Archive for July, 2013

Lord Teach Us to Pray

In this sermon, I explore Luke’s account of Jesus teaching the Lord’s Prayer. The scripture lesson is found in Luke 11:1-13.

You can listen to the sermon here.
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/thy-kingdom-come-7-28-13

Here’s the text of the sermon. Read along if you like. As usual excuse the odd punctuation and indications to pause. I gotta remember those things somehow.

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
There is big news in the geek community. Perhaps some of you have heard it if you, like me, are a movie buff.  In a surprise presentation at Comic-con about a week ago, it has been revealed that Batman will join Superman on the big screen. Geeks everywhere went wild when this news broke…because this is a matchup that we’ve wanted to see on the big screen as long as there’s been a big screen. Superman…Batman…the two biggest names in comic book super hero’s…finally coming together. Now, while details of the story are not available, its still exciting to think of these two characters in the same movie together…because of their obvious popularity.
The interesting thing about Superman and Batman is just how different they are. Superman…he can do anything…because he’s an alien…and the energy from our sun gives him super powers. There is nothing that he cannot do…including racking up huge box office earlier this summer…but Batman…well, I think we all like Batman because he’s relatable. Think about it. Batman doesn’t have any superpowers. He’s human, just like you and me.  Maybe the reason that so many people appreciate Batman so much is that, given enough time and resources…given enough training and most importantly…planning…anyone can be Batman. You see Batman, is a planner…sure he’s got unlimited financial backing and amazing gadgets to help him out…but his most important trait in the fight against crime…his ability to plan for every…single…possibility. Batman has spent years focusing his energy on what he needs to do in any situation…and if we took the time, we could do that too. If we just plan everything out in meticulous detail…if we do everything in just the right way…then my friends…Anyone…can be Batman.
Speaking of training…it would seem that the disciples are trying to do just that in today’s story. They’ve been sitting there watching Jesus pray…something that Luke’s gospel tells us that he does quite a bit…and the disciples think to themselves…you know, I bet he could teach us a thing or two about prayer…I mean, he’s God after all…he’s gotta have the inside track on how to pull that off…Lord, teach us to pray…train us how to do it…correctly…because we want to be the Batman of prayer…ok, so they didn’t actually say that last part about Batman…but you get my drift.
In reality…the disciples are revealing something that is very common. A desire to be better…at prayer. Think about it for a second…how many people feel 100% comfortable with their ability to pray? Just think about it. I won’t ask you to raise your hands one way or the other…but think about it? I think when we’re honest with ourselves…our feeling is that we are a long way away from having prayer mastered. (pause) And you know what…pastors aren’t immune to that either.
What are some of the thoughts that come into your head when you think about praying…especially if you are asked to pray…out loud? I wouldn’t know what to say…I probably wouldn’t pray long enough…or maybe I’ll ramble on too long and people will get uncomfortable. Maybe we should just let the pastor do the praying…I bet he took a class in seminary about doing it correctly. (pause)…although if you are wondering on that last idea…no, believe it or not they don’t teach that class…bummer right?
Many people that I have talked to over the years have expressed the same notion that the disciples are expressing in today’s story. I wish someone would teach me to pray better. I want to be able to approach God in prayer…I feel like I should…I just don’t know how…and so the disciples, in a moment of opportunity…go straight to the source. Lord, teach us to pray.
Sometimes I wish that we had a little more insight into the mind of Jesus in these moments. I wonder if he thinks to himself “Jeepers guys, you’ve been following me around for a couple years…haven’t you picked up on this yet?”  Or is it “Finally, these guys have an actual question of merit. GOOD JOB DISCIPLES!” Who knows…maybe it’s a little bit of both…because, as we see…Jesus takes the opportunity to teach them.
What I love about the Lord’s Prayer, is that Jesus shows us a very simple way to do it. Have you ever really stopped and thought about the Lord’s Prayer?  It’s pretty short isn’t it? Especially here in Luke’s account.  We are more familiar with Matthew’s version that contains a couple extra lines not found here in Luke…but even that slightly longer version is still short and to the point.
So what do we learn from that? Well, it seems that point number one on prayer…excessive windiness does not equal better. There is no magical length that needs to be achieved before God starts listening…you don’t need an exact word count before God considers your prayer to be valid.
Next up, Jesus tells us “pray in this way” and he addresses God as Father.  Did you notice that? We do the same thing when we say “Our Father.” Jesus is telling us here that we are able…and allowed…to address God directly, just as He himself does. Through the work of Jesus Christ on earth, we are made children of God…the Bible tell us this in countless places…and we have direct access to God in prayer…and even more so Jesus is showing us the kinship that we hold with him. God is the father of Jesus and we see here that we can also call him Father.
