In pm's words
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November 19, 2018, 8:00 AM

the one where we gather in...

Sermon from November 18, 2018

Text: Mark 13:1-8

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

So, whenever we get to these apocalyptic texts, they are usually the moments where I as a pastor, really wish I wasn’t a pastor. Why? Because more often than I care to admit, people want to know what this means, what does this text point to, is this the end of the world as we know? And should we feel fine?

The truth is – I don’t know. In seminary I wasn’t given a great big instruction book filled with all the answers. And, just so you know no one else has been given a book like that either. I’m always pretty skeptical of anyone, anyone, who proclaims that they have all the answers or they themselves are the answer to all the questions and problems facing our world today. Jesus even warns against those individuals in our reading today as well, we should probably keep that in mind.

As I read this text, I know many want to focus on the terribleness that Jesus describes. Many want to know how Jesus’ words are being lived out in our world today. With his talk of nation rising against nation (where the more accurate translation is probably people rising against people). Earthquakes, famines, and more. He goes on to talk to his disciples that they will be rounded up and brought before tribunals and councils, they’ll be treated harshly in places of worship all because of their proclamation and testimony to who Jesus is for the world. Where fathers will turn over sons, families will rise against one another, where there will be such awfulness in the world all because of Jesus and what calls his followers to proclaim and live into.

I think one of the dominant and prevailing thoughts in regard to this ‘potential’ atrocity is that the faithful Christian is called to sit back, relax (as much as you can), and watch it all unfold. To be safe in the knowledge that as a faithful person of God, you are going to be OK. Let the rest lose it and sort themselves out accordingly. Where there are those who would proclaim that as faithful people following the ways of Christ, we are to remove ourselves from this terrible world and just wait.

But, the more I think about it; the more I look at what Jesus proclaims to us throughout all the gospels; the more I read into the words of Paul and the prophets; the more I cannot help but think that Jesus has no intention of us removing ourselves from the world. Putting blinders on while the world screams in chaos around us. Jesus throughout his ministry and the ministry he calls us into today, wasn’t and hasn’t been about not noticing, ignoring, or turning away from ‘terribleness’ around us. Turning away from people in need.

In fact, as I read of these awful things, I look to what is sandwiched right in the middle, Jesus briefly states that these awful things are but, the beginnings of the birth pangs.

And that got me thinking. Birth, for the most part, has wonderful news at the end. New life awaits. New opportunities. Changed life. Changed views. Welcoming one into the world that needs to be cared for in order to survive.

But, even before we get to the outcome, labor still needs to be endured. There really isn’t any way around it.

There is preparation. There is a call to be calm. There is help to be had.

My colleagues and I talked about what would happen if we were out and about and someone yelled out, “I’M GOING INTO LABOR!” What would we do? Jokingly, some mentioned that they’d high-tail it and run. It’s stereotypically the thought that most men probably have. We’re confused, we don’t know what’s going on, it is so absolutely foreign to us, and it can be a bit messy (he said in the understatement of the year).

But, when pressed a bit, what would you really do?

The answer is simple – we’d probably help. Perhaps not getting down there and catching the baby, but providing space, calling for help, being present. Someone is giving labor. We’re going to help that one in need. We’re going to be there.

I like to believe that most people would be there for someone going through labor. I’d like to think that even if what comes may not be pleasant, happy, expected, or it doesn’t end up in the celebration of new life (which unfortunately many pregnancies do), that people will still gather to help. To care, to provide for the need that is around them.

Why? Because it is a vital, intimate, and incredible event. Yet, we are drawn to help and care for the one in need. It is one of the things that no matter who you are, where you come from, how you speak, we all share in common. We all come into the world the same way, and all our mothers endure that labor.

We gather around to care for the one in need.

We as faithful people of God are called to gather around when tragedy strikes. When turmoil and pain are experienced.

We see it as we hear of news of more mass shootings in our country. We see it in the devastation of natural disasters of wind, water, and fire upon our tv screens, phones, and monitors. When tragedy strikes, when there is a need to help, we don’t shirk and slink away. We dive in and help in the ways that we can. And I believe that God is calling us to continue to help, to invest in the lives of others, to be with those in their time of need.

This morning we hear Jesus speak in ways that can terrify us – it sure terrified the disciples as they heard this news and then pulled him aside to explain what he means a little more. What they heard probably didn’t comfort them all that much.

We have been in the midst of birth pangs since Jesus boldly marched to the cross and those around him continued to spread the Word and Truth of who he is – the Son of God, the messiah come down, the flesh incarnate, the love poured freely into all creation. What Jesus speaks to has already begun and has been a part of our very lives and the history of creation for over 2000 years.

Yet, when I hear these words proclaimed by our Lord, I don’t view it as a sign and a call to pull back, to turn away, to let ‘God be God’ as it were. Instead, I feel drawn to care, to proclaim, to continue to live into the love that God has brought into the world and that the Holy Spirit continues to guide me and all of creation through.

I call upon each of you – those gathered with us today, and those listening in on the radio now – to come and join into this radical movement of love, grace, and forgiveness that challenges so many cultural norms. The love that causes people to rise up, that can and at times does drive families and friends a part because it is so radical in its welcome and hospitality to those on the fringe, to those whom the world casts out and puts aside.

When you see someone going through the labor of birth pangs, we don’t run away scared, but we gather in and offer help. The church, the body of Christ, the world, all of creation has been experiencing birth pangs since God tore the heavens apart and became flesh into the world.

Let us all gather in, provide care, encouragement, guidance, love, and grace to a world in desperate need to hear of the good news that waits at the end, the good news of new life. The good news of forgiveness and welcome and love.

Gather in. Live out this love. Amen.

November 12, 2018, 12:00 AM

the one about giving...

Sermon from November 11, 2018

Text: Mark 12:38-44

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 is always an interesting text to read. And believe me, the subtlety (or lack of it) is not lost on me as this gospel reading is slated for the day that we have our annual meeting where we vote on our ministry spending plan for 2019 and vote for endowment fund by-laws. Let it be known that this is a happy coincidence and spirit led time.

But, the context in which this text is read, and how we get to hear it this day is not really the reason why I find this text interesting. It has more to do with the fact that as I read of this poor widow giving all that she has to the temple, I cannot help, but want to rush to her and get her to stop. Don’t do this. Save your money to care for yourself. If only you heard what Jesus was saying about those who participate in the authority of this place – how they aren’t really concerned with you and actively do things to devour your home and life. Don’t give all that you have!

