In pm's words
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March 6, 2017, 7:05 AM

the one about jesus in the wilderness...


Sermon from March 5, 2017

Text: Matthew 4: 1-11

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ. Will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen.

So, here we are. Lent has begun. Again. On this first Sunday in Lent we are reminded again of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.

Wilderness. A place far away. Removed from the world.

As we think about what a physical wilderness is, those are some of the ways that we would use to describe such a place. But, theologically our ‘wilderness’ moments aren’t exactly like that.

For many of us, we would describe our ‘wilderness’ in the life of faith as a sense of ‘being.’ We might describe our wilderness as a feeling of being lost in some way. Lost in a world that seems to be rushing by. Lost in a wayward journey through faith filled with doubts, tests, and obstacles.

Perhaps you might describe the wilderness in your life as a result of something you believe you’ve done or failed to do. The wilderness is a time of ‘punishment’ against you or you see a friend or family member experiencing.

Those are how we describe our own wilderness moments and experiences. So, there is the temptation to think that Jesus must be going through something similar. He’s literally removed from society. He’s wandering through the desert for 40 days, so he might be lost. He’s being tempted and tested by the evil one. That sounds pretty similar to how we might describe our own wilderness experiences. We are just like Jesus! Right?

No, not really. Jesus’ experience in the wilderness being tempted and tested does not quite equate to what we experience in our own wilderness moments in our life.

In this pivotal story from our gospel this morning, we see Jesus in the wilderness in an effort to prove to us who and whose Jesus is. It is here that we are shown proof of Jesus’ readiness as God’s beloved Son.

Jesus isn’t lost. He’s guided by the Holy Spirit to this place of preparation. He’s gone here for a purpose. To be tested and tempted within his debate with the evil one.

Before we get to this point in Matthew’s gospel, the writer has been building up the credentials of Jesus. We’ve got his family history. We have miraculous stories regarding his own birth. We are introduced to wise men who have sought and journeyed to pay him homage and respect. His very existence is so frightening to the king of the land that extreme measures are taken in order to thwart this one day would-be king of the Jews.

Jesus’ ministry plan at this point has begun as well. He’s been baptized. The clouds have opened. The Spirit has descended. The Voice has bellowed – this is my son, the beloved, with whom I’m well pleased.

We’ve got all of that, and still we are given more. We are told this story as even further proof as to who Jesus is. That this one – this Son of God – truly is who he claims and proclaims himself to be because he withstood and ‘passed’ the test in the wilderness. His preparation is complete.

Jesus is tempted and tested with those things that would buckle even the most faithful person. Hunger, safety, power, and loyalty.

Jesus is hungry. He’s offered the chance to relieve his hunger by turning stones to bread.

The Evil One knows that this man is special – wouldn’t God not let you be injured? Why not prove me wrong?

Look at all these kingdoms – it could all be yours. Free reign. So long as you bend the knee.

I’m pretty certain everyone would’ve fallen to at least one if not all of these tests. Especially that last one. I like to think I’d be a very benevolent dictator.

Yet, in each test Jesus’ response is ‘no.’ He continually thwarted the evil one’s plan and agenda. Jesus withstands when each of us would’ve succumbed.

Now, many might say here that you just gotta be like Jesus! Must withstand! Don’t turn your back on God! Be strong against temptation like our Lord Jesus!

But, we gathered here earlier this week for Ash Wednesday. Where within that service we confessed our sin. We confessed our failure to live into the life that God has set before us. We did this by our fault. Our own fault. Our own most grievous fault.

We journey through Lent with the idea and the goal of ‘giving something up.’ It may be coffee, or fast food. You might give up saying or thinking harsh things about strangers you encounter. But, all it takes is one rushed and full afternoon, with little sleep the night before, and that jerk just swerved and cut you off!

I just had to do it. Who wouldn’t? I was hungry, I was tired, that guy really is a jerk!

We fall. We always do.

So, what are we told in this gospel story this morning? It isn’t that Jesus is just super squeaky clean in life. It isn’t that Jesus is just better than us and is a model that we couldn’t ever possibly hope to live up to.

We are reminded this day that Jesus withstood the temptation and test of the evil one – not to rub it in our noses that he is so much better than us. We don’t read this story in hope that we can ‘be just like our Lord.’ If we do that – we end up feeling a little envious, perhaps a tad bitter, because no matter what we won’t get there.

This day – this first Sunday of Lent – we are reminded of who and whose Jesus is. We are reminded and given proof that Jesus is exactly who he claims to be. If the body of work that preceded this story didn’t convince us of this – then surely this story is the cherry on top.

Jesus is able to do this because of who he is. He is the Son of God. He’s able to stand firm in the presence of God because he is God’s son.

So, again – what does that mean for us?

For that we turn to the very end of Matthew’s Gospel. It is here that Jesus tells his disciples – Jesus tells us – that he is with us always, to the end of the age.

Throughout this Gospel – throughout our Gospel led life – we are reminded that the one we follow has already gone before us. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again and again. We worship, we live for, we serve with a God who has come to be with us. Through everything.

We don’t worship a God who is out there somewhere over the rainbow. We don’t worship a God who set life in motion and then just left us to fend for ourselves. No, we worship a God who has fashioned us from the dust, whose hands are dirty with creation and life, whose breath has given us new and renewed life, who continues to be at work in and amongst us.

God’s never left.

We are reminded that in the temptations we face. In the tests that we endure. God is there.

Even when we fall. Even when we experience setbacks. Even when we turn away. God is there.

God is there to remind us of who and whose we are.

Reminding us that who we are – those relationships we’ve cultivated, the accolades and the accomplishments we’ve acquired, those things that make us ‘who’ we are. All of that can end in an instant or a moment. It can all come crashing down.

But, we are reminded throughout our scriptures and in this season of Lent about whose we are. We. Are. God’s.

That is eternal. That never ceases.

So, we move through this journey during the season of Lent. Striving, hoping, and praying that we are able to withstand the temptations of our lives. We seek to ‘give up’ those things that draw us away from the love of our Lord. Those moments that keep us from seeing those around us as fellow beloved children of our God. We give up those times where we stop seeing the Spirit present in our lives as we read through scripture, pray, give of ourselves and our possessions, caring for those around us, and more. In all of that we will most likely fall short. We always do.

Yet, we remember that in spite of those falls. God is with us. Jesus is calling us. The Spirit is guiding us.

Where we remember that we live into that sort of life not so that God will love us or continue to love us, but we live into that sort of life of faith because God does love us. Because Jesus has already gone before us. Because the Spirit is always guiding us.

Lent isn’t about measuring up (or more accurately failing to measure up). Lent is a reminder that we are tempted and tested throughout our life and though we might fail and fall in those moments, Christ is there to pull us up. God moves us forward because we cannot do it on our own.

