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Monthly Archives: June 2014

Grace and Love are Messy; They Just Keep Spilling Out (Pent 3)

Matthew 10:40-42

A visitor mentioned to the pastor of the church that the congregation was cold and unfriendly. So at the next service the pastor told the people that starting next week they would take a moment to greet the people around them. Immediately an enthusiastic woman turned and reached out her hand to a man behind her. He was shocked, and quickly told her that sort of thing didn’t begin until next week.

Hospitality is a huge biblical issue. Hebrew culture was assumed it. It was a culture that was aware of strangers, travelers, the lost, the poor, the grieving. Jesus understands his culture, and he’s sending his disciples out into that culture as missionaries. At the beginning of Chapter 10, Jesus say to not only tell culture about kingdom, but show them. Last week in the middle of chapter 10 he point out that there are consequences to doing this that may be difficult.

Today, Jesus talks to his disciples about being guests in the culture. Jesus understands that as these disciples go into towns and villages, the people of that culture will be the ones providing a welcome. The disciples are told by Jesus that they (the disciples) are the guests and the culture is hosting them.

Get to the particulars in a minute, but for now notice how opposite of that concept we are in the church today. We have come to believe the kingdom has come to us, and that we are the hosts for those who want to join us. Reverse of Jesus’ instructions to his disciples. He never told them to go build churches and wait for people to come to you (or even to invite one or two). He told them they are the guests in whatever culture they find themselves. As they welcome you, they will experience Christ who is present in you. You go to them and meet them on their turf. They’ve got home field advantage. You have to give them the chance to welcome you, not the other way around.

We’ll discover what that means once we get the whole context.

Look at this reward business. Welcome a prophet, receive the reward of a prophet. Welcome a righteous one, receive the reward of a righteous one. That word “reward” means to get what’s appropriate. Work in the field, you get what a landowner would pay. So, really, as the culture welcomes a prophet, they get what a prophet would give them. As they welcome a righteous person (one of Jesus’ disciples), they get what a righteous person would bring. So as they welcome you, they get to know and experience God’s vision that you bring—that’s part of who you are. It simply spills out of you.

If that isn’t good enough, we get this cup of cold water. Whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple . . .  “Whoever” is still the culture. “One of these little ones”—Matthew only uses the word one other time in reference to people, and he’s referring to the least significant. The unimportant. The ones he sent his disciples to be among– the sick, the lame, the possessed.

“In the name of a disciple” = in the character of, or in the nature of one who bears the name of Christ.

So if the culture shows grace and mercy (cup of cold water) to those who are in need (the least significant) because of you, they’ll get what happens as a result – see the kingdom, the reign of God. Be sharing in that.

 

That’s the covenant into which the church is baptized. The church is the yeast in the cultural loaf. We are sent into the culture with the authority to be present in the culture in Jesus’ name.

And we begin by experiencing that right here. We experience mercy and compassion with one another right here, and are then reminded that we are filled to overflowing with mercy and compassion.

We experience forgiveness with one another right here, and are then reminded that we are filled to overflowing with forgiveness.

We experience love, warmth, and generosity in this place, and are then reminded that we are filled to overflowing with love, warmth, and generosity.

As we experience the vision of God among ourselves, we are reminded that we are filled to overflowing with the vision of God and therefore it spills out of us in our culture.

At the beginning of each worship time, we ask you to introduce yourselves. Not just to be nice, but to remind ourselves that the hospitality of God is shown to all: prophets, disciples, and those who others consider least important. We are filled with forgiveness and love, and sent out with that spilling out in a culture that needs to experience it. And we begin by experiencing all this with one another right here.

Others may or may not welcome us. That’s not the point. As people who are filled with God’s love, forgiveness, and grace, we simply spill out into the culture that which has filled us as we gather around God’s Word and sacrament.

When you go, love as you’ve been loved here. Forgive as you’ve been forgiven here. Show mercy as you’ve been shown it here. Because 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.

Go be yeast; go spill Christ in the neighborhood by your presence. Spill God’s mercy, kindness, love when you leave this place. Be mindful of the first person you meet after leaving this time of worship. You are sent to them. Trust that they catch a glimpse of the vision of God because of you. You are called by God, and marked with the cross, you are filled with the Spirit. You can’t help it. It’s spilling out of you.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Sermon

 

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God’s Mission: It’s That Big a Deal (June 22, 2014)

Pentecost 2

Matthew 10:24-39

Whatgoes through your head when you get a phone call and the person on the other end greets you with, “Don’t worry. Everything is OK”? That the cue to start worrying?

