In pm's words
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April 2, 2018, 12:00 AM

the one about the joke...


Sermon from April 1, 2018 - Easter Sunday

Text: Mark 16:1-8

 

Grace and peace to each of you this wonderful morning of the Resurrection! 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!

We’ve arrived again! Again, we get to shout and proclaim – HE IS RISEN (HE IS RISEN INDEED, ALLELUIA!)! Again, we are able to gather in joy and glory to celebrate what God has done in the world. Our Lord Jesus, who is the Christ, is victorious over sin and death and we are invited into that victory. This is a good day. It always will be. It always has been. The gloom and sadness of Good Friday and the holy quiet of Saturday is overshadowed by the hope and joy this day proclaims. Our sin that has led to that death, has been wiped clean because of the empty tomb.

So, of course it seems only appropriate that this day – this year – falls on what the secular world calls ‘April Fools.’ The ‘gotcha’ day! A day full of jokes and moments and times that we have to be ever more thoughtful about the news we see on the screens we won’t be able to tear our eyes from (because we want to see what outlandish jokes can be perpetrated).

I still remember the first ‘gotcha’ that someone used on me – as my dad declared boldly that a triceratops was outside our apartment balcony while we were living in San Diego. Sadly, there was no ancient dinosaur. Though, as I remember it – the joke wasn’t all that funny, not to me.

And that’s mostly what we experience on April Fools. Excitement about something new and then the devastation and underwhelming reality that this too isn’t true. It’s just a joke. Nothing to see here.

As we view and experience this day of April Fools, we get to do so in the context of celebrating Easter Sunday. It is as if this day that God has pulled the wool from own eyes. We’ve been had in a ‘gotcha’ moment as well!

Of course, there’s something different about this one. In this ‘gotcha’ no one is coming into this event and potential reality of death feeling excited, joyous, or looking for a good time. In fact, those who are entering the holy place of the tomb are in deep sadness and frustration.

The one they believed to be the Son of God, the messiah come down to bring freedom and salvation to the world has died. They watched it happen. They saw the nails forced into his body. They experienced his final breath. The women cared for their Lord’s lifeless body, helped wrap him in burial clothes, and placed him into the tomb.

For all they’ve seen, they know what to expect. This day isn’t going to be a good one as they began that early morning trek to the graveside. As they walked to the tomb, they even pondered how it was that they were going to roll away the stone so that they might ritually attend to their Lord’s body.

Yet, when they arrive they experience God’s foolishness. The one who has gone to the cross and died is no longer present in the tomb. A messenger has informed them that he has been raised from the dead. Death no longer lurks here, only new life.

Astonishment and bewilderment abound. And, not so surprisingly a heavy dose of fear as well. So, much fear that our text ends with the women who came to ritually prepare the body, they hear the news, and run in fear and we are told that they won’t be telling anyone.

Yet, we know that that last part isn’t true – April Fools again, or should I say, Easter Fools! For the women did tell, preach, and proclaim. We know this because we are here celebrating this day. The gospel of Mark is the earliest written gospel, so it only makes sense that their fear was eventually overcome by a desire to share this good news. Because not only are we hear, but three other gospels were written to share this news with the world.

But, when we hear the ending of this gospel – the true ending that is – it doesn’t sit well with us. It really doesn’t. It is why someone much later felt like they needed to add something else so that the gospel didn’t end on this note (that’s where we get the longer ending which was written much later according to scholars and research). Where those who are the first to hear such wonderful news run away in fear. It doesn’t make sense. Yet, I heard a story that I thought fit pretty well to how we can experience this ending and what it can lead us to do in response.

So, everyone knows of Beethoven right? Well, the story goes that Beethoven was notoriously difficult to rouse from slumber. He just never wanted to get up and on with the day. He’d rather stay in bed than anything else. So, his maid after numerous attempts to wake him came up with an ingenious plot. She’d go to the piano in his room and play a small part of one of his pieces. But, the kicker is she would intentionally end that piece early. Hearing just a small part of his music, but not finished, was the thing that would finally get Beethoven to get out of bed, to finish the piece, and begin his day.

Has anyone ever done that to you? I’m not good at remembering (most) music, but I know that there is a good chance if I say – ‘Shave and a hair cut.’ Someone is going to finish it. (thank you)

Perhaps we are left on this intentional cliffhanger in Mark’s gospel to rouse us from our own slumber. Perhaps Mark knows that the women shared this story (he had to hear it preached from someone right?!?) but, as an encouragement to wake us in our faith to share this good news of Jesus’ resurrection, he only shared the first part of this particular story of sharing so that we might feel compelled to finish what he left off.

Endings like this bring questions, helps us dive deeper into the story. We want to know more.

The season of Easter reminds us that God has, and God is reaching out to the world – to each of us – and inviting us into this story. Inviting us into this life and love that is always and forever ours. God has come down to be with us and lives life and death to full and completeness. We remember this story of the one who has come to be with us and has risen from the grave ­for us.

We get to share that story. We get to share the good news of this day. We get to proclaim and shout of this love to the world. What great news it is. The ‘joke’ of today is that death has lost its sting, that death no longer reigns over us. The death is no longer the last word. April Fools indeed!

In Jesus’ resurrection we have been given new life – renewed life. So that we might live this life for others and with others.

We don’t live our lives of faith in accordance to how our Gospel story ends this day. We don’t run in fear without telling anyone. But, we do live out our life following in the footsteps of those bold women at the tomb. We know they shared this story because we are here. We are here gathered with one another as we hear this story again all the while knowing that we aren’t he only ones hearing and sharing this story. We are gathered in the body of Christ – around the world – literally billions of people – who are sharing and proclaiming this empty tomb this morning. We aren’t alone in this endeavor, but we gladly and boldly share this good news together.

We live our life sharing this good news of new life. Inviting others to be a part of it. A life that welcomes, encourages discussion, asks questions, and builds relationships. A life that is lived out in love for others because our God, our Lord, has lived and continues to live out that love for the entire world.

We get to share the biggest ‘gotcha’ of all. We get to share the joke that puts death in its place. We get to share the story of the tomb. The one they thought was fully, but is completely empty. Easter Fools! Amen!




April 1, 2018, 12:00 AM

April 2018 Newsletter


Grace and peace to each of you this wonderful month of April! Spring is definitely in the air! The pollen is everywhere! I try to remind myself that it is the beautiful process of creation that God has implemented; the pollen on the ground is a part of renewal and new life. Still, it makes it difficult to remember that when everything is covered in a thin layer of yellow and our noses are stuffed with watery eyes.

