Money Makes the World Go Round?

Not sure about where you sit,

But for me,

This week’s Gospel

Is like a complicated riddle

Or a trick question

That Jesus just throws out there,

And no matter how much we study

Or contemplate

We would fail, miserably

(pause)

And I questioned,

Just as perhaps you are

Of where the Good News is in our text this morning?

There are contradictions

What is Jesus signing onto?

What is Jesus approving?

This could be fodder for the prosperity gospel crowd

Then again,

People hear what they want to hear.

(pause)

This Gospel does not lift up,

Any examples of repentance

Or Forgiveness

Just it seems,

Money.

Wealth

Mammon, in the Greek

In one of my favorite musicals,

Cabaret

Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey sing about

Money

Money makes the world go around.

Money, as the lyrics go,

Is the answer to all of the rejection

We experience in this life.

Hilariously, Liza sings this line-

“When you go to get a word of advice,

From the fat little pastor

He will tell you to love evermore

But when hunger comes rapping at the window,

See how love flies out the door”

The answer then,

Is that Money makes the world go around

Money also stifles

Chokes

Stresses the world out,

(pause)

I wonder then,

If Jesus shared this parable with the disciples

Not for their benefit

But for others.

Perhaps Jesus was planting seeds of freedom

To break the roots of the oppressive society

That had embedded itself into the hearts of those,

Who were controlled by money.

What is left out of this Gospel reading,

Is verse 14

“The Pharisees,

Who loved money,

Heard all of this…”

Knowing that,

Because of who He is,

And knowing He was under scrutiny

By those who were shaken,

Disturbed

Challenged

By Jesus Christ

The only way to get to hard headed people, sometimes

Is pushing them into that uncomfortable zone

Where who they are

And what they cling to

Would be tested.

(pause)

This parable

Smacks of self interest

Of getting what you think you deserve

Of survival

Of shrewdness

And yet,

Not even this manager in our Gospel text

Has that privilege,

Even as he was as shrewd,

As his employer,

No wonder then

Tax and debit collectors were on the same low level

As other sinners

Eschewed in moral decay

Remember that from last week,

The same Pharisees were grumbling about Jesus

Eating with tax collectors?

(pause)

In this era of a Roman occupied Galilee,

The only ones who could actually get away,

With manipulating the system

Were the wealthy

They had the power, and unfortunately the law behind them

To charge exorbitant interests rates

So that they could acquire more land,

Regardless of whom it would end up displacing.

Sort of reminds us,

Even now

Of the struggle going on

At Standing Rock

In North Dakota.

Sacred lands were purchased,

Rather illegally

Hundreds of years ago

Pushing off Native peoples

Displacing,

Invading

And Damaging Creation,

In the name of progress

(pause)

There are those who would argue

That in Genesis it states,

God created man-listen to the language

God created man,

To have lord and dominion

(pause)

Over everything,

That man

Deemed

Insignificant,

And even

Weak

Ignoring what the Creator God clearly expressed

About stewardship,

Just as those who claimed they upheld Biblical convent law

Dismissing those commandments that call us to be in relationship

To care for the vulnerable,

The orphan

The immigrant

As if they were blood-related

(pause)

Exodus 22 states

“If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy,

do not treat it like a business deal;

charge no interest”

Charging interest on loans,

Was forbidden

Interesting.

We pray,

Forgive us our debts,

As we forgive our debtors

But,

Humanity misses the mark,

We don’t live this commandment out

Money,

Wealth,

Mammon

Rules society

Both then

And now

Money,

Makes the world go round

And causes headaches

We are told the only way to establish ourselves

Is through monetary means

Establishing credit,

Meaning applying for credit cards

With high interest rates

Thereby granting us access to be approved

For a mortgage home loan

Securing a safe place to live

Access to resources,

As I alluded to last week

For ourselves,

And our families

Access so that our children could go to the best schools,

Which sometimes means taking out high interest loans

And when we are over our heads,

Applying for predatory pay day loans,

Just so we can get through the week,

Because the powers that be,

Do not understand what it means

To live within our means.

(pause)

And that is what is facing this steward,

In our Gospel text this morning.

He’s been living beyond his mean

Through the hard work of the working poor

He’s been fattening his own wallet,

Even as his employer,

Has been overcharging

Exploiting

These fellow people of faith,

Denied an ample living wage

Struggling to thrive

To get a foothold in this society

Wanting to remain authentic

But every day,

Drawing closer to that golden altar dedicated to the idol

Mammon.

(pause)

And I think this is what Jesus is stressing here-

That clinging to such an idol

Or converting to this economic “religion”

Where the theology is based on greed debt, in many forms

Individualism and selfishness

Having financial resources to live and breathe,

Is not what Jesus is against,

But as Jesus states later on in verse 15

“You are the ones,

Who justify yourselves

In the eyes of others,

But God knows your hearts.

What people value highly,

Is detestable in God’s sight.”

(pause)

Again,

Jesus

What are you saying?

What people value highly,

Is detestable in God’s sight.”

Yes,

Valuing things

Money

Status

Greed

HIGHER THAN THE SACRED LIFE

And LOVE

That the Creator breathed into each one of us

Is detestable

Because these things separate us

From the presence of the Creator God

It keeps us trapped

In front of that golden, humanity made altar.

(pause)

He raises the poor from the dust,

and lifts the needy from the ash heap,

 to make them sit with princes,

 with the princes of his people.

He gives the barren woman a home,

making her the joyous mother of children.

Praise the Lord!

Hear the joyous words of the Psalmst!

Hear the Good News this morning!

Greed disguised under the mask of wealth and status

Demanding of us our very soul,

And giving us nothing in return,

This is not what God wants for us.

God gives us, pours into us

Everything we could ever need!

(end with giving a visual example about what greed would look like as a person and use the Grinch in the Christmas story-what if greed came and removed everything we held dear, so that we would have to come crawling back to that golden altar, living our lives for simply amassing more wealth, no matter whom It hurt. And what if greed was hovering , waiting to hear our cries that next morning, and instead-in the midst of the dawn, Jesus stood in our midst, and all we could do is SING, and DANCE and PRAISE THE LORD-for the ultimate DEBIT HE PAID so that we would never be alone, never want, never question, never feel unloved. And that, is something, that NOTHING HUMAN MADE CAN EVER, EVER REPLACE.)

Thanks Be to God.

 

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I Believe I’ll Testify, While I have the Chance

“I believe I’ll testify,

While I have a chance

I believe I’ll testify,

While I have a chance

I believe I’ll testify,

While I have a chance,

For I may not have a chance,

Anymore.”

(pause)

I’m not sure why this gospel tune,

Popped into my head this week

Especially for this sermon,

But maybe I imagined,

The least of these,

Marked and identified for their sins

Running back to the outcast communities where they existed

TESTIFYING!

LISTEN! I actually was invited to sit,

And eat today!

With that Rabbi whom everyone is talking about

That Rabbi, who heard and looked into my eyes

Who heard my cry

Who told me that my sins are forgiven!

Who shared bread, broke bread,

Sat with US!

“I believe I’ll testify…”

And so they were witnesses

Sharing the Good News

That regardless of how humanity

The self-righteous

Had rendered their existence, invisible

God had not

(pause)

God had sent God’s Son

To share LOVE.

And maybe, just maybe,

They were able to experience a little selfish joy

Because while Jesus acknowledged them,

The Pharisees were grumbling!

