In pm's words
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August 27, 2018, 12:00 AM

the one about stumbling blocks...

Sermon from August 26, 2018

Text: John 6:56-69

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, I want to tell you a story. Many of y’all know that our family includes a beautiful and wonderful dog, Arden. She’s a great dog, she really is. Even though she doesn’t do a lot of the stuff that you’d expect a dog to do. She doesn’t fetch, she doesn’t cuddle. The older she gets the more standoffish she becomes it seems. She’s an anxious dog and always has been.

I remember a number of years ago while Erin and I were living in Huntsville, AL we’d go on our walks around the apartment complex. Arden loved those walks – and until recently loved walks in general. Like any dog, she’d smell everything, she’d do her business, but there was something odd about those daily ventures. On the sidewalk there would be a metal grate of sorts. Just a textured metal covering over a drain for water to pass through to the sewer system. Arden wouldn’t touch it. Never. She would do everything possible not to step one paw on that metal. She’d squeeze herself between a bush and that metal grate and squirt as quickly past as she could.

Anything different than carpet, asphalt, dirt, or grass has been Arden’s stumbling block for some time. It continues even today. When she gets to stay over the weekend at Erin’s parents’ house while we’re out of town, she literally does not move from the carpet in the dining room. Why? Because the whole house has wood flooring. She’s scared of slipping and falling. You almost have to carry her to the door in order for her to go outside to go to the bathroom.

In our Gospel lesson today, the followers of Jesus also came to their own stumbling block as well. Up until these verses in John’s Gospel, people have been flocking to Jesus to hear him, to see him, and to be closer to him.  They have enjoyed seeing him do wonders and signs that can only come from God. The more signs they ask for and Jesus performs, the more people continue to turn to him and listen. Whether it is turning water into wine at a wedding or feeding thousands with mere scraps, people are continuing to come and see what Jesus is all about. Yet, as Jesus has already noticed, and if you’ve been an astute listener these last few weeks, the more Jesus talks – the more he shares about himself and about God – the less people stick around. We started a number of weeks ago hearing about over 5000 people gathered around Jesus and it seems that each week the group is getting smaller and smaller, until we are left with the 12 disciples.

In our text today, the same people who have followed Jesus are now turning away because of what Jesus has said. Keep in mind that these are not just ‘random’ passersby, they aren’t even the skeptical and at times combative Jewish leaders, but these are disciples of Jesus who have turned away. We must eat of the true food of his flesh and drink of the true drink of his blood. Those who do this, abide in Jesus and Jesus in them. What? We have to eat you they might have yelled? That seems a little extreme…and well…kind of nasty I’m sure they pondered. Because of this ‘offense’ by Jesus, many have turned away. For these ‘would be’ disciples, this was their stumbling block.

I’m sure there are many of you here today who have your own stumbling blocks as well. I know I do at times. These stumbling blocks can be small and trivial, or those large disastrous blocks which seem to block our way as we walk in this Christian life with Jesus. These stumbling blocks are physical, emotional, and spiritual. They keep us from experiencing the true glory of God, because for whatever reason we cannot believe that Christ will wash them away. However, no matter what is going on in our lives, Christ is always at work. The Holy Spirit is always with us, and the Father is always calling us.

For me, one of the greatest stumbling blocks has always been love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. That’s tough. It isn’t how we naturally want to react. Yet, Jesus calls us to follow a different path. For many in the world a large stumbling block has been that they hear of this Jesus guy – his love, his radical acceptance of those on the outskirts, his willingness and desire to upend political, social, and powerful cultural norms – yet, they see those who follow him live out a completely opposite way of life than what Jesus appears to be teaching and guiding his followers into. Mahatma Ghandi probably summarized that particular stumbling block best when he said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Everyone has stumbling blocks in this life of faith. Those who are on the ‘inside’ and those looking in from the ‘outside.’ The things that Jesus says, the ways and love in which Jesus calls us into is difficult. It really is. So, difficult that people walk away – even some of the most devout.

At the end of our gospel reading today, Jesus turns to the remaining twelve and asks ‘Do y’all wish to go away?’ Peter responds by claiming that Jesus has the words of eternal life and that Jesus is the Holy One of God. He seems to say, “Where else can we go?”

As we have been told throughout John’s gospel, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus is the bread from heaven. Partaking and abiding and eating and drinking of Jesus leads us to eternal life. Believing into all that Jesus is grants us the eternal salvation that comes from the Father. The Father calls us all to Jesus, the Holy Spirit gives us life in Jesus, and through Jesus’ death and resurrection we are saved from death. 

No matter the stumbling blocks that appear in our lives. Jesus is always the way, the truth, and the life. Despite the stumbling blocks in our lives, our baptisms are still and always valid. We always remain children of God.  Finally, no stumbling block takes the feast away from us. No matter what, the table is always open, the bread and the wine, Christ’s body and blood, are always freely given and available for us to take.

Does this mean that the stumbling blocks in our lives are any less frightening or difficult? Unfortunately, no. Does believing fully into Jesus, partaking in his flesh and body remove these stumbling blocks from ever appearing in our lives? Again, no it doesn’t. However, knowing that God is watching over us, the Holy Spirit is guiding us, and that Christ is walking with us allows us to persevere through the stumbling blocks in our lives and turn back towards God.

You know, when our dog cowers in fear from those metal grates, her stumbling blocks on our walks, when she pulls hard to get away; when she cowers and whimpers because there is a large section of wood floor leading to the door; Erin and I are always with her. Assuring her and leading her to ‘safety.’ No matter where we walk during our lives, Christ is always with us, God is always watching over us, and the Holy Spirit is always guiding us.  That my friends, is good news. Amen.

August 20, 2018, 7:27 AM

the one about body and blood...

Sermon from August 19, 2018

Text: John 6: 51-58

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen!

So, whenever I get to this text in John’s gospel, I get a little weirded out. Mostly because Jesus seems to double down on this fact that we need to eat him. Do we take this literally? It appears that those first hearers of Jesus’ message were a bit put off as well. They ask questions, they are confused, what is Jesus to do?

Well, he explains a little bit more. He invites them into deeper conversations. Jesus isn’t putting them down or putting them in their place. He isn’t scoffing at their unbelief, he isn’t refusing their presence with him.

He again is inviting them into conversation. He again is giving of himself so that they might know. He again is meeting them where they are.

And it is still confusing. It is still scandalous.

