5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13

Without women, we would not know

Acts 10:34-43      
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24     
1 Corinthians 15:19-26     
Luke 24:1-12     
Easter Morning
April 21, 2019
Without Women, We Would Not Know
    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

     Alleluia, Christ is Risen.  He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! I cannot tell you how happy I am to say this greeting to you.  Alleluia, Christ is Risen.  He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! For six weeks, we have been on this journey together.  Six weeks of fasting from these words.  Fasting so that this moment, this holy moment that we experience as we gathered here this morning, can be all that more satisfying.  

    Do you come like the women to tomb this morning?  Do you come bearing spices because that is what the law requires?  According to the Social Science Commentary, "In the Roman World, providing proper burial was one of the important obligations of contractual friendship. Throughout the Mediterranean world it was one of the strongest obligations of family members. That Joseph of Arimathea undertakes the obligation here indicates that he considered himself a member of Jesus' surrogate family group" [p. 409]... "Taking spices to a tomb is a gesture of family members" [p. 410].” They are doing exactly what they are suppose to be doing, if they were dealing with anyone other Jesus.  With anyone other than a man who told them three times before this that the Son of man must be handed over to the Chief priest and scribes, be crucified, and on the third day rise from the grave. They have heard this message, this prediction before.    Yet, they forgot.

    “In Luke the "two men in gleaming clothes" do not give a word of comfort as other gospels. Matthew and Mark say something to the affect, "Do not be afraid. You are seeking Jesus [of Nazareth] who was crucified."  Rather, they rebuke the women with their question: "Why are you seeking the living among the dead?’" The women have not believed that he could be raised from the dead.  “The women were dutifully serving Jesus in the best way they knew. They had prepared spices to anoint his body and had gone to the tomb early to finish the burial, only to be met with the challenge, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"

    They chide the women and maybe they chide us a bit too.  I think we all come to the tomb this morning unsure what we are going to find.  But the angels do not take their spices and kick them out—they give the women a refresher course.  They remind them of the prediction Jesus made three times before. The women remember and they believe.  And so the group, made up of Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women—all women—go back and tell the other disciples what has happen. They preach the good news.  They are doing exactly what I and thousands of others preachers are doing this morning. They tell the others that Jesus is not dead.  And of course, the disciples believe and they throw a huge party with lots of confetti and pancakes...

    Verse 11:  “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” The word “idle” is an interesting word in Greek.  λεροσ (lay’-ros) occurs only once in the entire Bible.  Here in this book; in this verse.  An idle tale.  The other traditional way translating λεροσ (lay’-ros) is to use “non-sense”.  Some of the non-traditional ways include saying garbage, fake news, gossip.  The men of the group do not believe what the women say.  They think that the women are just trying to start something with gossip.  Luke’s gospel is often recognized as paying so much attention to women and women’s voices and here at this key moment, the disciples view their testimony, their good news, as mere gossip.  
    Jurgen Moltman, a theologian who has written many books including one that I had to read for seminary called, “The crucified God” once said, “Without women preachers, we would have no knowledge of the resurrection.” How is it possible that God would use these women to proclaim the good news and they not instantly believe?  What is Luke trying to say?

    Notice, what do the women do after the men do not believe them?  Do the women walk out of the house?  Do they call them ta bunch of morons?  No, the women do exactly what they were sent to do.  They don’t give up on the other disciples.  They stay with them and try to help them remember. And it works.  Peter believes something about their message and he goes to the tomb.  He doesn’t fully comprehend, but he knows their is something to their story.  That it is not a λεροσ (lay’-ros) tale—an idle tale.  That something is happening here but Peter does not have all the facts for his mind to come to the conclusion that he is risen.

    "A large part of the what the women are sent back to the disciples to do is help them remember.  The angels say, "Remember how he told you..."  This same word is used by a criminal on the cross, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (23:42). Did the criminal expect Jesus just to think about him in the heavenly throne-room? I think not. Jesus' answer indicates something more than a mental activity: "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Remembering this criminal meant making him present with Jesus in the kingdom."

    "This "remembering" is more than just "thinking about," but "re-presenting" the historical event of the resurrection, so that we, in the present, are also made participants." This is most evident in the Eucharistic meal that all share in.  Jesus commands us to remember him whenever we eat and drink this bread and wine.  We remember all that Jesus has done for us, for you and for me, and we are made a part of the story through hearing and remember his words.  

    A big part of what we will be doing here today and in the months to come is to help each of us remember this good news of Jesus Christ. To help each of us to remember what Jesus taught us that lead up to this moment. It is our job as Christians, as witnesses of the resurrection, to help people remember the passion prediction Jesus makes, to remember the good news that led to this moment in time, that lead to this holy day when the gates of hades could no longer hold us in our graves. But let us not forget, the first ones to help us do this important work were women.  Women, who according to the society of their time, were second class citizens.  God destroys that notion and elevates them.  God uses them and makes them ambassadors of the good news.  And it is because of the work of the women, all of us are here this day.

    We all play a part in telling the good news this day.  And you, my brothers and sisters are witness of what has taken place.  Your role is to help others to remember.  You job is to come to the table and remember our Lord when you eat the bread and wine. Your job is stop looking for the living among the dead.  And it doesn’t matter if you are man or a woman.  A young child or older adult.  It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor.  Black or white.  Able to speak five languages or barely able to speak one.  We must by the like the women and help the world, help all those gathered here today, to remember the good news that happened on this day 2000 years ago.

    Alleluia, Christ is Risen.  He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia! 

    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Tears of Joy

Psalm 97    
Psalm 150    
John 20: 1-18    
Easter Sunrise
April 21, 2019
Tears of Joy
    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

     Alleluia, Christ is Risen.  He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! I cannot tell you how happy I am to say this greeting to you.  Alleluia, Christ is Risen.  He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! For six weeks, we have been on this journey together.  Six weeks of fasting from these words.  Fasting so that this moment, this holy moment that we experience as we gathered here this morning, can be all that more satisfying.  

    I find myself very overwhelmed with emotions this morning.  Perhaps it is the few hours of sleep that I got last night.  Perhaps it is the coffee finally kicking in.  But my hunch is that this feeling is something more than lack of sleep and caffeine.  For the past seven years, I have read this gospel from John at either at a vigil or Easter Sunrise.  Every time I get to the line where Jesus calls Mary by her first name, a wave of emotion comes over me.  

    Last year, Heather came up to me after the sunrise and asked if I was indeed crying.  And the answer was yes.  I have seen my Lord wash the feet of the disciples, I saw him be handed over to the cross, and then this morning I have meet him at the tomb and he is not there.  I completely understand why Mary is so struck with grief.

    She came early in the morning before dawn to mourn the loss of her dear teacher.  She comes expecting to find everything as she last seen it.  She comes to the garden alone, but the stone has been rolled away.  It is still dark so she can’t see anything inside the tomb.  She runs back to get Peter and John.  By this time, the sun had begun to rise.  They can see inside the tomb that Jesus’ body is gone.  They see his linen wrapping folded but the linen wrapping used to cover his face was “not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.”

    A fury of thoughts are running through their minds.  Grave robbing was a troublesome crime at this time. There was an imperial edict against it. It would have been natural for the disciples to conclude that someone had stolen the body.  John tells us that the two disciples see the cloths lying in the tomb. The beloved disciple sees and believes. But what exactly does he believe?  That Jesus’ body might have been stolen? Peter apparently doesn't believe. But what doesn’t he believe?  Peter is probably thinking that if indeed Jesus’ body had been stolen, why would the grave robbers take the time to fold the linen wrappings.  They both leave more confused than when they first came.

    And they leave Mary behind.  She is left behind to mourn the loss of her teacher’s body.  Not only have they killed him but they have taken his body away to do whatever God knows to it.  She is left outside the tomb weeping when she sees two angels in the tomb (v. 12). The same word in Greek is used here that was used for the disciples seeing the linen wrappings.  It is very much a physical seeing.  Her eyes are telling her that two men are in the tomb. She still believes that someone has taken the body (v. 13). But the angels do not tell her what is going on.  They only point out her weeping.  Woman, why are you weeping?

    Then Jesus comes on the scene quickly after the angels appear.  It is almost too much for Mary to take it all in.  John says that Mary sees Jesus (v. 14), but her eyes deceive here.  She believes she is seeing the gardener (v. 15). Jesus says, “Woman, why are you weeping?” If I would have been Mary, I probably would have given some smart mouth reply the second time this question was asked.  “I can’t find Jesus’ body.  We left it right here.  Peter and John are completely useless. They left me here in the garden.  Two guys are just hanging out in the tomb and ask my why am I weeping.  And now you show up and ask the same thing.  I am in a cemetery, what do you think I am doing here? Playing bingo?!?!” Thankfully, Mary is not like me. Mary, unsure of what is happening, says to Jesus, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’”  She is trying to process things in terms of human experience.  All she wants is her Lord’s body.  She wants to mourn his loss.  She wants one last chance to be alone with him one last time.  

    Then he calls her by her name.  He says, Mary.  And instantly, she recognizes him.  She beholds the man she has been wanting to see this entire time. He is alive, breathing, and not dead anymore.  She says, “Rabbounni” which means My Rabbi.  It is not just, Rabbi but my rabbi.  It is a very personal moment and she wants to hold onto Jesus.  She wants things to back to normal, back to the way things use to be.  But Jesus says, “No.  We can’t go back.  You, Mary, have task to do.”  

    Father James Martin wrote, “Between the time Mary Magdalene met the risen Christ at Easter and when she announced his resurrection to the disciples, Mary Magdalene was the church on earth for only to her had been reveled the Paschal Mystery.  Any discussion of women in the church begins with this.” At the start of this new week, new day, new beginning, Jesus establishes his church and the first member, the first preacher is Mary.  He tells her to go and tell the others not only what she has seen, but more importantly—what she has heard.  She believes because Jesus spoke to here.  The Word made Flesh called her by name and her faith was kindled.  She was made ready to burn with the passion and zeal that all Christians have because of this morning.  

    She goes back to the group and tells them.  She tells them that ‘I have seen the Lord’ She does the work of the church.  She does the work of the pastor.  She started the work of the church with one simple phrase, ‘I have seen the Lord.’ From there, 2000 years of faithful preaching and sacraments have been done by those who gather.  The church’s main and holy focus is rooted firmly in these five words, ‘I have seen the Lord.’

    These five words started a whole new mission for the followers of Jesus.  Mary came to the tomb weeping that her Lord had died.  Now she is an evangelist, a pastor, a believer.  Such a humble beginning.  A time that I nostalgically long to return to.  I especially long for these more humble beginnings when I am sitting in meeting, dealing with a furnace or A/C issue, or some kind of crazy plumbing issue that always seems to pop up at the most inopportune time.  I think, in some ways, we can this simple time again.  We can focus our attention only on things that point us to Christ.  We can let those things in our church and in our personal lives which have been holding us back from experiencing a new day, things that we have been holding onto our whole lives die, because we follower a God who knows how to bring the dead things back to life and transform them into a new state of being.  

    We are a people of resurrection.  Yet we remain weeping for the way things use to be.  We no longer need to weep. Death brings resurrection.  What needs to die in your life?  What needs to die in our church? God resurrects the dead.  It is not the task of the church to remain in the garden and weep for what use to be.  It is not the task of the church to hold onto the old Jesus; hold onto the way things use to be.  Lent is over.  Today is a new day.  And you are invited to wipe the tears away, to live in God’s new resurrected reality, and proclaim the good news: Alleluia, Christ is Risen.  He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

When all you have left is hope

Isaiah 50:4-9a      
Psalm 31:9-16     
Philippians 2:5-11     
Luke 23:1-49    
Palm Sunday
April 14, 2019
When All You Have Left is Hope
    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

    These words from Luke.  These holy words.  These difficult words to hear. This story of an innocent man losing his life while his disciples stand at a distance.  One has betrayed him.  Another denied knowing him; denied being his disciple.  All of them deserted him at the hour of his greatest need.  This has the making of a horrible story, with a gruesome ending.  We believe in justice.  That justice will prevail.  Where is the justice?  An innocent person on death row is executed for a crime he or she did not commit.  Dateline makes a lot of money telling these kind of stories.

    We always breath a sign of relief when the innocent are let go, but that doesn’t happen in the case of Jesus.  Three times, Pilate tries to free Jesus.  The Roman Centurion tasked with guarding the cross, after Jesus has breathed his last, says, “Certainly this man was innocent.’” Yet, nothing could be done to save Jesus. Everyone knows he is innocent, yet nobody is able to stop it.
 
   It is a frustrating and heart breaking scene, but notice how Jesus responds.  “The first thing he says from the cross is, "Father, forgive them. They don't know what they are doing." These words are only found in Luke. The one who is innocent forgives those who are guilty. Pilate, who was too weak-willed to save Jesus is forgiven. The crowds who had called for his crucifixion are forgiven. The guards who had beat him and made fun of him are forgiven. The soldiers who had nailed him to the cross are forgiven. Did any of those people ask for forgiveness? Did any of them repent? Is confession necessary before forgiveness can be given? Could we be this forgiving as Jesus was as nails pierce our skin?  

    Some of the earliest manuscripts we have found of Luke’s gospel do not include Jesus offering forgiveness which makes some wonder why the church would add these words? Why does the church need to hear these words of forgiveness from the cross? 

    Notice the sign that is above Jesus’ head.  It reads “This one is the King of the Jews." Jesus does not use his royal power to overthrow governments, but to heal a severed ear and to forgive sinners. He doesn't blame those who turned against him and unjustly killed him. He forgives them.”  He forgives the Romans who killed him.  He forgives the leaders who turn him over.  He forgives his followers who abandoned him. “Jesus forgives them all as he is dying and that should be the attitude of the people who follow Jesus, who find themselves in similar situations. The early church is no threat to overthrow the empire. They, like Jesus, are to seek to forgive the Romans and not to get even. The Romans, the Jews, and the entire world need to hear Jesus' powerful words: "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing."

    This story has so much to teach us.  It is a story that needs to be proclaimed not one day a year, but every, single day.  For the cross and salvific actions of our Lord on Golgotha teach us that there is no such thing as a hopeless cause, a hopeless situation.  That even an innocent, crucified, dead man can be redeemed.  

    In working through our Wednesdays in Lent theme, Church meet Disney, I discovered something important about this week.  Participating in Holy Week is much like going to Disney World and riding on a ride.  Only going to Palm Sunday is like standing at the front gate of Disney and saying, “Looks great, but I think I will go back to my room.”  That makes no sense.  But pastor, I know what the story is.  We just heard it read.  I don’t need to hear it again.  While part of that is true, what about the experience of meeting Jesus in the upper room or touch the cross on which hung the salvation of the world.  Holy Week is like a ride at Disney. Yeah, you know how most of those rides end, but that doesn’t stop people from riding them.  To not go to anything this week and only come back next week for Easter is the equivalent of not riding Hollywood Tower of Terror but still getting the T-shirt at the end of the ride saying you went on it.

    I know it is big commitment to attend two nights in a row.  I understand that and I know that for many, this is not a possibility.  I get that.  I am not saying that God is going to smite you because you didn’t attend Maundy Thursday or Good Friday worship. Know that this week is not for God’s benefit but for your benefit alone.  God doesn’t need to experience this week.  God went through it first hand.  This week is solely for your edification.  I have been attending Holy Week services since I was a child and every year, I notice something different about the story.  Something touches me in a way that I have never experienced it before and it makes hearing the good news of Easter Sunday all that more meaningful.      

    The sights and sounds of this week.  The sights and sound of this day teach us about God’s nature and Human Nature.  Human nature is unpredictable.  Human Nature teaches us to admire power and prestige.  Human Nature teaches us to never show weakness.  Human Nature has us one minute cheering for the guy as he walks into the city and the next minute shouting crucify him.  God’s nature, though, teaches us to forgive.  God’s nature teaches us to love.  God’s nature teaches us to offer hope and forgiveness to others even when your time is short on this earth; even when faith in Jesus Christ leads you to a cross..  This week we see God’s nature, revealed to us on the cross, and it is nothing like you can imagine.

    Today marks the start of a week where we will ponder the mysteries of our God and we will seek to understand how a God so loving and forgiving, could allow his only son to be handed over for crimes he did not commit in order to save humanity from their sin.  

    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Doing a New Thing

Isaiah 43:16-21      
Psalm 126     
Philippians 3:4b-14     
John 12:1-8     
Lent 5
April 7, 2019
Doing a New Thing
    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

    The smell of Easter Sunday in church.  With all the lilies and hyacinths filling the sanctuary, it has a unique aroma.  It always reminds me of walking into funeral home.  I know, it is strange, but I have been going to funeral homes since I was a child and can tell you that they all have a particular aroma—that sweet smell right before you walk into the room where a deceased brother or sister lies in state.  Easter is not about death, yet that same sweet smell which fills our churches.  On Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus—we celebrate life yet the smell reminds me of a place of death.  In a way, it is the sweet smell of death.

    It is the sweet smell of death that we all know one day.  Though death is not always sweet.  Death almost always involves the pain of loss, of losing someone we love.  Even in those moments when death is better than watching a love one suffer, the pain of loss is still present making death not a very sweet smell at all.  It is is more like a stench. A foul order creeping into our nostrils. 

    The stench of a body, slowly breaking down.  The stench that Martha warned to Jesus after he asked for the stone covering the entrance of Lazarus' tomb to be rolled away.  That stench was not sweet.  That stench is more than just a smell.  It also includes the pain of losing Lazaurus and the reality of what lies behind the stone is a loved one who is lying lifeless on a cold, hard slap of stone.  But the sweet smell is that in front of all of this odor is a man who says he is the resurrection and the life.

    And here, in our lesson before us today, the man who proclaimed he is the resurrection and life, who promised Mary and Martha that he could bring their brother back to life, now sits and enjoys a meal with the dead man who smelled of death.  Here he is, enjoying a meal that the two sisters have put together for Jesus and his disciples when Mary takes a bottle of costly oil, costly perfume, costly myrrh and anoints Jesus' feet.  A bottle that cost 300 denari or in today's dollars is around $36,000 dollars.

