Freedom

Grace and Peace to you

My sisters and brothers in Christ

When we profess that we are free,

Nothing should hold us back from living into that freedom

To transform this world, now

Because of the New Covenant with God

Because of the One who Challenged Sin and Death

And Won,

Setting us FREE

Jesus Christ, Our Risen Savior and Lord

Amen.

 

Okay so let’s get this out of the way-

The Cubs lost

(wait for groans or laughter from congregation)

Right?

Especially since we have been immersed

in this Back to the Future chaos this past week

If you’re not familiar with the movie or have seen it,

All of the buzz on social media probably had you running to

Netflix and Hulu

So in the movie, on the date of Oct 21, 2015

The Cubs were supposed to win the World Series,

Other conversations about predictions of the movie surfaced,

With people asking where were our hover boards

And hover cars

(pause)

Who would have dreamed back then,

That we would even have these devices,

Our ipads, Tablets and Cell phones

They are able to tell us how to get from A to B

Remind us of our appointments and keeping us on task

Giving us the news as it happens

And access to our bank accounts

Recipes

And more importantly,

A feature we may have all forgotten

To actually stay connected with one another

We don’t have to wait til we get home,

We can call our loved ones wherever we are!

We can stay in touch and reconnect with extended family

Friends,

Classmates

Celebrating and sharing the joys that pepper our lives

(pause)

And in those moments of sadness, of frustration and even of fear

We are able to send our soothing words of comfort, or share in the sorrow

Or send out prayers of love,

Prayers of healing and hope

Prayers to remind one another that God still walks with us

Regardless of whether we know those affected,

Or because of their stories we hear and see throughout Creation

Through various mediums,

We want them to know that someone is praying for them,

With them

“God is our refuge and strength,

 a very present help in trouble

(pause)

Prayers are POWERFUL

So this should be proof

That regardless of how we reach out

We as people of faith

Can impact this world, this Creation

Through the spreading of the Gospel in every way!

We have the ability to do that, you know

We have the FREEDOM to do so.

We live in the midst of a society where we can actually live out that freedom

To worship,

To Share the Peace of God

Every day should fill us with this reminder,

Because there are some places in our global society

Where the Light and Love of God is repeatedly shut out

And shut down.

There are Christian Churches in North Korea,

Who are living out the Gospel,

Professing and proclaiming,

Even though underground and secret,

They never stop sharing the Good News,

To encourage their fellow brothers and sisters

That “If you continue in my word,

you are truly my disciples;

 and you will know the truth,

 and the truth will make you free.”

That Jesus Christ struggles with them,

And is with them,

As they try again and again,

To flee from the oppression and the hunger and the pain,

That they have been bound under.

(pause)

And we, beloved

We struggle with being Free

We struggle at professing and sharing our Faith with one another

With those across the fence,

Across the street

Why?

Are we so worried that we will fail?

That we stumble over the words?

Or is it that there is so much brokenness

So many people wearing masks

To cover their fragility

And vulnerability

That our words of Love, Mercy and Grace

Seem fabricated and forced

That when we are exposed ourselves,

That means the perception of perfection

Is shattered

(pause)

Are we worried the fact that we will fail?

That this voyage into new ministry or a new direction

Or trying new things to kick open the doors of our Church

Is too big of a risk that our souls can not bear?

But we proudly sing A Mighty Fortress is Our God,

Because this is Reformation Sunday-

But does this mean anything to us, as people of faith?

Is this a day where we are peering into the past of 1517

And nod our heads in thanks to Martin Luther

And say “Good for him!”

As bold and Public and direct as Luther was,

And correct me if I am wrong

Luther probably would be everywhere throughout Social Media

Because Luther understood FREEDOM

Luther understood that everything he had done,

Or would do,

Whether he succeed or made a hot mess of

WAS FORGIVEN

Because of what Jesus taught to those who were following Him,

Listening to Him

Learning from Him

(pause)

And it should be noted that Jesus in our Gospel text

Was speaking to the Jewish people-

Not simply to those who would call themselves Christians-

We forget that Jesus Christ came and taught and healed and loved

EVERYONE

“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples;

and you will know the truth,

 and the truth will make you free.”

