In pm's words
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March 18, 2019, 8:00 AM

the one about mother God...


Sermon from March 17, 2019

Text: Luke 13:31-35

 

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, we continue our journey and venture through this season of Lent. This is the second week of this penitential season and I’m still living into this season in a place of joy. Last Sunday – the first week of Lent – we experienced that joy in the presence of God with us in and through our wilderness moments and times of temptation. The joy that God and God’s love is with us always – already – not after we ‘persevere’ through the tough times.

This Sunday, we hear and read of Jesus lamenting and praying for Jerusalem. The city of God that, more often than not, has persecuted the ones called to point the people of faith back towards God and God’s love.

This text begins with the usual ‘foils’ to Jesus’ ministry. The ones who consistently test him, mock him, and clutch their pearls about what he does. This morning we hear and read of the Pharisees who warn him in our text today.

They have concern for him. They inform him of King Herod’s desire to end his life if he continues his ways and even begins approaching the Holy City on a Hill. Yet, they come from the same stock that rejects not only Jesus’ teachings, but the teachings of many of the prophets of old. It’s quite a dichotomy isn’t it?

One would think that Jesus’ response to the Pharisees – even these Pharisees concerned with his well-being – would be apathy, perhaps even anger because of how they constantly try to trap him, sway the views of those around him, and thwart his ministry at every opportunity. Yet, that isn’t Jesus’ response.

He laments. He prays for. He continues to reach out to them. To reach out to the ones who are so obstinate and stubborn in their views towards him and God’s love and ministry.

Think about the ones who twist and distort God’s word to mean something different, something vile, something so full of hate and violence you wonder that you might not be reading the same book. We saw that on display this weekend as one who upholds the sinful and sin-filled views of white supremacy, Islamophobia, and bigotry slaughtered 49 individuals peacefully praying in their mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Think of all those people in life who try to stop you from getting where you desire to go. The ones who try to stop you from proclaiming Jesus’ love and God’s presence to all. Think of all those who focus on the small(ish) and possibly inconsequential things while you’re trying to proclaim radical acceptance and grace? How do you truly feel about them?

If you didn’t have those certain folks standing in your proverbial ‘way’ how much more could you accomplish? How much more fulfilling would that work be? How much less stressed would life be? It’d probably be pretty good.

So, our tendency is to dismiss those who disagree with us, push them to the side, and become angry at them. Giving them up to the ‘fox’ who is so eager to twist, mutate, and fill with anger. For how does a fox – or any predator – usually work? By picking off the weakest prey or the one wandering off away from the group.

Recently, I finished watching the Netflix documentary, “Behind the Curve,” which explores the lives and beliefs of those who incorrectly believe that the Earth is flat. No matter the mounting evidence of pictures, videos, experiments, and more that prove that we live on a globe and not a flat plane; there are still those who are obstinate in their views.

The first reaction is to just dismiss them as misguided, irrational, and more. To be mean and possibly hurtful to them because of their views. I think we all can fall into that tempting trap of the fox as well.

Yet, there was one part of the documentary that touched me. It was a moment when two physicists, Lamar Glover and Dr. Spiros Michalakis, when they talked about how we do a disservice in trying to ‘shame’ people into believing what is truth. Where we push those who we disagree with to the fringe of society and we ‘lose’ them. Lamar Glover, mentioned in a speech to colleagues that ‘when we leave people behind, we leave bright minds to mutate and stagnate; these folks could be potential scientists gone completely wrong. Their natural inquisitiveness and rejection of norms can be beneficial to science if they were more scientifically literate.’ Dr. Michalakis and Lamar ask their colleagues and each of those who know this truth of a round earth, to gently walk with those in love and care to show them the better way.

I remembered that part of the documentary when Jesus in our Gospel reading today laments over the children of Jerusalem and states about his wish to gather them as a mother hen gathers her brood under her wings.

That’s the opposite way in which we want to and usually react towards people who are ‘against’ us in some way. None of us – none of us – would fault Jesus for throwing the Pharisees and those who agreed with them to the side, pushing them to the fringe of society and life because what they believed was ‘true’ was so far from the truth.

Yet, in spite of the obstacles that many against Jesus placed in his path – the questions, the ‘traps, the rumors of harm, all of it – in spite of it all Jesus boldly faced towards Jerusalem. Jesus boldly faced and marched towards the city because of his love for them.

Oh, how Jesus desires and does gather creation under him as a mother hen gathers her chicks.

I saw a video of a mother hen protecting her chicks this week, and one thing really struck me in one of them. First off, hens aren’t really that big. Sure, there are some bigger than others, but for the most part, they aren’t big birds at all. So, I was surprised that as a farmer was trying to coax a hen to stand up to show him her chicks, I assumed there would be only three or so chicks under her. I was amazed that when she stood up there were nine to ten chicks gathered under her body and wings.

How’d they all fit in there! How could she possibly protect all of them with her body! It was fascinating. To know how out of love, boldness, and courage this hen would protect her brood against a sly predator of a fox.

That got me thinking a bit more about Jesus and his desire to gather God’s children – all of us – under those wings of love and care. Jesus is saying that he too is like a mother, wishing to care and nurture and protect those under his charge. In love he is willing and determined to sacrifice himself for the ones he loves. Just as that hen will for her chicks.

Jesus is the momma who will love you through and through and protect you even to her own death.

Again, there is joy in that knowledge. Especially, when included in the ones gathered under those mothering arms of Jesus are the ones that many would consider lost, wayward, and obstinate. It will be from the cross that Jesus will pray over those shouting, mocking, and deriding him as he dies for God to ‘forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.’

The joy of Lent that we get to know this week is that there is nothing that keeps Jesus’ love from you. There is nothing you can do to stop Jesus from protecting you, caring for you, nurturing you, gathering you under his arms of life, from laying down his life for you. Just as a mother hen protects her chicks.

Jesus doesn’t shame people into believing in him. Jesus doesn’t kick out those who don’t see God’s love in his work. He continues to perform cures today, tomorrow, and the next. He continues to reach out and love. He continues to boldly march towards the cross for all. He continues to confront hate and violence and rumors of harm with love, care, and God’s redeeming Word for the whole world.

We too can learn from that example. Where in our frustrations – even during this season of Lent – we pray for Jesus’ guidance and strength to love as he loves. To care as he cares. To share the gospel as he calls us to share it.

With everyone. In love. In care. Not in shame. Not in ridicule. And not casting out those who disagree with us. Stating the truth in love and grace towards those who – for whatever reason – are blind to its light. We continue to walk, to love, to guide, to call upon God’s love to rest in our hearts so that we can walk with others, and that others can walk with us – even when we are obstinate and stand in the way of God’s love for all.

That’s the joy of Lent. Amen.




March 11, 2019, 8:00 AM

the one about joy in lent...


Sermon from March 10, 2019

Text: Luke 4:1-13

 

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, this past Wednesday at our Ash Wednesday service as we entered into the season of Lent, I preached and mentioned that I was a bit tired and run down with the drudgery that Lent is approached with at times. Mostly, I’m tired that I myself seem to ‘lament’ this time of the church year, especially when Lent is one of my favorite seasons.

This season of the church year helps us focus on God’s presence in our lives. The practice of ‘giving something up’ for these 40 days, directly corresponds with the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness as he fasted for that same period. Yet, as we give something up, we tend to do the opposite of what our Lord calls us to do from within our Ash Wednesday text. We DO at times scrunch our face and look dismal as we compare the things we are ‘suffering’ without with those around us.

I’m tired of lamenting my sacrifice. Instead, I wonder and ponder what it would look like to approach the season of Lent with a sense of joy. Seriously. And not in a masochistic way. But, a sense of joy knowing that what I’m doing – what I’m giving up or taking on – is something that will help me see and know God’s presence in my life more fully. Where I remember that it is God who makes me complete and whole, not the thing that I give up (or take on).

And, so the challenge with that is weaving joy into these texts each week. And this first week? Jesus being tempted by the devil. That’s a difficult one for sure.

This is a story about Jesus’ life that takes place right after his baptism. It comes right after Jesus is washed and God speaks over him and states who he is – God’s son – and that he is exceedingly pleased with him.

And this got me thinking. After his baptism, after being told that he is good in God’s eyes, that is when he enters into the wilderness. And after that time in the wilderness is when the devil confronts him.

So many times, in our lives we look at this backwards for ourselves. That after the wilderness and trial times, THEN God tells us we’re good. Because we survived. We persevered. All because we were able to withstand the temptations that are thrown our way. We feel that then, and only then, is God able to ‘love us’ and call us ‘good.’

Except. That’s wrong.

God reaches out to us in our baptism the way that he reaches out to Jesus. We are washed and welcomed; we are proclaimed to be good. God’s love and faith are poured into our lives in those waters. In those waters we discover who and whose we are. In those waters we are claimed as one of God’s very own. God’s love is bestowed upon us there.

Then after that, we wander. We get mired in the wilderness. We are famished.

Then the hurdles, the obstacles, the temptations litter our paths that God has us on. And it stinks. A lot.

Our minds race. We question our identity in God. We feel lost. We feel distant from God and from one another. We feel like we’re being punished. We feel like God’s love is absent from us.

We forget.

We forget what God has already done and made known. We forget that we are already loved by God. We forget that God is with us in the wilderness, through the temptations. God is holding on to us even when we stumble and fall. Not to chastise, not to demean, not to tsk tsk us into oblivion. But, to remind us that all is not lost. Hope remains. This love is strong and firm.

Paul writes in his letter to the Romans that we heard and read this morning that those who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. And I think that’s true, but as a good Lutheran, I try to keep God as the main force in those actions. As we cry out, “God – I believe in you. Lord, I have faith in you. Be with me. Know me through and through!”

I truly feel that God’s response is, “Well duh, you don’t have to shout. I’m literally right here. I’ve never left. How could you ever think that? I love you.”

During the season of Lent, we approach it with lament because we feel we have drifted so far from God and that we need to do something to get back in God’s good graces. That we need to do something to jolt us back on the path towards God’s intent for our lives. We come shuffling, as we fall to our knees asking for God’s mercy and forgiveness. To spare us from the trials and tribulations of sin in our lives. To be strong in the face of temptation and to apologize profusely about how far we’ve fallen. At times, it feels like Lent is our attempt to sway God’s opinion about us.

Except. It’s not.

Again, I truly feel that as we enter into the season of Lent like that – God is the one saying, “You don’t have to do that. I’ve not left you. I’ve not forgotten you. I still and will always love you. Forever. You don’t have to worry about that.”

Our sacrifices, our fasts don’t help at all in getting God to notice and love us. They aren’t signal flares to the Lord so that God will finally accept us. No, not at all. When we fast, when we sacrifice, we get to know what God already knows. That what makes us ‘us’ is God.

Those things that we give up are not the things that fulfill our lives, make us whole, and show us how loved we are. Yet, as we focus on God through the absence of those ‘filler’ things in our lives, we get to see and know more fully what our God already knows.

We are loved. We are made whole. We are complete in the eyes of God.

That is indeed the joy of Lent.

Yes, we do indeed sacrifice. We do indeed fast. We pray. We worship. We attempt to stand firm in the face of temptation.

Not so that God will notice us, love us finally, or even more completely.

We fast so that we might know what God already knows. That we indeed are loved and made whole in God’s life and acceptance and welcome of each of us.

There is joy in that truth. There is joy in the truth that when we wander through the wilderness, when we are famished, when we are tempted – God is there with us. Holding on to us. Guiding us. Letting us know that we are already loved fully.

And when we know what God already knows? We wander less, we stay close, we see God in the center of our lives and why would we want to turn away from that love and presence?

In that truth and word, we know we can withstand those trials because we know we are with God. We have been claimed in the waters of baptism. God has declared us ‘good.’

That is the joy of Lent. Journey in that joy. Amen.




March 4, 2019, 9:30 AM

what happened on the mountain doesn't stay on the mountain...


Sermon from Transfiguration Sunday - March 3, 2019

Luke 9:28-43a

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, have you ever experienced something that you just don’t understand? Where you are witness to something incredible, and you still don’t get it? I remember two and a half years ago gathering in downtown Newberry for the total solar eclipse. It was an amazing event. It’s one of those things that you just cannot describe fully to someone who has never seen it. I know understand a little bit more when people say they ‘chase’ total eclipses around the world.

In that moment when totality was complete, I remember first the quiet ‘awe’ that everyone had and then the rush of noise as people cheered and screamed and more. It was an interesting experience, yet I couldn’t help but think – just be quiet and live this moment. Listen to what God is trying to say in this time and space to us.

I get those same feelings as I read our gospel reading for this Sunday of the Transfiguration. It’s a text that I don’t quite ‘get’ all the time. Jesus is out ministering and healing, he then takes three of his disciples and goes up on the mountain. And something incredible and indescribable happens.

Now, here’s the thing, throughout scripture, important things happen on mountains. People throughout history have wanted to scale mountains – those who are religious and those who are not – because they feel ‘closer’ to the heavens on those peaks. There is a sense of transcendence and peace that comes in those high altitudes.

