
it traces all the ways Jesus welcomed people,
culminating with the Lord’s Supper,
and the affect that the gift of the Lord’s supper had on the early church community
and he ends speaking directly to us:
With Jesus and your church family you will dream of a day when Jesus will gather all living beings together, creatures that fly in the air, swim in the water, walk on the earth, and crawl underground. This joyful gathering will include people of every kind, both happy people and crabby people (who will no longer be crabby). All will be safe; all will have food; all will have a home; all will worship God; and all will know that God loves everybody”
That friends, is the life that really is life,
the community of creation coming together in the love of God.
That is what we seek when we come to church
and participate in community,
that is what Jesus sends us out to work toward
with whatever resources we have,
whether it is wealth by the standards of the world
or simply ourselves.
God has blessed us,
we celebrate that today,
we give praise and thanksgiving for this community coming together,
for the resources to care for our common ministry,
and now God sends us out,
to use our resources,
to work for justice, feed the hungry,
free the captive, heal the sick,
care for the stranger and the abandoned,
to gather all in community joined together in the love of God,
God sends us out to seek the life that really is life. Amen
Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you
from the one who is revealed as merciful. Amen
The psalmist cries out to God today,
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
in your great compassion blot out my offenses”
then goes on to acknowledge
that they know they’ve really messed up,
they’ve sinned against God
and they deserve whatever judgement God hands down
and yet they are still bold to call on God to forgive them
and end with the petition
“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.”
a petition which frankly seems pretty bold
given what the psalmist acknowledged earlier.
Who is this person that would be so bold as to ask God
to do these things,
or perhaps the better question is,
who is this God who would hear and consider these requests?
Who is God?
Yep we’re going there this morning,
who is God?
Paul in our reading from 1 Timothy
describes God as “the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God.”
and that is a good general description
of what most monotheists would say about God,
God is the only God,
God is immortal-outside of time
and God is invisible,
we cannot see God,
what we know of God
is only what God has chosen to reveal to us.
And the moments of revelation
upon which we most depend
are found in the scriptures,
the stories of God and people
and while that’s a start,
even these revelations
present a variety of pictures
of who God is
even in just our selections for today
In Exodus we have the all-powerful God
meeting with Moses on the mountain top
and who is acting kind of like a sullen teenager.
God has rescued the Israelites,
the people God chose,
has led them into the desert
and has given them the 10 commandments,
God even let the people approach the mountain
to see the glory of God,
but it was too much for them,
they were content to let Moses do all the talking with God,
so now Moses has been up on the mountain
getting the particulars of the law,
and he’s been gone a long time,
so long that the people think,
well he’s probably dead by now
what with all that glory of the Lord,
it’s time to take matters into our own hands,
so they go to Aaron
and say give us a god to worship,
and Aaron seemingly without questioning the request
takes all their gold
and makes the image of a calf
and says here, go worship this.
Which gets us to our reading for today
where God notices what the people have done,
how quickly they’ve forgotten the covenant they made with God
and “The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”
The people messed up
and God is ready to give up,
change plans, focus on the one who has stayed loyal,
maybe pout a bit
but unlike a teenager,
God’s wrath could actually consume all the people.
But here Moses intercedes for the people,
Moses reminds God of all the promises God has made over the generations,
all the trouble God went to with the plagues,
and on top of that,
what will the Egyptians think of you if you do this?
that you just brought them out to kill them in the mountains.
“And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.”
God can change God’s mind,
God is merciful.
Which is good for us,
because it also seems like God gets really unhappy
when people break the rules
and God has the power to do something about it.
So that’s one picture of God,
one who gets angry but is merciful.
Then we have Jesus in our gospel for today,
we confess that Jesus is God,
and so what Jesus does
reveals who God is
and here he is,
teaching a wide variety of people,
the usual suspects the scribes and Pharisees
who can always be found around a good lecture
but also the unlikely suspects
the tax collectors and sinners,
those whose lives don’t seem to reflect much time spent with God
and this is annoying to the pharisees,
the professional church goers,
who grumble “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
the subtext is that he must not be a very good scholar of the law
if he ignores what it says about associating with sinners.
