Remembering to say thanks

I was inspired this week to frame my sermon around Anne Lamott’s wonderful book “Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers” (2012, Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Books USA Inc., New York).  I’ve noted at each of the quotes I used where they are located in the hardbound version.

Luke 17:11-19

11On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

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Dear friends, grace, peace, and light to you from our gracious God, through the healer Jesus.  Amen.

So, is this gospel story about healing, about faith, or is it about thanksgiving and gratitude?

Or is it about something else altogether?

As Lutherans we are a both/and kind of people, so we don’t have to choose.

But there is a lot happening here.  On its face, this is a story about healing.  And while in this story healing means cure, it’s important to remember that those are not equal terms.

This story also encompasses gratitude, in the one leper who returns.  Note that Luke makes a note that it was the SAMARITAN leper who returned.  Luke’s gospel is tireless in its efforts to help us see the other, to see the marginalized who he tends to center in the story alongside Jesus.

But this story is set along Jesus’ way to Jerusalem, and a lot of profound things happen on this part of the journey.  Part of what’s happening here is a particular recognition by the Samaritan leper.  More about that in a moment.

You may be familiar with the author Anne Lamott.  She’s written a number of books that grapple with faith in the midst of everyday life, and her 2012 book is called “Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.”  And if you think about it, she’s right.  Those really are the three essential ones, sort of like the praying version of the hiker’s Ten Essentials.

About help, she writes “when…..my other friends and I have run out of good ideas on how to fix the unfixable, when we finally stop trying to heal our own sick, stressed minds with our sick, stressed minds, when we are truly at the end of our rope and just done, we say the same prayer.  We say, “help” (pg. 29).

She continues:  “Most good, honest prayers remind me that I am not in charge, that I cannot fix anything, and that I open myself to being helped by something, some force, some friends, some something.  These prayers say, ‘dear Some Something, I don’t know what I’m doing.  I can’t see where I’m going.  I’m getting more lost, more afraid, more clenched.  Help’ (pg. 35).

This is the cry of all ten lepers in our gospel story.  “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  How they knew who he was, of all the people passing them by at a distance, remains a mystery.  But their prayer, “have mercy on us!” is a biblical version of Anne Lamott’s ‘help’ for sure.

She composed a prayer of her own:  Hi, God.  I am just a mess.  It is all hopeless.  What else is new?  I would be sick of me, if I were You, but miraculously You are not.  I know I have no control over other people’s lives, and I hate this.  Yet I believe that if I accept this and surrender, You will meet me wherever I am.  Wow.  Can this be true?  If so, how is this afternoon – say, two-ish? Thank you in advance for your company and blessings.  You have never once let me down.  Amen (pg. 34).

And isn’t this our cry, so many times, in so many different words?  Help.

When Ms. Lamott comes to the chapter about Thanks, she observes how that word can come from many places.  “Now, as then, most of the time for me gratitude is a rush of relief that I dodged a bullet – the highway patrol guy didn’t notice me speed by, or the dog didn’t get hit by someone else speeding by.  Or “OhmyGodthankyouthankyouthankyou it wasn’t all a dream, I didn’t appear on Oprah in my underpants. …..” (pg. 43).

“The second and third levels of this second great prayer,” she goes on, “are said with a heaving exhaustion of breath – THANK you, whoosh.  I found my passport.  The brakes held.  The proliferation of white blood cells wasn’t cancer, just allergies.  Oh my God.  Thanks” (pg. 44).

“We and life are spectacularly flawed and complex,” she says.  “Often, we do not get our way, which I hatehatehate.  But in my saner moments, I remember that if we did, we would shortchange ourselves.  Sometimes circumstances conspire to remind us or even let us glimpse how thin the membrane is between here and there, between birth and the grave, between the human and the divine.  In wonder at the occasional direct experience of this, we say: Thank you” (pg. 45).

This seems to be the central part of our gospel.  “Thanks” is only uttered by one of the ten lepers, the one who is doubly condemned as a Samaritan.  Not only is he an outcast because of his illness, but because of his ethnicity.  There’s a sign at the Temple in Jerusalem that forbids him from entering, so Jesus’ instructions “go show yourselves to the priest” don’t work for him.

Think about that for a minute, and imagine you are the Samaritan leper.  Jesus, the Jewish Master, has healed you from this horrible skin disease, and you realize you can’t even re-enter society because you weren’t welcome in the first place.  And so you do the only thing you can: turn back and thank him for releasing you from the disease, so maybe you could at least try going back home.  In so doing, of course, you are disobeying Jesus.

Or are you?

Maybe this simple action of turning back and saying “thank you” is actually an unconscious realization that it is not what we have done that saves us – the action of going to the priests – but instead what God has done for us, through Jesus directly in front of us.

By turning back and falling before Jesus, the Samaritan formerly-known-as-a- leper has worshiped God in the deepest way: at Jesus’ feet.  We gather week after week in the same way, at Jesus’ feet at the foot of the cross, to tell the stories of remembering what God has done for us in Christ.  Not reserving our thanks for when we get what we want.  And gathering together so that on the days when ‘thanks’ is too hard to pray, the community can hold us and pray it for us.

And then there is the third essential prayer Anne Lamott describes:  wow.

You might think of a prayer of “wow” as a happy one.  Her definition is broader:

“The third great prayer, Wow, is often offered with a gasp, a sharp intake of breath, when we can’t think of another way to capture the sight of shocking beauty or destruction, of a sudden unbidden insight or and unexpected flash of grace.  “wow” means we are not dulled to wonder.  We click into being fully present when we’re stunned into that gasp, by the sight of a birth, or images of the World Trade Center towers falling, or the experience of being in a fjord, at dawn, for the first time.  “w” is about having one’s mind blown by the mesmerizing or the miraculous: the veins in a leaf, birdsong, volcanoes” (pg. 71).this is the place the other nine lepers find themselves.  As they turn to go to the temple, they find they are healed.  WOW.  I mean, WOW!