What Jesus offers us this day about his life and this meal is still confusing. Countless arguments have erupted over this meal, this bread and wine, this body and blood. It has torn congregations and denominations apart.

Some believe that it is literally the body and blood, some believe that it is only a meal of remembrance, some believe that you have to have it every time you gather for worship, some feel that having it more frequently makes it less special, some believe that you have to know everything and understand first before receiving this meal.

Of course, disagreements in the church itself are not new. It’s been going on for a long time and there is no group within the greater church that is immune to it. Everyone has disagreements.

We see it in our Gospel reading this morning. Those in authority question what Jesus means. And I think they ask a pretty important question – how can he give us his flesh to eat?

Jesus doesn’t turn away and say, “Well if you don’t understand it, then I’m just going to take my ball and go home.” No. He continues to invite them in and explain to them and us what this means. Yet, even in his explanation there is still confusion – not only for those around him that day, but for each of us today as well.

Which makes me begin to think, maybe perhaps it isn’t about knowing this fully. It isn’t about learning the ins and outs of what is going on in this meal. It isn’t about getting it right so that it can be good for us.

Instead, we have faith to what Jesus is saying about this meal. He is here. He is here in this bread and in this wine. This meal – this body and blood – is for us. We receive this food and drink and we receive Jesus himself. There is no wall that prevents us from feasting on this meal and being that much closer to our Lord.

Jesus offers us his life; his very being. In this meal – in this bread and wine – Jesus promises to be here. It is a meal for us to live, to live fully and faithfully in the world. It is a meal that reminds us of God’s presence in our life and it is a meal that fills us with strength to go out into the world to share and serve and be with others.

It is a meal that when things are tough and difficult, that we are reminded that Jesus is there. It is a meal that when things are going great, Jesus is right there too. It is a meal that as things are going ‘normal,’ Jesus is present as well.

This is Jesus offering himself to you, to me, to the world so that we might know of God’s love and presence here in this place and here in this world. That no matter whether you ‘understand it’ Jesus is still here. Giving us his body and blood, offering his life and very being so that we and the world might live fully in faith.

I know I shared this story with y’all before, but it is so good that I have to share it again.

A number of years ago I approached a young family to inquire if their children would like to begin receiving communion. I received a reaction that I didn’t expect – at least a reaction I never had before and have not since. The mother was adamant about her children not receiving communion because they didn’t understand it. She didn’t want her kids to unknowingly be receiving communion into their ‘own damnation.’ Even with my assurances that I think she was misinterpreting that specific part of scripture she was relentless.

Which is fine. Though I disagreed, it is a family decision. Forcing this meal upon others is not our Lord’s intent.

Yet, a few weeks later, she had asked for a private meeting with me to talk about communion.

Her mind had changed. A total reversal from a week’s before. What changed? Did her kids know exactly what was going on? Had they had intense Bible studies leading up to this change of heart?

No. Her youngest daughter, who happened to be 3 or 4 at the time simply asked her mom, “Mom – why can’t I have Jesus too?”

In that moment the mom’s mind changed. If she could understand – even a little bit – that this meal represented Jesus and his love, that was good enough for her.

Those were some of the most enthusiastic kids to receive communion.

In today’s Gospel reading we hear Jesus talk about things in such a way that it is difficult for not only the leaders in the faith around Jesus to understand, but difficult for each of us to comprehend as well.

Yet, we are not turned away. We are instead invited into this meal. We are invited into this relationship of faith and trust. To know, believe, and have hope that Jesus is indeed present in this meal. So present, in – with – and under the bread and the wine that it is as if it is Jesus himself.

As we seek this communal relationship with our Lord, Jesus is there. As we collectively and individually ask questions, Jesus is present with us. As we struggle and live into this life of faith, our Lord – the one who came down to be with us – is indeed, still with us. Always.

We eat this bread of life so that we no longer hunger or thirst. We no longer hunger for meaning and thirst for acceptance. We find it here in this meal. We share it together. All are welcome to this table. All are welcome to this meal. All are welcome to this grace.

We may not always understand what’s going on. But, here is bread. Here is wine. Eat. Drink. So that you might live and know; Jesus is here. Amen.

August 13, 2018, 9:19 AM

the one about the community...

Sermon from August 12, 2018

Text: Ephesians 4:25 - 5:2

News Article mentioned in sermon.

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ, will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, as many of y’all know, the cultural and political climate of our world today is pretty… tense. Long standing feuds. Simmering anger. Violent rhetoric. And, so much more.

I think about how our world and the people around us – both physically and (mostly) on social media – act and I can’t help, but hear the words this morning to the church at Ephesus. In this letter, we are confronted with a young church that is experiencing growing pains. Pains that arise when new members are welcomed into an established group.

Throughout Ephesians, there is an emphasis on working together, possessing differing gifts, but realizing that all gifts are used towards proclaiming God. There is also encouragement – strong encouragement – to live life a new way because of what God has done for us in Christ our Lord. Turning away from that life that pulls us away from God.

A lot of change is going on in the church at Ephesus, and the writer has some advice which I think speaks to and can lead us today.

We are encouraged to speak truth to our neighbors. Which is a great thing. When you see someone spreading falsehoods, or living in such away that is detrimental to themselves and others we are encouraged to speak truth. Speak about the truth that is in Christ our Lord. That truth that all are welcome and loved. That God is indeed present here. That you and others are important. That we live our life for others over ourselves. That we should turn away from that which pulls us from the life God intends for us and has gifted to us.

But, there’s a catch – an important and pivotal catch. The author – attributed to be Paul, but most scholars don’t believe was actually Paul himself – writes that we speak truth to our neighbors because we are members of one another.

How often do we see folks today speak ‘truth’ because they want to ‘impress’ upon others? To show them how terrible they are. To watch them ‘suffer.’ To just be a jerk? Where ‘truth’ is shared to put people in their place. That is not what is written here, that is not how we are encouraged to live this life of faith. Instead we offer to speak the truth of God BECAUSE we are members of one another. We belong to the same God, the same kingdom, the same love.

We are together. Imagine what this world could be like that as we speak to those who utter such disparaging words against groups of people around us and the world, that instead of casting more words to beat down folks, they instead approached those opportunities out of love for the person before them?

I hear you speaking and saying these things about – this group – that I know are not true. I want to share with you this truth I know and love because it is from God. I want to speak this truth to you, because I care for you and my life is wrapped up in yours.

