In pm's words
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July 2, 2018, 8:00 AM

the one about risk...

Sermon from July 1, 2018

Text: Mark 5:21-43

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

So, as I read and thought about this text over the week (not an easy task when you’re on vacation), I kept thinking about what lengths we’re willing to go to ‘save ourselves’ or to save someone we love, especially a child. I have read and heard countless stories of those parents who have sacrificed for themselves in order for their children to live the life that they never had.

The stories of those parents who don’t feed themselves so that they can feed their children. The folks who come to our church office every once in awhile and tell stories about how they have to choose between paying a light bill or filling their babies’ tummies. Perhaps even putting your children through an arduous journey of immense distances so that they might live. Removing them from the hardship and tragedy of home to find a new and renewed life somewhere else.

I thought about those stories as I read our gospel this week as we are introduced to two individuals who sacrificed a lot in order to hopefully receive healing by this man named Jesus. Both put themselves at cultural risk in order to be with Jesus. To bring new life to themselves or to bring new life to their child.

We are introduced to a woman who has been afflicted with a bleeding disorder for over twelve years. Anything with ‘blood’ was considered unclean and that others would become ‘unclean’ as well if they touched those who were bleeding. I’d imagine that there were not many people who would associate with her in fear that they too would become ritually unclean.

Yet, she heard this story about the man named Jesus. The one who had healed so many. Perhaps, maybe, possibly he could heal her too. She had faith, she trusted what Jesus could do for her. So, in that trust and faith, she pushed through the crowds to get his attention and perhaps just touching his clothes would be enough to heal her (and it was).

An important part of this text – and I can only imagine the fear that pressed in on that newly healed woman – was the fact that after she touched Jesus’ clothes, he immediately stopped for he knew someone had been healed. He stops and looks around, searching for the one who touched him.

This is a woman who – apart from those who have tried to help her medically – has more than likely been in fear of those who she is around. How they would treat her, interact with her, what would they say to her because of her condition? Those words to her that made her feel so ‘outside’ the group and culture; the family of God. When Jesus stops and searches for her, I imagine all those same and familiar fears came rushing back. She’s about to get ‘laid into’ and reprimanded for stepping into where she shouldn’t be.

Yet, when he finally searches her out from the large crowd pressing in on him, he locks eyes with her and calls her daughter. The one rumored to be of God, to be God, the messiah, has not chastised her for inappropriateness, but has claimed her as his own. She is a daughter of God, she is claimed, she is loved. Her faith, her trust in who Jesus has made her well.

She risked so much, yet she trusted in what God could do through Jesus, and she has finally been given new life.

Of course, that is the story within the story. For the ‘main’ story of our gospel this morning surrounds another individual who risks so much in order to save the life of his beloved daughter. Jairus is an honorable and upstanding man. He is looked up to in the life of the Jewish culture. He is one of the leaders of the synagogue. He is a faithful man. He is one who is not supposed to be seeking Jesus out for help.

In fact, the last time we were introduced to leaders within the synagogue – they were saying that the only reason that Jesus was able to do all this healing, was because he was possessed by a demon; the demon. Jairus is supposed to be the one pushes people away from Jesus, he isn’t supposed to be the one running towards him.

Yet, that’s what he does as Jesus approaches. He runs to him and falls at his feet. He risks his status, his power, his influence, his leadership role in the synagogue. People are supposed to come to him, yet he is the one who falls to Jesus’ feet.

He risks it all because of his love for his daughter and his trust and faith that Jesus can and will help her.

As they get closer, it appears all hope is lost. They are too late, Jairus’ daughter has died. Turn back, nothing to do anymore.

Yet, they laugh when Jesus says that this isn’t the end. And, I don’t think this is a laugh to deride Jesus or inflict further pain upon Jairus. I think this community’s laugh is similar to the laugh that Sarah gave when she was told that she would bear a child. A laugh out of utter and sad disbelief. Not to be mean, but because when all hope seems to be gone, we can’t help, but laugh at the ‘luck’ we’ve drawn.

In the trust that Jairus has in Jesus, the faith he exhibits as he comes to meet him, to be with him, to fall at his feet, to risk it all through that trust – Jairus’ daughter gets up. She is given new and renewed life. Hope is there and it comes bursting forth from Jesus’ words and actions.

As I hear these stories and so much more that we read of in our Gospels – here in Mark and throughout the other three, I cannot help but think how so many are willing to risk because of their faith and trust in this man named Jesus. It makes me think – what are we as modern-day followers willing to risk because of our faith and trust in Jesus?

Are we willing to risk following and trusting our Lord? What are we willing to risk as we fall at the feet of the cross? What are we willing to risk as we seek out Jesus in our life?

Are we willing to risk our livelihood? Are we willing to risk our status and power? Are we willing to risk our affluence and our influence? What are we willing to risk as we fall at Jesus’ feet?

Are we willing to risk the stares and the murmurs of others as we care and help someone from ‘over there?’ Are we willing to risk our friendships to confront in love when words of hurt and indecency are flung at someone on the ‘outside’ what many call the ‘norm’? Are we willing to risk our positions to speak God’s word of love and welcome to all – and to live into that love for others?

Last Sunday we had the opportunity to live that out – and I feel we as a community rose to the occasion. During our second service a young family entered our community in need of help – food, clothes, and gas as they traveled from Washington, DC to Miami for an immigration hearing. They came into our community during worship, spoke very little English, and the husband and father walked in with a GPS tracker on his leg. They were in the country illegally and were going through the process to be ‘right’ within our immigration process – as convoluted and difficult as it can be.

I was proud – deeply proud – that this family was welcomed and cared for. I didn’t really have doubts about that. But, how many in other communities we are a part of where someone speaking little English and wearing an ankle bracelet would be turned away?

This family risked a lot to come to our community, to speak and ask for help from people they didn’t know. How would they be treated? Would they be sent away? Would they be ‘reprimanded’ for their actions, would the authorities be alerted?

And we as a community took on risk as well as we listened to their story and provided care the best way we knew how. The more we listened to their story, it may not have been as truthful as they made it out to be. But, that is a risk that we take as well. We risk that in our service and love people might take advantage of that. Yet, we help as we are able. We care, we love, we live into the faith that God has poured into us in our baptisms. We live into this love that God has first given us.

We risk that we err on God’s grace and love. We risk a lot as we care and serve.

But, we risk in hope, trust, and faith that God is at work in this. That Jesus is leading us in this. That the Holy Spirit is guiding us into this life of faith.

We risk. We love. We trust. We live in faith.

What are we willing to risk as we follow, cling to, touch, and fall at Jesus’ feet? What are you willing to risk as you live into God’s love for others? Amen.

July 1, 2018, 12:00 AM

July 2018 Newsletter

Grace and peace to each of y’all! It is July, so everyone knows what that means… IT IS HOT! Please be mindful of the heat as you’re out tending your gardens, walking around, working, and just being in the community. It seems every year the summer gets a little bitter warmer and we continually have to do a better job at recognizing how the heat affects us.