(pause, share with them the story about the time when during testimony sharing at my childhood home Lutheran church, my mother had stood up to give her testimony, and if you know Mother-she is not shy about sharing the Good News and how the Gospel is proclaimed in her life. I don’t remember the specifics about what Good News she was sharing, but as my Mother was a deacon in her church, she was sitting at the front of the church, speaking. My sister Jessika and I were sitting at the rear of the church, and earlier a woman had come in right behind us. We didn’t recognize her and greeted her as a guest. So as my mother was speaking, suddenly we heard this woman start to criticize and grumble about my mother’s story! My sister and I jerked and froze, as this woman kept mumbling under her breath, so absolutely amazed that someone would be angry about hearing a testimony! When mother finished, and as the church said its amen’s, this woman walked out of the service. It was only then did we turn around to watch her retreating figure and looked at one another in utter astonishment. It also took every fiber of our being not to turn around and defend our Mother. We were in utter disbelief.)

Why do we grumble,

When we hear Good News,

A praise report?

Why do we open our mouths

To fix words of harshness

Grumbling and mumbling under our breath,

While that one which was lost,

Is sharing joy.

And instead of joining into the amen chorus

We are speculating!

That they are just perpetrating,

Because nothing is ever going to change:

They will still be out on the corner begging,

They will still be out on the corner, relapsing

They will still be out on the corner, getting arrested

That they can never get their lives right,

(pause)

Although we have never been in their situation

So we clearly do not understand

How the darkness of violence, addiction, self hate,

Does indeed have the power

To render our souls, dry and decimated

Until all we can be identified as,

Is the curse we bear on our scarred bodies

(pause)

If we are going to be truthful with ourselves

We are jealous, envious

Of another’s transformation,

That we felt that they weren’t worthy

Their sin was too great,

Although our apathy,

Is far worse

Than any sin that they could commit.

(pause)

“This man welcomes sinners,

And eats with them.”

(pause)

The Pharisees and scribes

Did not get it!

For all their intelligence and knowledge of the law

They just did not understand why,

Once again

Jesus was breaking the rules

And being that relentlessly rebellious guest.

Sitting with sinners?

Sinners had a different connotation and meaning then,

Sinners equaled an unforgiveable outcast

Undesirable

Untouchable

Defined by the LAW

Being in the company of sinners was an abomination

So excluding them from the wider community

Was sanctioned by the LAW

And so Jesus sitting down

And sharing a meal,

Spoke volumes

Because sharing a meal was not just this fast paced,

30 minute race before continuing work

Sharing a meal

Was, is and always should be

A moment of building community

Of immersed in important relationships

(pause)

Jesus uses this moment of relationship building,

Even to those who are grumbling,

Who consider themselves the never lost,

To teach,

Reminding both them and us

How truly connected we are,

Beyond the status and the class we created, to divide us

(pause)

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep

And loses one of them,

Doesn’t he leave the 99,

And go after the lost sheep?”

Many of us are familiar with this parable,

Of a loving God who will not abandon us

But we,

Miss something VITAL in this story,

Lost in translation:

The shepherd leaves them

In the Greek it reads,

EN TE ERAYMO

This means

In the desert

In desolation

Defenseless, out in the open

(pause)

It is not the idealized version

Where sheep are quietly grazing in green, pristine pastures

And the shepherd is only going as far as the treeline,

To the border of some property

To gather back one lone sheep.

The shepherd abandons the flock

In an uncultivated area

For an unspecific amount of time

Fending from themselves

In order to seek

In order to rescue

This one who is lost

(pause)

I wonder if we realize,

When we sit in those places of privilege and judgement

That at one point in our lives,

We were that ONE

Who had been abandoned

Pushed aside

Seen through humanity’s lens as just a waste of life,

And time

(pause)

But Jesus,

Jesus recognizes us,

As children of the Creator God

Damaged

Hurting

Sorrowful

And Jesus Christ, Our Risen Savior and Lord

LEAVES THE FLOCK

TO COME SEE ABOUT US!

(pause)

Perhaps,

We can understand it more this way,

A quote, I came across in a commentary

“If the one is sacrificed,

In the name of the larger group,

Then each individual in that group

Has no security

That their lives mean nothing.

When the shepherd pays a high price

To find the One,

He thereby offers

The profoundest security

To the many.”

In other words,

The Good News of Jesus Christ for us

Is that Jesus is constantly

Coming,

Searching

Finding

And Saving

EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US!!

Because God does not rest

Until all of God’s Children

Regardless of our sins

Our failings

God created us whole!

God seeks to keep us whole!

God actively extends forgiveness

Mercy

Reconciliation

Grace

And LOVE.

(pause)

And because time and again,

Jesus is going out,

Bringing home those who are lost-

And by the way,

Let’s be clear

We are going to stray, wander and lose ourselves

MULTIPLE TIMES.

We are both saint and sinner!

So when Jesus goes out,

To bring our sisters and brothers in Christ, in Faith and in Love home,

While Jesus is out,

Extended the grace and forgiveness from God

We are called to be GOOD STEWARDS and GOOD SHEPHERDS!

We must welcome those home with joy!

We must join in their rejoicing

And then we are called to CARE for them!

Enfold, envelop and encourage them,

Because it is NOT EASY.

Battling the darkness and the sadness in this life IS NOT EASY

But,

The Good News is that,

When we come home

Jesus opens His Arms,

Feeding us

From the Table of LIFE!

Here!

So then when we leave this place,

We can’t help but sing,

I believe I’ll testify!

Thanks Be to God.

Jesus Rocking and Disrupting…

 

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

We sacrifice for the world,

Better positions,

Better status

But in the end,

Those always fail us.

The only sacrifice,

Which sets us free,

Which gives us life,

Is the One who took up the Cross,

And Liberated all,

Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord

Amen.

(pause)

(talk about how Facebook’s algorithm for remembering our memories, and our posts for the past couple of years, sometimes has a funny way of reminding us, why we are called and what we are called to. Last year, this time, the world seemed to be riveted, shamed and shocked at the plight of a Syrian family, and the little boy that washed up on the sandy shores, where he should have been playing in the sand, instead of laying there, lifeless. Suddenly, regardless of what you thought about Syria, its people, its politics, its perceived threat-this should have been a reminder that this child represented not the principalities and powers, but the people locked unfortunately in the ugliness of war and greed, held hostage by those who were more concerned with self-interests, instead of the foolishness of living not for oneself, but for all. So many innocent people, whose only concern is the self-sacrifice they do on a constant basis, such as you and I, to provide a safe space for their families to live and grow and work to sustain them, so many people, wasted, should have finally been this collective wake up call for people of faith, to demand, to question, to pressure to do something for these, our neighbors. And churches did begin to pledge to open up their doors and homes, whole communities and even cities here began to say, “we have room!” and yet there were people, who wear the banner of Christianity but their actions are a far cry and reflection of who Jesus Christ was is, and calls us to be. Compassion, yes was and is, a part of Christ, but many of us lack it because of the broad brush we have been conditioned and trained to paint people. We assume that the reason they are in the situation they are thrust is because of some sin they have committed that is unforgivable. The Palestine people because of their heritage; the Syrians because of their culture, Muslims because how they connect and what name they call God-which is the same Creator we serve, by the way; People of Mexican descent because of home grown chaos, the undocumented, because they are attempting to be sneaky and get over the government by not paying their dues, all the while, there are yet, powerful others who continue to pilfer resources that never reach the people who (word/line). Empathy, beloved and I said this before, is lacking among the faithful and the questioning.)

So,

What chain that is would around your feet,

Trips and keeps you

From following Jesus completely?

