RSS

Monthly Archives: July 2012

Guest Preacher Emily Moss (9 Pent B)

John 6:1-21 (9 Pentecost B)

Our gospel text describes two of Jesus’ most well-known miracles—the feeding of the 5000, and Jesus walking on water.  But I’ll be honest, when I first read this text about the feeding of the 5000, it made me a little upset.  I know that’s an unusual reaction to this story—Jesus performed a miracle and fed 5000 people with a little boy’s lunch.  What’s wrong with that?  That’s a sweet story!  But what upset me is if Jesus can feed 5000 people then with no problem, why are people starving now?  Why are there people who go home every day to abusive spouses and parents?  Why do some live their lives feeling lonely, abandoned, and cut off from the rest of the world?  Why can one man kill 12 people and injure dozen others and in act of pure hatred and psychosis?  If God is powerful enough to feed 5000 people and walk on water, why is there suffering in the world?

I know everyone in this room has at experienced points in our lives where we’ve felt alone and in pain.  We’ve had those moments when we say, “God, where are you?  Have you abandoned me?”  But I am here today to tell you there’s hope, and I can tell you this from my own personal experience.  I spent about 5 years of my life living in Sioux Falls, SD in an attempt to be an independent woman.  Some great things happened while I was there, but that’s also when I’ve felt the loneliest and most distanced from the world and from God.  I was not able to find a home church, which has always been a source of strength for me.  My college experience was not spectacular and did not end well.  The people I thought were my close friends betrayed me.  I was alone.  I felt like I was living in darkness and had no light to guide me.  I can’t tell you how many days I yelled, literally, at God, “Why have you left me?  This is when I need you most and you’ve abandoned me!  You’ve forgotten me!  You’ve left me alone!”  I was one of the 5000 and I had no food to eat.  I was in the boat and storm was thrashing me.  I was alone.  The thing that finally made me throw my hands in the air and say “I can’t do this alone anymore” was, of all things, a speeding ticket.  That was the straw the broke the camel’s back and I realized I couldn’t live my life alone anymore, and I did what any grown woman does when she’s in over her head and breaks down from something as trivial as a speeding ticket; I called my mom.  She told me that I don’t need to feel alone anymore, and I was given the strength to move back to Colorado, because I was too broken to be alone anymore.

Looking back at that part of my life, I can see now that I was never alone.  God was there in the midst of my suffering, in the midst of my loneliness and, while I didn’t realize it, was feeding me the whole time.  When we feel our loneliest and are in our darkest places of our lives, God is feeding us whether or not we ask for it or recognize it at the time.  When I realized that God was with me the entire time, bringing light to my darkness even though I didn’t see it, it was like I felt a wave a strength—I had never been alone.

When 5000 people showed up at the mountainside to see Jesus, he didn’t say, “Sorry guys, I have nothing for you.  You’re on your own.”  He did not turn them away or leave them high and dry.  He invited them to stay with him.  And that’s what Jesus says to us.  Jesus does not turn us away and make us face our pain alone.  Jesus is with us and will not leave us, even during our darkest days.  We never have to live alone.  We do have a light guiding us in our darkness.  God is always there to pick us up when we’re too broken even to cope.

When we feel that we’re a part of the 5000, and that Jesus as left us to go up the mountainside, we can know that God does not abandon us.  In fact, it’s when we face the roughest storms, when we think we won’t be able to make it through, when Jesus faces the storms for us, and walks out to us on water to let us know we’re not alone.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Sermon

 

Aurora Shootings, the Church, and More (8 Pent B)

8th Pentecost B

Jer 23:1-6; Eph 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

 Imagine how excited these disciples were! Jesus had sent them out on their own to do what he had been doing. And it was working! They were ministering! They were helping! They were making a difference! They were proclaiming good news, they were healing, and they were casting out. Amazing!

They’re all gathered with Jesus to share their stories, but can’t because the crowds are everywhere. Jesus—and now the disciples who work in his name—have been so successful that they can’t even find time to eat. So Jesus invites them into a boat to come away for a time of rest.

Well, the crowds see this, and run on foot to where Jesus is going to land. They are swarming the place where they expect Jesus to be.

When do crowds swarms today? For whom/what do they press like that? . . .

Even though they are coming to Jesus, he feels compassion for them, because they are like sheep without a shepherd. What’s the difference between sheep with a shepherd and sheep without one? . . . Direction? Protection? Other needs to be met?

Those people in this gospel needed something, just like the people in our neighborhoods. They swarm to what they think will provide it.

But what are those needs? What is it that people lack, that they are willing to swarm to ­­­­________ (from previous answers) to get? What’s the hole in their life? . . .

Like the early disciples that Jesus sent out in pairs to minister in his name, we, the church are sent out the same way. We do serve others, we do meet needs, we do provide a message and a tangible sign of hope. What does the church provide for people? . . . _______________

These fall into three main categories:

1) Basic needs we provide when needed, such as food, housing, care for the sick and so on. The church will always be doing this type of ministry.