Or the dentist says, “You might feel a little discomfort”?  I think dentists and I have two different definitions of the word “discomfort.”

Or Jesus says to us, “Follow me, but don’t be afraid”? Uh oh. That makes me a bit apprehensive. If you follow me, people will say hateful things about you. If you follow me, people will want to physically hurt you. If you follow me, some people you thought you could count on will abandon you. If you follow me, you will lose your life. Rather than peace, it’s swords and division.

Why would Jesus say things like this? Why is his language so harsh? There are, I think, a couple of reasons:

–Because he’s making it very clear that what he’s asking his followers to do actually is that difficult, and,

–Because God’s vision for the world is that big a deal.

The U.S. Soccer team is playing in the World Cup in Brazil. They continue to endure grueling physical workouts, a horrible travel schedule that keeps them away from home for weeks at a time, a lack of support from many of the citizens of their own country, and the knowledge that in spite of all their work and effort and talent, they probably aren’t good enough to win the World Cup. Why do they do it?

Because the opportunity to play in this world tournament is that big a deal. The hope that they might have a chance to do well—with the opportunity to possibly win it—is worth all of the effort and more. It’s that big a deal.

Those who were part of the Civil Rights protests in the 1960s endured threats, beatings, arrests, even death. Yet they continued. Why would they do this?

Because a culture where they could have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else is worth all that and more. It’s that big a deal.

God is accomplishing something in creation that is that big a deal.

–Imagine a world where you are so valued that you are recognized as worth everything. For God that’s a big deal.

–Imagine a world where you can live every day free from any threat of any violence, where you live free from worry, free from fear. For God that’s a big deal.

–Imagine a world where we all are willing to share so generously with anyone else that every person has enough of everything. For God that’s a big deal.

–Imagine a world where you are encouraged, loved, accepted just as you are right now without any conditions whatsoever. For God that’s a big deal.

Can you begin to envision a world like that? Because God can. That’s God’s vision. And it is God’s intention and mission to make that happen. Bringing the reality of that vision into this world is what Jesus is about. IT’s that vision that he lives for, that he died for, that we can see in the resurrection.  It’s that vision he gives to his disciples. And it’s that vision he sends us into the world to make real. No one ever said that would be easy.

That is why the church exists. That is why we are here. LCM exists because God has a vision for the world, and we have been called to reveal it.

This mission into which we’re baptized is hard. It is costly. It is inconvenient. It is uncomfortable. Because this mission is not about us, or what we like, or what’s comfortable for us. IT is only about God’s mercy, forgiveness, peace, and love being made real in the world. So we do things to embody God’s vision:

–we practice forgiving each other, taking that into the world,

–we love those who are different than us; even our enemies,

–we show the world what real peace looks like,

–we reveal unselfishness to them,

–we live generously, giving away more of our money than makes sense for the sake of others.

–we publicly stand with those who, because of nationality, economic status, or sexual orientation, have been made to feel worthless in our culture.

We do all this not because it’s easy or comfortable, but because in our baptism God’s mission becomes our mission.

At our council meeting last Tuesday our council president, Roger Johnson, used this gospel text as our opening devotion. We spent 45 minutes talking about the cost of discipleship, and what it means today to follow Jesus.

Pastor Brigette. As pastoral leaders called to this congregation we want to be very clear that God’s mission is what we believe to be the freedom, joy, and heart of the gospel. Our calls here as ministers of Word and sacrament revolve entirely around proclamation and equipping for God’s mission.

Council. We talked about this at our meeting, and we decided that we are affirming here this morning that we are disciples of Jesus. As such, our call as elected leaders is to set a direction for LCM that is deeply rooted in our purpose within God’s mission in the world. We are assuring you publicly that we are committed to that.

