In pm's words
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August 10, 2015, 9:00 AM

the one where we can be angry...


Sermon from August 9, 2015

Sermon text: Ephesians 4: 25- 5:2

Grace and peace to you from God our Father 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!

What a great second reading for us to receive today with the coming political season beginning to heat up and the most important time of the year just around the corner – the college football season. In this particular part of the Letter to the church in Ephesus we get to see what life as a new creation journeying towards and into the new kingdom proclaimed by Christ is supposed to look like.

What I most enjoy from this text is that it paints a picture that is a little different from some modern interpretations of what this ‘new kingdom’ will look like. If you ask people today what the kingdom of God will look like you’ll get a whole host of answers, but most of them might center on the fact that it’ll be ‘perfect.’ In every way.

Everyone will be nice and friendly. Peace beyond measure. Everyone praising and worshipping God.

Life would be absolutely ‘perfect’ in all the ways we could imagine.

Which, sounds all fine and good – but, there’s only one problem – humans are involved and we have a tendency to mess with things.

So, I enjoy this epistle’s beginning words basically stating that anger still and will exist. Paul is writing here that there will be times that we can and will be angry in some fashion. But, there is a warning here too within this knowledge that anger exists – that our anger does not become an opportunity to sin.

Of course, the call that is written write before this revelation that anger will and does exist is that we are supposed to speak the truth to one another. Speaking truth can be difficult. Especially when it is in speaking and pointing out the difficult truth about our world and ourselves.

Those truths that center on how people are viewed, how others are treated, how we are all participants at times in the ways that take advantage of our earth and our fellow sisters and brothers. Speaking about those truths to one another can ruffle feathers. It can make us upset. Especially when we are the ones with the truth being told to us.

Then again, there is the somewhat ‘easier’ truth to profess – the one that is only difficult because we at times are shy and timid in speaking it. Speaking of the gracious truth of our God who has redeemed us. That truth we can speak to one another that tells us we don’t have to participate in the way the world operates in treating others, ourselves, and our world because we have been redeemed. We are loved. We are forgiven. We get to speak the truth in love of our gracious God.

But, there is this thing about speaking the truth. Because we are only humans and twisted at times by the tempting sin of the world, our opportunities to speak truth to one another are not done in order to build up the Body of Christ, but instead are used as opportunities to manipulate, take revenge on, and tear down one another.

That can make us angry too – really angry. Angry enough to spit!

Yet, we are cautioned in our anger to not let it lead to sin. Which is pretty difficult at times. We like to live in the world of an ‘eye for an eye’ because it’s easy. You hurt me in your truth, I’m going to hurt you too.

The new kingdom that Jesus calls us into and that Paul opens our eyes to is a world that operates much differently from what we see each day. This new kingdom and way of life that we are called into views anger in a much different way.

Not so much as a way to get even with another sister and brother, not even as a ‘deadened’ emotion that shouldn’t exist in this new way of life. But, that sometimes it is good to have anger. Anger towards oppression and injustice. All of it that can and does exist both inside and outside the church. Not being angry in those moments and towards those injustices might even be considered the ‘bad’ response in the new kingdom.

But, even with a little justifiable anger in our lives in this new kingdom this verse does not give us permission to hold and fester onto that anger. It isn’t an excuse to feed and nurture this anger either. So, it seems rather counter-intuitive that the writer also calls for us just a few verses later to ‘put away all anger.’

Dr. Brian Peterson from Southern Seminary thinks that it is a much more appropriate to translate verse 26 not as ‘be angry,’ but instead as ‘when you are angry, do not sin.’ He further points out that when we do speak the truth, not to let whatever anger we experience linger and fester, because we belong to one body.

Now, I’m sure there are many here in their life who have been angry at someone or something. I’m sure there are some who have been angered by others and have held on to that anger, who have found ways to nurture and feed that anger. Living into that anger fueled view of life that causes us to lash out, to go out of our ways to either avoid or disrupt another person’s life in some way.

The scary thing about anger – the true danger of anger, especially that anger which festers and lingers – is that it can become incredibly corrosive and divisive to the community that God is calling forth very quickly.

So, what are we to do with this anger that might come forth? How are we supposed to live into this new world that Christ has called us into that is different from how we’ve always lived?

It all depends on what that anger might lead you towards – if it leads you towards using words and performing actions of evil intent – in all its overt and subtle ways – that’s not good. That’s not what Jesus wants from us.

Instead when we speak the truth in love towards one another – because we are all the community and body of Christ – we do so in ways to build one another up. Whereas we look out in our world and we are witness to injustice and oppression we might speak to the truth that our God of love and graciousness has called us to a different way – a better way.

A way of life that holds life dear – all lives – no matter how young or old, where they were born, who their parents are or their family background. All lives matter. As we look out upon the injustices of the world and the difficult truths we see in ourselves and one another that we put away those words and feelings that break and beat us down, but instead use those words and actions that build us up.

Where we forgive, where we love, where we are kind and tender to one another, where we are in relationship with each other.

Finally, Paul calls us to be ‘imitators’ of God. How in the world are we supposed to do that? And in doing that wouldn’t we be pretty arrogant? Whenever I hear of someone who says they are doing ‘God’s work’ as they are speaking their form of truth I usually get a little hesitant and wary around such individuals.

Again, I heed Dr. Peterson’s wise words that this verse might be better translated ‘keep on being imitators of God…’ instead of be imitators of God. This implies that this is a process. It is something we work in and through with Christ by our side and as our guide. It isn’t something we just ‘get’ and if we can’t do it yet then we better figure it out. But, instead this is grace at work – knowing that what God calls for us difficult, but not impossible. It is a marathon, not a sprint.

It brings to mind a wonderful excerpt from one of Martin Luther’s works that I think fits beautifully here. Dr. Luther writes:

This life, therefore, is not godliness, but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed!1

What absolutely wonderful words. That might be one of my new favorite Luther quotes.

The life we are called to, the kingdom we get to live in is a journey; a process that Jesus is with us on. Jesus is leading us, God is fashioning us, the Holy Spirit is blowing through us. The work of the Triune God is shaping us and the church to be a part of this new kingdom.

We are not finished, we are a work in progress. A work that is continually forgiven, massaged, accepted, guided, and has the truth spoken to us in love through all around us. Amen.

Notes:

1“Defense and Explanation of All the Articles”, transl. Charles M. Jacobs, in Luther’s Works, Volume 34 (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1958), 24.

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August 3, 2015, 9:12 AM

the one where we nuzzle up and don't look out...