2) Internal needs for our own community, though we certainly invite other into them, such as Bible studies and other education, social groups, spiritual growth and so on.

3) The needs of most of our neighbors: to walk alongside of them in love and forgiveness and acceptance. Not necessarily to do anything, just to come alongside and be there, in love and grace. This is the one we don’t feel as equipped to do, yet it is the ministry most often needed in our neighborhoods. And yet, it is most often the ministry Jesus does with us.

The last Theology Pub was held at the Lakewood Grill on Colfax. Our server was very good, but she was also a brightly red-headed, boldly tattooed, pagan. She was a former drug user, and her fiancé had just died in March. In fact, some of her tattoos were not only about him and their relationship, but his ashes were actually used in the tattoos.

The needs of this young woman became clear to me. She is hurting, she’s tired of fighting, and she’s alone. These are not quick fixes. They can only be met by being present, by listening, by accepting without judgment, and by God’s grace at work through people in her life.

And today, I can’t help but wonder if James Holmes, the alleged shooter in the Aurora movie theater, had had people come up along side him in grace, acceptance, and love if things might have gone differently a couple nights ago.

God has made us to be a church where people like our server at the Lakewood Grill can have those needs met. It may or may not happen within these four walls, but it happens where ever we are.

This is a place and we are a people that will love without condition and accept without judgment. That’s the unique gift we have in Christ, and in our Lutheran tradition. All are welcome here. Just as we are. With our baggage, our problems, our needs, and our sins. This is a place and we are a people that will love you, warts and all. Because Jesus loves us, warts and all.  That’s the kind of God we have, one that loves us right here, right now, just the way we are right here, right now.

“As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”

When this worship is done, we who have experienced this love of God will be sent out to walk alongside others who need that love and acceptance. I can’t wait until the next time we gather again to hear the stories of the compassion we’ve shown in Jesus’ name.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 24, 2012 in Sermon

 

Contrasting Views of Success (7 Pentecost B)

7th Sunday After Pentecost

Amos 7:7-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:14-29

What an interesting piece of scripture. Jesus isn’t even in it; neither are his disciples. It’s really about King Herod and John the Baptist—though John was killed way back in chapter 1. The story isn’t told until now. It’s placed here deliberately by Mark,.

John the Baptist was executed because he had confronted King Herod about his improper marriage to his younger brother’s wife, Herodias. Even though Herod liked to listen to John, and actually protected him, he has John locked up for being too outspoken about his marriage. But it was Herodias who was looking for a way to have John killed. She found it when Herod promised his step-daughter whatever she wanted as a reward for wowing dignitaries with her dancing at his royal party.

Why would John the Baptist open his big mouth to Herod over this issue? It was a political marriage meant only to increase this Herod’s power in the region. That was common practice. Why would John make such an issue of this—to the point of imprisonment and a pretty gory death? Yes, Herod married for the wrong reasons—so what? That’s Herod’s problem, isn’t it? Why is John so cranked up about it?

So I wonder, then, if the issue of improper marriage isn’t really the issue. I wonder if Mark is causing us to think about something else. His placement of this story here, right after the return of the apostles from their first missionary trip might indicate what this is really about. I think we are being invited to reconsider what it means to be successful. Mark does so by contrasting the worldly success of Herod with kingdom of God success in John and Jesus’ disciples.

Think about this: Herod has everything. He’s a powerful king with advisers to give him the best advice, an army to protect him, more money than he could spend in multiple lifetimes. He throws a dinner party for the most powerful people in Israel—others who are just as successful as he is. The CEOs, the Cherry Creek Country Club set, the people who wield power and authority, who are the movers and shakers. And they all come! Herod has what most of us work our entire lives to attain: he’s the poster child of success.

Especially when you compare him to John who sits alone and imprisoned and poor, helpless, unable even to save his own life.

Herod throws a party for the most powerful people in the country.

Jesus had just sent his disciples out with no bread, no bag, and no money.

If nothing else, this text causes us to step back and reconsider what success really is. Influence for our own sake or significance for the world’s sake.

Those of us who recognize Jesus as savior, or even those who merely follow his teachings, we are confronted with two views of success. And it seems that the measure of success is who benefits: the powerful or the poor, the movers-and-shakers or the helpless, ourselves or the world. Right now we at LCM give away 10% of our offerings to help those beyond the walls of this church. That’s good! How about we try for 15%? According to this text, that would be a better measure of success than simply how big our budget is.

Even as significant as it is to give away more money, that’s still a narrow view of this text. I think there’s good news for us when we’re feeling powerless. Success is still possible for us when we feel like we aren’t accomplishing anything or getting anywhere. When we feel like John, when we feel we’re helpless, alone, and imprisoned by things beyond our control, the good news is that that’s not the indicator of our worth or our significance.