The writer than moves on to another point that I think is highly important as well. Be angry.

Do it. Be angry. Anger isn’t bad. Lots of folks have been angry in scripture. Anger moves us to act. Anger at times is the impetus to do something for others. How many times have you heard a pastor say it is OK to be angry. I like to say that when people begin quoting the phrase, “What would Jesus do?” That an appropriate answer (for Jesus) was turning over tables in the temple because he was angry.

Make your voice heard. Walk in the streets. Share God’s truth to love and welcome.

Yet, as you’re angry – don’t sin. Don’t disparage. Don’t lie. Don’t hurt. Don’t steal. In your anger, don’t make room for sin to worm its way in that might change your anger into something far more destructive and unhelpful.

The author continues on with something that I think can upset everyone. Thieves. What to do with them? They’ve hurt, they’ve violated, they’ve broken bonds of trust that we have with one another.

Many want to see thieves ‘dealt with’ in harsh manners and put outside the community of God. And the temptation to do that is very, very strong. When one has wronged you, the first thing you want to happen to them is that they ‘pay’ for what they’ve done. However, this text from Ephesians takes an interesting turn.

Here, of course, thieves are asked to first – stop stealing. Seriously. Stop.

And then to use their hands for the betterment of those around them. To labor and work honestly so that they can share with those who are in need. To me, that sounds a lot like rehabilitation. Continue to speak truth because we are members of one another, be angry, yet don’t sin. Help those who have hurt us and hurt you work in ways to care for those in need around them and around the community.

Let them work so that they too might have something to share with those in need. That’s profound stuff!

Further on we read that the author of this letter encourages the community to care and love one another. To build one another up, to show value in those around you even the ones whom you disagree with and don’t know. Forgive one another. Encourage one another. Know that you are members of one another.

Be imitators of God.

Now, I’ll be honest, even as your pastor I fail so much in what this author calls us to. I fail so often in how Jesus calls us to live life for and with others. It is difficult.

It is difficult to live into the life that God has for us because there is so much hurt and anger in the world and around us. There is such a great temptation to view the one who is different from us, who hurts us, who goes against what God has called us and the world into as some sort of ‘other.’ That because they are ‘like that’ we don’t need to show love towards them.

They may be near me, but they aren’t my ‘neighbors.’

Yet, we follow God; we are guided by the Holy Spirit that leads in love. That does care for all of us – all of us. The one that calls us to the cross and to live a life different than the world around us. To live a life seeing God present in each and every person before us.

Sure, there will be moments that anger us, that we need to speak truth – God’s truth and love – those before us. But, we do so with love and care.

And sometimes its hard. Really hard. The hardest thing we could ever think to do. Sometimes it seems ridiculous to act that way because of what others have done and continue to do.

Yet, we continue to speak truth to love because of who they are and who we are. We continue to speak truth because our anger moves us to act in love for those around us. So that they and all might know that it doesn’t have to be this way and that God calls us to something else.

One year ago, was the tragedy in Charlottesville, VA. That day where a woman was killed because of anger and hatred. That day where people who avow racist views descended upon that historic city.

A year ago, is when a man named Ken Parker – a former member of the KKK and avowed Nazi began a life of change. He went to Charlottesville to stir trouble. He, along with his friends, wanted to start a race war. Yet, while there he met a woman – who is Muslim – who cared for his well-being because he might be going through a heat stroke. He noted in an article I read this weak that he recalled Deeyah Khan’s kindness in his moment of weakness. He began to question why he was hating ‘these people.’

It was there that he began to see a change in his life. He and his fiancé eventually met an African-American pastor who in love and truth answered his questions. Who shared with them the gospel because he saw God within them too.

Mr. Parker now speaks to current members of the KKK and the neo-Nazi groups and talks about a ‘different way to be.’ A way that is led by love and not hate.

The gospel shared in truth and love is powerful. Powerful enough to change even the most hateful.

And when we cannot live into this life as faithfully as we’d hope to? Then what? Well, Jesus is still there. Working on you, walking with you, forgiving you, loving you, reaching out to you, reminding you of your own salvation that is already complete so that you can see God present in the face of the one before you.

It isn’t easy. It is far from easy. But, we are called to speak truth because we belong together. We are called to live out this love and truth – even when moved by anger. To be caring in our words and actions towards others so that they too might know that they are loved, that those ‘others’ are loved, that the world is loved by God.


August 6, 2018, 12:00 AM

the one about manna...

Sermon from August 5, 2018

Text: Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, our first reading this morning centers on those Israelites once again. If we’re not careful, we look at that reading and say, “Oh y’all… grumbling again.” For it is an interesting beginning to this reading, especially when you read around that text.

You see, the Israelites have been redeemed and taken out of Egypt. No longer are they slaves to Pharaoh and his people. They are free. But, their freedom is a little different than what they had expected. Sure, they don’t have anyone telling them what to do or forcing them to work, but they aren’t really relaxed, and they don’t feel ‘fed and nourished.’ It’s hard work being the people of God! I mean, they’re still walking everywhere – they haven’t even made it ‘home’ yet! Surely, being in Egypt under oppression wasn’t that bad. It definitely wasn’t like this…

I read this text – I hear the cry of the nation of Israel – and I have to catch myself. Because, before I kind of scoff at their neediness, I have to realize I am – and we are – very similar indeed. How many times have we been given new opportunities or looked longingly to the greener grass on the other side of the fence, and when we have been able to seize those moments, do we ‘complain’ that life is a little hard, that it is different from what we remember?

Last week I was blessed to be at Lutheridge with my family – and it was a great time. And I still had to catch myself from thinking (and saying), “Back in my day as a counselor…we did it this way, or referred to them that way, or sang this song…” Where we would say, “What is this song? What is this food? Who are these people?” We pined for the old, without realizing the gifts of the present.

How often do we look back on the past with rose colored glasses and think – ‘why can’t we just go back to the way it was?’ Why can’t it be the way I remember it to be?

Many still look back pining for the days of yore where it was ‘easier,’ without realizing the difficulties of all people back then.

In spite of the grousing and complaining, the Lord God hears the cries of Israel – the cry to be fed – and God provides. God sends meat and bread to the people. And, they are perplexed.

They literally say, “What is this?” Manna?” For that is what manna means in Hebrew – what is this?

They looked at this substance on the ground and didn’t know what it was. Where did it come from, how did it get here, what do we do with it? What is this? Manna?

