Exemple
sermon date 2017-03-12

Born Again

The lyrics from our benedictory for today come from the words of A Celtic Blessing. The words of this blessing are: “May the road rise to meet you.  May the wind be always at your back; may the sun shine warm upon your face.  May the rain fall soft, upon your fields; and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His Hand.” I’ve seen these words on posters and paintings. These words are both uplifting and encouraging.

Within the blessing, there is one phrase that is particularly relevant to our gospel reading this morning: May the wind be always at your back. In our reading from John, the Spirit is described as the wind. So, if the wind is at our back we are traveling with the Spirit. The wind as Jesus says, blows where it will. So, we have to be keen to changes in the direction of the Spirit. If we’re not careful, we can end up walking into the wind. We can end up fighting the Spirit. It is the Spirit that helps to transform us. If we fight the Spirit, we fight our own transformation.

All of us from time-to-time will fight the Spirit. I resigned from my last corporate job when I was 48. I was confident God was calling me to do something other than getting Marlboro smokers to switch to Camel. I was pretty sure I was supposed to go to seminary, but I really didn’t want to. Going to school at 48 was not in my plan. Instead, hoping to answer my sense of call, I taught high school science for two years. Teaching high school was rough – particularly the first semester. I had students climbing in and out of windows.  By the time the 4th semester rolled around, the students were becoming more like the enemy. I knew it was time to move on.

Those two years though were important in my formation. They framed the next three years of my life as I went through divinity school. What I found was that we’re going to meet resistance to our well-intended efforts if we’re following the Spirit or not. So, going against the Spirit can easily be confused with the resistance we’ll meet when we do follow the Spirit. That’s what happened with Jesus. It happened with Lincoln and slavery. It happened with Gandhi and India’s struggle for independence. It happened with Dr. King.

In my own case, separated from my family, 50 years old and living on a loan, I woke up every morning that first year of divinity school asking myself, “What are you doing here?” I always got the same response, “You know why.” That’s not the response I got when I was teaching. To be honest, when I was teaching, I was afraid to ask the question. I kind of knew something wasn’t quite right.

So, the obvious question is how do you know the difference? How do you know if you’re fighting the Spirit or if you’re fighting resistance to the Spirit in the world? For me personally, it’s a combination of conscience and fear. Many times in my life, my conscience has told me to take action. Many times I have not taken action, because I’m afraid. In those instances, I’m bucking the Spirit. Faith is not based in fear, but trust. That doesn’t mean you won’t be afraid and anxious. You will. I think Jesus was afraid and anxious when he went into the Garden of Gethsemane. He trusted God enough, though, to know it would ultimately come out alright. Ultimately, that’s what the faith calls us all to do.

We have some say, then, in whether we follow the Spirit or not. The issue is whether we will indeed allow our lives to be transformed by God’s possibilities.  In both our readings, God calls human beings forth to become a new people. In this process of becoming a new person, we form a new community. Abram – at the ripe old age of 75 – moves from Turkey to Canaan. He completes the trip his father, Terah had begun from Ur – near Baghdad – many years previously. In John today, Jesus calls us to live as new creatures in a new creation. Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Said differently, if we follow the Spirit we will indeed experience this new community, the kingdom of God.

To set out on something new is a fearful endeavor. Yet, if we fail to follow God’s leading we may indeed find ourselves walking into the wind.  Such resistance is not new in life of God’s people. In the Bible this resistance is often referred to as hardness of heart. We as Christians affirm we are to live as new creatures in a new creation. However, we are often fearful in the face of that call. So, we find ourselves being tugged between two poles. We yearn for wholeness in every aspect of our being. We yearn to be reborn as Jesus describes today as children of God. However, we often offer resistance – the second pole – to that wholeness because of fear. The meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus dramatizes these two poles.

Jesus offers new life to Nicodemus. In the Greek the word translated “anew” or “again” has two meanings. This word also means “from above”. Jesus use is in both senses of the word, both again and from above. However, Nicodemus is confused. He asks a question that reflects a human constraint, “Can a person enter a second time into their mother’s womb and be born?”  In essence, Jesus’ response tells Nicodemus that not only can we be born again, but we can be born from above. In being born from above, we are indeed born anew. In our being born again, we not only experience a new life, but we also are able to experience a new community, the kingdom of God. So, not only are we born again in time, but we are also born from a new place – the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus still isn’t buying it. He asks Jesus, “How can this be?” All of us ask this question when faced with things we don’t understand. These words are ones that I myself asked as I went through the discernment process and divinity school.  We must remember God is a mystery. We will never understand all there is to know about God. Some things we just have to trust and accept. This is what Jesus meant when he asks Nicodemus, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”  Jesus insists human life will be determined not by blood or our self-will, but by the will of God.

Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ question with the image of the wind/spirit. In Greek, the word for “spirit” is the same word as “wind.” Jesus points to the danger of defining life and restricting possibilities according to what we can know and control. None of us knows from one minute to the next which way the wind will blow.  Yet, the mystery of the wind does not diminish the wind’s power and reality. The wind – like the Spirit -blows where it will.  Our part is to hear the sound of it, not to attempt to dictate and control its comings and goings. As is true of the wind, “so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” We can no more control and contain Jesus’ offer of new life than we can contain the wind. We can embrace the offer of new life and be born anew and from above.  Or we can spend our days in resistant amazement, weighing the odds and the costs.

It is this offer of new life that Jesus gives us all. To have eternal life is to live life no longer defined by human will, but by God. To accept this new life is to accept eternal life. Death becomes a passage to new life. This new life begins when we accept the mystery of the Spirit as our guiding force. So, the resurrection begins when we accept the Spirit. The resurrection begins with our new birth from above. In this we become a new creature.

The Spirit of course enlivens not just human beings but organizations – including churches. Churches – since they are comprised of human beings – can also resist Jesus’ offer of new life. Churches have to be sensitive to changes in the direction the Spirit is blowing, too.

A few years ago, I attended a seminar on church revitalization. The seminar was given by a UCC pastor who had taken a small, dying church in Dallas, Texas and turned it into one of the largest in the denomination. A couple of things from his talk have stayed with me. First, by his definition, about 75% of all UCC churches were dying. Of course, the UCC is not alone in this. All mainline Protestant churches are struggling for attendance. He went on to say that we tend to be stuck in the 1950’s and that if the 1950’s ever come back, we’ll be in good shape. So, as a whole, we have not been riding the winds of the Spirit. Then he said something that has really stuck with me. He said, “You can’t resurrect a dying church. However, you can give it a new birth.”