(pause)

That’s a tough question,

And our answers do not flow as easily,

And we hesitate to identify

Our burden

(pause)

I’ve experienced an exercise,

Most often in seminary settings,

Where the large crowd of participants,

(….were asked to line up and the questions were read, anything from if we had attended private school, if our parents had been able to afford to give us a car, to whether we had ever been followed in a grocery/department store based on our age, race, gender status and the list went on. At the end, when we looked around the room, there was a great divide-many who had great privilege were way in the front, and many who had none in the back. What made this exercise different, were we were asked to hold hands, and as each question was asked, if we experienced anything negative, we had to step back and anything positive step forward. As we went through the exercise, we tried to hold onto each other’s hands, but soon lost one another, leaving folks behind. That part shook people, and left some fatigued-because although some of us had privilege, we were still left behind. There was almost this-silence at who was far ahead and who was left behind. One participant stated that he experienced the guilty pleasure, of having had access to all of these things, and at the same time mindful that many people he would consider friends did not. But also he was honest that he was afraid to give up the access he had.)

So,

What are we willing to give up

Knowing that the Creator,

Regardless of how life falls,

Will still cradles us?

(pause)

Sacrificing anything,

Any perk that we have access to,

Is one of the hardest things we experience as humanity,

This is what we are told we must do in order to survive!

It’s no wonder when I am walking in downtown Chicago,

And I pass by the faces of native Chicagoans

That sometimes there is the suffering creased solidly there

That they have made some choices they did not want to,

But had to,

So that they could have access to a safe environment to live in

For themselves

For their children

In turn have access to resources both educational and environmental

So that they could be counted as essential and vital and important,

So they would not be faced with isolation and prejudice

Life is harsh enough!

But what do we sacrifice when we assimilate?

When we bend to the will of the Empire,

And in turn, the mechanisms of the Empire,

Fails and exploits humanity

(talk about during my senior year of seminary, and my participation in the Moral Monday movement. The concentration that year was on economic plight of those that Jesus bids us to invite to the table-those unemployed, those who are under housed, those who are fighting for a paltry existence and the budget issues affecting the state, to where social services were being all but cut. And so, the wedding banquet, the feast should not be cut off, and we gathered together as people of faith, and people of justice marched as one voice and one body. This particular time, participating in an act of civil disobedience both through his word and his physical presence, Bishop Miller would march with us, and pay the cost of discipleship, by being arrested. I am sure, that as the days and weeks passed, news of his arrest filtered out, there were those who would disagree with him, and who would be angry with him with what they thought was him, wasting his time.)

Are we simply satisfied,

With abstract thinking

And believing

What it means to be a good disciple?

Or are we willing

To allow the things that fester within us,

Die,

 “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. 

Whoever does not carry the cross

and follow me

cannot be my disciple”

(pause)

Jesus, what?

Hate?

What about all of those commands,

Calling us to open up the Table,

To the least of these,

To those who cannot repay?

And now Jesus,

Hate?

But we must understand,

What Jesus means by this hyperbole language.

Think about when Jesus calls to others,

To follow Him,

And one man tells Jesus he will,

But first he must go and bid farewell to his family,

When Jesus calls us,

As Bonhoeffer says,

“Christ bids us come

And die.”

(pause)

Dying is frightening,

Dying means letting go,

Dying also means a new chapter,

Into the unknown

So when we let those things that have chained us,

Kept us glued to the (word/line) of this world

Experiencing FREEDOM,

Freedom to love regardless of how ridiculous it looks

Or how counter cultural it appears

Freedom to act,

Act towards justice,

Even when there is tension,

Even when you are labeled a troublemaker

Freedom to speak,

Speaking truth,

Of the accountability we should have towards one another

Of the forgiveness we should practice with one another

Freedom to stand,

Freedom to stand firmly for justice

And against (word/line)

Stand out from the shadow of the TRANSFORMED CROSS

YES

Even the CROSS WAS TRANSFORMED

THE MOMENT CHRIST GAVE UP HIS LIFE

The theology of the cross,

RADICAL REVELATION OF GOD,

That the Creator God stands with US, beloved

Through our suffering,

Our despair

Because of the abandonment of the Empire

And the brokenness of this world

As Dr. Cone states,

“God encounters US

In the human condition

As LIBERATOR

Of the poor,

The weak,”

The forgotten,

EMPOWERING THEM TO FIGHT

There’s nothing wrong with that!

We, as followers of Christ, should FIGHT

Fight because everyone should still be holding hands,

Be equal

REGARDLESS

Because of what Christ gave up,

SO COSTLY

And a price we will never pay,

NO MATTER WHAT we do in this life!

That is Good News.

So should we then,

Shed everything that keeps us from doing justice,

Practicing mercy and grace?

Shed everything that would keep us divided

Excluded

From one another,

Regardless?

(pause)

Following Christ, as His disciple

Means that we are called upon to act,

Differently,

Counter cultural

Weirdly

But

Lovingly,

Because of the Creator,

Who indeed forgives us.

(pause)

Mother Teresa, now Saint Teresa of the Poor,

Offers this prayer, that could shed some light

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. 

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.

Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.

Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.

Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. 

Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. 

It was never between you and them anyway.

Thanks Be to God.

Transforming our broken world, doesn’t get a Sabbath

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

Walking in the Living Light

Of the One who has conquered death

Is never ending

Never ceasing

Because there is always need for the Gospel

To be Proclaimed

As we pray without ceasing

And move and act and live out our call

Because we follow His footsteps,

Jesus Christ,

Our Savior and Lord

Amen.

(pause)

What would it look like,

If our Sabbath time

And Serving moments

Were one in the same?

Because transforming the brokenness of this world

And our collective journeys through this life,

Seemingly does not get a moment of rest, or pause.

(share with the congregation that God’s Work Our Hands once more is coming up this year, and it falls on a day where we collectively as a nation remember the horrors of September 11th. We as Redeemer have already gotten ahead of the game by partnering with LSSI and doing our own GWOH-providing much needed supplies and backpacks for children who need to be equipped and prepared for their first day, week, months of school! How awesomely thrilled was LSSI that congregations like us participated! And as I thought to September, there was still this drive to do something for GWOH because being involved in ministry, doing for others is awesome. So your Pastor has a crazy idea-what if, what if we took pancakes over to our First Responders at the Fire/Police station here in town? Just hold that thought because, yes-we will have a pancake breakfast going on, and Rally Day, right? And we’ve already done the GWOH for this year, right?)

 

But perhaps it could be framed this way,

That carrying over a meal to those

Who put their lives on the line for those they are called to serve

Is not only own mission,

But a way to share the Good News,

That this place,

Regardless of the day or time,

That we are also here for them as well,

That we open our doors

Inviting them in

Even if all they have time to do,

Is to hear the sermon,

Pass the peace

Getting fed from the Table,

Because of the One,

Who was constantly doing for all of God’s Creation,

Jesus,

Even in the midst of Sabbath.

(pause)

Sabbath,

Can be seen as this moment of release

Release from the overwhelming and demanding presence

Of this broken world

Sabbath is a day of celebration,

Whether you are saint or sinner

Whether you are comfortable

Or you are struggling

Whether you are among the faithful

Or perhaps, lost and yearning for that faith.

Sabbath is a time to come together,

Sabbath can even be a teaching moment,

When it is both a time for rest,

And a time for actively living out the Gospel

(pause)

But there seems to be some disagreement among those gathered

In our Gospel this morning.

Have you noticed that Jesus goes against the laws quite frequently?

The status quo

Because see, there’s no Sabbath

From suffering,

From a painful

Even shameful existence.

I wonder how visible this nameless woman was

To those who kept the Sabbath

Or rather,

How important was her existence

To the community who she should have been a part of,

Instead of being kept apart,

Because somehow,

It was shameful.