But what about our Samaritan leper?  Where is his wow?

We might say his wow is wrapped up with his thanks, because while he can’t go to the priests, small p – he can and does go to THE Priest, capital P.  Jesus.

But we of this age can also skip ahead in the book, to the story of Pentecost in Acts.  The book of Acts is considered by scholars to be by the author of Luke, and so it’s possible to consider that perhaps this Samaritan man was present at Pentecost, as one of the hundred and twenty or so believers.  Perhaps his WOW is his sharing in the events of Pentecost, of bearing witness to God’s deeds of power.  Of bearing witness to his healing as one of those deeds of power.

We have nothing to guarantee that this is true.  But it is certainly possible.  The whole event of Pentecost is a communal WOW.

Closer to our own practice, we might turn once more to Luther, as we did last week using his explanation of the Third Article of the Creed.

This week, we turn to his explanation of the first article:

I believe that God has created me and all that exists.
God has given me and still preserves my body and soul
with all their powers.
God provides me with food and clothing, home and family,
daily work, and all I need from day to day.
God also protects me in time of danger and guards me from every evil.
All this God does out of fatherly and divine goodness and mercy,
though I do not deserve it.
Therefore I surely ought to thank and praise, serve and obey God.
This is most certainly true.

Luke, Anne Lamott, and Luther.  Separated over a couple of thousand years, yet all claiming the three essential prayers:

Help.

Thanks.

Wow.

Amen.

 

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No cookies for chores

In which I remind myself and my hearers that everyday life involves basic, mundane things that don’t get rewards.  Life in the peaceable realm of God isn’t one that is transactional (work = reward) but transformational (work = thanksgiving).

Luke 17:1-10

17Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! 2It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. 4And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.” 5The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

Dear people of God, grace to you and peace from our loving God, through Jesus.  Amen.

So when you hear this lesson, how do you feel?

Do you feel like Jesus is kind of in a bad mood?

Maybe the disciples have been a tough lot today.  Maybe they’re just annoying him and so he shoots back a snarky answer to get them off his back.

And if you go by face value, it sounds like he’s kind of normalizing slavery.

What up, Jesus?

Actually I think this is one of those lessons where we are reminded that if we read scripture at face value, with our current understandings of language and culture, we’re going to miss the point.  Our takeaway from this might even be something so bad as “Jesus seems to be ok with oppressing some people.”

I’m gonna say right here and right now: that’s not the case.

What’s going on is Jesus is using the reality of his era to make his point.  And it takes a little more effort to figure out what that point is.

The lectionary tells us to begin the reading today at Verse 5, but I’ve taken it back to Verse 1.  I think it’s important to know WHY the disciples say, “Lord, increase our faith.”

And note that the word Luke uses here is “apostles.”  There’s two things to think about here; one, that the author of this gospel is speaking to his audience, not to the 12 disciples; and two, for apostles to ask “increase our faith” is towards a different end than that of disciples.

Both groups, however, are missing what Jesus is trying to tell them.  And that is that the rhythm and circle of life is one that incorporates regular forgiveness of those who have wronged you.  One that incorporates regular coming alongside a friend who seems to be stumbling and saying “you seem to be having some trouble, is there anything I can do?”

And sometimes it’s coming alongside a friend to say, “that thing you did…..not cool.”

But most often, I hear Jesus saying, is that we come alongside not only friend but foe.  That we come alongside the person that has wronged us and we forgive them.  Note that Jesus says “if another disciple” has wronged you, not “if a stranger” has.

And so I wonder if the point Jesus is making here is one that is more directed at how a community of people lives together in harmony.  There are other stories and other lessons at other times in the gospels that address how we treat the stranger.

I’m reminded of something a colleague said long ago, as we compared marriage difficulty notes: “many times we treat complete strangers better than we treat our own families.”

In other words, familiarity breeds contempt.

But what if we approach this from the place where we understand that these things happen.  That folks in close relationships, or close proximity, can step over a line.

And what if the next step is towards seeking the place of forgiveness.

Let’s think carefully here.  If we simply step up and say “I forgive you” there is also the potential for feelings from the other person of being manipulated.  They might doubt your sincerity.

But what if we name it.  What if we say “I felt hurt when you said (this) but I forgive you.  Let’s keep talking.”

Instead of turning this into a major disruption, we’ve recognized that human interaction is difficult, and at times we mess up, and so we try to cut each other a fair amount of slack.  ***Side note: I want to acknowledge that in many situations this simply is not possible, because the other person is not in the same place due to any number of reasons including addiction, anger issues, and so on.  AT NO TIME does Jesus ever mean for us to be a doormat.***

In this story, I think Jesus is saying that forgiveness is something to be spread as far and wide as is possible.  I also think he’s saying that this is what God expects of us.  That this is how followers of Jesus should conduct their lives, day in and day out.

Jesus uses the example of slave and master because it’s a predominant structure that all his hearers would understand.  For our purposes, I’d invite us to think of “worker” and “employer.”

The worker doesn’t get extra thanks for doing the job that’s spelled out in his employment contract.  He or she has agreed to do that job for a particular price.  The hours are spelled out, the tasks are spelled out, and the pay is spelled out.

The employer expects that the worker will do what his or her contract says they will do.  And at the end of the day, the worker expects that the employer will pay them according to the agreement they both signed.

In other words – each does what is expected of them.  Likewise, in the kingdom of God, we do what God expects of us, one aspect of which is forgiveness.