And here Jesus, God,
turns to them
and tells two parables, two teaching stories
about first a shepherd who had lost a sheep
and then a woman who had lost a coin
both go to great lengths to find what they had lost
and upon finding the sheep and the coin
gather their neighbors together to celebrate.
Often interpretations of these stories
make the shepherd and the woman the characters who represent God
who here is relentless, stubborn, insistent
and tireless in pursuit of what was lost,
but God here is also foolish
because the one who searches in the story
is also the one who loses the sheep and the coin in the first place,
and they are foolish for spending so much time on one sheep
when they had 99 others
or on one coin of moderate value
when they had 9 others,
surely the expense of the party thrown when the lost was found
far outweighed that one sheep or that one coin.
But this is God’s foolishness,
foolishness that shows insistent mercy to the lost,
who others have calculated to be not worth the trouble,
God here, goes to the trouble
in defiance of common sense.
“This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
And the foolishness of God continues on,
for who but a fool
would use someone who is trying to kill a cause to further it.
That’s what Paul was doing,
trying to kill the Jesus movement
through actually killing those involved,
and it’s this person
on the way to expand their terror
that Jesus comes to and calls,
and whose life is changed
to where his travels are then to spread the news of Jesus
and his letters go to various communities around the world
to strengthen their faith in Jesus.
Paul says “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life.”
Much like the psalmist
Paul is fully aware
that he deserves whatever judgement
God decides to hand down for his actions as a blasphemer, a persecutor and a man of violence. And he wonders at the grace and mercy of God,
who sought him out
was patient with him,
who changed his life drastically
so that now he lives as an example to others of life in Christ.
God is revealed as one who not only uses
but seeks out
and is patient and persistent with them
as grace and mercy turns their lives upside down.
Who would do something like that?
God, creator of the universe, that’s who,
God who gets angry, and then changes their mind,
God who is relentless, stubborn, insistent, tireless, foolish, patient, confusing,
God, who time after time is revealed as merciful
choosing to forgive rather than judge,
choosing to set aside anger
or what would make the most sense
in favor of life and a fresh start
no matter how angry God is
like with the Israelites,
or how little the person is valued by the world
like the lost sheep and coin,
or even how hopeless a case it seems to be
God can and will forgive
and will create clean hearts
and renew right spirits,
and God has promised us,
that God will treat us in the same way
When we confess our sins knowing we deserve to be judged,
God responds with forgiveness,
when we feel lost and insignificant
God goes great lengths to find us
when we intentionally turn from God,
God pursues us with grace and mercy,
and when God finally finds us,
stuck in a ravine or under the couch covered in dust,
because that’s who God is. Amen
Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from the one who chose life for all. Amen
We have some pretty stark choices
before us in our lessons for today,
Moses starts us off in Deuteronomy,
he’s addressing the Israelites
just before they enter the promised land,
they’ve wandered in the desert for 40 years,
learning how to be a free people
while still being taken care of by God,
but the manna will stop when they cross the Jordan river,
and there will be other people there
and it will be time to put the lessons learned
over the past forty years to the test.
You are free to choose,
Moses tells the people
and here are your choices:
life and prosperity,
death and adversity.
And he urges them to choose life.
That seems like a pretty obvious choice doesn’t it?
The comedian Eddie Izzard does a bit
where he says,”Cake or death That’s a pretty easy question anyone can answer that.
‘Cake or death’
‘uh cake please’
‘very well, give him cake’
‘ah thanks very much’
‘you, cake or death?’
‘ah cake for me too please’
‘very well, give him cake too, we’re going to run out of cake at this rate, you cake or death?” ‘Death please, no cake, cake, cake, sorry’
‘you said death first’
‘I meant cake’
Life or death, that seems like a pretty easy question to answer doesn’t it?
But of course
because we’re humans
we make it more complicated than that.