Lent is that constant reminder that God is here. Not as the overbearing and judgmental figure to impose harsh punishments. But, instead as that constant presence of grace and love.

We cannot live a life of faith like Christ. But, we can live a life of faith because of Christ.

The debt has been paid. The victory has been won. The foe has been defeated.

We get to live for and with God. And God is always with us – on the mountain, in the valley. Amidst the plain and especially in the wilderness, wherever it takes us – no matter what. Amen.

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March 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

2017 March Newsletter


Grace and peace to y’all!

Well, as it happens every year – whether you’re ready for it or not – Lent has come.

Every year it always seems to surprise us when this journey begins. Most of the time because the beginning of Lent shifts every year because it is still one of the last (and very few) events in our life that is determined by a lunar calendar (Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of Spring – which is always between March 22 and April 25).

Yet, each year we faithfully journey through this season as we remember that which turns us away from our God. We strive to again and again turn our lives back towards God through prayer, devotion, and even abstaining from ‘joys’ in our life to better focus our joy on and through God.

Typically, the season of Lent also coincides with MLB’s Spring Training every year. At times, I can find no better image of the practices of Lent than what baseball players do throughout Spring Training. They work on the fundamentals of a game they’ve played their entire life. Catching, throwing, hitting, fielding. They practice on situations that could occur in a game, so that when those situations arise they’ll be prepared for them. They practice the things they know so well and have done for so long so that they become second nature.

We do this during Lent as well. Of course, our throwing and hitting is prayer, fasting, and giving of ourselves to others. Those are all things we know to do and have done throughout our life. But, during Lent we purposefully devote ourselves to these practices so that when those times come in our life to care, love, support, and pray for those in need and for those in our life we react out of nature than anything else.

Where prayer becomes an extension of who we are as children of God. Where caring for any in need is the innate response when the situation arises. When giving of ourselves becomes second nature in living this life of faith.

We get to practice that during the season of Lent. We get to live out each of those devotions to our God of love who leads us through this season and through our lives.

How will you live into this journey of Lent? Where will you practice to better live out what God calls us into through our baptism and feeds us at the table?

Welcome to the journey of Lent. Play ball!




February 27, 2017, 7:28 AM

the one about getting up...


Sermon from February 26, 2017 - Transfiguration Sunday

Text: Matthew 17:1-9

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, this is another one of those Sundays where though the gospel might be ‘different’ each year, it still tells the same story. Whether you read from Matthew (like we do today) or Luke or Mark – you essentially get the same story. Sure, there are little differences between the three (note, this particular story does not appear in John’s gospel), but they essentially hold the same meaty parts.

It occurs on a mountain. Elijah and Moses appear. Something happens to Jesus. A cloud covers them all. The disciples present are scared. They walk down the mountain.

There is something distinct about the Matthew account that I hope that we cling to, but before we get there we need to have a little talk.

Listen y’all – I don’t know what happened to Jesus on that mountain. But, I know that something did happen. Jesus’ appearance changed before Peter, James, and John. They saw something. Something so astonishing and amazing, that they could not quite get everything the same as they apparently told this story. In the midst of that moment, they experienced something as well. A cloud covering them and their surroundings and a voice emerging from it. In that moment, I can only imagine their response being, “What in the world is going on…”

Things happen in our life that we don’t understand. Things happen within our life of faith that we can’t comprehend. The more we try to ‘explain’ them, the more we lose sight of what it is that has happened to and for us.

When those moments do happen in our life, we want to stay in them. Who wouldn’t? If you enjoy something you want to keep doing that and experiencing it. So, it is no wonder that these disciples feel an urge and draw to remain on that mountain – who wouldn’t!

The heroes of their faith Moses and Elijah are right there! The one whom they believe is the messiah is talking with them! They don’t know what is going on, but what they do know is that they want to be there. Always. The ground they are on now is indeed holy ground.

A cloud overshadows them and a voice bellows from it. And they become afraid – or are they overwhelmed with awe? We don’t really know. Depending on which translations you read, you’ll see both interpretations.

Today science tells us that our body itself reacts similarly to both of those emotions. Fear and awe/excitement are very, very similar to us. Our heart races, we might visibly shake, we have trouble forming words and thoughts, we sweat, we become flushed.

We react. We don’t know what’s going on.

I imagine those disciples felt much the same way in the midst of that cloud. They have been on a literal roller coaster of emotion in just a few short moments. Things they couldn’t possibly imagine are being made known right in front of their eyes. It – I’m sure – is more than they could possibly comprehend. None of us would be able to comprehend it.

When the cloud lifts and the silence and stillness of the mountain returns – where do you think the disciples find themselves? What do you think is rattling in their minds? What would you do?

Should they stay? Should they go? What happened? What’s happening? What does it all mean? Where do we go from here?

When we experience those moments we want to stay. Mostly because we don’t know what to do. Whether we are too excited to form coherent thoughts to make our brains fire the synapses that causes our limbs to move, or we feel too frightened to take a step for fear of what might happen.

We feel stuck.

What are we to do?

Like I said, I’d guess the disciples felt the same thing.

So, what are we to do? Where do we go? Who do we turn towards?

Here, my sisters and brothers is the part of this story of the Transfiguration that Matthew relays to us that the others do not.

Here, in that moment of excitement or fear – in that moment of utter confusion – Jesus reaches out to the disciples.

Get up, don’t be afraid.

Those are the words I need to hear when all the craziness seems to be compounding around me. Those are the words that I yearn for when I don’t know what to do going forward. Those are the words that I cry for when I cannot find the words for what is happening. Those are the words that move me to action when I feel compelled to stay in that moment.

Get up, don’t be afraid.

In our moments of fear or excitement, that steady hand that reaches out in reassurance. That calm confident voice that calls us into action. That’s what we need. That’s what we crave for.

Throughout the season of Epiphany, we have read stories from the words of scripture about where God is made known. Made known in the places we expect. Made known in those ways that stretch us that are uncomfortable. Made known in ways that speak directly and forcefully in ways in which the world lifts up.

Epiphany bombards us with those moments where God is made known to us. It all comes to a head on this Transfiguration Sunday where we read a story where something happens to and with Jesus our Lord. This story that we cannot explain, we can’t understand.

Where we are left to ponder and wonder. Where we might not know where to go from here.

And Jesus calls to us – get up, don’t be afraid.

Something has been made known to us. But, we don’t stay rooted in that spot. We don’t stay out of fear of what might come next. We don’t stay in hopes to recreate that experience again.

We get up. We are not afraid.

We’re able to do that because God has been made known to us. God is on the mountain, but God doesn’t stay there. Jesus walks down that mountain and tells us to go as well.

The disciples have received the ultimate ‘epiphany’ of God. God had literally been made known to them in the most direct way they could possibly imagine. Yet still, Jesus invites them to walk down the mountain.

Why?