He didn’t care if they were Jewish or Gentiles or Pagan or Muslim

Or struggling with His presence,

Or struggling with unbelief

Jesus Christ taught this idea, this belief of FREEDOM

Freedom from the constraints of the law

The law which threatened to separate communities from one another,

Because humankind resisted,

Could not fathom the Creator God’s call of a New Covenant

That God’s Love and Grace would be etched within us

This command of our Creator God of freedom for God’s children

 “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

(pause)

We are FREE to share the Good News

We are FREE to give of ourselves

Our time and talents,

Our Blessings in Prayers to those who walk through these doors

We are FREE to shout and sing praises in this place

We are FREE to weep in the midst of the faithful

Because we are FREE to say:

I am weak, Lord

I need you, Lord

I am angry, Lord

I am lost, Lord

(pause)

This Reformation movement is continuous

We must be bold to tack upon doors where the Holy Spirit is being shut out

Where there is no FREEDOM to express the LOVE of the Risen Christ

Where there is no FREEDOM to be open to the presence of GOD

Where people are restricted from simply living and existing

Because of laws

Because of human fears

Because of the sins of this world

Which destroy the relationships

And the sacredness of this Life!

We are called to Spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ

That CHRIST DIED for ALL

ALL OF US!

THAT IS THE GOOD NEWS!

(pause)

The Good News is that each time we find ourselves bound to Sin

Because we are human,

We are not perfect

It is because of Jesus,

WE ARE FREE

Even as this world treats us,

Those of us who cling to Jesus’s cloak

To our Faith

As second, third or fourth class citizens

We stand tall because we serve a GOD who is MIGHTY

Who BREAKS CHAINS

Over and Over

With Forgiveness and Love and Mercy

And Grace!

We should never be afraid to share the Good News with Everyone!

We are FREE

Right here it says this in the Gospel of John

Right here it says this in Jeremiah

Right here in our hearts

In the Breath we draw (take in a deep, sacred breath from God,

And exhale every burden of sin you carry with you)

We know we are LOVED

And FREE

To impact this world

Bit by Bit

Block by Block

Person by Person

(pause)

This is Reformation Sunday

But every day is an opportunity

To actively live out this Reformation Movement

Its needed, here and now

Because that covenant from God

Has with us

Calls us to lay the foundation of the Gospel wherever we walk

Wherever we go,

Face to Face,

Or virtually.

Thanks Be to God.

The Absurdity of God

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

No matter how we feel foolish

Sharing the Good News

We should never ceasing praising,

Praying,

Professing

Because God never gives up on us

And Sent us God’s Son,

Jesus Christ

Amen.

How absurd is the Good News?

Can we share that the Kingdom of God is here,

That the Creator and Redeemer God loves us so,

That God sent God’s Son

To walk among us

To be us

To understand the frailty of the human spirit

And the struggle that drives us

In this quest to be loved

To be counted

To be heard

Remember the homework that I gave you?

To share the Gospel read

Proclaimed

Challenging us to dig deeper and to shatter those barriers

How many of you were able to share the Good News,

The Good News that is right here

With your friends and neighbors

(Come on, let’s see those hands! Wait for the laughter and pause)

And when we are unable to share the Good News,

Is it because our spirit is poor-

Or perhaps the knee jerk reaction

Of our sisters and brothers

Is poor?

“Don’t tell me that Jesus died for our sins,

That Jesus forgives us,

Humanity can’t even begin to forgive!

What forgiveness are Christians actually living out?

All I see is remnants of a God who has forgotten God’s people!”

(pause)

All our brothers and sisters in Faith, in Love, in Challenge see

Is the raw deal this life overflows us with-

The devastation and brokenness of where we live

The destruction of relationships and community

between those who love

The damage that illness visits upon whom we love

And so we seek comfort in the Psalms,

“Because you have made the Lord your refuge,

The Most High your dwelling place,

No evil shall befall you,

No scourge come near your tent.”

But Jesus,

We have done what you have asked-

We have lived my life,

And still, we are fraught with worries of living,

Worries about how we can make this economically,

Worries about how we can make it out the door

Without someone taking their rage, their anger out on me

Worried about how we can dispel the stresses

That smother my very being

How can we God, carry out what you have called us to,

When we are worried that they can not see the reflection of YOU

In ME?

And sometimes, even these Psalms,

The words fall from us like stone

For He will command His angels concerning you,

To guard you in all your ways”

Where are the angels, Lord?

Where is my protection, God?

Have you forgotten your suffering servant?