John was armed with nothing more than truth. So he spoke it. Jesus sent his disciples out with nothing but his authority, and they made a significant difference to those they were sent to. When you’re feeling like you aren’t making a difference, Jesus indicates otherwise. Right now, think of one person you’ve touched with love or forgiveness or generosity. That’s the risen Jesus at work in you. That’s success.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 19, 2012 in Sermon

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Struggle to Belong (5 Pent B)

5th Sunday After Pentecost (B)

Lamentations 3:22-33; 2 Cor 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43

Jesus heals two people today. Apart from both being female, they are worlds apart. One is young, the 12 year old daughter of a prominent Jewish leader, whose family likely has prestige, respect, and money. Her father will use his position to advocate for her. The other is unnamed, alone, and likely impoverished. She’s had  to contend with a 12 year continuous menstrual flow. There is no one to speak for her, to advocate for her. Both come to Jesus seeking help. Both receive it, but again in bizarrely different ways.

But I’m fascinated by this unnamed woman. She is unique and intriguing. Bleeding, flowing, having a constant period for 12 years—probably her entire adult life. She’s seen every physician, every healer, every quack she could find. No one has been able to help her. She’s sought out and tried every treatment out there, and not only is she still suffering, but she’s become steadily worse. Not only that, but now she’s become destitute because she’s spent every cent she ever had on these treatments. So now not only is she still suffering more than ever, but she continues to feel alone and unclean in the sight of God and her community.

You see, for Jews in that day there were three types of uncleanness that made a person “untouchable,” that separated them from their family, their church, their whole community: leprosy, contact with the dead, and bodily discharges. Jesus deals with two of these today.

But this woman has been unclean, untouchable, and isolated for 12 years. It’s not just the flow of blood she wants fixed. It’s the cultural ramifications of that. She aches to belong, to be part of a community, to be touched by another person again, to have people she can care about and who care about her. Having a group of people that claim you, love you, and know you makes us human. Belonging isn’t a luxury, it is life.

This woman was so desperate to be restored to community that she broke several more laws. She’ not staying separate from the crowds but is in the thick of them, bumping into people, making everyone she contacts unclean. It might be considered an act of extreme selfishness, or it might be incredible desperation. If only I can touch his clothes, I will be made well. She believes that Jesus is her only hope, and she will do anything to be restored to a caring community that claims her as one of their own. She’s terrified and desperate. She, apparently, is willing to do anything to be healed, and therefore part of a community, again.

I’m not sure she’s that different from many of us. Look at the lengths we go to in order to be accepted, loved, part of some community. Gangs are often comprised of young people yearning for acceptance by a group where they feel they belong. The way we dress is a statement about who we identify with, who we want to accept us. Drug and alcohol use, sex partners, physical appearance, tattoos, hair styles have more to do with where we want to belong and who we want to identify with than with anything else.

Just like this unnamed woman with a period lasting 12 years, we yearn to belong. We ache to be part of a community that welcomes us, values us, appreciates us, cares about us.

And a mere touch of Jesus’ clothes will restore us.

Moving through the crowd, finally she gets close enough to Jesus to brush the edge of his outer robe. And immediately the flow of blood stops. She is healed. Now she thinks she can slip away unnoticed and start over with her life. Maybe she can prove to the priests she is clean and perhaps she’ll be accepted into her community again. But it doesn’t quite work out that way.

Jesus knows. He knows what she has done. And he’s searching for her. The jig is up. She’ll never get away with this. She’s made lots of people in the crowd unclean. She’s made Jesus unclean. She’s interrupted him from getting to the bedside of a powerful leader’s daughter who is at death’s door. If Jairus’ daughter dies, she’ll be blamed because she delayed Jesus.

So, trembling with fear, she falls down in front of him and confesses everything. What will Jesus do to her?

And here’s what he does. He calls her “daughter.” Not stranger, not thief, not “hey, you!” But “daughter.” Like they were related. Like they knew and loved each other. Like she belonged. It’s been 12 years since anyone has been close enough to speak to her like that. And rather than punish her or shame her or condemn her, Jesus commends her! “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” You are not only restored to your community, you are restored to God.

This unnamed woman, rejected by everyone else, is loved and valued by Jesus. All of us here today, all of us who can sometimes go to great lengths to be accepted, are loved and valued by Jesus. We belong here. You belong here. Because here we can touch Jesus’ clothes. Here he listens as we tell him our whole truth. Here he calls us “daughters and sons.” Here we are healed. Here we are valued.

So, daughters. So, sons. You are loved, right here, right now. You are welcomed, right here, right now. You are valued, right here, right now. You are healed of your isolation. You are not only restored to a community that cares about you, you are restored to God. Go in peace, your faith has made you well.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 1, 2012 in Sermon

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: