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A Meal Where Everyone Leaves Happy

Proper 13 (18) - August 2, 2020 
- Isaiah 55:1-5
- Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21
- Romans 9:1-5
- Matthew 14:13-21
A Meal Where Everyone Leaves Happy

Five Parables for One Low Price

Proper 12 (17) - July 26, 2020
-1 Kings 3:5-12
- Psalm 119:129-136
- Romans 8:26-39
- Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
5 Parables For One Low Price

The Parable of Weed Killer

Proper 11 (16) - July 19, 2020
- Isaiah 44:6-8
- Psalm 86:11-17
- Romans 8:12-25
- Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
The Parable of Weed Killer
A dialog sermon by Pastors Matt and Diane Day

 

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

The Parable of Weeds among the Wheat. That is a horrible title for a parable.  That is not going to get you a spot on the New York Times Best Seller List.  Weeds among the wheat.  Like, no kidding.  We ordered take out on Thursday night from the Dining Room in Inwood.  Driving down 51, past a number of the farms, a number of those fields have a bunch of volunteer crops from last year popping up among their good seeds.  Depending on how you look at these volunteers, they are either a cash crop or weeds.  If you allow them to continue to grow, they steal nutrients from your plants (your cash), they contaminate your final product, and they generally do not produce all that well.  This happens all the time. When you harvest the corn, or you harvest the beans, or you harvest the wheat, some of your harvest is going to fall into the field and lie dormant all winter, and if the conditions present themselves, will pop up in the next growing season.  Mother Nature is always going to do this. Weeds are a fact of life for farmers and gardeners.  No matter how hard you work at tilling the fields, spraying the fields, and physically pulling the weeds, you will have to contend with volunteers and other weeds popping up amongst your good seed.

Weeds among wheat.  Let’s talk about this title for a bit.  I don’t like the traditional title for this parable. Weeds among the Wheat. I have thought about a couple other options:

    • The Gospel accord to Roundup Weed Control.
    • The Losing Battle of Weed Control
    • (my favorite) The Parable of Killing Volunteers 
    • Or probably the most realistic title - The Parable of the Foolish Farmer Who Has No Idea What He is Doing…

Not that catchy of a name as the original but much more in line with reality. Maybe we should just stick with the title the NRSV assigned it…Weeds among Wheat. The reality of the matter is that this parable should not be read like “awww…that is such a great story.” Rather, it is suppose to make question all our previous notions and ideas of the dominion of God and we can best do this by putting ourselves into the same mindset that 1st century hearers would have heard it. And mind you—Jesus’ original audience were most likely farmers… 

But before we do this, let us remember the working definition of what a parable is.  The word parable comes from the greek word parabole.  That Greek word is a translation of the Hebrew word mashal which means "to be similar, to be comparable.” So, the best definition of a parable that I have ever found came from MGVH and my wife beautifully quoted it last week but I will say it again as a reminder.  “Parables function as metaphors, metaphors challenging or inviting the audience into a new or deeper experience of God’s dominion, a dominion identified with those who are the LAST, LOST, LEAST, LITTLE, & LIFELESS.`” 

Please note, Parables are not allegories, though Matthew 13:36-43 might make us think it is.  An allegory is a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one. Often, allegories have characters that we compare ourselves and each other.  Such as in the parable of the prodigal son, many of us can identify with the older son and see others, especially those who we don’t like, as the younger son.  But an allegory really cheapens a parable into this simple little story and totally misses the bigger picture of the coming dominion of God being associated with the last, LAST, LOST, LEAST, LITTLE, & LIFELESS.`” Often times, allegories can be summed up by those cute, little sayings you find crotched onto a pillow or stuck onto a meme.  