(pause)

“Jesus we have left everything,

Given up everything

Denied ourselves the comforts of this life,

Turned down status and wealth,

And followed you!”

Peter’s words haunt us from before

and now how absurd are these demands Jesus hears

In our Gospel text

“We want you do to whatever we ask”,

echoes from the disciples down to us.

(pause)

How bold!

How ridiculous, we say, to ask Jesus of this-

When Jesus asked of the disciples

To follow Him

To go into those places where people sat curled in corners

Weeping

Shivering

Wondering,

If God could not see the good in their hearts

And only recognized them by their sin and shame

The disciples did not want to tread where Jesus walked

The disciples wanted something in return for their service

And we, beloved

Can we SIT WHERE JESUS SITS TODAY?

Are you able to drink the cup that I drink

Or be baptized with the baptism that I am”

Can you go into those places of pain and hurt?

Can you bear the anger and the discord?

Are you willing to serve and suffer,

Knowing that I suffering alongside you?

Knowing that the Son of man came not to be served

But to serve,

And to give His life a ransom for many?

For all of Creation?

(pause)

How absurd,

Through an instrument of torture,

Would come Freedom

Healing,

Rebirth,

LIFE!

(pause)

How absurd that we as followers of Christ

Cling to the Empty Cross

As a sign of God’s Promise

Empty because JESUS IS NOT THERE

JESUS steps out from the shadow of DEATH

And Jesus REVEALS HIMSELF

The Risen CHRIST stands with us in our suffering,

Our sorrow, our agony

(pause)

How absolutely absurd

That God would love

A ragtag, grimy, forgetful people such as us?

That the Creator cradles us, as the fussy people we can be

When we are unaware of the whispers God fills us up with

Or

When our journey blossoms into fruition

It is in those surprising moments,

We find ourselves firmly rooted in our faith

Not apologetic

or afraid

to share

the power and the concreteness of the Gospel!

Yes,

We may sound ridiculous,

Of believing in what we are unable to see-

Of proclaiming that one man bore the weight and the sadness

Of the Cosmos

Who died and was resurrected

But the Good News is,

God sees US

God believes in US

And God gives US

LIFE

NOW

And even more ridiculous,

LIFE

With GOD

EVERLASTING!

So,

What will you do with your life?

What will motivate you to be that

Suffering servant?

Thanks Be to God.

Freedom from what ails you

Grace and Peace to you

My sisters and brothers in Christ

We struggle with the reality

That the Word of God

Cures Us

From those tangible, twisted things

That makes our hearts sick

That our very being sometime refuses to release

Because the Truth sets us free

And places us in bondage

With the One who freed us from Death,

Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord

Amen

When did prosperity Gospel

Replace the Gospel of Mercy

Of Forgiveness

Of Giving of oneself

For others?

When did humanity deem it alright

To form words about wealth and status

That this is what Jesus Christ died for?

There is something fundamentally missing from who we are

Where not even the radical love from God

Cures us!

Perhaps I will sound like a broken record,

But the Good News needs to be repeated

Each and every moment

That it is only the Creator God

That can bring us healing

Wiping out any bug

Eliminating any virus

Terminating any malady

That keeps us from being connected to the ONE

If we would only let go

Of the toxicity of this world,

Even when, sometimes

We’ve become accustomed to the bitter taste

(pause)

Someone shared with me a tweet from the notorious

Creflo Dollar

He shared from his Twitter account this statement-

That Jesus died on the cross,

So we could be financially prosperous.

(pause)

Using social media to spread bad theology

Using one’s position to wrench from those

God has called us to care for and love and steward

Their gifts

Not for the common good

But for one’s own good

Saddens my heart and stirs up anger in my blood!

Misusing this gift of living into the servanthood

God calls us to

The answer to this myth of a prosperity gospel

Calls out to us from Acts-

 “ of those who believed

were of one heart and soul,

no one claimed private ownership

but everything they owned was held in common

There was not a needy person among them”

(pause)

Throughout these Scriptures

The command to be good stewards, here!

Because everything which has been given to us

Comes from the Creator God!

But many will question-

Life is hard, and unpredictable

What’s wrong with being successful

And having access to unlimited resources

Is there something wrong with living comfortably,

Following the rules and the laws,

This is the reward,

To be able to do whatever we wish

To our heart’s content.