That’s what I want to do. And frankly, I hope many would see the goodness and faithfulness of doing that as well. Jesus has just talked about the failings of those who are ‘well-off’ and in ‘control’ within this system. The temple system that is designed to care for those who don’t have the means to care fully for themselves. Part of the reason for that failing is that those who are in charge of caring for the poor and widows care more about how they look, how they speak, where they get to sit, and more. They care about themselves. In fact, the greatest sin they have is their apparent indifference to the care of the poor and widows. Their indifference is so strong that they don’t notice that their actions literally work against those who are in the most need.

So, all of that is rolling through my mind as I read of this woman giving all that she has to the temple. There are so many reasons for her not to give in order to care for herself.

But, then I stop. I pause. And I take a break from that to collect my thoughts and be in prayer. While I was doing that, I saw an absolute wonderful story shared by one of my friends and colleagues. His church as well as many, many congregations are going through budget voting and approval at this time. Calling many to pray over what they have given to their congregations and seeing if there are ways to up their giving or see their giving from a source of abundance.

So, the story that my friend shared was of an elderly man who wrote a note to his congregation’s finance team that was attached to his pledge card for the upcoming budget year. It is shared with permission and read as follows…

WARNING! To Finance Committee,

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ! Warning!! My health isn’t getting any better – might have to go to “Assisted living” my predicament is high. If that happens – I might have to cut even more; sorry, I managed $5.00 more dollars in my giving. Yours in Christ.

My colleagues, friends, and I that this was an amazing letter. And so incredibly faithful. Here is a man who explains his situation, apologizes for an unforeseen future, and then ups his pledge for the year. In so many ways, I want to approach this man the same way I want to approach the poor widow. Care for yourself, the church will be OK, and we will still be able to care for you.

But, it got me thinking, perhaps how I’ve been approaching this woman’s story has been misguided. Maybe, just perhaps she isn’t approaching her giving as the widow in Zarephath did – with apprehension and reluctance. Maybe she isn’t walking up to the offering box with thoughts of, “I know I should give, but how will I pay for food, my home, my clothes? If I give this, surely I’ll die.”

Maybe, much like the man at my friend’s church, she knows she doesn’t have a lot, but relishes in the lot she has to give. Perhaps she can look at the meager coins she has and think, “I have so much, I can give. And I am thankful to be able to give.”

I wonder if that is the perspective that Jesus wants us to see as she praises this woman’s faith. She gives all that she has. To the place she trusts and has faith in that will provide for not only her, but for others.

Then, I began to think about all those others who are cared for. For surely, she is not the only widow in this community. She is not the only person in need cared for by this community of faith. Now, not only could she be coming to give her offering in joy, but also thinking and caring for those around her. Knowing that even her gift – as meager as it is compared to the large sums thrown in – will be used to care for those in need.

We live in a world today that wants us to see and view our lives through a lens of scarcity. Where we don’t have enough. Where we won’t have enough. Where you need more in order to be a ‘good’ person, or ‘noticed,’ or ‘have value’ in the world today.

We live in a world that lifts up those like the scribes that Jesus talks about today. Where we are swayed and distracted by those who wear fancy clothes, drive nice cars, talk in ways that appeal to our base senses and tendencies and fears. We feel drawn to those who are powerful and those who flaunt that power. If we’re honest we can look and notice how much we ‘pine’ for the life of those who seem so ‘powerful’ and well off.

Yet, those moments distract and blind us to the needs of others. Where we are distracted by displays of power that don’t do anything to care for those in need around us or whose actions actively hurt the lives of those who are the ‘least of these’ in our community and society.

Jesus calls us to see our lives as full of abundance and worth. And in that abundance and worth to give what we have, to share it with those in need, to give all of our life so that others too might be able to live more fully and securely. Sure, it could be financial offerings, but that abundance we have could be in being with and sharing our other numerous gifts so that others might live life more fully.

Jesus doesn’t ever chastise those who give out of their abundance in our gospel reading this morning. All he acknowledges is the deep faith that this woman gives through. Perhaps calling us to see that she gives out of joy and hope, and asking us to do so like her.

I wonder too if Jesus is calling to us, speaking to us, and perhaps saying – live your life faithfully and in the knowledge that you indeed have so much – life, love, mercy, acceptance, forgiveness, opportunity – and in what you have so much of – give so that others might be cared for. Amen.

November 5, 2018, 8:00 AM

the one about all the saints...

Sermon from November 4, 2018 - All Saints Sunday

Text: John 11:32-44

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

So, I saw written this past week that this Sunday – this All Saints Sunday – is the one that is filled with the most tears. This is a day that is bathed in our tears. Our tears as we remember those who have died. Our tears that are shed in those wonderful memories that we hold so dear. Our tears that are shed as we feel that absence of those closest to us once more. Our tears that never leave us as we mourn parents, siblings, friends, and children.

Our tears couple with Jesus’ tears this morning as we read of our Lord who weeps. That is a powerful image to hold to our hearts. The one in whom we worship; the one who is the beginning and the end; the one who brings life from death – that one weeps with us.

For me, this has been a year with deaths I would never expect as I had two friends die this past summer. I attended both of their funerals and was witness and a participant in those shed and shared tears.

I’ve also been with you, I’ve humbly walked into those holy spaces and shed tears with you as you mourned the death of parents, spouses, and children.

I’ve seen the tears you’ve shed as you talked so lovingly of those who have entered the church triumphant. I’ve seen the tears that streak down as the thought of future moments will not come to pass.

I’ve seen the tears as you welcomed and received those who gathered with you. Who sent cards, who brought food, who sat with you in silence.

Those tears that come as a shock and a surprise, those tears with the question and statement in the back of our mind where we say, “Wow, they came to be with me today… thank you.”

For me, those are the tears we gather together with our Lord’s. Those are the tears that remind us of the Body of Christ and the community of faith in which we surround ourselves and live into.

In our gospel this morning, Jesus enters into one of those holy and somber moments. His friend Lazarus – the brother of Mary and Martha – has died. We don’t know how or why he died. We don’t know whether it was an accident out in the field or if he became untimely ill. The how doesn’t matter, what does matter is that community gathers to mourn with Mary and Martha and the rest of Lazarus’ family.

