Ordinary Time (after Pentecost)

*SEASON AFTER PENTECOST (ORDINARY TIME)

The Season after Pentecost, also called Ordinary Time, begins the day after Pentecost and ends the day before the First Sunday of Advent. It may include twenty–three to twenty–eight Sundays, depending on the date of Easter, but the first Sunday is always Trinity Sunday, and the last Sunday is always the Sunday of the Reign of Christ or Christ the King. The season also includes All Saints and Thanksgiving

Scripture for August 9, 2020 - 10th Sunday After Pentecost

1 Kings 19:9-18

The Lord speaks to Elijah on Mount Horeb

Psalm 85:8-13

I will listen to what the Lord God is saying

Romans 10:5-15

Hearing and confessing the word of faith

Matthew 14:22-33

Jesus walking on the sea

Immediately,[Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side [of the Sea of Galilee], while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

  Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Sermon

For the word of God in scripture

For the word of God among us

For the word of God within us,

Thanks be to God, Amen.

Like many of our Jesus stories, this story of Jesus walking on water is a familiar one. One that has been claimed as a favorite by many, including me, and interpreted enough to be worn smooth, and possibly even tamed by the tell, re-telling and meaning making. Perhaps it is because this story appears in three of the four accounts of the gospel. But I also think it is one of the most well-known “miracle” story, and one of those defining characteristics of Jesus – like when Jim Carey’s character in Bruce Almighty “checks” to see if he is in fact God, or any other “test” given to a character to make it clear that they are a Jesus figure in the story. So it makes sense, that I like many others who find themselves preaching this week, wrestled with what could possibly be said about this well-worn text.

But the passage today is unique in some ways. Of the three accounts from Mark, Matthew and John, Matthew’s accounting of the story is the only one where Peter insists that Jesus call him to get out of the boat. I don’t know about you, but for most of my life I heard interpretations that pointed to Peter as being someone to emulate here. In fact, I was handed a book by the title If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat written by a Christian leader who has since its writing been removed from his role. And regardless of this leader’s status, this is a common focus of this story. But one of the beautiful things about the lectionary is it invites us turn over these familiar well-worn stories and take a new look with eyes shaped by our experiences and our current world.

I am also shaped by a very rocky boat ride on the sea of Galilee. One where our boat ride across the sea was delayed by winds and when we finally got on the boats, I wondered why they let us on the boat! I am sure that I experienced only a fraction of the storm that these disciples experienced. And it was in the daylight. I cannot imagine being on that water, in a fisher’s boat, in the dark.

And this go around with this text I am shaped by a world enveloped by grief and ravaged by covid-19, a country crying out against state sanctioned violence and policies and practices that are racist and preference whiteness. I am shaped by the conversations of all who are struggling with incredible hardship, and unimaginable challenges. My eyes see through the lens of a community struggling to make the “right” decisions about going back to school and plan for anything and everything even the possibility of canceled plans, a community working out what life together looks like in a time when physical distance is a necessity.

This all feels like a storm, and we are being rocked about in our boat. Everything that we do, isn’t helping us move forward. We are a situation where everything that we have known, is not going to help us. We are having to adapt and try and make things work that we have never needed to do before. And yes, as a community we are staying afloat, we have others ready to help us when we needed it and ask for it, and we are surviving in this time. But it is still a wilderness time – a time when the next moment is uncertain and we are merely in survival mode.

For the first time, because of how our world has shifted, I read this story as a wilderness story. There are three things about wilderness stories that always occur: it’s unclear how long it will last, there is an element of struggle with nature – often a struggle for survival, and God always draws near. I am sure that the disciples in the boat trusted that the storm would subside at some point, they always do, but in that moment there is uncertainty. I am sure that at some point each of the disciples wondered if they were going to make it through the night, and wrestled with the wind and the waves and wondered it their wooden vessel would actually withstand the beating. And Jesus comes near to them, physically walking towards them.

I also wonder if we get Peter wrong here. After all Jesus is walking towards them, and when they seem afraid he told them who he was. Not just by name but the name that God gave to Abraham and Sarah, I am. Peter should not need more proof that it is in fact Jesus coming towards them. Yet, Peter insists on testing Jesus. Demanding that he, Peter, be able to perform a miracle of walking on the water.

It causes us to move our focus away from Jesus and onto Peter. And, I fear, we in our attempt to get discipleship right, want to emulate Peter, he after all will be the one whom Jesus says you are the cornerstone of the church. But do we, should we, “test” Jesus to prove himself to us? No. For so long I, and maybe you, have heard that Peter’s action is faithful and the disciples were lazy for their inaction. I am more and more convinced that waiting in the wilderness is an act of faith. Staying in the boat, is an act of faith. Trusting Jesus when he says I am, is an act of faith.

Yes, faith will ask of us to do things that are uncomfortable, and even sometimes dangerous. Like confronting our own complicity in the injustice of others. Or confronting the broken places in our society and world, where practices and histories of injustice must be addressed. But faith will not ask us to do these things for the sake of proving that God is who God says God is, and not for the sake of proving how faithful you are. Your faith will not be measured by the number of times you asked God to prove God exists through your acts. God’s proximity to you is about God desiring to be close to you, not on how well you can make your way to God.

And yes, we are living a wilderness time. We don’t know when it will end, and pray that the end comes soon. We feel like survival, with all our sanity and wellbeing intact, is a struggle. But also know that wilderness places and wilderness times are places and times when God draws near.