You can’t tell me that Jesus wouldn’t want us to be happy,

Right?

(pause)

The echoes of this unnamed man

In our Gospel text

Percolate within our own selves, beloved

It is clear what idol he subconsciously clings to

As perhaps we all cling to idols

Especially as the Gospel rubs us raw

Trying to rid us of persistent scabs

That dwell on the surface of our souls

(pause)

We know what is missing, beloved

Even as perhaps,

We have our place in the inner circle

A part of the in crowd

And still,

Just like this fellow brother who is questing

We find our soul is restless,

Wandering

“Good Teacher what must I do

To inherent eternal life?”

(pause)

And yet,

We resist coming to grips with what ails us

Publicly acknowledging those idols which pull us back

Just as this unnamed man stammered this question to Jesus

Throughout the Gospel of Mark,

Those who are weary,

Ache,

Ill

Find themselves kneeling at Jesus’s feet

And each time

Without question,

Jesus heals

Without question,

Jesus loves this child of God

Just as He loves all of us

(pause)

Jesus also throws this man in our Gospel lesson

A curve.

Yes, beloved

You are faithful,

But now,

Be radical,

Unpredictable,

Give up all of these tangible,

Physical

Comfortable things

Follow me into the unknown,

into the ghettos, broken places, nursing homes, lonely spaces

to be a listening ear to those who are suffering

Searching for a healing

Follow me down to the borders to pray with immigrants

who have names and families and dreams;

into the prisons to see the youth who landed there

because no one gave them a job

or gave a damn about their lives;

Follow me into the streets

To share close space with a vet

who gave up of himself for this country

And now no one will give of themselves for them, for peace

Follow me into the church,

where there are people gathered who love the Lord

but society counts them out

because they refuse to judge one another.

Take a risk,

actually live into the commandment I give you

Without question,

Which pours God’s healing love into us.

(pause)

But this man turns away, saddened!

Why?

Seriously if Jesus stood in the middle of this aisle

and said,

forget your attachments,

your loyalties,

forget what you have been told by the status quo,

forget chasing the almighty dollar

because of the access it seemingly gives you

Follow me

COULD WE DO THAT, beloved?

Could we give up the comforts of where we live and live simply? Live without regrets,

live in intentional community,

live as God wanted us

and calls us to live?

(pause)

But couldn’t we?

Because the Good News is that-

God Loves us without question

That is why Jesus was among us

That is why Jesus gave up His life

Because we are not perfect,

Because the things in this life that make us struggle

That make our hearts wracked with so much hurt,

Worry,

Sickness.

What weighs on your own heart, beloved?

What burdens did you come in here with?

What methods have you tried already

To cure yourself,

And have failed?

(Share with the congregation about we all need healing and it is only the One who loves us regardless, who can heal us, guiding us to be One with that person next to you, and the person across the pews, and neighbors, etc, etc. Come to the throne of Grace and Mercy-kneel at Jesus’s feet-be healed, encouraged, empowered, loved!)

Thanks Be To God.

You Are LOVED, No Matter What

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

As we find these Scriptures puzzling

Confusing

Even damming

We will find in the midst of the law,

The Love that flows from the risen Christ,

Which conquers,

Abolishes,

Frees us

To be in the Kingdom of God

Because of God

Amen

 

This past week has been one of contradictions

One moment we are experiencing Psalm 8

Unfurling before us in the night skies

Captured in an autumn red moon

“O Lord, O Lord,

How majestic is your name in all the earth.”

We gravitate towards one another in community

We experience God’s Love radiating throughout our very being,

These are not signs of destruction

But a reminder,

That our relationship with the Creator God

Can never be broken

Never severed

(pause)

And yet,

We find that our jubilation and our praising

Turns to weeping and lamenting

There is this sense of abandonment, perhaps

We are called to love one another

Forgive one another

Practicing restitution and restoring those who have fallen away,

From community

Even those who have broken the law,

(pause)

(share with the congregation about Tuesday evening, where I had gathered with my community @ Seminary to light candles and pray for a woman who had done just that, who had broken one of the ten commandments collaborated to murder her spouse and now faced death herself. So why were we praying for her, and others like her. Because as she confessed her sins, she’d worked very hard to give of herself to those around her sharing that prisoned space, Kelly wanted to remind them that Jesus Christ still claimed all of them!)