It seems as if the whole village comes to wail, weep, and beat their chests in despair and sadness at the death of this man. The cries ring out and the tears flow freely down glistening cheeks.

It is here that Jesus enters humbly into this holy space. This is the moment – surrounded by so much grief, sadness, and even a bit of anger – that Jesus shares in those tears and begins to weep as well.

Our Lord weeps with us. Our Lord weeps with us as we remember Ed, and Fred, and Legrand, and Madeline, and Margaret, and Craig, and Willene. Our God has come down to be with us, to have life with us, to show this overflowing and limitless love for us and all of creation.

Our God comes to weep with us. To mourn. To gather with us. To stand by us. To sit with us. Wail with us.

Our God comes to show the limitless love by sharing with us life and death.

Our Lord in his weeping, has come to wipe away those tears, not so that we forget the loss, forget the person, or just plain forget. Our Lord wipes away our tears because as Jesus enters into this holy space, he brings hope and new life.

Our tears are wiped away not to forget what has happened, but to point us to the joy that is to come and that which awaits us.

That time that in our remembrance we will shed new tears, not of sadness or loneliness or frustration. But, we will shed tears of joy, excitement, and shock.

When I am honored to lead a funeral service I see so many tears, but the tears that I cherish are the tears of joy and recognition when someone sees another and they share in that unspoken and never-ending love.

Where there sadness together mixes up with the thankfulness that they are there together. I see those tears at visitations and I see those tears after the funeral. When were all just standing around and sharing in stories and sharing in a meal.

In our first lesson we read of the prophecy of Isaiah, the future that is to come when God will gather all people upon that holy mountain. Where tears will be wiped away because death has been vanquished forever. And in that moment, we will sit down, and we will feast. We will feast with one another. Sharing stories of life and grace. Sharing stories of love and loss. Sharing stories of joy and celebration.

I don’t know about y’all that day, but I’m probably still going to cry. Not in sadness or mourning – for those tears will be wiped away because death will be no more – but, I believe I will shed tears of thankfulness and gratitude. Tears that express my love and joy for the kingdom of God and the Body of Christ in which we all get to be a part of. To see that community lived out fully and completely.

Tears will be shed that day. And I feel our Lord will share in those tears as well. Tears of gratitude, of hope, of grace, of mercy.

This day a lot of tears are shed – and that is OK. It is good for us to shed tears. This day we remember that our Lord sheds tears with us. Joining in our mourning. And with tears in our eyes, we look to the cross and the one who calls out – Lazarus – come out!

For in Christ, death has been swallowed up, death has lost its sting. Life is victorious and new life reigns this day and all days.

It is going to be a great feast, and I cannot wait to share it with you all my friends – my fellow saints past and present.

Tears will be shed that day, and I can’t wait to share them with you and our God. Amen.

November 1, 2018, 8:00 AM

November Newsletter Article

Grace and peace to each of you this wonderful day and month!

October was a month full of faith and goodness as we celebrated our 165th Homecoming Anniversary, Reformation Sunday, and so much more. As we enter into the month of November, I am constantly reminded by what I’m thankful for in this life.

We live in a world today that is constantly obsessed with social media and the # (hashtag #itisntjustforpoundsanymore). People put witty remarks following the # so that others can find similar posts. One of the most popular searches and posts is #blessed. People are posting their blessings all over the place. Good family? #blessed! Sports team won? #blessed! Inadvertently received a free meal at the restaurant? #blessed #nomnom.

Not that any of those are things are bad. But, the things that get ‘blessings’ attached to them are actually moments of thankfulness. I’m thankful for good health, a wonderful family, a faithful community, a good time with friends, a filling meal, and so much more. I’d be incredibly #thankful for another fantasy football win come to think of it.

It always gets me thinking… blessings are something pretty important. For me, blessings are reserved for those things that God has gifted to us out of sheer grace and mercy, not because the barista charged you for a Tall when you ordered a Venti.

I’ve been forgiven of my sins! #blessed! God works through me and others and is active in the world! #blessed! Received communion this morning and reminded of God’s presence in my life! #blessed!

When we attach ‘blessings’ to everything it might make us feel that we are only loved because of those good things. As Christians living life out through a Lutheran lens, we don’t see God’s goodness bestowed that way. God doesn’t show blessings through material things, but has gifted us new life through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. It is out of God’s sheer gift of grace – freely given to us – that is our ultimate blessing. And we always have that!

As we move into the month of November, I am so thankful to be a part of this community of faith here at Redeemer. It is truly a wonder and a joy to be a part of this life of faith with you. I’m thankful that we get to live out God’s #blessing of new and renewed life together. Amen.


October 29, 2018, 8:00 AM

the one on the reformation...

Sermon from October 28, 2018

Text: John 8:31-36 and Psalm 46

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’ve arrived at what I have jokingly referred to as the 1st Anniversary of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Last year we gathered with over 350 of our sisters and brothers in faith from churches and communities all across our area to celebrate and worship. We convened at Wiles Chapel on that chilly morning and had a wonderful time of worship and an incredibly full day of faith, fun, and fellowship.

As we came to this year’s Reformation, I had begun to think and even had been approached by others – not only from here at Redeemer, but out in the community as well – what can we do to make this year special too? How can we make this year ‘equal’ to last year’s great celebration?

First, I’ll be honest – in the grand scheme of things, we’re probably not going to equal last year’s celebration even if this is the 1st Anniversary of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. We won’t have as many people. Our day won’t be as full as last year (though I am anticipating our Conference Reformation Service at St. Paul later this afternoon will be well attended). Yet, we still have a great choir and wonderful friends to share this day with as the Newberry College Singers are with us to share their gifts as we all give praise and thanks to God’s good work and ministry continued to live out in the world. And no matter what, no matter how large or ‘smaller’ our worship is this day – God is present with us, Christ is calling to us, the Spirit is guiding us – always moving to reform our hearts and lives to God’s intent for the world.

As humanity, we always want to make things bigger and better. But, I wonder if that is the wrong approach to take. Does it really matter if things are bigger, more robust, or that we have the ability to kick it up to 11 every year? I’m not convinced that God cares about all that. From what I’ve read in scripture, God isn’t in the business of making extravagant flashes to get a point across.