Last month, I wrote a bit about taking sabbath. It is something we need, it is something I think we crave, though it is also something that the busy world continues to keep us from partaking in.

There is another aspect of life – especially during the summer – that I think we all tend to be mindful of that can greatly benefit our lives. Taking care of ourselves. Or at least, taking better care of ourselves.

Our God has gifted us with this wonderful bodies. We breathe, we move, we laugh, we cry, we enjoy. Yet, sometimes we might enjoy too much (I’m guilty of that from time to time) and other times we get locked into those parts of life that don’t encourage us to take active care of our bodies. Yet, we are called to care for what God has given us – which includes our own bodies.

Recently Erin and I have begun working out in the community and something weird has happened. I want to continue with it. In fact, being in that community has helped me better take care of myself. I worked out while at Lutheridge for Confirmation Camp and even look forward to those workout opportunities when my family and I take a couple weeks of vacation at the beginning and end of July.

Everyone can start somewhere. But, what I ask of those of you who may need a letter like this to ‘get off the couch’ and do something is to not seek the goal of ‘getting a summer bod.’ Comparing ourselves to those whose lives are devoted to exercise, beauty, and attention. But, instead to view this opportunity to better care for your body as a way to honor and care for the gift that God has given you.

Taking care of ourselves – with sabbath, exercise, eating right, and more – helps us be better people of faith invested into the lives of those around us. Caring for ourselves helps us be a better parent, sibling, child, friend, and stranger.

So, get out. Walk a bit, lift some weights, put down the 2nd donut, switch that tea with water. Continue to live into, enjoy, and live for others by caring for ourselves. Amen!

June 25, 2018, 8:00 AM

the one about getting to the other side...

Sermon from June 24, 2018

Text: Mark 4:35-41

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, who here feels at times that they are in the midst of a storm? We can see it all whirling around us – political anxiety, confusion and fear of what is true and what is false, many of us are realizing we aren’t capable of certain things we like we used to be, the world is changing, some of us are dealing with personal crises, all of us – in some way or another is dealing with a storm of sorts.

For some those storms seem never ending, gale force winds with 100-foot tidal walls slamming into our little and creaky boat. Where the next wave to crash just might be the one to ‘do us in.’ Turn us over, and we’ll finally succumb.

I think we saw that at work within our country these last two weeks in the saga concerning how immigrants and children were being dealt with and mishandled by our government. No matter how you believe immigration should be handled in our country (and there are a myriad of different views) – that was not the correct way.

For many, that was and continues to be a major storm and the same cry that the disciples screamed from their lips to Jesus is the same that is uttered from many today, “Do you care about us or not Jesus?” Are you sleeping on the job? 

I think in those moments we are a bit confused by how God acts in the world. Where we seek and desire the quick and simple fix to whatever storm rages in our world. We pray, we cry out to God, our nerves are frayed and on edge, we feel like we’re screaming for dear life, yet it is as if God is just taking a nap.

And that just upsets us more.

I’ve always been intrigued by this story from Mark’s gospel, and there is something I find rather interesting. The disciples are comfortable with the fact that they are doing something new and different. They have faith enough in Jesus to venture outside their cultural comforts, to go to the other side of the sea to bring what Jesus is proclaiming – God’s word of love, mercy, and forgiveness – to a people who have been told are not a part of God’s love.

They have faith enough to travel to the other side with Jesus in this new ministry opportunity, but it seems that their faith is not yet mature enough to realize the fullness of who he is.

Sure, he has the power to calm the storm (he demonstrates that pretty matter of factly), but perhaps he isn’t here to calm every storm. To quell every whirlwind that rises up. What if Jesus isn’t about the easy and quick answer? What if Jesus isn’t about making life smooth and struggle free?

What if Jesus – intentionally – invites us into this boat of ministry knowing full well that things won’t be smooth. What if Jesus knows that storms will rise? What if Jesus knows things might look pretty bad? What if Jesus knows all that?

What does it mean for Jesus to know all that – and still invite us into the boat? What if Jesus cares about what he’s proclaiming so much and wants us to be a part of it – that he invites us into this proclamation and life knowing full well that it won’t be easy, but in fact it’ll be riddled with storms, and anger, and anxiety?

What if Jesus knows that the Word he proclaims – the Gospel truth he invites and commands us to share – is that disruptive to the world that people will do almost anything to stamp out that hope that God gives through this word? What if Jesus knows that others will use his words and the holy words of scripture to prop up actions that don’t jive with what he intends and how he lives?

What if Jesus knows all of that and still invites us in the boat?

What if Jesus knows all that and still sleeps?

Now, one way to take that is that Jesus is foolish and doesn’t understand how the world works. Thinking that he’s naïve and a little flighty (and believe me, he’s been called that and worse).

But, I don’t think Jesus feels that way, he’s the one that knows. And he’s the one that can calm the storms. But, I don’t think that’s his goal – to calm all the storms in our lives (though within the storm that might be the one thing we want). Instead, Jesus’ goal is to get to the other side so that others might hear this word and truth. This gospel and love about and for and with them.

To invite us and bring us to that truth as well. To proclaim this Gospel truth to all who can hear. To serve with and for those whom others have cast off and put aside. Jesus invites us to hear and experience that life too.

In everything that we read this morning from Job to Mark – it is as if God is saying – as if Jesus is saying – “Trust me.”

Seriously. Trust Jesus.

Does that mean we should lay down and rest in the midst of the storm? Yes. Yes, it does. To a point. There’s a saying that many of us know that I think can keep us from actually doing anything, “Just let go and let God…” Don’t worry about anything, just let God handle it.

I don’t think that is what Jesus is implying at all. Not one bit. Living life fully into that worn out saying can keep us from even encountering the storms. It’s sayings like that which can keep us from getting into the boat in the first place. Just let Jesus do his thing. It has nothing to do with me.

Yet, Jesus is the one who calls us into the boat just as he welcomed the disciples into the boat to get to those who had not yet heard of God’s love and mercy. Jesus calls us into moments and opportunities that will lead to storms. It’s going to happen.

The storms will rise up. Yet our Lord calls us to trust that he is there. Inviting us to rest in his protective arms as a child might rest in their parents embrace.

Throughout the season of Lent, we sang a song at our Wednesday evening services that speak to my soul and remind me of this gospel and how we see God at work in the world today…

Though the earth shall change, though the mountains tremble, though the waters rage, you, God, are here.

Though the nations war, though the peoples battle, though the empire falters, we will not fear.

Jesus is bringing us to the other side. We are in the boat. Waters rage, mountains tremble. God is here.

Jesus isn’t the quick and easy fix, Jesus is the one standing with us, inviting us, pulling us, to proclaim this word that cuts through the darkness and brings light to the world. A light that never goes out and brings hope to the night.