These past few months, I have heard so many people say, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” Seriously, my brothers and sisters, I am so incredibly tired of hearing it.  Clearly y’all, if you think God caused this pandemic, we need to have a chat and I will be in my office tomorrow morning ready to chat by phone or video.  603,000 people from across the world have died from Covid19. 141,000 are from the US and 100 people in our great state of West Virginia.  Clearly this is more than any of us can handle!?!? How do you tell someone who lost a love one to this horrible, wretched virus, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”  To people who have lost parents too son, children who can’t see grandparents they love.  It is no wonder why people have been turning away from Christianity.  We have cheapened this life-giving gospel to a bunch of stupid-memes, idiotic-crotchet-sayings and it has to stop.  We must call a thing what it is and stop the nonsense.  This virus is a horrible thing, but our God knows a thing or two about dealing with hopeless situations—our God knows how to deal with death.

So, let’s look at this parable and try to read it from the perspective of the 1st century hearers, and try to avoid those homiletical traps that are so easy to fall into.  

The kingdom of God is like a someone who sowed good seed in his field…that’s not exactly right.

The kingdom of God is like a farmer who sowed good seed in his field…that’s not exactly right either.

The kingdom of God is like a wasteful, moronic farmer who has no idea how nature and farming works, sowed good seed in his field… and while everybody was asleep, an enemy, I.e. mother nature, came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 

So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well, just like normal. And so the workers of the fields (otherwise known as the slaves who work for free and are treated as property of the master) come to the moronic farmer and say to him, "Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?' And the farmer says, “It’s called mother nature…” Wait, no he’s still pretty clueless so instead he SAYS, "An enemy has done this.’ Because that is the best way to really sock-it to your enemies…plant dandelions in your neighbor’s field.  That will show them! 

So, the slaves said to him, "Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he replied, "No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. SO, Both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn and by the way, I need more cow bell.”

1st century farmers listening to Jesus’ parable would have been scratching their heads, probably even laughing, as Jesus told this parable and I think that is the point.  Parables are suppose to help us question our presuppositions of God’s dominion.  So, how then does this parable help us think about the coming dominion of God? 

  • (DIANE) The kingdom of God is not what we expect it to be. The kingdom of God is good soil with lots of weeds. The kingdom of God has both wheat and weeds growing up along side of each other.
  • (MATT) The kingdom of God has a moronic farmer in charge of operations.
  • (DIANE) The kingdom of God still has to deal with mother nature messing up even the best laid crops.
  • (MATT) The kingdom of God has dandelions…but Dandelions are not all that bad.

Dandelions spread their seeds by little kids running around and blowing the seeds all over the yard (and if you don’t have kids, the wind does it).  They are tough, hearty plants.  By the way, did you know Dandelions were not indigenous to North America.  They probably arrived in "North America on the Mayflower—not as stowaways, but brought on purpose for their medicinal benefits.” Dandelions are completely edible…every part.  During the great depression, many people went and picked them so that their family could have green food to eat.  They help loosen up tough soil.  Now-a-days, we create poisons to get rid of them… What exactly is a weed?  Is a weed not a living plant fighting for survival just like my tomatoes?  Do we not like weeds because of the way they look or because someone told us that this is a weed and therefore we must destroy it.  I think we should be careful who we listen to because there are a lot of weed controls companies out there that have made millions off our fear of the dandelion—a fear that was created by their desire to profit off our fear and desire to have that perfect lawn.

  • (DIANE) The kingdom of God still has our enemies…but how does Jesus tell us to deal with our enemies. (Pray, they may be people close to us, ultimately cast out from God’s presence) 
  • (MATT) The kingdom of God has slaves?!?!

During the 1800’s, many people used the Bible to support their twisted, inhumane views of slavery.  “Most studies of slavery in Greco-Roman antiquity suggest that it was not the same as slavery in the pre-Civil War period of the United States. ‘Ancient slavery was not based on race, for example. One could become a slave by being born into slavery, being captured in war, falling into debt, selling oneself (or family members) into slavery, or being "rescued" from infant exposure and then raised as a slave. Moreover, poorer folk sometimes had slaves; even slaves sometimes had slaves! Many slaves, especially those enslaved as a result of war, were more educated than their masters, and they were often encouraged to continue their education in order to benefit their masters… Slaves could also accumulate property and wealth and buy their freedom, although they normally remained indebted to their former masters…Most slaves in Greco-Roman society could expect to be emancipated by the age of thirty, from which masters normally benefited economically.’” 