After the initial offering of life or death
Moses goes on to explain what living out that choice looks like:
Choosing life looks like obeying the commandments
loving God, and walking in his ways
“But,” Moses continues
“if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish.”
Serving other gods is the choice of death
and here’s the thing,
those other gods, those false idols
make it seem like they are the better choice,
whether it’s because following them is easier
or more comfortable
or even more exciting,
they disguise death in flashy shiny things
that grab our attention for a moment
but ultimately lead to death
because in making these choices
we’re serving ourselves,
we’re thinking of our own lives and comforts.
Life as God defines it
is bigger than just ourselves,
life encompasses all of creation,
life is lived in community with others and God,
that’s what the rules God gives the people are about,
living with God and others in community
to us at least,
choosing life means giving up some things,
namely being self-centered.
And that’s hard
because the messages we receive on a daily basis
tell us that we should be thinking about ourselves (and families) first
and these false idols lead us astray
promising life with quick fixes
or the next great thing
when all it leads to is death.
Choosing life is hard.
It’s what Jesus is talking about in our gospel for today,
it’s one of those readings
where we want to put a question mark at the end of the proclamation,
the gospel of the Lord?
Because it doesn’t really sound like good news does it?
Hating family and giving up all possessions
but here Jesus is in the process of choosing life
and he’s trying to communicate
to those following him
just how radical choosing life is.
Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem
and the cross where he will die
so that all may live,
in dying he will destroy death
and bring about everlasting life for all.
And yes that sounds backwards and foolish
but that’s how our God, the author of all life works.
So Jesus turns to the crowd following behind him,
waiting for him to do miracles and overthrow the Romans
and he asks them to consider just how far they’re willing to go,
what they are willing to give up to be his disciple,
to choose life,
when you choose life Jesus says
it means caring for the whole community,
especially the most vulnerable,
and sometimes you will get caught between caring for your family
and the most vulnerable
and with Jesus, the most vulnerable come first
And Jesus says
when you follow me
you’ve got to be willing to make your resources
available to the community,
if it’s a choice between your things and someone who is hurting,
they come first.
And boy how foolish you will look
if you say you’re going to follow me
and then change your mind partway through.
“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity... Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days…”
Choosing life should,
well, it should change our lives.
means doing things that seem foolish to the world around us,
like taking time on Sunday mornings
to gather with a community broader than our family,
it looks like using our time, talent, and treasure
for the sake of people we don’t even know
because we believe that their needs should be taken care of
in the same way ours are
even if that means we use less for ourselves.
means that we care about all lives
with a special emphasis on the marginalized,
understanding that our call to love and serve our neighbors
expands around the globe,
that in Christ we are one body
and when one part hurts all the parts hurt.
Choosing life means
that if they way we’ve done something in the past
hurts others we must acknowledge that hurt and change our ways.
So, what’ll it be? Life or death?
It’s an easy question to answer,
it’s a hard choice to live out,
and it seems that no matter how hard we try,
we always seemed to be lured away again
by the ease and comfort of just focusing on ourselves
And God knows that’s going to happen
which is why Jesus,
fully God and fully human,
chose life for all
and lived out that choice
through the cross all the way to the empty tomb
Which means when we fail,
there is forgiveness and the chance to try again,
joined to Christ in baptism
each day we die to sin and rise to new life in Christ
each day a new chance
to chose life so that all may live. Amen
Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
Ecclesiastes 1: 2, 12-14; 2:18-23
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from the one who is all and in all. Amen
Who is your God?
That’s what Jesus is asking the crowd to consider
when he tells the parable of the rich fool.
We sometimes turn this parable
into a morality lesson
about how we can’t take things with us when we die
or a stewardship sermon about giving out of abundance,
and sure those things are in there,
but Jesus’ message goes much deeper than that,
it’s about priorities,
it’s about who is god in our lives.
Luther, in his explanation of the first commandment
(you shall have no other gods) in the Large Catechism
defines a god in this way:
“A ‘god’ is the term for that to which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need.” (Kolb and Wengert, 386)
In other words A god is who or what we turn to when life gets rough
And by that definition
the rich man turned to his goods as his god.
This rich man is foolish
not because he is rich
or his land produces abundantly,
or because he plans to save for the future
he is a fool because he places his trust about the future of his life
in the goods he has stored up
rather than God.
We overhear his conversation with himself
when considering what to do with the abundance that the land produced
“I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years, relax, eat, drink, be merry.”
He places his trust for the future in his goods,
he creates a false idol out of them
and of course as soon as he settles in,
thinking his future is secure
due to his own work and possessions
God comes to disabuse him of that notion
“You fool!” God says “This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”
and those goods that can’t save him
are revealed as an idol.
And while this idol is revealed at the end of life,
it has been working harm throughout life.
The idol of greed turns us in on ourselves
and away from our neighbors,
in fact if we place our trust in things,
whether it is money, or possessions,
or even the ability to produce possessions
we come to see our neighbor as a threat,
because if they have something then we don’t
and that means they are a threat to our security
and we come to see life as a zero sum game,
if they have it than I don’t
and I need it because that is where I’ve placed my ultimate trust.
And just like that
neighbors become enemies
I wrote this before I woke up this morning
to find two horrific examples
of the results of this kind of idolatry
splayed across the news,
first in El Paso and then in Dayton,
because someone believed the lie
that their neighbors were their enemies
so much that they saw them as a threat
and intentionally went to kill them.
Who our God is matters.
Our God is the source of our life
Creator of the world
Who created the world with enough for all,
So that there is no need to fear the future,
no need to attempt to control it and those around us
in search for security.
Christ who, claimed us in baptism
has declared us God’s once and for all
Christ has secured us.
And that makes a difference in how we live our lives.
We heard Paul in our second lesson today
talking to the Colossians about this:
“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.”
In Christ God has set us free
from trying to save ourselves
which allows us to focus on other things like caring for one another.
Again Paul says you “have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!”
Christ is all and in all which means those we saw as threats while under the influence of the idol of greed are revealed as neighbor, are revealed as Christ.
And when seen in this way
caring for our neighbors, becomes caring for God.
Who is your god?
Jesus asks the crowd to consider for themselves,
knowing that their actions reveal who they trust.
Do they turn inward, serving the idol of greed by serving themselves,
or do they turn outward toward others,
toward Christ, who is all and in all.
Who is your God?
What do the actions of your life reveal?
and then come to the table,
where God has provided enough for all,
where in God’s own body and blood
God forgives us and renews us,
and then renewed in the image of our creator
God sends us back out
to live lives that reveal just who is our God. Amen
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from God our father,
Jesus our savior
and the Holy Spirit our comforter and guide. Amen
Today Jesus’ disciples ask him how to pray
and he gives them a lesson on the goodness of God.
This is Luke’s version of the Lord’s prayer,
you may have noticed that it’s a little bit different
than the one we usually pray,
that version comes from the gospel of Matthew
who has a different focus to his gospel.
it seems that Jesus is not as concerned
with the exact form of the prayer
as he is with the one who receives the prayer.
Jesus follows the simple petitions that he gives them,
With some scenarios that illustrate who God is
and how God relates to us in prayer
First Jesus says
image that you have a friend come in the middle of the night
and you have nothing to offer them in the way of food.
So you think to yourself,
maybe my neighbor has something I can borrow,
so you go next door in the middle of the night
and bang on the door to ask for some bread.
And your neighbor is not happy with you,
they’ve locked the door and gone to bed,
you are seriously annoying them,
but you keep up your shameless begging,
you’re starting to make a scene
and Jesus says, the neighbor will get up,
not because they’re your friend
but because it is the honorable thing to do.
“When you pray, say Father hallowed by your name.”
God will act to honor God’s name,
even when we act in dishonorable ways,
even when we’re seriously annoying God.
Now there’s something to be said for persistence in prayer,
Jesus has other examples of that,
but the point here
is that God is good
even when we are not.
It is the goodness of God
that drives God’s response to prayer.