A word and light that welcomes all, that is strong in the face of worldly power, that brings life to those whom life has been wrenched away.

Jesus isn’t ‘sleeping’ on the job, we’re still on our way to the other side. Rest and know and trust that he is here. He’s invited us, he’s welcomed you into this ministry of love and proclamation. It won’t be easy, there is still more to come, but Jesus is here. Amen.

June 18, 2018, 1:48 PM

the one about the kingdom...

Sermon from June 17, 2018

Mark 4: 26-34

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? 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 week I was able – again – to do something that I not only think is pivotal to the formation of faith life (the faith lives of those whom I’m lucky enough to serve and my own), but also something that I truly and deeply love; being at Lutheridge for a week of camp. In fact, it is something that I think is so important that Erin and I are taking the girls to Family Camp later next month so that Ashleigh and Miriam can receive their first taste of a week of summer camp.

This year, I was lucky to be able to accompany Ben Lindsay and almost 20 other youth from around the Southeast as we learned about the seasons of the church, heard about Jesus’ struggle and his passion narrative, we learned about prayers, miracles, and the Spirit that sends us out to serve God and serve our neighbors – all of them. It was a great week and it makes my heart to feel so full when kids like Ben and the others utter the words, “Pastor Matt…do I have to go home?” Especially after they stated earlier that they were a bit apprehensive to coming to Lutheridge – like really how can learning about Jesus be fun and cool.

Every time I am in those mountains and walking those well-worn paths, stepping into those areas, cabins, the dining hall, and trudging up and down that mountain; I begin to be ever mindful of what I’m experiencing around me.

Mostly, the thing I experience the most is the noise. Camp can be and is loud. And it isn’t the encroaching commercial world that seems to continue to ‘push in’ on what I consider holy ground. The noise comes from these kids. They can be loud y’all. Games of ninja red light green light (a camp favorite I might add), Gaga ball pits, the pool, the songs they sing – all the time, at every moment, and the deafening roar of the Dining Hall. That doesn’t even include the sounds that don’t stop when the lights turn out and the animals of the forest join in and continue the cacophony of noise.

It’s loud.

That loud noise doesn’t extinguish the ‘quiet noise’ that we sometimes overlook, the inter-cabin squabbles that always crop up as a new community is being formed early in the week, or those kids who pine for home as they are in a new environment and away from all their usual comforts, or even those certain youth who require just a little more attention than the others. Those noises at times can be even louder and sometimes messier than all those other things combined.

Yet, in spite of all that chaos that goes on at camp, despite all that extra ‘fun’ that a young kid might bring into camp – there is a place for them. Every single one. They are welcomed with energetic smiles that Sunday afternoon. They are helped into easing into this new community. They are encouraged to take on new challenges. They are helped to see God’s presence not only in the world around them, but in and through their very selves as well.

These young boys and girls are lovingly guided through obstacles – those that are physical; like the Group Interaction Course, working together to solve physical puzzles while including everyone in their new community. But, even those obstacles that are emotional or spiritual. Where they share something about themselves wondering if they’ll truly be accepted and loved. Where they might let a counselor, a new friend, an adult they feel that they can trust in on something personal going on in their lives.

There is a lot of noise, chaos, and mess that goes into a week of camp.

Yet, no matter the noise; no matter the mess; no matter the chaos – people are loved, welcomed, accepted, encouraged, and God’s love is shared with them. In fact, through games, songs, bible study, and more – they are told how God is already present in their lives because of who and whose they are.

God isn’t there because of the ‘them’ they share on social media. God isn’t there because of the clothes they wear or the people they know or the people they are friends with.

No, God is there because of the one God knows. The one God has created. God is there, in full and welcoming love because they – because we – are God’s own.

I thought about all that and more this past week as I read this Gospel text. Here we see Jesus tell another story – another parable – to compare the kingdom of God. This time, the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.

An incredibly tiny seed that grows into an incredibly large bush.

But, not only that it starts from something so small and grows into something large, but that this large shrub welcomes and hosts all sorts of birds, flying creatures, and other animals.

It provides shade, shelter, and care to all who inhabits its branches.

As I was able to talk with my fellow pastors, my colleagues, my friends we began to notice something rather interesting about the trees and shrubs we saw around camp. They don’t really exist to benefit themselves.

A shrub or a tree doesn’t flourish to the highest of heights growing leafy branches to provide shade and shelter to itself. It doesn’t produce an assortment of ‘fruit’ to feed itself. It doesn’t grow strong and sturdy branches so that it can ‘live in’ itself. It doesn’t absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen just, so it can ‘breathe.’

No, it does all of this for others. It provides, it gives a home, it welcomes all into itself so that others are cared for. Whether they be bugs, or birds, or animals nesting in, crawling up, or hanging out – the shrub provides a home, a place of welcome.

It doesn’t ask for papers. It doesn’t threaten violence. It doesn’t separate or divide those families coming to it to find shelter and a little peace and rest.

It welcomes. It provides.

That is the kingdom of God my sisters and brothers.

That kingdom of God doesn’t provide shelter so that it might feel better. It doesn’t provide food so that it can be fed. It doesn’t welcome all so that it can feel smug. The kingdom of God does all of that because it cares for the people around it. It welcomes all those into it’s branches, it’s rooms, it’s homes, it’s lives because it exists for and with others.

So, the kingdom of God is a lot like a shrub. Or a holy place on a mountain. Or these people in a little town like Newberry, or even a country – that welcomes, and cares, and loves. A place where shelter is provided. A place where love is found and shared. A place where all sorts of creations of God can call home.

The kingdom of God is a noisy and sometimes messy place – just like all those other things that look like the kingdom. Yet, in spite of the noise, in spite of the mess – God is present there working through those communities, working through those people, working through them all to be – again and again – a place of shelter; of solace. A place that encourages and shows love. A place that forgives and provides mercy. A place that welcomes all sorts of people. A place that is a home.

That’s the kingdom of God – it looks a lot like a shrub that grows from something tiny – a word, a smile, a stand, a hug, a cross – and grows into something big enough to welcome all into its branches. Amen.

June 11, 2018, 8:00 AM

the one where they called Jesus crazy...

Sermon from June 10, 2018

Mark 3:20-35

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, I don’t know about y’all, but the last few weeks in my house have been a never-ending stream of The Greatest Showman songs and viewings of the movie. Literally. Every. Day. The basic premise of that movie (if you haven’t seen it) is that a man wants to ‘make it big’ and the only way he knows how is by doing things differently from what the world has seen before. He brings together a collection – a circus – of human ‘oddities’ to bring entertainment and joy to those who come to see them perform.

He gives life, voice, and more to those ‘oddities’ in 1800s America. He gives them a job, some money, and a little respect. This man, in a sense, brings a little healing into their life. He helps make them more ‘whole.’

All the while, those who come to see his show are aghast at what he’s doing to make a buck. He is going against the conventional norm, and mostly how DARE he bring ‘those sorts of people’ into the spotlight. How dare he give them any sort of honor or respect. How dare he bring them near the rest of us ‘good’ folk. How dare he let the world know that they do exist and are deserving of love.

Those folks that have been given power, voice, and respect come to the peak of their state in the great song of ‘This is Me’ sung by Keala Settle as she portrays the ‘Bearded Woman’ Lettie Lutz. It’s a great song and kind of the anthem that I think would fit Jesus in our gospel lesson today.

Now, let me catch you up on what Jesus has been doing so far in Mark’s gospel up to this point. Remember, in Mark’s gospel things happen fast. We’re only in the third chapter, but already Jesus has stepped on just about everyone’s toes, especially on the toes of those in traditional roles of power.

He’s been baptized by an odd guy screaming out of the wilderness, he has called his disciples from a collection of possible ‘throwaways’ in the rabbinical teaching system there, he’s approached those who are on the outside of society to heal them – those afflicted with unclean spirits or who are possessed by demons, lepers, the paralyzed, he has sat down to share a meal with those whom society has deemed ‘beyond reproach,’ he has (seemingly) gone against the normative teaching of the Sabbath, and he has done this all by parading his message of forgiveness, mercy, God’s love, and healing all around the country side and is making a name for himself and drawing large crowds wherever he goes.

This news has traveled so far and wide that even the religious muckety mucks in Jerusalem hear about this man named Jesus and come to see what he’s been doing. And they aren’t happy.

They and the others who have gathered in Jesus’ hometown just have one thing to say, “This boy has lost his mind.” Even his family is confused by the actions he’s been taking. But, mostly his mother, brothers, and sisters want to protect the one they love. They are fearful for him because of how people are reacting to him because of the things he proclaims and does.

One of the main points of this little gospel story is what Jesus says in verse 28. Ultimately, people think he’s lost his mind because he says that people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter. He lives into that gospel and love of God.

This concept of God’s forgiveness and love is so foreign to those around him at this time that they think it is the work of Beelzebub, the work of Satan, the work of the ruler of demons. Of course, Jesus logically argues that that really doesn’t make much sense. Mostly because the devil isn’t typically in the department of healing, and if Satan is casting out Satan and demons wouldn’t that only be beneficial to the people? Because, after all, a divided house cannot stand on its own. If he is who they (wrongly) say he is – than wouldn’t that be good? It would mean that the ruler of demons is working against himself and only making his work that much weaker and allowing the work of God to be that much more successful.

But, people really think he’s ‘crazy’ because of the message he proclaims to give life, wholeness, and love to those who feel that they’ve never had it from God. He has a screw loose because he’s telling as many people as he can that 1. God loves you. Already. Forever. 2. Nothing you’ve done keeps you from God’s love. 3. In fact, all those things that you’ve done or said that people say are wrong – You’re forgiven. For real. God’s forgotten about it.

Here comes this Jesus guy, proclaiming about God’s love and forgiveness. In that love and forgiveness, he heals countless people who believe and trust him about what he proclaims about God. He brings life, wholeness, honor, and respect to people who previously did not have it. He restores what was removed from them by society because of their ‘condition.’ He gives back what has always been theirs and what is bestowed upon them (and the world) by God.

He has gone out of his mind.

Jesus is acting foolish. And thank God he is.

Talking about love and forgiveness for everyone, for all their sins, preaching with more authority than those traditionally educated for such a vocation, what Jesus was, is and continues to do is a bit senseless and what Jesus proclaims is even more ridiculous! He's done and gone lost his mind!

We too are a bit foolish as well. Some, a little further from the norm than others. But, we’re a bit silly because we believe that this, this Word of God, our Lord Jesus, is the truth. We too look upon these words of scripture and listen to the Word and we have to be honest with ourselves and believe that you have to be a bit different to believe this. It's irrational to believe this, not because what we read isn't the truth (because it is), but because what we read, believe, and participate in is so different from what the world outside proclaims.

This Word is radically out-there folks.

This message does not sit well with those in established places and sitting on traditional seats of power. It is a message that gives power and hope to the majority. Jesus brings new voices to the table. Jesus proclaims a message that gives honor and respect where it has been removed. It is a message that rubs against those in power.

We read these words and live into this Gospel; we know that we are a part of that crowd gathered around Jesus' feet. Though many of us have searched far and wide, high and low, to be close to our Lord, within these words spoken by Jesus and those we read throughout this gospel lesson and all the gospels, we learn that we are already a part of the crowd Jesus has called to himself. We're a part of this crowd where Jesus calls us sisters and brothers, where God – through our baptisms – has claimed us as God's own children.

And when you think of it, the message that we believe is truly weird. We believe that the God who created us, the one who claims us as children, sister, brother, and friend has loved us so much that this one has sent the Son to proclaim and show that love to the world, whatever the cost, even if it means death.

Yes, this is a crazy message, and thanks be to God that it is! 

It is a message that leads us into all sorts of odd things. Where we care about our neighbors over ourselves. It means that we take time out of our lives to be with those whom we’ve never met to care for them in their need – no mater what it is or who they are or where they are from. It means that we seek out and develop deep and meaningful relationships with those that society – in all its myriad ways – has told us to be ‘against’ or ‘wary’ of. It’s a message that fights back against the demons in our own minds that can and do tell lies about ourselves and about the world around us. Those lies that push many to take drastic measures as we’ve unfortunately seen in the news this past week with the sudden and tragic deaths of designer Kate Spade and food and travel aficionado Anthony Bourdain at the hand of the disease of depression. It’s a message that calls us to be with those we know and to break through the tension and taboo and ask, “How are you doing?”

It’s a message that proclaims that the one who created the universe, who fashioned life from dust, the one who weaves through every fiber of living is at work in and through even you. Where that work in and through you helps bring wholeness, equity, justice, and righteousness to the world.

That through you – God is at work. That through even that one over there – God is working to bring about change and love to a world in desperate need to hear it. That because God is at work in you, you can seek help to fight those demons in your mind and that because God is in you – your life matters. You are loved. Always.

Let this foolish God of love - this Lord that loves the world and forgives all sins for everyone - work through you and work with you. Allow the Spirit to work around you, pray that God open minds and hearts, yours or even another to see God's amazing self at work within the world, within our world.

Think of how you can be 'foolish' in your proclamation of God's crazy Word of love, grace, and mercy. God loves over and over and over again, expecting one thing - that we know that we are loved, that we are cared for, that we matter, and that we too are called to love others as God has first loved us. 

God is foolish, Christ has lost his mind, the Spirit’s screws are a bit loose, and we are crazy for believing all that Jesus speaks about and that's a good thing. Join in the inane, preach this foolishly abundant love in your own daily lives as you work and play, read this book of faith, be open to new opportunities of ministry; know that though it may seem ridiculous - God is at work throughout the world, proclaiming Christ and this Gospel message of love to all. Even and especially to and through and because of you.