However, I am by no means endorsing slavery of any kind and even slavery during the days of Jesus was not a pleasant life to live.  “Since honor was the focal value of Mediterranean society, slavery was always bad, since it thoroughly deprived a person of honor. Slaves worked on plantations and alongside persons condemned to death by working in mines or rowing galley ships. Their life was harsh and brutal. Slaves were property (like animals) and did not enjoy the same legal status as free persons… Slaves were not legally married, their families were sometimes broken up, and disreputable table masters sometimes sexually abused female and young male slaves. Fugitive slaves had to be returned, and debts were to be paid to their owners by anyone who harbored them.”

Will the coming dominion of God include slaves?  No.  So why use this imagery?  Remember I said a parable was a metaphor?  In order for it to be a metaphor, you have to liken your topic that your audience will get.  Slavery was well imbedded into the social fabric of the 1st century world and it was something that people could all understand.  So does that mean, God endorsed slavery?  No.  Will the coming dominion of God include slaves?  No.  St. Paul says in his letter to the Galatian’s,  “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”

  • (DIANE) Why does Jesus turn this parable into an allegory in verses 36-43?

Simple answer, the disciples are just like us and want a simple answer.  Jesus gives them a simple answer.  But how many of us feel satisfied with just a simple answer?  Isn't faith more than just a simple answer that you can crochet onto a pillow or put onto a meme? I don't think that we should ignore 36-43 because it does give us an insight into our Lord's thought process and thinking, but I do think Jesus wants us to think more deeply about this parable and how it changes our presupposed assumption about the present dominion of God. It also makes us think about the necessity of judgment and how it can impact our lives and the fruit we produce now as participants in God’s dominion.

  • (MATT) Are we to fear the reaper? 

Luther starts each one of his explanations of the 10 commandments by saying, "We are fear and love God..." We are to fear and love God.  It is a strange dichotomy that Luther presents us with and not something that he just came up with.  He read scripture like this, parables just like this one that really makes us ask the question are we to fear the reaper?

I once read this great little proverb by a seminary professor who said, "Whenever you draw a line in the sand to say who is on the inside of the kingdom of God and who is on the outside, remember this, Jesus is always on the other side of that line.  Jesus is always with the outsiders.  What exactly is bad—the wheat or the weeds?  We assume the weeds are bad, but with if they are not?  The band, Blue Oyster Cult, got it right.  Don't fear the reaper. I don't fear the reaper, I fear that I made the wrong choice and sided with the people who are not on the side of Jesus.  

*****

(Diane) So, what the solution?  Let the reaper figure it out.  That is the reapers job, isn't it? Our role in the coming dominion of God is to to do the growing and the planting knowing full well that even with great soil, good seeds, we still need the work of the reaper, that we aren’t going to figure it out ourselves.

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

Ears of Corn...or something like that

Proper 10 (15) - July 12, 2020 
- Isaiah 55:10-13
- Psalm 65:(1-8), 9-13
- Romans 8:1-11
- Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Ears of Corn...or something like that

How do you like your yoke?

Proper 9 (14) - July 5, 2020
- Zechariah 9:9-12
- Psalm 145:8-14
- Romans 7:15-25a
- Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

How Would You Like Your Yoke?


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

We are almost done with discipleship in the lectionary.  Sort of.  Okay not really.  Matthew’s gospel is best seen as a manual for discipleship so pretty much everything in the gospel points back to being a disciple of Jesus.  After today, we leave the intense "missionary discourse" that we have been in here for the past couple of weeks, and move into the parables. Last week we were in chapter 10 and you notice that the lectionary has us moving straight through Matthew 11, but notice we are not at verse 1.  We have skipped over a great deal of verses; verses that we need in order to understand the context of Jesus' words.  I find myself am always interested in the verses that the lectionary skips over.  Like, what do they not want me to read?  Why do they not want me to read that?

Let’s spend some time looking at the skipped over verses.  Matthew 11:1, you will never hear read in church.  It is not a part of the lectionary because it makes no sense, sort of.  It is just Matthew telling us that the context to where Jesus was preaching has changed.  Important to read in Bible Study, not really necessary for worship.  

Matthew 11:2-11 has already been read in worship back on the 3rd Sunday in Advent.  It was the questioning of John the baptist to Jesus as to whether he is the one whom he prophesied would come.  And Jesus says, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”  

Then things get violent, which is probably why they are left out these next verses out of the lectionary. “12From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; 14and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15Let anyone with ears listen!”  These words from Matthew here in chapter 11 really set the scene for our appointed pericope this morning.

On the surface, it seems like Jesus is really upset with the crowd because he is a grumpy, old man.  In some ways, I don’t even think he is angry with the crowd gathered to listen to him.  Really, it seems like his frustration/anger is with his cousin's questioning of his "messiahship."  "To what will I compare this generation?"  It almost sounds like Jesus can’t stand the younger generation of people.  However, I don’t think that is what meant.  Jesus is not so much upset with the crowd, but is upset with anyone who can’t see beyond the Messiah being a great warrior.   

So, after Jesus expresses his frustration, the text takes another violent turn, but we skip over this portion.  Verses 20-24 involve Jesus apparently cursing two cities: Chorazin and Bethsaida for rejecting him.  We are getting a really conflicted message from Jesus.  Should we be frustrated with people who reject Jesus’ message or should we show them grace and love?  The answer, it is all in how you read the Bible.  Rejection is a whole lot easier to do.  Anger is a whole lot easier of an emotion to have.  Love.  Love takes works and patience.  To find the love, we must look at the big picture.

The big picture of Matthew has to be taken into account when reading Matthew 11. In  Matthew 5 Jesus says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  Remember way back in January I told you all that we needed to remember to always read Matthew's gospel in light of the Beatitudes?  There has to be grace even in a passage largely dominated by woe and frustration.

You know, my brothers and sisters, sometimes people will just reject anyone whom God sends.  Some days it is like talking to a wall.  Some days, the wall does more for the spreading of the gospel than the disciples do.  Some days, some days, it feels like you got nothing left to give the world because they have tied your hands and they have beat you to the point where it hurts to talk.  I get what Jesus is saying here in verses 18 and 19.  You try to do everything right and people will just reject you, not listen to you or worse yet, make fun of you.  

And then, after the cursing and woes, our Lord prays.   At first it sounds a bit condescending, but it really isn't.  The reason for Jesus' prayer is the fact that even after Jesus has just said all those woes about Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, he asks his Father not to bring wrath to them, but that God would reveal this hidden message to them—that Jesus is the messiah, the one who can save us from our sin.  There is hope in this prayer from Jesus. Jesus has hope that all is not lost for these people and that there is time for them to radically reorient themselves to God through Jesus.  

You know, Jesus isn't out to bring fire and damnation to you or anyone.  That is the world’s job.  That is the devil’s job.  God is not in the business of punishing you.  Quiet frankly, I feel like we are our own worst enemies most days.  Do you remember what Jesus says in the beatitudes.  Blessed are the poor in spirit, Blessed are those who mourn, Blessed are  the meek, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, Blessed are the pure in heart, Blessed are the peacemakers.  The culmination of Matthew 11 is not in the woes but it really found in verse 28.  28“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Verse 28 does not say, "Come to me, all you are that fine and who have no worries."  No, Jesus says, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."  

  • Come to me, you who are tired and worn out from Covid 19.  Come to me, you who are worn out from kids who are stuck at home and I will give you rest.  
  • Come to me you who have not had a break in nearly four months from work and I will give you rest.  
  • Come to me you who risk your lives every day working in careers that are deemed essential during a crisis and I will give you rest.
  • Come to me you who miss seeing your family during this time, who long to hold grandchildren, who can’t understand why family has not been able to see them at their nursing home, and I will give you rest.
  • Come to me you who have lost loved ones, lost sons and daughters, lost your faith, lost your way, lost your job, lost your hope and I will give you rest.  