Moses’ response is simple yet profound, ‘this is the bread the Lord said would be provided. It has been given to you; eat it.’

The Lord has heard, the Lord has provided.

Now, I don’t know for sure, but I’m pretty certain that this ‘provision’ by God isn’t exactly what the Israelites had in mind. Sure, they got bread, but it wasn’t quite like they were used to. No smell of the baking bread in ovens wafting over the whole community. No warm ‘sponginess’ of the bread to make sure it was fresh. None of that.

Yet, every morning the Israelites would wake up and there would be food to eat, enough to fill their bellies for another day’s journey as they continued walking toward home.

I’ve always noticed that when we pray and ask for God’s help, it mostly comes to us in ways that we wouldn’t expect.

Life may be a struggle for us – for you. Days filled with stress, sleepless nights, anxiety, or fear.

Those questions that gnaw at us – are we doing the right thing? Am I where I’m supposed to be? Is there something better I could be doing?

It doesn’t help that the world slides right into those thoughts with advertisements and gimmicks that say, “You probably aren’t, and you probably could be better – with just this…” Of course, every new product we consume doesn’t fill that hole that we might be feeling.

I know I go through those days. Where I too wish to be – to feel – like I used to. Even if those days weren’t necessarily the best. When you ‘pine for the old,’ you can easily ignor those red flags of the past and look past the fortunes you currently have.

And when God provides to help us better care for ourselves, we can sort of scoff – ‘what is this?’ Manna?

God provides through the gifts of others. The presence and love of God bursting through the community surrounding you. God provides through means you wouldn’t expect – through silence, through rain, through laughter, through pets, through doctors and medication, and talking, and love. And so much more. God provides that which sustains us through means we wouldn’t expect.

It reminds me of a joke, that I know I’ve told before and many have hard before. Where a man in the midst of rising flood waters prays for God to save him.

Sure enough, as the waters begin to rise people in trucks, boats, and helicopters come to rescue him. Yet each time, as he climbs higher and higher to drier land upon his house, he declines their help stating, “I’ve prayed, and surely God will save me.”

Alas, the waters consume him and when he does get to speak to God he says, “Why didn’t you save me Lord?” God replies, “What do you mean? I sent a truck, a boat, and a helicopter to save you!”

God provides for us and delivers salvation through means that we wouldn’t expect. God blesses our lives with love through family and friends, we are provided a community to be a part of and to serve with and for others. We get to live into what God has provided every day so that others and all might know of God’s great love for the world.

It is never what we expect. Yet, it is how God provides.

So, too do we see that in our Lord Jesus – the one who proclaims himself to be the Bread of Life. The people hear that and through the next few weeks in our Gospel readings, we will hear them essentially say, “What is this? Manna?”

God indeed has redeemed us and brought us to salvation. It is nothing that we have done on our own – for we cannot do it on our own. In fact, there is not one thing that we can do to usher in our own salvation. That isn’t how it works. Yet, our God has provided.

God has heard our cries – God continues to hear our grumbles – just as God always has. A new way has been provided, a feast has been shared, we have been invited to the table. To feast, to drink, to consume that bread that ends the hunger of ‘what is this.’ It ends the questions of – am I loved? Am I worth it? Am I a part of something?

We are given just a little bit of bread, a little taste of wine – and we know that this meal provides fully and deeply. God has given us this, to remind us that Jesus is the life and the way. The one who welcomes us fully, completely, and without reservation. The meal that fills that gnawing hole.

In this meal, know that you are loved. You are forgiven. You are not alone. Amen.

August 1, 2018, 12:00 AM

August 2018 Newsletter

Grace and peace y’all!

This summer has FLOWN by. In only a few weeks school will start back up and then that usual routine will be in place once again not only for my family, but for many of y’all as well.

As fun as this summer has been – and it has been fun – I’m going to be honest, it has been an anxious and stressful one for me as your pastor. Mostly because of how we are trying as best as we can to faithfully receive and use this abundant gift given to us by Carl Legrand Amick, Jr.

First and foremost, it has been an exciting and faithful experience. The people who have been a part of these decisions, discussions, and inquiries have been truly wonderful. We’ve talked, we’ve grown, we’ve seen God present along the way in so many ways.

I am truly, truly excited about what this gift will mean for us as a congregation and people of faith. One of the neatest points of conversation that I’ve had with many, is that what we are doing now – laying seeds, making decisions, and more – will bear fruit that our children and children’s children will be able to see and be a part of. The ability to have additional income (and a substantial additional income at that) every year to do God’s mission in the community and world is amazing. I look forward to the possibilities we might be able to be a part of. It is very exciting.

However, with that excitement comes with a healthy dose of stress and anxiety. Are we approaching it as faithfully as we can? Are we placing God in the center of our conversations? Are we listening to enough people? Are we being as clear as we can with others? How will others view this? Where will there, where has been, and has there already been ‘hurt’ experienced by others as we move through this?

Whenever money – and a substantial amount of money – is added to a relationship (whatever that relationship may be) it can make things weird, stressful, and anxious. Mostly because everyone wants it to be used in what they feel is the best way possible. As the rapper Notorious B.I.G. once said, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” Where those problems are mostly stress and anxiety related.

What we get to do at this time is truly enormous in its scope for our congregation. We have an opportunity to do wonderful and intentional ministry – in addition to the vibrant ministry that we are already blessed to be participating in.

So, as we continue to move through this process please be in prayer for those who have been a part of this process. Be in prayer for me as your pastor, be in prayer for our council members, our finance team, those who have been a part of numerous conversations, and our potential members of an Endowment team. Be also in prayer for those who will be blessed by Carl’s generosity through this congregation.

I am constantly in prayer for each of y’all and for our congregation as a whole. God is indeed present with us, we have been (and continue to do) wonderful, impactful, and faithful ministry. We are on the cusp of being able to do even more mission and ministry.

It is exciting, but it is also stressful for all involved. Lift up prayers for peace and calm throughout.

Thank you, and God bless each of you! I love you, and I mean it.

July 16, 2018, 8:37 AM

the one about the message surviving...

Sermon from July 15, 2018

Text - Mark 6:14-29

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen!

So, last Sunday, our gospel text ended with Jesus sending his disciples – his friends – out into the world to do ministry in God’s name. They were sent to proclaim the good news that Jesus brings, to ask the people to repent, and to cure and heal those who were in need.