We also know that it is a time of new life and renewed life because as you receive this we will have celebrated another Easter Sunday! He is risen (He is risen indeed, alleluia!). We get to be a part of a life renewed through the resurrection and the empty tomb. We are constantly being renewed and brought to new life because of what God has already done and continues to do in our lives.

With that continues good news of being made new in Christ’s resurrection, there are some exciting things in store for us as the people and community of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. First, a letter will be mailed to your homes shortly from our Council President, Beth Singletary, with a little more information regarding some great news. Be on the lookout for that letter and be open to being a part of all that this opportunity brings our way. It is really, really exciting. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for us and how we can bring even more impactful ministry to our community, state, and beyond.

Another thing that I’m really excited for Redeemer to be a part of will occur at the end of this month, April 29th, to be exact. We, along with other congregations in our community, are invited to a viewing of the movie Selma. This is the 2014 film chronicling Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. White and Black congregations from our community will gather to view the movie at the Newberry Opera House at 3:30pm and then head over to Redeemer’s Family Life Center to have a small meal while being in conversation about the movie and our lives.

We live in a world that is indeed divided in so many ways – race, privilege, wealth, class, and more. This is an opportunity for us to confront those realities and forge new and deeper relationships both within our churches and with individuals in our community. This could open us up to even more opportunities to proclaim God’s word of radical love in even more thoughtful and meaningful ways to those in our community who need to hear of and experience this love.

The season of Easter reminds us of the new thing that God has done in Christ our Lord. That new thing continues to shape and form us even today – in ways that we never thought possible.

New opportunities abound at Redeemer. We – as a community where God is definitely at work – are at the cusp of something great. Great for God’s Kingdom lived out through Redeemer and great for God’s Kingdom for the community around us.

So, keep a look out for your mailboxes in the near future for a letter from our church council president and be open to participate in honest conversations about life that will bring us to new opportunities for ministry in our community!

I love y’all, I really mean it!




March 30, 2018, 12:00 AM

the one about love...


Sermon from March 29, 2018 - Maundy Thursday

Text: John 13:1-17, 31b-35

 

Grace and peace to each of you on this – the beginning of the three most holy days in our lives of faith. 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, we enter this Maundy Thursday – Command Thursday – hearing from Jesus this new commandment that he has given them. Love one another.

Love each other, like I have loved you. When you do this, everyone will know who you are and who you follow because of the love that you share with and for one another.

Love. In English it is a strange word. It’s strange because it is a single word that is designed to encompass so many different meanings. One of the more ‘fun’ things that I get to do as a pastor is to teach confirmation. It’s always enjoyable to look at those young middle schoolers and ask, “Do you love your friends?”

Most of the time, especially from the boys. You hear, “NO WAY! I don’t love them!”

But, then we get down to what love means. Do you care for them? Are you happy when they are happy? Do you like to hang out with them? When they are hurt (or you are hurt) do you want to see them feel better? Do you worry about them? Do you hope that they get to do the things that they want?

Almost all of them say, “Well, yeah…”

So, again… Do you love your friends? If you put it that way pastor… Yes.

This evening as we hear Jesus speak, he helps broaden that definition of love. The love that Jesus has for them is to be lived out in their love for others.

When we began this trek to these three holy days and Easter, we heard from Bishop Munib Younan about what our faith lives encompass. Where – as followers of Jesus – our lives, our actions, our very beings are wrapped up in the care and love of those around us.

We live this life of faith for others. This life of faith isn’t about us. It never has been. We continually proclaim and follow our Lord who is adamant about that. That we follow in the ways of the one who goes out of his way to care for those in need; who cares for those who are hurting; who cares for those who need to hear of God’s love.

Doing that put Jesus and his disciples in interesting situations. It meant that he dined in the homes of those that have been socially outcast. He ate and surrounded himself with those who the majority thought were ‘worthless.’ He broke bread with tax collectors. He cared for those with disabilities. He mingled with foreigners. He touched the untouchable. He treated everyone he interacted with equality through love.

He gave space to those who had no voice. He gave prominence to those who were put down. He entered into the presence with those who no one wanted to be near.

He showed what it meant to love one another.

And in that love, he put himself at odds with those in power. He put himself at odds with those he grew up with. In that love, he constantly pushed back against the ‘status quo.’

In that love, he was proclaimed as a blasphemer, a rabble rouser, as someone needed to be killed because of who he gave hope and new life.

In that love he put himself below the title and accolades that others foisted upon him. He was questioned – constantly – about why he could/would/should do such a thing. Questioned by those outside his band of followers and questioned by inside that circle.

The love that Jesus showed stretched and continues to stretch what we know of as ‘comfortable.’ Stretching to include all the things, actions, and people that we have been told to ‘not do or be around.’

Where the world tells us – you can’t love this person because… Jesus has gone to them too and invites us as well.

Where the world tells us – this is something unbefitting of a person in ‘our’ stature… Jesus continues to call us to serve in that love.

Jesus has shown throughout all the gospels what it means to love in the way that God loves. What it means to love one another as he has loved us. It isn’t easy, it continually shatters our views of what we think the kingdom should look like and forms and shapes it into what God has intended all along.

When I was a beginning ‘baby pastor’ I remember having a conversation about the life of faith with the people I served. One individual stated, “I don’t see why everyone can’t do this. Just be nice and show up to church. It’s easy!”

I asked, “What about the person we read about in the papers today who caused so much hurt and pain, do you love him? What about that jerk in school so many years ago who made you feel small, how do you pray for her? What about those people that the world has told you to ‘be against’ because of where they are from, can you help them move into their new home?”

With those questions, “well when you put it that way…”

Loving one another is difficult, not because of what God calls us into, but because we have such a twisted view on what love is and how and who we should love. It’s easy to – so much easier – to allow ourselves to turn away from those that need care. Where we might fear what will happen to us – we’ll be rejected, taken advantage of, won’t be able to do enough. Where we live into the words of Peter in our reading this morning and say, “No Lord, don’t wash my feet.”

Because sharing and receiving love in such ways makes us uncomfortable.

Yet, our Lord calls us to live into that kind of love. And we know that our Lord will be present with us in those moments. Our God has promised to be present with us and we have been reminded that there is nothing that separates us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The love that our messiah calls us into puts us in positions that will be uncomfortable, puts us in moments that we will be vulnerable, leads us into actions that others might view as ‘less than’ in a multitude of ways.