Sermon from August 2, 2015

Sermon Text: John 6: 24-35

Grace and peace to you from God our Father 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!

Signs. Signs point to a lot of things. Signs point to potential dangers up the road. Signs point the path to where we are heading. Signs point us to troubles in our lives. Signs point to those wonderful things that fill us in so many ways. There are loads of signs in our world. Stop signs, yield signs, pedestrians crossing signs, or my particular favorite the British ‘exit’ signs that point to the “WAY OUT.” Of course, there are other signs as well – signs that we know where we’re feeling good – full of energy, alert, happy, content.  Signs that we’re not doing so hot; a fever, tired, sluggish. Our body shows us signs that we’re in need of food or drink with a rumble of our stomach or the dryness of our throats. 

We have a lot of signs in our world, and we also have a lot of signs in the church as well. We have our ‘literal’ signs like the one outside next to the street that informs folks of what this building is. We have the sign of welcoming folks at the door pointing to the fact that there are open and kind people in this place, we have the signs of the ministries we offer and participate in that point folks to work is being done from this place for the community, we have the signs of bread and wine and word that point to the one who offers his life for all, Jesus Christ.

Of course, we as humans also have a tendency to not really see what those signs are pointing to. In fact, especially when it comes to the signs of the church we can and do act like the crowds gathered around Jesus in our gospel lesson this morning. Sometimes we even act like the Israelites who saw the sign from God and asked, “Manna?” “What is this?”

I read a story a while ago about a father who attempted to get the family cat to notice other cats on TV. I think that is something all of us with pets have tried to do from time to time isn’t it? This man would point his finger at the TV and say, “Look – it’s a pretty kitty – look!” Of course, the cat wasn’t interested in what its owner was pointing to, but instead was transfixed on his finger itself. Nuzzling against that finger.

Or if you’re a dog lover, you have the dogs who act like all those canines in Pixar’s Up. Where even as they are talking to one another, they are always distracted by the SQUIRREL! Pulled away from that which might be important to focus on something that isn’t even there.

Jesus’ crowd nuzzled against the sign of ‘bread.’ Bread that filled their bellies and they sought out Jesus to again fill their bellies. We, as a people, tend to nuzzle up to worship, the Bible, prayer, and other signs in the church yet fail to see what they are pointing to. Sometimes we even nuzzle up to Jesus and fail to see what he was and is pointing to.

Here in this gospel reading, we see folks who notice that Jesus isn’t around nor are his disciples. He and his friends must’ve gone to the other side of the sea, so the crowds do likewise. We have lots of folks in this place, community and world that seek out where Jesus is. This is a good thing. We follow our Lord, we seek out those places where we feel Christ might be and we go. People come to the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer because a sign may have pointed them here. Could’ve been a direct invitation, maybe they heard about a ministry here, perhaps that ‘new pastor smell’ is still emanating from these doors and people are curious, possibly they might have been pushed by the Spirit to visit. Something pointed them here, something pointed you here, and you came. 

But, like those crowds sometimes we come for those ‘signs’ themselves and not what those signs point towards. We come to be filled in many ways. There are folks around the world, maybe even in this place, who come to church on Sundays simply to be around people. They are filled by a need to be with others.  Which is good, we should want to be in community. But, ultimately that’s just a sign of what is in this place. Some people come to churches because of the coffee they might serve, or simply because the church offered a meal, maybe because they sing hymns and songs agreeable to their ears, or the time is right and the distance is short. 

But, Jesus, especially in our Gospel this morning, wants us to see not only those signs, but to look out to where those signs point to. These crowds come to Jesus and he questions them – you came because your bellies were filled, not because you seek me.

So, what fills you? If we’re coming to this place, being a part of this community of faith, this Body of Christ, simply for – let’s face it – selfishly wanting our ‘bellies’ to be filled we’re probably not seeing Jesus or to what Jesus is pointing. If you ask people and one another why we come to church – you will receive a whole host of answers. My friends are here (which is what I would tell people when I was growing up in the church) or because a particular church might have a coffee house or even a state of the art work out space.

Now, I’m not saying the things that some churches offer are bad, far from it. A part of the reason we do come to worship, that we are involved in this community of faith is because of those tangible things around us – the people, the ministry, the conversations, the music. But, if that’s what we’ve ‘nuzzled’ up upon solely, we’ve lost sight of what those things are – signs, not bread, and definitely not the Bread of Life.

Even outside these walls and this community there are things that ‘fill’ us in ways that are only temporary. Being filled with the ability to consume as much as we want – food, entertainment, sport. We at times seek to fill ourselves with those things that are bad for us – an excess of alcohol, drugs, hurtful relationships just so we might ‘get by.’ So that at that moment our sense of loss, brokenness, and hurt are filled, temporarily.

We seek to be filled in many ways, but we always seem to want to fill ourselves with only those temporary things. I want to be ‘whole’, but I know full well that my attraction to that object, that food will wane in the future as something newer, better, and shinier comes along. Or I want to be in relationship with someone – anyone – even though those relationships may be harmful to me, but I’m in fear of being alone.

Those are those ‘temporary’ things that fill us in which we seek constantly. Sometimes those temporary fillers exist in the church as well. I come because we always have service at such and such time, or because I like that tune, or that setting, or seeing the colors, or because I’m filled greatly by the seat I sit in every Sunday. But what happens when those things get rocked, even a little bit.  We come face to face with the fact that we haven’t come to be filled by the Bread of Life, we saw the sign yet nuzzled up against it like that cat to a finger, never paying attention to where the sign is pointing towards.

Here, in this Gospel, and throughout these next few weeks Jesus will continually ask us to look out past the signs, to where those signs are pointing. Pointing to the one who gives life to the world, the one who has come down from heaven and is the true bread. 

When we feast upon the bread offered to us by God through Jesus we are filled with love, acceptance, and forgiveness. We no longer thirst or hunger for that relationship that is eternal, that closeness with God because Jesus is “I am” Jesus is the Bread of Life; the bread that feeds those who are hungry, both physically and spiritually. Jesus is the one, working through the community that opens that acceptance for all.

Yes, Jesus does fill bellies. Jesus does offer bread for all physically.  Jesus works through you and me so that others might be filled. But, we don’t come to Jesus because our proverbial bellies are filled and satisfied. We are filled because we are filled by Jesus, the one who has come from heaven, the one who points to the kingdom, and the one who all things point to. We come to be filled by Jesus.  To be filled with his love, his life, his service so that we too can point others here. 