And just as any child can approach their parents with questions or requests or ideas, we can approach God directly. We don’t need someone else to do it for us? We can do so ourselves.
The next thing that we learn here, is that there’s no special place that we have to go. Jesus isn’t sitting in the temple. He’s not going through a priest…he’s not in the synagogue or at home…quite simply…he’s just…somewhere…and you know what, that teaches us something too. We can pray anywhere….and anytime. God’s always listening. Walking down the sidewalk? God’s listening. Sitting at work? God’s listening. Lounging on the couch? God’s listening. Lying in bed in the middle of the night? God’s listening. Sitting in church this morning…you guessed it…God’s listening. There is no specific time or place that’s required.
We can learn a couple other things from Jesus example on prayer as well. First, we acknowledge the Glory of God. Hallowed be your name…but not just because we say so…it just is…so God, help us to remember your glory.  Then we ask for the kingdom to come…and just what does that mean? Well, that’s a good question…when we ask for God’s kingdom to come…and his will to be done…that’s when we let go of control.
And maybe that right there…is really what we find so difficult about prayer. Because we like to be in control don’t we? Deep down…I think that’s the most basic fear that we all have isn’t it?  The loss of control. The unknown…not being in charge of what happens. It’s tough isn’t it? We like to plan things out…and we like to hold the reigns don’t we? Because we know best right? We know what we need…and we know what we want…no one knows better than we know for ourselves right?
(pause)
Well…here’s the point where Jesus, in his very simple prayer…in his very simple example…get’s really deep…Thy kingdom come…THY will…be done…Not mine, but yours God. You know, a few chapters later in Luke, we see Jesus praying again…and that time he’s in a garden, and he knows that in just a few hours, he’ll be in agony…and he’ll be killed…but what does he say?  Not my will Lord, but may your will be done.
Can we follow that same example? Are we really willing to let go of control and trust that God’s got our best interests in mind? For many of us…maybe all of us at one time or another…this can feel impossible. We just can’t bring ourselves to let go, but you know what…so many of those things in life…those issues that we’re trying so hard to control…when we’re honest with ourselves…we know that we’ve got no control…and all we’re doing is driving ourselves crazy trying steer things in the direction that we think they need to go.  Sound familiar to anyone? I’m sure it does.
I think of farmers, going out there every single spring…year after year…planting the crops…and hoping…just hoping…that there’s enough sun and enough rain…to make those crops grow…and I’m sure they worry.
I think of people trying desperately to find a new job…fretting over every resume and job posting…thinking if I just try hard enough, I can make this happen.
I think of people watching a loved one that’s sick or injured…perhaps thinking to themselves Why can’t I make them better? Why can’t I? Why can’t the doctors fix this?
We want to control a lot of things don’t we? But that’s not what Jesus shows us today is it?  Thy Kingdom come…well just what does that mean for us?  What does that mean for the person facing the terrible situation…and feeling no control?  And worse yet, what does it mean when we do pray and ask God for help…and maybe the answer doesn’t come…or worse yet…the answer comes back…NO…What do we do with that?  What do we do with the notion that God’s kingdom…and God’s will doesn’t match up with ours?  Or that when we ask for something God’s chooses to wait to respond? Sometimes God waits years…and by then, it might seem like it’s too late…and in that situation…these word’s of Jesus in today’s story don’t seem to make a lot of sense.
He tells his disciples…ask and you will receive. Seek and you shall find…Knock and the door will be opened…Jesus says we’ll get what we ask for so why are there times when God says No? Why are there times when God doesn’t say anything? Why are there times when we ask for the fish and it really seems like God gives us the snake?
I wish I had a good answer for you here…but to be perfectly honest, I don’t. All I can say is that when we pray the words, Thy Kingdom come, we better really mean it…because our short sightedness…caused by the selfishness that resides in all of us…blinds us to the fact…that God is at work.
The kingdom has come…it is here…today and every day. Because God himself broke into our reality through Jesus Christ…we can rest in the hope that in the end, all things will be made new…but that work isn’t done yet…and unfortunately for us in our present, flawed reality…we have to wait for things…and sometimes the Good gifts that are promised to us…don’t seem that great…and sometimes those Good gifts that are promised to us don’t show up in time…but you know what…God knows our needs better than we do. And Jesus himself tells us today, that we can come before God.
There is no magic formula…there’s no special way that works better. There is no right way to do it. Any time, any place, anywhere. IN the quiet of our minds or shouted from the rooftops…anyone…and everyone…can…pray.
We can come before God with our worries…with our fears…with our praise…with everything…and God is listening. But more importantly…even in those times when we can’t see it happening…we can rest assured that the Kingdom is coming…and one day he will wipe away every tear from our eyes…one day. Amen.