Jesus tells us it will be hard, that the consequences of following him can be severe and even painful. And yet, he says, don’t be afraid. It is in God’s vision that you find your life. It’s that big a deal.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2014 in Sermon

 

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Less Fire and Wind, More Dreams and Visions (Pentecost)

     All 120 disciples all gathered in one place, doing church business. Basically they were holding a congregational meeting in order to fill a vacated council position left open when Judas left. Two names were on the ballot, and they elected Matthias. With business done, they were sitting around drinking coffee. This is where our text picks it up.
     Violent wind filling the whole room, tongues of fire on everyone, people talking but foreign languages were coming out of their mouths. This was causing such a great confusion that the Jews from all over the world who had traveled to Jerusalem for Pentecost festival gathered outside the door to find out what the commotion was about.
     They hear these Jewish disciples of Jesus speaking about God’s work in the world—mighty deeds of power. But they hear all this in their own native languages. Rather than understanding the confusion, they now are added to it.
     “What is going on? What does this mean?” they ask. What’s with the wind and the fire and the languages? Some just thought these disciples had gotten into the sacramental wine a bit early. But clearly everyone was confused about it.
     Peter steps out in front and begins to speak to all of them.
     Why does this surprise you? he asks. OK, we weren’t expecting wind and fire and different languages. But the prophet Joel in our own scriptures talks about this very thing! When God pours out God’s Spirit, Joel says, everyone will prophesy, and vision, and dream. Old, young, male, female, slave, free, new to the faith, lifelong believers. All people.
     That’s what’s going on here today. Do you see it?
     The way it’s happening, Peter says, caught us all off guard, but since it was in your own languages, did you hear what we were actually saying? We were talking about all that God is doing! We were speaking about God’s power, and God’s presence in the world. We were sharing dreams and visions and prophecies.
     As many times as I’ve preached and studied this text in the second chapter of Acts, I’ve never noticed that Peter’s sermon on this amazing day didn’t start out about how the Spirit comes, just that the Spirit would come. We would know it was the Holy Spirit, not by the wind and the fire and the languages, but by the prophecies, the dreams, and the visions. And that these prophecies, dreams, and visions would come through all kinds of people. All ages, all levels of experience with God, all economic backgrounds. To emphasize the fire and the wind and the languages is to miss the point of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is poured out however she’s poured out. But when she moves among us, we have dreams and visions of God at work in the world.
     The problem we have with Pentecost, I think, is that we keep waiting for the wind and fire. And then we’re disappointed when we find we’re still not speaking Malagasy or Farsi. So we figure Pentecost was a one-time event, the Holy Spirit doesn’t work that way anymore, and we quit watching for the Holy Spirit to move.
     What that means is that when the Holy Spirit does move, when Pentecost does happen, when we dream dreams and have visions about God’s power and presence in the world, we ignore them. We discount them so quickly that we don’t give ourselves the chance to see if we might be experiencing Pentecost and the Holy Spirit. We make excuses as to why our dreams and our visions couldn’t really be from God. We’re too young, too old, haven’t been part of the church long enough, been part of the church too long, faith isn’t deep enough, not spiritual enough.
     But the same Holy Spirit that’s described in Acts 2 is the same Holy Spirit among us today. The church that started that first Pentecost day is still the church. With those first disciples, we are followers of the same Jesus, we have been baptized into the same death and resurrection, we are part of the same mission of the same God. Wind and fire and languages aren’t the thing. The thing is dreaming dreams and having visions of God’s work in the world because the Holy Spirit has already been poured out on us.
     What dreams do you dream about what God’s power can do among us? What visions do you have about what God’s work in our world can look like? What do you imagine God’s mission is all about here? Those dreams and visions, that imagination is what the Holy Spirit poured out among us is about. Pentecost is still happening. The Holy Spirit is still moving. Among us. Through you.
     Take a minute to consider your dreams of what God’s power is doing and what God’s presence can do. We want to share those, to proclaim the reality of Pentecost, to acknowledge the Holy Spirit at work, to recognize  Acts 2 as the story of the church—then and now. To inspire others to move with the Spirit dreaming dreams and having visions about where God is moving in the world in this time.
     In the back are four computers set up and open to LCM’s Facebook page. Like the first disciples, we are going to speak about God’s deeds of power to all the world. Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia will hear visions of God’s presence in the world. Visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs, will be amazed at the public outpouring of the Holy Spirit as we dream dreams of God’s mission.
     This is Pentecost. The Spirit has been poured out. We dream dreams.
     #holyspiritnow

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2014 in Sermon

 

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