That's the gospel.  That's the good news.  You that work day in and day out to further the kingdom of God, there is hope, there is life, there is rest for you.  Even in the midst of these difficult days of being a disciple, even in the midst of Covid19, discipleship still happens, the work of the church continues on and Jesus is here with the strength to bear you in his arms, to share the load of what we cannot bear anymore.  

The cross shows us a weary man who is carrying a huge burden on his shoulders and that even in the midst of that very hopeless situation when Jesus was at his weakest, God came and brought hope back to life.  Even in the midst of whatever trial you are facing or whatever cross you might be bearing this day, God will come and bring you hope. 

As disciples, the greatest gift we might be able to give each other is a break—a rest from this weary and tiring work.  As Matthew reminded us early on in Advent, Jesus bears the name of the one promised by the prophet Isaiah: Immanuel, "God with us" (1:23). God is with us this day, my brothers and sisters.  Can you feel our Lord’s presence?  Take a moment right now to breath in the spirit of our Lord.  Take a moment a little bit later today, and tomorrow, and the day after that and the next, and the next, and the next and breath in the spirit.  For our Lord is with you, he has placed that yoke around your shoulders and will carry you if necessary.  

Discipleship has so many unknowns.  Where is God going to send you?  Who are you going to speak to?  What will your work be?  Will they accept you or will they run you out of town?  Being a disciple does not come with many guarantees except for one—our Lord’s presence is guaranteed. You are all disciples of Jesus and you all have had the yoke of discipleship placed on your shoulders which means, God is with you.  Remember that.  Remember that God is always going to be with you, wherever you go, wherever you are sent, whatever befalls you, whatever pandemics await you in the future—remember our Lord’s name—Emmanuel—God with us.

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

The Disciple's Reward

Proper 8 (13) - June 28, 2020
Jeremiah 28:5-9
- Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
- Romans 6:12-23
- Matthew 10:40-42
The Disciple's Reward

Can I get a refund?

Proper 7 (12) - June 21, 2020 
- Jeremiah 20:7-13
- Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18
- Romans 6:1b-11
- Matthew 10:24-39
Can I get a refund?
    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

    As I sat down to read today's gospel, the first thought which popped into my head, "Was Jesus ever scared?" "Did Jesus fear dying?"  That fear of dying has kept many of us safe and alive over the years.  I am afraid of getting run over so I walk on the sidewalk.  I am afraid of my parachute not opening so that is why I don't jump out of airplanes.  I am afraid of being ejected from my car in a car accident, so I always wear a seatbelt.  I am afraid of having a stroke or a heart attack, so I always take my heart pills every morning.  I am afraid of catching this virus and getting my kids sick, so I stay home as much as I can and always wear a mask out in public.  Fear is a great motivator to avoiding death as much as possible.  
    Yet, there are many who face death on a daily basis. We all face death on a daily basis, now more than ever.  Before, you could just be crossing the street and get hit by a bus.  Now, we have this invisible virus that you can't even see.  So, I really have to wonder, "Was Jesus ever scared?" "Did Jesus fear dying?"
    From the perspective of this pericope, we really have to wonder. Look at what Jesus is telling his disciples to expect discipleship to be like and how bold he is with his disciples:  
  • 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 
    • If Jesus is having to say these things in the dark, it is probably because they were not a popular belief.
  • 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
    • But what if the government and the people around you do not value you more than the sparrow? What if you are but a number to the rest of the world...
  • 32 "Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
  • How many times have I, though, denied Jesus?  And before we go and think never, just remember that Peter did...
  • 34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
    • And just when you thought it was cool to be a follower of Jesus...but think about how many wars were started in the name of Jesus over the centuries. 
  • 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and one's foes will be members of one's own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 
    • And we hear this on father’s day no less...a day when we honor fathers and father figures, we are told by Jesus that we may need to separate ourselves from our families
  • 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
This is all terrifying.  If this is what discipleship looks like, then it is no wonder why church numbers have been dwindling over the year.  In some ways, I wonder if our dwindling numbers is more of a reflection of people afraid of true discipleship because for a longtime, discipleship was a way to get a head in the country.  For example, politicians use to tout their membership at prestigious churches.  Now, that prestige matters less and less to voters.  Why go through with it if it doesn’t get you votes?