As the refrain in This is Me proclaims (which I’ve slightly adjusted) – we march to the beat of God’s drum. This is who I’m meant to be. This is me.

Jesus has done lost his mind, and thanks be to God for that. Amen.

June 4, 2018, 8:00 AM

the one about sabbath...

Sermon from June 3, 2018

Mark 2:23-3:6


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

So, today we get to hear a lot about the Sabbath. How it is holy, alluded to why it was set forth, and unfortunately how it might get in the way of God’s work (because of how humanity views and uses it). As I talked with friends and colleagues about all this during the week, an image popped into our brains to help showcase what Jesus is doing here.

One of my favorite things to do with my daughters is to watch funny videos on the internet. Some of the funniest videos are those of animals, and of those animal videos the most intense and hilarious ones involve cats. Specifically, those videos that involve precious objects (to the human), a table edge, and the indifference of a cat.

Where the cat looks at whatever that object might be – a cup, a plate, a toy, usually something breakable. The human looking at the cat and the object and continually saying, “Don’t do it. You better not do it. Don’t you dare. You know better.”

At each breath, it is as if the cat purposefully nudges that object closer and closer to the edge before one final ‘swat’ and off it tumbles. Perhaps shattering on the floor, while the cat looks up to you with smug indifference.

As I read this story from Mark’s gospel, I can’t help but think that Jesus is that cat, and the religious authorities and elite are the pleading humans, and the sabbath is that precious object.

This gospel begins as Jesus is with his friends as they are traveling on the holy day of rest and his disciples begin picking grain within the field – presumably because they are hungry.

Of course, this riles up the religious elite who appear to be ‘clutching their pearls’ in shock and amazement that they would do such a thing on such a holy day of rest – a day that no work is to be done. At all.

Further still, more shock and awe as Jesus confronts them with the opportunity to help a man in need. A man with a withered and presumably useless hand is in need. Jesus poses the question of whether it is right and good to save a life by doing something for them (or by ‘killing them’ by doing nothing) on the sabbath?

Jesus is angered and deeply saddened by their quiet response. Then, much like that cat continually pushing the precious object right to the edge, the man with the formerly withered hand swats it off to show God’s goodness and grace has been done that day.

Now, the religious elite are besides themselves in anger and seek to finally do something about this man named Jesus.

As we read this I think many of us – of course – side with Jesus. Those dastardly Pharisees don’t know what they’re talking about. How could they not do anything to help themselves live or to give life to another person in need. I mean seriously, bless. Their. Hearts.

Though, if we’re not careful, we’ll begin to think that what Jesus is saying is that the Sabbath is bad. That we shouldn’t follow the sabbath and adhere to the gifted day of rest to creation. I don’t think Jesus is saying that at all.

What I think Jesus is really saying is that we – yes, we – should be careful of our ‘hardened hearts’ that get in the way of helping and caring for others and using ‘religious rules’ as an excuse.

Now that is something that we probably do quite often. I’m guilty of it too.

Where we’ll say, ‘we’d like to help, but… you belong to that group over there and according to this part of scripture or practiced norm in our tradition we just can’t.’

Or, perhaps like the story that was shared across the country this week of a church in South Carolina who voted this month to remove artwork of Jesus from their church because it looked too much like it belonged to another tradition in the Christian faith. We don’t want people to ‘get confused.’

Where their well-being and insecurities was more important than depictions of our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ within their worship space.

There are of course way more examples that I could give that show our hardness of heart in the world when confronted with the opportunity to live into the gospel and model of Jesus for those in the world. It doesn’t take much imagination and thinking to see where we too – individually and as a community – have let ourselves get in the way of helping and caring for others and using religious ‘rules’ as the excuse.

So, about that ‘religious rule’ of Sabbath – what is it for. As a friend wrote this week, when God gives laws – it is not for religious piety. These laws are not designed for us to make a checklist of things to assure ourselves of our righteousness and devotion. On the contrary, the laws given to us by God are designed with the purpose of showing us where we are in ‘right relationship’ with God and neighbor.

When asked what the most important commandment was, Jesus stated that loving God with all your heart, mind, and soul, while the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. On those two hang the ENTIRETY of the law. If we are loving God and loving neighbor, then the rest of the commandments will fall into place.

So, the law of the Sabbath itself falls in line with that mentality and purpose. It is a gift to humanity of an intentional and frequent day to rest – something that was completely foreign to the world at that time. And to be quite honest – it is still a foreign concept to our modern world as well. That day of rest is taken so that one can be refreshed and renewed to live into the work of loving God and loving neighbor. Yes, it is an intentional day of rest and some observe that to more extremes than others (and still do), yet it is not a day to be a detriment to others.

It is a day to soften our hearts because out of love we have been gifted this day of rest to be aware of the fullness and abundance of God’s grace and love. But, we become blind to God’s grace if we live with those hardened hearts and are incapable of living into that kind of love for others in need simply because we have to ‘adhere’ to a rule.

The truth of what Jesus proclaims is that none of our ‘rules’ even the ones written down in scripture supersede our call to care, love, and be in right relationship with those before us. In fact, the ‘rules’ that we have point us to that sort of life lived in love and grace. The whole law of the prophets hangs on loving God and loving our neighbor.

Yet, there will still be moments where our hearts are hardened – it might be because we have been slighted, hurt, or in fear of what could be. The good news is, that in spite of our hardened hearts, eventually – because of God’s persistent love upon us and shown through others towards us – our hardened hearts will crack. They’ll crack wide open and God’s love and grace will fill in and heal those hearts. Those healed hearts are then sent out to continue to live into God’s love and grace.

God is continually working and loving on us so that we might see the fullness of Jesus’ presence and his activity in the world.

Continue to love one another, so that others and even ourselves, can experience and see God’s full and abundant love present already in their life. Even when that love bends or perhaps ‘breaks’ one of those ‘rules’ in our life. Amen.

June 1, 2018, 12:00 AM

June 2018 Newsletter

Grace and peace to each of you this month! It is JUNE! Summer is here and is now the time where many get to heave a sigh of relief – students, teachers, administrators, even some parents. They are all in my prayers as they take this opportunity to refresh and rest.

Of course, there are others who do not receive that long time of respite – or for whom those summer months of ‘rest’ end up being quite stressful as schedules are thrown off and a new (brief) normal is lived in. They too are in my prayers as well – prayers that they find and seek out those opportunities to refresh, rest, and take sabbath.

Sabbath is such a needed and blessed thing we receive from God. We follow the one who tells all of creation that it is OK to rest. God so believes in sabbath that even God made space for rest after creation. Our Lord Jesus took moments to find rest throughout his ministry leading to the cross. Sabbath rest is good for us. It is a gift for us and for the world.