For me, it is the peace and closeness to God that I feel when I get to go to Lutheridge every year. For others it is scaling some ridiculously tall mountain. For others it is just the adventure and the exertion of taking a hike up a steep cliffside. We as humans want to be closer to God, and mountains are great ways – we feel – to do that.

The same was true for those throughout the history of our faith. Moses went up the mountain to commune and speak with God and brought down the tablets and law that would help guide God’s people in faithfulness. Elijah sought refuge upon the mountain and ended up hearing God speak in the still calm quiet, he then came down from the mountain to speak God’s word to a people in need to hear it.

Even Abraham ascended the mountain hoping for God’s presence to be made known – and thankfully he received it. He was able to return down the mountain in joy with his son Isaac with him.

Mountains play a pivotal role in our faith and it is no surprise that Jesus scales the mountainside with his disciples, and something happens. He is transfigured before them, his face shines brightly and he is flanked by Moses and Elijah (like I said, two other heroes of the faith who had important mountain moments).

And in that pivotal, emotional, and confusing moment. Peter speaks.

I recently read a Babylon Bee article (an online religious satirical news outlet) that gave brief 1 or two sentence synopses of the books in the bible. Each summary of the gospels included, “Peter does dumb stuff.”

Peter, overcome with emotion and confusion (and probably a healthy dose of fear – I’d know I’d be freaked out if my friend started glowing and two people just showed up with him) recognizes the importance of what is happening. He acknowledges that something holy, spiritual, and incredibly good is happening here. And his first suggestion is to clutch it, hold on to it, and dwell in it there.

He appears ready to hold on to it like Golem from The Lord of the Rings holds on to his precious one ring. It is so good, that we want to stay here.

Let’s sit up here together. We’ll make three places for y’all and we’ll be good.

And in that moment, the other important aspect of our faith life occurs, for in that moment a cloud descends upon them.

If those lovingly created by God ascend mountains in an attempt to be closer to the heavens, God our creator at times descends to be with us in the form of clouds. There is the pillar of cloud that guided the Israelites by day and night as they wandered in the desert. Clouds have shown the people of faith of God’s immediate presence and closeness. There is even the story of God’s presence as fog rushing into the temple at its dedication.

And in that closeness God speaks, and he speaks of Jesus’ goodness and the call to Peter, the others, and to each of us – to listen to him.

And then just like that everything is ‘back to normal.’ The relationship has changed and evolved – into something better and more full. I imagine Peter is just sitting on the edge of his seat in anticipation of what Jesus is going to say.

And we are not told what he says. In fact, we don’t ‘hear’ him speak for a few days as he doesn’t utter a word (according to the scriptural account) until he goes to heal a young man overcome by an evil spirit.

But, what do you think Jesus might’ve said to Peter and James and John?

What I always think of – especially as we end this season of Epiphany – the season of God being made known – and enter into the season of Lent – is that we cannot stay on those mountains. We cannot clutch, hold, horde, and keep what we know of God to ourselves.

We cannot contain that goodness, that new life, that acceptance, that mercy, and love to ourselves. We literally cannot hold on to it. Why? Because Jesus is going down that mountain whether we like it or not. Jesus is leading us down that mountain to share this goodness and love to those in need to hear it.

And as we’ve seen throughout scripture, that goodness and mercy and love – may have started with a small few, but throughout scripture that circle continues to grow. Wider and wider. That extension of grace and love cannot be contained in small places and in small groups. That joy of God’s love rushes down the mountain moments of our lives and pulls us along for the ride.

Where we come down those mountains of our lives to share in this goodness and truth with everyone and all people no matter who they are or what they are like. God rushes down the mountain in love to say even to that person who feels pushed to the side by their culture, family, community, their church and says, “I’m here for you. Perhaps even you especially.”

Throughout this season of Epiphany our readings have centered on God being made known to those around them and being made known to each of us. Those ways that God is made known shatter our world views and expand us to live into the call of God’s love. That way of being made known is culminated in this reading as Jesus literally glows with God’s love and spirit.

There is the temptation to hold on to that knowledge to ourselves. But we cannot. We must share and speak and act. We are compelled to rush down the mountainside and share God’s love and radical welcome, healing, and hospitality to all we know and see.

We are rushed into Lent with this joy. We are pulled through this love by God so that all might know this closeness and presence.

I don’t quite get the transfiguration, there are moments when I too want to speak like Peter and just dwell in those holy moments. But, God calls us to quiet and listen to Jesus. And what does he do? He goes down the mountain; he heals, shares, and loves. Everyone. Always. Let’s follow him. Amen.




March 1, 2019, 8:00 AM

March 2019 Newsletter


Grace and peace to you all! A wet February is over, and we move into the month of March. Here’s hoping that dryer, warmer, and sunnier forecasts are in our future. I don’t know about y’all, but if I take one wrong step in my yard, there’s a good chance I’ll lose a shoe.

As we move into March, we also move into the season of Lent. For me, Lent is always a really special time. I really do love this season. I enjoy the contemplative nature of it, I look forward to seeing where God is leading me in my life, and I also seek to find those ways in which I’m resistant to God’s call and to adjust to God’s love, grace, and invitation – even if it makes me uncomfortable.

That uncomfortableness – that call to live life in this radical welcome, love, and grace – is a call to growth in our lives of faith. It is in those moments that we see God at work, beckoning us and walking alongside us, to join in the life that has been gifted and prepared for us by God. The season of Lent gives us an opportunity to be witness to that life, to be closer to that call, and to live into that invitation. So, I invite and challenge y’all this season of Lent to see where you can ‘join in’ that invitation to be uncomfortable in God’s love and grace.

Could it be reaching out to an individual that is ‘prickly’ and sharing God’s love with them? Could it be stepping up and speaking out for those in need within our community? Could it be listening to the stories and lives of those who are pushed to the side so often in our culture? Could it be entering into intentional pray for our community of faith and one another through our 100 Days of Prayer initiative? Could it be something else that God is calling, beckoning, and walking alongside you in?

This season of Lent be in prayer and discernment of where God is leading you to live into the radical love, grace, and welcome that all of creation is invited into. This five-week season gives us ample opportunity to ‘lean in’ to what God is calling us to do and to be in the life of the world. Where is God leading you to love and serve in the kingdom of God?




February 25, 2019, 8:00 AM

the one about abundance...


No sermon for Sunday morning on February 24th, but this is the sermon I preached for our Service of Thanksgiving and Blessing that evening. A service in which we gave thanks to God for the Lutheran Church of The Redeemer Endowment Fund for Mission.