And that’s why we pray for God’s kingdom to come,
for that unwavering goodness to be the rule rather than the exception.
Even now, in this world,
God knows what we need,
daily bread and forgiveness
and God provides it, like a parent caring for children.
God, Jesus says,
is better than any parent
again he turns to the crowd and asks them to consider
their own experience as parents or caretakers of children.
“Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion. If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
God is good.
God is eager to give,
though notice Jesus specifies the Holy Spirit there at the end
God, while eager to give
is not a cosmic vending machine,
where if we put the right amount of prayer in
and specify what we want
we’ll get it.
Prayer rather is about being in relationship
with the creator of the universe, the source of all goodness and life.
and the way to build a relationship
is to spend time together.
That’s what prayer is,
spending time with God,
getting to know God.
And we struggle with this,
the disciples, watching Jesus pray
want what he has,
that intimate relationship with God,
and so they ask him, how do we do that, teach us.
We see others pray and we think,
I want that, that intimate relationship with God
but I’m not sure how to do that.
Professor Matt Skinner likens learning to pray with learning to kiss
“You learn some by watching others do it. You should be discerning about whom you will allow to teach you. You certainly make mistakes. And maybe you always worry deep in your head that you might be doing it wrong.” (www.workingpreacher.org)
Funny but true right?
As much as we pray,
with whatever techniques or words we try
we worry that we’re not doing it right,
but that’s Jesus’ point
it’s not about the how but the who.
God who is good,
who listens, who wants the best for us.
So yes, our attempts at prayer
are probably going to be fumbling and awkward at first,
and we might try a few different ways of doing it
before we find what feels right
and God will be there
even through these times
because God is good, and listens and wants the best for us,
wants to spend time with us.
And gradually through spending more time
we will get to a place where prayer,
if not comfortable is at least familiar
and from there the relationship builds
And the thing about building a relationship with someone
is that we are changed in the process,
think about your best friend and how you became friends,
it took some time to get to know each other
but you learned to trust your friend
with your deepest fears and secrets,
and the things that are important to your friend
became important to you
because of your love for them
and through experience
you know in your heart as well as your head
that they have your back.
That’s what prayer does with God,
we get to know each other,
we learn to trust God with our deepest fears and secrets
and the things that are important to God
become important to us
That’s what we want,
when we say teach us to pray Jesus,
an intimate relationship with God.
and God who is good
Gives us Jesus to show us what that relationship can look like
the Holy Spirit to guide us as we learn
and the freedom to focus on the who rather than the how. Amen
6th Sunday after Pentecost
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from the one
who calls us to love both God and neighbor. Amen
When Jesus is pressed to summarize his teaching
it boils down to love of God and love of neighbor.
These two things are most important,
and while this seems simple enough
it can get confusing
because as much as we claim otherwise
we humans are pretty bad at multi-tasking,
we tend to focus on one thing at a time
Yet Jesus calls us to both,
and he gives examples of both.
Last week we heard the story of the Good Samaritan
who embodies love of neighbor
by stopping to help a man left for dead
on the side of a dangerous road,
in the story the Good Samaritan
is contrasted with a priest and a Levite
who when they choose their own way of loving God
rather than helping their neighbor
turn out looking not so great.
this week we hear of Mary
who embodies love of God
by sitting at Jesus’ feet
listening to him teach.
She is contrasted with Martha,
who, busy loving her neighbor in her own way
comes off looking not so great.
we tend to see these contrasts
in terms of right and wrong,
one better than the other,
but it’s not that one person is better than the other,
it’s the choices they make in the moment
that Jesus comments on,
Jesus needs both the priest and the Good Samaritan
both Mary and Martha as his followers.
As a disciple
Martha embodies the hospitality
that will further the kingdom.
When Jesus sent the 70 out to share the good news
he told them to depend on hospitality
of the kind that Martha offered
welcoming people into her home
and caring for their needs.
As a disciple
Mary embodies the devotion to Jesus’ teaching
that will further the kingdom.
She is attuned to Jesus’ presence
and hangs on his every word.