The question becomes, “Is this church open to the movement of the Spirit?” Clearly, Heidelberg was born of the Spirit. We have survived much over the course of our 120 plus years. With a church that is as old as ours, some may view our current struggle as the death throes. However, I believe we are now in the labor pangs. I believe we are in the process of giving birth to something new. The challenge for this church is much like the one facing Nicodemus and each of us individually. We can accept Jesus’ offer of new life or we can resist.

If we let fear dictate our actions, if we let our anxiety guide us, we will find ourselves fighting the spirit. Fear is not of God. If we let fear dominate us, we will fail. God brings us peace and hope, not fear. God moves though – just like the wind – in mysterious ways. We must be particularly sensitive to the movement of that Spirit. We may find ourselves led in ways we cannot anticipate or expect. We need to be open to these possibilities. The Spirit can and will lead us to a re-birth. Will we follow the Spirit or will we resist?

 

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Exemple
sermon date 2017-03-20
Sermon Location Heidelberg United Church of Christg

Going to the Well

I have never been lost in the desert or been in a place with no water. However, I have gone through two per day football practices in full pads during the late August heat. Back when I was in high school – the late 1960’s – the coaches refused to let you get a drink during practice. The thinking at the time was that if you had water when you were hot, you’d cramp up. So, we had to wait until after practice to drink water. Not only that, but we are also told the fastest way to rehydrate was to take salt tablets. So, you’d have guys taking a fistful of salt tablets between practices trying to get re-hydrated. We’re lucky we didn’t stroke out.

We hear a lot about thirst in our gospel reading today. This being the gospel of John, we have another double entendre in our reading. John is full of words that have two meanings or two implications. The person Jesus addresses is always confused by what exactly Jesus means. That misunderstanding often gives Jesus the opportunity to teach.

Today the double entendre is around water. Jesus claims he is the living water. The word for “living” and the word for “flowing” are the same in Greek. The woman at the well wants to know where she can find this “flowing” water. This gives Jesus the chance to explain that he is the spring of living water. Living water in the gospel of John living water refers to the Holy Spirit.

Clearly, in one sense of the word, our thirst cannot be quenched by the Holy Spirit. If Jesus would have offered living water during football practice, I would not have been impressed. However, in another sense, the living water of Jesus does quench our thirst. It quenches our thirst for hope and meaning in our life. In this sense, the woman at the well was parched.

From the perspective of Jewish culture, in the lottery of life, Jesus’ conversation partner was a three time loser. First of all, she was a woman. Any woman was a second class citizen. A good male Jew wasn’t even supposed to look at a woman in public – much less have conversation with them. In their daily prayers, the Pharisees and priests thanked God they were not born a woman.

She’s a loser on a second count- her race. She’s a Samaritan. Samaritans were from the region of the ancient Kingdom of Israel. The Kingdom of Israel was defeated by the Assyrians in 721 BCE. The leading citizens of Israel were taken away in exile. The Assyrians sent some of their own people back to Israel in an effort to colonize the land. So, while they considered themselves Jews, Samaritans were of mixed blood. They also differed in their religious practices. The Samaritans only took the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, as sacred. Secondly, they did not worship on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, but rather on Mt. Gerizim. According to tradition, Mt. Gerizim is where the Israelites – as Moses wished – stopped and celebrated upon entering the land of Canaan.  For these reasons and others, the Jewish people looked down their collective noses at the Samaritans.

She’s a loser on a third count. She’s been married five times and is living with a sixth man. The immediate conclusion our patriarchal society reaches is that she was a woman of easy virtue. However, this is not necessarily the case. She could have been barren. Being barren was the grounds for divorce.  There weren’t no real legitimate ways for a single woman to support herself.  She may have felt forced into some of these marriages for her own survival. Regardless of the circumstances, she is persona non grata. Women typically went to the well in the morning and evening, when the air was cooler. They would share news and gossip during these trips. This woman would probably have been a topic of their gossip. Arriving at noon during the heat of the day would have helped her avoid some of the drama.

So, this woman is parched spiritually. She felt isolated. She probably felt alone. She may have felt God had deserted her. Many of us have been in places like this before. Most of us at times have been like the woman at the well. A UCC colleague in Michigan went through a patch like this. His troubles began when he had the audacity to suggest to the president and the treasurer of his congregation that it would be nice if they showed up for worship more than once a quarter. They were highly offended. One thing led to another. Finally, the council asked for his resignation. He was 58 years old. He and his wife lived in the parsonage. So, they had to move.  As he got his profile together, he also applied for other jobs – jobs he was certainly qualified for – and nothing ever came of it. Then rejection letters began coming from churches. He was beginning to wonder if he was meant to be a pastor. If maybe this whole thing was a mistake.

The low point came in the summer of that year. A church in a bordering state decided to have him and his wife come down for an in-person interview. After the interview, the search committee told him they wanted him to come back for a trial sermon. They would call him the next day to step up a date. The call didn’t come. So, my friend calls up the head of the search committee. The church had changed their mind. Some of the women in the church had not liked his wife. My friend was stunned.

About four months later, he did find a job. The town where the church was located was close to his wife’s work. So, she didn’t even have to change jobs. He’s been there a little over five years. The church is doing well. If you would have told my friend that after the church rescinded their offer, he much like the woman at the well may have said, “Sir, where can I find this living water.” My friend was beginning to doubt God and himself. We all have doubts, just like the woman at the well. The woman at the well wondered if Jesus was the Messiah. We sometimes wonder the same thing.

However, my friend was lucky. Not many of us have the three strikes the woman at the well carried. While his predicament was similar to the woman at the well, he had other things going for him. He was white, male and educated. The woman at the well could not help being born female, Samaritan and barren. It was not her fault. Yet, society treated her as if it was. There are many people in the world who have more in common with the woman at the well.

I think of a young African, American woman who I interviewed a few years back at the Greensboro Urban Ministry who needed help with her rent. She like the woman at the well was born with at least two strikes against her. She was female. She was black. She was not married. Unlike the woman at the well, she had three small kids. You could tell she was a bit embarrassed by her marital situation. As I was interviewing her, I asked about her employment. She had not one, not two, but three part time jobs.