Remember, dear siblings in Christ, that…

God is drawing near to you and to me, and to all who cry out.

Our God is the same God who has been at work mending all of creation, is doing it here and now, and will continue to draw near in the future.

Jesus seeks the lost, and it is ok to feel lost.

The Holy Spirit within you is that still small voice that steadies you while we wait in this wilderness time.

Amen.

Scripture for August 2, 2020 - 9th Sunday After Pentecost

Isaiah 55:1-5

Eat and drink that which truly satisfies

Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21

You open wide your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing

Romans 9:1-5

The glory of God's people Israel

Matthew 14:13-21

Christ feeding five thousand families

13 Now when Jesus heard [about the beheading of John the Baptist], he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Sermon

For the word of God in scripture

For the word of God among us

For the word of God within us,

Thanks be to God, Amen.

If you were to guess the most frequent activity in all of scripture, what would you guess? Possibly prayer or praise of God, maybe begetting… there is lots of that in the accounting of the generations, or, perhaps wars and violence.

But I would wager that the most frequent activity in all the bible would have to do with feeding and eating. Adam and Eve eating in the garden, the meals associated with Isaac’s two son – Esau and Jacob. Then there are the feast and famine years where Joseph is in Egypt; and the eating of manna from heaven as Moses lead the desert exodus. Throughout Deuteronomy and Leviticus, we hear of rule after rule about proper conduct around food – and the importance of providing food for all, especially the sojourner, the foreigner, the widow and the orphan. The prophets speak of rich meals; one such image we read today in Isaiah. The psalmist uses food as a metaphor again and again. It makes sense, then, that Jesus would also be about food, and feeding, and table fellowship.

At times Jesus’ eating habits get him in trouble – like when he is seen feasting with the outcasts of Jewish society: the tax collectors, and women of means - other times Jesus uses food and great feasts as parables for what the kin-dom of heaven is like.

This story of Jesus from Matthew today does a little bit of both.

Jesus has just learned that his cousin has been beheaded, in part because of his message, and in part because of his large following. Now is NOT a good time to be looking like you might have a group of followers or a message that threatens the very hierarchical structure of the empire – a structure adopted and adapted by the religious leaders to assert and maintain power. Jesus also demonstrates a bit of what the kin-dom of heaven looks like in a very real and tangible way. One that is filled with compassion, healing, abundance and feasting.

Often we remember about this story as the feeding of five thousand families, but I rather wish we would think about it and remember it as Jesus’ miracle of compassion.

After all, Jesus has just learned about the death of his cousin – the one who baptized him, whom he likely played with as the families made pilgrimage to Jerusalem – and he goes off to have a bit of time to himself out on the lake to think, pray, probably weep, and pray some more. But just as word got out about John’s execution, so word got out about Jesus’ whereabouts, and soon a crowd was gathered on the shore.

The needs of the community are palpable for Jesus. Each seeking relief and restoration. Jesus could have stayed out on the boat, his disciples probably thought he ought too, but he is filled with compassion when he sees the crowds. Now this compassion is not just about Jesus having the warm and fuzzies for people who are hurting; no, this is a gut feeling. A feeling that compels Jesus to act. And it is from that compassion Jesus returns and begins to offer healing of every illness – physical and spiritual.

As the time goes on, and Jesus is continuing to make his way through this crowd, the need changes. The need shifts from illness to hunger. And as the disciples take notice of that shift, the ask Jesus to send them away. In that moment Jesus notices a different need, and has compassion once again. This time Jesus is filled with compassion for the disciples and their lack of imagination, and trust that God does fill the gaps when we are working to address the needs of our neighbor. So, he asks his disciples to feed them. Of course, we know the rest of the story – the five loves and the two fish are multiplied and all are fed.

Not only does Jesus feel, he also feeds. And this is nothing new. God has been feeling compassion towards God’s people, and nourishing us from the very beginning. What does it mean to us that our God is one who feels? Not just the happy feelings of life, but has gut-wrenching feelings when we are experiencing suffering and pain. What does it mean that God feels compassion towards us?

I wonder if it eases our pain a little to know that God in human form felt compassion, and trust that God has compassion towards us. God sees the hunger we have and feeds us not just with ordinary food but with food that satisfies our deep spiritual need in the form of our Eucharist meal. But also, that Jesus sees the hunger we do not have, that we ought to have; those times when we are more like the disciples wishing away the needs of our neighbors because we do not feel we have enough or are enough. God has compassion for us in those moments too.

Often when communities of faith consider how they might be of service, we ask what do we have – gifts, skills, resources- and determine the kinds of service we offer to those outside of our faith community. But I think this miracles story shows us a different way. Jesus’ way. Jesus doesn’t start with what’s available, but rather the need of the neighbor.

What are the needs of our neighbor? Yes, of course the one experiencing food insecurity who will greatly benefit from the food pantry reopening at Good Shepherd, but what about the neighbor who is experiencing great struggle but doesn’t want to show it out of pride, or fear that their need will be met with shame. And what about the neighbor sitting next to you… maybe not right next to you, but sitting adjacent to you in the zoom grid of faces? Do you know what their need is? What are you noticing right now?

And when we do notice needs, are we filled with pity or compassion? They are very different things to be feeling. One responds to need with a quick, band-aid-fix that alleviates immediate need, but ultimately is the work that never fully satisfies the need. The other responds to need with a gut wrenching feeling that no human should be facing this need – whether it be food or housing security, the ability to work for a living wage, or access to healthcare without going bankrupt, or a faith community that accepts them for all that they are and tells an honest story of a God who is merciful and offers grace. This is what compassion does to us.

And, I will be honest, when we let compassion drive us, we will be confronted with a call to discipleship that makes us feel a little underprepared, no, woefully underprepared. This is where Jesus asks us to trust that God does fill the gaps, and we just need to show up, and begin addressing the needs of others.

We worship a God who feels compassion, and feeds with an abundant and rich foods that satisfy all who hunger. This includes us, even when we seem woefully unprepared for the task ahead of us, whether it be our ability to imagine this kin-dom where all are fed, or our doubts that God’s abundance really will come through. God still has compassion, offers an abundance, and feeds in ways that satisfy every fear, doubt, and need.

As we join as a community today, some of us for the first time, some of us for the first time in a long time, and share in Jesus’ communal meal for us. Let this bread and wine and juice satisfy our deepest hunger, and trust that God is working in you to be an abundant worker in the world of need.

Let God in God’s compassion heal you, and send you into the world to be filled with compassion for the brokenhearted and outcast, and let God set your mind and work to always building up the kin-dom of heaven where all are known and fed and loved.

Amen.

Scripture for July 26, 2020 - 8th Sunday After Pentecost

1 Kings 3:5-12

Solomon's prayer for wisdom

Psalm 119:129-136

When your word is opened, it gives light and understanding

Romans 8:26-39

Nothing can separate us from God's love

Matthew 13:31-33,44-52

Parables of the reign of heaven

31[Jesus] put before [the crowds] another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Sermon

For the word of God in scripture

For the word of God among us

For the word of God within us,

Thanks be to God, Amen.

Where have you seen God this week?

Perhaps it was in the face of another who extended you an extra measure of patience in these trying times. Or maybe when you found an extra measure of patience to grant someone else.

Perhaps it was a glimpse of an interesting critter or flower that gave you a moment of awe. Or maybe it was in the beauty and grandeur of a sunset.

Perhaps you noticed God in the quite stillness of the morning. Or maybe the stillness of the evening, trying to catch a glimpse of the comet Neowise.

All of these are quite small and quite grand.

They all have the ability to offer peace, and perhaps a smile, and transport us to a different place – a place where we feel nearer to God.

But maybe you didn’t see God this week. Not because you weren’t looking, or because those moments of awe didn’t exist around you, but you just didn’t see it.

You see there is a funny thing that happens when we experience grief. Our vision narrows, we miss things, even common things. Our imagination seems to be turned off and our dreams about future things cease. It happens without our noticing, and without our permission. Its just something that happens when we experience loss.

Grief isn’t something we experience when someone dies, but any response to any loss. Certainly, some losses, like death are greater, and experienced more intensely. And other losses are so little that we don’t think about them or seem to notice them until they begin to add up. Often it’s not the losses we notice first, it’s the feeling like we are losing control, feeling more depressed, feeling like we need more support from counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists.

We are in one of those times here and now. If you are one who is noticing a narrowing of imagination, and a greater sense of “this is all too much,” well you are not alone. We have experienced a lot of loss in this pandemic. Loss of dreams – for our young people and ourselves. Loss of the social interactions we are accustomed to. Loss of face-to-face community. Loss of trust in leaders ability to lead in this time. Loss of trust in our neighbor to care for us as we care for them. Loss of plans we were really looking forward to. Loss of ability to do our jobs, or the feeling that work is not secure. Loss of certainty about how things will look in a week, or month. Loss of loved ones, and the loss of ability to gather and mourn according to our typical rituals.

I don’t name all these things to make you sad, but to acknowledge the massive amounts of loss and our responding grief even if you haven’t named it as such for yourself. Ignoring it, and denying it means it will likely come out in sideways, misguided and displaced ugliness to ourselves and those nearest to us.

Grief is at play here.

And it is NOT a bad thing to feel it, nor to feel overwhelmed, nor seek a mental health professional to get through this. Nor is it your fault.

Now I don’t think that Jesus knew we would be in month 5 of a pandemic response that would have us stretched thin when he spoke these parables about the kin-dom of heaven. Nor would the creators of the lectionary nearly 3 decades ago. But Jesus knew what it was like to be human, and the ways our imaginations and vision can narrow when faced with the losses that comprise our lives. Jesus is speaking these parables to crowds that have likely only ever experienced religious leaders and authorities who set the bar of inclusion higher than they could attain, or at least not without great sacrifice and strife. These crowds likely had only a sliver of hope that God’s coming reign would include them.

Jesus offered these parables about the kin-dom of heaven to help expand imaginations, and more clearly see that the kin-dom of heaven has come near, and is right before them then, and right before us now.

Jesus talks of small things that become massive. Like a small mustard seed, which in the Judean hills is considered a bit of a weed, because it can grow into a massive bush. And while a nuisance to some, hence it being called a weed, it provides a home to many critters, and shade to weary travelers. And like a small measure of yeast that is able to transform a massive amount of flour into live yeasty dough for bread.

Jesus talks about treasure that makes people do seemingly ridiculous things. And an abundance and wide cast net to bring in far more than expected.