Naturally, they’ve been doing all that. In fact, they’ve been so ‘good’ at that ministry that they have been invited into that others are beginning to talk. News is spreading about this man named Jesus.

This man who brings hope to those in need. This man who offers and bestows forgiveness from God. This man who lifts up the lowly, stands with the oppressed, and gives voice to the voiceless. This man is getting on King Herod’s nerves.

News has traveled to the reigning king of the area in which Jesus and his friends have been doing all this good ministry. And it doesn’t look like he’s very happy about it. In fact, it has been rumored that this man Jesus may in fact be John the Baptist – who Herod killed – returned from the dead!

The message sounds similar. The message still pokes and goads those in power. The message still gives the lowly confidence and makes them think they are more highly regarded than they actually are. This message is still around.

I find this an odd story to place within the greater narrative of Mark’s gospel. It is a little odd because Jesus consistently tells those whom he helps and heals (not to mention those who learn directly from him) that they need to be quiet about the message he proclaims. It isn’t yet time for others to hear this message and truth yet. But, here we are – the great and powerful figures of the area have heard this story too.

It’s an odd story also because just as Jesus sends his friends out to proclaim this good news and do all this wonderful work in God’s name, we hear what happened to the last guy who tried to do that. It didn’t seem to work out very well for him.

He was imprisoned. He was seen as a ‘curiosity.’ He was murdered because of the message he spoke and shared.

Does it seem odd that this would be a story that Mark would want to include immediately after sharing with his readers – sharing with us – about the apostles setting out two by two to share this message of love, grace, and forgiveness to those around them? Would you really want to share the story about what sharing this message of God could and possibly would lead to? Doesn’t seem very smart.

But, I think it does teach us a great truth to the message we share. Nothing can stamp it out. It’s been tried before, and continues to be tried now. Yet, we are here. We are proclaiming. We are spreading the word of God.

When I was serving in Michigan, I was lucky enough to be a part of a pretty neat ministry. It is called the Friendship House of Michigan State. It’s purpose is to help acclimate international students to American culture. Helping to explain the things that we have always taken for granted to those who have no idea what is going on.

The example I usually give is that when you go to the grocery store and the bagger asks, “Paper or plastic?” We immediately know what that means right? But, we forget that in many parts of the world, that question is never asked because they bring their own bags to the store when they go shopping. There are even more scenarios like that. It is a really cool ministry and does a lot of wonderful work in helping, walking with, and being with those who are new to the country who are seeking an education. There is also some Bible study opportunities there as well (though it was never required or forced to be a part of the Friendship House).

One story in particular stood out to me as I talked to a woman there who was in the final stages of earning her doctorate in a medical engineering field. She shared with me that she had to hide her Bible before returning home because in her country she wasn’t allowed to possess one. That if discovered, she would be punished and then barred from returning to MSU to finish her degree.

None of us. NONE OF US – as Christians living in the United States have ever had to live through that type of struggle. None of us – ever – have ever been fearful of being punished by our country for carrying a bible around. Or for that matter any other sacred religious text.

Yet, this woman’s faith compelled her to continue to read and share this message of love, grace, and mercy with her friends and family in spite of the grave consequences for doing so.

There are countless stories of people in power from around the world and even in our own country’s history that would punish people for sharing this truth that Jesus proclaims and invites his followers into.

Joseph Stalin was able to thwart, subvert, and destroy almost every institution as he assumed power in Russia. Yet, the institution that continued to survive? The Russian Orthodox Church and its gospel message.

The Nazi regime in Germany twisted, corrupted, and shouted about a ‘gospel’ that proclaimed that certain types of people were better, more important, and superior to others. A completely false interpretation and contradiction of Jesus’ Word. Yet, many like Dietrich Bonhoeffer shared, instructed, challenged the establishment, and brought hope through the Confessing Church. All the while knowing full well what would happen to them if they were caught doing so.

During the time of slavery in the antebellum south, slave owners would limit what scriptures those under their hand could read. In fact, they barred many if not most from reading at all for fear that they’d read Jesus’ words and think that he was including them in his message. Guess what – the message was shared, and it spread.

Much like John the Baptist, people from each of those moments in history continued to share and spread and live into the message that Jesus proclaimed. Inviting others into this message of love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. A message that saw and continues to see value in others because God declared them and all valuable. A message that proclaimed and continues to proclaim a life that is lived for others over ourselves because God has first served the world. A message that speaks truth to power, that calls out those who treat others poorly and view themselves to be superior to others because of their wealth, their status, their position, or their place of birth. A message that cuts through the distortions, the twists, and the lies that are spread about others, about God, about the kingdom of heaven. A message that shines the light of truth and love upon the world.

Those who are in power do not like this message. For it gives hope to the people they don’t believe need it because if they have hope – it can prove dangerous to those in power. Where the fear they might have been able to wield loses its power. The hope and light that it sheds and casts into a person’s life helps them to stand firm against injustice, cruelty, and hate. Even if it means that person might lose their life.

For the promise that this message lifts up – is that God cares. That God thinks this one – all people – are important, loved, welcomed, forgiven, and sent out into the world. A message so important and needed that people are willing to die for it to share it.

A message so important and needed that Jesus was raised from the dead to continue to share this message and power of love.

Like so many others throughout history and today – Herod was an impulsive, power-hungry, and paranoid ruler. He sought to end this message that John the Baptist shared. He sought to end the message of the one that the Baptizer pointed to. He sought to end the message that Jesus proclaimed and shared from God on high.

Even when he thought he was successful in his endeavors – John’s head on a platter, Jesus’ body nailed to a cross – the message survived. The message thrived. It continued to be shared. It continued to bring healing. It continues to bring hope to a world that seems so covered in shadows.

Last week we heard of Jesus sending out his friends to do ministry in God’s name. Today we heard what that message might cost those who dare to share it. The thing we look past as we read this tragic story about John the Baptist, is that we are here; we are listening to and sharing this message still today.

Attempts have been made to squash it, to end it, to alter it, to twist it, to shame it, to do so many things to prevent the world from hearing this message.

Yet, here we are. God’s word continues to be shared. Do not lose hope. For hope is what we preach, share, and invite the world into. Amen.

July 8, 2018, 12:00 AM

the one about Jesus making us uncomfortable...

Sermon from July 8, 2018

Text: Mark 6: 1-13

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen!

A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and around the people who know him.

Jesus comes home in our gospel reading this morning. And his homecoming was not filled with bands, a parade, or celebration. Contrary to how some might want to think, Jesus’ return home in our Gospel reading this morning does not look like the welcoming of soldier that has come home from a war.