Oh sure, the ministry and work that God is able to do through us, through the church active in the world, through the Body of Christ does make waves and can radically change our world and culture, but I don’t think that’s ever really been done because of a huge day of worship and celebration.

God is in the business of making small changes and nudges that drive the most impact into the world. God is in the business of declaring presence and love through intentional, but mostly small ways to make that presence and love known.

This past week, I was able to go to our SC Synods Rostered Leaders Convocation at Lutheridge. I gathered with colleagues and friends; pastors and deacons of this great synod and church. We laughed, we had fun, we learned, we worshipped, we studied the Bible. In fact, it was one of the most enlightening Bible studies I’ve ever been a part of in my life. It was taught and led by the Rev. Dr. Theresa Thames from Princeton University. She is a dynamic, grace-filled, and faithful individual who is full of wisdom and wit.

She led our bible study on 1 Peter and even though that text is 1) not the scheduled or assigned reading for this Sunday, 2) an incredibly difficult text to read, and 3) a text that has been wildly misused to support some of the most heinous institutions in this country and world. Yet, it is a text (and Bible Study) that I could not help, but think about Reformation Sunday throughout.

For in her Bible Study she helped us see God’s radical change and intentional resistance and subversiveness to established powers and institutions. Where the writer has intentionally written to those who are the most oppressed and undercut in the Roman society. Written to them to bring them life and hope. Written to them so that they might know that God is the center and power and sole authority of life.

The letter of 1 Peter is written to give hope to those who have no hope. To give life to those who have had life wrenched from them. To give space and honor to those who live in a society and structure where all of it is kept from them at every turn.

It is a letter that for me is reminiscent of our scheduled Psalm for this morning (which we did not read, but don’t worry… I’ll read it for you now [READ PSALM 46]).

This is a psalm that Luther himself would sing and recite when life would become difficult, unruly, and feeling like it was going in all the wrong ways. It is a psalm for us that we might use to hear and recite as we feel similar moments of ‘losing it’ like Luther did. A psalm that reminds us of God’s great power and authority. That even in the midst of chaos and upheaval – God is at work and is steadfast. That in the midst of uncertainty and doubt – God is the one that we can and still should seek for solace and comfort.

God is at work and present with us even as the country is gripped by fear because an individual has sent bombs to those who dissent and disagree with our current presidential administration. God is here even as a gunman walks into a Kroger and specifically fires at African-Americans. God is holding creation close and working to change hearts as another gunman walks into a Synagogue in Pittsburgh and opens fire, killing 11 individuals and injuring others.

Of course, living into that sort of faith does not mean that we just sit around and let ‘God be God.’ No, we still take active partnership in the life in which God has called us. We still work and strive for a life that Jeremiah visions. We still live with the Word of God centered in our lives and moving us through our actions to care, love, and be with those around us (even the ones we may have disagreements with) – so that all might be able to live into that same freedom and love as well that God bestows upon all of creation.

Reformation Sunday at its core reminds us that in the midst of change, in the midst of revolution, in the midst of the chaos of challenging the establishments before us – God is present with you. God is present with you as you strive to live into the life that God calls for. God is present with you and at work as you seek to love in the way that Christ calls us to love – to love and live freely and fully into the Word that has been written on our hearts. God is with you even when following that call to love and serve others disagree and act out violently.

Living into that Reformation and radical change because of God’s love will cause nations to roar and kingdoms to totter. Yet, this is the God that is present with us, our refuge and strength because God breaks the bow and shatters the spear.

The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge. Today might not be as robust and full of pageantry that last year was, but we continue to know that God is with us. God is here. Amen and Amen.

October 22, 2018, 8:00 AM

the one about being able...

Sermon from October 21, 2018

Text: Mark 10:35-45

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, in the summer of 2020 the South Carolina Synod will elect a new bishop at that year’s Synod Assembly. Bishops elections are always a little exciting. I’ve been a part of one bishop’s election while I served in Michigan, and it was definitely an interesting experience. The election process itself is very different from how we normally would assume an election is conducted.

There is no campaigning (at least not deliberate). No ads. No speeches leading up to the appointed time. Instead, names are essentially thrown into a hat and the people who get the most ‘votes’ proceed on to the next round.

As I went through that first bishop’s election, I noticed something. For me, anyone who said, “I want to be bishop.” Was someone that I was highly skeptical about. No one wants to be bishop unless they have an agenda of sorts. But, anyone who might’ve said, “I think I have skills and gifts to be in that position and I wouldn’t remove my name from consideration.” Was someone that piqued my interest. And, I definitely zoned in through conversations about people who said, “So-and-so is a wonderful pastor, a great listener, and who I think would help lead and serve this synod.”

I thought about this future bishop’s election and the one I was previously apart of as I read this passage from Mark’s gospel. I happen to think of a lot of leadership roles and elections in our world and culture as I read this small part of the gospel because I think that it not only provides a wonderful model for us to live out our lives as faithful followers of Jesus, but it also gives us a faithful model of how all leadership can be lived into through all facets of our culture.

As Jesus speaks to the brothers James and John, he points out that what they are doing is no different from what the Gentiles do. Seeking power. Striving for greatness over others. The world does this and we know it because they lord it over those whom they rule. The ones who do that Jesus is implying that they are not faithful rulers – not in the way that God has called us to be leaders.

Those are the ones who brag about their power and reach. The ones who exert that power with force. The ones who demand loyalty to them over everything and everyone else. Those are rulers and leaders to be very wary of because they view their leadership only from their perspective and not from how others receive it.

Jesus speaks to his disciples and to us that leadership in the kingdom of God – faithfully lived out in the world – is something very different from what we would expect. Where leadership is something that is served for others. Where leadership is concerned with the care and love for those around them.

As I’ve talked about these last few weeks, the disciples are still not able to ‘get’ what Jesus is laying out. They’ve continually heard Jesus say things like glory, anointed, and power and they continue to view that from the world’s perspective. We do that too through many aspects of our lives and world. But, they (and we) fail to realize – again and again – that living into the glory that Jesus proclaims – drinking from the same cup – being baptized into the same baptism – brings us opportunities to suffer and serve.