We do point others here to the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and the Body of Christ, not because we help in feeding, in clothing, in providing for the needs of all. No, we point folks here, using those signs, so that they too might know that Jesus is the one who fills. Jesus is the one who we have faith in.  Jesus is the one who is the Bread of Life for the entire world. That Jesus is the one who is here. Amen.

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August 3, 2015, 9:03 AM

August 2015 Newsletter article


Grace and peace y’all!

We’re old friends now right? I mean, I’ve been here for five Sundays, so it seems like we can be real with one another. I know I haven’t (as of writing this) moved to Newberry, but we aren’t going to let that get in between us are we?

So, this month, I wanted to talk a little bit about forgiveness. It’s always something we need to hear and probably need help practicing. It doesn’t hurt that Jesus talks an awful lot about forgiveness either. One of my favorite Jesus stories is the one where his disciples basically ask, “How many times should we forgive, like seven times?” Jesus’ response is – “How about 77 times.”

Once we realize that we aren’t supposed to read this story literally – Jesus isn’t saying that once you forgive 77 times you’re done and you should never forgive that person again. Far, far from it. In fact, what Jesus is saying is that we should always forgive. Jesus telling his disciples that they should forgive 77 times is such an astronomically (and comically) large number that he was emphasizing that you should always forgive. Especially when people feel like you should stop.

I think when we read that we can be taken a little aback by our Lord. Why? Because what Jesus asks of his disciples and of us is pretty hard to do. Forgiveness isn’t easy and it is a process. Forgiveness is also an interesting act when conducted between people. We like to think that forgiveness means more for the person who has done the wrong. I’m forgiving them so that they know that we are OK and that now they can go on living with a clean slate!

What I think, is that forgiveness is more of a gift to the one who has been wronged against.

A story I read once talked about holding grudges (not living into forgiveness) in this way…

Imagine a small cup of water. It’s not very heavy, it may only have about four or five ounces of water. Pick it up. It’s really light isn’t it? Now, just keep holding it and don’t put your arm down, but stretch that arm out in front of you. Hold it and continue holding it up. If you hold it up for 30 minutes how ‘light’ is it now? How about 5 hours? 30 days? A few years… That ‘light’ cup of water is an incredible burden now isn’t it?

Now, forgiveness is imaging ourselves – after days, weeks or years – of holding on to that cup and putting it down. Just put down the cup. Let it go. Relief! A weight is literally lifted from us in that act of forgiveness.

That’s forgiveness. We still remember that cup and its weight upon us. But, in the act of forgiveness we no longer let that cup guide us, define us, or identify us. In our forgiveness we let go of that which has bound us up in chains and shackles, so that we can be free to be in relationship with those around us. Even free with the one whom we have forgiven!

Of course, this is still a process that is easier said than done. I want to emphasize that forgiveness is a process. It is a journey that we embark on. Only our God is able to ‘forgive and forget’ and God literally says that that is possible in Jeremiah 31: 31-34.

Forgiveness isn’t easy, it doesn’t happen overnight, but we are called by God to forgive. We are called to forgive so that those grudges – those sins – might not define us. That in our act of forgiveness we might know that we are defined by the grace and love of Christ Jesus our Lord. In our act of forgiveness we are able – again – to walk with those among us. Those who have sinned against us, those we have sinned against, and those who get to be with every day.

That’s a pretty cool thing – so, put the cup down and let’s go share that love with others! Amen!

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July 27, 2015, 10:13 AM

the one about abundance


Sermon from July 26, 2015

Sermon Text: John 6: 1-21

Grace and peace to you from God our father and our Lord and savior 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, it’s that weird time during this year of the lectionary that even though we’ve been reading and learning a lot from Mark’s Gospel, we take a little detour for five or so weeks and dive into John’s Gospel.

I want y’all to think for a bit and imagine if you were in a similar situation as Jesus and his disciples were in this gospel story.

Here’s the setup or the ‘too long didn’t read’ version – Jesus is teaching. There are a LOT of people. At one count there were 5000 ‘people’ which at this time didn’t normally include women and children, just the men were counted. So, lots of people.

And the guy in charge looks to you and says, “So, how are we going to feed all these people?”

I don’t know about you, but that would freak me out. Why are you asking me? I’m here to listen to you! I thought you had this stuff figured out!

I think that’s pretty much Philip’s thought process as Jesus asked him that very same question. We don’t even have enough money to feed them a little bit, how do you expect me to answer that question? Then, Andrew says – 'well there’s this kid here who has a small lunch, but really that’s all we’ve got.'

What I love most about this story is not only the miracle that is about to happen in the feeding of these thousands with just a little. That’s pretty spectacular and shows the power and goodness that is in our Lord Jesus who is our Christ.

But, what I think is most amazing about this gospel story is the difference between how the ‘world’ thinks and how the kingdom of God operates.

You see, when we are put into a similar situation we tend to think about what we don’t have. We don’t have enough. We won’t be able to provide. We’ve got to think about ourselves first before those out there.

No matter where you look in our world today from advertisements, TV shows, books, internet postings, you see this practice of scarcity being played out. There is this thought that we don’t have enough, so we must look out for me and mine first before we care about that person next to me.

There’s only one really huge issue with that. The world likes to make us think that we never have enough. We don’t have enough food, we don’t have enough money, or toys, or clothes, or prestige, or clout. No matter how much we accumulate the world will always tell us that we don’t yet have enough. That we need more. That before we can help out that person over there (which the powers at be in the world will want you to take pity on someone rather than compassion remember), you need to have just a bit more. A bit more so then you can help out your family, maybe a really close friend, a cause you care for, and that’s pretty much about it.

Do y’all ever get that sense from interacting out in the world? What makes it so tempting to fall into is because it’s sometimes pretty good advice. Makes good financial sense to be a little secure before you can help those in need.

Well, if we haven’t figured it out yet – Jesus does a lot of things that don’t usually make much sense to the world. As the disciples and others are seemingly brimming with anxiety about how to feed all these people, Jesus blesses and passes out such a little amount of food that it might have been seen as an insult to the more than 5000 people gathered there.

Of course, the miracle and sign at play is that with Jesus there is enough. That in Jesus there is always enough.

That little insult of food filled the bellies of those over 5000 gathered. There was so much that 12 baskets of leftovers were gathered. That’s pretty amazing!

You see, I read this story and I love this story not so much because of the miracle and sign of this great feeding, but because I’m reminded again how much I probably don’t trust what Jesus offers that much. I don’t trust that in Jesus there is not only enough – but that there is an ABUNDANCE.