But in each of these things, Jesus talks about the kin-dom of heaven with common place things. He doesn’t talk about the temple or armies, or mighty rulers. But he describes it with the lowly tasks of life – sowing fields, tending to both wheat and weed, providing shelter and food for the least, catching fish. Jesus tells us we will find God in the places we don’t expect, the things we least expect, and in the ways that stretch our imagination about who God is, and what God is up to in our lives and in our world.

Yes we may catch glimpses of the kin-dom of heaven in the grand things, but its also in these little mundane things. The sacred is all around us, so my dear siblings, where will you look for God in the coming week? Where do you expect to find God? Where are you being invited to take pause and notice the small, the ridiculous, the abundant, and the expansive that reveal this kin-dom that Jesus speaks of?

There is so much that can drain us of our ability to see God in our midst, which is why Jesus gave us common objects and metaphors to give us glimpses of that kin-dom which is here. Even in the pandemic, even in our losses, even as we struggle. God is here. We can be like Solomon and ask for God to give us discerning eyes and minds. We can trust what Paul reminds us, that the Spirit of God that is given to us in our baptisms intercedes when we do not have the words to pray, and that we can indeed ask God to show us the vastness, and the abundance of the kin-dom of heaven.

May it be so that we are given eyes to see and ears to hear that God’s reign has come near, and it is far more expansive, far grander, far more common, and far more near than we ever expected. And trust neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor pandemic, nor grief, nor lack of imagination, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen.

Kelly Latimore Icons - kellylatimoreicons.com

Scripture for July 19, 2020 - 7th Sunday After Pentecost

Isaiah 44:6-8

There is no other God than the Lord

Psalm 86:11-17

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth.

Romans 8:12-25

The revealing of the children of God

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

The parable of the weeds

24 [Jesus] put before [the crowds] another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let 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.’ ”

  36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!”

Sermon

For the word of God in scripture

For the word of God among us

For the word of God within us,

Thanks be to God, Amen.

In a typical spring, Chelsea and I would find ourselves with dirty hands as we prepared and panted our patio garden. We tilled and mixed our soil with our compost, and gently planted our beet and carrot seeds, and tomato and pepper plants with precision and diligent care. We watered our freshly planted pots and went about the rest of our day. A pattern of watering and waiting for tiny sprouts and blooms was added to the mourning routine. And it continued for a few days, until one morning when we came out to find the carefully tilled and planted soil was thrown about. The enemy in our gardening saga…. A squirrel.

I recovered our sprouting seeds and replaced tossed soil around the seedings. I made guesses about which seed went where, but that precise order and distinct rows of carrots and beets was now destroyed.

To make matters more interesting is that when you compost your veggie scraps that have seeds, and you don’t give the compost enough time to break everything down… well you end up just planting those seeds! Not to mention the seeds and nuts left behind by squirrels. Little sprouts of this and that began to poke through the soil. It was impossible to tell what was this or that, or maybe something altogether unknown, until more discernable leaves began to form. Sometimes these sprouts were undiscernible until they began to produce fruit.

On the surface of this parable about wheat and weeds, it is a lot like our patio garden. It is too hard to tell one from the other, and once you are able to distinguish, uprooting one will cause harm to the other It is a lesson about judging, and the one who is the true judge. And it is not us, its God. And in this story Jesus names his disciples as ones who are to cultivate an environment able to sustain and nurture, regardless of whether the seed was the intentional wheat or weed. In other words, our role to be loving, not judging, and to allow Jesus to be the one who sorts in the end.

Perhaps you are like me, I am good with this loving and not judging part, but still Jesus is talking about throwing people into a fiery pit! And where do I end up in this parable… I wonder if am I bearing good fruit, or if I am a mere weed mascaraing as wheat only to be tossed away!

For this I am grateful that Jesus spoke in parables, and that others far wiser than me have reminded me that Jesus loves me and you far too much to write us off as a lost cause, and leave us where we are. And more and more I am convinced that in this parable we are not just one or the other.

We are both.

Wheat and weed.

Saint and sinner.

With parts of us that offer life, and good fruit. While other parts of us, remain in need of redemption, Jesus’ redemption.

I am reminded of how Jesus transforms the lives of his disciples and those who would follow him. The way that he healed, and rebuked those in power who would prefer to restrict access to God, and the life of the community. I am reminded that Jesus spoke in parables to help his disciples and others to be able to hear that what we might think is a weed, is actually wheat; that what we may see as bad might actually be God’s redemptive work in our midst.

We don’t need to look very far for these examples today; especially this week as we remember two civil rights activists, C.T. Vivian, and John Lewis. They were called, disrupters of peace, rioters, and instigators of public disorder. They were arrested and called criminals. They were named weeds by many. While the work of these two men was and is far from over, we now know these men, and others who marched, spoked out, and resisted oppression, to be wheat. Ones who have insisted on equitable treatment, who have made way for life to thrive, and given hope and life to many. These men went from being imprisoned, to being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Now, this transformation from criminal to honored individual is not a transformation of who they are, but of how we as a society have been changed, how we see them.

We have had our minds changed.

This is what it means to being open to Jesus’ redemptive winnowing. There are parts of us, learned patterns often, that cause us not to be bears of life, but bearers of death. Sometimes it is our judgement – that says someone is weed, and unworthy of life. Sometimes it is our ingrained nature to turn away from God and neglect the neighbor – our fruit, the things we produce, our words our actions, do harm. Those are our weeds, that is our bad fruit.