Not necessarily suffering that we are intentionally hurting ourselves. Whipping our backsides as some monks used to do as they walked the streets of their hometowns. But, being lifted in glory requires us to serve those around us. Being in glory in the world has people look up to you, but in the kingdom of God, people will look down because you’re intentionally placing yourself lower so that others’ needs might be served. We come to serve – we live to serve – we have faith to serve.

This life of faith calls us to look out for others before we lookout for ourselves. That’s what Jesus asks of us when we optimistically cry out, “We are able!” Just as James and John cried out – yet they still ran when the time came to think of others before themselves.

That’s the tricky part. That’s the part that keeps us from fully living into what God calls of us. And that happens to everyone – even your pastor. We get scared, we get anxious. We get leery of serving others, putting ourselves ‘out there’ that goes against what the world calls for. Mostly because we don’t think anyone is out there serving us as well.

We can become obstinate when we take leadership roles and we see that stubbornness run through those who are in power. I’ve got the authority to do this, why should I care to listen to those around me? As Mel Brooks said in, History of the World, Part I, ‘It’s good to be the king!’

So, we cry out – we are able, yet become shy and timid when the opportunity arises for us to live into our cry that we are able in our faith; in our proclamation of God’s love and kingdom.

The wonder that we receive in this reading this morning – is that Jesus knows this. I’m fully confident that as Jesus hears James and John say, “We are able!” He knows that they’ll fall. Yet, he still has faith in them. Eventually they’ll ‘get it.’ As the rest of the disciples will as well.

Not because they’ll do it on their own, but because the Spirit will be present with them. They won’t be alone. They’ll be fed, they’ll be led.

God is with us as well. We will cry out today and many days in the future, “We are able!” when we are called upon by God. Yet we will fall short. We’ll run, we’ll stay quiet, we will remain seated. It’ll happen. It happens to all of us.

Yet, God doesn’t stop working on us. Jesus doesn’t leave us out to dry. The Spirit doesn’t abandon us. We work together. We work with one another. We are not alone. We are fed. We are led.

We serve, and we are raised. We drink from the cup that Jesus drinks. We are baptized into his baptism. We are called and claimed by God. As leaders – as servant leaders in the kingdom of God at work today - we continue to proclaim that we are able – and with Christ – we are. Amen.

October 15, 2018, 12:00 AM

the one about letting go...

Sermon from October 14, 2018

Text: Mark 10:17-31

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

So, I want to get one thing out there first before we dive into our Gospel text this morning. Some of it may come as a relief to some and a shock to others. Jesus this morning is not, necessarily chastising those who are wealthy. He’s not. He doesn’t say here that wealth is bad. He doesn’t say that those who are rich cannot enter into the kingdom of God upon his return. Jesus doesn’t say any of that. In fact, Jesus speaks to this man (and the disciples) out of love. Not out of condemnation, not out of guilt, not out of any sense of ridicule. Jesus speaks and invites this man into a deeper life of faith out of pure love for him.

However, what Jesus does say – in that same love – is that those who are wealthy, who have many things, and who live by the world’s standard of ‘greatness’ will indeed find difficulty entering into the kingdom of God.

It appears that what Jesus is trying to say is that those who find value in how the world values life have great difficulty living into and living out God’s grace and love that is a part of being in the kingdom of God.

The wealthy man and Peter both believe that what they’ve done in the past and their current riches will outshine all others and distract Jesus from what they lack. For the wealthy man, what he lacks is giving and caring for those around him. What he lacks is knowing his salvation rests solely in God shown and brought to us through Jesus, not in the ‘things’ that he has. For he has many possessions and the absolute worst thing (and most difficult task) that Jesus could set before him is to give up all that he possesses in order to follow him.

A few years ago, I was able to talk to and help a gentleman who continually came to the church for help. For the most part, he was a good guy. He just wasn’t very good with his finances. We helped him out here and there, mostly with food and ice from the Family Life Center. After about the fourth time of him coming in, I sat him down and we had a heart-to-heart conversation.

He always dressed well, he was clean, and wore really good smelling cologne. His van was always neat, shiny, and so forth. I asked him, if he could afford all of these things, why was it difficult for him to buy food, gas, etc… for him to live off.

Well, he told me. He was indeed saving money as much as he could, but a lot of his funds were going to pay for a storage unit he had which was holding all his stuff before he could move into a facility for those 65 and older (he was eclipsing that age soon after this conversation he said). I asked him about what sort of things he was holding in this storage unit. He said, “Well, my stuff. Extra clothes, a few family heirlooms, some furniture, and a 75-inch plasma TV with an equally awesome sound system.”

“Wait. You’re coming to me and the church for help – and you’re literally holding onto a TV in a storage unit that cannot and does not (currently) entertain you at all? You need to sell that TV.”

“Pastor, I can’t do that, I love my shows!”

“I love TV too. But, you could probably sell that for a good sum of money, enough to hold you over until you get into that facility and then with some extra funds, buy a smaller TV so you can still enjoy your shows when you have a home to watch it in.

I don’t know whether he sold that TV and sound system, but he did (for one reason or another) stop coming around the church asking for help.

But, his story reminded me about the man Jesus speaks with in our reading this morning. For the man I talked to, his identity was wrapped up in that stuff. Without that ‘stuff’ who was he? There was a sense of pride and accomplishment (no matter how clouded it might have been) in possessing that large of a television set. I’m sure it was a good one. At that time, they really didn’t make truly ‘terrible’ 75+ inch TVs.

But, the mere thought of letting that item go stopped him cold. He was visibly shaken when I proposed the idea of selling it. How could I possibly think of that – there must be another way? In his attempt to ‘impress’ me and others with his possessions, he was the one distracted in his life. He couldn’t understand that letting that go would allow him to live more fully and freely in the life that God has gifted him. Where he could not only care for himself, but possibly care for others too.

Without the weight and distraction of an unplugged and unused television set, he could potentially follow Jesus that much more closely. Not that possessing the TV was bad, but it was the great millstone around his neck that prevented him seeing God’s value of him. For he believed (I’m almost certain) that his value was wrapped up in that thing and not in God’s love for him.

Much like the wealthy man prided himself not only in his possessions, but also in his ability to uphold the law. Without realizing that living into the law frees us to live and care for others by serving God more fully and deeply.