If I were to be so bold to add an addendum to Jesus’ words this day.

Get up, don’t be afraid. We’ve got work to do.

What is that work? Making known to those down the mountain who God is. Making known to them whose God’s.

All those signs, teachings, and moments leading up to the transfiguration on the mountain? We’re going to make that known to all.

As we journey down the mountain of Transfiguration Sunday, we lead right into Lent. In a few short days, we will be thrust with the realization that we are not immortal, that one day we will die. Yet, we hear the assurance from Jesus.

Get up, don’t be afraid.

We journey through Lent from that day as we strive to live with and for God. Turning our hearts and ourselves away from those things that draw us from God. ‘Re-turning’ to the one who formed us, loves us, and guides us. That’s not easy – it never is. We hear the assurance again.

Get up, don’t be afraid.

We live out our lives of faith that at times appear counter cultural to the world around us. Some may listen, many may not. We become discouraged. Perhaps fixed in a spot of indecision or apathy. Again, and again – we hear Jesus’ comforting words of action.

Get up, don’t be afraid.

Get up, don’t be afraid. We’ve got work to do. Amen.

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February 21, 2017, 7:27 AM

the one about being whole...


Sermon from February 19, 2017

Texts: Matthew 5: 38-48 and Leviticus 19: 1-2, 9-18

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and savior Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

So, I want to make a confession. Sometimes I think my father-in-law is a bit crazy. I love him dearly. He’s a great guy. Hard-working. Cares deeply about his family and others. Strong and faithful. Incredibly intelligent. But, all that gets thrown out the window when you go Christmas tree shopping with him. Perhaps you want his help hanging pictures. Maybe it’d be fun to wash the car together.

All of those scenarios can be stressful, simply because everything has to be perfect. Finding the perfect Christmas tree. The picture has to be perfectly centered, aligned with everything else, and absolutely level. The car has to be picture perfect before we’re finished.

I love my father-in-law, but he’s kind of a perfectionist. We all know those types of people. Some of you might be those types of people. Knowing all that, is it any wonder that this part of Jesus’ of the Sermon on the Mount scares us to our core?

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.

Perfect. That’s a scary word when you think about it. No errors. No setbacks. Just like the ‘model.’

Isn’t our world centered around this idea of ‘perfection?’ You must fill out this form perfectly so that you won’t be questioned by… the IRS? I.C.E? So you can get into college. Obtain a loan. Buy a house. Adopt a child. Reduce your payment. Pass this test.

It must be perfect.

When we try to be perfect it stresses us out. I must have the perfect interview to get this job. I must dress in the perfect way to get her to notice me. I must write the perfect sermon so they all can hear it. I must act in a perfect way so that God will love me fully.

Isn’t it exhausting?

It’s exhausting and stressful because we are imperfect more than anything else. Where when we are imperfect, we see that as a failure. Not good enough. A waste of ours and others’ time.

Jesus has wrung his disciples and us through the ringer these past few weeks as he’s preached this sermon of teachings. Much of what Jesus has taught throughout this chapter seem wholly impossible to live into a few times, let alone be perfect as God is perfect.

If we must be perfect, I’m here to tell you that we’ve all completely fallen short. Pack-up your bags. Nothing left for us here. Might as well not even try.

But, what if… what if Jesus isn’t using this word ‘perfect’ in the way that we understand ‘perfect’ today?

As I have mentioned these last few weeks, Jesus has been sitting on this mount and speaking with his disciples. The teachings that he has been laying out for them and for us have been incredibly difficult to live into. But, there is still a common theme throughout these teachings and his sermon. I don’t think it leads to ‘perfection,’ but something else.

As I have read, pondered, and prayed over what Jesus has been telling his disciples and us in this Sermon on the Mount, added with the other readings that we have been able to read these past few weeks, and then looking out to how we are called to live in this world, I’m beginning to think that what Jesus is calling for isn’t perfection from us, but more accurately wholeness from us.

Be whole, therefore, as your heavenly Father is whole.

Being whole or being ‘complete’ is what the Greek is probably better translated as here.

Being whole is different than being perfect.

Being whole implies that everything is there; though it may not all fit perfectly there.

Being whole sounds a lot more doable – with Christ’s presence and help – than being perfect.

Being whole reminds me that it isn’t just making sure you are cared for, not just that your loved ones are provided for, but that the community of God is nurtured and cared for as well.

Here’s something that I don’t often say – let’s look at the grace we see in our reading from Leviticus. Much like being ‘perfect’ being told to be ‘holy’ is another one of those scary words for us.

Today, being ‘holy’ seems to imply that you know your bible well, you faithfully attend worship, you are set a part from the craziness of the world. More often than not, being ‘holy’ means you’re somehow better than others because you believe the right thing, or say the right words, or live the right way over what those other people are doing.

Yet, as the Lord tells Moses, being ‘holy’ in God’s eyes looks a lot different.

You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.

So, don’t use up and harvest all your crops. Leave a portion for those who have less to glean from your abundance. Don’t lie or steal from your neighbor. Don’t horde the earnings of others. Don’t side with or side against a person simply because they are poor or rich – know them – completely and fully.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Be holy in the sense that you’re caring for those around you. Being holy means loving others as you love yourself.

What would that look like in your life if you were to live into that sort of holiness? How would we interact with others if we lived that holy life?

Wouldn’t that be a life that was ‘whole’ and ‘complete’? Wouldn’t that be a life that was perfect?

Where we don’t worry about whether we’ve got it – whatever ‘it’ might be – right, but that our neighbor is cared for.

Where we don’t worry if we’ve erred in some way, but we work to make sure that the bellies of those children are full. That they have warm clothing on cold nights. That they know that someone cares and loves them enough to read them a book, to teach them math, to play with them.

Perhaps being ‘whole’ is living our life in such a way that not only do we give financially to those causes and organizations that care for those less fortunate in our community and world, but we offer ourselves and invest our time and lives into them. Volunteering, working together, getting to know those around us.

Perhaps being holy isn’t about living a life seemingly ‘better’ or ‘more correct’ than another, but getting to know that other – no matter who they are. To share in this life together, to care and love as God cares and loves.

Perhaps being ‘whole’ isn’t about getting everything right, but making sure that we are living into the life that Jesus has called us into.

Listen, throughout this life of faith – we’re going to stumble. We’re going to screw up. We’re going to fall more often than we run. We’re going to strive to be perfect in all that we do and end up being imperfect most of the time.

So, don’t strive to be perfect. Live into the wholeness that God has for you. Live into the life of holiness that the Lord calls us into.

That life of wholeness and holy that cares for the community. Fully, thoroughly, and completely – all of it. All of us. All of ‘them.’ Live the holy life for others, all others.

Be whole, therefore, as your heavenly father is whole. Amen.

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February 13, 2017, 7:46 AM

the one about abundant life


Sermon from February 12, 2017

Text: Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 and Matthew 5: 21-37

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ. Will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen!