Yet, we live in a society that continually pushes back against times of break, relaxation, and sabbath. Whether it is vocations that consume most of our time or the feeling inside of us that fights the need for rest in fear that we won’t ‘advance’ further in our places of work. We live in a world that is always ‘on the go.’ Additionally, there are some that might make a subtle ‘shame’ towards those who do take time for themselves and their families. All of that discourages us to seek those moments of rest for ourselves and our families.

So, I’m here to tell you – take sabbath. Live into the gift that God has granted to creation – that God has granted to you. Again, sabbath is a pretty big deal to God. Find ways that give new life to you and renew your life.

Sabbath time is good for you. Sabbath is gifted to you. Sabbath is holy for you.

Take those moments of sabbath so that when you return to the community of faith here at Redeemer, you are filled with new life and energy to serve others and be with and a part of the kingdom of God; right here and right now.

May 28, 2018, 12:00 AM

the one where we don't know...

Sermon from Holy Trinity Sunday, May 27, 2018

Text: John 3:1-17

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

So, today we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday. Each year that we come to this day, I like to remind everyone – that when I felt that God was calling me to pursue this odd and wonderous vocation to be a pastor, I only had one question, “Will there be any math, I was told there would be no math.”

Today we celebrate the math that makes no sense – Three equals one, one equals three. There have been numerous attempts to ‘explain’ this relationship and Trinity. Yet, each and every one falls short – way short – to come to the fullness and wholeness of who and what the Trinity is.

There is something about that need to know that tempts me and makes me question why. I would presume that many of you have probably felt that same desire and draw as well. That desire to know fully what this means and how this works?

Those are the questions that we approach most of our lives with. We seek to know, to dig deeper, to get to the truth of what we experience and see every day.

For many, many, many things – this is good. As we seek to better care for those with needs within our community, we seek to understand and know them, we dig deeper into reasons as to why ‘stuff’ happens in certain ways, we strive to apply that ever changing and growing knowledge and skillset to better be present with our community.

We’ve seen how that desire to know, grow, and understand has changed our approach to medicine, race relations, public relations, farming, education, and almost literally anything you can think of. Diving deeper, learning the nuances and intricacies of something, and applying that new knowledge to our practices, interactions, and relationships.

We see this desire to know at play in our Gospel reading this morning. We are introduced to Nicodemus who desires to know more about who this Jesus guy is. But, he still knows that the yearning to know him at this point in history is a little scandalous, so he comes to the Lord by the cover of night. I like to imagine that this scene plays out like an old black and white film noire crime drama. The lone street light in the midst of the darkness. Jesus standing firmly in the light, while Nicodemus creeps into the frame from the outer darkness to ask his questions.

We are like Nicodemus, we want to know more, we want to draw closer, but we have no idea what that means. We have no idea what ways our Lord will confuse us more and expand our minds and sense of reality and faith.

Nicodemus comes seeking answers, and I imagine that he leaves with even more questions. More than likely, each of us are engulfed in that confusion as well. What does this man mean by ‘born again or born from above?’

Of course, there are many who would like to tell you what they think the absolute meaning of that phrase, and if you don’t agree? Well – you’re doomed - eternally.

Hopefully, each of you know me well enough that I don’t do that. It is rather presumptuous of any of us – me, you, the person shouting on the street corner – to feel that we’ve got the ‘ultimate, only, true’ answer. But, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say what I hope what Jesus means – and it is still rather scandalous and difficult for us to hear and live into.

For me, Jesus is saying to Nicodemus and to each one of us who journey as Nicodemus does by night to understand this messiah more – being born again is as one commentator wrote this week, ‘as we move from questioning leader to witness – it takes our full selves to join in this movement.’

That we jump into and are called into this flow of God with everything that we have and are. For most of humanity, this is a difficult task, simply because we like to section off each little part of our lives. We compartmentalize everything in our life. Our life of ‘faith’ is over here. Our ‘home’ life is there. We put our ‘work’ self in this place. Here is the box that our ‘role as parents, children, friends, sports nuts, nerd-dom, and anything else goes in.’ Most of the time, those boxes are separated and stored accordingly. We try to make them not get mixed up.

Yet, here comes Jesus telling Nicodemus, telling me, telling you, informing the whole world – that’s not how God sees this. The mystery and confusion of the Trinity is that it is a relationship that weaves in and through our whole lives – every aspect of it.

It weaves, moves, and breathes life and love into our very being and service. It guides and thrusts us into places to proclaim that love, grace, and mercy that we’d rather not place ourselves in. The Trinity and the relationship between father, son, and Holy Spirit invites us to live a life different than what the world demands us to follow.

Through this all we will still question and be confused by it all. Yet, we push back against our desire to know fully and completely and are invited to trust in God’s promise and relationship. It doesn’t make sense, but the harder we try to know fully and completely what the Trinity means for us and that relationship through and for us – it makes our brains hurt more than we need them to. Casey Cross wrote this concerning this day, “While we struggle with discernment, wondering what God is truly calling us to, remember that the answer will always involve our full selves, it will involve our transformation (often over and over again), it will involve us physically moving, following the example of Jesus, and getting into it.”

A friend of mine shared with his story of having faith in God and Christ’s promise of new life. Throughout his life, things had been setup for him not to believe. He was a scientist at heart (and still is), he has a deep desire to know and understand, to seek truth. That desire coupled with a deep yearning to care for others led him to the medical field. First as a nurse and then a doctor. He told me that he distinctly remembers the first time he looked at the veins in the human body in class one day. It was there in that moment that it ‘clicked’ for him. Not because he ‘understood’ what he was seeing, but because of the mystery and beauty that he saw displayed before him.

Here were these little lines that help life that span throughout our bodies. No one’s vein path is the same, yet it looked deliberately placed and arranged. Meticulously cultured to bring life efficiently. For him, it couldn’t have been a random chance that this is how life ended up.

As he viewed those signs of life, he couldn’t help but think and trust that this is God at work, the one who has breathed life this wonderful creation. And if you can trust and have faith that God has done this for us – in giving life – then it isn’t that far of a leap of faith to trust what Jesus has done for the world. And having trust in all that, how could one not live fully into the life God has given us following the example of Jesus? He came to know of God’s love and promise for him, not by what he ‘knew,’ but by leaning in to the unknown. That ‘leaning’ into faith has opened the world to him in how he not only cares for those within his reach in the medical field, but caring with those throughout each moment of his life.

As we live this life in the desire to know mingled with the Trinity weaving its way through our whole life; our faith helps us understand the ‘stuff’ we are getting into so that we might care more fully for others. Living in that faith helps us realize and stand firmly in that spot that as people of faith, we understand a need to reform immigration policies within our country, yet the taking of children from parents at the border is not the way. Our faith is built on the welcoming and caring for the stranger. The Trinity weaves its way through our lives calling for us to care for the least of these in deliberate and intentional ways. We are called – by God – to a live a life different from the reality before us. Even in our confusion, our misunderstanding, and our disagreements, at the core of our lives is relationship and love. Knowing that through God’s love and relationship for us, we are called to love and know – in deeper relationship – those before us; whether they are ‘like us’ or not. For they are, and we are children of God; known and loved in and through and by the Holy Trinity.