Nobody gets a cookie for doing what is EXPECTED.  It’s when you go the extra mile, dig a little deeper – that’s when the extra reward might come.

Here’s where the grace comes in: if we were to expect a cookie from God – literally or figuratively – after every task, then our relationship with God would be reduced to a transactional level.  And if we do that, it’s all on us, because God does not operate on a transactional level.  No, God is TRANSFORMATIONAL.

Because God is transformational, faith the size of a mustard seed is enough – because faith is something that God through the Holy Spirit causes to grow.  The request in this lesson is “increase our faith” but Jesus’ response is “you have faith the size of a mustard seed but ACTUALLY that’s all you need!  Faith that God will work through you!”

I have experienced this in my own life.  At times when all I knew how to do was simply show up, I heard later from folks that this meant so much to them.

God transformed my showing up into presence that gave people the strength they needed to make difficult decisions, to grieve, to move on.

Like I said, all I knew was to show up.  God took it from there.

I read a commentary this week that pointed out, “faith isn’t an idea, so much as it is a muscle. And the more we use that muscle, the stronger it gets.”

As we hear this story today, what if we think about that mustard seed.  That little seed that we find a bunch of in every cut of corned beef we buy every March.  I believe that each one of us has faith of at least that size.  Faith the size of that mustard seed is plenty enough to be faithful, because being faithful is about recognizing all the places God gives us to simply show up and do what needs to be done.

All of the tasks that get done around Shepherd of the Hills fall into this category too.  All the ordinary stuff we do all the time.  When it’s taken together and blessed by God, it’s extraordinary.

This is everyday faith – the ordinary, extraordinary faith that we’re invited to practice day in and day out. It’s not heroic, but it is essential.

As Mother Teresa famously said: “Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things, with great love.”

Which is further illustrated in Micah 6:8:  “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?”

On that road, we will stumble and even fall.

And as companions on the journey, we will help carry the load, and pick one another up when we fall.  Sometimes we’ll need to un-ruffle our feathers a bit.  But that’s all part of figuring this community thing out.

It’s what God calls us to do.  It’s what the world looks to us to see.

May it be found in our midst.

Amen.

Of Dickens and Jesus

My sermon from September 29, 2019.

Texts:  Amos 6:1, 4-7; Psalm 146; 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31  Lessons for 16 Pentecost

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Dear people of God, grace to you and peace this day through God in Christ.  Amen.

Income inequality.

This is an issue that is hotly debated in our country, and indeed around the world.  It’s an issue that we would term “political.”

I’d like to defuse that word a little bit.  We tend to use the word “political” as a substitute for “partisan.”

But one of the definitions of “political” in the Merriam Webster dictionary is this:

the total complex of relations between people living in society

I find this to be very helpful.  It’s based on the Greek and Latin root words poly and polis which mean “of the people.”

And throughout all of scripture, the Divine is deeply and intimately involved with “the total complex of relations between people living in society.”

Our lessons today, all four of them, dive into income inequality, which is by no means only a modern issue.  It’s an issue that God directs the prophet Amos to call out.  That Paul warns Timothy about.  That the Psalmist reminds us of, with God’s attention to the marginalized and oppressed.  And that Jesus makes brutally clear with the story of the rich man and Lazarus.

That is a story full of intense images – images that we see all too often.  Just a couple of weeks ago, in our public national discourse, comments were made about rich investors being turned off to a building because of the homeless folks sheltering themselves in the doorway.

Issues of housing affordability and income inequality collide and are lived in the houseless population of the United States.

But in order to really consider this issue, it’s important to remember that Jesus is not condemning the rich man for being rich.

Rather, the issue is that the rich man doesn’t even see Lazarus.

When we see one another, that is when relationship begins.

There is a phrase that’s used a lot right now:  “I see you.”  It’s a phrase that offers affirmation and validation, letting a person know that they matter and that their concerns are also our concerns, because we are all in this together – whether that’s as citizens of this country, members of the same group, or as children of God.

I believe this is what Jesus finds lacking with the rich man.  He doesn’t see Lazarus, and so he doesn’t respond to him.  The rich man has the means to respond, but is so self-absorbed that he doesn’t.

The prophet Amos calls out Israel in our first lesson.  Amos lived in the time when Israel was at its most prosperous.  Jeroboam was on the throne, and the surrounding nations were weak; Jeroboam used that reality to greatly expand the kingdom of Israel.

As tends to happen in times of great prosperity, the income inequality and disparity of living conditions became quite severe.  Amos describes people living in outrageous extravagance while ignoring the “ruin of Joseph”, another name for Israel.  The “ruin” is the large swath of people who’ve been left out of the prosperity.  God has gifted some people with great wealth, says Amos, and the reason for that is so they can participate in God’s kingdom by sharing that wealth.

Let me say that again: participate in God’s kingdom by sharing the wealth.

In my few short weeks here, I’ve observed that you do this well.  What God has entrusted to you, you share with your neighbors.

But as I thought about these stories, I was reminded that not only are we called to serve the neighbor who is poor, but also the neighbor who is rich.  As Paul writes to Timothy in our second lesson, “to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share…so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.”

With our neighbor who is poor, we work to free them from poverty, oppression, marginalization.  What about our neighbor who is wealthy?

Perhaps we are called to free them from greed.  From self-absorption.  From an uncaring attitude.

In my lifetime, I’ve observed that the most profound changes of heart come as a result of getting to know someone.  In other words – relationship.  When SOTH journeyed through the RIC process, forming relationships with LGBTQ folks provided the opportunity to be opened to new ideas and new possibilities around peoples’ sexuality, and realizing that “all are welcome” really means all.