So, have you ever been a part of something that meant so much to you, but you knew that your time as a part of it was growing short, that soon you wouldn’t be ‘at the head’ and that you hoped and prayed that the organization you were a part of would continue on after you’d left?

I remember when I was younger my dad got really involved with my Little League. Not my team – but the entire league. In fact, he ran the league for almost the entire time we were living in Italy. He helped raise funds so we all didn’t have the same different colored jersey but, instead we had replica MLB t-shirt jerseys and hats. It was awesome. I played for the Reds one year, the Braves another, and the White Sox my final year. It was so cool to have those hats and jerseys. He helped the coaches receive better training and skills, helped improve the ‘draft’ of teams so that there was a more equal distribution of talent so no one team dominated the others.

But, when my mom received orders to move back to the States, my dad had to resign his position as president of the Little League. I remember thinking and asking, “Dad, what’s going to happen to the league?” and he replied – “I don’t know, but I and others have done a lot of hard work to put the league on this path, I hope those after me continue that path.”

In our first reading this morning, Moses is in a peculiar situation. He has led the people of Israel for 40 years in the desert after they left Egypt and on their way to their true home in the land that God would gift them. Of course, Moses has been told that he will lead the people to the cusp, but he wouldn’t lead them into that land.

He is on that tip of transition, as he ages and will soon die; the leadership position that he has held will be transferred to someone else. He has to – as the saying goes, ‘let go and let God.’ But that isn’t always easy. It isn’t easy for those ‘leaving’ and it isn’t easy for those ‘who are left to lead.’

What makes this even more difficult is that we would ‘assume’ that the path that God sets before us as ‘life’ would be the easy, less turbulent road. The road with the least number of switchbacks, rocks, and detours. However, the road to ‘life’ is difficult, but the reward at the other side is life. On the flip side, the road that seems easy and smooth, ends up not helping us out all that much.

I once read a commentary that compared this – in a crude and simple way –to saving money. In fact, Erin probably thinks I should listen to that commentary a bit more. It is hard to put money away each month or a paycheck into savings. It is hard to ‘deny’ yourself the things that are before you that you’d like to enjoy in. Believe me, I know that it is difficult. But, for every bit you put away – the more you’ll have when you really need it. However, when we don’t save money – even a little bit – there are bad consequences that we’d rather avoid. If you spend every penny you earn, there will come a time when you’ll be flat broke and you will have to depend on the kindness of strangers and loved ones to help you out.

The fears that Moses had were real and founded. He didn’t know what life would be like for the Israelites after he was gone. It isn’t like they were all that ‘well-behaved’ and living to God while he was with them in leadership. They at this time were a pretty fickle people always seduced by the greener grass on the other side. He put up with their grumbling, raged at their idolatry, pleaded with God on their behalf, and has now brought them to the cusp of the ‘promised land.’ He wonders – will they keep their end of the deal?

God’s faithfulness had been proved (and still to this day continues to be) – God’s faithfulness is there in and for us, that constant grace that we are given out of great love from God. The question at hand is will the people of God be obedient to God’s faithfulness?

Now, we don’t face the same literal temptations and lures of sin that the Hebrews did, but I don’t think our temptations are all that different from theirs. Yes, our time is radically different than theirs. But, we do face quite a bit that pulls us from the paths that God has set before us.

We are seduced by wealth. We prioritize our own comfort over other’s needs. We put our convenience in front of urgent concerns within our society. If we don’t think it directly affects us, we’d rather not notice or care about it. We consider God’s demands on us to be a lower priority than things of our own choosing. We all do this.

Try as we might to walk ‘both paths’ at the same time. We can’t do it. These paths are far separated and don’t intersect. One is easy, one is difficult. One seeks God’s will and desire, the other is filled with the desires and wants of our own choosing. Yet, the one that is more difficult leads to life – full and abundant with God.

This leads us into our Gospel this morning. Let me just say, this is another one of those ‘wish I didn’t have to preach on this’ sort of texts.  We hear Jesus this morning say and compile a lot of ‘should dos’ for us as disciples. Essentially Jesus is calling for us to ‘do it now.’ Don’t wait.

Make peace, straighten out your life. Because the Kingdom of God is here – now. God is present here, now, to help you in giving strength to do all of what is before you that is difficult.

Throughout this whole time as Jesus has been preaching and teaching this ‘Sermon on the Mount’ he has been building his disciples up to be builders of community. Again, and again emphasizing how important it is to care for those around you.

Now, that doesn’t mean that because God is present that it’ll be less difficult or less awkward. In fact, it doesn’t mean that at all. The life of a Christian isn’t easy, especially when we add in the fact that we are called to care for others outside our little ‘circles of trust.’ We are constantly in flux with the world where we see what’s going on and we know – deep within ourselves, that tiny part we attempt to push down and ignore that shouts to our brains – that isn’t how it’s supposed to be –people shouldn’t be treated like that, that God loves all of us – why can’t we love one another?

We’ve been given commandments and guides to follow and emulate. The commandments of God are not vicious rules imposed upon us by a ‘heavenly tyrant.’ Far from it, instead they are intended for our own good, serving as guides along the way to help us choose the better path.

Jesus didn’t come to say – do this or else. Instead Jesus comes and says – if you do this – forgive, love, be merciful, obedient to God – you will live a life of abundant life. It isn’t going to be easy, but man is it rewarding! Look at the gift you’ve been given.

This life that we have been baptized into; this life that Moses led his people towards and Jesus calls us into. It isn’t easy. But, there is the reward for abundant and full life. Living in this life, following the high standards that Jesus sets before us lead us into a prosperous life with God.

But, it isn’t the life of ‘prosperity’ that others envision, proclaim, and seduce us with. God hasn’t promised wealth, fame, or perfect and easy health. No, God has promised blessing. We recognize that a blessed life is one God is a part of. That God is dwelling with and among you and us. Jesus calls us into this life through our baptism and fills us with strenght to live this life as we are fed at the table.

In this life of faith, there will still be setbacks. There will still be times that we are drawn away by the seemingly greener grasses of the world. However, in and with God, we aren’t turned away. We aren’t cast aside. We aren’t forgotten. God’s promise still holds fast. God continually calls and beckons to us. Wrapping us in those arms with an embrace of love and forgiveness. Reminding us that God is present, here and now.

So, this is the call of today’s text on all of us. Do it now. Live by kingdom values now. Straighten out your life now. Make peace with others now. The kingdom of God is here, now. The spirit of God is giving you strength for whatever changes you need to make, now. The love of Christ is forgiving you and inviting you to forgive others, now. Now.

Amen.