Here is a person who is doing everything society asks of a single mom. Still she has to come begging for help. We were able to assist her. So, we addressed her immediate problem. In one way, God did provide. That didn’t do much for her long-term. She was stuck in low paying jobs for the foreseeable future. Her kids would be deprived not only of some of the material things, but also educational opportunities. Due to the long hours she worked, they would most likely be deprived of her love, affection and guidance. Being deprived of these things, they may well fall behind in school. When that happened they would be more likely to drop out, become behavioral problems or both. Who does that hurt in the long run? It hurts us all. So, my question is where is the living water for this woman and her children?

God does provide living water. God provides: even when we’re moaning and complaining; even when we’re parched and pleading; even when our faith is a faint whisper from the past. God still provides. However, God works through human beings. Without that church in Michigan, my friend might still be looking for work. Without the Greensboro Urban Ministry, that woman would not have been able to pay her rent. Without the woman at the well, who is the first evangelist in the gospel of John, that village in Samaria would not have known living water.

In her time, the woman at the well faced much the same set of perceptions as did that single, African-American mom. Jesus did not pass judgment on her. Nor can we pass judgment on people like the single mom at Greensboro Urban Ministry. We can’t. We really do not know what we would have done in her situation. If we do pass judgment, we no longer become a source of living water. Rather we just add to the desert.  Living water does not flow with judgment and fault finding. Living water flows with compassion and love.

Being a source of living water is life giving in itself. In our reading today, Jesus was fed by this work. The disciples beg him to eat. He’s not hungry. He’s been fed by his act of kindness towards this woman. The church is the body of Christ in the world. So, just like Jesus was fed by his work of compassion and justice, so too will we be fed.

As individuals and as a church, we, too, need to look at others with compassion and understanding. We, too, need to reserve judgment and harshness. Judgment and harshness are not of God.  It is only through compassion and understanding that the living water flows. If we want to share that living water – water that flows within each one of us – we will have to stop judging.

We are all flawed in one way or the other. The flaws of the woman at the well did not stop the living water flowing from Jesus. That water not only nourished Jesus, it eventually nourished the entire village. That’s the way we, too, must approach our lives as individuals and as a church. We must allow that living water to flow so that it can nourish us as well our community.

 

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Exemple
sermon date 2017-03-27

Finding Jesus

One of the things they tell you as a hospital chaplain is you never know what is waiting for you behind the patient’s door. That’s particularly true in a cancer unit.  If you work in leukemia units, as I did for a year, you get used to seeing some sickly looking people. Many chemo-treatments are basically poison-in-a-pouch. Many of the chemo IV bags have biohazard warnings on them. Between the chemo and the disease, some of the patients look more like survivors of Nazi concentration camps than patients in a hospital.

Jesus identifies with those that suffer. In their suffering many of these patients are innocents. Just like Christ on the cross, they have done nothing to deserve their fate. Sometimes they asked, “Why me?” The honest answer was, “I don’t know.” Many though didn’t ask directly, although they may still ponder the question. They are fighting for their lives when they are in treatment. That’s where much of their energy is focused. In that fight they are like Christ on the cross – innocents enduring suffering. So, it is easy to see Christ on the cross in a leukemia unit. It’s much more difficult to see the resurrected Christ. On one particular day, even he appeared.

I was making my rounds late one afternoon. I knock on the door of a new patient in the unit.  This patient, like many others, had that same sort of Nazi death camp appearance. Yet, there was something about him that was different. Some have an upbeat attitude. Yet, you can tell the upbeat attitude is a brave front. The patient’s body language usually tells a different story.  You can see the weariness in their eyes.  Their shoulders are usually slumped from the weight of the struggle. Some understandably are depressed or down.  This young man though, was quite the opposite. He had a quiet self-assurance about him. His eyes were clear and bright. He sat erect in the chair in his room.

So, I asked him why he was at Baptist. He was actually in route to Duke for some sort of special treatment. I ask him what his prognosis was with treatment. He pauses for a second as if his answer might hurt me and says, “Oh, I, I’m going to die.” Just like that, no anger, no rancor; this from a guy who is in his early 30’s. The matter-of-factness of his response took me back a bit. Trying to regain my composure some, I ask him what sort of cancer he has. It was a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I asked when he was diagnosed. It had been about a year. He had contracted AID’s as the result of blood transfusion. The treatment for the AID’s had led to the cancer. Again, no hint of anger or despair, it was just kind of like, “Hey, these are the cards I was dealt and I’m going to play them out.”

So, then I ask, “You seem so at peace with all this, if I was you I’d be a little bit angry.” He said, “Oh, I could get angry, but what good would it do? It wouldn’t change anything. Besides I’ve met some wonderful people as a result of this illness.” At this point, I begin to feel a real spiritual presence in the room. There was warmth and almost a slight glow of light in the space between us. So, I ask what he means.

He goes on to tell me that his family basically deserted him as a result of the AID’s diagnosis. He was left to fend for himself. He got involved with a church he was attending. This church took him under their wing. He lived with some of the members. They helped pay his medical expenses. As he speaks, the glow in the space between us brightens slightly. Then he concludes with, “Without this disease, I would have never known any of those things.” He pauses for a second and then says, “You know, you’ve never really tasted a strawberry until you know you’re going to die.” Such spiritual maturity in one so young – I was amazed. I asked if I could pray for him and he said sure as long as he could pray for me. I laughed and said, “Sure.”

As I left his room, a thought struck me and I stopped about halfway down the hall. I turned around and looked back at his room and said to myself, “I just met Jesus.” I didn’t return to his room just then, I thought, “I can go back tomorrow.” I did go back to my office and tell my colleagues that Jesus was alive and well and in Room 924 of North Tower. They just smiled. When I did go back the next day, he was gone. Just like the resurrected Christ in the walk to Emmaus and soon as I recognized him he disappeared.

Jesus tells us his disciples today he is the light of the world. I’m convinced that glow I saw in that room was from Jesus. In all of the post-resurrection appearances of Christ, his disciples failed to recognize him. In the walk to Emmaus, the disciples go six miles with Jesus without recognizing him. Mary Magdalene thinks he’s the gardener. Jesus is not going to appear to us today in ways we expect.