Likewise, when someone of means is provided the opportunity to share their wealth, the door is opened to the possibility that their heart will be forever changed.  Many people are just waiting to be asked.  I’ve been told by colleagues that the best way to engage donors in the work you’re doing is to introduce them to a beneficiary of their giving.  Let them hear the story of the person their dollars helped.  Let them get to know that person.

It’s about relationship.  Human interaction.

The work of literature that best illustrates this set of lessons is hands-down Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  You know the story.  Ebeneezer Scrooge is a bitter, grumpy miser with no family, no friends, and no patience for compassion towards anyone or anything.

He is visited by the ghost of his partner, Jacob Marley.  Marley informs him that he will be visited by “three spirits” over the course of the next few days, for the purpose of helping Scrooge to avoid Marley’s fate.

Note the parallel between Dickens and Jesus’ story: Abraham tells the rich man that even if his brothers were to behold someone risen from the dead, they wouldn’t believe him.

Certainly that is the situation with Scrooge.  You may notice that Marley doesn’t give him a choice.  The three spirits are coming, like it or not.  Scrooge is agitated, but his heart has not yet been moved.

And that is, of course, the point of the story.  For it is in the revisiting of his life, the re-experiencing of old relationships, that Scrooge begins to see through new eyes.

But only a bit.  In the fourth stave when Scrooge is led by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come to his own gravestone, Scrooge reacts out of terror and promises that he will keep Christmas.  We still do not see Scrooge’s experience of metanoia, of turning and going a new way.  Not yet.

That doesn’t happen until the fifth and final stave of the story.

In that fifth and final stave, Scrooge is brought back to the here and now.  It is Christmas Day!  He hasn’t missed it!

Contrary to his former behavior, Scrooge develops a relationship with everyone he encounters.  Scrooge not only develops new relationships, but re-forms and deepens old ones.

And he is thereby changed.  He has been given an opportunity to share what he has, and in the wake of his newly opened heart, he discovers the joy that generosity brings.

Joy like his silly chuckling while plotting to send an enormous turkey to Bob Cratchit’s house.  His running into the gentlemen who’d been raising money for the poor the day before, and pledging to them today far more than they could even believe.  His appearance at his nephew Fred’s house today, after basically throwing Fred out of the office the day before.

And of course, his complete surprise for Bob Cratchit the next morning, even as Bob thought he ought to call for Scrooge to be taken to hospital:

“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!”

 

Scrooge has discovered the unparalleled joy of generosity.  He has found that greed is about getting, but Gospel is about giving.  And ultimately it is gospel living that brings us great joy and fulfillment.  Not because we expect to receive something, but because it is the right thing to do.  Luther put it this way: “God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.”

The numbers around income inequality in this country – and indeed, in the world – are so staggering as to be paralyzing.  It’s important for us to be mindful of the scripture we’ve heard today.  And I think it’s also helpful to remember that when we reach out, when we actually see the person we are helping, it makes all the difference.

From Dickens:

“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them….. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.  …..and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!

Dear friends, what we do today, matters.

How we are moved to respond to need with generosity, matters.

That we open our lives and our hearts to God’s transformative love, matters.

And that we live that transformative love in serving others, matters too.

Shepherd of the Hills does an extraordinary job in this realm.  I would encourage us all to invite others to join us in this work that connects us all to one another and to God in Christ.

It is not easy work.

But it is desperately needed, by so many.

“God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.”

May we continue to live by that reminder from Luther, so that all may know Christ’s love.

Amen.

The Dawn From on High

Today, for the 25th year, my congregation observed Native American Sunday.  We are honored to have Native members in our congregation of many ages, and are blessed with their wisdom and generosity.  We heard words today of legend and vision, as well as pain and hardship.  This is the basic outline of how I wrapped up the time of native words and reflection.

Text:  Luke 1:68-79  (Song of Zechariah – Contemporary English Version)

68 Praise the Lord,

    the God of Israel!
He has come
    to save his people.
69 Our God has given us
    a mighty Savior[a]
from the family
    of David his servant.
70 Long ago the Lord promised
by the words
    of his holy prophets
71 to save us from our enemies
and from everyone
    who hates us.
72 God said he would be kind
to our people
and keep
    his sacred promise.
73 He told our ancestor Abraham
74 that he would rescue us
    from our enemies.
Then we could serve him
    without fear,
75 by being holy and good
    as long as we live.

76 You, my son, will be called
a prophet of God
    in heaven above.
You will go ahead of the Lord
to get everything ready
    for him.
77 You will tell his people
    that they can be saved
when their sins
    are forgiven.
78 God’s love and kindness
    will shine upon us
like the sun that rises
    in the sky.[b]
79 On us who live
in the dark shadow
    of death
this light will shine
to guide us
    into a life of peace.

 

In the tender compassion of our God,

The dawn from on high shall break upon us.

 We’ve heard from native writers and native voices

So what does it mean for us?

This gospel text from Luke is the Song of Zechariah

You may recall Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, would become

pregnant with the child who would be John the Baptist

Her husband, Zechariah, was visited by an angel

who told him what was going to happen

He didn’t believe the angel, and his speech was gone until the baby was born

When John was born, his father sang this song

It’s now the gospel passage that is traditionally sung in morning prayer

And I think about the native voices we’ve heard today,

and this passage sounds like something I would hear in a native context

Because the Great Creator loves us,

the sun will bring light and warmth to us once more

I think some of you are familiar with Father Richard Rohr

(If you aren’t, his work is worth your time)

In his online devotion, Father Richard explored this week

the concept of peacemaking

And that echoes for me in the story Ole told us about the two wolves, in the words from Black Elk that Dave read, and the words Marva shared from Richard Twist

Will we work towards peace, or towards conflict

There is much conflict in our world now

And peace will not come about with a new day,

But as the result of the hard work of people of peace, together with God’s tender compassion

Richard Twist’s words about the need for reconciliation remind me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s distinction between cheap grace – grace without repentance – and costly grace, which is the grace that comes about with true repentance

The Greek word is metanoia, to turn a go a new direction

You may have read this week of Greta Thunberg,

The 16-yr-old Swedish young woman who sailed

Across the Atlantic to the US for a UN event,

to address Congress, and to lead the general strike

on the topic of climate change

The 13 Indigenous Grandmothers have spoken of this too

They are a group of indigenous women organized in 2004 from around the world

to address the issues of climate change and harm to Mother Earth

One of them is Agnes Baker Pilgrim, a relative of Marva’s

Today, they are gathered together in upstate New York

talking and praying around issues of water and land

and working on the preservation of the planet for

the generations to come

We had no idea this was happening until we looked up Grandmother Agnes yesterday

So what does all this have to do with God?  With Jesus?

It’s actually all intertwined

As Lutheran Christians, we understand that in Christ

We are freed to serve the neighbor in thanksgiving to God

And that means that our relationship with God and Christ

takes precedence over our allegiance to anything else

This is difficult for us in many ways

But it really is the key to the inbreaking peaceable realm of God

For if we are more than anything devoted to God

then we can imagine a gathering of the peoples of the earth

There is no vetting of what anyone is wearing, or doing

But simply a sense of gratitude for people gathered to give praise to the Creator

It might look different from what we are used to

but that itself is what gives us a sense of the breadth of God’s love and grace

Encompassing all peoples, all times, and all places

Drawing us all together under the shelter of the Creator

So that we might understand that we are all related

Not only to one another, but to the earth

And that God calls us to live in a peaceable rhythm

With one another, and with all the earth

That is when the dawn from on high shall indeed break upon us.

Amen.

 

Discipleship and Cruise Ships

My sermon from September 8, 2019.  Not the easiest text.  I’m still pondering Jesus’ words.

Luke 14.25-33

25Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”

Dear friends, grace and peace to you this day from our gracious God, through Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

Welcome this morning to the world of hyperbole Jesus.  Where he says outrageous things to get our attention.

In our day and age, one could say that Scripture is almost imitating life here.

But is what Jesus saying hyperbole, or does he actually mean it?  It’s so off-base for him that it does indeed get our attention.

He follows that up with a story about construction project estimating, and a second story that seems like an excerpt from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.”

And then he ends with “if you can’t give up your possessions you can’t be my disciple.”

Whether this is hyperbole Jesus or whiplash Jesus is anyone’s guess.  Bottom line, there’s a lot to think about here, as we explore what might be Jesus’ core message in this particular passage.

The beginning portion that discusses hating family is the strangest part.  But let’s consider when Luke’s gospel was written – likely around 80-90 CE.  This is after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.  Christians are being persecuted across the empire in a variety of ways.  The author of this gospel is speaking to people who have very possibly suffered the loss of family because of their choice to follow the Jesus movement – at that time, it was called “the Way.”

So what Jesus is saying might be something of a reflection of the ostracizing that Luke’s audience may have already encountered.  It could easily be a word of comfort to his audience – albeit one spoken in a kind of code.

But this is a good place to remember that we read all of Scripture through the lens of Christ.  I think Jesus is emphasizing to us here that our allegiances can get divided and distracted very easily – but it is to God alone that we owe ultimate allegiance.  So maybe a way to consider this part of the text is to think not that you would “hate” your family, but that you would love the elderly around you as much as your own parents.  That you would love the children around you as much as your own young relatives or children.  That you would love the stranger as much as you would love your own sibling.

It’s a way of shifting our thinking about family from solely that of our immediate family, to the family of God.  A shift that forces us to go bigger.

The word translated as “hate” is more accurately translated, within Jesus’ Jewish context, as “turn away from.”  Perhaps we are called to turn away from a definition of “family” that is limited only to our own folk and embrace a definition that is set by God.  A definition that includes all.

And let’s be honest: doing that can get you hated by both family and friend.

Let’s hold that for a moment, this broader definition of “family.”  Let’s turn to the examples Jesus uses: construction estimation and preparation for war.

What are these about?

Discipleship is not a pleasure cruise.  Discipleship is not something that you sign up for to just get some little goodie for free in the mail.

Discipleship is something that not only rewards, but requires.

We have a number of sayings along these lines: “to those whom much is given, much is required.”  And “no pain, no gain.”

But even those don’t quite capture the depth that Jesus is trying to impart here.

You see, being a faithful disciple of Jesus – now, I think, just as much as then – means that you are taking a risk.

Risks that run the gamut from being shunned to your life being endangered.

When you are a follower of Jesus, you are part of a movement that works to usher in the peaceable realm of God.  And that peaceable realm is one that stands over against the evils that plague the earth, and the bad behavior of those who perpetuate those evils.

This is why Jesus uses the two examples: to emphasize the gravity of what he’s saying.

With the first example, it’s more personal: did you run the numbers properly so you know whether or not you can afford to build this thing?  The price that would be paid for failing to do so would be ridicule, and likely repossession of the property by some authority at some point.

But the example he uses of war carries far greater stakes: if the king with an army of 10,000 goes into battle against one of 20,000 it is highly likely that wholesale slaughter will occur.

This is one of the most unethical moves a military commander can make.

In the musical “Hamilton” George Washington recalls an ill-advised move he made early in his career that cost the lives of several of his soldiers.  He is haunted by that memory for the rest of his life.

Jesus uses the example to make the point that if you are going to make a momentous decision, get informed.  Look at the big picture.  Consider what the cost might be.

So what does Jesus mean next when he talks about “you can only be my disciple if you give up all your possessions”?