Texts: Deuteronomy 26:1-11, 2 Corinthians 9:6-16, Matthew 13:3-9

Grace and peace to each of you this evening in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, I’ll be perfectly honest, this is a weird sermon to write and to preach. You’d think it’d be easy, just write about God’s love and generosity! But, there’s a fine line between giving thanks for God’s abundance and also sounding pretty ‘braggy’ when that abundance is handed over to you. This isn’t an easy thing to do, and I think it mostly comes down to the fact that for the last year, I and many others in this community have asked the following question when we received word of this financial gift given in memory of Carl and Dot Amick to be used at the church however Redeemer saw best fit our collective ministry; the question of “why us?”

Seriously, why us? What makes this community of faith any different than the other churches here? There are countless other Lutheran congregations here. In fact, I like to joke that there are more Lutherans than people in Newberry. That’s not even mentioning the other numerous traditions of the church that reside in this community. So, what makes us stand out? There is so much good that occurs in Newberry that is facilitated by the faith community, that it at times is hard to see what exactly is it that has set us ‘a part’ to have received this generous gift.

As I pondered that, I thought about the history of this church, and specifically the history – that we know – pertaining to Legrand when he was coming here regularly. From what I know, Legrand had a particular way of approaching things, from a young age and throughout his life he was just a bit different. I’ve had numerous conversations with folks who grew up with him and they’ve attested to that. In conversations with his sister, Gail, she acknowledged that too.

And here’s the thing I know when people are just a bit different from others around them; they typically aren’t treated very well. If you don’t happen to fit the general ‘mold’ of what the culture thinks is right or complete, you usually get pushed to the side. Apparently, that happened with Legrand as he was growing up.

Yet, from what he told his friends, who have in turn told us – in spite of the pain he may have received as a result of people outside these walls – inside this space was a place of comfort, safety, and love. It was here that he saw God’s work at hand in the life of the people around him.

It is here that he saw his parents faithfully devoted to God and their community to bring wholeness, welcome, and love to people in need. This place was also a place of welcome for him and others – and it continues to be. Throughout our history, we’ve stumbled and bumbled at times (as all faithful communities have) in that welcome, but on the whole, this is a congregation that continues to strive into that radical welcome that Jesus invites us into.

I think it speaks volumes of God’s goodness and presence in this place that a man who hadn’t set foot in this place in a number of years, was still able to remember that welcome and that love – that love shown to him and shown to others through this community and especially through his parents. He remembered and wanted that legacy to continue for others. No matter what may have transpired in that life, that remembrance of love, welcome, and acceptance is something that was held on to and something that continues to be lived out in this place.

So, why us? I’m still not sure, but I don’t think it solely ‘us’ that makes this community one of welcome but, instead it is God’s love that is shown and lived out in this place. That love that is shown and lived out through the people who continue to be a part of this community of faith; the ones who continue to strive and struggle to live into this life that our Lord Jesus has called us into. People that are like Carl and Dot – two folks that I’ve heard countless stories about – stories that show and tell of God’s love through them to others.

And in that knowledge, I look to our readings that we have before us this evening, because it is in that knowledge – that God’s love is shown and lived out in this place – that God is up to something here – that can lead us from the questions of ‘why us?’ and ‘how can this be’ and into questions of ‘what’s next?’ or ‘how can we faithfully use what we’ve received?’

In any time that you transition from the ‘why us’ to the ‘what’s next’ there are moments of praise and thanksgiving. Praise and thanksgiving given to God who is behind all of this and all of us. The one who has come down to be with us, the one who walks with us and guides us, the one who pushes and pulls us to see faith at work in the world, the one who calls us to see life, hope, and light in a world that at times seems so dark.

We give thanks to God for this gift – and it is a significant gift at that. We give thanks for abundance that is shared so that others might be helped and cared for. We give thanks, because God is indeed active and present in this place. That God continues to dive into the murkiness of our lives, hold us tight, remind us that we are not alone, that we are indeed full of worth and love, and in that knowledge of comfort and love pushes and sends us out to proclaim this radical welcome to a world in desperate need to hear it.

We give thanks for what God continues to do and for what God calls us into.

That’s why we are here this evening to give thanks and praise because of what God has done, is doing, and will do through this place. We are here to give thanks for God’s active love shown through this community for not only Newberry, but for South Carolina, the country, and the world.

And a part of that love shown through each of us – God’s work through our hands – is the ability and the call (and the willingness) to be generous in our gifts. To use what God has blessed us with – our time and talents for sure – but even also that abundance of wealth that we have – to be used and shared with all.

Paul talks to the people of Corinth and tells them about the church ‘back home.’ He invites them to give generously what God has made available in their lives. That their gifts will be used to support those who have supported them in their formation. That those who are given to have been in constant prayer that God’s love and grace and presence might be made known in the lives of those who live in Corinth.

Paul is asking the Corinthians to give to those that they do not know, simply because they are a part of them, and all are striving and working together.

This gift will enable to do that us well. St. Paul is known for saying that following the faith of Jesus is foolish to those who do not understand. And when you’re given a huge financial gift most look at you oddly when you tell them that you’re going to give – essentially – 90% of it away. It doesn’t make sense. You don’t hear of mega lotto winners doing that. You don’t see millionaires and billionaires doing that.

Yet, the first thing that the leadership wanted to do with this fund – to be thankful for God’s abundance and then to make sure that it is used – as much of it as possible – to the betterment and richness of those outside this place. That is commendable and I am still incredibly humbled as the pastor in this place that we followed through with that. This fund is set up to be given away – to help those in need, to begin new ministries, to help facilitate the mission work of God and God’s people for years and decades to come. I have been amazed at the ideas I’ve already heard from folks in this place and outside in how this money could potentially be used. Y’all have amazing and gifted minds for ministry and service. I cannot wait to see what ministries are able to take shape because of this fund that we bless and set a part today. It truly is indescribable what God has done and continues to do.

Finally, as we ponder and answer that question of ‘why us’ we remember that this is God’s doing. God is at the helm of this endeavor and we are truly along for the ride. I think of the parable of the sower that we read from Matthew’s gospel this evening and the first thing that I’m told by those who know a thing or two about growing and farming (because I know less than nothing) is that what Jesus describes is ludicrous. It doesn’t make sense. It is irrational and even wasteful how the sower in this parable just throws out seeds wherever he is. Not caring a bit where that seed might land. It isn’t planned, it isn’t thought out; it’s just done.

My response to that is usually, “Yep, and isn’t it great that that is what Jesus is saying about God’s love?” That God lavishly, foolishly, and determinedly loves and shares and spreads this life and grace to all. Not one place is kept from hearing and receiving. Not one place is sidestepped or around. God as that sower is just out there loving and blessing everyone – no matter what.