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February 6, 2017, 7:40 AM

the one about salt and light


Sermon from February 5, 2017

Texts: Isaiah 58: 1-12, Matthew 5: 13-20

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, today is a pretty important day – at least in the life of our country and popular culture. Later today millions of people will witness a game, played by 22 people on a field, being cheered on by 10s of thousands in person. There will be ‘epic’ moments, there will be insane calls and plays. There will be no end to the amount of ‘second guessing’ that will come throughout the game and into the future.

Many of the people watching at home will do so amidst family and friends. There will be huge spreads of food. Drinks of all type will flow freely. There will be gasps and cries; shouts and screams. Many will be on pins and needles for every snap, every throw, every tackle. Many will be impatient for the ‘game’ to break so that they can watch the advertisements. I’d also be willing to bet that almost all will lament that the commercials weren’t as good this year as they were in years gone by.

We will really get worked up about this – and all facets of this game tonight – won’t we? Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to the game this evening and I’m really anticipating a good game, good food, good drink, and good fun.

Yet, it’ll still happen as it does each year after the game is over. I’ll look at the food around me and think, “This is a lot of food. We didn’t even eat it all.” I’ll probably feel a little guilty over the mass abundance of food. It’ll go bad. It’ll go to waste. I’ll have to throw it out. I couldn’t possibly eat it all.

My mind drifts to that almost every year. I say this not to guilt us all into giving or holding us accountable to the food we eat. Or even living into that old saying of, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”

But, I do bring it up to emphasize the great disparity in abundance that is on display this day – every year.

We gorge ourselves. And it is fun. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t have fun, but perhaps it is an opportunity to recognize those who don’t have that luxury. Those who live in our own community who struggle with the decision of ‘Do I spend this money on a bit of gas to get to my job, or on food so my kids can eat tonight.’ Those who decide between having to get a second (or third) job or making sure someone is home when their kids get out of school.

What are we – members of our community and all children of God – able to do to help those in need around us? The ones we know about and the ones we cannot or even cannot be bothered to see.

I thought about all of this as I read our first reading from Isaiah this week. It’s a powerful message that Isaiah is directing to the nation of Israel. This part of Isaiah was written after the exile into Babylon. The Israelites were able to – finally – travel back into the land they called home and believed was their gift from God. Yet, life didn’t make that a smooth transition. There were some that were better off than others. Some families and generations were able to withstand the exile more resiliently than others.

The people fasted, they observed the rites and rituals that they felt called to. But, there was still the rampant need from those around them. No matter how much they fasted, prayed, or worshipped it didn’t seem to make a dent in the lives of those in need around them.

God’s response to them is strong through the words of Isaiah here. The fasting and praying leads God’s children into action. Through the fast, through those outward observances we feed, shelter, and clothe those around us.

I heard an amazing quote from the late Frederick Douglass this past week that speaks so eloquently to this call to action, he said – I prayed for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.

God calls us to pray and to fast so that our result is action to help and care for others.

God this day – through the words of the Prophet Isaiah – is calling us to live into the life of righteousness and grace and justice that God desires. Releasing the bonds of injustice, untying the thongs of the yoke, letting the oppressed go free.

Sharing our bread, welcoming the homeless poor into our homes and lives, covering the ‘naked’ in our lives. Those who bear their struggles to the world; who cry out in silent words and ways that they need help.

As we get to the end of passage from Isaiah, we are told of what our ‘reward’ will be from our God. As I read those ‘rewards’ I couldn’t help, but notice something profound and beautiful. Each of those ‘rewards’ is not solely for an individual.

Bones are made strong – so that the work and carrying for the poor can continue.

We shall be a watered garden, a spring of water that never dries up.

I particularly loved that image. I’ve mentioned before, I’m not much of a gardener. I have what could be called a ‘brown thumb’ for I have the uncanny ability to turn plant life of green into the brown of death. But, as much as I am not a gardener, I am fully aware of how gardens are viewed.

There is no one that I know who gardens – whether it be with flowers or food producing gardens – that keeps it to themselves. We share gardens. We invite others in to view them and see God’s beautiful creation. We recognize the over abundance that the garden produces and we feel called to share that with those around us. A garden can and does produce far more than what we ourselves and our families could ever consume and use.

I love when the harvest comes because so many share in their harvest with others. Tomatoes, basil, apples, corn, potatoes, and more. We share in that abundance.

Being a ‘watered garden’ and a ‘spring of water’ is God calling to us and telling us that we exist for the sake of others. We strive and share together, building one another up so that future generations are not only cared for, but are even more able to live into this life of faith.

But, not all of us are gardeners – like I said, I’m not. However, there are countless ways that we can and we do get to help strengthen the community around us. We rise up together as one as we are caring for another, knowing fully and completely that someone is caring for me and my loved ones as well.

Yet, you might be thinking, “I can’t. Who am I to do this? I don’t have what it takes.”

My sisters and brothers – hear our Lord Jesus speak to us this day, “Y’all are the salt of the earth. Y’all are the light of the world.”

It’s a non-negotiable – you are – y’all are – we are – salt and light.

We’ve got it! God is with us! Christ is beside us! The Spirit is leading us!

I’ve always wondered why Jesus talks about salt losing its saltiness. Mostly because in my research, salt really can’t. Salt doesn’t get less ‘potent’ as far as I have been able to see. Salt still salts. Salt still helps bring out the fuller flavor of the meal that you are having no matter how old it is. Salt doesn’t go bad.

In fact, the only way that salt loses its ‘saltiness’ is when it isn’t used. When the bag of salt, the shaker of spice, is tossed to the other side of the room, pushed into the back of the cabinet to be forgotten and to go unused for its purpose.

Salt does not exist for just itself. Its whole purpose is to bring ‘more’ to something else.

The same goes for light.

Y’all are the light of the world.

Light exists to cast out darkness so that all can be seen. Light exists so that you don’t trip over and fall amongst the stumbling blocks in your life. We are called to let our light shine before others so that the work we do can be seen. So, that the work of faith we do because of what God has done can be seen.

You are salt. You are light. We exist not for ourselves, but for others. We are gathered into community and into the life of others so that all might know the goodness and grace of God. We are then sent out into the community and world to share that good news. To invite others into this life, in this space, so that all might know how loved they are. How completely forgiven they are. How fully accepted they are.

This morning, we get to live into a bit of that call for others. We gather food from our abundance so that it might be shared with those in need through the Manna House. We gather our abundance in pots and pans to be shared with the ministry of Interfaith Community Services to help in those specific needs that go far beyond just food on the table. Yesterday, we held a sale where many new treasures were found and welcomed into the life of others – the proceeds from that sale go towards the caring and health of those in our community through the free medical clinic.

And yet still – there are even more possible ways to help and to care. Even more ways to live into this life of faith that we have been called and claimed into. Ways that are lived out through this community of faith and through the community we are grateful to live among.