Jesus will depend on her
to teach others when he has returned to his father.
Jesus needs both Mary and Martha,
the conflict comes
when Martha gets so caught up in the tasks in front of her
that she tries to make her way of serving
necessary for someone else,
And that’s when Jesus jumps in
and gently chides Martha,
not for serving
but for being so caught up in what she was doing
that the tasks suddenly became more important than loving God and neighbor,
and for trying to spread her worry and distraction to Mary
when Mary is doing just fine
at loving God and neighbor in her own way.
This past week at confirmation camp
we spent our confirmation time
talking about how God made each of us different,
gave us different gifts and callings
and how God needs all of us
to further the kingdom in our own way.
Some of us like to follow the rules,
some of us like to create new ways of doing things.
Some of us like to listen and study
and some of us like to get our hands dirty and learn through new experiences.
Some of us are good at organizing,
some of us are good at encouraging,
some dream up new ideas and others make those ideas a reality.
None of these ways of being a disciple of Jesus
are better than the others,
God needs all of them to further the kindom.
Where we get into trouble
is when we prioritize our gifts or ways of doing things over others,
when we expect others to love and serve in the exact same way we do
or have been doing,
and getting frustrated when they don’t
that’s when Jesus gently chides us
and turns our attention back to him,
because when we get upset
we forget that it’s Jesus in our living room.
Jesus calls his disciples to lives of both and.
Which means following Jesus
is more complicated than following a set of rules
that detail exactly what is right and what is wrong in any given situation.
Instead Jesus has created us as unique individuals
designed to work as a small part of a whole,
it is up to us to choose how to live out love of God and love of neighbor
using our God given gifts and callings
Sometimes that will look like stopping on a dangerous road to help a stranger,
sometimes that will look like saying the dishes can wait
while spending time with this special person who is here right now.
And while what we decide to do
will be different for each of us
the common thread is love of God and neighbor.
We live in a tradition that recognizes the both and of life.
And while some may find the lack of exactness frustrating
both and catches the truth of life in all its complexities.
We acknowledge that we are both saints and sinners.
And while those two seem to conflict
we know the reality that we are not perfect,
we make mistakes, we intentionally harm others,
and at the same time
we know that in our baptisms
God has forgiven our sins
and that nothing will separate us from God.
Both are true at the same time. Both and.
We acknowledge that we need both the law and the gospel.
There are times when we need a good talking to,
where we need to be shown how we have not been loving God and neighbor,
we need to law to reflect back to us
our need for repentance our need for God.
And then there are times when we feel like we will never be enough,
that we can never do enough,
that the pain of the world threatens to overwhelm us,
and that is when we need to hear the gospel,
the good news that in Jesus we are enough,
that Jesus is present in the pain of the world,
that it’s up to Jesus to save the world not us.
We are both saint and sinner
We need both law and gospel
We are to love both God and neighbor
And Jesus tells us that
In a world of both and
there is need of only one thing. Jesus,
the way, the truth and the life.
when we get worried and distracted
Jesus is there, gently calming us down,
giving us perspective,
calling us to return to the one we need.
When we are loving our neighbor
Jesus is there alongside us.
When we take time to study his teachings
Jesus is there pointing out the important parts.
When we are torn between both and
Jesus is present
reminding us of the gifts he has given us
and the community that surrounds us,
the community made up of many members
that is able to both love God and neighbor
in the name of Jesus. Amen
5th Sunday after Pentecost
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from the one who calls us to be neighbors. Amen
Did you ever notice that Jesus doesn’t actually answer the lawyer’s question?
The lawyer asks Jesus,
what must I do to inherit eternal life?
this is who you must be.
They’re speaking different languages
the lawyer is speaking of doing,
Jesus is speaking of being
because for Jesus it’s not about what you do,
it’s about who you are
and that is a much more wholistic approach
than the world usually takes
In the world we are able to,
even supposed to
compartmentalize the different aspects of our lives,
who we are and what we do
can and should depend on the situation,
at work we are to be one person,
at home another,
at church another,
and heaven help you if one of those areas bleed over into another.