And hearing that we may be bearing bad fruit, or causing harm to the things and people God has called good, can make us feel uncomfortable. And to that I can only say that sometimes the Gospel that Jesus proclaims, is about turning around, having our minds changed, and learning new – and uncomfortable – ways of living, for the sake of life and neighbor.

Paul says in his letter to the communities in Rome that living in the Spirit – the Spirit poured out into you when you were baptized – means that we will find ourselves crying out and groaning for the kin-dom of heaven. We are able to see the ways that the world, society, even ourselves at times, do not do the thing that is life giving. Paul says our lives in the Spirit will be uncomfortable. So that discomfort we feel when confronted with the truth and reality of others whose lives are weighed down with oppressive powers, I wonder if that isn’t the Holy Spirit working in you, winnowing away a weed part of you, so that you may live a more wheat-like life.

We are not either wheat or weed, we are both. And Jesus is at work in us to untangle the roots of one so that we may become more of the other. Cultivate and nourish the good fruits in you and in others. And hold tight to your faith in the one who redeems us, who saves us from our weedy-ness, and is making us into wheat.

Amen.

Fixed Link

Please use this link to view and sign up for items to fill backpacks for Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountain's fall backpack drive!

Please sign up for items, or a whole bag to fill as a family. Items need to be brought to the church building no later than July 28th! Please arrange a time with Pastor Mandy or Sara to drop off items.

"The cartoonist David Hayward who goes by nakedpastor has a cartoon that depicts this best. He illustrates this as many people with giant pencils in their hand, drawing lines to complete boxes, or thickening already established lines. Jesus is also holding a giant pencil, but instead of drawing lines, he is feverishly erasing them. Some of the people near Jesus have expressions of shock, others of anger. I wish that there was a second and third frame to this cartoon, one that showed an expression of relief, and another where some of the people began to erase the lines along with Jesus." -- Pastor Mandy, July 5, Sermon

Scripture for July 5, 2020 - 5th Sunday After Pentecost

Zechariah 9:9-12

The king will come in humility and peace

Psalm 145:8-14

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion

Romans 7:15-25

The struggle within the self

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

The yoke of discipleship

[Jesus spoke to the crowd saying:] 16 “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;

we wailed, and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Sermon

For the word of God in scripture

For the word of God among us

For the word of God within us,

Thanks be to God, Amen.

One of the first things I noticed when I started to talk to people about who St. Stephens is as a community, was the language of seeking, exploring, and longing for God. Time and time again these words kept reappearing in my conversations with people. Today’s gospel story is about seekers, those who desire relationship with God. One might argue that the whole of the Gospel story is about those who want relationship with God, but this story in particular tells us something about what it means to seek God in Jesus day, and in our own day.

Throughout the gospel stories Jesus names those who fail to see him, it is one of the most common themes of Jesus’ teachings and sayings. Here and in Matthew 11, these failings read:

“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

Jesus’ point here is that people are not really serious about finding God, they avoid God and complain about God’s messengers. They say they have been ignored by God, but have they really been ignoring God? These who are complaining certainly seem like they are serious about finding God but I wonder, I wonder if they are not seeking and searching for a God made in their image, not the God in whose image they were made. They are seeking a messenger, a messiah, who will fit into their ideas of a religious experience. One that will fit into their lifestyle, and a spirituality they can control and make normal.

That’s certainly what the Pharisees would have you believe. Their way of approaching God took the teachings from the Torah, God’s living and exciting invitation to holy living, and made it into a heavy, joyless, burden on the people. They expanded law after law, creating long lists of what was clean and what was unclean. They made rituals necessary for relationship with God, but denied access, or restricted access to only those who could afford it. They turned God’s word of steadfast love, into words of perpetual judgement and duty. The yoke of this law, was heavy and unbalanced, difficult and unyielding. They have taken life and turned it into death.

The Pharisees and the scribes were probably not the first to do this, and they were not the last to do it either. Throughout history, there have been efforts to control how and where God is found; attempts to bring some sort of order to the wildness and wideness and seemingly chaotic ways that God interacts with the world. We human beings like systems. Especially systems where we can assure ourselves we are right and in good order, and we can clearly point to others who are not. We want to make sure that we are good … good with God and perhaps with one another.

The cartoonist David Hayward who goes by nakedpastor has a cartoon that depicts this best. He illustrates this as many people with giant pencils in their hand, drawing lines to complete boxes, or thickening already established lines. Jesus is also holding a giant pencil, but instead of drawing lines, he is feverishly erasing them. Some of the people near Jesus have expressions of shock, others of anger. I wish that there was a second and third frame to this cartoon, one that showed an expression of relief, and another where some of the people began to erase the lines along with Jesus. I’ll admit, I want those things because the image as it stands simply leaves me uncomfortable, and I want a happier depiction of the church, the world, and those of us who follow Jesus.

Paul gives us some words to understand our predicament here, “ I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but the very thing I hate.” And again, “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it” No matter how clearly we put together and neatly package faith, there is always a flaw, and the flaw is us.