(pause)

Shame, unfortunately

Has been used as a weapon

By institutions of religion

As a vehicle for control and suppression

So when this woman,

“with a spirit,

That had crippled her for 18 years”

Dares to make herself visible,

In the presence of Jesus

Jesus stops His teaching

And HEALS HER

REGARDLESS of her status,

Position

Belief!

And this moment of release from whatever gripped her,

Instead of joining in her praising God,

The leader points fingers,

Shaming her,

Shaming Jesus!

(pause)

It seems,

It was more important

That the Sabbath,

As required by the law,

Remain holy,

Free perhaps,

From the daily reminders

Of how screw up this world

And how horrible we can be to one another,

The cause and effect resting squarely on our shoulders

We have gotten away from what Sabbath means,

Because we have fallen away

From loving one another

From being in relationship with the Creator

This woman,

In our Gospel

Serves as a reminder

That there still is hopelessness

And pain,

That affects us, beloved

That affects our sisters and brothers in Christ

That she,

Like so many others

Are ignored

Because,

We just want a break

From seeing this heartache,

Can we get one day, Lord?

Especially when its insurmountable

And we have no idea how to handle it,

Or cure it.

We miss what it says,

“A woman with a spirit”

(pause)

How many times have we come across someone homeless?

Who is struggling with mental illness?

The commentaries elude to the fact,

That this woman’s ailments were due to a demonic possession-

We scoff at that now, right?

Easily modern medical science could attribute this to any muscular disease

Or osteoporosis

Bone cancer

And that she was probably suffering from dementia,

Or worse.

But this spirit?

Even now we still do not have a grasp on mental illness

And even today,

We whisper,

And blame the sufferer

With our own misconceptions of why

We avoid those who are unfortunately burdened with mental illness

Even though our society has refused to advance mental health,

That affects especially those who have served in our armed forces

Or who have swam through seas of domestic violence and abuse,

Or even,

Because life has been harsh,

And they are lost,

They have enveloped themselves into the darkness

With the help of drugs

We avoid those on the street corners,

Because we are afraid,

Because they will be begging for food

Rambling, wanting someone to hear and see them as a human being

Pleading, for release from the endless cycle of agony

And for a beginning towards healing

For someone to invite them into sacred and safe spaces

Crying, because they have no hope

They too,

Are possessed by a spirit

A spirit of emptiness

That has weighed so heavily upon their person,

That they too are gnarled,

Bent over

That whispers to them,

“No one wants you

You are not worthy

See, they shun you.”

Do we, beloved

Also hear those empty spirits,

When we are burdened by sins that we continue to carry

Until we too,

Are bent over.

(pause)

Evil,

Is not a concept

Evil,

Is a true opposition

And rebellion

Against the Creator God’s will

And purpose for us

For our lives

Evil preys upon us,

Dividing us from one another

Throwing caustic acid upon our souls,

Until we are blinded from seeing

God, Our Creator

Our Parent

That LOVE and Light in one another.

But the Good News is,

Jesus Christ,

Spoke to this woman’s shame,

And said simply

WITH A WORD

“You are set FREE

From your ailment”

Jesus,

Overcame this evil spirit within her

Pushing back the darkness

Telling this evil,

The demonic

That it has no claim upon US

PROCLAIMING

WE, BELOVED

WE,

Are set FREE

From our sins,

Our faults,

And suddenly

Just as this woman,

We can’t help it!

Every day is a day of thanksgiving!

Every day is an opportunity for service

That’s how I see it,

Because for me, beloved

This is what God has given me.

When I was on the brink of walking away

Because how shameful Christianity had been spoon fed into me

By those who did not come with a loving spirit

Who used the laws, twisting them

So that people would conform to their standards,

That people would be ashamed of who they were

Or shamed that they did not have enough faith

God whispered to them,

God whispered to me

God whispers to us,

“YOU, beloved

US, beloved

We are FREE

From our sins!”

The darkness is absolved

Every day is a new day in God’s eyes,

And so,

We can’t help ourselves, right?

I can’t!

But, as Pastor

I cannot do this important work,

Without YOU

As people of Faith,

We are called to do this ministry together!

(pause)

So,

Whose coming with me

To take breakfast of 9/11

As we do God’s Work,

With our Hands?

(pause)

Let’s share a little Sabbath joy,

With our sisters and brothers in Christ.

Thanks Be to God.

You Can’t Take It With You

Grace and Peace to you,

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ

All that we could ever treasure

Seek to obtain

Desire

IS HERE

At the Table

Standing out from the Cross

Because of the One,

Who gave up what was most precious to Him

His Life,

Jesus Christ, Our Risen Savior and Lord

Amen.

(pause)

(Start out by asking the question again about what is the congregation’s most treasured possession, something that they display on their person or in their homes. Share that what I always have treasured is when I receive a gift from and especially from an Elder and give examples like the sweaters that I got for birthdays and Christmas from my Grandmother, to even the Barbie House I got for my 8th birthday, and my Uncle came over to put it together. More recently, the women who have become my Mother’s rock, lovingly referred to as the Steel Magnolias, have not only encouraged me but gifted me as my seminary, and now my pastoral journey has commenced.  Hold up the shawl, scarf that Jerry Brown obtained for me and tell the story about how she acquired it, and it was unique and interested. However, one Thursday afternoon as my husband was in my office, he held it up and noticed these two verses (read one), which sort of threw me into a quandary because clearly this could point to the argument for prosperity gospel. But what kind of wealth is being spoken of here?)

And then I read the previous verse,

“Do not say to yourself,

My power and the might of my own hand

Have gotten me this wealth.”

I think we as people of faith,

In this pursuit of holiness and righteousness

Meshed in with this complex existence in this life,

This individualized society,

Built on this concept of prosperity

This theology of glory,

Which just like the weeds,

Invasive species in many of our gardens,

And have taken over,

Wound tightly over our bushes,

And flowers

Like a vine,

Has invaded our collective journey here,

And attempts to choke the life out of the Good News,

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

(pause).

It’s no secret,

That I loathe prosperity gospel

I will not ascribe to it

I do not agree to it

I will not preach it.

Theologian Dr. Justo Gonzalez,

Identifies this prosperity gospel,

As preached by many ministers and preachers,

As a way to manipulate God.

“The purpose of Biblical religion

Is not to have God do what we desire,

But for us rather,

To be accountable to God.”

Womanist theologian.

Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas

Defines this as Plationized Christianity,

A Christianity twisting God,

God’s promises

The Gospel,

Into the image of humankind

And therefore calling that which is evil,

Good,

And what is good,

Evil.

(pause)

Luther defines this as a theology of glory,

Where selfishness is rewarded

Individualism celebrated

Excusing the sins of greed

As a necessary evil,

To exist in this life

Ignoring Jesus’s command,

His teachings

“One’s life does not consist

In the abundance of possessions”

Or even still,

Ignoring Jesus altogether

His Sacrifice

On the Cross

I was horrified to see,

A quote from a megachurch pastor,

Who when the question posed to him

don’t you want a candidate

who embodies the teaching of Jesus

 and would govern this country

according to the principles

 found in the Sermon on the Mount?’”

His answer?

“I would run from that candidate as far as possible,

because the Sermon on the Mount

was not given as a governing principle for this nation.”

(pause)

This idea that Jesus Christ,

His Life

His Ministry

His Teachings

Somehow ceased to exist

Upon Christ’s resurrection

And because of that,

We have this “saint” status

And therefore God is relying on us

To rely on ourselves,

Our own strength

Might

And Power

Because the only way we will get that expensive house

In the right neighborhood

Or that luxury car with all the bells and whistles

Is if we pray a certain way,

IF we pray hard enough,

Our bank accounts, our coffiers will increase

Or go to a certain church

And ascribe to certain rules,

And formulas.