Compartmentalization it what allows someone
who is loving and kind to family and friends
to be ruthless and unfeeling as a business person,
just doing a job
is what allows seemingly good
people to inflict harm on others.
Compartmentalization allows us
to know exactly where we stand
in a cause and effect world
and we humans like to know where we stand,
mostly so we know just how much we can get away with,
or so that we know we have done enough.
That's what is behind the lawyer's questioning of Jesus.
But that’s not how God works.
God sees all of us all the time,
we are one whole person
and God expects that one person to be consistent whether at work,
among family or even at church.
And yes, while there is some wisdom
to keeping good boundaries between work and home
and in relationships,
the purpose of these boundaries
is to define who we are as a whole person.
With God it’s about who we are,
not what we do,
it’s about identity.
And that is what is behind Jesus’ response to the lawyer’s question.
Because the lawyer knows the answer to his own question,
he quotes the law as written in Deuteronomy
back to Jesus when pressed,
“you shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
this is the law that God gave the people
after they were freed from slavery in Egypt
to teach them how to live as free people,
how to be free.
But the lawyer has turned the teaching into a means to an end
- inheriting eternal life-
his follow up question who is my neighbor, shows that.
And that’s not the point Jesus says,
as he tells the story of the man beaten and left by the side of the road
- the priest and the levite were following the law-
to touch blood would have left them ritually unclean
and the road was dangerous,
they are thinking of themselves
and as far as self preservation goes
they did the right thing,
and yet they don’t come off looking so good
when compared with the samaritan
who allows himself to be changed by encountering the man,
when he sees him in the ditch he is moved with pity,
at least that’s how our version translates it,
but the Greek word is much stronger
it literally means to be moved as to one’s bowels,
which is kind of like us saying his heart was wrenched.
He has compassion,
he feels the pain of the man in the ditch in his gut
and that leads him to serve the man with all his resources,
his time, his animal and supplies, his money
even his emotions in essence his whole life.
And this is the example Jesus gives to the lawyer
of the one who was a neighbor.
It’s about who we are rather than what we do,
and that’s hard for us,
because it means that when we think about our relationships with God and neighbor
improving those relationships means working on ourselves,
who we are,
rather than a check list of things to do
and that can seem overwhelming,
the first six months of this year
I did a leadership development experience
through the Nebraska synod,
there were about 30 of us
and the goal was to look at leadership
so we took a bunch of those instruments
that told us about our preferences for being in the world,
how we handle our emotions
and other things
and of course all of the reports
came with suggestions for how we could improve our leadership
through improving ourselves,
and it was really hard work
and overwhelming at times,
after one of the sessions one
of the other pastors posted on facebook as his status:
“you know continuing ed is good when you need to finish a cry in the parking lot before you leave.”
working on ourselves can be overwhelming,
overwhelming enough as to seem impossible,
overwhelming enough to feel like you can never be enough,
especially when it come to your relationship with God
and that’s where the grace of God comes into play,
joined to Christ we are enough for God
who loves the whole us,
when it comes to inheriting eternal life
Jesus has it taken care of,
there is a place for us
and nothing can separate us from God’s love
no matter how many times we mess up or fail
and this sets us free
to practice living as a neighbor to those around us,
it frees us to be available with our whole selves
to those who have been beaten and left in ditches,
it frees us to try to be our best
even when we know our best isn’t perfect.
It’s not about what we do,
it’s about who we are,
and who we are,
is beloved children of God
grounded in grace, nurtured for growth.
This is Paul’s message to the Colossians
when he writes them in our second reading
essentially he tells them
that Grace leads to faith,
faith leads to hope,
hope leads to lives that bear fruit in service to neighbor,
and this is something we learn from others,
the ones who reach out to us
when we are in the ditch
and we practice this
when we are moved with compassion
as we move through our lives.
When we mess up there is forgiveness,
when we get discouraged there is the community of saints
and throughout it all
is the love of God
for whom we are enough. Amen
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.