In fact, Jesus is confronted with scoff and ridicule. Where the most common thing said about him (from those who watched him grow up) is essentially, “Who does this guy think he is? Doesn’t he know that we know who he is?”

I’m a firm believer that everyone has experienced a portion of what Jesus is experiencing in our gospel lesson this morning. How many of us have gone off to college, or camp, or a mission trip, or a trip of ‘self-discovery’ and felt like they had ‘changed’ in some way and wanted to share and invite others into that change as well. Perhaps your view of the world has changed, maybe your attitude and relationship to an ‘other’ group has shifted because of your real experiences with those sisters and brothers; all this change and you want to invite others – those you know so well – to see and experience the world as you have and want to continue living in.

And the response more often than not? We know who you are. Change? Yeah right. You better get back in your role.

I think about that as I hear of Jesus’ interactions with those he grew up with. But, when I sit back, and really think about those experiences he probably had, I have to sort of agree with those who scoffed at Jesus. The things he says, proclaims, and invites us into are radical, frustrating, and a little off-putting.

A pastor friend and I talked a little bit this past week about those things that Jesus says and invites us into that make us squirm, that make us a little uneasy as we try to live into this love and mercy that God has for us. Those things that Jesus does and says that frustrate us to no end.

For me, it has always been Jesus’ seemingly unwillingness to answer questions concisely and clearly. Questions are responded with more questions, stories, or what appear to be far off tangents.

Lord, what’s the kingdom of heaven like? Well… it’s like a mustard seed, or a shepherd who lost a sheep, or this older woman who found a coin. Ok…

Lord, what is God’s love like? Well… listen to this story about this guy whose son left and returned.

Jesus, by what power do you do these things? Where did John’s baptism come from?

For a world that operates in clear cut and defined ways, we want our answers printed clearly in black and white as if on the pages of a book. Yet, our Lord God continually invites us into the murky grey area of life. Jesus invites us into deeper conversation and relationship through continued thinking about the things he says. Always telling more stories and parables that open our minds – as they make us squirm – to see how God’s love is lived out in the world.

For my friend (and for me too) there are those things that Jesus tells us that just flat out go against the things we are taught and told. One of the ‘biggest’ sayings of frustration are – love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. What?

Does Jesus not understand that that is one of the hardest things to do? Living into God’s love is caring for people who don’t like you or actively work against you? And how does that love look like? Turning the other cheek, offering a coat, giving your shoes, laying down one’s life.

Love your neighbor as you love yourself. And how do you expect me to do that? Listen to this story about a guy you’ve been told was evil and bad and how he was a neighbor to a beaten man on the road.

Lord, how can we live a faithful life? Give up everything you own – everything – and follow me.

Jesus invites us into a life that is truly counter to what the world shouts out. It’s a life that goes against all that we know and are comfortable with. Yet, it is a life that leads to truth, lives out of love, and cares for the needs of others because God has loved, continues to love, and cares for us first.

Jesus is scoffed and rebuffed in his hometown because of the things he says and invites folks into – even the folks who know him so well; the ones who’ve seen him grow up.

As he leaves his home and continues his ministry he then sends the disciples out with words of advice and direction that seem truly mind-boggling.

Go out into the world – proclaim, heal, and teach. But as you leave, don’t take anything except for the clothes on your back and the sandals on your feet. Stay with strangers as long as they welcome you. If you aren’t, shake the dust off your feet and continue on.

Trying to find an ‘equivalent’ to our day, it would be as if Jesus tells us – go walk across this world proclaiming God’s love and mercy and asking for repentance. When you go, don’t take your phone or your wallet, not even a backpack. Don’t even think about getting in a car. Stay with people you don’t know as you heal and love and teach. If they don’t want you around? Just continue walking on.

I don’t know about y’all – that makes me squirm. That’s not something I look forward to doing or even know if I am capable of participating in. Yet, that’s what he called his disciples into and in many ways calls us into as well.

As I mentioned last Sunday, Jesus calls us to have trust and faith. Trust and faith that God is at work (because God is at work) and that God is indeed present and with you.

For surely, if God is present with the disciples who were sent just as they were, then wouldn’t God be present with us as we live into each day with even more than what they had? And God isn’t ‘with us’ because of this extra stuff we have, but God is present with us because we are God’s – and God is present with us through love, grace, and the life and death of our Lord Jesus the Christ.

What I find most reassuring and comforting – that in spite of the things that Jesus does and says that makes me squirm and uncomfortable – he doesn’t leave me by the wayside. Jesus continues to work on and in and through me so that I might know of God’s grace, love, and presence. Jesus has shown that willingness to be with us despite our hesitancies to what he proclaims and invites us into.

How? Because as I told our young friends last week – asking questions invites us into deeper conversation and relationship. Jesus continues to make us squirm, but he continues to invite us into that life of faith through questions, stories, and more so that we can fully see God at work in and through us and throughout the world.

Jesus can make us squirm, but Jesus is still here with us to help, guide, and love us along the way. Amen.

July 2, 2018, 8:00 AM

the one about risk...

Sermon from July 1, 2018

Text: Mark 5:21-43

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen.

So, as I read and thought about this text over the week (not an easy task when you’re on vacation), I kept thinking about what lengths we’re willing to go to ‘save ourselves’ or to save someone we love, especially a child. I have read and heard countless stories of those parents who have sacrificed for themselves in order for their children to live the life that they never had.

The stories of those parents who don’t feed themselves so that they can feed their children. The folks who come to our church office every once in awhile and tell stories about how they have to choose between paying a light bill or filling their babies’ tummies. Perhaps even putting your children through an arduous journey of immense distances so that they might live. Removing them from the hardship and tragedy of home to find a new and renewed life somewhere else.

I thought about those stories as I read our gospel this week as we are introduced to two individuals who sacrificed a lot in order to hopefully receive healing by this man named Jesus. Both put themselves at cultural risk in order to be with Jesus. To bring new life to themselves or to bring new life to their child.

We are introduced to a woman who has been afflicted with a bleeding disorder for over twelve years. Anything with ‘blood’ was considered unclean and that others would become ‘unclean’ as well if they touched those who were bleeding. I’d imagine that there were not many people who would associate with her in fear that they too would become ritually unclean.