    Yet, there are probably 80-90 people participating in this liturgy, in this worship, right now and countless others who will watch this worship later on.  You all desire to be a disciple of Jesus.  The desire to be a disciple of Jesus remains with us.  Why is that?  Are all we all naive?  Why are you here?  Are you not afraid? Are you not afraid of separating yourself from your family because of your belief in Jesus Christ? Are you not afraid of the cross that awaits you? These are all important questions, but at the heart of these questions, lies this very simple question of our leader:  Was Jesus ever afraid of death?  For if we are to follow his example, then ultimately we must know if Jesus was afraid of death just like the rest of us. And I think the answer is, yes.
    Matthew 26: 38, 39, 42, 44
38Then he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.’ 39And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’…42Again he went away for the second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’… 44So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 
I, by all means, think Jesus was afraid of dying.  Begging God to take this cup away from him, that sounds like fear to me. Jesus knew full well the fate that awaited him. He saw others go on ahead of him and be hung to cross.  He saw the pain their eyes, the bruises on their body, Jesus knew exactly what awaited him and it terrified him.  And his beloved flocked, his friends, his disciples, they had no clue of the future that awaits them.

    “Jesus recognizes that fear will also cause the failure of discipleship. Jesus’ disciples courageously leave the security of their homes and families to follow him as they proclaim the advent of God’s reign, but they, too, will know and ultimately bow before the power of fear. Faithful proclamation and practice of the gospel inevitably puts disciples on a collision course with the powers of this world. So, as Jesus prepares his disciples for their mission to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” he is starkly realistic about the threats they will face, at the same time he builds the case for why they should not let this fear master them or hinder their witness.” For on one hand, disciples of Jesus will be able to “to heal, exorcise demons, cleanse lepers, even to raise the dead.”  That is pretty extraordinary powers and gifts from our Lord. But our Lord also denies the disciples “money, pay, extra clothes, a staff for protection, even sandals. They are to undertake their mission in complete vulnerability and dependence on God (10:8-11), even knowing that they go as “sheep in the midst of wolves,” face arrests and beatings, opposition even from family members, and hatred and persecution (10:16-23).”  You get extraordinary  powers, but huge risks must be taken in order to use those power.  

    Jesus is very clear that humanity might have the ability to kill you.  “The right to kill is one of the chief props in the façade of human political power. Jesus admits that humans exercise this power, but notes that they have power only to kill the body, not the whole person. God alone can destroy both soul and body (10:28); God alone, therefore, is the one we should fear.” And this God, this God is special.  He is different from the other gods floating around at the time.  Our God is different.  Our God wants to be in a relationship with you.  Our God wants to know you, wants the very best for you, loves you even.  The Roman and Greek gods? They are annoying.  They sit off on some far off mountain completely separated from humanity and when they do interact with humanity, they are really annoying.  Our God is different.