And when God sees us doing right,

God will grant us our every wish!

So then we should not be so surprised

That many of these megachurches

Who preach this theology of glory,

This prosperity gospel

From the pulpit

That God wants them to be prosperous

Wealthy,

Are brimming to the top with members.

(pause)

Maybe this farmer,

Found that this same formula worked for him

In our Gospel this morning.

But we could argue,

What should be his next directive?

Clearly he has an abundance of crops

Clearly in these ancient times,

Having success with crops or livestock

Should be celebrated!

And any good farmer

Would have done what we all would have,

Right?

Building storehouses so that these crops,

His harvest would not spoil

Or go to waste.

But notice

Where the focus is.

I won’t have to starve!

I’ll be okay!

Famine and hunger will come,

And I will be set!

Wow, I’ve done good for myself!

I cannot wait to celebrate.

I’ll sit in my house and look at what I have built and say,

Self, look at this good thing you have done!”

See?

(pause)

Or what about even,

The person,

Who has a secure job,

With solid income

Who leans on their own self,

And pats themselves on the back,

Because they have invested wisely

And can sit back and nod at the computer screen

Which shows all of their bank accounts

And investments

And can brag to themselves,

Self!

Look at all that wealth you have obtained!

You are doing good!

You will be alright while everyone else is suffering

You will be on top!

And then,

They balk

They are angered

When perhaps their children

Coming to them out of love,

Pursuing their own dreams,

Asking for a miniscule share of resources

Maybe perhaps to get a car,

So they can get to that dream job they were offered

Or caring for their mother,

Who needs palliative care

Whose house is crumbling

And they shut the door in their faces

“Why should I help anyone?

What return on my investment will I get?”

(pause)

What if,

Jesus had been that selfish?

For all the power and might the Creator God gave to Him

Shared with Him

What if He decided,

That we were not worthy enough

That our sins were too great

That we could never repay the cost He would have to pay?

(pause)

But the Good News is that

Jesus Christ

Gave up His Life,

Upon the Cross,

And because of this Sacrifice

The Cross stands,

As the reaffirmation

As compassion

That God LOVES US

And we are made NEW

REBORN

RESURRECTED WITH CHRIST!

And More Good News!

Neither the Creator nor Jesus demands any repayment!

Because there is nothing we can do,

Nothing!

God does this out of a Love we may never understand,

This is the richness

The Fullness

The reward that keeps on giving!

And because there is nothing we can do,

Nor any way we can repay

The Creator God calls us,

Jesus Christ commands of us

To do for others,

As God does for us,

Without end!

(pause)

So that is why we,

As People of Faith,

Give

Share the Resources with others

Whether we know them

Or not.

Thanks Be to God.

 

 

 

 

God And Prayer Are Action Verbs, not just Nouns

O God We Call

O God We Call

From Deep Inside,

We Yearn

From Deep Inside

We Yearn

From Deep Inside

We Yearn,

For You

(pause)

(Share with the congregation about that moment during Ordination, when I was kneeling before the cross, vulnerable in this sacred moment and surrounded by a community of faith, both known and unknown, as they would witness their fellow sister in Christ, giving of her life into this journey of pastoral service. I knelt and waiting for those fellow sisters and brothers in Christ, who would be my colleagues, both known and unknown to share and to pray over me. There were prayers of joyous humor; there were prayers filled with wisdom and knowledge; there were prayers bathed in tears, especially as my best friend, herself a Presbyterian Pastor knelt and prayed over me.)

(pause)

How humbling it is,

For someone to pray over us, right beloved?

Praying over

And for one another

Is the deepest gift

We can give

The mere act of someone praying for us,

Whether we realize it or not

Strengthens that bond,

Of the Beloved community.

How good it feels,

That someone is sharing that burden

That struggle in our lives.

I barely remember all of the numerous prayers

Prayed over me that day.

Do you remember when someone prayed over you?

The words?

Maybe,

It was just

The Lord’s Prayer.

And maybe that is why,

The Lord’s Prayer may mean so much more,

In your life.

Gail shared with me one afternoon,

Some wisdom

“Pastor, would you mind taking a pause,

Before you go into the Lord’s Prayer?

I know you are in the midst of ritual,

But for many of us in the congregation

The Lord’s Prayer means so much.”

And I had to pause and think,

Of course!

Why wouldn’t this well known Prayer

Speak volumes?

Because this is one of the first prayers,

We learn as children, right?

This sacred Prayer

Is embedded in our Worship

Gail’s right,

It is that moment,

We collectively are spilling out

Our concerns

Our worries

Our needs

To the One,

Who IS ALL THINGS

CREATED all things

Because of the deep, unending Love

The Creator God has,

For God’s People.

(pause)

But praying publicly sometimes,

Can be nerve wracking,

Right?

We become so nervous

Wrapped up

In that our words

Must be carefully crafted

With all the right catch phrases

And added quotes

From Scripture

Praying publicly

Has the tendency

To throw us

Into spasm

Because everyone is listening

And secretly judging, right?

Perhaps,

This is what probably led the disciples

Asking Jesus

In our Gospel this morning,

To teach them how to pray

As John,

Taught his own followers.

(pause)

What was that prayer?

Interestingly,

There is no record

Of what John shared with those

Who were following him.

Was it a prayer of repentance,

That was so significant in John’s ministry?

Or perhaps it mirrored

The words of the Psalm

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness

in your abundant compassion

blot out my offense.

Wash away all my guilt;

from my sin cleanse me

(pause)

The act of prayer,

Is one of comfort

Especially in times

When we feel ostracized

Alienated

Removed

From community

Abandoned

By those who professed empty promises

From their mouths

(pause)

Being before the Creator,

Is a time

When we are reminded

We are loved

And this Prayer that Jesus would teach His disciples

Is one,

That encompasses

Reassures us

Of our (word/line)

And everything

In this prayer

Is not to remain in the abstract

These are not suggestions,

But that this Prayer,

Is ALIVE

God’s Name is kept Hallowed

Holy,

When we speak this

We are inviting,

Asking

Pleading God

To ACT

To be PRESENT

To come into our lives,

To impact this world,

It is not just praise!

(pause)

Jesus,

Teaches both His disciples

And us,

To give thanks

For the bread,

Sustenance of food

A reminder that this comes,

From the Creator

Jesus teaches

That we must be thankful

For the relationships

That we are submerged in daily,

And because of those relationships

And our humanity,

And because we will fail to see the Christ in one another,

We must repeatedly ask for forgiveness

We must be reminded that

In order not to break the bonds of Love and Mercy,

We must work to forgive,

As the Creator freely forgives us

(pause)

Jesus shows us,

In the words of this prayer,

Whether our heads are bowed

Or hands joined

We come as One

Into this space

Stripped away of everything that either breaks us

Or completes us

And we are just God’s children

And as God’s children

We can freely

Unashamedly

Be open

About our needs

(pause)

Mother Teresa

Said about the subject of prayer

“Prayer is not asking

Prayer is putting oneself

In the hands of God

At God’s disposition

And listening to God’s voice

In the depth of our hearts”

(pause)

We have to,

As people of faith,

Put ourselves

In God’s Hands.

And that beloved,

Is so difficult,

Right?

Because how can we put ourselves

Into the hands

Entrusting our lives

To the cosmos?

To something we can not see

Or touch?