Yet, she heard this story about the man named Jesus. The one who had healed so many. Perhaps, maybe, possibly he could heal her too. She had faith, she trusted what Jesus could do for her. So, in that trust and faith, she pushed through the crowds to get his attention and perhaps just touching his clothes would be enough to heal her (and it was).

An important part of this text – and I can only imagine the fear that pressed in on that newly healed woman – was the fact that after she touched Jesus’ clothes, he immediately stopped for he knew someone had been healed. He stops and looks around, searching for the one who touched him.

This is a woman who – apart from those who have tried to help her medically – has more than likely been in fear of those who she is around. How they would treat her, interact with her, what would they say to her because of her condition? Those words to her that made her feel so ‘outside’ the group and culture; the family of God. When Jesus stops and searches for her, I imagine all those same and familiar fears came rushing back. She’s about to get ‘laid into’ and reprimanded for stepping into where she shouldn’t be.

Yet, when he finally searches her out from the large crowd pressing in on him, he locks eyes with her and calls her daughter. The one rumored to be of God, to be God, the messiah, has not chastised her for inappropriateness, but has claimed her as his own. She is a daughter of God, she is claimed, she is loved. Her faith, her trust in who Jesus has made her well.

She risked so much, yet she trusted in what God could do through Jesus, and she has finally been given new life.

Of course, that is the story within the story. For the ‘main’ story of our gospel this morning surrounds another individual who risks so much in order to save the life of his beloved daughter. Jairus is an honorable and upstanding man. He is looked up to in the life of the Jewish culture. He is one of the leaders of the synagogue. He is a faithful man. He is one who is not supposed to be seeking Jesus out for help.

In fact, the last time we were introduced to leaders within the synagogue – they were saying that the only reason that Jesus was able to do all this healing, was because he was possessed by a demon; the demon. Jairus is supposed to be the one pushes people away from Jesus, he isn’t supposed to be the one running towards him.

Yet, that’s what he does as Jesus approaches. He runs to him and falls at his feet. He risks his status, his power, his influence, his leadership role in the synagogue. People are supposed to come to him, yet he is the one who falls to Jesus’ feet.

He risks it all because of his love for his daughter and his trust and faith that Jesus can and will help her.

As they get closer, it appears all hope is lost. They are too late, Jairus’ daughter has died. Turn back, nothing to do anymore.

Yet, they laugh when Jesus says that this isn’t the end. And, I don’t think this is a laugh to deride Jesus or inflict further pain upon Jairus. I think this community’s laugh is similar to the laugh that Sarah gave when she was told that she would bear a child. A laugh out of utter and sad disbelief. Not to be mean, but because when all hope seems to be gone, we can’t help, but laugh at the ‘luck’ we’ve drawn.

In the trust that Jairus has in Jesus, the faith he exhibits as he comes to meet him, to be with him, to fall at his feet, to risk it all through that trust – Jairus’ daughter gets up. She is given new and renewed life. Hope is there and it comes bursting forth from Jesus’ words and actions.

As I hear these stories and so much more that we read of in our Gospels – here in Mark and throughout the other three, I cannot help but think how so many are willing to risk because of their faith and trust in this man named Jesus. It makes me think – what are we as modern-day followers willing to risk because of our faith and trust in Jesus?

Are we willing to risk following and trusting our Lord? What are we willing to risk as we fall at the feet of the cross? What are we willing to risk as we seek out Jesus in our life?

Are we willing to risk our livelihood? Are we willing to risk our status and power? Are we willing to risk our affluence and our influence? What are we willing to risk as we fall at Jesus’ feet?

Are we willing to risk the stares and the murmurs of others as we care and help someone from ‘over there?’ Are we willing to risk our friendships to confront in love when words of hurt and indecency are flung at someone on the ‘outside’ what many call the ‘norm’? Are we willing to risk our positions to speak God’s word of love and welcome to all – and to live into that love for others?

Last Sunday we had the opportunity to live that out – and I feel we as a community rose to the occasion. During our second service a young family entered our community in need of help – food, clothes, and gas as they traveled from Washington, DC to Miami for an immigration hearing. They came into our community during worship, spoke very little English, and the husband and father walked in with a GPS tracker on his leg. They were in the country illegally and were going through the process to be ‘right’ within our immigration process – as convoluted and difficult as it can be.

I was proud – deeply proud – that this family was welcomed and cared for. I didn’t really have doubts about that. But, how many in other communities we are a part of where someone speaking little English and wearing an ankle bracelet would be turned away?

This family risked a lot to come to our community, to speak and ask for help from people they didn’t know. How would they be treated? Would they be sent away? Would they be ‘reprimanded’ for their actions, would the authorities be alerted?

And we as a community took on risk as well as we listened to their story and provided care the best way we knew how. The more we listened to their story, it may not have been as truthful as they made it out to be. But, that is a risk that we take as well. We risk that in our service and love people might take advantage of that. Yet, we help as we are able. We care, we love, we live into the faith that God has poured into us in our baptisms. We live into this love that God has first given us.

We risk that we err on God’s grace and love. We risk a lot as we care and serve.

But, we risk in hope, trust, and faith that God is at work in this. That Jesus is leading us in this. That the Holy Spirit is guiding us into this life of faith.

We risk. We love. We trust. We live in faith.

What are we willing to risk as we follow, cling to, touch, and fall at Jesus’ feet? What are you willing to risk as you live into God’s love for others? Amen.

July 1, 2018, 12:00 AM

July 2018 Newsletter

Grace and peace to each of y’all! It is July, so everyone knows what that means… IT IS HOT! Please be mindful of the heat as you’re out tending your gardens, walking around, working, and just being in the community. It seems every year the summer gets a little bitter warmer and we continually have to do a better job at recognizing how the heat affects us.

Last month, I wrote a bit about taking sabbath. It is something we need, it is something I think we crave, though it is also something that the busy world continues to keep us from partaking in.

There is another aspect of life – especially during the summer – that I think we all tend to be mindful of that can greatly benefit our lives. Taking care of ourselves. Or at least, taking better care of ourselves.

Our God has gifted us with this wonderful bodies. We breathe, we move, we laugh, we cry, we enjoy. Yet, sometimes we might enjoy too much (I’m guilty of that from time to time) and other times we get locked into those parts of life that don’t encourage us to take active care of our bodies. Yet, we are called to care for what God has given us – which includes our own bodies.