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Mary Moments

Attached is the sermon in written form and the link below is for the sound file.

http://soundcloud.com/revdalen/mary-moments-7-20-13

As usual…disregard the odd punctuation and indications to pause…I gotta remember to do that stuff somehow.

Grace and peace to you (pause)…Oh sorry…I got distracted for a second there…Let me start over…Grace and Peace to you from God…wait, what was I just thinking…oh never mind…Sorry about that…I kept getting distracted…a lot of stuff to keep track of…

You know, things are certainly out of the ordinary today. I mean, for starters its Saturday evening and here we are, gathered for worship. Anyone else thinking about RAGBRAI tomorrow? Hopefully all the pieces come together. It’s gonna be busy though…
Water bottles…I’ve seen some of those…serving breakfast…yah, that’s right. Carol Bertelson’s in charge…hopefully she’s got everything in line…I wonder if she needs any more help…oh wait…sorry I got distracted again…what was I talking about? Oh worship…right…Let’s see, I need to think about the children’s sermon…oh hold on, no…I already did that…check, I can mark that off my list…but communion isn’t done yet…are the elements in place? I think so…I hope so…otherwise that’ll be awkward…oh and the offering plates…let me see…yah, they are there on the alter where they are supposed to be…check…got that covered too. (pause)

Okay…opening illustration over. How about we try this again.  People of God, Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Well that was an interesting way to start things out wasn’t it? I guess I was having a bit of a Martha moment wasn’t I? I’m sure we’ve all had those times haven’t we? Those times when there’s just too much on our plate or too many irons in the fire. Be honest…who can relate? Think about those times when you’re the host, or you’re in charge and all the important aspects of the day are falling on your shoulders. Sound familiar? (pause) I imagine so.

That is the dilemma that faces Martha in today’s scripture lesson. She’s the hostess…the head of the household…and today…she is hosting a very important guest. Jesus himself…the LORD himself has come to town…and Martha has welcomed Jesus and his entire entourage into her home. Think about it…that’s got to be crazy…

Social decorum dictates that she put on a good spread. The people have got to be hungry…they’ve been traveling…walking through the countryside in the hot sun…I bet they’re thirsty too. And of course, dinner time entertainment is in order as well.

Martha is struggling to impress. She’s thinking about the many activities of service that are required of her now that she has a house full of guests. A multi-course meal…fetching water from the well to refresh the travelers…and so on and so forth…and don’t forget that this is Jesus at the head of the table…as Martha runs around from task to task…duty to duty…service to service…

She must be thinking…Man I could really use some help here…a whole slug of people sitting in the dining room…listening to Jesus speak…I sure would like to join in…but I’m too busy…some help would really be nice…Hey, where’s Mary at? She’s my younger sister. I might be the host, but she’s should really be pitching in and helping out…Where is she at? (pause) What, she’s sitting in there with the men…sitting at Jesus feet like she’s his student? Women don’t do that…she needs to be helping me out. She knows better than that…but that’s just like Mary…always ignoring her duties…I swear she’s been like that her whole life…always spacing off expectations whenever someone comes to visit.