It won’t be easy – it never is. But, we do not enter into these moments of love alone. Of course we have our Lord with us every step of the way, but we also are gathered together in service and love as well. We don’t ‘love’ alone.

We all are called into these opportunities to love as our Lord has loved us.

And there’s this really cool thing about being a part of this community and kingdom of God that is formed, shaped, and lived out in love. When you’re living this life of faith loving the person – all the people – in front of you, that means someone else is loving and caring for you. All are being loved and our Christ is continually guiding us in that love, service, and faith.

Love one another as Christ has loved us. In this way, people will know who we are. Love each other. Love. Amen.




March 26, 2018, 8:46 AM

the one about the whole thing...


Homily from March 25, 2018

Reading: Mark 14:1 - 15:47

Grace and peace to each of you this day.

Now, there is a lot that is going on in our service today. We’ve entered into worship proudly waving palm fronds as we shout Hosanna! Hosanna in the Highest!

We enter into this day in celebration and victory much like those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem so many thousands of years ago. We get to remember that joyous moment. A moment full of hope, joy, and more.

Yet, as we will soon discover, that moment of joy was only fleeting. For we quickly move from the triumph of victory to the agony of defeat. As we celebrate Palm Sunday, we also remember the Passion of Our Lord today as well.

This morning we get to hear the penultimate story of our Lord’s life before the resurrection. Today we get to hear of the distrust, the fear, the distress, the betrayal, the hurt, the death.

Today, we get to hear and participate into the entire story leading up to the resurrection. But, different from today is that I (once I stop this little homily) won’t be ‘preaching’ on what we hear this morning. We get to hear the scripture – in its fullness – alone. We get to hear this story once again.

I invite you therefore, to listen to this story (and participate) as if you’re hearing it for the first time. You might be surprised in how you’ve remembered this story of our Lord.

As we listen to this Passion of our Lord I also invite each of you to fully participate in our Holy Week services this week. Today we get most of the story in one big bite, but we get to dive deeper into this story on Thursday as we look more closely at this story leading to Jesus being handed over. On Friday, we take the opportunity to commemorate the darkest day of our lives of faith – we enter into Good Friday as we hear the story of the passion after our Lord is handed over.

Yet, we still know the fullness of this story and we know where the story goes. We know that today’s words and the words of Thursday and Friday are not the end. This not the final word for us as people of faith and especially as people of faith on this side of the resurrection. But, in order to experience the fullness of that joy to come, we must first endure the whole story. All it’s pain, all it’s sadness, all our complicity within it.

So, it is here in that knowledge that we hear the Passion of our Lord according to the Gospel of Mark…




March 19, 2018, 8:57 AM

the one about death and (new) life...


Sermon from March 18, 2018

Text: John 12: 20-33, Jeremiah 31:31-34

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, we come to the final week of Lent before we begin the story, remembrance, and celebration of our Lord’s passion and resurrection. We are at the cusp of something great as we look forward to that eventual celebration of new and eternal life. That time where we can once again shout that A word that ends with ouya! Where we end the fasts of our lives – the ones we’ve tried to hold on to during this season of Lent – not so that we can indulge ourselves with those things we’ve gone without. But, to remember that though we have been without those specific things, we have never been without God. That our Lord takes precedence in our lives and that is who we are directed by and leading towards.

But, as Jesus reminds us today – again – that before that celebration there will be something not very fun to celebrate and remember. That in order for the new to come forth, the old has to go away.

Jesus tells a story that I think a lot of us can relate to – even if our understanding of it may be a little different. Jesus tells the story of a seed. In order for that seed to bear fruit, it has to die. It has to cease being a seed. There isn’t any way around that. No matter what, the seed must be no more so that the plant can grow. No matter how long it has been a seed, it has to end. It has to ‘die’ so new life can be born.

You plant a seed, you water it and care for it. As it takes root a plant sprouts from the ground. If you dig that plant up after it bears fruit, you won’t see evidence of the seed that it once was. It’s ‘gone,’ it is ‘no more.’ It goes through change.

Most of us are pretty frightened of change. We don’t like it, we don’t want to experience it. Even though change – in all aspects of our life – is the most common thing each of us experience. We resist change; even if going through that change might lead to something great and better than where we are now.

Have you heard the joke about how many Lutherans it takes to change a light bulb? One to change the light, one to hold the ladder, and the other to complain about how much they liked the old bulb.

I remember when I started running competitively. My parents remember it vividly. They couldn’t believe that I wanted to run cross country and track. They remember the kid in Italy who didn’t want to play soccer because, “There’s just too much running.”

Now, anyone who has participated in a sport or talent of any kind, whether it be running, baseball, soccer, football, playing an instrument, and so many other wonderful talents knows where we want to be. We see the likes of the ‘superstars’ in our world. Those in our small networks – the ‘best ones’ of our schools, but even more so the ‘truly elites’ of the world. We see that and think, “man, I want to be able to do that!”

Of course, in order to get there, it requires practice, patience, change, and even ‘death’. To hone our skills and craft, work and change must take place.

A story from my life. In high school I wanted to break 5 minutes in the mile. That meant that my ‘old’ way of life had to die. No more being inactive. No more taking the ‘easy’ way in training. No more eating of the not so great foods (that taste oh so good). It meant changing almost everything. The seed that was born – the one that wanted to run had to change – it had to ‘die’ to become something even better.

So, I went full bore into it. Gave up pizza – kind of. Was invested into running and training. To the point that when I returned a movie to the video store for my family – I didn’t drive there. I ran the 5 miles to the store and back.

Eventually those ‘old ways’ finally fell away and new ways emerged. In that process I was changed. I was fit and lean, strong and agile, confident and daring. I didn’t just break 5 minutes, I smashed that goal. I ended up 6th in the state of South Carolina during the state championships my senior year. Running a time of 4:31.6 in the mile.

During the time from when I set my sight on where I wanted to be to the eventual surpassing of my own goals – it stunk – for the most part. It was hard. There were some days that I fought mightily against the change. I didn’t want to get up and go run - again. It would be so much easier (and faster) to just drive to the store instead of running. I really wanted to eat pizza at school with my friends. Man, it would be good to have a Coke instead of just water. But, I knew what I hoped to achieve and the sacrifice that came with that goal.