What would our lives look like if we lived with the thought of abundance in our mind and hearts? What I mean by that is not that miraculously a plate of food is going to end up on your doorstep or God will bless you with the winning lottery tickets, or send you a huge client simply because you’ve got faith and a ‘strong faith’ in God. I’ll leave that to the prosperity gospel preachers.

No, what I mean by living in abundance is realizing that we do have enough. We have so much of an abundance in Christ that we’re able to help those in need with food, care, finances, time, relationship, and more. We have such an abundance in our life that we are able to share in that abundance with others.

What would that life look like? That’d be pretty good wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it be great if we just didn’t worry about all the material trappings of our life, where we didn’t have to worry about keeping up with others, being content with what we have and out of that abundance to be with and share with others?

Now imagine if everyone thought that way. What’s so wonderful about living into this life of abundance that Christ models for us this morning is that everyone is caring and sharing with all. That means that all of us are being provided for simply because we are all caring in, compassionate for, and being in relationship with one another because of Christ’s gift of abundant life in each of us.

What would our lives look like if we lived that way? How would we as the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer look if we lived into that life of abundance? Fretting less about what we don’t have and being thankful for the abundance that we do have that we get to share with those in our community of Newberry.

I wanted to end this sermon with a wonderful story of abundance that I heard about that happened at the National Youth Gathering in Detroit, MI last week. I was told this story by our bishop, Herman Yoos and I thought it was wonderful and truly lives into this life of abundance in all that we have.

The youth from South Carolina (along with thousands of others from around the country) helped clean up quite a few blocks of neighborhoods in disrepair. Adding to the work that has already been done in Detroit by residents and others. Anyways, as they worked two kids from that neighborhood asked if they could help too.

Of course, the group let them in – it is their neighborhood after all – and, there was an abundance of work to be done. But, that isn’t what is so special about this story.

No, after the work was done that day. It would’ve been tempting to say to those young men, “Thanks for your work with us! See ya later!” No one would fault the group for doing that right? No, instead they asked them if they’d like to join in the worship and experience at Ford Field that night.

They didn’t pay. They didn’t sign-up to go. They didn’t do all the stuff that those other youth did for three years in their respective communities in order to come to Detroit. But, that didn’t matter. And I’m so happy that it did NOT matter.

No, living into abundance the group thought, there is enough room for them too. They get to experience this as well. They too are in this together with us and us with them. We are all the body of Christ.

That’s living into the life of abundance that is gifted to us from our Lord Jesus who is the Christ. Looking at what we have, what others have, what we all have to offer and saying – “Yeah, there’s abundance here. This is – we are – enough. Let’s share in Christ.” Amen!

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July 20, 2015, 1:49 PM

the one where Jesus models compassion...


Sermon from July 12, 2015

Text: Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56

Grace and peace to you from God our Father 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!

If you remember a few weeks ago, we read that Jesus has sent his disciples out to be with those in need in the community of Israel. They were to be dependent on the hospitality of those that they met on the way. They were instructed to not take anything with them except the clothes on their backs and the sandals on their feet. They were called to have trust in those around them as they proclaimed the kingdom of God and of repentance.

Well, the apostles are back! They are excited! They are anxious to tell Jesus all that they had seen and done and had been able to teach. Of course, there are others who are pretty excited as well. When you have people doing great things around the area there are others who take notice and want to experience that excitement and possibly get in on that healing action too.

The disciples return and Jesus shows compassion with them – telling them that they need to care for themselves. To take a time-out so that they might be rested to continue on the long journey of ministry that Jesus will lay before them and lead them through.

So, they set off to a deserted place that turns out isn’t so deserted anymore. Obviously, the boat that the disciples seem to always travel in is incredibly slow. The people around Jesus and his band of brothers are always figuring out where they are going and meeting them there. I’ve always thought that was kind of funny.

Needless to say, the deserted place is quite full of people and Jesus again has compassion. This time for the multitudes who gather in anticipation for Jesus and his disciples.

Compassion is an incredibly important emotion and virtue. And I think Jesus gives us an integral aspect of his life to model. Showing compassion to those in need.

Of course, the risk we run as followers of Christ is confusing compassion with pity – whether we are practicing compassion or receiving it.

You see, pity and compassion are similar in ways to their end goals – helping individuals in need. But, the starting point and means to which we get to that help is far different.

When you have pity for someone one – you’re starting at a point of – those poor things – they just don’t know any better. I’ve gotta help them out. I’ve gotta show them a better way.

We’re still helping – which is good, but the means and starting point in which we help isn’t very flattering or fair. In showing pity – we are starting on a point of superiority with another. No one wants to receive pity. Pity is just throwing money at someone or a helping hand because you have to do it. You’re following through with the social obligation of being nice. And we have to be careful in this, because people don’t want to receive pity – they don’t want to be considered ‘pitiful.’ No one wants that, and at times it just makes situations even worse.

That’s not what Jesus practices and models for his disciples and for us in our gospel text this morning. Jesus isn’t looking at the gathered crowds around him and thinking, ‘these poor people don’t have any food. They’re sick too. They just don’t know any better. Well – I guess I should help them. It is the right thing to do after all…’

But, instead we are told that he has compassion for them.

You see, compassion starts out in love – in fellowship – in relationship with another person. We have compassion for those in need because we desire that they be fed and filled and healed. Not because we are sorry for the lot that they have received in life, but because we have love for them. Where we desire to be in relationship with that individual, being with them in their life. Not just checking off the box for social obligation or clicking the ‘like’ button on our Facebook feed. But, being active in that compassion.

And what does that look like? It looks like not only giving food to the local food bank – but perhaps volunteering to feed those in need, and then maybe even advocating and participating in those areas that make it easier for all to be fed and to be fed well. Why? Because out of our love of neighbor that our Lord calls us to we cannot stand idly by and watch as people go hungry in our community, schools, and our world.

Maybe it isn’t just saying, ‘Man kids need tutors and role models don’t they!’ It isn’t just clicking the little thumbs-up button on your friend’s latest post about the good work some person is doing with those with less advantages than us. Maybe perhaps it looks like actually being a tutor, forming relationships with kids so that they might know they are loved and cared for. And we do this because Christ calls us to be in relationship with others.

Maybe it isn’t sitting here in the pews with our arms crossed with thoughts in our heads of, “Man, why don’t people come here more often – like they used to?” Do I believe people should be in worship? Yeah, I do, but not because of some social obligation to do it. But, because they are invited to participate in the life of Christ and that we share in one another’s life as sisters and brothers in Christ. Where we can live into the message that All are welcome – no exceptions. Because all are welcomed here in this place and at this table.