Today our gospel story is all about seeing Jesus. It’s all about seeing Jesus for who he really is. I know many will get hung up in the miracle. Did Jesus really heal the blind man or not? If we do that we miss the point. The blind man – eventually – comes to see Jesus for who he really is. When first asked who cured him, the man born blind said, “a man.” The second time he said, “a prophet.” The last time he was asked he called Jesus, “Lord”. Just like with my own experience, the Spirit continued to work with man born blind.  In this story, we are all at times the blind man. We all need help seeing Jesus in the world.

All too often we are all like the Pharisees; too quick to judge. The beginning of our passage sets the tone. When they encounter the blind man, the disciples are already judging the man. They asked Jesus, “Who sinned; this man or his parents?” This theology was prevalent in the time of Jesus and indeed down into today. I hear all the time in the hospital, “I don’t know why God is doing this to me.” Many of the Pharisees most likely then would have walked right by the man born blind. They would have walked by feeling self-righteous.  After all, the Pharisees were not sinners like this blind beggar.

I have done the same thing. I’ll see some homeless guy and perhaps walk across the street to avoid him. Or in the hospital sometimes I’ll encounter a smoker with lung disease and think they should have known better. Lots of people smoke and don’t get lung disease, but I don’t think about that. I know these things are wrong, but I still do them. Like the disciples when I do this I, am asking, “Who sinned; this man or his parents?”

The Pharisees – not all, but many – walked right by Jesus, too. They viewed him as a sinner. Some said his miracles were not acts of God, but rather magic tricks. By healing the man on the Sabbath, Jesus broke two rules. Since the man had been blind from birth, the healing wasn’t an emergency. So, Jesus could have waited until the next day to heal. Secondly, by making the mudpack for his eyes Jesus was kneading – as in kneading dough. To knead on the Sabbath was against the law. Due to their self-righteousness, many of the Pharisees missed Jesus in the world.

We all need help seeing Christ in the world. One of the points of the gospel lesson is that Christ is only too willing to help us. Jesus wants to let us see. Jesus wants us to recognize him in the world. Shoot, Jesus even tells us where to look. He tells us in Luke’s gospel that he comes to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed. In Matthew’s gospel, he tells us when we help the sick, the hungry, the downtrodden we help him.

The problem becomes when we think we know the answer to whom or what Christ should be like. The Pharisees thought they had it all figured out. Jesus certainly wasn’t a likely candidate for the job. He was uneducated. He had an unexceptional family background. There were rumors that he was illegitimate. He came from Galilee and not Jerusalem. Then, he broke the Sabbath rules on top of everything else.

We do the same thing. Despite Jesus telling us that he is among the poor and the downtrodden, we just like the Pharisees tend to just walk right by the poor. I do the same thing. If I had encountered that young cancer patient on the street instead of the hospital room, he may have earned my pity, but probably not my respect.

You never know what will happen when you knock on a door. In my case, I almost didn’t knock. I was tired and it was the end of the day. In general, cancer patients really don’t want to talk to a chaplain. They are facing a battle for their life – a battle they feel they shouldn’t have to fight. Some are probably a little angry with God. So, a chaplain is the last person they want to see. For whatever reason, I knocked. That’s pretty much all Jesus asks of us is a crack in the door. All too often, though, we don’t even do that. We let our pre-conceived notions and cultural biases interfere. I’ll admit not everyone is Christ. I’ll tell you this every person you meet has a story to tell. That’s because every person you meet is a filled with the Holy Spirit. So, every person you meet is not Christ, but they are a child of God and are Christ-like.

However, you never know when you knock on the door what might happen. We all have preconceived notions of what the Christ looks like. Many of you probably have an image in your mind of what this cancer patient looked like. Would you be surprised to learn that this patient, the resurrected Christ was African-American? Would you be surprised to learn that this patient was gay? He was. You never know what will happen when you knock on a door.

 

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Exemple
sermon date 2017-04-03

Raising the Dead

In the gospel of John, Jesus repeatedly uses images from the earthly realm as metaphors for spiritual realities. And almost always his conversation partners are confused by these metaphors. Two weeks ago, Jesus told the woman at the well he had water that if she drank it, she would never thirst again. She asked where she could find this water. Jesus meant that he quenches our spiritual thirst. Last week, Jesus cured the man born blind. In that instance, sight was a metaphor for the spiritual vision and clarity that Jesus brings; Jesus is the light of the world. However, the Pharisees did not get that. They failed to understand that even if they could see, they could still be blind. We have the same thing today. Jesus tells the disciples Lazarus has fallen asleep. They get confused.

We all can get confused about spiritual matters. Our own confusion stems from our tendency to separate the spiritual from the physical realm. We tend to think things are either part of one realm or the other. When we hear spiritual, we tend to think of mystical, other worldly sorts of things. We do not see ourselves as part of that world. We tend to see, for example, spiritual stuff as something we do for an hour on Sunday. The rest of the time we view our lives in the earthly or secular realm.

Clearly, there are differences between the spiritual and earthly realm. However, they are not separate. Yet that is how we tend to view them. For example, tell me is it a physical experience or a spiritual experience when we visit with a shut-in? Is it a physical or a spiritual experience when we feed folks here every Monday night? At work, when you see a colleague who is confused and you stop to help him, is it physical or spiritual? When you eat lunch with someone who isn’t very popular; is it physical or spiritual? When you care for your grandchildren after school; is that physical or spiritual?

We are more than mere earthly beings. Human beings have four aspects; emotional, social, spiritual and physical. All four of these aspects interact. None are independent. If you have a good day, you will feel better physically. Yet, we try to set limits on our experiences. We tend to live and focus on the material. So, when Jesus comes and talks about spiritual stuff, we don’t get it or we get confused. When Jesus tells us that we can see even if we are blind; we go, “Huh?”

Jesus comes to remind us and show us we are more. The Spirit of God enlivens each of us. God is the source of life. So, life itself is a spiritual experience. As we’ve said before, we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Separating our life into secular and spiritual is futile exercise. Yet this exercise is one we persist in pursuing. We persist in pursuing this path sometimes to our own detriment.  `

Today’s reading deals with a big issue in our secular life: physical death. Death is a part of life. Yet, despite almost 2000 years of church teaching about the resurrection, we still fear death. In our reading today, Jesus tells the disciples that Lazarus has fallen asleep. The disciples say, “Well, what’s the big deal?” Jesus has to tell them that Lazarus has died. In a sense for Jesus it isn’t a big deal. He knows what he’s going to do. For the disciples, though, death is entirely different proposition than sleep.

So, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus is a form of the Hebrew name Eleazar. Eleazar was a common name in Jesus’ day. The name translates “God helps.” Of course, God helps us all. The use of a common name reinforces that fact. The resurrection of Lazarus is a story for all of us. The resurrection of Lazarus is a metaphor for breaking free from the bonds of physical death.  Much like the man born blind can now “see” spiritually, and the woman at the well no longer “thirsts” spiritually, Lazarus will now “live” even though he must die physically again.

So, Lazarus will die again. That’s an ugly reality of life for us, too. Unfortunately, none of us can get to the resurrection without death. Due to our focus on the physical and material, we tend to look at death as a conclusion and a conclusion only. Yet, it’s not. Death is not only an end but a beginning as well. That is really the point of the story this morning. That does not mean death is not difficult, it is. Sometimes breathing becomes difficult. Sometimes there is other physical suffering. Jesus himself died a horrible death. As I’ve said before, though, death is more like labor pains – we are being born into something new. While no woman looks forward to labor, the newborn infant often makes the memory of the pains fade.

Yet, despite all the teaching of the church, we continue to fear death. We fail to accept the fact that we are all going to eventually die. We don’t want to talk about it. We don’t even want to be reminded of it. Now don’t misunderstand what I’m going to say next; assisted living and other institutions like that are a great boon for elderly. My own parents lived in assisted living facility at the end of their lives. However, I’m convinced that part of the reason we keep our elderly locked-up in special housing away from everybody else is that we don’t want to be reminded of our own imminent frailty and infirmity.

We are afraid and/or anxious concerning our own demise. Anxiety and fear are not of faith, but rather doubt. And we all doubt from time to time. As we’ve said before, faith is based on trust. Trust says something about the future. The future is always uncertain. So, part of faith is doubt. It would be difficult for us to have a faith as strong as Jesus. Even Jesus doubted. On the cross, Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet, with enough trust, though, we can overcome our doubt – for the most part.

So, in a very real sense, we can begin eternal life while we are here on earth. Of course, all life is part of eternal life. Beyond that, though, we can reap the benefits of eternal life, not just  when we die, but when we realize that death itself is just another part of life. We begin eternal life when we trust in the promise of Jesus: that he came in part to assure us that we will never die. I would hasten to add, though, that belief in eternal life is not merely a Christian precept, but is also part of Judaism and Islam. Death, then, is a passage from this world of woe into well whatever eternal life is like. We can lay our claim to that life in the here and now through our faith.

Jesus tells Mary and Martha that he is the resurrection and the life. So, Jesus does give life. However, we notice an important thing. Jesus himself does not unbind Lazarus. Jesus tells his disciples to unbind Lazarus.  It’s up to us to remove the bindings that life puts on us. It is up to us free people from the constraints that culture places on us. It is up to us to spread the good news of Jesus’ promise of life and resurrection.

Death itself is one of the things that provide constraints. Death is one of the bindings and perhaps the primary one that prevents us from living life. Life, as it’s intended to be, is to know God’s peace. We know God’s peace because we know that this life is not the end of life. We know that God loves us. God would never let us God’s children die. That’s the peace of Christ. Yet, many of us are far removed from that peace.

So, it’s not Jesus that sets us free. Jesus gives life. Jesus provides a gift. It’s up to us to accept that gift. Jesus, though, does not set us free – at least not in this life. It is up to us to set ourselves and others free from the constraints of life. It is up to us to accept the gift of life in this life. We do that through our faith.  We do that through community. We help each other to remove the constraints society has placed on us. We respond to poverty with kindness and understanding. We respond to those who are aliens in our culture with warmth and welcome. We in short love others as God loves us. It is through this love that we will indeed liberate others – and ourselves – from the constraints and bindings that tie us to this material world. We will liberate ourselves from the fear and anxiety that grip human life here on earth and help us live into the spiritual beings we truly are.

 

 

 

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Exemple
sermon date 2017-04-10

Crucify Him

The Palm Sunday service is often confusing for us. That confusion is understandable. We begin with the celebration of Liturgy of the Palms. We conclude with the sorrow of the Liturgy of the Passion. So, we often wonder whether we should be rejoicing or grieving when we leave church today.

There are a couple of reasons for this confusion: one part practical and one part theological. Both these reasons relate to one difficult reality of our tradition: you can’t get to the resurrection without the cross. The practical part is that all too often people attend the joyful Palm Sunday service, skip the other Holy Week services and then return for the Easter Sunday celebration. So, parishioners go from one celebration to another celebration.  They miss all the struggle, pain and treachery that came between Palm Sunday and Easter. They miss the suffering of Holy Week that led to the ultimate victory of the resurrection and Easter.

The theological reason is much like the practical one; life is both struggle and success, pain and happiness. Being Christian does not spare you from any of the suffering – as some televangelists might try to tell you. Both suffering and rejoicing happen all the time together in life. Take for example, a spouse who has been a long-time caretaker for their partner. When the partner finally passes there is oftentimes both joy and sorrow. There is sorrow and grieving for the loss. However, if the caretaker is honest with his/her self, there is probably joy that the suffering is finally over. Life is a complex journey. It is in that complex journey where we find Jesus. Jesus owns all of it with us while not letting any of it – even the threat of a gruesome and painful death – defeat him.

So, if we’re confused by our readings this morning, we are right where we need to be. If we are wondering if we are supposed to rejoice or grieve; the answer is “Yes”. Remember in the spiritual life things are not usually either/or. They are both/and.

So, our story this morning is not a documentary; nor is it fiction. Instead, it is a proclamation of faith. From it, we can see the face of God in the midst of desolation. This face is one of resignation and deep comprehension. The failings of the people who create this abomination – and that of all victimization in human history — are known too well by God. Even more importantly, God knows the pain of victims. Think of those who suffer without rescuers. Think of those who are tormented and never defended. Think of those who are counted as nothing or are mocked and tortured.  All of these are the ones whose lives Jesus takes on himself. All of these are crucified with Christ in our all too human story of glory and shame this morning.