    To say the least, Jesus has a unique relationship with this family.  We are not told who Mary and Martha are in relationship to Jesus but we do know that they are close to Jesus, especially after the raising of their brother.  And to me, it makes sense that Mary and Martha would want to do something special for Jesus.  A meal for him and his disciples to enjoy was a good start.  Mary, though, takes it one step further and through a very intimate, extravagant, even wasteful act, anoints the feet of Jesus with a perfume reserved for those who have died.

    My first inclination when I hear this story is to wonder why?  What does Mary know that the rest do not?  We are told in John's gospel that their is a plot to kill Jesus and even Lazarus by the Jewish authorities.  Has Mary stumbled onto this plot and is preparing Jesus for the fate that awaits him?  Or is she just showing her gratitude for bring her brother back to life?  Why do this thing?

    Then we have Judas, the man who would one day hand over Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.  This is the man who objects to Mary's costly act.  The man who is willing to turn over his friend and teacher for a mere 30 pieces of silver. His argument, though, makes sense to reasonable sensibilities.  He is not even dead yet and she goes and pours the whole bottle onto his feet.  His feet of all places.  Not his head, not his hands, not his body but his feet and wipes the perfume away with her hair.  And this is at a time when women never touched men in public.  How dare she touch Jesus in this way and how dare she waste such a good bottle of pure myrrh when that money could have been given to the poor. That argument makes sense. 

    Maybe her actions are a tab bit excessive.  I for one, could think of a lot things we could do around here for $36,000.  Imagine all the people we could feed.  Imagine all the low-income children we could bring into the Mustard Seed.  Imagine the after-school program we could start with $36,000.  But Mary's actions, as Jesus explains, are that of a dutiful servant.  Her actions teach us what a costly devotion of a friend and true disciple is suppose to look like. "Acts of true grace and love regularly get slandered as deviance." Yet this is a time, as Jesus tells his followers, to care for the poor is also to care for our Lord.  
    Contrast Mary's act to that of Judas who seems caring but is actually a thief.  His attitude towards Mary reflects normal sensibilities—you don't go and waste a bottle of myrrh on someone who is not dead especially when there are starving people outside our door.  But in response to Judas' question, Jesus prepares Judas for the act of handing him over to death at the hand of the Jewish and Roman authorities.   Judas' words and actions shows us what a conniving false disciple/friend looks like.  A true disciple does not steal from the church.  A true disciple does not ridicule another member.  A true disciple actually looks out for the needs of the poor, homeless, and hungry. A true disciple loves the Lord.

    Nothing is as it appears in this gospel lesson.  How many times in the gospel does Jesus rail against those who oppress the poor?  How many times does Jesus reach out to the poor, the sick, the outcasts?   A woman who doesn’t necessarily know what she does epitomizes devote discipleship—she gives us an example of how we are to treat our savior. The sweet smell of death now hangs in the air that will continue over the course of the next 6 days as Jesus’ moves to the hour of his death and burial.  The Plots against Jesus by Judas and the other authorities which are meant to silent Jesus and his movement ironically will fulfill God’s own plan of salvation. And on the surface anyways, wastefulness is approved by Jesus and that the care for the poor needs to take a back seat, or so it seems.

    Just when you think you have Jesus figured out, he goes and throws a curve ball at you and you no longer understand what is right and what is wrong.  Is Jesus telling us to ignore the poor? Because it certainly sounds that way—"You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”  Personally, this is not one of my favorite passages from the Bible.  It leaves a sour taste in my mouth every time I say it.  So often, this verse is used by others to justify not taking care of the poor. Is Jesus giving us justification to ignore others who are suffering in order to give him our full devotion?  
 
   Nothing though, in this story is as it seem.  Nothing!  Including verse 8.  "You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me” is less about the sad reality of our world and more about where Jesus lives.  Perhaps, "Jesus was not foretelling the forever fate of the poor but defining the nature of the community called by his name.  "Those who follow me will always be found standing with the poor.'"  

    Jesus always sides with the poor and is can be found always standing with the poor and outcasts of the world.  If we want to offer the kind of full devotion and costly discipleship that Mary offers Jesus, then you go stand with the poor and outcasts of the world.  You anoint them with oil.  You feed them with elaborate food and drink because that is where our Lord can be found.  

    Jesus is with the sick.  Jesus is with the dying.  He is with the hungry.  He is with the lepers.  He is with the children.  We are called this day to act like Mary and give Jesus the kind of homage that Mary gave to Jesus.  To knell down at the feet of our savior and anoint his feet.  But first, we need to find him.  And for a man who always sided with the poor, I suggest we not only look in our beautiful sanctuaries for the feet of our savior, but we look to the place of the poor who lie in want and need, and whose feet look a lot like Jesus' own feet.

    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  

No Longer Hopeless

Joshua 5:9-12     
Psalm 32    
2 Corinthians 5:16-21    
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32    
Lent 4
March 31, 2019
No Longer Hopeless
  
 In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

    We have before us this a parable not of a prodigal son, but more so a parable about dishonor, pigs, a whacko Dad and two dishonorable kids.  And yes I said two dishonorable kids.

    Let’s start with the obvious.  We have the younger son and he says to his Father, "'Father, give me the share of the property that WILL belong to me.‘”  The youngest has pretty much said that his father is dead to him, and in the first century world, that normally would have got himself thrown out of the house. Not only does this younger son break the 4th Commandment, there is even a Jewish proverb telling parents not to do this:  Sirach 33:  While you are still alive and have breath in you, do not let any one take your place. For it is better that your children should ask from you than that you should look to the hand of you sons. Excel in all that you do; bring no stain upon your honor. At the time when you end the days of your life, in the hour of death, distribute your inheritance."      We all know this is a foolish move even without the biblical wisdom on the father’s part, and that the father's answer should be, "No, Son" but it gets worse...

    The father divides his household/life between both of his sons.  He is acting like fool.  He is now dependent on his sons for life when wisdom clearly says it should be the other way around.  According to Sirach, he has brought dishonor to himself, but it gets worse...

    The younger son takes off for a foreign country, leaving behind his family.  In the first century world, your family and your family’s home was your identity.  He has voluntarily given up his identity for a new identity, saying his old identity is worthless. But it gets worse...