Jesus shows compassion on all and invites us to love those around us. Because of the love and abundance that we have received from Christ compels us to share that love and abundance with others. Inviting them into this relationship. Learning from all so that we can be that much more full. So that we might understand the hardships of others.

Where we can be in relationship with all.

Compassion – it is pretty powerful and it begins in love and it involves ‘doing.’ Not because we have to, but because we get to. In our compassion for those around us we get to be with others and we get to invite them into the life of Christ. In our compassion we get to be invited into the life of others so that we might know and understand. In that love, we can help all those in need advocating for ways and means to help alleviate suffering in all we meet and especially for those that we do not know. We get to share this life of abundance and love that has been gifted to the world in Jesus our Lord.

Jesus calls us to follow in his compassion for others, for those in need. This compassion starts in our love for our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ. Our love for those around us because they too are wonderfully and beautifully created by our God of grace and love. Amen.

 

 

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July 14, 2015, 10:13 AM

Gaming and Faith


As many of y’all who know me pretty well (and for those that don’t yet know me well you’ll find out) I love video games. I have been playing video games since – forever – it seems at times. I have wonderful and fond memories of playing games with my brother, sister, and father growing up.

In fact, some of my earliest game related memories are when my dad was close to beating a game called Blaster Master for the NES (made by Sunsoft ). Blaster Master is a notoriously difficult game and that’s putting it mildly. I remember when he was at the final boss and I ran around to all my friends in our neighborhood in San Diego, CA telling them that my dad was about to ‘do the impossible!’ in beating the game. I remember about 5 of my friends crowding into the small room that our Nintendo was in watching him play the final boss. When he did beat it, there was much excitement all around!

Some of my favorite games are the usuals like the Super Mario Bros. series, the Legend of Zelda series, Halo, and Mass Effect. There are some odd ball favorites that I thoroughly enjoyed like Too Human on the XBOX 360 (which was universally panned it seems). Whether a game is strategy, first person shooter, a RPG, an action game, or even a small casual game on my phone; I have either played it or know about it.

Needless to say, I love video games. I love that satisfaction I get in completing tasks, living in different worlds, experiencing different stories, and enjoying the fellowship with fellow gamers. I love the interaction you get to experience in video games. Most importantly – I think games are fun. REALLY FUN.

Of course, many of you are probably thinking, “But he’s a pastor! He can’t play video games!” Well, sorry (not sorry). I am a pastor and I do play video games. In fact, I know a bunch of pastors, future pastors, and strong people of faith who equally love video games too. It is a part of who I am and I cherish those moments that I get to escape to for even the briefest of moments (that become even briefer when you are a husband and a father too).

As a pastor, I cannot help, but think about my faith as I play these video games. In fact, I think about how I live out my faith and how that it is similar to my view of video games. For me, games are fun because I’m participating in it. I’m having direct action on the character in front of me. I’m pressing the buttons, I’m completing the quests, and I’m advancing through the story.

I am an active participant.

I view my faith life in this way too.

For me, being a person of faith doesn’t mean sitting on the sidelines or just coming to worship for an hour or two on a Sunday.

For me, living this life that Christ has called us to means that I’m actively involved in it. I’m participating in this life of faith in all aspects of my life.

I’m coming to worship. I’m in prayer. I’m reading scripture. I’m visiting those who are sick and confined to beds. I’m in conversation with people about faith. I’m active in movements that point out the injustice of our world. I’m a part of my community. I’m being a model of faith for my children and the other youth here at the congregation I serve.

I’m doing. I’m getting to do. And all of it is fun.

For far too long there have been those in the church who have been just content to sit back and watch. They come to worship, they limitedly participate, they don’t feel engaged and they don’t engage in the life of faith.

That’s a problem. The life of faith that we have been gifted – this life of faith that we get to live – is one that should be participated in. We get to participate in those areas of our faith life that fill us with life and love.

We get to play and participate in the role that God has set before us. This life where we are children of God, created out of love, and redeemed through grace.

We get to participate in this life of faith not because we have to, but because we get to and it is FUN! Or at least I hope you think it is at times!

For me games are fun and I get to participate in them (which makes it even more fun). Watching someone play games isn’t the most fun, unless I’m interacting with those playing in some way (I have frequented in watching Twitch.tv streams and have hosted streams in the past). For me, games need to be interactive.

How I live my life of faith needs to be similar in that interaction. I cannot just sit by without any interaction with others. Holed up in my own little world. I need others. I need to be doing something. Not because I have to do it, but because I get to do it. God has gifted to me and to all of us this wonderful life of faith. We get to participate.

Each of us are new creations in our baptisms. We get to live the life of faith. We get to worship, and partake in communion. We get to sing, we get to read scripture. We get to serve our God and our neighbors. We get to walk with others in need. We get to point and show others where the Kingdom of God is at work.

We get to do all of that. We get to have fun.

Live out your life of faith. Have fun. Participate. Engage. Amen

- pm

 

PS - if you'd like to play games with me - you can find me on XBOX Live at my gamertag:

 

 

 

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July 12, 2015, 12:00 AM

the one where it's hard to find the Gospel...


Sermon from July 12, 2015

Text: Mark 6: 14-29

Grace and peace to you from God our father and our Lord 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!

You know, our Gospel reading today is a little strange. Did you notice that Jesus doesn’t play a part in it? That’s weird isn’t it? It is one of the few gospel texts that we read on Sunday where Jesus plays no direct role – nor does he show up in any way. That’s kind of strange.

Of course, it is a text that as we read it I cannot help, but cry out – Jesus will you please show up! This is a hard one to preach on because it doesn’t seem like there is much gospel within its verses. But, there is a lot going on here and for those who are fans of Netflix’s House of Cards television show – this is a story from our scriptures that could fit right into that shows plotlines. Perhaps mixed a bit with HBO’s Game of Thrones too just for good effect.

So, we have this story about Herod Antipas – the son of Herod the Great who was the Herod in power when Jesus was born.

Needless to say – the Herod in our story has a great deal of power as well. The only unfortunate thing is that he doesn’t seem to be all that in control of his power as a political leader in his realm.

For you see, this whole Gospel story has a lot to do with power, who has it, who doesn’t, and who is really in control. As one of my favorite comic super heroes is known to say – With great power comes great responsibility.

Herod has great power, but he doesn’t have great responsibility.