When we look throughout Matthew’s account of the passion, we see many depictions of what is unfortunately, normal life. We see betrayal, distress over the presence of evil even at a table of friends, the deception of Judas, the boasting of the disciples, using a kiss to signal its opposite meaning, physical hurt, desertion by the disciples, an unjust arrest, Peter’s denial of friendship, Judas’ bitter self-contempt and suicide, confusion on the part of a powerful, political leader Pilate, the mocking of a vulnerable and abused person, and an unjust and cruel execution. That’s a lot of treachery for one Sunday.

So, one might ask what God is doing during all this. The humans are full of plotting, neglect, and finally killing what is good. Unless you look carefully, God, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be doing much. The humans are going about their business without divine power swooshing in to rescue or transform anyone. So, where’s God in all this? And isn’t that what people ask about life today? For example, where’s God in the gassing of innocents in Syria? Where’s God in the starving people of South Sudan? Where is God when things are not going well? Have we been abandoned?

God is present. We find God’s power deeply at work in Jesus. Look at how Jesus is depicted, how the power of the holy one is portrayed. In Matthew’s passion narrative, we find Jesus either speaking of himself as Son of Man – a title scholars are still working out – or mostly silent. At the meal, Jesus humbly “took his place with the twelve.” According to Matthew, he knows what is going to happen. He knows his betrayer. Yet, Jesus does not impose his will on anyone. In the passion story, his major speech will occur at the table and not before those who could spare his life. At the table, he tells them the bread they are about to dine on is his body; the wine, his blood. His friends should remember him when they eat together.

This does not sound like the sort of thing a really grand and triumphant god would say. It sounds rather ordinary. It sounds like the sort of thing we might say to our families and friends. Please don’t forget me when I’m gone. At the end, when he dies, he cries out his sorrow. Divine action here is made of the ordinary stuff of life — food and eating together. It points to a power that has taken up residence in the most basic needs of life. Even the most mundane of earthly acts — taking nourishment — is infused with the presence of the holy one. The bread of life is the holy one.

So, God’s presence fills this scene – as it fills our own life. God is present in Jesus, yes. God is present in other ways as well. Jesus is NOT God, but the son of God. Even with human beings; the son is not the father. That is so much more the case with God.  I know that we are often taught that Jesus is God. That’s not entirely true. Jesus is the human manifestation of God. However, humans are not all of creation. And if Jesus is God, to whom does Jesus pray? Or when Jesus prays is he merely talking to himself?

So, God is present in other ways we might not think about in this mess. God is present today as well. God is present to Pilate. God gives Pilate a choice, save Jesus or save his reputation as a Governor. Pilate chooses his own self-centered interest – despite his wife’s dream. God is with the chief priests and scribes. They see Jesus as a threat; a threat to their own self-interests. They can either arrest Jesus or let him go. They decide to arrest Jesus. Then, they decide to incite the crowds to ask for Jesus’ crucifixion. They like Pilate deny God and act to protect their own self-interest. And, I should add, God was with the President of Syria when he decided to gas all those innocents earlier in the week.  Dying on the cross is a horrible death, but so is dying by Sarin gas. Just like Jesus, many who died this horrible death were innocent.

As we learn by studying Jesus in this story and our history as well, God is not going to force God’s will on us. In our story this morning, we see that in two ways. First of all, God does not intervene in this travesty – even for God’s beloved son. Secondly, Jesus makes it clear that we as human beings have to realize he is the Son of Man, he is God incarnate. It is up to us to recognize God in the world. So, while God is all powerful, God is also humble. God’s humility stems from God’s desire to have us love God. God knows you can’t make somebody love you. People have to come to love on their own terms, in their own time. A lack of love for others killed Jesus. Self-centeredness killed Jesus; it killed Jesus just like it did those people in Syria. That lack of love for others, that self-centeredness is evil.

So, evil in the world, not God, killed Jesus. And it continues to kill people today. What is the source of this evil? Earthly power-the priests and the Pharisees want to keep their power. Pilate does not want to lose his power. The Roman soldiers who crucify Jesus are beholden to that earthly power. They are doing what they are told.  Yet, these very same soldiers will be the first to admit that Jesus was God’s son. It is that power that incites the crowd to cry out for Jesus’ crucifixion.

There are many sources of power in the world, position, wealth, even attractiveness. Here’s the interesting thing. What happens to earthly power when we die? Can you take it with you? Do get a better seat on the bus to heaven? It comes to nothing. So, in reality, we human beings kill this innocent man for nothing.

Most of us sitting here have very little power in the eyes of the world. So, we need to be aware of those who do have power. The chief priests and scribes told the Jewish people gathered in that square in front of Pilate a bunch of half truths and lies about Jesus. The people believed them because they were priests. The people believed them because they feared for their own well-being. So, they called out to have an innocent man crucified.

God is not going to jump in to save us from ourselves. God is not going to stop us from killing innocent people. If he didn’t stop the Romans from killing Jesus, he certainly isn’t going to stop us from killing the poor or those without health insurance or starving children or the innocents in Syria. These are the kinds of people Jesus identifies with in today’s world. These are the kinds of people we crucify with our apathy and self-concern. God’s not going to intervene. It’s up to us.

The powers of the world opposed Jesus and the powers of the world killed Jesus. The powers of the world will not give up their power without a struggle. The power of the world tends to be evil, but as we know the world is only temporary. Death is not the final answer. Evil will come to nothing. Good is what lasts. That of course is the Easter message. Good will conquer evil. We as human beings have a role to play in that conquest. We can either be like that crowd in the square in front of Pilate or we can be like Jesus and look evil in the eye and know it amounts to nothing. The choice is ours.

 

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Exemple
sermon date 2017-04-14

Stealing Jesus

This evening we gather in observance of the wrongful incarceration and execution of an innocent man. The authorities apprehended him under cover of night at a remote location. He was denied due process and adequate legal representation. This man was convicted on trumped charges. His execution took place within 24 hours of his arrest. Some would go so far to say he was lynched.

Yes, you are in the right place. You see, one of the things we tend to forget about Jesus is his identification with those at the bottom of society. There is no one lower in our society than a convicted felon. This is exactly how Pilate, the chief priests and scribes looked at Jesus.