The obvious thing to consider is the literal question: does he mean, like, get rid of all my STUFF?

Which begs a question in return: how much does your stuff own you?

And the two examples he just gave might break that open.  If your calculations about following Jesus get hopelessly bogged down in the details of dealing with the complications of your life, then there is some food for thought.

In stories throughout this gospel, starting last Advent, we’ve heard over and over how Jesus makes it clear that allegiance to God is the ONLY allegiance that matters.  For us, as it was for his followers then, that presents a challenge.

Are we Christians first, or (fill in the blank) first?  And if we are Christians first, what does that mean in our daily life?

Dear friends, here is what I think is the good news in the midst of these very serious and difficult questions:

GOD. LOVES. YOU.

God loves you before you even blink an eye.

And that means that these questions, these existential quandaries we find ourselves wrestling with, are perpetual.  I don’t believe we are called to solve them in the next five minutes or so.  I do believe that we struggle with this throughout our lives, and from time to time make some progress in one way or another.

And I wonder: could THAT be the cross Jesus speaks of to this crowd?

Is the cross he mentions the one of the journey – the one that represents the continuing struggle, the daily quest to discern God’s call in our lives?

The cross that reminds us that we are not there yet – but we are on the way.  We know the cross to be both an instrument of torture of the Roman empire, and the symbol of resurrection for all who follow Christ.

In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, these themes ring loud and true throughout.  The hobbit Frodo is charged with carrying the ring to Mordor so its evil power can be subsumed.  That is his cross, something he carries so that the world might be saved.

But it is Frodo’s friend, the hobbit Samwise Gamgee, whose cross stands out here.  Sam has determined not to leave his friend, and accompanies him on his journey.

At the end of the second part, The Two Towers, things are embroiled in struggle, in battles both at Isengard and Helm’s Deep.  Frodo and Sam are seeking the strength to keep going, to make the final leg of the journey to Mordor.  With destruction all around them, Frodo tells Sam he can’t keep going, but Sam encourages him, reminding him:

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered…..Those were the stories that stayed with you.  They meant something, even if you were too small to understand why.  But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand.  I know now.  Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t.  They kept going.  Because they were holding onto something.”

Frodo asks, “what are we holding onto, Sam?”

And Sam replies, “that there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo…and it’s worth fighting for.”

The struggle we find ourselves in these days – is an eternal one.  It is the struggle of good and evil.  God has called us to this, but with a promise that God walks every step with us.

It is a struggle that is filled throughout with sorrow and difficulty – but also with moments and days of joy and celebration.  Time for reflection.  Things that remind us that there’s some good in this world.

You may have heard this week, of the pleasure cruise that became anything but.

Folks on a Caribbean cruise were informed that their ship would be rerouting in order to bring relief and supplies to folks in the Bahamas, where Hurricane Dorian wreaked unspeakable havoc this week.

Instead of being irate that their vacation was interrupted, the passengers pitched in to help make lunches for those impacted by the hurricane.  The children on board made cards to let folks know they were in folks’ thoughts and prayers for relief.

A pleasure cruise that embodied discipleship.  There’s a Lutheran paradox if ever I heard one.

Jesus reminds us in this story of the things that can distract us from the journey that gives us not only life, but life’s meaning.

May we continue to discern those things, and may we always be reminded that there IS good in this world.

And it’s worth fighting for, even in ways as simple as a sandwich from a cruise ship.

Amen.

Blessing is an active word

My sermon today reflected on the difference between seeking a blessing, and being one.

Luke 14:1-14

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

7When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. 8“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 12He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Dear people of God, grace and peace be yours from our loving and welcoming God, through Christ our redeemer.  Amen.

Do we not find ourselves challenged – again – by Jesus’ actions in a well-known situation?

Pretty much everything he says and does at this particular event are the things my mother told me never EVER to do when invited to someone’s house for dinner.

Jesus calls out those in attendance as they jockey for position at the table.  Awkward.

Then he proceeds to tell his host who he SHOULD have invited.  Rude.

Not exactly the poster boy for either Emily Post’s “Etiquette”, or Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.

Is this the kingdom of God??

Well, let’s take a closer look.

In Luke’s gospel, there’s an overriding theme of “who’s in and who’s out.”  In so many episodes throughout this book, this is the center of gravity.  The main question being explored.  And this episode is no different.

In first-century, Roman-occupied Palestine, there were many sets of rules that governed the answer to that question.  The Roman system of patronage, roughly the equivalent of quid pro quo or even exchange, ruled civil life.  The Jewish temple laws told you how to live your religious side.  And both of them were transactional.  If you did a particular thing, you received another thing.  You pay a denarii, you get an item or service of that worth.  When you come to the temple, you bring an offering in order to receive God’s blessing.

What Jesus is laying out in this story is nothing less than the dismantling of BOTH systems.

Jesus proclaims a peaceable realm of God that is not at all transactional, but rather transformational, with its anchor in the lavish love and grace of the Creator.

Think of how he describes the seating arrangement.

He urges his hearers to willingly take the “lowest” seat, observing that perhaps the host might call them up to a more prestigious seat.

But I wonder if maybe Jesus is upending the whole idea of what constitutes a “prestigious” seat.

Think again about the suggestion he makes: take the lowest seat available.

No matter who you are, when you come to the table, there are no place cards.  And so you simply take a seat, not trying to sit next to the host.

What might happen?

Well, it is certainly possible that the host might invite you to take another seat.  But what if the host has done this deliberately, so that his guests might get to know each other over a meal?

Suddenly instead of seeking a blessing by being seated near or next to the host, the guests might become blessings to one another as they get to know one another.  As they begin to form relationships.