Jesus gives us a similar goal as well. Jesus has come to this world – come to us – to free us from the bondage of sin that enslaves and wraps us. Those places and things that bind us into the thinking that we are not enough, that we ‘can’t,’ that pull us away from God and that which is so good for us and creation.

As a church God has planted those seeds of faith where we can see how great we can be at bearing fruit for God in our community. Those new opportunities and new ways of being church – of being followers of Christ – of serving those in our community.

But, in order for that time happen – the old nut has to die. It has to. The hardened nut of ‘we’ve never done it that way before.’ The nut of ‘it’ll be hard’ or ‘we aren’t enough.’ And so much more.

As we go through the season of Lent – we began with Ash Wednesday where we remembered that one day we will die. That we will die both literally and physically. Where we remembered that our life of faith is wrapped up in the care and the life of the person before us and the people – all of them – around us. The old way will pass away and a new way will shine forth. But, in that death – in that change – God will be and has promised to be with us.

We again are reminded of that eventual reality in Christ’s words this morning. As Jesus talks about how a seed must die (foreshadowing his own death) and how if we are to serve Christ – we must follow. Following Jesus leads to death. It does.

There’s no way around it. Serving and following Jesus leads to death. One can’t be done without the other, and both will lead to death.

But, we know that death is not the final word. That we – as the church – as the ones who serve and follow Christ – that we are a people of the resurrection. That death and change are difficult and adverse to what the world offers to us.

That though Christ talks about seeds dying, that the seed must do so to bear much fruit. And we are to follow Jesus in those ways.

As we approach that time of death – the darkness appears ever so dark. It’s easy to fall into that. To be consumed by that darkness. That darkness, in many ways, is ‘safe’ because even though it might be bad for us, it is what we’ve known and what we’ve grown comfortable with. But, Christ calls us to follow the light. To leave the safe conformity that we know to venture out into the harsh light of life. The light that leads us to new life. That in that service and following – we will die. Those ways that the world lifts up will die and fall away and we will walk into the new life that God has promised us in Jesus Christ.

Where our death might mean that we are looked sideways by our friends and families. Where we don’t participate in the jokes that continue to spread harm and untruth. Where we stand up for those being pushed down, even though standing up might mean being shunned ourselves. Where we share our hurts and pains, even though the world might see that as weak. Where we follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior and mingle and associate and befriend those on the outskirts of life, fully expecting the backlash to come from those in the majority. Where we stand up and say, “No! This isn’t right – that is not how God’s people are called to act.” Where we don’t disparage, ridicule, bully, taunt, hurt, or worse – no matter who among the world’s powerful might do the same. As we live into that sort of new life, we invite others to be a part of this as well.

Our ‘death’ buries the old life, so that the new life of hospitality, welcome, and radical inclusion might bear fruit for the kingdom of God.

Where that new life leads us to the vision that Jeremiah gives his people and shares with us. That life – those days that are surely coming – where a new covenant is made between God and creation. Where that law and grace of God are printed on our hearts and lived out through our lives. That new covenant where there is forgiveness and sin is forgotten.

That new life that bears so much fruit. That new life that serves and follows the one who has gone before us. That new life where death must come first. Where that single grain must give way to bear so much fruit.

Come and serve. Come and follow. Come and die with Christ. God is with us. Do this so that we might all live full and abundant. Amen!




March 12, 2018, 9:26 AM

the one about trust...


Sermon from March 11, 2018

Text: Numbers 21:4-9, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21

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 thoughts of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

John 3:16. I know this verse well. I know that y’all know this verse well too. We’ve heard it a lot, we’ve seen it a lot. We see it everywhere; on billboards, t-shirts, and bathroom stalls. I know that I saw it at least once – in each of those places - on our trip down and back from Florida last week. It’s everywhere.

But, before we even dive into the meat of this, we kind of have to look at the story that Jesus references here at the beginning of our gospel text. The good thing is that we were able to hear that story as well and it is a rather interesting story.

In the quick summary of this story, we see the people of Israel re-turn towards God in confession of their sins. In that confession, God hears them and provides a way of salvation for them.

Their complaint and sin? Being unhappy with God’s provision. They have been wandering in the wilderness for almost an entire generation or two, and they’re a little fed up with the sustenance they have been given. So, they complain.

Now, a lot of the stories that we read of in scripture are not literal events, but told in an allegorical way to express how they felt and how God interacted. So, it might not actually be that God sent venomous snakes upon the people, but I’m sure for them it certainly felt that way. In any event, God did provide a way of salvation from those venomous snakes. A symbol was lifted up, and all the people had to do was look upon that snake on a pole, and they would be healed and survive.

In one of the most simple interpretations of this story, it can be boiled down to – the people confess of their sin, God provides salvation, the people are asked to trust.

With that in mind, we read the Gospel for this morning, and see Jesus comparing himself to that same serpent on a pole. Just as the serpent was lifted up, so too will the Son of Man be lifted up.

Jesus is comparing himself to a way of salvation (the way of salvation for the world) – a gift from God to the people of God – which in John is expanded from the Israelites to include the world, the cosmos – and everything that is in it.

And, as we read this part of John’s gospel – as Jesus is having a rather in-depth discussion with Nicodemus – we encounter that well known verse. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life.

A few things that I wanted to hone in on with this.

First, belief. We are asked to believe in what God has done and some have difficulty wrapping their mind around that. Mostly because it is hard to ‘believe’ something that we cannot readily see. I’m sure it was easier for the Isrealites to believe on the serpent on the pole. It was physically there. There is even a story in 2 Kings about that very symbol being removed and destroyed from the temple. It was there.

It is easy for us to ‘believe’ in things that are readily and physically before us.

But, in this case, it isn’t so much that the gospel is asking us to believe in this good gift from God in Jesus who is the Christ – though it is asking us to believe. However, it is more accurate to say that we are asked to trust in this gift.

We are asked and called to trust that this gift from God – this son of man – this Son of God – this messiah – is our salvation. We have trust in what God has already given to us. We have trust in what God has already given to the world – the whole world. As another commentator wrote this week, ‘trusting’ in what Jesus is telling us allows us to ‘lean in to something far bigger than we can understand.’

I think that’s important for us to realize. That belief is trust. It is why when I’m confronted by how someone usually uses John 3:16 – as some sort of boastful measuring stick of faith – where they then ask – do you know where you are in God’s eyes? I – for the most part – confidently respond that, “No, I don’t know where I stand because it isn’t about me – it is about God. I trust God when it has been said that God so loved the world that he sent the Son so that the world might be saved through him.”