    In Martin Luther’s explanation of the 1st article of the creed, he writes:
I believe that God has created me together with all that exists. God has given me and still preserves my body and soul: eyes, ears, and all limbs and senses; reason and all mental faculties. In addition, God daily and abundantly provides shoes and clothing, food and drink, house and farm, spouse and children, fields, livestock, and all property along with all the necessities and nourishment for this body and life. God protects me against all danger and shields and preserves me from all evil. And all this is done out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of mine at all! For all of this I owe it to God to thank and praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.
Notice that line that says in addition…God cares about the shoes on your feet. You know who else cares about the shoes on my feet?  Nobody.  My wife doesn’t even care anymore.  She has given up on me.  God cares about the clothes I wear.  You know who cares about the clothes I wear?  Nobody.  God cares about the food I eat and drink.  The only one who cares about that is my cardiologist who yells at me every time I see him.  God cares about my house, my spouse and children, about my truck, and the other property own, along with all the necessities and nourishment for this body and life.  God cares more about me than anyone else in this world.  That is our God.  So, while the threat of violence and death are real concerns for the disciples, these threats are “no longer the determining force in their lives, for the one who has ultimate power over our whole being exercises that power with mercy and love.”  The one who cares about my shoes, my clothes, my spouse, my children, my truck, my house, everything about me—that God has my back.  And even though humanity thinks it can take my life, it can only really cannot one part of my life.  

    Discipleship is not suppose to be easy.  And maybe we had it a bit easy over the years where it seemed like churches were growing at an impressive rate.  Nowadays, it seems as though there are less and less, and churches are getting older and older.  We are a scared people, my brothers and sisters.  Yet, what it is our Lord’s name?  Emmanuel.  And what does that name mean? God with us.  And what are the very last words of Matthew’s Gospel? “And remember, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” The message of our Lord this day is that death this world might inflict upon us, death used by powerful people is just a façade.  It’s not the final word.  The answer to dealing with the fear of death is recognition, awareness, and deep appreciation that God is present in the world.  God is present in mercy and compassion.  God is with God’s holy people.  You and me.  These beloved faith communities we all call home.  God is with us and may we not forget what Jesus has said in Matthew 5: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.“

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

 

Sent out 6 feet a part

Proper 6 (11) - June 14, 2020 
- Exodus 19:2-8a
- Psalm 100
- Romans 5:1-8
- Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)
Sent out 6 feet a part

Did he ever leave?

Trinity Sunday - June 7, 2020
- Genesis 1:1-2:4a
- Psalm 8
- 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
- Matthew 28:16-20
Did he ever really leave?
    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
    Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."  So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."  God said, "See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.  And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so.  God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. 
    Seems odd that we have the creation story paired with Holy Trinity Sunday.  The only Sunday of the church year where we do not celebrate an event in the life of Jesus, but a belief; a doctrine.  A belief that took over three centuries of thought, reason, and scripture to produce.  God in three persons.  A doctrine that is still disputed between the Western and Eastern churches. Does the spirt flow from the Father and the Son or just the Son.  A doctrine that some "christians" do not regard as truth.  A doctrine about relationship.  A doctrine concerned with how God exists and is experienced by the church.  A doctrine that is still in the making all these centuries later.  

    Yet Genesis was written and put together many, many years before Christ was even born.  How does this have anything to do with God?  Many astute readers have noticed in verse 26 God says, "Let us..." Even more shocking is the fact that us is actually in the original Hebrew.  It was not an addition made by some zealous monk trying to prove that the Trinity has existed all this time—we just didn't know what to call it.  I mean that is still entirely possible that someone could have done that, but highly unlikely as we have found some pretty old scrolls over the years.  "Let us" is in all of them.

    So, many have ponder this notion of God have a consersation with someone.  Is God speaking with the angels?  Possibly, just not likely.  Who exactly is the us?

    Some have thought that it is referencing some divine council.  This divine council can best be seen in the book of Job, where the Ha-Satan seems to meet with God once a week or so to talk about humanity and the world.  The Ha-Satan has been mistakenly seen as Satan because of the name Ha-Satan.  However, the Ha-Satan character in the book of Job is more like a prosecuting attorney and less about a guy in a red suit with pointy stick. The Ha-Satan is better translated as advisary, not Satan.  

    So, Yahweh is course on the council.  The Ha-Satan is another person.  Later on Christians would end up saying that this council is made up of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and I would never say that is wrong, but we just don’t have enough to say that was the original author’s intent by saying us.  Genesis 1 creates a lot more questions than answers but regardless of who the "us" is, one thing is clear in Genesis 1—we were created in the image of God.