The promise in all of this is that Jesus has come to name our flaw, and rescue us from ourselves. Jesus proclaims,

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus comes to us, names our reality, and reorients us back to God and neighbor. It is a reminder that the divine and human encounter is not controlled by us, but by God. We cannot neatly package it, nor can we contain it. We do not find our way to God, but God finds us and reveals God’s self to us in the least expected ways, through the least expected people.

Jesus extends an invitation to lay down the heavy burdens cast onto us by our trying and willing to be “good,” and to rest. It is the rest we feel when we see Jesus erase those hardened lines that separate us from God. I wonder what burden each of us might need to put down this day in order to take up the yoke of Jesus? What of our past haunts our present? What doubt in our mind troubles our spirit? What feeling of inadequacy or unworthiness keeps us from offering ourselves as a fellow laborer with Jesus in the Kin-dom of heaven?

Jesus’ call to discipleship will still bring with it a burden, the burden to care for others, to extend hospitality, to see those separating lines in our world and work to erase them, to work for peace and justice throughout the world. This is the work of discipleship, and like the cartoon this work will bring with it the burden of judgement from others, and constant reworking of hardened barriers. But Jesus’ yoke is balanced and his burden is simple.

There is much that will keep us from answering Jesus call to follow; none the less Jesus invites us to put it down and leave it behind as we embrace the opportunity to share in the work of the Kin-dom, the work of sharing with the world God’s grace, God’s goodness, God’s love.

In all of our seeking, as a community, and in all of our work of following Jesus in this world, may Jesus words remind us that he is seeking after us too… calling to us and saying “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

Amen.

Scripture for June 28, 2020 - 4th Sunday After Pentecost

Jeremiah 28:5-9

The test of a true prophet

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

Your love, O Lord, forever will I sing

Romans 6:12-23

No longer under law but under grace

Matthew 10:40-42

[Jesus said to the twelve:] 40“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

Sermon

For the word of God in scripture

For the word of God among us

For the word of God within us,

Thanks be to God, Amen.

One of the years I was in Seminary, there was plethora of infants and toddlers. We often referred to them as the seminary babies, and because of the work load and intensity of grad school, we often cared for them as a village. Jesse, one of the seminary babies, would come and stay with me for three hrs every Tuesday afternoon. As a one year old, Jesse was full of curiosity about the world around him, learning new words, and trying to figure out how things worked. We would often read a book, play with my battery operated candles – turning them on and off was the greatest things – taking a short walk to the swing set, and snacks. Jesse, as the child of a single parent, was used to being cared for by a village, and found delight in spending time with his many caregivers. Jesse had one quirk that made him a challenge to care for by this village. He was a great sleeper, but only when he was in HIS bed at HIS house. Even with favorite blankets and lovies, he still wanted his bed. This normally wasn’t a problem, his caregivers would often just go over to his house and watch him there. But for me, with serious allergies to cats, staying over at his house with his cat sibling, for three hours was just not possible. Jesse napped in the late morning so it wasn’t a problem. Except for the one day when he didn’t take his morning nap. His mom warned me, but also said that he seemed to be doing fine. We went about our routine of finding things to play with and eating afternoon snacks. He looked tired and was laying his head like he might take a nap. But anytime he neared that point of closing his eyes, he would throw them open and start babbling. The babbling turned to sobs, as his exhaustion set in. He knew he was tired, he kept trying to lay down. But it seemed the more he tried to will himself to sleep the more his body seemed to fight him. His sobs continued as I wrapped him in his blanket and started to rock him. His fight for sleep continued. No matter how hard he tried, he could not sleep.

I don’t know how long I held him and rocked him but slowly his sobs grew into whimpers and almost in an instant his body just relaxed, heavy in my arms.

It was in that moment, looking at this sleeping child, who once was fighting the very thing he desired and needed, now utterly relaxed, I wondered if this feeling I had looking at Jesse is how God feels when we finally stop fighting for grace, and just allow ourselves to trust in God’s grace.

We can expend so much energy trying to be worthy, so much time trying to parse out what is good or bad, what will make God love us less or more. So much time. So much energy. And in a society where we have very little that we don’t have access to, we are used to thinking of our worth in terms of our productivity, our receiving of things is a sign of hard work, this trust that grace just is… well that just doesn’t fit. Too often we get wrapped up in trying to be good that we forget to rest in God’s promise. Or we get too concerned with who is in and who is out, who is truly obedient to the will of God and who is not – sending the one who is not away to keep things pure and right.

In his letter to the communities in Rome, Paul lays it out, “sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace.” (6:14) And “you have been set free from sin,” (6:18). God has done these things. Not your goodness, not your busyness, not your zealous love of Jesus, not your condemnation of others, not your correct worship, not your doing of anything in the least. So much time, so much energy.

We can try all we want, and try to will ourselves to earn grace. But that’s not how it works. It simply is, and all we can do is trust that God does what God promises to do, and allow ourselves to relax and allow that relief to set in. This is Grace.

Let that relief set into your body. Let it seep into every fiber of your being, every muscle, every sinew, every cell. Let it seep into your every thought of should or should not, and dismantle every bit that says you can earn God’s love. Let that relief seep into your bones and become the foundation for every move and act you take.

If we are not worried about doing the things that will earn us grace, or make us more worthy, then life – what we do day to day – is not about trying to earn anything, but an abundance. What might we do with that abundance? Jesus offers this: provide hospitality to the ones Jesus sends to you. Accept the hospitality when Jesus sends you to others. Offer the cool water of relief to others who need the reminder that they are beloved by God. Accept the cool water of relief when others remind you that you are beloved too.