Peter too at times (not only in this passage, but more so in other places) loses sight of what Jesus is asking. What he lacks is the notion that God finds value in ways that the world does not. Even in the midst of his faithful discipleship, he still needs to let go of the world’s value system and live into the love and care that God already has for him and the world. A love that has begun at creation and isn’t influenced by how much stuff you have or what rules you’ve followed.

He indeed has given up so much. However, for as much as the disciples live into and follow Jesus (they left homes and families to do so) they are still blinded by the prospect of ‘blessings and worldly things’ to come to them because of their devotion to Jesus as his closest and foremost followers. They too fall into the trap that the world ensnares us in – that riches, wealth, and more follow those who ‘lead’ in the world. It was only a few short chapters ago that they were arguing over which one of them was the greatest – the one who would lead this little band of the faithful after Jesus dies – the one that would get the accolades, the gifts, and more that were due the one who brings others into this kingdom of God.

Another story. We know that monkeys are pretty similar to us, in fact, we come from them – it’s pretty apparent. And as much as we like to believe that we’ve evolved so far in advancement of them, we still have to realize that there is so much that we share between our species.

Do you know how to catch a monkey? Put a shiny object or some food into a small gourd. Tie that gourd to a tree or stake it into the ground. A monkey will reach in, grab it, won’t let go, and won’t be able to get its hand out of the container.

If that monkey lets go, it’ll be able to free its hand and go about its life. If it lets go of its object of desire, it’ll be able to live fully and freely into the life God has gifted to it.

But, many won’t. They want that prize. They desire to hold on to their precious. Some will hold onto it for so long and be so consumed by ‘wanting it’ that they can literally starve themself. It becomes consumed by the prospect of possessing this object that it will cease to not only care for itself, but to live into the community around it – no longer caring for those around it. It’s siblings, it’s family, it’s friends. All because it must have this thing.

Our Lord sees us fall into the same sorts of traps in our lives. Where we care more about the ‘things’ we have or the ‘things’ we’ve done to outshine and distract others – even our God – from seeing who we truly are.

Yet, our Lord God sees us for who we are. Sees us as valued, loved, and cared for creations. We are loved so fully and deeply that we are called to follow the one who loves us and to live out our love for others. Caring for them in their needs. Providing for them over ourselves. Not living into the lie and sin of the world that values possessions, wealth, and more over the people around us.

I’m not saying that wealth and possessions are bad or evil, but they can and do blind us to the care and love of not only our God has for us, but our care and love that we are called to live out for those around us. Especially in our relentless zealousness to obtain those possessions – whether it be money, clothes, technology. Our collective fear of missing out. Our ability to overlook all those ways in which we hurt ourselves and others simply to possess ‘that thing’ which we seek and desire.

Our God calls to us to follow the one who lives for others, who calls us to live and care for others; who calls to us out of this deep well of love for all of us because of who we are. For we are beloved children of God.

Don’t be trapped by the world; live into the freedom and love that God has already given to us. Let go. Follow. Live into the life God has for you and for the world. Amen.

October 8, 2018, 12:00 AM

the one about those animals...

Reflection from Blessing of the Animals Service
October 7, 2018

Text: Genesis 1:1, 20-28

So, I wanted to give a short reflection this day as we celebrate the Blessing of Animals. No worries, I know you and your critters want to be blessed, and we’ll get to that shortly.

I am a person who has always loved animals, I’ve grown up in a family that has shown great love and care towards animals. I remember when I was in elementary school and living in Italy where my sister, brother, and I kind of adopted every stray dog in our neighborhood. Unfortunately, there were a large number in that pack of dogs. My sister also happened to name everyone after a tree nut of some sort. There have been very few moments in my life where an animal of some sort didn’t live in my house.

There is something about the animals in our lives – whether they be dogs, cats, snakes, or horses – they have an ability to nuzzle up into our lives and show us what the love of God might be like.

Dogs burst with excitement at our mere presence and the sound of our voice. Much like the father who ran to embrace the son he thought to be dead, but was now found.

Cats, though at times appearing aloof and distant, will cuddle upon you to bring comfort when they sense our sadness and hurt. Much like our Lord weeps as those around him hurt.

Horses exude kindness, intellect, and empathy that at times seems to rival our own. Watching out for us, and even though we may ‘push’ to go one way, they’re smart enough and care enough about us to keep us from going where we think will be good. Our Lord guides us in ways that we cannot see and at times don’t appreciate, but God does this out of love, care, and affection for us.

Snakes… well… snakes remind us of things in the bible. But, seriously, snakes remind us of the people of Israel who looked to the bronze serpent and were healed, just as Jesus was lifted up and those who looked upon him were healed and welcomed as well.

This day, we get to remember God’s creation and love extended to us through the love of those furry and scaly friends and family members in our lives. We get to remember God’s creation and our role within this great kingdom of God – how we are called to care, love, and nurture God’s creation. We are called to be good stewards of what has been given to us through God’s grace and love.

We can and do learn so much from our animals friends. We see God present in our lives through them. We get to live into our calls from God as good stewards of creation as we care for those around us.

This day, we get to remember – as Martin Luther said so many centuries ago, “be though comforted, little dog, though too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail.”

I would expand that to say that all animals have been extended that promise and love from our God. For God created all of this – all of you – all of life – and deemed it very, very good. Amen.


September 24, 2018, 8:48 AM

the one about welcoming...

Sermon from September 23, 2018

Text: Mark 9:30-37

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

So, the gospel text we hear and read this morning is one of those familiar ones to us. It seems that it is intentional on the part of the authors of Matthew, Mark, and Luke that the argument among the disciples about who is the ‘greatest’ is paired with Jesus telling them to welcome the child. Where we might be able to think that living this life of faith is both really difficult (putting others before yourself) and quite easy (who can’t welcome a cute kid?).

I think, for the most part, that is how many people look at this text, especially the part concerning kids. We think that’s the easy part. Just bring’em to Jesus! Lead’em to the cross! It’ll be easy! I’ll get to that more in a little bit, but first we’re going to talk about these disciples and their argument.

We know the disciples are arguing. It says it right there plain as day in the text we’ve read. But, have you ever wondered why they were arguing? We’ve been hearing for the last few weeks Jesus telling his friends that he’s going to suffer and die. That there is a shelf-life on his leadership among their little band of faithful followers. Naturally, the question would arise among his closest friends and followers about who will move into that ‘leader role’ once the teacher is gone (remember, they never seem to hear the part that Jesus is going to ‘rise again’ after three days).