We don’t usually look at Jesus’ crucifixion in that way. We usually see Jesus’ death as a sacrifice. As a matter of fact, we usually say that Jesus’ death was HIS sacrifice. Yet, unless we take the position of those at the bottom of society, we cannot truly see Jesus. We become like those who called for his execution in the crowd in front of Pilate’s palace.

We glorify Jesus’ execution as if it was ordained. We say it was God’s will. Now, we as a society have executed many people over the centuries. Some of these people were most assuredly innocent. Think of the 6 million victims of the Holocaust. Was that event ordained by God, too? Rarely, if ever do we glorify these miscarriages of justice. Rarely, if ever, do we associate God’s will with these executions. We are, deservedly so, ashamed of these things.

In the case of Jesus, though, we change our tune.  As a matter of fact, we try to remove ourselves from any culpability in Jesus’ death. We say things like, “It was God’s will” or “Jesus was a sacrifice for our sin”. We, just like Pilate, wash our hands of any wrong doing. However, just as we are guilty in the shameful death of other innocents, so, too, are we culpable in the death of Jesus.

These things continue into our time. Last year the news was full of revelations about the water in Flint, MI. The Governor of Michigan basically ignored the people in Flint when they complained about their water.  The water in Flint is still a problem. Flint is predominantly black and poor. Yet, do we think for a minute that if the complaints had come from the predominantly white and upper-middle class suburb of Grosse Pointe the governor would have acted differently? Do you think the people of Michigan would have paid more attention?

For at least some of these people in Flint and other communities like it, our negligence is a death sentence. Some of the children of Flint will never develop to their full potential. We have diminished their lives as a result of our apathy. These children committed no crime. Is that not the same as nailing Jesus to the cross?

The forces that killed Jesus are the same forces that poisoned those people in Flint.  Greed, a sense of privilege, self-righteousness and pride are things that led to Jesus’ death. These same forces are in the world today. These same forces killed Dr. King nearly 40 years ago. These same forces killed over 100 innocent people in Syria last week. These same forces nailed an innocent man to the cross approximately 1,987 years ago. Yet, we say we’re not responsible for any of this. As my theology professor at Wake used to say, “God came into the world and the world tried to kill God.”

So, we like to say that Jesus died for our sin. That’s not quite true. You see, we get the preposition wrong. Jesus didn’t die for our sins. Jesus died BECAUSE of our sins. Other innocents besides Jesus have died because of our sin as well. While none of us drove the nails or ignited the bomb that killed these innocents, we still are culpable. We are culpable for supporting a world that generates an environment where these atrocities can happen.

As a result of this misguided perception – that Jesus died for our sin – we often link Jesus’ death with forgiveness. In the gospel, Jesus tells people their sins are forgiven multiple times. Never once does he say, “Your sins are forgiven, but first I have to die a horrible death.” The crucifixion has nothing to do with forgiveness of sins.

God’s forgiveness for these atrocities and other sins we committed is based on God’s love for us. God forgives us our sin because God wants us to love God. God does not need appeasement. Throughout the Old Testament, God abhors human sacrifice. God refuses to let Abraham sacrifice Isaac, Abraham’s only son. So, why would God sacrifice his only begotten son?

So, just like we do with many things we turn God into a scapegoat. We fail to accept human culpability in the crucifixion. Just like with every other decision in our life, God offers us choices.  God gave us choices in the crucifixion of Jesus. The Sanhedrin could have let him go. They didn’t. The crowd – probably incited by the Sanhedrin – could have asked for Jesus instead of Barabbas. They didn’t. Finally, Pilate the most powerful of all these figures could have released Jesus. He didn’t.  So, why do we blame God?

We are both saints and sinners. We tend to hear about the sinner part more than we do the saint part. So, much of the time I end up stressing our saintliness rather than our sinfulness. However, tonight we need to consider what our sinfulness really is. For those of us sitting here, most of the time when we think about our sins, it’s about really pretty minor stuff. Maybe we eat too much or drink too much.  Maybe we’re mean to our spouse or partner. Maybe we tell a little white one every once in a while.

These things, while they are sins, pale in comparison to crucifying an innocent man.  We continue to crucify people today. Not literally of course, but we still do things that cause people anguish and most likely shorten their life. Just like we didn’t drive the nails into Jesus’ hands; we aren’t directly responsible for these modern day crucifixions.

So, this is our sin. We allow the forces that killed Jesus to continue to kill others. Yea, we need to pay attention to our personal foibles. Our personal foibles though didn’t nail Jesus to the cross. Our personal sins don’t convict innocent people of crimes they don’t commit. Our personal sins don’t threaten to substantially reduce the life of a child born into poverty. These are the kinds of things that led to Jesus’ crucifixion. These are the kinds of things that crucify others in our day.

Like I said, we are both saints and sinners. As sinners, we are part of the problem. We are part of injustice in the world. However, as saints, we are part of the solution. We are charged with bringing God’s justice here to this earth. We are charged doing our part to help God bring God’s reign to earth. So, how do we do that?

Jesus did make a sacrifice, but it wasn’t on the cross. Jesus sacrificed his own self-centered needs and personal will to the will of God. Jesus committed to God in the desert when turned from the temptations of the world.  Jesus turned his life over to God. This was the sacrifice of Christ. This sacrifice is one that God asks all to make. It is in this way that we become saints.

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Exemple
sermon date 2017-06-18
sermon manager Jan Hronek

Laborers of God

When I was about 16 years old, a friend of mine asked me to go water skiing. Now, I’d never been water skiing before and I had always wanted to try. My dad had tried water skiing a couple times with some friends. All he managed to do was swallow half the lake. He didn’t try again. So, while I wanted to try, my father’s experience also made me a bit nervous. So, it was with a bit of trepidation that I said, “Yes.” The big day arrives and we’re out on the boat. My friend turns to me and says, “Okay it’s your turn.” He paused for a second and said, “Don’t worry about anything. Just let the boat do the work.”  I jump in and after wrestling with the skis for a minute, I grab the tow line. He takes the slack out of the line, I stick my thumb in the air, he hits the gas and I let the boat do the work. And the next thing I knew I was water skiing. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. It was harder getting the skis on than it was water skiing.

I think that’s how it is with discipleship sometimes. We make it tougher than it has to be. We think it’s all up to us. We think we have to go knock on doors or maybe give witness to some total stranger or something else really uncomfortable and that’s not it. With water skiing you let the boat do most of the work and enjoy the ride. With discipleship, we should let Jesus do the work and just enjoy the ride.