And so Martha…goes straight to source…Jesus…don’t you care that I’m working my tail off here and Mary’s just sitting there listing to you…crack the whip on her will you…I’d love to just sit there with you too…but there’s too much to do and she’s letting me do it all…IT’S NOT FAIR JESUS!!! (pause) It’s not fair.

Anyone ever heard that phrase before? It’s not fair? I bet if you have kids you’ve heard it. And let’s be honest…We’ve all thought it or said it ourselves…probably many times haven’t we.  It’s amazing how the notion of justice becomes so apparent when we are the ones that feel like we’re getting the short end of the stick…and our attention centers right in on that doesn’t it?

It’s not fair…all my friends get to stay out past 11…why do I have to be home? (pause)  It’s not fair…why can’t I have that toy, all my friends have it. (pause)  It’s not fair…I’ve been working my tail off, why did he get the promotion over me? (pause)  It’s not fair…last year we had a drought that killed the crops and now this year we’re getting drowned out by all the rain?  WHY ME?  WHY THIS?

Just like Martha in today’s story…I think we all tend to get a little self-centered at times don’t we? As Martha looks at her sister, sitting at Jesus feet, she seems to have a bit of a “grass is always greener” moment…and we all have those tendencies…and perhaps the tendency that we all share in the most, even more than the “It’s not fair” attitude, is the ability to get caught up in the crazy, day to day grind.

Think about your calendar for a moment. We’re ruled by it aren’t we?

How many times have you gotten into the conversation with someone else and you end up in a bit of a competition about who’s busier? Who has the most meetings…or the most errands…or the most sports practices and homework?

We live in a world that is SO distracting…and it’s getting worse all the time. We live in a world where you can get your email, respond to text messages, update facebook, send a tweet, book airplane tickets, check the box score, get news updates, and see the weather forecast all right here on our phones…oh yah…not to mention get the occasional phone call right?

Our brains are going a mile a minute and how much focus to we actually give to anything? That is the error that Martha suffers in today’s story…and we share it. All too often we jump from distraction to distraction…never really giving anything our full attention…and everything suffers because of it.  Those are the Martha moments that we all experience…and Jesus points it out to her…and I think in doing so…he’s also pointing it out to us.

Martha…MARTHA…and you can probably insert your name right there…you are worried and distracted by many things…but only one thing is needed…We get so busy skipping from thought to thought…activity to activity that nothing is really being done well. This happens in our lives…it happens in our interactions with each other…and if we stop and think about it…all too often it happens in our ministry.

In today’s story, there are two types of ministry…or service happening. Hospitality on the part of Martha…and attention to the guest on the part of Mary.  One of the sister’s keep’s her focus on the ministry at hand…but the other is trying to do too much…but keep in mind, that Jesus doesn’t condemn Martha for everything she’s trying to do. He never says that the many services she’s doing are bad…quite the opposite…he only says that she’s trying to do too many of them at one time…and she needs to slow down and focus on one thing.  Martha, you are distracted and worried about many things…but only one thing is needed.

People of God…I pose this question to you…what is the one thing that is needed in your ministry…in your service?  The apostle Paul tells us that there is one body with many members. Each member has a specific function…and that applies to us?  Are you trying to do so much in your day to day life that you are missing out on the opportunity to really pay attention to the person that is standing right in front of you? (pause)

In the end, I think that’s the point that Jesus is trying to make when he says that Mary has chosen the better part…she has chosen to really focus on the guest…and yes in this case it is Jesus himself…but we are called to give our attention to the “guest” that we have crossed paths with…that is what God is telling us to do…that is what God is telling us to focus on.