So, Jesus again tells his disciples that he has had more years behind him than time in front of him. They begin to bicker and argue among themselves about who the greatest among them is. Where the ‘greatest’ one will be the one to take the reins and lead this faithful offshoot of Judaism into the future.

Of course, Jesus inserts himself into this conversation and they are all a little embarrassed by it. Who wouldn’t be embarrassed by the conversation that is essentially, “Were arguing over what things are going to be like after you’re dead.”

Yet, Jesus throws them a curve ball about what ‘leadership’ within the kingdom of heaven is like. The world has constantly (and still does) shout about leaders being the ‘best’ at what they do. The ones that look out for themselves. The ones that strive to be at the top of whatever it is that they do. And, in the world that works out. You want your financial manager to be really good, you want your surgeon to be one of the tops of her class, you don’t want the guy who – like the old commercial used to quip – ‘Stayed in a Holiday Inn last night.’

The world, for the most part, lives into the adage made famous by Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights, “If you’re not first, you’re last.”

Yet, that is not how the kingdom of God works. The kingdom of God that our Lord Jesus calls us into and the Holy Spirit guides, pushes, and pulls us through is one where others are lifted up over ourselves. Where we welcome and care for those over there (whoever they might be) before we care for ourselves.

Most of us would agree, that this is a difficult thing to live into. We don’t like to be ‘last’ in anything. It isn’t how we are wired as people. We want to do well, to be noticed. There are those times where even when we DO live into presumably faithful endeavors, we do it for the wrong reasons. Which is what our text from James is referring to. Where we do care for others, only because it makes us look good, where we get noticed by others, we can add another check onto our transcripts, resumes, and more so that we stand out even more over our peers.

We can acknowledge that living into what Jesus invites us and calls us into can be and is very difficult. We still struggle with how to fully live into that call.

Then, Jesus doubles down and says that being last of all and servant of all is like welcoming a child in Jesus’ name.

Now, the first time we hear that, when we look at it on the surface, it seems really easy. So simple. Who can’t, who doesn’t welcome children in God’s name? Who would push a kid to the side who wanted to know and learn about the Lord?

But, like almost everything with Jesus, even the ‘easy’ things aren’t as easy as they appear to be.

You have to remember – especially at this time – children weren’t considered full people. They were afterthoughts. You didn’t become a ‘real’ person until you were ‘of age.’ For boys that was when you could start contributing to work, and for girls that was when you could get married and have children of your own. Before that, you were probably in the way.

Why? Because you needed to be cared for. Needed to be fed. Needed to be looked after. Needed to be taught. Needed to take up attention from others.

Caring for children means not focusing (as much) on yourself.

Being last and servant of all in the kingdom of God looks like welcoming the one who requires more attention than you’d expect.

Children always require and need more than we expect. As anyone with children or has cared for children or has seen children can attest to.

But, there is something else about what Jesus says that we might look past if we only take a surface glance at this text. The English translation of this text loses the subtext that the original readers and hearers would definitely catch on to.

Jesus talks about serving others; Jesus preaches about being a servant – those with no status or high value – to others. In fact, the servants who brought food were the ‘lowest’ of all servants at this time. They were so ‘unimportant’ that all they did was bring and serve food. Jesus tells his disciples to be like THOSE for others.

The word used for little child – paidion (παιδίον) – is similar enough that it can be used like the word for servant – pais (παῖς). The subtlety would not be lost on the disciples or on those first readers and hearers. Jesus is telling them – telling us – serving others – like children and servants – is doing so for those who cannot give us anything back in return. Serving them gains one nothing for extending that radical hospitality to them. And still, Jesus says, ‘honor them.’

When you welcome them in my name, you welcome the one who sent me. Welcoming them – the ones who cannot give you anything in return nor can you ‘take from’ because they have and are ‘nothing’ in society – is welcoming God in your midst.

Talk about an upheaval of social norms! Jesus is flipping the status quo on its head and calling the disciples to change how they’ve always been taught to be a part of the kingdom of God. This kingdom is not like the world you know. It is something more, it is something deeper, it is something that values all people.

And when you welcome them – welcome them fully.

Recently I had a colleague share a post on social media of an individual who received a card in church that stated.

“Thank you for being committed to being in church with your child. In order to allow those seated near you to engage in the message, please enjoy the remainder of the service in our lobby. A connection Team Member Will Assist You.”

On first glance, it seems like a really nice and welcoming message. They thank you. They like that you’re kid is there with you! That’s great! But, then you start reading the whole message and you start getting the gist of it.

Sure, you’re welcome, but only ‘over there.’ There are other people here who are ‘more important’ than your kid being here. We welcome you, but we don’t really ‘want’ you here.

That is some major shade folks, and not at all what the kingdom of God that Jesus calls for looks like.

Welcoming others and bringing them to God incorporates welcoming all of who they are. When you welcome a child, even one who is considered ‘less than’ in the world, it incorporates welcoming all of who they are in God’s name. For children that means noise, and mess, and sometimes smell. But, it also means seeing and hearing God present in questions, in joy, in unbridled energy.

Welcoming all in God’s name means welcoming all of who they are. Adjustments are made, room is provided, schedules are re-worked, priorities are changed. All of it, for the person before us. Not so that we ‘get something’ out of it or so that we’ll be noticed, but so the other person is cared for and welcomed; fully and completely and with no reservations.

That is the kingdom of God. That is what Jesus calls us into. That is what the Holy Spirit leads and guides us though. We are called to serve others and welcome others; and when we do? To do that service and welcoming completely and fully – no matter what the world and the powerful think and believe. Amen.

September 17, 2018, 7:35 AM

the one about the unexpected story...

Sermon from September 16, 2018

Text: Mark 8: 27-38

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, one of the tropes of many movies today is the character who always sacrifices themselves so that the rest of the group can survive. In adventure movies, it’s the character who stays behind to hold back the enemies or to make sure the ‘bomb’ goes off. In horror movies it’s the character who runs off into the woods to distract the enemy so that the rest of the group can (hopefully) get away. In a drama it’s the character who tells the others to go and not worry about them because their collective lives are more important than her single life.