Nothing is held back.

Our response to that foolish abundance of love and grace is to first be thankful and then to respond in kind. Where we too love in abundance, serve without abandon, and cultivate God’s grace wherever we can. We follow what our Lord has called us into.

So, it is mind-boggling that the Community of Faith here at The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer has received this abundance. We are incredibly thankful for what God has done, is doing, and continues to do in this place. We walk together with God and with one another, living into that foolish sharing of abundance so that God’s Word and love might be known in places, in people, and in ways we might never expect and cannot even think of at this time. But, God has called us to be there – living into this life of faith for all and with all.

Amen. It’s going to be fun. Amen.

 

 




February 18, 2019, 8:00 AM

the one about blessings and woes...



Sermon from February 17, 2019

Text: Luke 6:17-26

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, the first thing I noticed with this text is that Jesus is speaking in a level place. As I pondered that and read around about it, it got me thinking. I and we continually talk about our God who has come down to be with us. Our God made known in Jesus who is the Christ isn’t sitting on some lofty throne overlooking creation. Jesus doesn’t place himself (especially in Luke’s Gospel) in situations where others have to ‘come to him.’ He goes down and walks with those to whom he is called to serve (everyone). When you think about where Jesus has intentionally positioned himself to preach this sermon, the message he shares becomes even more impactful and intentional.

All the people crowd around him and seek to be healed – and they are. The healing spirit within him and around him is so powerful that it seemed to just leap out of him as people gathered around. Jesus isn’t even asking or expecting the people to come before him in an orderly line waiting to be healed by this man and prophet of God. No, Jesus is among the throngs of people pushing in and around.

In that moment and space is where Jesus speaks this sermon. It is in that level space on that plain that Jesus speaks about blessings and woes. And for me, where this sermon takes place as a whole new dimension on what Jesus might be getting at.

Jesus gives blessings to those who I am sure do not feel very blessed. And more likely have been told that they are not blessed by the community around them. How could they be blessed? They are poor, hungry, and in mourning? Who would feel blessed in those situations? Seriously.

If you heard that people were coming to seek help at Redeemer and I was turning them away with a simple word of, “Be blessed.” You’d probably think I was a big jerk. The news that comes out occasionally of ‘upstanding’ and faithful individuals who eat a gloriously abundant meal at a restaurant and leave a ‘tip’ of ‘Know your blessings are from God!’ can incite a rage deep within us. I know it does in me. I get so incredibly frustrated when I hear and read of those stories. Because, it isn’t right. We know it isn’t right.

However, I don’t think Jesus is doing that right here. He is indeed giving blessing to people who feel that they have no blessing and who have been told that they are not blessed. The blessing he shares with them is that God is never and has never been apart from them. That is God’s blessing – presence and closeness. A reminder that yes, even God is close to them.

But, if you look around today, people think so many things are blessings. Got to work on time today in spite of the gnarl of traffic because of an accident; #blessed. I was able to get the Grande coffee because I found $5 in my jacket pocket I forgot was there; #blessed. I survived a stressful week of working, so I rewarded myself with this scrumptious meal, delicious drink, and group of friends; #blessed.

I don’t think any of those moments are really blessings. Not in the way that Jesus would tell us. Those moments, though nice I suppose, are not blessings because they are pretty selfish. And most of the ‘blessings’ I see posted on social media seem to be in that way as well. Where blessings are more concerned about what’s good for ‘me’ than it is about God’s action and presence in my life and in the life of the world.

As Jesus speaks to those who are poor, hungry, and mourning – he is saying to them – God has not abandoned you. God listens to you. God is working and inviting you and others into a life that will lift you up and bring others down to a level place. A level plane where there is abundance, and fullness, and community.

Where entry into that space and life isn’t determined by what you ‘have’ or who you know or where you ‘started’ from. But, that plane space is a place of radical welcome, forgiveness, abundance, community, mercy, acceptance, and love. A place that is open to all, especially the ones that have been told that they don’t have a blessing from God.

That is a blessing worth hearing and sharing. But, Jesus doesn’t stop there. What he continues to say is that part that makes me – makes us – uneasy.

Woe to those who are rich, have their fill, and laugh now.

If we are being honest with ourselves, we are more likely to find ourselves in that group than in the other. Simply by the fact that we have food on our tables, we have jobs, and we have the freedom to celebrate and gather at most times.

Now, none of those things are bad. I want that to be clear. Having things and time and food isn’t bad at all. It isn’t.

But, when we look back at those things, the ones ‘thought’ to be blessings in our lives, we can begin to see why Jesus throws woes upon those in similar situations and mindsets.

Woe to the one who is so concerned of themselves in spite of the needs literally around them. Accidents can happen (and usually do) because we are more concerned with ourselves than we are with others. Where we rush to ‘get there first’ or are preoccupied with ourselves that we don’t notice the ones around us, or we don’t care. We cut off, we swerve, we make sure that we are ‘cared’ for before others. In those moments – accidents happen. Sometimes tragically.

Woe to the one who finds forgotten abundance and uses it to upsize the things they have. What would it look like if when those moments happen in our lives where we find money we’d forgotten about and instead of thinking, ‘wow, I can get THIS now!’ we instead looked at it in a way that said, ‘I’m truly thankful for what I have, where can I share this with others who might need it more than me?’ That’s a tough one for sure, and one that I fail at more often than not in my life.

That final #blessing I mentioned before is one we find ourselves in a lot. And those things are OK, but what about living into the life of faith caring for those in deliberate, meaningful, and impactful ways that help those who don’t have that luxury and freedom? Using that ‘free time’ to volunteer, to help, to serve – perhaps reading at a school, gathering folks to care for creation, standing up for and speaking in support of those who are tossed to the side in life and culture?

Where in our lives – as those with abundance, food, and time – can we be in that level plane and space? Where instead of looking down in pity (or even up in envy) we look around us and see God at work in the lives of those beside us? Where we see God moving us to care and love and serve with and for those around us. Where we are pulled and pushed by the Spirit to share what we have in abundance with those who might need a little more. So that they too can live fully and share in the abundance that God has for all of creation.

All in all, as we come to that level plane as a faithful community, we look around, recognize, and remember that our God is the one who has come down to the level plane to be with us. That that blessing of God – of God’s literal presence – is shared with all. And that blessing does not come to us as a result of good fortune, nor is it withheld from us because of misfortune.

We remember that out of love and care and desire to draw all unto himself, Christ walks with us in the level plane so that we all might know God, and so that we all might know where God wants us to be and how God is calling us to live.