About a week ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jeff Shreeves. Most of you know Jeff. He’s our congregational president and from what I hear, he did a wonderful job of leading the church through the time of pastoral transition.  Now you may or may not know that Jeff is an insurance man…and when he meets with someone for the first time, he focuses on the individual. Through simple conversation…he gets to know them…He listens and you can tell as you sit across the table from Jeff, that in that moment…he genuinely cares…and he wants to help people…he even went so far as to tell me that he considers that work to be his ministry…and I applaud that.

We each have our own type of ministry to do. God places us in specific roles at specific times. I think of Beth Torneton and Wendy Leaders who coordinated Vacation Bible School last week. I think of Chris Privia and Joyce Tiarks who have served as Sunday school coordinators for the last 5 years.  I think of the different members of the church council and various boards that they serve…I think of the volunteers who usher, and prepare communion…I think of the junior high students that volunteer to acolyte or the high school students that served as VBS helpers…those are all important roles…but ministry isn’t limited to church. Ministry happens outside those doors…and each of you is God’s worker out there. You don’t have be a pastor…you don’t need some big fancy education…you simply need to be aware of the person standing right in front of you in your day to day life…that’s the person that God wants you to pay attention to.

But in order to accomplish this, we also need to remember the need to quiet our minds from the distractions, and finally to follow Mary’s example by sitting at the Lord’s feet. Jesus says that what Mary has chosen the part that cannot be taken away from her…and we each need to do the same. When God shares a word with us…we need to be listening…and sometimes this takes conscious effort. Sometimes we have to conscious step away from the distractions and those expectations that we place on ourselves…and choose to sit at Jesus feet. That’s the Mary moment from today’s story.

There’s a poem out there that applies pretty directly. Perhaps you’ve heard it, but I’ll share it here.

I got up one morning and rushed right into the day. I had so much to accomplish that I didn’t have time to pray. Problems tumbled about me and harder came each task. Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered. He answered, “You didn’t ask.”

I wanted joy and beauty, but the day was gray and bleak, I wondered why God didn’t show me, He said, “You didn’t seek.” I tried to come into God presence; I used all my keys at the lock. God gently and lovingly said, “My child, you didn’t knock.” I woke up early this morning, and paused before starting the day. I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.

I want to offer you a challenge today…and that’s to slow down…and take your Mary moment. If this isn’t something you normally do…try taking 5 minutes…just start there…ask God to quiet your mind and your heart from the many distractions…and then ask God to show you the guest…that he wants you to focus on.  If you already do this every day, good for you…keep it up…but ask God what else you can add…maybe it’s joining a Bible Study…maybe it’s inviting your neighbor out for coffee…God will show you what it is….so when you find yourself in the midst of a Martha moment…and there’s just too much pulling you in different directions…take 5…shut off the cell phone, put down the laptop, turn off the tv…and have a Mary Moment at Jesus feet. Amen

What Do YOU Read

Greetings all.

Looking through here you can find my sermon from this week…July 14th, 2013. The text is from Luke 10:25-37…You can read the sermon here…pardon all the weird punctuation and indications to pause…that’s how I write out my manuscripts.

You can also listen to the sermon here.
http://soundcloud.com/revdalen/what-do-you-read-7-14-2013

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…Amen

Well, it’s been a week…Over the course of this week I have met many of you, and in several of those meetings I’ve heard “Oh Pastor, you must be a runner…We’ve seen you out running in the morning.” Well, yes, it’s true. I am a runner.

I started running about 2 years ago…and when I first started, I think I could run about a quarter of a mile before I was ready to keel over from exhaustion…but like all those trainers and motivators continue to tell us…practice does help. Gradually over the course of about 9 months, I built up my ability to the point where I could run a 5k non stop…and a few months later, I ran my first…and honestly to date…only…official race.