I trust that to be true. I trust that I am a part of that salvation.

I trust that there is nothing that I have done to earn this gift. In fact, I know that I have done things that should exclude me from that sort of life changing and freeing gift. Yet, I trust that God’s love extends even to me.

I trust God. It isn’t so much ‘believing’ or at least how we interpret belief to be today, but steady trust in what God has already done, trust that God’s hand and love extends even to us, trust that that sort of love never fails or falters. That trust that we are saved because of what God has already given to the world.

Eternal life. Many will interpret this as the ‘life after death’ that so many faithful sisters and brothers are adamant about during our life today. Yet, I don’t think that ‘eternal life’ is limited to just what happens after death. But, I trust that eternal life may more truthfully be described as life in God’s new age. That life – that new life – begins in baptism. That new life is fed and nourished at the table. That new life is lived out as all of us are molded and shaped by God’s spirit to live this life for others. Where we gather in community, we serve those in need, we think of others before and over ourselves.

This life in God’s new age overlaps with the life we live and the resurrected life that we trust is gifted to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross.

We have trust in the love that God has for the world – in which we are included in and are active participants in. We trust that this new life in which we have been gifted through this love is one that encompasses our baptism, is fed at the table, and is lived out through word and service to the those around us. We live this new and gifted life in full trust that we have already received salvation.

And in this known trust of saving that we receive and live into, there is another part of this story of God that I want us to know. Think back to our text in Numbers. What was God’s salvation? That when the serpent on the pole is raised up, all the Israelites would have to do is trust that looking to that symbol would heal them. Did you notice that the symbol of the serpent on the pole didn’t keep the snakes from biting. The danger still existed. There was still caution to be wary of in that time.

Yet, their trust was in their Lord and God who would heal them if and when tragedy struck.

I believe that the same still holds true for each of us as we look to the cross and the one who was lifted upon it for the world.

Jesus’ death and resurrection didn’t end evil, tragedy, and hardship. People still hurt. Death still occurs. Evil continues to root in the hearts and souls of God’s people. Yet, the cross still stands. The cross still stands as that symbol of God’s love for the world.

We have trust that though sin and evil still lurks – both in the world and in our very beings, we live into the trust that Paul writes of in our text from Ephesians - But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ --by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

For by grace each of us – the entire world – has already been saved through faith. Not so that we might boast (also meaning not so that we might use John 3:16 as some measuring stick to beat over the heads of those around us). But, we have been created out of love – in that love we trust that God’s love continues to extend and save us through what God has done in Christ our Lord.

We have trust in what God has already done for the world – in that trust, in that knowledge, in that gift of new life we live this life for others, serving those around us – living in action of God’s grace.

Trust. New life. We’ve been given that. Trust that you are a part of it, and live into that trust and faith for the world. Amen.

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March 1, 2018, 9:48 AM

March 2018 Newsletter


Grace and peace to each of you this day. It is March and we are in the full swing of Lent. Still a few more weeks left before we get to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus who is the Christ.

Recently, the debate around guns, gun violence, and the second amendment has reared its head because another deadly school shooting has happened. The latest is in Parkland, Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I pray and hope that by the time you receive and read this newsletter it will still be only the ‘most recent’ deadly school shooting.

I have posted on Facebook, I’ve alluded to it in sermons, and I’ve had direct conversations with many about my views on gun violence. I know that there are a wide range of beliefs in regard to this issue, but as your pastor I wanted to focus in on one thing – and it may upset some of you.

I think we – as a culture – have a problem. But, it isn’t the usual ‘problem’ that most people prop up during these times. It isn’t video games. It isn’t violent movies or books. It isn’t because prayer isn’t ‘allowed’ in schools. It isn’t because God has been ‘removed’ from society.

No, I think our problem is the same one that has afflicted our world from the very beginning of time. We have an idol problem.

I feel that we as a culture have placed guns, and specifically the 2nd Amendment on a pedestal. It has become an issue that has become incredibly divisive in our country, yet no matter how much we shout and fight nothing seems to get done. It has become the ‘golden calf’ of our current time.

For many, it is something that cannot be discussed. It cannot be changed. It cannot be moved. It has become untouchable in almost every way. It has become an idol to us.

Yet, we come to this reignited discussion during the season of Lent. A time of self-reflection and devotion to God. A time where we intentionally see where we have been separated from God and seek out those ways to bring God to the center of our lives again.

I ask that we do this as individual people, as a congregation, as a community of the faithful. To take down our cultural ‘devotion’ of guns so that we might be able to talk. So that we might find a reasonable and appropriate response to this issue. So that we might finally find a way to prevent not just these school shootings, but the numerous deaths caused by guns in our country.

As people of faith, we are called to be in relationship and life with those around us. God calls us to be a part of and wrapped up in the life and service of others. When we begin to live our lives according to that call (and it is not easy, and we will fail in that endeavor time and time again) it places us in situations that we otherwise wouldn’t want to be in. We live our life in devotion of the one who washes feet, who calls us to take up our cross.

In living into the life that Jesus has called us in, we will put others ahead of ourselves. During this season of Lent, what would it look like if we truly, honestly, and earnestly lived that call out in our lives? It won’t be easy, it will put us at odds with those around us. But, it just might help us have the conversation. It just might be a way to help prevent the vast majority of these deaths.

I know there are many who will disagree with me. I now there are some who might think I shouldn’t speak about this sort of stuff. I know that there are some who feel I don’t know what I’m talking about.

But, as a pastor – as your pastor – I’m tired. I’m saddened. I’m angry. Tired, sad, and angry that we still have these circular conversations in our country.

Maybe this time will be different. It seems that it might be. I’m hopeful. I’m in prayer for something to come from these conversations around our community and in the highest places of government in our society.

However, if we cannot understand that we have an idol problem when it comes to guns in our country (and in turn repent from this idol), I fear that those conversations will end up in the same places again and I honestly don’t think anyone wants that to take place…

Remember, I love each of you. And I truly mean it.

 

pm




February 19, 2018, 12:00 AM

the one about about temptation...


Sermon from February 18, 2018

Text: Mark 1: 9-15

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, as you heard this gospel reading this morning, how many of you had a slight case of déjà vu and you were trying to figure out why? There’s good reason – we’ve heard this text twice already. This is the third time we have looked into the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as told by St. Mark since December.