That in that blessing, we work and strive in our lives to see that level plane lived out for all. Where we give of ourselves, our abundance and more so that others might share in and know that they too are a part and welcomed into that level place.

That is the true blessing. The blessing of God’s presence that moves us to live life on the level plane with each person around us. Amen.




February 4, 2019, 8:00 AM

the one of great expectation...


Sermon from February 3, 2019

Text: Luke 4:21-30

 

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

So, last Sunday we talked a little about the WWJD movement – what would Jesus do. We heard that Jesus very plainly states who he is and what he would do as he read from Isaiah 61:1

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

That’s what Jesus would do for he stated that this prophecy was fulfilled in the people’s hearing that day – and Jesus still does all of that today.

But, this Sunday we hear and read the second part of that story and it takes a drastic turn. You might say, that another thing that Jesus would do, would be to say things that make the people that watched him grow up want to hurl him over a cliff.

The people (perhaps even rightly) get really upset with Jesus because of what he says. They’ve heard all about the things that he’s done outside their community – the community that helped raise him. They’ve heard the stories from around Galilee and Capernaum and I think they are a bit excited about what he could do here in his hometown. Perhaps even giving them the benefit of the doubt – a hometown discount you might say. I mean, is not this Joseph’s boy?

Whenever I read this part of Luke’s gospel, I always think of my friends and others who have small businesses or work in ‘cool’ places. They always tell me stories about others who want ‘free’ stuff from them. Oh, you started a business making quilts and patterns? Think you can make me one on the side? Oh, you opened up a salon? Maybe I can drop by and you give me a new style *wink*. You’re working for a video game company, perhaps you can throw me a few games from time to time. I mean, we did grow up together, we’ve been through some things you know!

Now, everyone gets perks from time to time, heck the reason I’m so in love with video games is that one of my friends gives me stuff from Gamestop; it’s a lot of fun.

However, I make a point not to expect or ask for free stuff from my friends, and I’m more than happy to compensate them fairly for their work. I’ve heard from a lot of folks with small businesses that one of the biggest frustrations from running your own business are those who expect a ‘deal’ because they know you. Many people do not understand the time and commitment needed to create or develop that ‘thing’ they want.

I get the feeling this morning, that Jesus might be hearing a bit of that from the community he grew up in. If he did that stuff for people he didn’t know, imagine what he can do here? We deserve this. We’re his friends, we’ve known him for a long time, we know stuff about him. He’ll surely cut us a deal, give us his undivided attention and his best work and since he knows us, we might not have to ‘do’ what the others probably did. We’re a step above them, right?

Now, of course the text doesn’t say that, but you can imagine it right? It’s possibly why Jesus quotes the ol’ saying that a prophet isn’t ever accepted in his hometown.

One, they ‘know’ who that person was and two, they expect a lot.

So, Jesus dives into a story after hearing the murmurings and loud whispers of what ‘his’ community expects of him.

There were a lot of widows in Israel during Elijah’s time, but where did he go? Not to them – but instead he went to the widow at Zarephath in Sidon. Far away from them. There were many who were sick with leprosy in Israel, but none of them were cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.

Jesus boldly states to the community that he grew up in – it is not all about you. It really never has been. God’s goodness and grace is extended far beyond what even you consider ‘wide.’ Jesus’ ministry and life are not to be simply contained among a select and exclusive few. His call and life are to reach to even more individuals, to help bring God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love to those many would never expect.

And when you tell someone they aren’t your ‘focus’ right now or that they have work somewhere else that needs to be attended to or that you can’t give them that ‘thing’ for free – what can happen? People lose their mind.

I cannot believe she would treat me that way! How dare she not give me a free photo shoot, we’ve known each other forever! How inconsiderate that they can’t bake my wedding cake – I invited them to the wedding for crying out loud! What do you mean you can’t slide me some food across the counter? Man, we go way back!

Jesus says some not ‘great’ things to the people, he definitely seemed to push up against (and possibly over) that edge pretty firmly and the people are driven into a rage. A rage so hot that they drive him to the cliffside and are preparing to toss him over.

That got me thinking. In spite of that rage – Jesus still loved them. In spite of that anger, Jesus still proclaimed to the God’s good news of life, mercy, acceptance, and forgiveness. In spite of this moment, Jesus’ ministry continues.

Jesus was and continues to live into the most misplaced text in all of scripture – First Corinthians 13. Many weddings include this text, even though it isn’t about the love between spouses at all. Blame our terribly limited English language that only has one word for ‘love.’

St. Paul is telling the church in Corinth about God’s love for them. And sure, we are to model that love and live into that love for others, but truthfully, we will fail more often than not.

But, Jesus in our gospel lesson today and throughout the gospels themselves lives into and practices this sort of love that is patient and kind, not envious or boastful, doesn’t insist on its own way, not irritable or resentful, does not rejoice in wrongdoings. But, rejoices in the truth – always. It endures all things.

Of course, this isn’t a love that sweeps bad things under the carpet, but it is a sort of love that endures in spite of those terrible things we do. It is a love that continually reaches out to us to show us a better way even when that way drives people raging with anger – anger enough to kill you – anger enough to succeed in ending your life. As Jesus’ will be ended because of that anger – an anger directly related to how he lived, what he said, and who he spoke to and interacted with.

And you know what? Jesus calls us into that service and love as well. He really does. Jesus calls us into a life of faith that reaches out to those outside the typical ‘communities’ we surround ourselves with. Jesus’ call pushes us to the edge and the fringe of life and culture to proclaim God’s love to all. Sometimes – a lot of times – perhaps even most times – that proclamation, service, and life will step on toes; lots of them.

That those in traditional seats of power will be angry at you because of the words you speak and the life you share. All because you’re following the model of the one who went before us and who draws us all – all of creation – into himself to show that love for the world.

And as you do that? When you might not think you have the words, the strength, the ability? God is with you just as God was with Jeremiah, dipping into your life – being poured into you in baptism, being fed into your very being through this meal, wrapping Godself around you as you read scripture, and serve with others, and live into the promises and faith that God has in you. For even though you might not think you possess the gifts and skills to do what you feel called to do, God is there with you to guide you along the way.

Guiding you and calling you to live into the sort of love that God has for you – that love that endures through all things. And we will still fail and fall short in living into that love, but we remember that God is able to love us perfectly, completely, and fully. That in spite of our failings and sin and sidetracks – we are loved so that we can continue to live into that love for each person around us. No matter who they are. No matter where they come from. No matter how they speak, or dress, or act. No matter if they want to hurl you over a cliff because you proclaim the message of Jesus that extends to those that many wouldn’t expect.