This is also an interesting story because of where it is placed within Mark’s Gospel. It sits right in the middle of Jesus sending his disciples out to proclaim repentance to the land and those same disciples returning from that time. Herod hears about this and he is afraid.

He’s afraid because he thinks Jesus is John the Baptist come back from the dead. And why would he be afraid? Well, we then go into a flashback of how Herod imprisoned John because of John’s words against Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife; Herodias. Herodias wanted John to die for his words, but Herod wouldn’t kill him because he feared John, knowing he was a righteous man.

Long story short, Herod is greatly pleased by the dance that his wife’s daughter – the text is vague, but we can assume that this is Herod’s young niece/step-daughter. In his pleasure he tells this young girl that he’ll give her anything that she wants – even half his kingdom if she would only ask.

Instead, she speaks with her mother first and Herodias uses this as the opportunity to finally rid herself with the thorn in her side and marriage – John the Baptist. Cue the references to House of Cards and Game of Thrones now if you’d like. Herodias is shrewd and uses Herod’s power against him.

Not to look weak and to stand by his word, Herod reluctantly abides his step-daughter’s wish and presents her and his wife with the recently detached head of John the Baptist – a man that upset him to no end, but who intrigued him greatly with his words.

Where O God is the gospel in this story? It doesn’t seem like there is much – if anything – in these words to comfort us in the knowledge of the gospel. And, I wonder if that’s OK. I think these are one of those times and opportunities that we can look a little outside the text that we have been given to read this week to hopefully see and experience the gospel of our Lord.

Like, I said earlier – this text is all about power and righteousness and responsibility. As we read from all of our texts today, we see the power motif played up. Ultimately, we can discern that it isn’t ‘us’ who have the power. It isn’t even the ones who have power in the world that ‘have the absolute power.’ That absolute power rests solely with God.

You see, the disciples were sent out to proclaim repentance from sins – the same message that John the Baptist proclaimed zealously even while imprisoned by Herod – in full knowledge of what happened to John.

We like to think that news didn’t travel very fast or accurately during this time, and compared to us in the modern age – it was just a bit slower. Even without computers, the internet, and cell phones – we as people have a great talent in spreading news like wildfire. I am confident that the knowledge of John’s beheading was fresh on the minds of those disciples of Jesus that were sent out to proclaim repentance to the people of Israel.

They knew what happened to John, they knew what could happen to them as well. Yet, they still went. They went with nothing, but the clothes on their backs. No extra stuff – totally dependent upon the people they would meet along their way.

In knowledge of a world hostile to their message, they still went out to proclaim repentance from sin and asking the people to turn back to God.

That’s power – that’s power that can only come from God.

I read this story and I cannot help, but think of our sisters and brothers in the faith who live in situations and in certain places where they are actually persecuted and killed for their beliefs as Christians. Those sisters and brothers do not live in Newberry, they don’t even live in the United States – because we don’t have to fear death because of what we believe.

I think of those martyrs around the world who have died at the hands of those who don’t agree with them simply because they profess Christ crucified. We don’t have to worry about that here in the US. Where we are free to practice and profess our beliefs. There are others who are not afforded that luxury and freedom at all.

In spite of the knowledge that they could be killed for their beliefs, they still proclaim. They still preach forgiveness. They still call for repentance.

So too do the disciples that we read of last week go off at Jesus’ words. And they will return from their missions in full knowledge of what happened to John the Baptist.

You see, God’s power works in ways the powers of the world do not. The powers of the world will attempt to squash out or prevent that word from reaching the ears that need to hear – that yearn to hear of radical love, incredible forgiveness, and repentance.

For the powers that hold sway in our world – that’s not a message that they want to get out – it definitely wasn’t a message that Herodias and Herod wanted others to hear. People in power don’t like to be reminded that they should repent. To be given a public message of new perspective.

Jesus does his ministry and his disciple proclaim this message in full knowledge of this recent history – this history that involved the death of one who proclaimed a similar message.

Jesus’ ministry is done in spite and despite the risk it involves. The good news is that Jesus is at work even in the midst of turmoil and threat of death and destruction. Jesus doesn’t stop proclaiming simply because the powers of the world foam and rage.

Naysayers – protesters – filibusters – soldiers – rebels – insurgents – nothing – not one thing – stops Jesus from proclaiming and sending us out to proclaim the gospel.

The power of Christ far exceeds and goes past what the powers of the world are capable of doing. That message of acceptance, radical love, incredible forgiveness, and repentance is a message that is going to get heard. And we get to be the ones who proclaim this in, and for, and through Christ our Lord.

As we’ve seen in Mark’s gospel the past few weeks, that proclamation can involve risk. In spite of the risk, Jesus is still at work and we are still sent. For the absolute power ultimately rests in God our Lord and Savior. Amen.

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July 6, 2015, 2:07 PM

the one where we show hospitality...


Sermon from July 5, 2015

Text: Mark 6: 1-13

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord 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!

Hospitality. We’re pretty good at that as southerners aren’t we? There isn’t quite anything like being welcomed into a southern home, by a southern soul, with a southern meal with all the fixin’s.

We are good at hospitality. Some might even say we are a bit proud of our hospitality.

Our text today reminds us a bit of hospitality and how we are to rely and depend upon that hospitality as followers of Christ. As we are sent out into the world proclaiming the message that Jesus taught us.

We read in our Gospel text today about how Jesus wasn’t received very well by his hometown of Nazareth. They really didn’t treat him very kindly and kind of scoffed at what he was able to do and what he was telling them as he preached and talked around town.

Jesus shed some light on what hospitality entails for us as followers of Christ. It isn’t always about food and drink, but it sometimes requires something more to be truly hospitable to those around us. Sometimes we too are to be dependent on the hospitality of others – which is probably something that many of us find very difficult. It’s hard to have that trust in others.

Right now, there are people who are hurting who are in need of that trust and faith in those around them. They continue to mourn, they continue to speak, they continue to ask for help from those around them.

This past week I had the honor and privilege of going to the beach with a bunch of wonderful young people from this congregation. They helped show me and others what it means to be hospitable. What it means to be sent out into the world proclaiming Christ’s love of all to those around us. And like Jesus – they know that doing that sometimes brings risk. Especially when the ones you proclaim to are the ones who’ve known you for so long.

But, they also learned that being hospitable isn’t always or exclusively just providing a little bit of food, some tea, and a place to sit down. Being hospitable also requires us to be with others in their time of need. It requires stepping out of our comfort zones and standing with people in times of tragedy and sadness – mourning with others.