We all have God-given gifts. We all need to identify those gifts. While water skiing came pretty easy to me, other things did not. Take golf for example. After about three or four years of trying to become good at the sport, I took a year off and then retired. So, the challenge is to identify the gift. Sometimes we fail to use our gifts. That may be because we don’t realize we have the gift. Or maybe we’re afraid to use the gift. Regardless, we need to try things. We need to experiment. God will let us know if we’re in the right place. It’ll feel like Jesus is doing the work. If not, then, let it go.

Take the disciples in our reading this morning. Jesus tells them to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons and proclaim the kingdom of God has drawn near. The very things he’s done throughout his ministry. Jesus sends out the 12 with nothing more than his word for it. They could have refused to go. They are relatively common folks like you and me. They could have said, “We can’t do that.” Jesus sends them out on this fantastic mission with only his word as their authority. Yet, they enjoyed success.

Near the end of the Hebrew scripture reading this morning, God says to Abraham, “Is there anything to wonderful for the Lord?” That I think is how we should approach our own spiritual life. If we’re using our gifts appropriately, we’ll feel the power of the Holy Spirit caring us forward. However, that’s not to say discipleship is easy. While waterskiing came easy to me, becoming an expert at waterskiing is a whole different cup of tea. That’s how it is with discipleship. Becoming proficient at discipleship takes work and practice. However, the underlying principle remains. In water skiing, no matter how good you get the boat still provides the power. And in discipleship, no matter how good you get, it’s Jesus through the Holy Spirit that provides the power. As God says to Abraham, “Is there anything to wonderful for the Lord?”

So, Jesus sends forth the Twelve to perform his own works. These are works that have defined his ministry from the beginning. It’s worthwhile to consider the nature of these gifts. The one thing we notice is healing. Jesus heals people. Now we often see heal and cure as being the same thing. However, we can be healed from a disease and still not be cured. Healing in the Christian scripture means to be made whole or to be restored to wholeness. We don’t necessarily need to be cured from a disease to feel whole.

I was a student at the University of Illinois in the late 1970’s. At that time, the U-I was one of the few places where handicap accessibility was a priority. There were ramps and automatic doors everywhere. Where there weren’t ramps, there were elevators. The school had special busses to transport kids in wheel chairs as well.  So, not surprisingly, we had a disproportionate amount of special needs students. The student paper did an article where they talked to some of these kids. I remember one such student telling the paper, “This is the first place where I’ve felt whole. It’s a very freeing experience.”

This student was not cured; but he was healed.   I would also add that through his healing this student was liberated. He was liberated from the barriers that our society unwittingly and insensitively placed in his path. I submit to you that whether with Jesus or those commissioned by Jesus, the authentic proclamation of God’s realm is marked by this same sense of healing and liberation.

There are those who might question if God was involved with this effort at all. There are those who would see this event as purely secular.  Yet, our God is a God of all creation. God can choose to work through whatever means necessary – even a secular institution like the University of Illinois or for that matter the United States government.

In our gospel reading today, Jesus calls the disciples to advance beyond him. Jesus calls them to push into new territories and places. That means the disciples face new and emergent contexts and situations. Jesus provides the Twelve with clear instructions and arms them with his authority. He sends them forth to do HIS works and proclaim HIS message. Once they are on the road, however, the disciples are on their own. They must assess the responses of the cities. The disciples must determine whether to stay or to move along. Jesus’ instructions can only take them – and us – so far. At some point, the disciples and by implication – those of us gathered here today – must use our own God-given gifts to further the reign of Christ.

So, the faithful church must move beyond Jesus himself, as the disciples do. You know, my friend gave me some very solid instructions that first attempt at water skiing. I always remembered it whenever I went water skiing. However, if I wanted to learn how to do more than merely stay up on the skis, I had to venture out on my own.  I had to push my horizons a bit. That I think is the way it is with the church and us as individuals.

The world in Jesus’ day was much different than it is now. The fact that there was even a mail service in ancient Rome was amazing. Still it took about two months to get a letter from Jerusalem to Rome. Nowadays we have almost instantaneous worldwide communication. Things like television and internet were beyond the scope of imagination. As a result, the situation the early church faced was much different than what we face today. We can’t just turn to the Bible to look for instructions for all these new things. We can’t do that because the Bible is not equipped to handle modern challenges. How could it be? Some of the things that are commonplace today were unimaginable 200 years ago much less 2000.

Jesus reminds us that we would do much greater things than he did. We tend to take Jesus too literally. So, we sometimes limit what he meant. We think Jesus meant we would all do miracles like he did. That we would heal with just a touch. As I’ve mentioned, Jesus made the blind to see.  We do that every day now. He made the lame to walk. With hip and joint replacements that happens daily. He raised the dead. We do that every day with CPR and other resuscitation techniques. Jesus only touched a few lives in his time. We do this stuff thousands of times/day. With these things are we not doing greater miracles than Jesus? As God asks Abraham, “Is there anything to wonderful for the Lord?”

In sending out the disciples this morning, Jesus sends them into new areas where they will face new challenges. At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells the apostles to go make disciples of the world. That pushes the context of ministry into a whole area. Of course, the future is a whole new area. The Bible does not give us direct answers on how to face these challenges. We only have Jesus’ instructions he gave the disciples today; heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons and proclaim the kingdom of God has drawn near.

So, based on these instructions, do you think Jesus would be in favor of universal health care?  If we are truly going to heal in the Biblical sense, do you think Jesus would be in favor of improved mental health facilities? If part of healing is liberation, do you think Jesus would be in favor of efforts to reduce racism,  end hunger and do away with poverty regardless if the church is directly involved or not? What do you think?

These are huge challenges. Jesus tells us though that we will do even greater things him. Not all of us as individuals are called to engage directly in the struggles that will necessarily occur to bring these things to an end. However, all of us are called to do our part to follow Jesus’ instruction to the disciples.

There’s old saying, “Let go and let God.” That’s what discipleship is about. Jesus provides with instruction. It’s up to us though to apply that instruction. It’s up to us go out in the field and work the harvest.  It’s up to us to heal and liberate in this world today – not the world of Jesus or the world of the 1950’s but today. That is the charge Jesus gave his disciples 2000 years ago and that is the charge Jesus gives to us.

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