God calls us to care for others. To live for more than just ourselves. We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. We get to do all of this – with one another – with those we don’t know and haven’t yet met – because of what God has done and continues to do in the life of the world! Again, it is fitting to hear those strong and powerful words of Frederick Douglass once more: I prayed for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs. Amen.

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February 1, 2017, 8:00 AM

February 2017 Newsletter Article


Grace and peace to each of y’all!

So, it’s kind of like winter out there. Or at least it is one day, and then feels like spring the next. The weather just can’t make up its mind. Not that I’m complaining – at all. I hope and pray that this new year has met y’all with peace, love, and acceptance and that each of you have been able to live that out to those around you.

As I write this, many are hard at work at putting together the finishing touches on the Lutheran Men in Mission Yard Sale.

I love that we do this. I love the work that goes into it. I love that the money raised from the sale goes to such a good, worthy, and needed cause. Thank you to all who volunteer, have donated, and support this sale in other ways. Not only this year, but in the previous years. Thank you.

Last year, I remember hearing from someone that the yard sale is full of treasures. Which kind of struck me, since a lot of that stuff is worn, old(er), greatly used goods from others. But, it got me thinking. Those are indeed treasures. Someone sees that item whether it be an old dresser, a couch, some baby items, perhaps even a chair, and they say, “Yeah – I can use that. That’s mine.”

I like to think that that is how God has viewed all of us. The world, in many ways, has chewed us up and spit us out. We’ve failed, we’ve fallen in one way or another. We haven’t lived up to our or others’ expectations.

Many in the world feel broken, old, worn out, and used. Nobody could possibly care, want, or need them. They’ve been told so much throughout their life. They believe wrong, they live wrong, they love wrong, they come from somewhere else. The world has cast them aside, the world has cast us aside. Yet, here comes God. Picks each of us up and says, “Yep. That’s a good thing right there. Here’s my newest treasure.”

God has chosen to be with us. God has come to dwell with us. God has called us to new and renewed life – through our Lord Jesus – because of God’s great love for us.

In that love and calling, we seek out to share that message with everyone around us. We strive to live into that life that sees each person before us as a treasured creation of God. Welcoming all into our lives so that all of us might be that much more full.

You are a treasure. You are God’s treasure. You are loved. Amen.




January 30, 2017, 7:46 AM

the one about blessings...


Sermon from January 29, 2017

Texts: Matthew 5: 1-12, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Micah 6: 1-8

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock, and our redeemer. Amen.

So, today we hear one of Jesus’ most famous teachings. This morning, we get to listen in on that class – that brief lecture – where Jesus is sitting with his disciples – away from the crowds – and tells them how to recognize a blessing.

I’m wondering if that is something that we today as a people, society, a country, the world need to be taught again and again as well. We live in a culture that lavishes ‘blessings’ on the good things in our lives. Dare I say; we use the word ‘blessed’ to kind of brag about our lives.

We live in a world where ‘blessings’ are only given to successes. We live in a world where it can be downright difficult to feel ‘blessed’ because we don’t have the successes of those we see on social media. We don’t have the same clout as our friends down the street. We don’t feel that well about our faith, our bodies, our lives, our work, our abilities.

Yet, Jesus approaches this morning with a twist on how we recognize blessings in our life and the life of the world.

Jesus sees blessings in those that struggle in their spirit and life. Perhaps in their faith. Blessed are those who ask questions and ponder. Blessed are those whose thoughts move from the good word to the world they witness and how at times they don’t compute. Blessed are those whose hope is in those who proclaim welcome with open arms, yet hopes dashed when doors are closed.

Blessed are those who have experienced death. Blessed are those whose lives have been rocked and ravaged by pains only they can feel. Blessed are those who flee from tragedy, death, and persecution in their lives and communities to protect their families and keep them safe.

Blessed are those who are easily swayed, the quiet, the meek and mild.

Blessed are those who yearn and strive for righteousness and have a deep- seated passion for peace in our communities and world. Those who see injustice and feel called to speak up and speak out against those moments – even when it sets them apart from those they love and care.

Blessed are those who are down and out, struggling with life, frustrated beyond belief.

Those aren’t the typical avenues that we feel are blessed. Anyone in those moments and places certainly don’t feel blessed. In my conversations with those who have experienced those moments in their life, they certainly don’t feel that God is near to them. How could they – when the world constantly tells them that God isn’t.

Gotta be happy. Gotta be proud. Have to show a good face!

It all seems ‘foolish.’

We see this difficulty lived out in our lives of faith as we are reminded in our second reading this morning that God certainly appears foolish and call us into that life of faith as well. Lifting high that which sets us low and below others. We look to the cross; we are called to cling to those two pieces of wood as a reminder of God’s presence in our life.

And in that, we forget how utterly foolish it is to do that. This cross, this symbol of death and torture is what we lift up? God’s grace and life are extended through that one who died; and who didn’t even die dignified. Executed among criminals before the taunting of a powerful empire.

It’s foolish. Surely, the world’s wisdom is greater than that! Let’s look to the good, the shiny, the majestic, the huge numbers, grand moments, and the great objects in our lives instead.

Yet, we still cling to God’s hope and promise of new life that is given to us through the cross. It is through that death and resurrection that we are called to live in faith. We hope and pray for and in those words of promise and life. But still, from the outside looking in – it is foolish.

Our Lord was captured. Arrested. Mocked. Died. Is it wise to proclaim that life?

Yes, because God’s foolishness is still more wise than the world’s wisdom.

It seems and appears wise and prudent to double-check, hold at arm’s length, or perhaps even prevent those who flee violence just in case. It is foolish to welcome with open arms, caring hearts, and warm homes those that others say we don’t know enough about – where the only thing that God calls for us to do - in Christ - is to love others as ourselves.

We are called to proclaim. We live the life that God has gifted to us because of what God has done in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ our Lord. We are called to recognize the blessings of God in the people and places that the world attempts to divert our attention from.

As one of my favorite theologians – Rev. David Lose - stated this past week 

Jesus urges his disciples – then and now – to look at those around us differently than the culture does. Rather than measure persons by their possessions, we are invited – nay, commanded – to see their character. Rather than merely take pity on their losses, we are invited to enter into them. Rather than judge their failings, we are invited to forgive and remind them that they are blessed by God and born for more than they’ve settled for. And rather than despise weakness, we are invited to see in it the truest point of meeting between God’s children. For God reveals God’s self to us most clearly and consistently at our places of deepest need.

We still cling to the promise of blessedness given to us by God. Where we discover that God is at work – fully and intentionally – in the places that we don’t expect.

God is at work in the lives of those who care for others who have been displaced. Those who house and show extreme hospitality to those suffering displacement, addiction, hunger, and fear.

Where God is present in the lives of each of us – we these broken and sinful creatures. Where the world might tell us we are nothing, but God has set each of us apart for something great. To proclaim God’s goodness and love to the world. To stand with others who are broken and beaten down. To lift our voices together in praise of what God continues to do in the world.