    He takes all of what his father had given him and loses it all; we are never told on what but we know that it wasn't good.  And then when he has nothing left, a famine breaks out and he is really in trouble.  For not only has he made his father into a dependent person but he is now dependent like his father.  But it gets even worse.

    The man is so desperate that he goes and takes a job as a hired hand on a pig farm.  Now today, pigs got a pretty good reputation.  They give us bacon, ham and did I mention bacon?  But in the first century, Jewish world, pigs were the worse of the worse—the poster child for unclean animals.  Crabs would look at pigs and say, "well at least I'm not a pig."  Not only is he associating with the ultimate, unclean animal, he is taking care them.  It is his job is to feed them. And he is so desperate for a meal that he is even considering eating the food that he is feeding the pigs.  It is one thing to care for pigs, it is a whole other thing to eat their food.  There are not enough purity laws in the book of Leviticus to fix this boy at this point, but it gets worse...

    The young man realizes that the day laborers who would work for his father were treated better than what he has been treated in this foreign country.  He is going to go back home and make an apology and tell his father to treat him like an exploited laborer.  But it gets worse...

    It gets worse but not in the way that it should.  Verse 20, "while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him."  The boy has just been spending his days feed and sleeping with pigs.  He is not clean both physically and spiritually, yet the old man puts his arms around him and kiss him.  That whacko dad who divided his life between his two sons has just went off the deep end and is kissing pig boy! And not only does he physically embrace his son, pig pen, he ran to his son.  The father is coming from some means.  He has land, slaves, day laborers, is able to divide out his inheritance before he has died.  Because he comes from some means, he would be wearing a long rob.  Running in long robs is not easy - you have lift up your clothes in order not trip, and by lifting up his robe, he has just brought a whole new form of shame onto his self.  

    ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  The boy doesn't even get a chance to get his whole apology out before his father interrupts him and says to his slaves, "‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ No Father would operate like this in the first century world.  Not only does he elevate his son to a very high status by making him the guest of honor and giving him a long robe to wear like he is wearing, pig boy just got his father's American Express card - that is what it meant to have one of his father's ring.  Imagine sitting in the crowd and hearing this story.  Fool me once, shame on me.  Fool me twice shame on you.  Yet it seems like this father has not learned his lesson from before that his son is not very good with money.    
    "Dad, highly esteemed, gives a position of honor to the last person who deserved it.  To the person who acted totally dishonorably.  He doesn't envision himself as a son, but Dad does.  Dad says, "yes he is my son.  This son of mine."  He is making a claim for the son and is doing something the son cannot claim for himself."  But it gets worse.

    Remember I said two dishonorable sons.  When the son comes in from the field, he notices all the music and party-goers and asks one of the slaves, "what's going on?" "Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’"  The son refuses to go in and thereby dishonors his father.  We might do this today, but this was not acceptable in the first century world.  And your father would never come out and confront someone who was causing you dishonor, yet the father does come out and talks to his son.

    ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command..." The oldest son not only dishonors his father by not coming into the party but he doesn't even claim identity as the man's son either just like his young son did years before.  The father replies, "'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours."  The father restores both his sons identity as a family unit, but that is not even the most important part of this parable.  The most important part of this parable is the reason they have to celebrate.  That divine necessity shows up right at the end of the parable - "But it was necessary {dei} to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'"

    The kingdom of God is full of failure, anger and forgiveness.  The kingdom of God is full of poor-producing-fig-trees, angry farmers, and manure.  The kingdom of God is also a place where things do not make any sense, where celebrations happen for undeserving children.  The kingdom of God makes no sense, those who deserve none of what God is giving them, yet God has made it so necessary that God must give them a celebration, just like the father in this parable had to throw a celebration for his undeserving son. We are obligated to join in the party even when we may not want to.  The kingdom of God is full of full of poor-producing-fig-trees, angry farmers, manure and celebrations for undeserving sinners like you and me.  And thank God it is.  

    Sean and Jennifer, right now Nora is so cute.  She still cries for you, trust you fully, believes you two to be the coolest people in the whole world.  One day that might change.  One day, she might do something foolish like this younger son and you may or may not act like this Father in the parable.  But I can promise you, whether you act this way or not does not matter.  What matters is that God will throw her a party.  Baptism makes Nora a part of the family of God, of our family. God will celebrate every time she comes home after months of foolish decisions.  God will celebrate every time she returns to the place where her relationship with God all start—every time she returns to the table, to the font and remember her baptism. 

    God celebrates every time a sinner comes homes.  God gives us the keys to kingdom in baptism and some squander it away.   Others stay but disrespect our Father in heaven.  But God always throws a party when a sinner returns back to our God.  A great party awaits us, my brothers and sisters.  Don’t squander it away. 

    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Seriously, God is not punishing you!

Isaiah 55:1-9    
Psalm 63:1-8    
1 Corinthians 10:1-13    
Luke 13:1-9    
Lent 3
March 24, 2019
Seriously, God is not punishing you!
    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

    Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? Do you think those who suffer with cancer or depression, or any host of disease is suffering because they did something to anger God?  Do you think that those who lost their lives during a massive genocide did so because they are less worthy of God?  “If Jesus didn’t answer these question, others surely would have, or at least hinted at the idea somewhere along the way in the conversation. We are well aware of those who view tragedies as deserved, those who link calamities with hidden sins that need avenging. After all, those louder than life, self-professed preachers say this often enough, and likely have convinced more people of this connection than we would like to admit—maybe, sometimes, even convincing ourselves.” Jesus knows this about humanity because he has heard it his entire life just like we have heard it our entire life.  “While we know it is not true, we also know that there’s a place deep down inside us all, that space where secrets reside, that wonders, that questions, what did I do? Could I have done something differently? Why is this happening to me? What justifies this suffering? What did I do wrong? The issue of theodicy will never go away. But, the hard thing is, we just never know when we will have to face it yet again. It comes to the surface when we least expect and certainly, never when we are ready, as if we ever could be.” So Jesus answer there questions with an emphatic No, God is not punishing us.  Why would God punish us and still send us Jesus?  

    It’s the words after Jesus’ emphatic no that have gotten pastors in trouble.  Unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.  A primary concern of Jesus is that his follower repent. But before we get into this idea of repentance though, we first must understand how Jesus got to point.