    When I look at your face, I see the image of God.  When you look at my face, you see the image of God.  When we look around at each, we see the face the God.  And that is a bit terrifying.  Considering how I talk about my neighbors around me, that terrifies me.  Considering how we sometimes view and treat others, that really terrifies me.  Humanity has had a rough couple of weeks.  Watching a young, black man die before our very eyes.  Saying this young man's name brings up a whole range of emotions for many of us.  When we hear the name, "George Floyd" some feel angry, some feel attacked, some feel scared, some feel tired.  We all feel something as we should but we must also remember that George Floyd was created in the image of God just as you were created in the image of God.  

    God wants us to be in relationship with each other just like God is in relationship with God's own self—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Bishop Eaton in her sermon for today says, "We are part of this powerful, dynamic, living, giving, loving relationship, with God, in God, with creation, with each other. We are inextricably woven together. No one is alone. No one is beyond the fierce, tender love of God and God is not far off. God is present in creation, in each of us and in all of us. God is flesh and blood made visible in Jesus of Nazareth and in every human being. God is spirit, closer than our own breath. And this is how God as Trinity shows up today. God is creator. God created diversity, beautiful, vital, alive" because God is both the same and different all at the same time.  When I look into your face, I do not see the same image staring back at me.  I am not looking into a mirror.  I see the differences.  We are are suppose to see the differences.  We are suppose to notice the wrinkles.  We are suppose to notice the gray hairs.  We are suppose to notice the scares.  We are suppose to notice the color of each person’s skin.  We are not suppose to ignore these things because these differences make us who we are, created in the diverse image of God.  

    All week long, I have wondered what I might say to you all this day.  I have seen so much, heard so much, experienced so much just like you have.  There are so many of our brothers and sisters in our community who do not feel safe, who do not feel valued, who do not feel as though they are welcomed simply because they do not look like me—simply because of the color of their skin.  And that breaks my heart because it goes against everything we know and understand about God.  God loves diversity.  God created diversity because God is diverse and if we say we believe in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; if we say we will baptize people of All nations using God's name—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; if we believe that we are indeed created in the image of God—then we must do everything possible to tear down those things that divide us.  We must listen to our brothers and sisters.  We must stand with our brothers and sisters in this great, noble, and holy cause.

    And there will be people who refuse to stand with us, with you.  There will be people who will hurl rocks at you, threaten you, and possible even hurt you.  Yet, how does St. Matthew end his gospel? "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."  Jesus doesn't float off into heaven in Matthew's gospel like he does in Luke's gospel. Jesus says, I will always be with you. The very last words from our Lord is a promise of his eternal presence.

    If we believe that God created the heavens and earth, filled the seas with all that is in it; created mountains and glaciers, all the animals of the earth; created all the creepy things that crawl on the earth; created all the trees and crops that dot our beautiful landscape; sent us Jesus Christ, Born of flesh, died on cross and rose from the dead; sent us the blessed Holy Spirit as our gift and ministry-enabler—if we believe that God did all these things and more, then we certainly must believe that Jesus will always be us, even to the end.  
  • Jesus was with George the day he lost his life.
  • Jesus was with the 100,000 people who have lost their lives to Covid19 in the US.  
  • Jesus is always with the outcasts of the world because that is who he spent his entire ministry preaching too.
And Jesus will be with you, wherever you go, and will always stand with you when you do this hard, but holy work.  

To close, I like to share this quote I heard a long time ago that has stayed with me for many years. "When you draw a line in the sand to say who is on the inside and who is on the outside of the kingdom of God, remember that Jesus is always on the other side of the line.  Jesus is always with the outsiders."  May we be careful where we draw the lines.  And may we always remember that we are all created in the beautiful, diverse image of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  

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

Stop and Listen to the Spirit

Day of Pentecost - May 31, 2020
- Acts 2:1-21
- Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
- 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
- John 20:19-23
Stop and Listen to the Spirit
 
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