And suddenly all those seats that were seen as lowly or worthless before, are now just the same as all the others.  Filled with people who are conversing over a good meal, enjoying one another’s company, not sulking because they’re not sitting by the host but rather grateful that they’re having a great time.  This is a transformational experience.

Power and prestige – the building blocks of societies across history – don’t count in the kingdom of God.  Because in God’s kingdom, it’s about how God sees us, not about how we see one another.

Now, in all fairness, this would not be difficult to achieve at a dinner party at all.  The host could announce that there are no place cards this evening, and they hope that you will all find a seat near someone you don’t know well, and maybe get to know one another a little better.  Entirely do-able.

And perhaps Jesus has suggested that action first, precisely because it’s more do-able.  Now let’s look at the second half of Jesus’ outrageous behavior and remarks, which are not at all as do-able.

His instructions can be boiled down to two words:  “Invite THEM.”

You know – THEM.  THOSE people.  The guy who wanders around town muttering to himself.  The woman with the shopping cart full of all her stuff.  The addict.  The gang member.  The family from THAT area.

And here’s where the transformation can be the most profound, and the most difficult for us to experience.

This is the place where stuff gets real, sometimes TOO real.  But that is also where God meets us – in the real.  In the highs, yes – but most profoundly in the lows.

I want to share with you a story of the first time I really experienced what Jesus is suggesting in this parable.

In San Bernardino, east of Los Angeles, there is a neighborhood that is the poorest per-capita zip code in the United States.  That statistic allows not only for income, but for other factors including food desert likelihood, housing availability and costs, and so on.

This neighborhood, and most of the city, was deeply impacted by the closure of a nearby military base right on the heels of the closure of the Kaiser aluminum plant in the early 90s.  Jobs evaporated quicker than puddles on a hot summer day.  Unemployment skyrocketed, and despair set in.

In this area, five Lutheran churches combined forces and began the Central City Lutheran Mission in 1995.  One of the churches became the physical home for the mission, known widely as CCLM.

I attended an ELCA Global Mission music event there in 2012.  The final event of the weekend was Sunday worship at 5 PM, followed by a shared meal.

As we gathered in the sanctuary, I noticed that the congregation was not just “diverse” but a true reflection of these words of Jesus.  There were folks there from the surrounding, mainly Hispanic community; there were the homeless gentlemen who would sleep in the sanctuary that night; there were lots of other homeless folks; and there were a number of young folks who were likely gang members.

And there were us white people, including the church members who had come that afternoon to prepare and serve the meal.

The pastor reminded everyone that the font was filled with the water of life, and served as a reminder that each one of us was a beloved child of God.  “And if you ever doubt that,” he said, “if you need to remember that – you come right up here and dip your fingers in the water and make the sign of the cross on your forehead to remind yourself.”

As the service progressed, I noticed how this very diverse group of people found a way to worship together, allowing for all kinds of folks to be themselves.

After worship, everyone headed over to the hall for a hot meal.  We had gathered around Christ’s table together; and now everyone sat down together at the dinner tables – no groups or cliques.  I sat with one of the homeless gentlemen and another lady from the community, and we shared a meal and conversation.

And I realized, as I looked around the room – this was the kingdom of God.

In a somewhat run-down fellowship hall, in an area where the police hesitated to go, where gang violence is rampant – here was the kingdom of God.  The poor, the lame, the blind, the crippled – and so many more – were all seated at dinner together, welcomed by Christ the host.

I think Jesus tells these stories as a way for us to think more deeply about how we live our lives: are we moving through life seeking blessings, or are we moving through life seeking to BE a blessing?

Martin Luther put it this way: “God doesn’t need your good works – but your neighbor does.”  We are freed by grace to serve the neighbor.

When we pursue the path of being a blessing, we move towards that place where all possibility of self-promotion and leverage has been ruled out of our interactions with one another.  That’s when we glimpse the kingdom.  That’s what I saw that day in San Bernardino.  No one was trying to be better than anyone else, and every person was accepted and respected for who they were – a beloved child of God.

But when we obsess over our power, our prestige, or our position, we ultimately alienate ourselves from each other; from our relationships with one another and with God.

Dorothy Day, the Catholic social justice activist, wrote:

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community. We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know Him in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.”

This is the life to which Jesus invites us.  The life that comes with community, that is not without struggle, and that is ultimately realized in the breaking of the bread.

Come to the feast.

Amen.

 

 

We Can’t Wait

This was my sermon on my first Sunday at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Stevenson, WA. – my first call!  Glad to have a rich text to begin my journey with these good folks.

Luke 13:10-17

10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Dear people of God, grace and peace be yours this day from our loving God through Jesus, healer and savior.  Amen.

I wonder how many of you, like me, can really identify with this woman today.

As you know, I’ve been moving in the last couple of weeks.  This has been an epic undertaking, as I sort through the final cut of the things that tell the story of my family’s life.

The repetitive motion of moving and opening boxes, and unwrapping items, has caught up with me in the form of tendinitis and nerve pain in my hands and arms.  While it is very painful, it is a temporary problem, and I thought about folks who suffer from this sort of thing on a chronic level – like the woman in our gospel story.

On the surface, this story sounds like another healing by Jesus.  But if we stop there, we might miss the deeper point.

You see, the powers-that-be didn’t question whether Jesus should heal the woman, but rather when he should heal her.  “Why didn’t you wait until after the sabbath?” they ask.  “You’re not supposed to work on the sabbath.”

They were concerned with the law. They were concerned with appearances. That was their job. But they made it sound like God’s grace should adhere to our timeline.

I don’t know about your experience, but mine has been that God’s timeline most certainly is NOT ours.

But even THAT is not entirely what this story is about – though we will circle back to it.