I have to admit, that first race wet my appetite, and as I’ve continued running, I’ve started to set my sights a little higher. At this point, I’ve run 10k’s…unofficially of course…a few times…I’m proud of those accomplishments, but there’s this little needle in my head that says “Come on…go big or go home.” And typically that needle gets really pointy when I’m walking through a parking lot and see a car with one of those stickers that says 26.2…I’m sure you’ve seen them. It’s the trophy that a runner is awarded when they complete a marathon…needless to say…I don’t have that sticker…not yet anyway.

But I do know several people that do…and when I’ve asked them about the experience…what it’s like…how hard it is…things of that nature…the response has always been the same…We can’t really describe it…you’ve just got to experience it for yourself. Until you’ve forced your legs over every step of those 26.2 miles, you just can’t understand the accomplishment.

Now on one hand, I guess that makes sense. There are certainly experiences that we as individuals just can’t really wrap our heads around without actually doing it ourselves…I get that…but I’m a runner…I’ve run 6.2 miles before…I’ve experienced that so shouldn’t it be the same to run 26.2? The same…only…longer? (pause) I guess until I finally commit, and train…and then go out there and earn my 26.2 sticker…I won’t know will I?

Life is like that, isn’t it? I think back over my lifetime…and I think about the experiences that I never really understood prior to…actually experiencing them. I remember the first time I flew in an airplane when I was 19…I remember seeing the Rocky Mountains for the first time when I was 22…A few years later, I remember seeing the Atlantic Ocean for the first time along with my son Jack, who was only 8 months old at the time…I’d heard about all these things…but I never really understood them…until I experienced them. (pause)

And speaking of Jack…that makes me think about a picture that I have sitting on my desk.  It’s a picture of him when he was about 18 months old…big enough to walk around on his own. The picture is taken from behind him as he’s standing in the parking lot of an apple orchard. You can tell from his body language that he’s just taking all of this in. All sorts of new sights and sounds…all new to this little bitty guy…and that’s how young children experience the world isn’t it? Everything is new to them…everything is an opportunity to expand their understanding of the world that they live in. (pause)

Now, perhaps you are wondering just what the heck I’m talking about.  Perhaps some of you sitting out there today…are thinking Pastor, you are not making a bit of sense so far…let’s get to the point.  Maybe you’ve been expecting a certain type of sermon ever since you sat down and looked at the back of the bulletin to see that today’s Gospel reading is the Good Samaritan…arguably the most well-known and familiar parable in the entire Bible…You all know the story itself…I probably didn’t even need to read it…a man gets beat up and robbed…the two guys that we expect to stop and help him flat out ignore him…and then the unexpected Samaritan…the foreigner that normally wouldn’t even bother crossing cultural lines stops and helps…then goes above and beyond to provide care for the hurt man.

You probably all know the application of that story as well. I don’t really need to explain it…Jesus is calling us to be a neighbor…and not just for those people that we tend to think of as our neighbors…those people that are just like us…but also to the unexpected person…and we need to be open to those times when we are seeking help and it comes from the unexpected source…the unexpected individual.

If you’re thinking that…I’d say you are pretty much spot on…and perhaps you’re thinking…yep, we got it Pastor…say amen and sit down. (pause)

Well, I’m not gonna sit down quite yet…because, like normal…the word of God is doing that whole living and active thing…and I think there’s a little bit more to focus on besides just the obvious…I think there’s a little more here for us to…experience…today…so at this point, just put the Good Samaritan out of your head…We could even pretend that we never heard that part of the story…and let’s back up to the first part…the part of this story that often gets glossed over as we rush towards the familiar.

Did anyone catch just why Jesus started telling this story in the first place?  He’s in a sort of debate, with an individual that we can only assume is a bit of a bigwig…Our translations tend to call him a lawyer…but he’s not exactly the type of lawyer that we’re all familiar with in this day and age…Rather, it would be a little bit better to simply call him an expert in the law…and specifically the Old Testament law…you know…that really lengthy list of rules found in Deuteronomy.  This guy has spent his life studying it…probably knows it backwards and forwards…and is familiar enough with it to know that it’s really complicated.

At this point in the lawyer’s life, he’s certainly lost the innocent curiosity of youth. I think we all tend to lose that after awhile don’t we? The natural curiosity to experience everything new and exciting becomes mundane…and I think we tend to become a little more analytical…and we start to wonder if there aren’t some shortcuts.