Whenever I read this part of Marks gospel, I’m always tempted to do something that I shouldn’t. We know Jesus is baptized, he hears a voice from heaven, and immediately he is forced out into the wilderness to be tempted.

All of that happens very quickly in Mark’s gospel, literally five verses. It happens so quickly because Mark is not as verbose as Matthew or Luke. Our temptation – my temptation – is to ‘fill in’ what Mark has apparently left out.

I think that can be dangerous – even though I’m tempted to do it and do fall victim to that temptation. We needn’t fill in what other gospels are trying to say; but it is hard to let the gospels themselves stand alone.

But, then I thought a little more – why is it that we have this temptation to fill in these words – especially as we read Mark’s gospel and as we begin this season of Lent.

I think about our world today and there is so much noise. There is so much noise that we cannot find comfort in the silence or the unfamiliar. One of my favorite movies, My Cousin Vinny, has a scene where Vinny cannot sleep at all in the cabin he and his girlfriend are given. It’s too quiet and when there is a strange sound – the sound of wild animals – he freaks out. Later in the movie he is sent to jail for contempt of court and the next scene is him smiling and sleeping peacefully as the jail riots around him. The noise brings him an amusing, if not familiar sort of peace.

I think – in many ways – we are all like that. With our reckless addiction to technology, the need to feel empty time, to always be busy with something – we have become frightened of the quiet. We’ve become fearful of the unknown.

We read verse 14 and we cannot stand to see nothing else explained. What are the temptations? What happened?

Why do we need to know? I feel at times, we have a desire to know because we want Jesus to be like us. Or, more accurately, we want to be like Jesus.

We know he’s tempted, but we want to know how his temptation took place. Did it look like what I’m going through? Is it similar to what I know a family member or friend is experiencing? Perhaps, if I can know the temptation, I can know that I too can get through this difficult time.

As much as we do this – even if we do this unknowingly – I want to tell y’all something. You. Are not. Like Jesus.

You’re not. I’m not. We are not.

As we begin this season of Lent we think a lot about temptations and fasting from those things that we know might not be the best for us. On Wednesday we heard Bishop Younan talk about how even today our technological gadgets have become more important in our lives than even food. Where we are more willing to fast from chocolates, Coke, or sweets than we are to fast from being connected to the online world at every moment of our life.

As we think about those temptations and how we can ‘overcome’ those desires, we at times will attempt to line ourselves right up there with Jesus. If he can do it, surely, I can too!

Except – I hate to break it to you – we aren’t God; Jesus is. Jesus is able to withstand those temptations – whatever they are in Mark’s gospel because of who he is. Jesus is able to stand firm in those moments because he is the messiah. He doesn’t need anyone else.

Yet, we cannot do this alone. We cannot endure the temptations of our lives, the lures of sin, the voices that speak in the silence and darkness by ourselves.

When we attempt to do that – just by ourselves, with no help – we can break. Where the end result can look like what happened in South Florida this past week. A broken individual lashing out in violent and horrific ways. There are other discussions to be had regarding these horrific events – serious and honest discussions to be had – but, we still find help and be the help for the broken.

We do not endure the temptations and the wilderness of our lives alone. We cannot do it. We are not capable of doing it.

We need the support of friends and family. We need the support of professional care workers – doctors, nurses, counselors, and more. We need help.

We want to fill the ‘empty’ and ‘unknown’ in our lives because we have been conditioned and taught through our culture that if you cannot do it alone then you’re not strong. You’re not good enough. You need to be like the other ‘normal’ people. Where in that knowledge we fill the empty, quiet, and unfamiliar of our lives with ‘stuff’ to distract us. All the while the gnawing hole in our life grows larger and no matter how much we throw into it, it is never satisfied.

We need others to help us through the temptations and the wildernesses of our lives. We need to reach out and ask for help. We need to remember that our God has created us to be with one another, to love, support, and care for each other. We are not little gods who can withstand the weight of the world.

But, we need our God, the one who has promised to share that weight and even bear it at times. We need to and we do see our God at work in the community of faith around us. We see God at work in the teachers and counselors who take notice and reach out. We see God at work in the friends and families of those dealing with harsh realities.

We begin this season of Lent and we hear a story about Jesus’ temptation. It’s a story that we know well, but at times can be perplexed by. Especially as it is told to us in Mark’s Gospel. We need to know what Jesus was tempted by so that we can feel confident to survive our own temptations.

Hoping beyond hope that if our Lord can ‘do it’ surely, we can get through it too. Yet, we fall. We fail when we try to go at it alone.

This season of Lent, what would it look like if we ‘gave up’ trying to ‘man up’ or ‘be strong’ when it comes to the hurt we have in our lives? What if we fasted and let go of the fear that holds us back from seeking help? What would the Lenten season teach us this year if we fasted the fear of what others would think if we cared for them in more direct ways?

As Bishop Younan stated from this very pulpit just a few days ago, our fast is wrapped up in the lives of others. By loving one another, we show that we are loving God. We love our neighbor as our love to God.

Love your neighbor. Love the stranger. Care for those around us.

Be in prayer – for others and for those hurting in the world – but, let those prayers lead our footsteps and actions. Let our prayers remind us that there are people who hurt – we hurt – but, that doesn’t mean we are alone. We are surrounded by a community called to love one another. To care. To forgive. To accept. Our Lord calls us all to that.

We cannot do it alone. We cannot stand idly by as those who hurt feel that the only way to ease that pain, to bring peace is to lash out violently and deadly. We must reach out within our own pain and loneliness to draw others in, to remind ourselves that we are not alone in our struggles.

This morning we hear a story about our Lord’s temptation in the desert. He went through it alone. We – thank God – do not have to because of what Christ has already done. You don’t have to be fearful of the silence and unknown. Let us draw one another in to that pain and temptation. Let us live into this season of Lent as a time to help and care and love those around us. You don’t have to do it alone. Amen.

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February 12, 2018, 12:00 AM

the one about remembering those mountain moments...


Text from February 11, 2018
Transfiguration Sunday

Text: Mark 9:2-9

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, as I’ve said before, one of the most difficult, yet meaningful things I get to do as your pastor is to be with each of you in those moments that are tough or difficult. An illness, an impending death, the tragic loss of a family member, a broken relationship, depression, frustration, and more. It is a part of the job as a pastor to be with people in ‘low’ moments of their life.