In all of those scenarios (that we’ve seen played out on our screens countless times) those characters are rarely if ever the ‘main’ character. It’s always the loveable sidekick, the person who has been a grouse and a grouch the entire film only to finally have a turn of heart in the climax of the movie. Whoever that sacrificial character is, it is almost always a supporting role. Even if it is ever a ‘main’ role, it is never as dire as it is made out to be.

Have y’all ever wondered why this is? Mostly because it goes against our collective psyche for a ‘hero’ to lose. We don’t like it. We actually become incredibly upset in our world and minds when ‘heroes’ do lose. Because that’s not supposed to happen. It isn’t supposed to play out that way.

If our gospel story from this morning had been written today, Jesus wouldn’t say any of the things that he does to his disciples. In fact, even if he did, someone would step in and say, “Not you my Lord, but me. Your life is more important.” It would perhaps be Peter who would be that one to ‘step in.’ It would make sense wouldn’t it?

But, that isn’t how it happens in our gospel text this morning, and that isn’t how it plays out at the end of the gospel narrative.

Jesus begins this short narrative asking the disciples what the word on the street is about him. Who do people say that he is? Some answers are shared with us and I’m sure more were given that day. Most people agree that Jesus is something special. Much like those heroes of scripture from the past. Yet, still there is something different about this one.

The disciples know this. They can see the thread lines of those old prophets being made known in Jesus’ life and ministry, and yet still there is something more to who Jesus is. Peter is the bold one who proclaims who he believes Jesus to be – he is the messiah, the anointed one, the one the scriptures have pointed to and the one the people have waited for.

When you believe someone to be the messiah the next words you expect are probably not the ones that Jesus utters – at least they weren’t expected by Peter.

Jesus tells them not to tell anyone – because his time isn’t fulfilled yet. And then he goes into a scenario that they cannot quite comprehend, understand, or bear to see lived out.

Jesus foretells his suffering and death. He tells them of his resurrection as well, but it doesn’t seem like they hear that.

All that the disciples, and especially Peter, hear is that the messiah is going to die. The hero’s story will have an untimely and undesirable ending.

This isn’t how it is supposed to be. The hero – the messiah – is not supposed to lose. That is not how the world should work. That is not how it is supposed to be. There must be another way. What you say is so ‘blasphemous’ to our ears that we cannot bare to listen or hear.

Lord, you are wrong. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

That’s what Peter does, bold Peter rebukes Jesus and I assume tells him that Jesus is out of his mind for thinking this way.

And, I don’t think we can fault Peter for believing that way, we surely cannot chastise him either. For, I truly feel that if we were in Peter’s shoes, we too would tell Jesus that he was wrong. In fact, we probably do the same thing constantly in our lives today (though, perhaps not as direct as Peter did here in our gospel story).

We live in a world that proclaims that living the life of a faithful follower of Christ will bring goodness and ease. Where we will be showered with blessings and perhaps some fortunes. Where if we just ‘get it right’ and ‘get right’ with God and our Lord then all those little bothers and big obstacles will disappear.

In fact, there were some who believed that if they just prayed hard enough – if they had just the right and correct amount of faith – Hurricane Florence would pivot into the Atlantic, or at least would descend upon people that weren’t as faithful.

Yet, that’s not how it works. That’s not even how it works for the one we follow and cling to.

Jesus states to his disciples that life following him won’t be easy. In fact, it’ll be dangerous. It’ll put you at odds with those around you. It’ll at times be the opposite of what you would expect.

I’m almost certain that Peter and the others were thinking that if this is truly the messiah they hit the jackpot. Who would mess with them? Who could stand against them? Life is going to be grand from this moment on! There will be honor, and feasts, and fame, and value in our lives! All because we are the closest to the messiah. We will have been there from the beginning. The friends of the ‘hero’ prosper too.

I’m certain that Peter thought this way because that is how I would think. That is how many – perhaps even many of you – think when they befriend someone on the cusp of fame or popularity. This is going to benefit me greatly.

Yet, Jesus tells and leads a different story and life. There will be pomp and circumstance, but it won’t be in the ways that you expect. There will be attention and fame, but not in the way you’d want. People will look to you and seek you out, but you’ll be fearful instead of humbled.

The entire time you’ll think, ‘this is not how the hero’s story is supposed to go.’ This isn’t how it is supposed to be.

Yet, we know that God works in ways that we do not expect. Jesus says as much in his response to Peter and the disciples today.

We worship a God and a Lord that cares so much for creation, that cares so much for humanity, that the messiah is the one to boldly lay down his life for the sake of the world. That in following him, we will be led against the powers of the world.

Where the world and those in power might shout that you need to fight and push back violently, our Lord proclaims a different way.

Where the world and those in power might push stories and narratives that make you fearful of the other and the different, our Lord proclaims a different way.

Where the world and those in power might forcefully persuade you to care only about yourself and those closest to you, our Lord proclaims a different way.

Where the world and those in power might demand you follow one way to show honor or else you will be rolled through the mud, our Lord proclaims a different way.

Following that different way puts you at odds with the world. It does. It always has. It always will.

It is confusing. It goes against what we collectively think to be ‘true’ in the world. It rubs against what we might naturally think.

Yet, our Lord proclaims a different way. A way that loves and includes those around us. A way that shines the light of faith into the dark areas of our lives and world to bring hope, justice, and wholeness. A way that puts us in opposition of the powerful.

There are risks – great risks. Yet, we cling to and follow the one whose story didn’t go the way we expected.

We follow the one who did suffer and die and who calls us into that sort of life as well.

But, the good news is, the gospel we cling our hope to, is that even in suffering and death, we know and have faith that that is not the final word. For we believe in the promise and hope of the resurrection.

For Jesus did share with his friends the troubles that were to come, but he also shared the glory of God, the goodness, and the wholeness of what is to be.

We are a people of death and resurrection. We may focus a lot on the death part in our lives of faith, the struggle, the strife, the anguish. But, all of that pales in comparison to the glory that God has already shown and will continue to live out because of what happened after those three days.

In our Lord, the suffering is not the final act. Death is not the closure or end. For we believe and have hope that life abounds and erupts in the places we don’t expect.

Our Lord tells us, invites us into, and shares a story with us that is different and unexpected. It goes a way that we couldn’t anticipate. And thanks be to God for that.



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