    In Luke 12, Jesus is again teaching.  He first warns against Hypocrisy, he then extorts his followers to be fearless in their confession of faith, he tells the parable of the rich fool—a parable about a man who only thinks of himself and his barns, he tells his followers not to worry, he tells another parable about watchful slaves, how his words will divide families, and he finishes the chapter out by talking about the end of time and how we should be ready for it by settling our disputes before the end comes.  The progression of chapter 12 has been moving towards the end of time and how we are to live in this time of waiting on the Lord.  

    Luke “believes that God has delayed the second coming. One of Luke’s purposes in writing is to help the congregation maintain faith, life and witness during the delay. The delay gives people the opportunity to repent.” Some Christians think of repentance as feeling sorry for one’s personal sin, but remember what John the Baptist said, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” While part of repentance might involve feeling sorry for one’s sin, the Bible view of “repentance is much larger and often contains a corporate element. Indeed, repentance refers to individuals and communities turning away from things that violate God’s purposes (such as idolatry, injustice, and exploitation) and turning towards faithful living centered in worship of the most-high God and in the practice of justice, mutual commitment, and other values of living in covenant.”

    The two questions posed to Jesus:
  • Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 
  • Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?
“Jesus gives a straight forward answer: “No.” They were not killed because of their sin. They were brutally murdered by the Romans. But Jesus uses the deaths of the Galileans to make a point. To expand slightly: Unless you repent, you will all perish as they did when the apocalypse occurs. In Luke-Acts, to repent is to turn away from the assumptions, attitudes and actions of the old age and to live towards the values and practices of the Realm of God as taught by Jesus and as embodied in the life of the church in Acts.” Jesus stresses “the importance of repentance as a decisive step on the journey to the Realm. That action is necessary prelude to the life [that is to come]. Without repentance and faithful witness, punishment awaits.”

    So, how do we get ready?  How does one repent?  Well, according to the parable, it is already too late.  The man who owns the garden tells the gardener to rip out the fig tree because it is just taking up valuable space.  But the gardener asks the owner for more time, for one more year.  He asks that he be allowed to throw some manure onto the tree and see what happens.  The kingdom of God is like a landowner who wishes to tear out trees which do not produce fruit.  The kingdom of God, though, has a gardener who is on the side of the tree and wants more time with the tree.  The kingdom of God is full of second chances. The kingdom of God is full of good soil and lazy trees.  The kingdom of God has manure, fertilizer, the very thing that which can save the tree. How many can see our very situation in this parable. The time has come for us to bear the fruit worthy of repentance. God could already have ended the present age. However, God is giving us a little more time. While the second coming is delayed, the apocalypse and the moment of judgment are still ahead. Are we going to be ready?  What do we need to get ready?

      What do you feel the need to repent from this day?  What has happened in your individual life, your households, our congregation, or maybe even the wider world that you are ready to turn away from? This is what Lent is all about, my brothers and sisters.  Lent is about finding those things in your life that you don’t need and say, “enough is enough.” We all have these things in our lives that keep us from being fully apart of this new realm that God is laying out in front of us.  It is why we do Lent every year because every year, something new creeps into our life, into your life, that tries to separate you from God.  Every year we get a second chance at bearing fruit.  “Repentance is necessary for our silence instead of calling a thing what it is—and then actually doing something about it.” Where have we been silent?  What have we thrown a sheet over in the vain hope that it would never bother us?  In the words of John the Baptist, “Bear fruit worthy of repentance.” Christ is coming.  We do not know when but he will return.  How will he find his house? Are you ready for him to return?  In the end, all of us we need to repent for the ways in which we consistently take advantage of God’s patience and God’s grace” and turn back to the one who is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

We Are Given Angels

Deuteronomy 26:1-11    
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16    
Romans 10:8b-13    
Luke 4:1-13  
Lent 1
March 10, 2019
We Are Given Angels
    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

    Psalm 91 is a psalm about angels.  It is a psalm, a beautiful psalm that speaks of God sending angels to have charge over our care and protection.  "Israeli scholar Yair Hoffman once characterized Psalm 91 as an “amulet psalm.” [or as a Good Luck Charm.]  The term originated from a practice that developed in both early Jewish and Christian communities of placing bits of Psalm 91 in amulets so that the wearer would feel God’s nearness and be reminded of God’s providential care in times of trouble. "The psalmist pulls out all the stops and holds nothing back in this confession that God will indeed cover the psalmist with divine protection such that “no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent."

    The Psalmist is placing a great deal of trust in God.  In our 21st century, we do not go to bed at night wondering if an invading army will attack in the middle of the night while we lie in bed.  We live in relative safety and security.  The laws of this land protect our right to assemble in worship without the fear of the government silencing our speech.  We have the most powerful army in the world who work diligently to protect us from an attack.  Is Psalm 91 no longer necessary?

    Even the most powerful of armies cannot protect us from everything.  The devil and all his little demons still walk among us, pull us away from the good news that leads to eternal life.  Bad things still happen to good people every day.  We are not immune from suffering and feeling pain just because we are Americans or because we are Christians.  We still shed tears.  We are vulnerable to suffering.  The psalmist knows this and even with this knowledge, puts all of his or her trust in God for refuge from the world.  

    "It is not immediately clear what precipitates the psalmist’s song. The psalmist opens with images related to military protection—“refuge” and “fortress” (verse 2a), which would suggest that the psalmist is under attack and physically threatened. Verse 6, however, moves beyond military threat to include “pestilence that stalks in the darkness” and “destruction that wastes at noonday.” The impression given is that whatever danger the psalmist may encounter in this life, whether it be persecution, physical or mental threat, or even illness, the psalmist will find safety and shelter under the wings of the Almighty God."

    The Psalmists words are beautiful and they can paint us a picture of God as being a strong fortress, with a shadow so vast yet not terrifying.  The psalmist tells us of angels coming to our aid, guarding us, bearing us up so that our not even foot would be hurt if we should fall.  The lion and the snake cannot hurt us.  No wonder so many in Judaism and Christianity consider this psalm a good luck charm.  