And what happens

When those prayers,

Clinging to the Lord’s Prayer

Are never answered?

(pause)

What about the young woman,

Who has prayed the Lord’s Prayer

At the bedside of her mother,

Hoping that God will heal her,

That she will be new again,

That she’ll be able to do all the things

She once was able-

And what happens when that prayer is never answered?

(pause)

Or what happens,

About a child,

Who repeatedly night after night prays the Lord’s Prayer

Asking God to get his family out of a situation

Embroiled in violence and darkness

Wanting to escape to safety

So that he can just be a child again-

And what happens when that prayer is seemingly ignored

(pause)

Or even,

Our collective prayers

Of the ending to the brutality

And the division

That is tearing this world APART

WHAT HAPPENS

WHEN WE GET ANGRY

BECAUSE GOD IS NOT HEARING OUR PRAYER?

(pause)

What happens,

When the solution we hear,

Is we should just pray

And not get involved

“Jesus will fix it!”

“God is in control”

(pause)

But see,

Jesus did pray

And then Jesus

MOVED

ACTED

LIVED out what He was called to do.

Can we pray like Jesus?

It’s a bit complicated

Jesus calls us to not just pray,

This prayer,

But to actually live out this prayer

Because of this Prayer,

We are aware of what Creation gives to us

Through sustenance

And what we should give back in return

And of the complex,

Intertwined

Relationships

That we must nurture

And we hope to be nurtured

Through Love,

Through Grace

Through Mercy

And

Through Forgiveness.

And that we know,

We cannot do this on our own

We can only do the work

That the Creator God calls

And

Commands us

To do

Because of the presence of the Creator God

And always invoking

Asking

Inviting God into whatever space we are

So that we are able,

To be a part

Of the beloved community

Of the Kingdom of God.

(pause)

Prayer,

Yes

It is a spiritual discipline

But prayer too,

Is an act,

Because through the power of the Holy Spirit

This prayer,

Any prayer

Moves

Encourages

Empowers

Reminds US

How much we are Loved

How much we are valued

How much we are,

That hope

In the darkness,

Because the powers of our prayers

SHATTERS

Any evil

That is Good News.

Thanks Be to God.

The Cosmic Understanding of Jesus

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

Hope begins in the darkness

And we, beloved

Are that hope,

Because of our identity in the One

Who devastated the concept of death,

As the end,

And opened to us

Eternal Life,

Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

 

This particular scripture,

In Colossians

Has enlightened me,

Intrigued me

And challenged me,

As a follower of Jesus Christ.

Because my personal relationship

And understanding of Christ,

Is that Jesus is everywhere

And immersed in everything;

He came,

He Lives!

He breathed

And

He died for all

That,

Is the Radical Hospitality,

Compassion

And Good News

That needs to be professed,

Every waking minute

Along this life’s journey.

(pause)

Because Jesus Christ,

Is the Great I AM

We have the freedom

To follow Him

To sit at His Feet

To allow His Glory

His Love

To Heal us

(pause)

Because of that Freedom,

We are no longer bound

By restrictive regulations

That in order to receive salvation

And God’s Graces

We must follow A+B which will equal C

We no longer are required

To go through strict rituals

To please God

Or set out an elaborate meal

To satisfy God

Martha was in the midst of that

In our Gospel this morning,

And complained about lazy Mary

Who was being still.

And Jesus tells Martha,

She is worried about the wrong things,

Because all that Jesus wants

All God our Creator desires

Is relationship with us

Is a simple meal with us,

Breaking bread.

And this is what God wants for us,

The relationship to have with our neighbors,

Because the only thing that matters

Is our identity in and with Christ.

But sometimes this is the effect,

When you have been conditioned

Living in the shadow

Of the empire.

(pause)

(Tell the congregation about the theological battle that I found myself immersed in during my Seminary academic journey which centered around this particular text of Colossians. I was taking a course called ironically Prophetic Preaching, with two professors one of which happens to be the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III who is the pastor of Trinity UCC. This was a course taught by SCUPE, which is an small, urban seminary dedicated to theological education focused on the urban environment, especially for People of Color. The course was set over a couple of weekends and I had heard rave reviews from many of my classmates before me who had taken the course. The first weekend, and that first hour, one of the other professors started class out with devotions before we delved into the academic-and he picked this particular text. )

 

“For in Him all things were created

Things in heaven and on earth

Visible and invisible

Whether thrones or powers or rules or authorities

ALL THINGS have been created through Him

He is before all things

And in Him all things hold together

And through Him to reconcile to Himself

All things

Whether things on earth

Or things in heaven…”

Through the Cross

(pause)

Jesus comes from the Creator God

For us all.

To understand the implications of this,

Was radical

Because the professor pointed out,

What the text didn’t say

It doesn’t say that

Jesus only came for the Tribe of Israel

Or for everyone who had signed up to follow Jesus

This,

This is the cosmic understanding

Of who Jesus Christ is!

Remember throughout this sacred text,

Jesus healed everyone

Who was broken

Who was in need

He didn’t ask about their allegiance

Or how many times they had been to temple

Or whether they had followed the purity laws

Or what their bloodline was

HE JUST DID WHATEVER WAS NEEDED

Because THAT IS WHAT GOD WANTED

God wanted,

Wants

God’s Beloved Children

To be as ONE.

And that because of Jesus,

The Gospel is proclaimed

And all of Creation hears that Goof News

Creation itself is in tune with the Creator,

We as humanity,

Sometimes fail

Seeing this clearly before our faces.

(pause)

This,

This is radical Good News

And something we as people of Faith

Might struggle with

For in HIM

ALL THINGS

Were Created,

Not Christians

Not just Lutherans

BUT ALL-

And that can shake up one’s faith

“What is the point then,

Of all this

Of this work we do

What we profess

If God’s Grace

Is not exclusive?”

(pause)

(Continue stating that this is where I found myself in the midst of this theological argument between many of us who had heard about God’s radical grace, and many of us who had a different and limited understanding, who had not heard about God’s Grace but only knew of God as a strict, unforgiving ruler. Suddenly our collective identity that we had walked into that classroom, as beloved sisters and brothers in Christ was broken, broken by accusations that some of us in the room, our denominations were teaching us falsehoods, simply because we clung to Grace, and that God’s Grace was freely for all; that forgiveness was overflowing and that we were not perfect but both saint and sinners)

(pause)

 

But this,

This text,

Is GOOD NEWS both then,

And now.

Our favorite brother in Christ

Paul,

Was trying to unite everyone

In this cosmic understanding

Because of this message of Jesus Christ,

That God Loves US

Regardless,

And in turn,

We should love our neighbors

Known

And

Unknown

That these ancient people in Colossae

Should be identified

By

And Because

Of their Bond

And Baptism

And Brokenness

And Renewal

In Jesus Christ

And should Live out this Call

To Love!

That identity

Took precedence

Over what had been forced upon,

And demeaned by,

The Roman Empire

Rome,

As occupier

As ruler

Attempted to subjugate these people

Who clung to the One,

Who had the power

Who has the power

To Free ALL

By labeling them,

Based on their socio-economic

Political

Military

Status.

The emperor stated he was god

As if life came

Was created

Ebbed and flowed from his,

Human

Fragile

Hands.