Sometimes a question is either asked directly or implied that can freak me out because sometimes I don’t know the answer. That question? “Pastor – where is God in all this…?” My usual response has always been, “I’m not quite sure how or where God is present in this moment, but I know that God is here. Why? Because God has promised to be here among us – even in these difficult times and from what I can tell and have read, God is usually pretty good about holding to those promises and covenants.”

Many of you that I’ve been with in difficult times have heard me share those words, or something similar to them. As a pastor – a person who others look to for those ‘spiritual’ answers – it is difficult at times to respond with, “I don’t know…”

I was reminded of those moments as I prepared for this sermon today. I read a commentary where the writer – Rev. Anna Tew, a Lutheran pastor in Massachusetts – told a story about her time during a year-long ministry of chaplaincy in the hospital. As with all chaplains, she was tasked with coming alongside folks in some of their most vulnerable moments. Always sought after to bring a word of hope and promise during times that seem and are ‘hopeless.’

One story stood out for her. A man – a very sick man – was remarking that he felt God had abandoned him. He asked her if God had left him?

She replied, “Of course not!” Then she was bold to ask a question I’ve never thought to ask before – “Can you tell me about the times in the past that you’ve felt God’s presence before?”

Immediately the man recounted those moments – through tears – of God’s presence and goodness in his life. Telling of those moment where God felt so close to him. As she states it, he and many others whom she has had those conversations with described their own mountaintop experiences.

She then – even bolder now – asked this man, “Do you believe that same God is still around today?”

He responded with, “Of course! God is the same yesterday, and today, and forever!”

“Then I think that God is most certainly with you now as then.”

Y’all, that is an amazing story. And leads me into how we view the Transfiguration of our Lord that we celebrate today.

We read in our gospel this morning about an experience that some of the disciples had with Jesus. They walk up a mountain and at the top they have an incredible experience. They see the heroes of their faith – Moses and Elijah – sitting and interacting with Jesus as his clothes shine a dazzling brightness that no bleach could achieve. Unlike the Super Bowl advertisements last week – this isn’t a Tide commercial.

Upon seeing this amazing sight, Peter is a little bewildered and in fear he bellows out the first thought that comes to his mind – “Let’s build a place for you to be here forever!” It’ll be good for us to do this! We can make this moment last!

Of course, that isn’t what this moment is about. Perhaps, Peter – like most of us at times – saw this as the ‘ultimate’ moment of his faith. Perhaps, Jesus brought him and his friends up on this mountain so that they could see this. That this is the ultimate and final revelation of what it means to follow this messiah. Surely this is the ultimate image and presence of God in our life! Nothing could be better than this! We must stay in this moment!

Does that sound familiar – even a little bit when we have those mountaintop experiences of our own? That yearning to dwell; to reside in those moments forever. To never let go, so that we can always relish in that feeling always? Have y’all felt that way before?

I felt that way when I worked at Lutheridge as a counselor the summer after my freshman year at Newberry. It was an amazing time. I met the girl of my dreams, I felt the call to be a pastor, I formed deep friendships, I had amazing stories, plenty of laughs, and I truly felt closer to God in those days than in any of the days before or many since. I would’ve been happy to stay and hold on to those feelings for as long as I could. There were moments that I just wanted to pitch a tent right there and stay.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, and eventually we have to come down from those mountaintops – both the literal and the metaphorical – in our lives.

I wondered as I read this text again – with Rev. Tew’s wise words and story fresh in my mind – perhaps, we think of this Transfiguration as the ‘ultimate revelation’ of God’s presence in the world. Surely, it is a good story. Hits all the checkboxes of what could be the ‘ultimate’ end for anyone. If there was nothing after this particular moment in scripture, I think many would be able to accept that. It has all the trappings of an end of the movie climax and cliffhanger.

But, we know that in spite of the incredible experience that moment on the mountain was – it wasn’t the moment. It wasn’t the end of the story. Jesus himself sternly warns his disciples not to tell anyone about what they saw until after the Son of Man rises from the grave. He tells them not to speak of this because there is and there will be more to come.

We read this story and celebrate this moment as we transition from the season of Epiphany into the season of Lent. Throughout Epiphany we read and heard story after story of God being made known in Christ. Each story building upon the previous; a crescendo of moments of God being made known that leads to the Transfiguration. Where if the disciples – if we – hadn’t been able to see it before certainly, we’d take notice of the Lord glowing brightly and being flanked by the representations of the Law and Prophets, all the while hearing a voice thunder from the clouds, “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him!” If the disciples didn’t ‘get it’ before the mountain, surely they ‘get it’ now.

We move from the season of God being made known into the season of coming closer to God in our lives. Yet, it is during the long weeks of Lent – that time of personal reflection, denial of self, and more that we can feel distant from God. Where we might discover that we aren’t as faithful was we proclaim. We don’t do the things we wish. We skip past the devotions in order to get to what we think is the ‘good stuff’ of our lives. Where we journey through the proverbial wilderness and might experience moments of despair, loneliness, and isolation. As we walk that path of Lent once more, we again remember where that path leads. It leads to the cross, it leads to death, it leads to fear.

As we experience God in those high-top mountain moments, those moments full of joy, praise, exultation, and more, we sometimes forget that the disciples have to come down from the mountain. They don’t stay up there. They come down from the mountain because God doesn’t stay on the mountain. God is just as present in the valley as God is present on the mountain top. We worship and celebrate our God who has come down to be with us. To be with us in those moments of the mundane. Those moments of fear. Those moments of loneliness. God has come down to be with us through all of what life has to offer.

We get this story of an incredible moment on the mountain as perhaps a reminder for when times come that are difficult in numerous ways. Where we can look back and remember that the God who was present in that moment, is surely the same God who is present now. For just as that man that Rev. Tew spoke with, God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Maybe, on the night of Jesus’ resurrection as the disciples locked themselves in the room out of fear and confusion, whispers and stories began to be shared between Peter, James, and John, “Remember… remember that time on the mountain? Remember what we saw? What we felt? What we heard? Maybe this isn’t the end… maybe this isn’t over.”

The disciples received, and we too receive through the sharing of their story, certain proof that the guy they were following wasn’t just some really cool new rabbi. He wasn’t just some guy with good things to say, who happened to make people feel better occasionally. No, this guy – the one whose light literally shined through his very being – flanked by heroes of the faith – was and is the Son of God, the messiah we’ve longed for. He is Immanuel. God with us. Our hope.