    But the devil also knows this psalms.  That is thing about our gospel that terrifies me the most. He quotes it to Jesus and tempts him to test God.  "Prove to the world, Jesus, that God will protect you.  Prove to the world, Jesus, that if you were to throw yourself off this pinnacle, that God would save you.  Prove it, Jesus." One of the most haunting images I remember from September 11th, 2001 were the people who threw themselves out of the windows of the World Trade Center to escape the flames.  Where were the angels? Where was God with his angels, ready to catch us when we fall? 

    Is the devil right?  Will God not save us as the psalmist declares?  Does the devil know that God will not act in this way?  That is is one of the terrifying mysteries of our faith.  Why does God act in the way that God chooses?  Why does God save some and not others?  Is one person more righteous than the other?  

    Here is the good news this day. "Psalm 91 is not a doctrinal statement. The psalmist isn’t teaching a course on the Doctrine of God. Instead, the psalmist is professing faith in the same God who has shown himself to be faithful throughout the history of God’s people, delivering them from slavery in Egypt, from their enemies in the land of Canaan, and from all who would seek to destroy them as a people. Through the ages, God remained faithful to his covenant so that the psalmist can say with confidence that God will continue to sustain his people.”  

    Furthermore, "When the evil one quotes Psalm 91:11, 12 to Jesus in the wilderness, goading him to throw himself off the temple, Jesus rejects any notion that God is at his beck and call. Responding with Deuteronomy 6:16, “do not put the Lord your God to the test,” Jesus squelches the suggestion that one can presume upon God’s saving power for one’s own gain. The testimony of Psalm 91, then, is not that God’s people are immune to suffering, especially when that suffering comes as a result of folly or sin. Instead, it is that God will not ultimately let suffering or even death separate us from his love and care."

    When we get bogged down in the details, we miss the point that God has sent us angels to watch over us and keep from all harm.  At the end of the day, the devil will lose.  The devil lost to Jesus and the devil will not succeed in keep God away from us, but that doesn’t mean the devil is going to give up.

    We are still going to be faced with temptations daily.  Sometimes we are able to say no and walk away.  Other times, more times than we care to admit, we will fall victim to the cunning propositions of the devil.  The law condemns us and sentences us to death.  Yet the gospel says we are saved.  The psalmist says, "With long life will I satisfy them, and show them my salvation."  We have seen the salvation, the way, the truth, and the life.  We have seen the one who came and made all things new, who stopped Satan in tracks, who gave to us the power to forgive and know forgiveness from God.  Who gives us angels who watch us, over you, over your children, and your grand children, and your neighbor and even your enemy. And angels will not lose.  They will not sleep. They will not let Satan win the war and God will be faithful to the promises made to us through Jesus Christ.  Even though you have been handed a cross, and even though that cross will ultimately take your life, that cross will not be the end of your story.  For our God will bear you up on wings like an eagle and make you shine with the brightness of the sun and we will say to the Lord, “You are my refuge, my rock, you are the one that I trust.”

    In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  

Glory in the Ordinary

This week, Pastor Diane Day joined us for our quarterly pulpit exchange.  Here is her message.  

Did I Stutter?

Genesis 45:3-11, 15    
Psalm 37:1-11,39-40    
1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50    
Luke 6:27-38    
Epiphany 7
February 24, 2019
Did I Stutter?
 
   In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

    There is a meme out there that has Jesus on the plain teaching this passage and he gets to the point where he says, love your enemies and someone in the crowd says, “But what if they are _______________?” Jesus then says, “Did I stutter?  I am going to start again and you tell me where I lost you.”  I love that meme mainly because it reminds me how often I make excuses for not loving my neighbor or my enemy.  

    There are a lot of people who think the Bible is just a guide, a rule book, a checklist for how you are to live. If that is the case, why do we need Jesus then?The Bible is more than a checklist as to how to live as a Christian.  Many of us will read this passage and think, “Well, I do this so I’m good.”  But I don’t think that is what Jesus is saying.  I don’t think that is the point that Luke is making.  Maybe if we were reading Matthew, you can make that argument, but I think Luke has nuanced this a bit.  The question we should be asking ourselves, “Why is it important to love as Christians?” What separates our love from that of say a non-believer?

    Martin Luther King Jr. quotes this passage in his letter from the Birmingham jail.  In this letter he says, “Was Christ not an extremist for love?” Now Dr. King is not saying Jesus was just an ethical teacher. Dr. King words are far deeper in meaning.  Jesus was not just a teacher of ethics—That is not the Christian message.  The Christian message is that being a Christian is far more than being a nice person.  As the song says, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” This idea of Love has major implications for the coming kingdom of God. And as Lutherans, we should be at the front of these discussions.

    We are the ones who confess that we are justified not by our works but by God’s grace.  While many have interpreted this article of our faith as a “Get out of Jail Free Card” I can assure you that it is not. Their is another side of the coin and we call this sanctification.  Why is important for us to care about our enemies? Because it brings about the kingdom of God and God has equipped us, sanctified us, to bring about this kingdom.

    What will heaven look like?  Lots of people, who have had near death experiences, have written many books on this topic.  Some describe a white light, streets of gold, etc.  But what does scripture say about the kingdom of God.  Look at verses 27-31.  “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.  Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  This is who God is.  When you look for God, this is what God will be doing.  Therefore, this is what the kingdom of God will look like.  It will be a place where enemies will be loved, where acts of good are done to those who hate us, where violence will not be met with more violence, where the needs and wants of all are met.  That is the total opposite of how the world responds to people today.  

    How do we treat our enemies?  We blow them up.  How do we treat those who ask for help?  We turn them a way.  We question their motives and ask if they are worthy of a few dollars. How do we respond to those who hurt us?  We hurt them even more; we give them a proportional response.  An eye for an eye.  A tooth for a tooth.
    Jesus is calling for a radical change in our norms and that is not always popular.  I mean, imagine being in Luke’s pews, hearing this message of “Love your enemies” after your spouse, your mother, your father, your brother, your sister, your own child has been captured by the Romans and thrown into the Lions den.  You really want to turn the other cheek?  I pity anyone who would ever try to hurt my son.  I don’t think I could ever forgive that person.  Living this way, as Christ commands us to do, will not lead to a happier life.  Well, maybe in some ways it will, but it will not be an easy life.  Loving your enemy will not lead to an easier life, but when we live this way, God’s kingdom breaks through into a world.  