God calls us worthy, and there is nothing that can change that.

God loves you, and there is nothing that can change that, either. and there is nothing you can do to change the fact that God loves you.

Go and live that love out in the world, share that good news.

Scripture for June 21, 2020 - 3rd Sunday After Pentecost

Jeremiah 20:7-13

The prophet must speak despite opposition

Psalm 69:7-18

Answer me, O Lord, for your love is kind.

Romans 6:1b-11

Buried and raised with Christ by baptism

Matthew 10:24-39

[Jesus said to the twelve:] 24“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

26“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

32“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

34“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

35For 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;

36and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

37Whoever 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; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Sermon

For the word of God in scripture

For the word of God among us

For the word of God within us,

Thanks be to God, Amen.

This week’s gospel reading is one of those that has me wishing Jesus hadn’t said what he said. Not because I don’t believe that he said it, or because it convicts me deeply. No, I just wish he hadn’t said it. I know it is true… faith does take courage, and opposition to the gospel message is real. I wish he hadn’t said it, because it means a reality check.

To be sure following Jesus is joy-filled, soul nourishing, and restorative – that’s what Jesus is trying to reveal right? That the God who created the heavens and the earth and all creeping things and flying things and swimming things, created you and me and desires nothing less than for us to have life, and have it abundantly, regardless of anything. Is there anything more we could ask for?

Those things remain true, but also our human inclination to reject God’s desire, to try to work for that abundance on our own, or the thoughts of “what if there isn’t enough…” start to creep in… and we are quickly reminded that not everyone and not everything is set to the will of God. That life isn’t abundant for all, that we have put restrictions or qualifications around who gets to live abundantly. Jesus still calls to us, asks us follow him, to do what he did, to bring about the kin-dom of heaven here and now. But Jesus wants us to do this knowing full well that this will come with opposition, and may require our lives to look different, maybe even be handed over to the powers and principalities that see and hear the message of this abundant life for all as a threat to their own power and wealth.

Jesus doesn’t just tell us these things, but shows with his own life and work what this opposition will look like. So that when it happens, when Jesus call to follow him and reject the ways that deny and defy God’s will that all should have abundant life, and we face opposition because we choose to live and speak and act as Jesus would, we will run away in fear, but have the courage to continue.

Jesus shows us the way. Not only Jesus, but that great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us who have taken up their cross so that others may know this love of God and grace of Jesus. We do not have to look far to see the reality of opposition.

Sometimes it comes from those closest to us, like a parent or teacher. I can only imagine the dismay of his parents when Martin Luther came home to tell his father that he would not be pursing the family work as a lawyer and would be going to take vows, become a monk, and study scripture instead. All of the resources that had been poured in to young Martin would be seen as tossed away so that he could study the bible, and take on a religious life. Only to get himself in so much trouble with the religious powers that he spent his days locked in a room long enough to translate the bible into the language of the people.

Sometimes that opposition to following Jesus, and proclaiming the good news of God in Jesus, requires our bodies and our physical presence in the midst of danger. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran theologian, could have chosen to stay at Union Seminary in New York. He could have written out his opposition to the Nazi regime and his displeasure with the church becoming a pawn to the radicalized state from afar. It would have been safer. But Dietrich recognized Jesus in the faces of those being harmed – those being placed into concentration camps and killed, and his siblings in the church who were being led astray by pastors and local political leaders – and heard a call to return. When he returned, he gathered other theologians and pastors, began an underground seminary, and set to work untangling the church from the grips of nationalistic and violent state, only to be imprisoned and executed by the state just mere days before liberation. His work, his writing, and his willingness to see God from the view point of the oppressed continues to influence modern theologians and pastors.

Sometimes the call of Jesus doesn’t require the rejection of our family or take our lives, often times its more subtle. As we chatted about this scripture reading, my spouse reminded me of a fellow alumni of the Citadel, who’s life and commitment to following Jesus turned her world upside down. Her name is Olivia and she was an incredibly bight student, gifted in understanding business management and set to begin an MBA program when a speaker came to her church during her senior year. He was coming as part of an appeal to raise money to build wells and bring sustainable water to war torn and violent Burundi. At that time they were in the middle of a 17 year civil war and so when she approached the speaker, he insisted that her money would be sufficient, she insisted that Jesus was calling her to go and to be with the people in Burundi. She has since taken his job of building relationships with people in Burundi and helping them become more sustainable. Her story has a happy ending, but it is not without danger, or lament from family and friends back home.

While these stories of Martin, Dietrich, and Oliva show us the extent to the life that Jesus calls us, I would be hard pressed if any of them thought they would end up reforming a religious structure, start a resistance church, or build a network of support for communities ravaged by war. They simply heard Jesus call them. They were attentive to seeking and seeing Jesus in the face of others.

Jesus tells us about the big things that we might face, so that we will not run away in fear, but have courage in our faith. Courage to engage in the uncomfortable places of life, to see Jesus in the face of the oppressed, the outcast, the prisoner, the hungry, the lonely, the sick and dying. To name the ways that greed seeps into our societal systems and pits sibling against sibling and denies God’s will for abundant life for all. To apologize for places where we have caused harm, and work to do better for our siblings. To be Jesus’ hands and voice in this world.