(pause)

It should not be surprising to us,

That Paul had the audacity

To offer words of righteousness

And of Sedition

Because Paul was going against the Empire

Hope

Begins

In the

Darkness

In that shadow of the empire

Paul declares that Jesus Christ,

Not Caesar

Is the image

Of God

That not this mighty

And very human

Empire

Had power

But that Jesus Christ alone,

Came before anything,

That Jesus was first

Before any thrones

Or rulers

Or earthly powers

(pause)

Paul is not afraid to say,

That because of Jesus Christ,

The Son of the Living God

All things were created

That we,

As humanity,

As God’s beloved people

We,

Belong

To

God

We

Are

Not Slaves

Of any human kingdom

We

Know

And

Confess

That Redemption

That Resurrection

Is

For

All!

(pause)

In the face

Of cruelty

In the face

Of chaos

In the face

Of destruction

Despair

Disorder

That separates us

In the face

Of the empire of this world

That tries to divide us

Because of the beauty

And Uniqueness

That the Creator has given to each of us

The Good News is,

We must see one another

As the reflection of Christ

We must recognize one another

Immersed in our identity in Christ

We must love one another

Regardless of who we are

Because Christ, Our Savior

Commands us

Teaches us

And

Loves

US!

Thanks Be to God.

 

A Reminder about our neighbors, From Mr. Rogers

My husband,

Going about his normal weekly routine,

Includes time to work out

And recently has joined a local Anytime Fitness in Highland

As he was beginning his routine,

A young man,

Of African Descent

Also immersed in his own workout regime

Stopped my husband

Stopped him with a question

“Is it going to get any better?”

My husband recounted he could see the fear etched on his face

“Has it always been this bad,

And we just didn’t know it?”

What words of comfort could my husband give to this young man?

What comfort could I give to my husband?

(pause)

This past week,

My entire being

Has felt as if its caught in the throes

Of a migraine

The tension spreading,

Tightening muscles

To the point of torturous pain.

Over and over,

The exclamation professed throughout social media

This has been,

The week from hell.

My proclamation

Is that I have been emotionally drained

By the callousness of those

Who judge an entire People

BASED ON THIS (skin)

And yet,

Spiritually healed

By messages of love,

By their public witness

From my best friend,

To colleagues

And fellow pastors

Who have reached out to me,

Just to check in.

(pause)

I’ve been conflicted

In my multicultural identity and understanding

But yet,

Concretely rooted with my People

In this Exile

(pause)

I’ve been saddened

That we as humanity

Have yet to grasp the lesson

That violence begets violence

But hopeful in that

People

As broken as we are

Are TRYING

To be,

To live out

What it means to be

Sisters and brothers in Christ, in Faith, in Peace.

(pause)

I am frightened

That there are those

Who refuse to see people such as me

As their neighbor

Rather I am perceived to be a threat

Because I live and breathe

And they would rather see me

Exterminated

But,

I am comforted

That this Church,

This ELCA

That our Presiding Bishop is SPEAKING OUT

Through Worship and through the Gospel

Speaking out for the least of these

Publicly going into that ditch

Cradling shattered bodies,

Cast aside

Willing to be identified as an outcast

Right along with us

(pause)

A Samaritan

We once more revisit the Samaritan

In our Gospel Text this morning

Oppressed and castaway

Reduced to a second and third class existence

Corralled to live in ghettos

Subjected to scorn

Because they did not worship,

As the Jews though they should

Fearful, and frustrated

Of being in the shadows

Of those who had established

Privilege and Power

(pause)

The Samaritan is reflected

In many numbers

Of modern peoples today

The Samaritan is the one,

Who regardless of the boundaries

Or social taboos

Or Westernized thinking

Or waves of injustice

The Samaritan comes to the aid

Of those lying in those ditches

Of deportation centers

And ill staffed public health clinics

And cramped prison cells

And polluted communities

When the poor neighborhoods

Of Flint, Michigan

Were suffering

With decades of lead poisioning

It was not the city of Flint

Who attempted to right these wrongs

It was local Muslim mosques

Who came bringing clean water,

And a word of comfort.

(pause)

The Samaritans have nothing to lose

They are already despised

Ignored

Have experienced distressed

Routinely ostracized

Robbed of everything that cements their humanity

And yet,

They give what they have

For their neighbor

(pause)

“Who is my neighbor?”

Ironically,

I had been looking forward to this well known passage

The subject of being a good neighbor,

Always brings me back to my childhood

And to Mr. Rogers.

The Gospel according to Mr. Rogers,

We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility.

 It’s easy to say “It’s not my child,

not my community,

 not my world,

not my problem.”

Then there are those who see the need and respond.

I consider those people my heroes.”

(pause)

It’s so easy,

For us to hear these words

And smile, nodding in agreement

But quick to forget

Who is our neighbor

(pause)

It’s so easy,

To walk away

From that man laying in a ditch

As the priest

And the Levite

Did

And assume that he brought it upon himself

And that he was not important enough

For them to see him

As their brother

(pause)

It’s too easy,

To judge that nobody in the ditch

Because they deserved it

Better them than me

That ex-felon now lying in the street

Well they broke the law,

They aren’t any good

They’ll just do it again,

They deserved it

Those people repeatedly pushed off their sacred,

Holy lands

Well, they don’t accept Jesus

They started the fight

That land really isn’t theirs

And they deserved it!

(pause)

Its too easy,

For us to justify ourselves

For not acting on our faith,

But as theologian Justo Gonzalez states,

“postponing obedience

By seeking further clarification

Even though we know

What Jesus requires

What makes us pause,

Stall

Is the COST of discipleship

(pause)

Maybe perhaps

We find it so easy,

Because we have never been the one

In the ditch.

We have never experienced being out of the status quo

We have lived a privileged life

I have.

Raised in a middle class neighborhood

A sheltered childhood

Where I had tennis, ballet, flute lessons

Vacations,

A comfortable home.

The knowledge that if I did everything

Obeyed authority

Looked the part,

NO ONE could touch me.

And then,

Sandra Bland happened

And I realized with FEAR

I COULD BE IN THAT DITCH

(pause)

“Which of these three, do you think,

was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

(pause)

The Good News is,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

Is that we are hearing

This call from Jesus Christ

To be good neighbors

When there is communal violence

Infecting a neighborhood,

The Good News is,

We have people

Such as my friend Tamar,

A woman of African Descent

A student Rabbi

Who comes in with her organization

M.A.S.K

And just sets up shop

And feeds people in the community,

No cost

No obligation

And not only shares a meal

But shares fellowship

With music, and games

And conversation

To hear their fears,

Their worries

Their pleas of a better life!

(pause)

The Good News is,

We have people

Who see the waste of food day in and out

By restaurants and grocery stores

Who are bound by restrictive laws

That can’t give away excess produce

And must throw it all away.

So organizations like Food not Bombs

Comes in to rescue that food

And sets up shop on the street

To feed those who don’t have a dime

To treat them as a part of humanity,

And not something that should be seen as rubbish

(pause)

The Good News is

That when we were suffering,

In danger of being separated from the Creator forever

Jesus Christ,

Our Risen Savior and Lord,

Who was both revered

And feared

Gave of Himself

For Us,

The example of a Good Neighbor

Jesus Christ,

Teaches US

To DO

JUSTICE

Show

MERCY

And

LOVE

For ANYONE

To ANYONE

Because THIS,

This is how we obtain eternal LIFE!

When a man came,

Demented

Shooting up a schoolroom

Full of Amish children

The Amish never retaliated

They came to the home of that man’s widow

To break bread

To pray and comfort her

What an example of being a Good Neighbor

(pause)

When a peaceful protest

A comradery that already existed between

Those who serve

And

Those who were concerned

And exercised their rights to voice such

Turned horrific

Those,

Who are a part of the movement

Of African Descent

Lined up,

To give hugs

To have conversation

To bring flowers

To those police officers

Who take their vow seriously

To serve and protect.