We live life seeking to know the truth, and yet we come to this day being confronted by something we cannot understand. We are called to have faith in what God has done, is doing, and will do through and for and because of us; of all creation.

We may not understand, but that does not keep us from experiencing this love and life and living fully into that life and love for others; for every person we meet because of what God has done and continues to do. The best thing still? Being good at math, still isn’t a requirement. Amen.


May 21, 2018, 8:00 AM

the one about the spirit...

Sermon from the Day of Pentecost - May 20, 2018

Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14 & Acts 2:1-21

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Risen 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, I’ve noticed something interesting throughout our texts these past few weeks as we have arrived on this particular day of celebration. You see, our texts these past few weeks have led us to this day of celebration, but from opposite directions. Our Gospel texts have shared the words of our Lord as he speaks about the future to come. Our texts from Acts speak of how that future and ‘new normal’ has been and continues to be.

These past few weeks, we have heard Jesus bring that assuring word of comfort to his disciples (and to each of us). Promising that things are going to be alright for he is alive. He breathes, he can be held, he eats, he prays, he promises a helper.

The Book of Acts (and how we have been reading them) has shown us how that ‘helper’ continues to grow and expand what is the kingdom of God. More and more are included; the Spirit has moved through many thought to be those God would never be with. We’ve heard from a eunuch, we’ve seen God declare that which is clean (though the world has said it was not), we’ve been witness to the Spirit moving and speaking through those outside the ‘normal’ life of faith.

The Gospel readings the last few weeks have been leading us to this moment and day. Acts has helped us trace back to this moment and day.

And here we are. The celebration of the Holy Spirit unleashed on the world. We get to celebrate this day with one another and the entire church universal. We get to celebrate this day with six young men and women who complete their confirmation studies. We get to host the community of Newberry Academy and Newberry High School later this afternoon at the annual Baccalaureate Service. We continue to move through how we faithfully respond to the generous abundance gifted to this community of faith.

We stand this day at the beginning of a long road before us. We stand on the precipice of this day and celebration of God’s continued action in the world and we ask the same questions we did the day after the discovery of the empty tomb. What now? How do we move forward? Where do we go from here?

We stand and continue to walk this road on this journey in the life of faith. We stand and walk with those who are affirming their faith this day. Together we remember our baptisms with them and God’s promise and love in and with us. We walk with them.

We stand and walk with those who are celebrating the completion of one chapter in their life as they celebrate their graduations from high school. We walk and guide those who get on this path as they transition into a fuller picture of adulthood in our community.

We stand and walk with one another as we make decisions on how best to live faithfully into this incredible gift of abundance. What ministries can open up to us that we never thought possible before? Where can we support those in need – those we know and those we have yet to meet? Where and how can we model good stewardship for this community of faith and for those in the greater community?

Each of those roads we are on – and all the others we individually walk – can have the dreaded question creep into our mind, ‘is it worth it? What do I get out of this?’

For you six who affirm their faith today, I know that question has wandered into your mind because it wandered into mine, and your parents, and every person who has been in your shoes. It is a question that continually crops up in some of the weirdest and most vulnerable moments in our lives.

The world and the loud voices of faith around us like to make us believe that this life of faith stuff is easy. That if you just believe and follow the path that others before you took – never straying from the lane; or believe in the ‘right’ way – then this life of faith will be a walk in the park. You’ll of course be able to live into the promises you affirm this day.

Hopefully, you remember our last class two weeks ago. Unfortunately, the life of faith doesn’t work like that. The promises you make this day will not be easy. Sure, some are easier than others, but as a whole, they are promises that we all struggle to live into. We, individually and as a community, fall short of those promises time and time again, sometimes we outright break and walk or run from those promises.

Yet, what we celebrate this day is God’s spirit breathed into and unleashed on the world. We celebrate that breath that gives life to the old dusty bones of our lives, fills us with life and faith, so that we can walk this path before us.

What you affirm today is that you hope to live into those promises said over your baptism. In that hope and promise, you affirm that you’ll cling to and hold on to the promise that God will help and guide you. You acknowledge that this life of faith is not one that you can do alone. It isn’t one that anyone can do alone. But, we strive, we struggle, and we journey together as the kingdom of God.

You’ve come to this moment not by your lonesome, but because your parents and families have walked with you to this moment. You’ve been surrounded by the saints of this congregation, you’ve been nudged along the way by people you know well and people who you still don’t know all that well. You’ve been taught, you have taught us, we have lived and walked this path of faith together.

You’ve been guided to this moment by the Spirit – the one who does know you completely. The one who does hold you tight and breathes life into your bones. Who has breathed life into all our bones.

You are here, because we’ve come this far and set out further together. The journey before each of you and the journey we all take together is not one we venture off into alone, but it is one that we travel with companions, friends, and more. The Holy Spirit guides us together, opening our eyes, shattering our notions of community, and continually forming and molding us in our faith.

This same Spirit is the one who fills this space with song and voice in our community. The same Spirit brings us together to celebrate accomplishments even in the midst of our moans and groans. As this place will be filled this afternoon as parents, families, and friends get to see their loved ones dressed in their graduation gowns walk this aisle. They’ll hear the word of God and the message that they are not alone as well. They will be surrounded by the community here. Many won’t know one another, but we all celebrate with them and the future that God holds them in and walks them through.

As a congregation and community of faith, we walk this road before us as we faithfully respond to the gifts we have been given. The Holy Spirit breathes into us that hope and promise of proclamation and truth. The Spirit guides us in the ways that are faithful, and seemingly scary because of the size of this gift.

As we walk all of these paths before us. We do so together. Whether you are affirming your faith this day, whether you are celebrating your graduation, whether you are wondering where God might be leading this community in ministry – we walk this life of faith, breathed into by the Holy Spirit of God, together.

As we walk there will be moments and questions of ‘why, and how, and when?’ But the thing that we will fall back on is not what we have done, not relying on our intellect, our skills, our knowledge. But falling into and clinging to the trust that God is present in this. Having faith that we are not alone in these decisions. Having hope that the Spirit still moves and breathes within us, within these walls, and throughout this community.

That the Spirit that so burst upon the world that Day of Pentecost so long ago is still alive and active today here in this place and in each of us. Breathing us into life, moving us into the unknown, being present with us the entire way.

We are not alone in this, and we have never been. The road is long, but we travel it together. Not just with one another, but with God right by us, right in us, right before us leading the way.

That is the work of the Holy Spirit. That is the celebration of this day. Amen.


May 14, 2018, 7:58 AM

the one about prayer...