This story at its core is about what it means when we say Sabbath.  It’s about what Sabbath itself is.

Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. That’s the commandment, but what does it mean?

In Luke’s gospel, there are seven episodes that occur on the Sabbath, and of those seven, five are healings.  The other two are Jesus’ reading from the scroll – basically starting the ball rolling – and the disciples collecting grain.

In each of these episodes, Jesus and his disciples do things that stir the pot.  That get folks riled up.  And we are reminded of last week’s gospel story where Jesus reminds us that “his coming will bring division.”

No kidding.

Jesus’ ministry in first-century Palestine brings division, because his ministry is the realization on earth of the peaceable realm of God.  He talks to the wrong people, he eats with sinners, he says weird things, and now he’s working on the Sabbath.  He’s breaking all the rules.  How is this the reign of God???

Well, those are all how WE define the wrong people – how WE decide whether something is weird – and how WE are unable to discern between the reign of God and human labor.

And what Jesus is doing in each of these instances is releasing God’s people from bondage.

The woman does not come to him; he goes to her.  An echo of our understanding that God moves first.  And he lays his hands on her and says, “you are set free.”  And simply because he didn’t wait for the end of the sabbath – likely just a few hours away – the kerfuffle begins.

Jesus, like God, acts first and deals with the fallout later.  Not because he knew a negotiation about whether this was ok would be futile, but because God’s reign isn’t something that happens according to any human schedule.  After Jesus reads from the scroll in the temple, he tells those assembled that “TODAY this scripture has been fulfilled in your presence.”

Not “in four weeks so you’ll have enough time to prepare.”  Not “when it’s least likely to draw the wrong kind of attention.”

TODAY.

And that gives us an idea of what Jesus means when he says Sabbath.

Sabbath is a way of living, a way of being.  It is living into the fullest meaning of the reign of God.  It is being set free from the things that bind you, the things that oppress you, so that you may live freely and fully in God’s love and grace.

That is really the essence of the Reconciling in Christ program – that this place would become a place where folks are set free from church things in the past that might have oppressed them.  That anyone who walks through this door will know they are a beloved and cherished child of God – no matter who they love.

And God intends that for us right now.  No waiting required.

Martin Luther King’s magnificent “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was included in his volume Why We Can’t Wait.  King had been criticized by white Southern minsters who, while sympathetic to his cause, disagreed with his nonviolent action approach.  They preferred that he try negotiating (he already had, repeatedly) and to be patient.  “These things take time.”

Such words ring mighty hollow for a people who had, at that point, been effectively enslaved for well over two centuries.  Their negotiation efforts had been met with betrayal, refusal, and outright violence.

Even though Dr. King does not quote this text in his letter, it is a striking corollary.  Where the white religious establishment has fallen back onto claims of order and law, King reminds them of the difference between a just and an unjust law, and how a moral obligation exists to oppose an unjust law: “no one is free until everyone is free.”  As Augustine said, “an unjust law is no law at all.”

And so Jesus heals the woman.

Because for the concept of Sabbath to be fully realized, she MUST be healed from her ailment.  She MUST be freed from what keeps her bound.  The temple laws stood in the way of the inbreaking of the kingdom of God, and so Jesus broke those laws.

In so doing, Jesus is not abandoning Sabbath, not at all.  Rather Jesus is returning to the original definition of Sabbath, according to the law of Moses: to provide relief, even if only temporary, from any system that would deny a person or any part of creation a share of rest, peace, wholeness, dignity, and justice.

The synagogue official grumbles to the crowd, “don’t come here on the Sabbath for this, you’ve got six other days.”  But Jesus says “actually, the Sabbath is a pretty good day for setting people free. ACTUALLY, the whole point of the Sabbath – that God places major value on wholeness – I think that means I MUST do this now.  We can’t wait!”

We can’t wait, because God’s kingdom is among us.  It is already, and – AND – it is not yet.

One more day of unnecessary torment – perpetuating injustice – these defile the holiness of the weekly Sabbath day that God ordained. To deny freedom is to offend the God of the Exodus. It’s because of who God is that Jesus can’t wait.

This is that God timeline that has nothing to do with ours.

As Matt Skinner points out in his excellent commentary When Patience Becomes Complacency: Why We Can’t Wait*:

Two different views run through the New Testament, and they are present in Christian tradition more generally. To put it rather simply, one of these views commends patient endurance as people wait in expectation of what God will bring to fruition in the future. The other view expresses a restless desire to see God’s intentions for human society spring into existence now. Both views agree that something new has happened through Jesus, and that God has set the world onto a new course, but both views also know all too well that life continues to be filled with misery, oppression, pain, and loss. The first view says that faith in God makes people content to endure the current miseries. The second view says that faith in God makes it crucial that we can’t wait.

Which is right?  Which is the one God ordains?

Well, as Lutherans, we are a both/and kind of people.  So I’d say it’s a little of both.  Or more accurately, a little of the first and a lot of the second.

And let’s face it, if we’re comfortable, it’s easier to wait.  But it’s also something that blinds us to the situation of our neighbor.

And when we are at that place, I think it is well for us to think about the things that bind US.  None of us is immune.  We’re in this thing together.

What keeps you in bondage today?

What keeps you bent over, unable to stand?

And likewise, how would your neighbor answer those questions?

Dear friends, know that God has set us in this place and time on the road together, to discern where God leads us and to act accordingly.  To bear one another’s burdens, and share each other’s joys.

Such is the real meaning of Sabbath.  I can’t imagine why anyone would want to wait.

Amen.

 

*Skinner, Matthew.  When Patience Becomes Complacency: Why We Can’t Wait.  Sojourners, August 15, 2016.  Why We Can’t Wait