Recently Erin and I have begun working out in the community and something weird has happened. I want to continue with it. In fact, being in that community has helped me better take care of myself. I worked out while at Lutheridge for Confirmation Camp and even look forward to those workout opportunities when my family and I take a couple weeks of vacation at the beginning and end of July.

Everyone can start somewhere. But, what I ask of those of you who may need a letter like this to ‘get off the couch’ and do something is to not seek the goal of ‘getting a summer bod.’ Comparing ourselves to those whose lives are devoted to exercise, beauty, and attention. But, instead to view this opportunity to better care for your body as a way to honor and care for the gift that God has given you.

Taking care of ourselves – with sabbath, exercise, eating right, and more – helps us be better people of faith invested into the lives of those around us. Caring for ourselves helps us be a better parent, sibling, child, friend, and stranger.

So, get out. Walk a bit, lift some weights, put down the 2nd donut, switch that tea with water. Continue to live into, enjoy, and live for others by caring for ourselves. Amen!

June 25, 2018, 8:00 AM

the one about getting to the other side...

Sermon from June 24, 2018

Text: Mark 4:35-41

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, who here feels at times that they are in the midst of a storm? We can see it all whirling around us – political anxiety, confusion and fear of what is true and what is false, many of us are realizing we aren’t capable of certain things we like we used to be, the world is changing, some of us are dealing with personal crises, all of us – in some way or another is dealing with a storm of sorts.

For some those storms seem never ending, gale force winds with 100-foot tidal walls slamming into our little and creaky boat. Where the next wave to crash just might be the one to ‘do us in.’ Turn us over, and we’ll finally succumb.

I think we saw that at work within our country these last two weeks in the saga concerning how immigrants and children were being dealt with and mishandled by our government. No matter how you believe immigration should be handled in our country (and there are a myriad of different views) – that was not the correct way.

For many, that was and continues to be a major storm and the same cry that the disciples screamed from their lips to Jesus is the same that is uttered from many today, “Do you care about us or not Jesus?” Are you sleeping on the job? 

I think in those moments we are a bit confused by how God acts in the world. Where we seek and desire the quick and simple fix to whatever storm rages in our world. We pray, we cry out to God, our nerves are frayed and on edge, we feel like we’re screaming for dear life, yet it is as if God is just taking a nap.

And that just upsets us more.

I’ve always been intrigued by this story from Mark’s gospel, and there is something I find rather interesting. The disciples are comfortable with the fact that they are doing something new and different. They have faith enough in Jesus to venture outside their cultural comforts, to go to the other side of the sea to bring what Jesus is proclaiming – God’s word of love, mercy, and forgiveness – to a people who have been told are not a part of God’s love.

They have faith enough to travel to the other side with Jesus in this new ministry opportunity, but it seems that their faith is not yet mature enough to realize the fullness of who he is.

Sure, he has the power to calm the storm (he demonstrates that pretty matter of factly), but perhaps he isn’t here to calm every storm. To quell every whirlwind that rises up. What if Jesus isn’t about the easy and quick answer? What if Jesus isn’t about making life smooth and struggle free?

What if Jesus – intentionally – invites us into this boat of ministry knowing full well that things won’t be smooth. What if Jesus knows that storms will rise? What if Jesus knows things might look pretty bad? What if Jesus knows all that?

What does it mean for Jesus to know all that – and still invite us into the boat? What if Jesus cares about what he’s proclaiming so much and wants us to be a part of it – that he invites us into this proclamation and life knowing full well that it won’t be easy, but in fact it’ll be riddled with storms, and anger, and anxiety?

What if Jesus knows that the Word he proclaims – the Gospel truth he invites and commands us to share – is that disruptive to the world that people will do almost anything to stamp out that hope that God gives through this word? What if Jesus knows that others will use his words and the holy words of scripture to prop up actions that don’t jive with what he intends and how he lives?

What if Jesus knows all of that and still invites us in the boat?

What if Jesus knows all that and still sleeps?

Now, one way to take that is that Jesus is foolish and doesn’t understand how the world works. Thinking that he’s naïve and a little flighty (and believe me, he’s been called that and worse).

But, I don’t think Jesus feels that way, he’s the one that knows. And he’s the one that can calm the storms. But, I don’t think that’s his goal – to calm all the storms in our lives (though within the storm that might be the one thing we want). Instead, Jesus’ goal is to get to the other side so that others might hear this word and truth. This gospel and love about and for and with them.

To invite us and bring us to that truth as well. To proclaim this Gospel truth to all who can hear. To serve with and for those whom others have cast off and put aside. Jesus invites us to hear and experience that life too.

In everything that we read this morning from Job to Mark – it is as if God is saying – as if Jesus is saying – “Trust me.”

Seriously. Trust Jesus.

Does that mean we should lay down and rest in the midst of the storm? Yes. Yes, it does. To a point. There’s a saying that many of us know that I think can keep us from actually doing anything, “Just let go and let God…” Don’t worry about anything, just let God handle it.

I don’t think that is what Jesus is implying at all. Not one bit. Living life fully into that worn out saying can keep us from even encountering the storms. It’s sayings like that which can keep us from getting into the boat in the first place. Just let Jesus do his thing. It has nothing to do with me.

Yet, Jesus is the one who calls us into the boat just as he welcomed the disciples into the boat to get to those who had not yet heard of God’s love and mercy. Jesus calls us into moments and opportunities that will lead to storms. It’s going to happen.

The storms will rise up. Yet our Lord calls us to trust that he is there. Inviting us to rest in his protective arms as a child might rest in their parents embrace.

Throughout the season of Lent, we sang a song at our Wednesday evening services that speak to my soul and remind me of this gospel and how we see God at work in the world today…

Though the earth shall change, though the mountains tremble, though the waters rage, you, God, are here.

Though the nations war, though the peoples battle, though the empire falters, we will not fear.

Jesus is bringing us to the other side. We are in the boat. Waters rage, mountains tremble. God is here.

Jesus isn’t the quick and easy fix, Jesus is the one standing with us, inviting us, pulling us, to proclaim this word that cuts through the darkness and brings light to the world. A light that never goes out and brings hope to the night.

A word and light that welcomes all, that is strong in the face of worldly power, that brings life to those whom life has been wrenched away.

Jesus isn’t ‘sleeping’ on the job, we’re still on our way to the other side. Rest and know and trust that he is here. He’s invited us, he’s welcomed you into this ministry of love and proclamation. It won’t be easy, there is still more to come, but Jesus is here. Amen.

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