    What if we lived our lives like it was imperative to bringing the kingdom of God to the world? That living in this way is more than just something to check off.  By serving your neighbor, loving your enemies, giving without question were a moral imperative because they bring God’s kingdom to our world—  When we do these things, God’s kingdom breaks though and the world we know disappears a bit and we show a tiny glimmer of God kingdom.

    There are many who are craving that the church be a place of cultural and social influence.  And I want that to be the case, but only if we are willing to to go above the ethics of doing good works and point to the gospel.  Because we got a lot of nice people in the world who love their neighbor and love their enemies just as Christ commands.  What makes us different?  What makes being a Christian so important? We point to the gospel. We point to Jesus.

    We talk about the man who loved his enemies.  We talk about the man who did good to those who hated him.  Who blessed those who cursed him.  Who prayed for those who abuse him. Who turned the other cheek, who gave up the shirt on his back, and gave to anyone who begged to him.  This is how Jesus brought the kingdom of God into our world.  He did all these things we threw him on a cross.
    We as Christians need to live this way because doing so means we bring the kingdom of God into our world.  And Martin Luther is quick to point out in the Small Catechism that God’s kingdom comes about without our prayers or good work, but that doesn’t mean we don’t pray and live this way.
    In an age when the church’s relevance is being questioned,  it is important to remember that we are more than just a social justice organization with sacraments.  Anyone can do good works.  Anyone can love their enemies, do good to those who hate them, bless those who curse them, pray for those who abuse them. We, though, bring the kingdom.  We bring the gospel.  We point to the one who did all these things, was crucified, and rose on the third day despite this world’s best attempt to silence him. The church will lose if we think our only job is to be the ethical voice.  We, first and foremost need to carry the one was beaten, battered, and killed.  We need to be like God and remind the world that God is not absent, but is here and you can see God in these small, every day miracles.  
    God’s kingdom will continue to break into our world whether by us loving our neighbor or simply through God’s sheer will.  God’s kingdom coming is not dependent on us because it ultimately would never happen.  But we do have times where we love our enemy, where we care for our neighbor’s needs, when we show selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love.  As St. Paul told us a couple of weeks ago in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, this love never ends.  This way of loving will outlast the test of time.  For when we act this way, we bear the divine mark of God.  We imitate God.  We take on the image of the divine.  

    Living this way will not be easy and it might easily get you killed, but imagine the hope we would generate in the lives of so many people.  Better economic policies will not save our world, our community, or our church.  Jesus has saved you, our community, the whole world and we have the ability to bring this good news through words and deeds.  We usher in the kingdom of God and pry Satan’s grip off our world every time we do the impossible of loving the unlovable.

    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

When all you want to do is fish

Isaiah 6: 1-8    
Psalm 138    
1 Corinthians 15:1-11    
Luke 5:1-11    
Epiphany 5
February 10, 2019
When All You Want to Do is Fish
    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

    Most of you know that I love to fish.  Ministry and babies make going fishing hard to do, but nonetheless, I still love it.  A bad day on a boat fishing is still a better day in the office no matter the profession.  I have fishing experiences where I sat on a bank all day and caught nothing.  I have been on a boat that we thought was going to sink.  I have caught little fish.  I have caught some decent size Rockfish.  The best fishing experience I had was a couple of years ago.

    Another pastor in Baltimore had a boat and invited me and two other pastors to go fishing.  I got my gear and headed down to the water.  We got out to the bay and it was choppy, but I didn't care.  I came to fish.  I threw out my line and caught two fish also immediately.  I did it again and caught two more.  My fellow fishermen, were not so lucky.  In fact, one of them was throwing up over the side of the boat.  George took pity on the other two and decided to move the boat.  See, when I am on the fish, I don't leave and at that point, I was having some pretty spectacular fishing.  

    So we move to less choppy water.  I threw my line out into the water and caught two more fish.  And again. And again. And again. And I know what you are all thinking, fishing stories tend to be over exaggerated but not in this case.  I was on fire.  All day long, I could not stop catching fish.  If Jesus would have walked onto our boat and said follow me, I would have said, "in a minute after we get off the fish..." No, "Where you go, I will go."

    I don't claim to be a great fishermen, but I am pretty convinced Peter is a crappy fishermen.  A much better preacher and disciple than a fishermen.  Jesus sees these qualities in Peter (and James and John) before Peter realized it himself.  Jesus sees something of value within them; that they have a role to play in this reality God is bringing forth.

    But what does Peter say? "Get off my boat..." That is what I would have said if Jesus just walked into my boat after a crappy day of fishing.  After doing what Jesus tells him to do in order to catch fish, he says to Jesus, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" And notice Jesus' response.  What does he say? "‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." Jesus doesn't say, "O my child, your sins are forgiven."  Jesus says, come and follow me.  
 
   God deals with sin on multiple levels.  As Lutheran, we always think of God dealing with sin with forgiveness. God forgives sin.  Sometimes, God deals with human sin with call.  

    When Peter sees God's holiness, when he recognizes God's holiness, he tries to get away.  God replies by saying, "Follow me."  Sin isn't just about guilt.  Sin also involves brokenness, unrighteousness, unholiness.  Sometimes a sin is something that you do, other times sin is a state of being--think original sin or the sin every person is born.  That is the kind of sin that Peter is feeling.  He feels he is unworthy of God.  He feels he should not be in the same boat as God.  He feels his whole life is a failure and he should be nowhere near this God.  Peter doesn't have his life together and yet God says to him, "‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people."

    Do you have your life together?  All your ducks in the row?  The problem with ducks is that move, all the time.  It is hard to keep them straight.  It is hard to keep everything in your life straight.  You got family to worry about.  You got a job to worry about.  You got bills to worry about. You got all kinds of things to worry about which reveal you brokenness, your lack of righteousness, your lack of holiness.  And you know what, God doesn't care.  God's stop caring about all that stuff a long time ago.  God cares about you. God sees something in you.  How are we going to respond?  Get away from me Lord for I am a sinner? Or are we going to get off the boat?

    Do not be afraid.  Get off the Boat, my beloved children.  Do not be afraid.  You are of value.  You are of worth.  Go and catch some real fish. 

    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  
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