It would seem that’s where our lawyer is when he encounters Jesus in today’s story. This expert in the law stands up and asks the question “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (pause) Now, on one hand, at least he’s got the right goal in mind…eternal life? That’s a good start for the guy…but the way he comes at the question reveals the lack of true understanding. “What must I do?”  We could rephrase it, “Hey Jesus…wanna give me a checklist? I’m not getting any younger here and I wanna make sure I’ve got my ducks in a row…so what’s the minimum…what do I need to pay attention to?” (pause)

Now here’s the part that I really like…Jesus…seems to get the tiniest bit snarky with his reply…What is written in the law? What do YOU…read there? He might as well be saying…look dude…you know the LAW just as good as I do…so what are you asking me for?

But the conversation continues…and we see by Jesus’ continued responses, that the man is on the right track…Love the Lord with all your heart and soul and strength and mind…and love your neighbor as yourself…and surprisingly enough…this correct answer…is in fact found in the law…and I realize that as good Lutherans…we might get just a little nervous at that idea.

NOT LAW…GRACE!!! We hear the law as a reminder that we are flawed and that we can’t do it on our own…and then we hear the gospel that by the grace of God, Jesus has saved us from our sin…that’s how we inherit eternal life…that’s our experience. (pause)

And if you are thinking that right now…kudo’s, I completely agree…and I think Jesus agree’s as well…so why is he asking this guy what the law says?  Well, have you ever tried to love God with all your heart…or with all your strength…or all your mind…get’s a little tough it…right in the middle of all that love for God…that all encompassing, every atom of your being love…something else crosses your mind…something else catches your attention…might be something as simple as getting caught up in the fact that you’re hungry and it’s lunch time…or maybe you get caught up in worrying that the paycheck isn’t quite stretching to the end of the month anymore…or maybe the desire to watch the football game overshadows the opportunity to spend a little time with your maker…could be anything…all I’m saying is that in our lives, it’s really easy for God to slip to the back burner…

And once that happens, guess what…that Law that Jesus agreed with…was just broken…and we have fallen short of the glory of God…and eternal life…has just gone out of reach….and that my friends, is where Jesus comes in. We talked about that a moment ago…salvation from our sins through Christ which is only by the grace of God. 

We are given something that we did not…and CAN NOT…earn…there is nothing that we can do to inherit eternal life…and that is where the lawyer’s understanding and reliance on the law…is falling short for him.  There is no divine checklist for us to work our way through…but that being said…the lawyer did stumble across a grain of wisdom in what we would call his foolish question…did you catch it?

He says the word…inherit…Anyone here ever inherited anything? You didn’t earn did you? It was given to you by someone else…it’s a gift that you aren’t entitled to…but it’s given to you anyway…and that is exactly how we come to find the eternal life that the lawyer asks about…we inherit it, through Christ, from God. There is no other way but by Christ alone.

Now all that being said, I need to come back around to something. Just why did Jesus ask the question “What is written in the law? What do YOU read there?” (pause) Because the lawyer needed to experience the answer to the true question for himself…and I believe that we all share that need.  Jesus meets each and every one of us where we are. For this man, he met him in his own experience of the Law…and he pointed out the need for God’s grace within it. 

Likewise, we each need to experience the grace of God for ourselves…no one can relate this experience for you…no one can make you understand it by simply telling you the story…we can only point to the place where Jesus is…and my friends that is in the scriptures themselves.

The Bible is the largest best seller in the world…there are tons of them all over the place…and Jesus is telling us in this story to open it up and experience it for ourselves…it’s not always easy…not everything in that book is easy to wrap our head’s around…but the message of God’s love for the world…the message that He loves us so much that he is willing to sacrifice his own son in order to bridge that gap that we cannot cross…that message…is there…waiting for us to open it up…and experience it for ourselves.

You don’t need someone else to do it for you. You have direct access to the Word of God…and so I ask you…What do YOU…read there? Amen