And still, many will see it as foolishness. It isn’t loud enough. It isn’t big enough. It isn’t grand enough.

Yet, we continue to look for the blessings in places, and in people, the others would rather look past and walk quickly by.

Remember. You are a blessing. Not because of what you have. Not because of how ‘great’ things are around you. You and everyone else are a blessing because of what God has done and continues to do. You and all others are blessings in our proclamation of the one who foolishly died, yet gloriously rose from the dead for the world.

As we live this life, seeing blessings in places and people we wouldn’t expect, we remember what God desires in us as blessings. We remember those rich and beautiful words of Micah that we read this morning.

God has told you, O mortal, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but, to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Amen.

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January 23, 2017, 7:09 AM

the one about the dawn...


Sermon from January 22, 2017

Text: Matthew 4: 12-23

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, has there ever been a time that you felt totally defeated. Where you thought things were going great? Everyone seemed to care and notice you and the work that you were doing; you were involved in a movement that seemed unstoppable. Yet, in a flash it all just crumbled.

News comes out. A leader and teacher’s reputation is tarnished. The mass of followers just seemed to fizzle away.

I think we’ve all experienced that at some point in our lives. Some more recently than others – but, this morning we get to look in on some people that we know that we didn’t expect to have experienced that as well – the first disciples of Jesus.

As our gospel reading this morning begins, we learn that John the Baptizer is in jail. The powers that be have squashed his little rabble rousing and cage shaking. The powerful had enough and tossed him in the slammer. It is one of the quickest ways to stamp out a rising movement – get rid of the vocal and charismatic leader of that group and watch the followers drift away.

It’s what the Roman and religious leaders attempted to do with Jesus; and it almost worked.

It’s what they did to John – and it kind of worked.

Like I said, as we begin this part of Matthew’s gospel; we – along with Jesus – discover that John has been jailed. So, Jesus returns to that same area after being tempted in the wilderness. In many ways, Jesus begins to fill in the void left by John’s abrupt absence. The first words we hear Jesus speak are the same words we last heard John shout out – Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. Yet, we know that not only does Jesus fill that space, but his presence, life, and message spill out in abundance and cannot be contained.

As Jesus begins this proclamation and ministry, he approaches individuals to gather, walk, and follow him. We are introduced to four men who are fishing in the Sea of Galilee that Jesus calls and they all immediately drop what they are doing and follow him.

That abrupt sense of call has always intrigued me. Mostly because if you talk to any pastor or leader in the faith, almost all of them will say that that isn’t how their own call stories panned out. For a very select few, I’m sure there was an immediate stop to what they were doing in order to follow God’s call. Yet, for the rest of us – and dare I say, the vast majority of us – our call stories are probably more like Jonah’s, Isaiah’s, or Moses’. We came up with excuses as to why God shouldn’t and couldn’t use us as leaders in the church.

So, I and I’m sure many of y’all have been curious as to why these disciples seem to drop everything to follow Jesus. The second pair’s sense of call is so strong that they leave their own father Zebedee alone in the boat. That’s a strong sense of call.

So, I wonder… why?

It isn’t stated in this gospel, but using our other sources and gospels we can probably surmise that these first disciples of Jesus were perhaps disciples of John the baptizer as well. In fact, the gospel of John tells us this explicitly so. They felt a call to be used by God, but like we read in Isaiah’s text from this morning they might have been walking in darkness since their leader’s arrest and imprisonment.

They were lost. They didn’t know what to do, so they went back to the only thing they did know and felt secure in – fishing. They went back to what they knew and knew well.

I imagine that for many of us, we’ve experienced those moments. Maybe not in the sense that a charismatic and cage rattling ‘leader’ was jailed and imprisoned. But, perhaps it was a ministry or community event that just didn’t live up to your or anyone’s expectations.

Maybe an individual you confided in broke that trust and bond.

The work you were doing in recovery from – surgery, addiction, dieting, depression – experienced a setback.

Something didn’t take. Something ‘broke.’ Things didn’t go along smoothly at all.

That, I think we’ve all experienced. I know it has for me. I’ve spoken with quite a few where it has for them.

In those moments, we go back to what we find comfortable and easy for us. On our good days, we fall back into practices that are rote and give us the chance to just ‘turn our brains off’ for just a bit. Working with our hands, taking a walk, whatever it may be for you – we sort of just go with that flow.

We do something that isn’t necessarily bad for us, but it sure doesn’t move us out of that space we are currently in. We’re just there.

Many might call it walking in darkness. Especially when the creep of our thoughts begins to enter in – this is it. Nothing better. It’s all you’re capable of doing. This is it.

There are many who experience those demons. Knocked down by life – whether it is under their control or not.

They walk in darkness. We walk in darkness.

But, then individuals aren’t the only ones that experience this as well – whole groups walk in a darkness and malaise as well. In Isaiah, we read that as the nation of Israel. In our relatively recent history we see that as our African-American sisters and brothers especially after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death.

Yet, there is a pull out of that darkness.

There is light. That light that breaks the darkness and the light of the kingdom of heaven that is the dawn. That light of Christ that will dawn.

And there’s something about the light of Christ that I never thought about before, but talked about briefly with some colleagues this week. The light of Christ never seems to be a light that bursts forth right by you. It’s the light that creeps in from the horizon. Like the break of day after a long night. That slow rising of light that the darkness cannot hold back.

That faint light within the darkness that gives and inspires hope. The voice and small whisper of the one you love telling you it’s going to be OK. Not in the superficial ‘I’m just saying it to say it’ way – but, in that deep and abiding way that you know it will be OK because you’re surrounded by those who love you. That the one speaking to you is going to walk with you through it.

As followers of Christ – we see and know and proclaim that that light is Christ.

That in our darkest days, our most desperate hours, we know that that light shines. That light bursts from afar and gives us hope that all is not lost. And when you see light in the midst of your darkness you cannot help, but move toward it.

Some move towards that light more quickly than others. But, we are all called into that light. That light that provides warmth, love, forgiveness, and acceptance. That light that drives out the demons of our world. That light that shines on injustice and evil so that we all might be able to see.

That light that we cannot help, but invite others into it. Showing them the way, helping them – and ourselves – get by those obstacles that keep us from seeing the light of life. The light of God. The light of Christ in our life.

In our gospel reading this morning, we are introduced to followers of Jesus who felt that all was lost. That there might not be any use for them.

Yet, they are approached by the one that uses the broken and cast aside to proclaim this radical message of love and forgiveness. This message of welcome and hospitality.

In hearing that call; in seeing that light they drop their nets and follow the one who is and points to the light. So that they too might gather others in that net of love, life, and light.