And on that night, we searched the Scriptures,

Sung a hymn

Jesus remember me,

When you come into your kingdom,

Jesus remember me,

When you come into your kingdom

(pause)

These words from a thief to Jesus,

Not wanting this total separation

From the Light of God

Because of the sins he had committed

Wanting to know that in the midst of chaos

And his broken existence

That he still was loved!

(pause)

Do we find ourselves singing this hymn

When we too are faced with our own sins?

When we have nothing else that we are able to cling to

Because as shortcomings and faults are uncovered,

It throws a community into turmoil

Divorce, to some, for example

Is a sin

How piercing

Harsh

Sorrowful

does this word vibrate throughout our being.

(Share with the congregation about the movie, The Women where the lead character was on a train bound for Reno, as portrayed in many of the movies of that era, where women would go to get a divorce. She would encounter many women who were on their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th divorce; they would put on this air of being nonchalant about the entire matter and false cheeriness; they gave advice about only marrying for the tangible, the material; that her mistake had been she married for love.”)

(pause)

But isn’t that what Jesus is teaching them in this moment?

(Talk about we as people of faith, having to remember that marriage for ancient people was not about love-even as God had commanded them, to love. Marriage was about giving away property-women were not seen as fully human; marriage was about aligning oneself and one’s family or tribe with someone more powerful, so that you could be guaranteed a position in society)

So Jesus had to remind them that their ancestors hearts

Were hard

They forgot the teaching

That what God has joined together

No one can separate

Or destroy

(pause)

Is that commandment too easy for them and for us?

Is this why throughout our Old Testament,

There is further explanation, further laws

Interpreted and crafted by human hands?

Because we, and understandably get so frustrated

Exasperated with one another

In those sacred relationships

In our marriages

So irritated

We are quick to throw up our hands and say

Enough!

Yet in the same breath

We are ashamed and painfully withdraw

There is that contradiction again,

We sit in the midst of our faith community

We hear Jesus saying these words

And we find ourselves, wedged in

Stuck between the pages of the law

“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

(pause)

But Jesus is not condemning individuals in this moment

Think about this path that Jesus has been on

Jesus has been traveling,

Telling the disciples about his death,

They in turn are arguing about who is the greatest

Jesus teaches them about servanthood,

And letting those who are the most vulnerable,

The least of these

Are welcome first into the Kingdom of God,

And Jesus expresses this again,

Reminding them that welcoming

Those without homes,

without family

Without someone to love them fully

Those who question their humanity,

Questioning if they are worthy to serve

In that Faith community, in the church!

On a committee, as a deacon or church council

Simply because they feel their sins

Deny them from living out God’s mission

When we welcome them in,

We are welcoming in Jesus Christ!

Because Jesus is in the midst of a community that is not perfect

That is full of people who are at risk

Who have committed crimes

Who have broken the law

Who struggle to love

Who are not perfect

(pause)

Our Gospel text is not about

condemning people who were divorced!

Divorce happens

Its sucks;

It splits apart both family and community

Everyone is impacted

Two people who perhaps we have watched grow

Blossom into one

Have been torn

And we can’t mend them back together.

And sometimes that is even not appropriate

because sometimes it is the only answer,

so that people can heal from toxic situations

and breathe in the restorative love of God

(pause)

The Pharisees were testing Jesus!

-we miss that phrase right there;

The Pharisees wanted to pick Jesus’s brain,

Figure Him out

So they could break Him down,

Trap

Expose Him

for the charlatan that they assumed Jesus was.

But see the Good News is

Jesus deflects this question of the law

And instead turns this towards the subject of relationship

Our relationships with one another

Should not be based

On property,

Status

or even economic security.

Our relationships are interwoven

Interconnected

In community!

A community of imperfection

of the helpless,

Of the vulnerable

of sinners, like us, beloved!

And the Good News

is that when the wider society

stamps rejection on our foreheads

Jesus is not ashamed of us!

Jesus embraces us, no matter what!

Because Jesus has already served our sentence

Has removed the sting of sin,

Has delivered us from death itself!

(pause)

How countercultural the Gospel is-

That regardless of who we are,

Or who we love

Or how we struggle

Or what commandments we have broken

We are LOVED, NO MATTER WHAT!

And here, among this church community,

Is a place

Where we find peace, mercy and GRACE.

psalm-8-3-4Thanks Be to God.