(pause)

“It’s very dramatic when two people come together to work something out.

It’s easy to take a gun and annihilate your opposition,

 but what is really exciting to me

 is to see people with differing views come together

 and finally respect each other.”

Mr. Rogers again,

A man of Faith

Trying to teach us,

What it means to be a good neighbor.

Thanks be to God

Planting, Planning and Praying

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

We can go out,

Spread the Good News

We don’t have to be afraid

Because we are never truly alone,

For the presence of the One

Who calls us

To Follow Him

Amen.

(pause)

 

Why are you here

At church this morning?

Or any morning, for that matter.

What fuels your spirit

to be here,

in this community,

Because we are a community of faith,

Gathered

Called

Sent

(pause)

What do you hope

How do you hope,

To be fed

This Sunday morning?

(pause)

Are you still seeking

Answers

Clarity

Comfort from God,

Through gentle hands across the aisle?

Hoping for direction

Strength

So that you can,

Give back

To this ruined world

The essential of the Gospel

This knowing,

That we are never alone

As we share this message

Of Unending Love.

Almost as if,

Coming to the Table

Waiting for those marching orders,

Just as I had,

Along with 32 others

Over a year ago.

(pause)

(Share with the congregation the story about the day of Graduation; as they said these words “Will the Candidates for the Degree of Master of Divinity please stand”. How we were marked and recognized and celebrated in that moment of all the hard work we had done. How we as sisters and brothers in Christ, seminarians no longer, walked down the aisle to be hooded and have this degree confirmed upon us. This spiritual and academic journey was a challenge.)

We however,

as we stumbled and faltered,

in the end

knew that these experiences bound us to one another

Outside the Seminary bubble, gave us pause

This waiting unknown without the support of one another,

How would we be able to respond,

Without one another

When God placed us among the beloved community

Who could be challenged by our dedication,

our drive,

our empowerment,

our energy?

The Gospel infused and enlightened us!

We must live out our call in the public, as the public church and our public witness.

Otherwise, we were not authentic to ourselves,

And to the Creator God

We had to stand unashamed

The Holy Spirit had broken the chains

Loosened us

We were as giddy as the disciples

when they were able to confront and defeat the demonic

in our Gospel text this morning.

The Gospel unraveled in our hands,

We finally would be able to transfer from the abstract

to the concrete

Our knowledge,

Our standing as theologians

We wondered,

In this real world,

Would our congregations,

Our faith communities

Stop, blink, wonder, learn,

Or

Would they,

shake the dust off,

Growing the gap of the abyss?

(pause)

Each moment

Of this life’s journey

Seemingly grows more divisive

Causing us

Desperately,

Turning ourselves,

Towards God

(pause)

And the HOPE PROCLAIMED

In the Good News

Professed over and over again

Until our throats our raw

Until our voices hurt.

(pause)

And to whom?

To our neighbor!

And who is our neighbor?

ANYONE

ANYONE

Who is in need.

Period.

Jesus Christ knew,

The only way that God’s message would reach

Was through us, beloved.

Through our songs,

Our prayers,

Our testimonies.

We,

Beloved

Are called to share that message.

Every moment

Here,

At the table,

Yes I may sound like a broken record

But there is no shame that HERE

At the TABLE

God comes to us

In that mystic, quiet moment

Fed,

From the One whose presence

Still shakes this world.

(pause)

The road to follow Jesus Christ

Is difficult

Because as we heard in the Gospel last week

It is a commitment!

We must forget ourselves

Our sorrows

Follow Jesus Christ

Come with us

To hear about Jesus Christ!

There have been days,

When we could go and knock on our neighbor’s door

And invite them to come to church,

It was so easy, right?

To where there wasn’t a empty pew

Or seat

Anywhere!

But now?

Mention Christianity

Mention church

And suddenly our vision is filled with

Disgruntled faces

Angry glares

Fearful mumbled rejection of our invitation

Because now,

The church,

Struggles with welcoming!

(pause)

It seems,

As a beloved Elder and Mentor

Stated ironically on social media

We, as people of God

Are stuck

In this loyalty to the institution of the church,

And forgotten our loyalty

Forgotten how to follow Jesus.

(pause)

And still,

There is this shift in the atmosphere

Because God never stops

Teaching,

Gathering

Reminding us of our responsibility

This undertaking

To Follow Jesus Christ

Just as these 70 were called to do.

Not just following

But doing as Jesus would have done

Welcoming

Bringing Peace

Remaining in one place

Faithful to a community of people

Living daily as those around them

Contributing to the well being

Healing, elevating, stirring!

(pause)

But

What I find so important,

And even a bit troubling in this Gospel text

Is Verse 11 here in Luke.

(pause)

Shaking off the dust on one’s feet

In ancient times,

Was a sign of rejection-

Yet,

There is no call for forced conversion here,

No direction that these would be people to be shamed

Ridiculed

Simply because they did not welcome the disciples

But that YES

The Kingdom of God is HERE

Letting them know,

Regardless

The Creator GOD

To TRANSFORM

Even the hardest of hearts!

Is this a call for us to reject those,

Who seemingly reject us collectively?

Or are they like the Samaritans

So WEARY of how they have been treated

By those who claim to be holy and faithful to the law

And yet, daily

Reject their fellow sister and brother in Love

Because of the harshness of the law

Forgetting Christ’s commandment

Which SHATTERS the judgement of the law

(pause)

Do we beloved

Sometimes even reject this call from Jesus

To Follow Him

Because we are just tired

Tired of being discouraged,

Because we don’t get a lot of visitors

Our numbers are only 70, or 120

Exhausted of proclaiming and sharing our faith,

Because we get doors slammed in our face

Because people pass by our church on Sunday morning

Drained because doing ministry,

Whether continuing our core

Or trying something new

Means that only a few get involved

And not the whole body of Christ

And so it is we,

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Who are shaking off the dust

When the Holy Spirit comes

(pause)

And yet,

There is encouragement in verse 11

Because the Good News is that,

THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NEAR

It’s HERE RIGHT NOW!

God doesn’t abandon us

Even when we flat out reject God!!

Jesus tells us,

The harvest is plentiful!

There are people who need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ!

That God Loves

Because God sent God’s Son!

God does indeed heal us,

Sometimes unexpectedly

God hears our prayers,

And walks with us

And refuses to GIVE UP ON US!!

(pause)

Think about this-

Because of the persistence of those disciples

And of the 70,

They planted seeds,

That inspired others

To do as Jesus taught us

To Love one another

And from that Love,

People cared for their neighbors

Through establishing hospitals,

Refugee centers,

Social service agencies,

In other words,

Because of 2,

Or 5

Or 10

Ministry

Got

Done!

(pause)

There is a lot of planting

And planning,

That my soul yearns to do with you,

As my community.

Some of it may seem odd

Different,

Bold,

Even radical

But,

It is because this Call

That our Risen Savior and Lord,

Jesus Christ

Has given me

I can’t shake it.

I don’t come carrying any textbooks,

Or IPad

Or any other gadget

Just

Me

Thankful

To do this God work

With you.

(pause)

Thanks Be to God.

 

What’s in a Name? #decolonizeGod’sName

An article that was just shared on the ELCA Facebook page, highlighted a shocking event where the PCUSA dared to participate in a prayer to God….simply because they spoke the name of God as..

Allah

When did we have copyright on what God’s Name should be?

I’m not understanding why we get all worked up when we use all of the expressions for God

I am a part of this movement to #decolonizeAllTheThings, specifically around religion and especially as..

#decolonizeLutheranism

Ase,

Ameen

Peace Be Upon You

Blessed Be.