Sermon from May 13, 2018

Text: John 17: 6-21

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

So, I’ve been here for almost three years now (it surprises me too, time flies when you’re having fun!). Throughout these three years, we have been praying each Sunday for a church within the South Carolina synod. We’ve prayed for almost every church in the entire Synod; which is pretty amazing when you think about it. And when we complete this final conference and then the Synodically Authorized Ministry sites – we’ll start over from the beginning again.

One of the really neat things that comes from these prayer letters are the responses I and the church receives from them. There are a few responses that I’ve received in reaction to our prayer letters that mostly focus on a profound sense of thanks. Churches are grateful that someone out there is praying for them and their participating in God’s ministry.

But, there is one type of response that I have received that makes me kind of chuckle. It’s only happened a few times, but one story sticks out. Probably about a year and half ago, we prayed for a particular church that I happened to be going to later that week. They had already received their prayer letter and the first thing the pastor said to me was, “Thanks, but what do you know that I don’t? Why pray for us now?”

We just wanted to let you know you were being prayed for.

Have y’all had that reaction before to someone finding out that you were praying for them? Have any of you reacted that way when you discover that someone has been praying for you?

That sense of, “What do they know that I don’t?” “What am I to do with this?”

In our reading this morning we get to eavesdrop on a private moment between Jesus and his disciples. This is the last night that our Lord is with his friends before he is to be handed over to the authorities and begin his bold march to the cross. Interesting that we end the season of Easter with this story.

And on this night – a night that anyone else would be filled with anxiety and worry – he prays for not only his disciples, but for all of us as well. It is why I added that extra verse this morning. I think we need to hear that even our Lord Jesus prays for each of us.

But, when we look at this prayer, it is a little odd and a little different than I think how most of us might pray for others.

Within this prayer, Jesus knows and alludes to his disciples that the road before them won’t be easy – it hasn’t been easy. And that hardship and struggle won’t be removed from them. They are not to be ‘snatched’ away and removed from the life of the world.

But, they are to be at work in the world, living what life offers to them and living into the faith that has been gifted to them – gifted to each of us. That our peace that Jesus prays for doesn’t come because the struggle and hardship has been removed or that our great and devout faith will pull us away from those difficult times, but our peace comes from the knowledge that God is present with us in those moments and times.

That kind of punches a pretty big hole in some things that we hear from others doesn’t it? If you just pray a little harder, have a stronger faith, do a little more service – than all this struggle will end. That life will be good and easy and fulfilling in all the ways it needs to be, if you were just a little better at this faith stuff.

Yet, here is Jesus saying almost the exact opposite of that; praying (and knowing) that God will be present with us through it all. Protecting us in the ways that God can and does.

Here’s Jesus praying for his friends and for us. Knowing that life will not be altogether easy, but that God will be present with them throughout it.

I think we’ve been fashioned to think that prayer only happens when things are ‘bad’ or are ‘needed.’ It doesn’t help that Jesus literally does that in our reading today. I’m guilty of that too. If someone tells me they are praying for me, I begin to respond like that pastor who I mentioned earlier. Like that pastor I too wonder – ‘what have I been doing that makes them think I need to be prayed for?’

But, there’s something else about prayer that I think we forget which I think brings us some really good peace when we sit down and think about it. I’d be willing to bet that Peter, James, John, and the other disciples are thankful for it as well.

Jesus prays for his disciples because he wants them to know that they are known and loved. That they are important enough to be prayed for. That they are not abandoned and alone. Jesus offers prayers to his friends – and to us – to remind us that we are indeed loved and cared for. Loved and cared for so much that even in one of the most desperate times the messiah faces, he sits down to pray for others. To let them know that they’ll be OK. That they are held close to God and to one another in community and relationship.

Those reactions are the ones that I receive that humble me so much when someone contacts the church about our prayer letters.

That sheer sense of, “Someone remembers us. Someone knows us. Someone loves us. Thank you.”

I think that is what Jesus is conveying this morning in our readings. Giving to his disciples and to each of us, as we are included in that prayer, that all are loved and remembered. But, not only all, but each of us – each of you – are specifically loved and remembered by Jesus.

Jesus invites us into how prayer for others might be pursued. It isn’t just because someone is hurting or in need. It isn’t just because you’re feeling good for another and wish that to continue.

But, as we pray, we pray because we care for that person we know personally or by extension through another. We pray because that other one is a beloved child of God – even when it is difficult to pray for that individual.

A few days ago, I picked my daughter up from school and she told me about an incident that happened that day. She and her friends like to collect and care for beetles while playing outside. Her friend had her beetle taken by another child, he squished it and threw it over the fence. My daughter and her friend were beside themselves.

After telling me that story, she crossed her arms and said, "Daddy, I don't know why God created him." I was first taken back by that comment, I've asked those same questions too sometimes. But, I questioned her, "Why do you think God created him?" With a sigh in her voice she said, "Becaus God's loves him." "So, what should we do then?" And begrudginly she replied, "Pray for him."

So we did. We prayed that this young boy would come to know through those around him that he is loved and cared for and doesn't need to act this way to gain attention. As difficult as it can be at times, we are called to pray for all of God's children because they are loved by God even when it seems we shouldn't or couldn't.

A few days ago, I picked my daughter up from school and she told me about an incident that happened that day. She and her friends like to collect and care for beetles while playing outside. Her friend had her beetle taken by another child, he squished it and threw it over the fence. My daughter and her friend were beside themselves.

After telling me that story, she crossed her arms and said, "Daddy, I don't know why God created him." I was first taken back by that comment, I've asked those same questions too sometimes. But, I questioned her, "Why do you think God created him?" With a sigh in her voice she said, "Because God's loves him." "So, what should we do then?" And begrudgingly she replied, "Pray for him."

So, we did. We prayed that this young boy would come to know through those around him that he is loved and cared for and doesn't need to act this way to gain attention. As difficult as it can be at times, we are called to pray for all of God's children because they are loved by God even when it seems we shouldn't or couldn't.

We pray for others because they are connected to us in the body of Christ; the kingdom of God. We pray for them because we follow the example our Lord who prayed for the disciples and for each of us.

We pray so that they might know that God is with them and that we are present with them as well. That as they struggle, as they celebrate, as the live – they are not alone, they are not abandoned. They are loved.

Likewise, let us remember when we hear of someone keeping us in their prayers – we are not alone, we are not abandoned, we are loved.

On this last Sunday in the season of Easter before we venture into the long season of Pentecost. We remember that our Lord prays for us. Not that the long road might be removed from our travels and our journeys, but that we might remember that God is there with us on that road. That we might notice God present with us in those valley moments as well as on those mountain tops. That God is present with us in this life. Always. Forever. Never ceasing.

Remember that prayer. Known that that prayer is just as much for you as it is for Jesus’ friends surrounding him at that table before he marches to the cross for the world – you included. Amen.

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