All of us this week at Isle of Palms were able to do that. We had a service of remembrance and forgiveness the first full day we were there. We shared stories about how we had been witness to those subtle and overt acts of racism in our life – those instances we have seen and even those times where we were a part of it. We shared our hurt, we thought about those ways where we could be better equipped to point out those sins in others and proclaim Christ’s love in those opportunities. The next day we gathered for an activity where we acknowledged that we as humans have a really great knack for messing things up. As if we just toss color and paint everywhere not worrying about what it looks like. For many, that doesn’t look good – and only if your Jackson Pollack can you even make any money off of just throwing paint around. But, we as humans are pretty good at messing things up.

But, then we remembered God, and God’s grace and love and how it is God who makes our messes and creates beautiful moments and works of art. So, to visualize and remember that, we threw paint-filled eggs against canvas and made a good mess of things. Then we removed some tape and saw the beautiful image that God makes in us through the cross of Christ.

We prayed over that cross. We asked that this cross would be a sign for all who see it to know that we are all in this together. That the cross is a sign for all of us – ALL OF US – to know that we are loved and accepted and forgiven.

Then on our last full day, we traveled to Charleston and visited Emanuel AME Church. We mourned, we were in awe both in the knowing of what unspeakable tragedy happened in that place and in the outpouring of love that was shown in that place. We were able to add a little to that love as well. Where we gave Mother Emanuel the cross painting we had made and prayed over the day before.

Then we gathered in a circle, we held hands, and we prayed.

Sometimes, hospitality isn’t just giving food. It isn’t just letting someone into your home.

Sometimes, hospitality means that you go and be with someone. Sometimes hospitality means that you stand with someone in their time of need. Sometimes, hospitality means that you stand against those injustices that we are all witness to.

Sometimes when you extend hospitality to others – people might take offense. There is an inherent risk of being hospitable in the gospel that Jesus proclaims. We talked about that too. And that’s probably the scariest thing about being hospitable. That fear that we’ll be treated like Jesus was in his hometown, where we are taken for granted – perhaps even ignored – because people know us. Where people – those we know and those we don’t – might take offense because of what we proclaim – of what Christ proclaimed – to the world.

We celebrated yesterday our country’s 239th birthday. We celebrated the freedoms we enjoy as a nation and as a people of this nation. Yet, in that celebration, I couldn’t help, but remember the poem verse that is etched into the Statue of Liberty and how it speaks to being hospitable…

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

We celebrated this weekend in our country that quote – sometimes we lose sight of that. We lose sight of who that freedom extends to. Though, we are slowly, every so slowly, learning to see that that freedom extends far wider than we could ever possibly have imagined before – and that’s a wonderful thing.

We remember Christ’s call this day about hospitality. We’re good at hospitality, but sometimes – OK many times – more times than we’d like to think – hospitality means more than throwing a good party. It means walking, and talking, and sharing, and being with people.

Our young members here got to see that – they got to be a part of that – they got to live that out this week.

They got to share Christ with those in need.

They got to be truly hospitable – even when it brings risk. Will we too? Amen.

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July 1, 2015, 12:00 AM

July 2015 Newsletter Article


Newsletter Article from July 2015

Grace and peace y’all! Let me tell you – it is HOT out there isn’t it? Not that I’m complaining at all. In fact, I don’t think I’m allowed to complain about the heat since I got here during the hottest part of the year in South Carolina. But, I’ll tell you what – three digit temperatures sure beat the negative temps. Who doesn’t like a good sweat right?

So, we’ve got about half-a-month together here at Redeemer as pastor and people and things are looking pretty good. My keys still work and nobody has removed the pastor’s parking space sign (yet…). Worship has been fun these past few weeks. I’m trying really hard to remember names and faces, but please bear with me during this learning phase. Y’all only have to remember one name and face – I get to remember just a few bit more than that.

My family and I are very soon going to be able to move into our new home in Newberry. Our closing date is tentatively July 15 and Erin, the girls and I greatly look forward to being in the midst of the community very soon. My daily commute of 45+ minutes will soon be a thing of the past and I greatly look forward to NOT having to leave the house at 6:30am to get to Redeemer for worship on Sundays. We will be living on McHardy Street and we can’t wait to get there.

Towards the end of this month, each of you will be invited to attend a “Cottage Meeting” in the homes of many of your friends here at Redeemer. These meetings will be a great opportunity for us to get to know one another and to also see where God is leading us in ministry – together.

You’ll get more information regarding these meetings the closer they approach. They’ll be about 90 minutes long and will give me an opportunity to tell you a little about myself, about the call process, where I hope we can go as Redeemer with God guiding us, and what role we get to have as a community in that journey.

There will also be an opportunity for you to reflect and answer some questions – which I’ll give you below. I’ll remind us of these questions at each meeting, I just wanted y’all to be thinking about them a bit before those meetings being.

Here are the questions: How long have you been at Redeemer? Why do you come to Redeemer? What excites you about Redeemer? Where do you see God taking you – in your life and in the ministry at Redeemer?

Simple enough right?

God’s blessings to each of you during the month of July. I cannot wait to meet y’all and further grow our relationship as pastor and people!

Can you believe we get to do this? It’s awesome isn’t it?

 

  • pm

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June 29, 2015, 12:00 AM

the one about touch...


Sermon from June 28, 2015

Text: Mark 5: 21-43

Grace and peace to y’all from God our father 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 rocker and our redeemer; amen!

Let me tell y’all – this has been a whirlwind of a couple of weeks to start out in ministry with a new congregation. A huge full day of worship and Spirit last Sunday as we had three services – two ‘normal’ services and then the installation service later that afternoon.

Getting to be with so many different folks who have not been able to worship here in this space for a while because of illness or age or situation.

Traveling back and forth between Lexington and Newberry which – hopefully soon – will be a thing of the past once we officially settle here in this wonderful community.

Being with the family of the Haltiwangers as they grapple with the death of Harriett that has happened so quickly.

Continuing to move through and attempt to understand the events in our state the past few days and weeks. A shooting in Charleston where nine beautiful children of God were cut down by another child of God as together they studied and listened to the Word of God. A racist manifesto, images of symbols and flags, debates about how to view those symbols and whether they should or should not be displayed. Finally – for me – the participation in the viewing of a great and faith-filled man of God at the State House where thousands of people came to pay their respects to Rev. Clem Pinkney.

There has been a lot of pain in our state and country this week, and there is so much need for healing…

In the middle of all this we read this Gospel text which we heard today. A text where there is so much need and desire for Jesus to be in the midst of it all.