God calls us to endure in that love and God’s love endures for us through all of it – even when we cannot. Amen.

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February 1, 2019, 8:00 AM

February 2019 Newsletter Article


Grace and peace to you this day!

January has flown by hasn’t it? Hopefully (prayerfully) the weather will do two things this month, be warmer and dryer. Let’s have that water in places that really and truly need it.

This month, we get to celebrate God’s goodness and abundance on February 24 at 5pm. We will worship together as we give thanks to God for the abundance given to us last year with the financial gift offered to the congregation by Legrand Amick, Jr. in honor of God and in memory of his parents Dot and Carl. This will be a wonderful time to celebrate God’s goodness, acknowledge those who have worked so hard this past year in faithfully receiving and using this gift, lifting up those whose ministries have already been greatly impacted, and praying about what the future and the future ministries that will unfold because of this opportunity.

I think it is going to be a great time!

This gift doesn’t change who we are, but I feel that it allows us to pursue opportunities that we never would’ve been able to think about before. This abundance from God allows us to dive deeper into what we already do, and to continually give thanks for what God has already done, continues to do, and will do in the life of The Lutheran Church of The Redeemer. It is a wonderful cause for us to celebrate.

Even as we celebrate this gift, we still celebrate the good work and ministry that this congregation and community of faith have always done and continue to live into. Things like the prayer card group, and the knitters. The folks that gather at White Oak every month. Those who visit the homebound. The ones who volunteer at Manna House. The folks who offer their time and skill to tell stories and lead classes during Sunday School for people of all ages here in this place. The little things that go unnoticed in our community as people offer prayer, food, help, and time to those within and outside this small part of God’s kingdom to those in need.

Redeemer is a place that continually reaches out, digs deep, and lives into what God calls us to do as part of the faithful. I’ve seen that at work so many times throughout my (almost) four years here as your pastor. To say I’m humbled and proud of y’all is an understatement.

Thanks for being you. Thanks for living, striving in, and walking this odd and wondrous call as God’s people to the world. Amen.




January 28, 2019, 12:00 AM

the one where Jesus says what he'll do...


Sermon from January 27, 2019

Text: Luke 4:14-21, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

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, there have been so many interpretations of who Jesus is and was and continues to be. There are some who think of him solely as a really good guy, some as a radical disturber of order, some as a simple messianic Jew. In line with our desire to ‘know’ Jesus more fully, the idea of the WWJD movement began. But, if you didn’t know, that phrase and terminology has been around since the late 1800s. It was emphasized in a novel by Charles Sheldon in 1896.

In the last few years, the interpretation of ‘What would Jesus do’ has gone through some pretty interesting leaps. It seems every loud voice, political individual, and more wants to tell you what Jesus would do, and what they think Jesus would do just so happens to align with what they want to do. This can be a bit sticky and lead to some pretty incredible things (and incredible in the ways that I don’t believe are good).

As we have talked and read and learned from Jesus and what he says in our scriptures, we typically see a man who speaks in ways that require deep thought and concentration because what he says is told in parables. Radical parables that make us think about the world and our preconceptions of the world and how we live in it, but at times confusing parables none the less. It isn’t very often that we get to read from Jesus’ lips something that is clear, concise, and straight to the point.

What we read today that Jesus speaks is not confusing. It is pretty clear. He reads from the scroll of Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1 to be exact) and then he sits down and matter-of-factly states, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus essentially says, ‘Isaiah is talking about me. That and this is who I am.’

This year we are going to be going through a Visioning process to discern who we are as The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. What our passions are, what our calling is, how we get to live out our faith and service to those around us. We get to discern – together – what makes Redeemer, Redeemer.

As we prepared for the leadup of this visioning process folks on council and in leadership here asked me what, ‘I thought’ about it. And, I’m excited about it. Mostly because it will help us identify who we are by what we are.

We – especially in organizations and communities – have a bad habit of telling people who we are by what we are not. In fact, if someone asked you, “Oh, what’s a Lutheran?” There is a very good chance that a typical response would be, “Well, it’s sort of like being Catholic, but not quite.”

Not that identifying as a Catholic is bad – it certainly isn’t – but, there is so much more to being who we are than just telling people who we are not. It would be as if people asked Jesus, ‘who are you?’ and his response would be, “well, I’m kind of like Moses, but not really like Moses.”

But, in this moment – Jesus’ beginning of his ministry – he states that who he is – what is fulfilled in him – is the one who brings good news to the poor, proclaims release to those who are captive, recovers the sight of the blind, and lets the oppressed go free.

That’s who Jesus is. And as we read throughout Luke’s Gospel, he lives into those words; fully and completely. Lifting up those who others have cast aside because they aren’t wealthy, or aren’t like others, or are pushed down and to the side by the majority. Jesus stands with those people. And in turn welcomes us all to see one another as full and complete in the sight of God. Calling those who have an abundance – wealth, life, food, and more – to care for those who are without so they too can live fully and whole. Then they too can share God’s love with those around them as well.

Jesus brings all to equal level – which means some are brought up, and others (in the eyes of the world) are brought down. Where no one is ‘more important’ than the other.

We see that explained more fully in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians as he explains to that community of faith that we are all one body in Christ. We can’t all be one thing, we can’t shun one aspect of the community away, just as a body cannot be a single entity or cast and cut off one part. When one part of our body hurts, the rest of our body knows it. Paul calls us to live into our community of faith in the same way. When one part of the community is hurting, the rest know it and provide care to that one.

And our community is not just limited to those gathered within these walls, but our community includes all those who are loved and chosen by God – everyone. All people. We listen, we care, we serve with and for, we act to bring about and share God’s love and mercy with them all.

We work in conjunction and unison with one another to bring about God’s glory, love, mercy, and forgiveness to the world. We see that evident in the story of God’s people as told in Nehemiah as they fall down in worship as God’s book is read, and after that moment they are sent to share what they have with those who have nothing and to rejoice in God’s goodness shown to them and the world.

So, what would Jesus do? How do we live into what Jesus would do?

This part of Luke’s gospel gives a pretty good and clear insight to who Jesus is and what Jesus would do.

Bring good news to the poor. Proclaim release to the captives. Recover the sight of the blind. Let the oppressed go free.

That is fulfilled in Jesus.

Jesus calls us into that ministry as well through his life, death, and resurrection. As we discern this coming year on who and what we are as a people and community of faith, let us see how we too can live into and participate in Jesus’ ministry as we bring good news, release those who are captive, recover the sight of the blind, and let the oppressed go free.

That’s what Jesus said he would do, let’s join in with Jesus and bring God’s glory to forefront of our community and world. Amen.