That light still shines today. It may be along the horizon in a world that seems ever so dark. Filled with obstacles and obstructions that at times keeps us from seeing that light of Christ in our lives or in the life of the world. Sometimes those obstacles are the powers of the world standing before us, sometimes those obstructions are our own blind spots in our mind. But, that light shines. That light calls. That light beckons. That light has come near.

Light has dawned. Let’s gather the people. Amen.

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January 16, 2017, 12:00 AM

so... what are you looking for?


Sermon fromJanuary 15, 2017

Text: John 1: 29-42

Grace and peace to y’all from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, what are you looking for? That’s a pretty big question that not only we hear our Lord speak this morning, but I think it’s something that cuts us to the core in our life when we hear spoken to us throughout our lives.

What are you looking for?

Are we looking for something to make us laugh – to distract us from the world around us?

Are we looking for some new piece of technology that promises to make life even simpler?

Are we looking for a job – a relationship – a community that will help us ‘get by’ a little better?

Are we looking for someone to hope and believe in? Someone who will make it ‘all better’ or ‘the way I remember it used to be.’

Are we looking for things to ‘change’ in some specific way, that of course doesn’t require me to actually change?

What are you looking for?

That’s really the question, isn’t it?

We hear that question from our parents, our friends, our jobs, our schools, the ads that bombard us every day.

What are you looking for?

In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus asks this question after he is approached by two former disciples of John. I always wonder if they – if we – know the full extent of what Jesus is asking.

As John has already told them that this is the Lamb of God (another label and title given to God’s chosen and the messiah), they probably had some preconceived notions of what that meant.

I’ve talked about those previous thoughts on what the messiah would look like to this early people of faith before. Would the messiah be the powerful warrior to lay waste to the enemies of Israel? Finally, putting the chosen people of God back on top in the hierarchy of faith? Or, would the messiah be that astute political mind who could eloquently – with tact and precision – use words to bend the powers that be to God. Perhaps the ‘lamb of God’ would be one who literally descends from the heavens with the power to control and manipulate people and things around him since he had the power and privilege of the Creator.

No matter where those disciples’ minds might have fallen as to who they thought the Lamb of God would be like – they wanted to be a part of that. Their teacher pointed to the one ‘more powerful than he’ and they left and followed that one.

And so, they come to follow Jesus to see what this guy is all about.

Jesus notices them, turns, and asks that question…

What are you looking for?

I’ve always found their response to be both surprising and refreshing.

Where are you staying? Where do you dwell? Where do you remain?

Even though that response doesn’t really answer Jesus’ question it is sure better than the response we typically give when asked, “What are you looking for?” I would presume that the typical response is, “I don’t know.”

Wouldn’t y’all agree?

What are you looking for in your life? I don’t know.
What are you looking for in your job? I don’t know.
What are you looking for in your faith? I don’t know.

What are you looking for? I don’t know.

I wonder if those disciples and many of those others who would soon gather around Jesus were looking for fame, ease, and fortune. It’s what we would expect from being so close to one so powerful right? We strive for that, hitching our wagon to those who are ‘going somewhere.’ So that we’ll be able to ride those coattails on someone else’s good fortune.

We do that. In big and small ways. Even when we think we don’t do it…we’re still probably seeking to be at least associated or at the very least noticed by that more powerful person.

When the disciples ask Jesus where he’s staying, he invites them in. And, I like to think that Jesus didn’t invite them in only for a place to lie down and a small meal.

No, Jesus’ invitation is more than that.

Come and see where many will gather to hear words of hope.

Come and see those who scatter from that group because those words didn’t align with what they wanted to hear and live into.

Come and see a deeper and more full interpretation of faith that will rock you sideways and turn the world upside down. Where you will enter into life and relationship with those that are easy to look past and step around.

Come and see the life that you will live with God in your heart – a life that could look like Martin Luther King, Jr.’s. A life lived for others. A life that speaks out. A life that points to injustice and calls us to action. Come and see. A life that is full, but never easy.

Come and see this kingdom of God that is at hand – but, lived out in ways that you would not expect. That includes the welcoming of people that others have cast aside.

Come and see where you too are welcomed, even when you don’t think that you’re worthy of that kind of love and life.

Come and see this life that is so much more than you could possibly expect.

I don’t know if those disciples completely and fully knew what Jesus was implying when he asked, “What are you looking for?”

I don’t think we completely and fully know what Jesus is implying when he asks us, “What are you looking for?”

Sometimes I really don’t know what I’m looking for. I’d guess that most of the time y’all don’t know either.

But, I want to be able to live this life where my response to that question from Jesus is the same as those disciples, “Well, where are you at?”

Jesus, I don’t know what I am looking for – but, where are you staying. I think that’s a good place to start.

And Jesus invites us in deeper to ‘come and see.’

Come and see Jesus in the Word. But, even within that Word, there are struggles, questions, and ponderings. We can’t do it alone, so we should probably gather together with others and talk and discuss. More likely than not, those conversations might stretch us, make us uncomfortable, and open us to ways we hadn’t thought before. There will be the chance to just drop it and move to a group that ‘thinks’ more like us. But, does that help us grow deeper into that relationship with God and with one another?

Come and see Jesus in this meal of bread and wine – body and blood. We participate in this ancient practice and sacrament that connects us to that very first meal with Jesus and his disciples, that binds us with all those others who celebrate with us right now around the world, and provides us with a link to those who will come after us. In this meal, we find the one who has forgiven us, who fills us with strength, and who sends us out to proclaim this Word.

Come and see Jesus in these waters of baptism. Those waters that wash us before God. Where we acknowledge that we don’t have it all together, that we do mess up, and that life isn’t easy or squeaky clean. But, once for all we are washed and welcomed into this community and life of faith

Come and see our Lord in the faces of those before us. The ones we know deeply and care for abundantly. Yet, we come and see Jesus in the one who doesn’t look like us, the one who lives a life that we don’t understand, whose struggles are different from our own.

Come and see our God who dwells in us. The one who has come down to be with us – and that means you too. Where you might not think that you’re worthy enough, lovable enough, ‘perfect’ enough for God to notice you. God has come to be with you too. Fully and completely.

Come and see. Our Lord lifts those words up today as the ultimate and best invitation of discipleship that there ever was or ever will be. Jesus invites those two following him – who aren’t quite sure what’s going on, but are enthralled and drawn to this man. They are seekers and wish to know more, even if they cannot fully comprehend what’s going on. Jesus states to them – Come and see.

Come and see.

Jesus invites us today to ‘come and see,’ but in so doing – when you do see what Jesus offers – we too are invited to go out and tell our sisters and brothers the same thing – ‘come and see.’

Come and see the new life that is offered here. Come and see the one who brings a new and true identity to each of us. Come and see the Lamb of God. Come and see God at work in this place, within these people, through our hands and feet. Come and see Jesus present in the bread and wine.

So, what are you looking for?

Come and see. Come and see. Amen.

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