We too remember our own mountaintop experiences. Not to dwell on those moments. Not to pine for days gone by. But, we look to our own moments on the mountain in our lives, to remember that the God who we felt was so close to us then, is still the same one who is present with us now. We remember that yes, surely, truly, certainly this is the Son of God, the messiah we’ve longed for. He is Immanuel. He is God with us. He is our Hope.

Remember. Believe. Know that God is with us. Always. Amen.

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February 5, 2018, 12:00 AM

the one about being on the move...


Sermon from February 4, 2018

Text: Mark 1:29-39

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, if there is one thing I consistently take from how Jesus acts in Mark’s gospel is this – Jesus is always on the move. Since verse 14 in this chapter which comes after his 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus is doing lots of stuff. He’s not really staying long in any one place.

Walking along the sea of Galilee as he calls out to his disciples to follow him, teaching in the synagogue, cleaning a man with an unclean spirit, and now caring for Simon’s mother-in-law and the many who came in search of healing as well. Everything we’ve been reading as we’ve walked through the first (and ONLY the first) chapter so far in this gospel seems to have transpired over the course of only a day. Maybe two days.

No matter the timeframe, the news about Jesus is quickly spreading. Jesus and his friends enter the house of Simon and Andrew and Simon’s mother-in-law is not feeling so well and Jesus takes her by the hand and the fever leaves her. If only we had Jesus to come around the Newberry and Midlands area right now with all these cases of the flu, right?

From that moment and for the next few hours, many are brought to Jesus so that they might be cured. Cured of fevers and diseases, cured of spirits and demons, cured of those things that removed them from the cultural life of the day. Through Word, prayer, and touch Jesus brings full life back to those who have been separated from the life of the world because of their condition (illness and mental health).

Yet, after he finishes that work he goes off to pray and the disciples have no idea where he is. They go in search of him, wondering where in the world that Silly ol’ Messiah has gone. When they find him, they exclaim, “Where have you been! There are people hurting over there! There’s work to do, Lord!”

I find Jesus’ answer eye-opening.

I think Jesus acknowledges that there is indeed work to do, but they must keep moving.

I find it profound that the disciples don’t ever seem to fully what they are saying. They state to Jesus, “Everyone is searching for you.” And it was true. There were many who were searching for Jesus so that he might continue to heal those in need in that small-ish area.

And, if Jesus had done that – the people would’ve been overjoyed. He could have setup shop in this town and had a nice little ‘medical’ practice and life. Simon, Andrew and the others would’ve been tasked with reaching out to the sick and possessed and inviting them to see this guy that cures fevers and demons with just a word!

That would’ve been nice. It would’ve been easy. I’m not sure anyone would’ve faulted Jesus for that. People were being helped, and I’m sure more around the area would’ve heard the rumor about this mysterious healer. They perhaps would’ve come out of curiosity, maybe even desperation.

But, that isn’t how it happened.

The disciples, state to Jesus that many are searching for him, and his response is to go and find some more. To go out into the neighboring towns to proclaim the message that he has – that is what he has come to do.

It is interesting that even at this early stage in Jesus’ ministry that there was the inclination to ‘hold on’ to a specific part of Jesus’ ministry and not go any further. Not to dive deeper, to even (even if innocently or unintentionally) keep others from experiencing God’s grace in and through this man.

And, we tend to still do that don’t we? We get something good, begin a good ministry, get a good group going and we like where it’s at. We’re content with how things are. We want to keep it simple, just continue doing what is working (and working well I might add). Just keep it for these people. This is ours. It isn’t that no one else should have it, but we’re really not interested in doing the work necessary to move it further out than what we have here.

Yet, Jesus here is intent on shattering that world view. He isn’t ‘ours’ in the sense that we hold exclusive claim and right to the message he brings, the miracles and healing he can and does perform, the new-life in which he shares with those he meets. We don’t hold claim to that, and Jesus in our reading this morning is telling his disciples and each of us that Jesus has got some work to do. And it involves venturing further out. It involves going to neighboring areas. It involves interacting with folks you might not know.

If anything, Jesus hasn’t been interested at all in maintaining the ‘status quo.’ Not even the ‘new status quo’ that he ushers into the world.

Jesus is on the move.

But, there something great about Jesus being on the move. He doesn’t go off by himself. He doesn’t leave his disciples by the wayside. He doesn’t abandon those around him.

Jesus invites his friends and those around him to follow him and join him in this life of call, faith, and healing. “Let us go…”

I think that is the thing we forget as we begin to see where ministry is taking us – taking us individually as fellow members on this journey, but also taking us as a group in ministry. It is nerve-racking to see where God might be leading us. Leading us to new opportunities to bring and receive God’s word of healing, life, forgiveness, and love.

Jesus is with us as we venture out. Venturing outside these walls at Redeemer, venturing outside the walls that we erect in our lives, venturing past the ideas of walls that block others from joining us. Jesus calls us outside that which makes us feel comfortable and safe. Jesus calls us into opportunities that involve risk.

Yet, all the while Jesus is present with us in that ministry and in those opportunities.

As we are invited into these new opportunities of ministry, Jesus is saying, ‘there is other work also.’

There is other work, where can we be called to bring new life and hope into the community around us? Where can we offer ourselves and what we have in abundance to bring hope to a world that yearns for it?

As we gather food and money today for the Manna House through the Souper Bowl of Caring, perhaps that new opportunity for ministry is to volunteer at the Manna House. To see, to know, to love those who are in need in our community. Maybe that might lead you to find other ways to care for those in a more profound and sustaining ways. In that risk; the risk that reaches into our abundance to give to others – Jesus is there.

Perhaps it is doing the ‘odd’ and risky thing and not getting wrapped up in the spectacle of the Super Bowl of football today. Not saying we cannot watch or enjoy the game, but understanding that it is just a game and that there are opportunities to help those in need in deep and helpful ways. Maybe skipping past the pre-game festivities and joining in on the worship service at White Oak last this afternoon to continue to help spread this hopeful word of God’s gospel to those who might be looked over or even forgotten. In that risk; the risk of stepping out of the flow of the social pressurized world to intentionally be with those on the outskirts – Jesus is there.

It is risky, it can be scary. Yet, we remember – Jesus is there. Jesus is inviting you – inviting us – to go. To be on the move. To not sit idly by. To be with. To venture forth. To proclaim God’s message of love, forgiveness, and hope. Amen.

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