January 21, 2019, 12:00 AM

the one about the water at Cana...


Sermon from January 20, 2019

Text: John 2:1-11

 

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

So, last week we remembered and celebrated the baptism of our Lord Jesus. In conjunction with that celebration we also remembered our own baptisms. Between our services last week I was blessed and honored to talk with some of our youngest members about what baptism is. The physical parts of it.

Water, oil, touch, holding, praying, speaking.

As I talked, I invited the kids to put their hands in the font and play with the water. Just so you know. If you give a kid permission to play in water, they’re going to do it. So, about 6 pairs of hands dived and splashed around. And the thing that happened in that water reminded me a bit – well a lot actually – about our gospel reading and the sign Jesus performs that we read about today.

You see, when they put their hands in the water it umm… how should I say this nicely… turned pretty gross. It got dirty. All the crumbs from eating, the saliva from having fingers in mouths, the stuff from runny noses – it all went in there. It was enough to make anyone go, “Eww…”

It got me thinking about baptism and the life of faith. For water never stays truly clean in a setting like that. Water that sits there for human use – in almost any way – is going to get murky because it is being interacted with. It’s why we take so much care with making sure that the water we drink and play in is clean. Dirty water is never fun.

So, that image of the dirty baptismal water got me thinking when I read this story again about Jesus’ sign of water turning into wine at the wedding in Cana.

Now, when I’ve thought about those stone jars before – the ones used for ritual cleaning. I think I’ve always thought of them like a big ol’ Gatorade jug at a football game or a big tea urn at a restaurant. You know, a large holder of liquid, but with a little spicket at the bottom. Something that you can start and stop the flow of water, and the water that is used ‘first’ is the water that is closest to the opening. Make sense, right? That’s how we’d do it today.

But, then, I had to remember. This story didn’t occur today. So, there’s a very good chance that there was no ‘spout’ at the bottom of the massive stone jugs that the servants filled with water. More than likely there was just a big opening at the top. Easy to pour in water, really easy to wash your hands and arms.

And that got me thinking again.  When using water that way to wash your hands and arms; that water is not going to stay clean. It’s going to get murky, filled with dirt, oil, and who knows what else. It’s not going to look pretty at all.

So, Jesus tells the disciples to take those stone jars used for cleaning and fill it to the brim. Ok…

Now, ladle some water out of those jars and give it to the head steward… Uhh…wait…ok?

Imagine Jesus today doing something similar. He tells some workers to fill up the big water tanks on trucks that say, “NOT POTABLE WATER.” Which in English is a pretty universal sign of – DO NOT DRINK. Fill that container up, now get some water out of it and give it to the wedding director.

Wait? What? Are you sure? Really? Is that really what you/he wants us to do?

I thought about that potential reaction and the baptismal font of kids happily splashing in the water and realized that Jesus requires two huge things in most if not all of his miraculous signs.

Trust and other people are involved.

Think about it. The signs that Jesus uses to point to his and God’s glory require a lot of trust.

We’ve run out of wine. Alright, ladle some of that murky water and give it to the head steward.

We don’t have any food. Alright, let’s use this boy’s personal lunch that he’s willing to share to feed these more than 5000 people.

I can’t see. Alright, let me spit into the ground and make mud and rub it on your eyes.

My brother has died and has been dead for four days. Alright, roll that stone away.

In each of those future signs to who and what Jesus is – there was a pause – whether stated clearly or implied – about whether or not one should go along with the preposterous request.

Yet, each person trusted in who Jesus was and what he was saying and went through with what he asked. All were witness to God’s glory shone in and through him and those signs.

Today, we live in a pretty skeptical society. We question what people tell us, we question what news reports we receive, we question the stories that we hear. A lot of time – it is good to bring a healthy dose of skepticism with us. It can protect us, keep us from being misled, prevent us from being taken advantage of. You should definitely be skeptical of that supposed royal descendent who wants to give you their fortune if only you’d give them a ‘measly’ sum of thousands of dollars.

But, that skepticism can also keep us from living into the life that Jesus calls us into and the Holy Spirit guides and leads us through. Living into the life that Jesus calls us into requires a lot of faith and trust. Believing in the goodness of others, trusting in God’s goodness through others, trusting that God is at work even in the midst of struggle, having faith that what God says about you is true – that you are loved and full of worth, living life in a way that seems counter to what the world loudly shouts about, not holding on to stereotypes that keeps people at an arm’s length away.

When we are able to live into the trust – even amidst our own skepticism – we at times can be witness to God’s immense glory and love. Where new relationships develop, where our devotion and love are strengthened in others, where we can see God’s work at hand in others and even through ourselves.

Some might squirm at the idea of kids ‘splashing’ in the baptismal font, but perhaps that is God’s way of working into those kid’s life to bring about joy, love, and understanding of the sacraments and God’s love for them. Helping them to trust in God’s promise poured into and onto them in their baptism, so that they can continue to live into the life that God has created them for and share that love with all those around them. All knowing that this life of faith can have fun and joy in it. All because they were able to splash in the waters of baptism.

That other part of Jesus’ sign is pretty important too. Jesus brings others into his ministry and life. As others trust him, he gives them action to live into. Get this water and give it. Roll away that stone. Go and wash the mud I just placed in your eyes. Pass this food out to those around you.

Jesus continually lives into and cultivates a new community. A community of trust and action. Calling each of us today to do the same. Trusting in God’s work in and through our hands for the life of the world. Our Lord invites us to be a part of a community of action, drawing others together so that we can all live out that trust and faith in the world.

At the end of each of those signs and miraculous deeds – Jesus’ light and life is shown to the world and those present. Each of those signs result in an over-abundance of God’s love.

An immense and overflowing amount of the best wine the head steward ever had.

New life out of death in Lazarus walking out of the tomb.

Full stomachs from mere scraps for thousands of people.

Having sight restored to those who were blind.

What would it look like to trust into what God is calling us into today? Where might God be leading you that you’ve approached with skepticism? Where can we invite others and be a part of a more full and rich community of faith here at Redeemer in the life of Newberry? Where might God be leading us through all this for future ministry and service in the world?

You know what – the prospect of future ministry and God’s glory typically looks ridiculous when you first begin. It might look like dirty water in a bowl, but we have trust and faith that even in that water – perhaps especially in that water – God is at work and able to do marvelous things. We join with others as we form a more full, rich, and diverse community together; living into God’s trust, faith, and call to bring love, mercy, forgiveness, and joy to a world in desperate need to hear it.

That’s what Jesus’ signs point to. We still get to live into that mystery and abundance today. Amen!


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