Yes, following Jesus is the big things, but it starts with the attentiveness of where Jesus is calling you to care for neighbor.

Yes, following Jesus will bring opposition, but you do not follow Jesus alone, but with the great cloud of witnesses, and the body of Christ gathered together as the church.

Yes, we fail Jesus daily, but his call to us remains, to proclaim life, abundant life, for all.

Trust in the one who will not forsake you, who claimed you in your baptism, and remember Child of God, you have been marked by the cross of Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit, Forever. Amen.

Scripture for June 14, 2020 - 2nd Sunday After Pentecost

Exodus 19:2-8a

The covenant with Israel at Sinai

Psalm 100

We are God’s people and the sheep of God’s pasture.

(Ps. 100:3)

Romans 5:1-8

While we were sinners, Christ died for us

Matthew 9:35 - 10:8

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in the synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, "The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.

Please pray with me: Lord we thank you for the gift of your Word, and as we think on these things open our hearts to your will, and illumine our minds to hear your word for us. Amen

Today we return to the ordinary time in the church. A season in the church calendar that turns from focusing on Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection to the growth and life of the church and the expression of living God in the world. To be fair we’ve been living in a different ordinal time, the season of marking the days since we’ve been able to gather in community. And while I know this ordinary is meant in the sense that count our Sundays (as in ordinal season) but also it feels weird in this time in our society that anything should be called ordinary. So, while the church of history may call this the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, this year we may also call it the 14th Sunday in Quarantine.

I don’t know where you are today, but I’m feeling a little weary and exhausted. I resonate with the crowds, and want, hope that Jesus will see me, and our world, with some compassion.

I didn’t just see myself in that crowd, but many of us, perhaps all of us?

I know that the gospel writers could have never known what the year 2020 would be like, but the emotion is definitely there … Weary and exhausted… and confused … absolutely worn out … harassed and helpless…

I keep thinking, “What a weird time to be the church!” To have all that we do set aside for the sake of one another’s safety, well being, and life all together.

And yet, I also find myself wondering, “Is there a better time to be the Church?”

I look at the world that is eager and hungry for community. I notice the ways we are being called to pay attention to others around us, and to be intentional in how we include one another. We are rethinking every facet of our lives, how we work, how we teach our children, how we interact with one another, what makes up community, how we celebrate milestones. Never have these conversations seemed so at the forefront. And all I can hear is Jesus words, ”The harvest plentiful”

"…but the laborers are few…" I hear those words too.

Jesus doesn’t offer quick fix to solve this problem. He asks the disciples to pray for more laborers. And then he sets apart the twelve apostles by name and sends them to do the work of preparing the laborers. To prepare the people, to lift them up, to teach them, to make disciples of them.

It isn’t anything new really, Jesus only asks them to continue to do the same things Jesus has been doing. To tell proclaim that the kingdom of heaven has drawn near to them, to be healed of illness, give life to the lifeless, cleanse the outcast, and send demons away.

Jesus does not ask them to go to ends of the earth or far off places, but to start with those most prepared to do the work—faithful Jews like themselves who may have already heard the work Jesus is doing or even heard Jesus preach and teach in the synagogue. We start with our best, most robust options, and move out from there as our confidence and experience grows. Jesus has gone to the gentiles and to those outside of the house of Israel, and the mission outward will continue, but the harvest is plentiful and we need laborers now, so start at home.

And through our baptism we are summoned to do the same work! To proclaim the good news of Jesus grace, that the kingdom of heaven has come near, and is here now. I think we shy away from this because we have either visions of, or memories of, sharing the good news with harsh words. Jesus isn’t asking us to convince people of God’s love for them, or to scare them to Jesus. No, Jesus only to commands us to simply tell them the reality that they are loved by the God who created them. And this doesn’t need to be with words entirely, but maybe we can proclaim this in the way we see others. Do we really act as if, and treat others as if they actually are deeply beloved by God?

That alone is healing and cures sickness of our souls, and the souls of others!

Not only are we to care about the well being of souls, but also of their bodies. We are to be engaged in helping people’s lives now, living as if the kingdom of heaven is here and now. Not with miraculous healings, but with the skills we already have – to teach, to heal, to build, to serve -- and we are called to do the work to figure out that is going to work in the midst of a pandemic and our current phase of life.

These long days of social separation and on going cries for justice and peace in our cities and streets may feel like an unending battle, and we may even feel a little harassed and helpless in the midst of all of it. Jesus call remains. A call to remain open to both the problems of the world around us and the mission God has given to us in our baptism – that is when God called us by name and sent us out to name in word and deed that the kingdom of heaven has drawn near.

These days and these times come with added complication to be sure, but we are still called to find ways to practice hospitality, even to those we don’t know or don’t understand. We are called to keep our hearts and our minds open to the people and places God calls us to go – to keep the doors of our spirits open even while doors to our church buildings remain closed as an act of love to one another. We are called to notice and reach out to those in need, experiencing compassion and going to those who are helpless and harassed, doing all that we can to bring aid, comfort, and the compassion of Jesus. We are called to use our voices to speak out against evil -- to raise our voices with others against cruelty and injustice, whenever and wherever we see it. We are called to bring comfort to the hurting, and confrontation to that which is doing harm in equal measure.

Never has there been a better time for us to be the church, because the love of God in Christ both compels us and carries us as we go.

May we be so bold as to live Jesus’ way. Amen.