First we see a woman who is in need to be healed. She has been ‘bleeding’ for 12 years. Because of her condition, she has been ostracized from the community and more than likely her family as well. People during this time didn’t want to associate themselves with blood – especially human blood – in any way. It was considered unclean, impure, and more. She desired to be healed and had faith that only a brief touch of Jesus’ clothes would be enough for her suffering to end. In many ways, she is ‘dead’ to the world because no one will have anything to do with her.

In the second part of our story this morning, we have a distinguished and well-to-do man named Jairus who runs to see Jesus because his daughter is gravely ill. Well off individuals – especially men and especially during this time – didn’t run. They didn’t even bring themselves to ask for help, that’s what servants were for. But no – not Jairus. Not in this time of need. He runs to Jesus and falls at his feet, clinging to him and asking for his help.

Jesus agrees and follows Jairus. On the way they are told that it is of no use because Jairus’ daughter has died. Jesus doesn’t want to hear that sort of talk and insists on going forward to be with this young girl. As he comes to her, he grabs her hand and tells her to get up. And she does.

Healings and miracles have occurred and the one thing that I cannot help, but notice is the insistence of ‘touch’ that is so prevalent in this gospel reading.

The woman who is healed and restored seeks to just ‘touch’ Jesus’ cloak. She has faith that just the touch of his garments will be enough to heal her affliction. She was right, and Jesus sends her on her way healed and restored. Moving so much to restore her into the life of community by referring to her as ‘daughter.’ She is no longer an outsider in the community, Jesus welcomes her back into the family.

Touch. Touch welcomed her into community and into new life.

Touch was important in Jairus’ daughter’s healing as well. Jesus sits next to her as she lies in bed and holds her hand. Jesus lays his hands upon her, touching her and calling for her to get up.

Touch brought her back into the life that had left her in her death.

Touch.

Touch is incredibly powerful and needed in our healing. I’ve talked to many who have been sick and distraught and the one thing that they’ve always wanted is to be ‘touched’ in some way. Especially those who suffer from those diseases and afflictions that we do not understand.

Just hold my hand – touch my shoulder – hug me…

Touch has been incredibly powerful as we as a state mourn the loss of those beautiful nine lives and as we as a state and country begin to heal from this heinous act. We’ve seen the worst and the best of what makes South Carolina well known.

Our worst in the acts of an individual who harbored so much hate against his sisters and brothers because of the color of their skin. Where he clung to symbols and flags that represent that thought of hate to so many – not only in our state, but around the world.

But, we also saw the best of what identifies us as South Carolinians as well. The response that Charleston and the state of South Carolina has given has been no short of miraculous. Our response has not been one of vengeance or hate. We’ve not retaliated in any way, in fact we’ve dug into one another in hope and love instead. Last Sunday evening across the Ravenel Bridge, thousands clasped hands and linked arms as a sign of peace and love that connects us not only as South Carolinians, but more importantly as children of God.

In the images we’ve seen of Charleston after this act of racism and hatred we’ve seen a lot of ‘touch’ going on. There are folks hugging, there are folks clasping one another’s hands in prayers, holding one another up during their time of need and mourning.

While I waited in line at the viewing of Rev. Pinckney, touch was important as well. We shook hands, we held hands. We hugged. We stood with one another in blistering heat; holding water and walking with one another as we paid respects to a wonderful faith-filled man of God.

Touch is so important for us to hear of this day as we seek to be in healing with one another. Touch is how we show love, affection, and care.

All of us have been in the situation I’m sure where someone says that they care, but their touch is absent from us. Those actions speak louder than their words.

We are in need of healing in so many ways here in South Carolina and our nation. The last thing we need to be doing is distancing ourselves from those in need. We come close and gather close to one another – close enough to touch – so that all might know of our care and love in Christ for the world.

We grasp the hand of the mourning and hold tight the one who is sick. We clasp the hands of those around us as we strive to end injustice and racial hatred in our world. Standing with those in their time of need.

Touch. The women who was bleeding simply wanted to touch the garments of Christ. Jesus grasped and touched the hand of a dead girl. Both were healed and restored to life.

We are called to touch and be with those in need and there is a desperate need within our state now. We look to our neighbors around us – all of our neighbors – and we seek to be with them in their time of need. As we hold one another up as we all seek to bring Christ’s love to an aching world.

As I end this sermon, I would like to share our presiding bishop’s letter that she sent out as a response to the shooting in Charleston – these are powerful words that call us to mourn, repent, and to act…

Bishop Eaton writes:

It has been a long season of disquiet in our country. From Ferguson to Baltimore, simmering racial tensions have boiled over into violence. But this … the fatal shooting of nine African Americans in a church is a stark, raw manifestation of the sin that is racism. The church was desecrated. The people of that congregation were desecrated. The aspiration voiced in the Pledge of Allegiance that we are “one nation under God” was desecrated. 

Mother Emanuel AME’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, as was the Rev. Daniel Simmons, associate pastor at Mother Emanuel. The suspected shooter is a member of an ELCA congregation. All of a sudden and for all of us, this is an intensely personal tragedy. One of our own is alleged to have shot and killed two who adopted us as their own. 

We might say that this was an isolated act by a deeply disturbed man. But we know that is not the whole truth. It is not an isolated event. And even if the shooter was unstable, the framework upon which he built his vision of race is not. Racism is a fact in American culture. Denial and avoidance of this fact are deadly. The Rev. Mr. Pinckney leaves a wife and children. The other eight victims leave grieving families. The family of the suspected killer and two congregations are broken. When will this end? 

The nine dead in Charleston are not the first innocent victims killed by violence. Our only hope rests in the innocent One, who was violently executed on Good Friday. Emmanuel, God with us, carried our grief and sorrow – the grief and sorrow of Mother Emanuel AME church – and he was wounded for our transgressions – the deadly sin of racism. 

I urge all of us to spend a day in repentance and mourning. And then we need to get to work. Each of us and all of us need to examine ourselves, our church and our communities. We need to be honest about the reality of racism within us and around us. We need to talk and we need to listen, but we also need to act. No stereotype or racial slur is justified. Speak out against inequity. Look with newly opened eyes at the many subtle and overt ways that we and our communities see people of color as being of less worth. Above all pray – for insight, for forgiveness, for courage. 

Kyrie Eleison

We are called – as brothers and sisters in Christ – to be with those in need. To speak out against injustice in the world, and to not stand idly by as our fellow sisters and brothers are cut down by words, jokes, thoughts, and actions. We are called to act – to touch in our healing with those in need.

To touch in our healing... Amen…

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