Archive for October, 2014

Be Free 10-26-14

Today’s sermon is from John 8:31-36, the assigned gospel text for Reformation Sunday. In the sermon I explore just what it means to be reformed as well as what freedom in Christ really means.

You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/be-free-10-26-14

You can also read along with the text of the sermon here:

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

Last Wednesday evening, a group of us sat together downstairs, participating in a membership class. The four individuals who we just accepted into our congregation a few moments ago and I sat and discussed quite a bit of stuff…What it means to be Lutheran…the history of Underwood Lutheran…our own stories…many different topics flowed throughout the course of our time together.

But one thing that has stuck with me through the past few days was a joke that we made together about the somewhat unoriginal nature that is sometimes expressed when we name something…a trend that seems particularly plausible today…

For today is Reformation Day…the day when Protestants of various strains celebrate the beginning of the Reformation…which sparked off the day that Martin Luther picked up a hammer and nailed his 95 theses to the chapel door…But just what does that name really mean anyway? Reformation…or to put it a little more simply…reform? Well, to reform something means to, quite literally…make changes in the form of something…and it doesn’t matter what it is…anything…an object, or an institution…whatever it is…it is initially formed…or made…or created…and then it is…reformed…into something new.

And so, Reformation Day is apply, if somewhat unoriginally named for the day that the church as it was known in the 16th century began to be “reformed” into something new…And what was the result? Well, a lot of things to be sure…but one of them is the wonderful concept known as Christian Denominations…divisions within the church based on doctrine and practices…and what was the first denomination? Well…it all started around Luther himself…so in keeping with the unoriginal notion…they were named Lutherans…which quite literally means a follower of Martin Luther…fitting yes…but original, not so much.

And you know what…500 odd years haven’t done much to further us along this trend of unoriginality…and in the midst of the new member class, as we talked about the history of our congregation, I began to imagine the conversation that must have gone on back in the late 1920’s, as our congregation’s founding members tried to decide on a name.

Well folks…here we are…we need a name for our new congregation…what should it be? How can we be identified so new people know just who we are? (pause) Well, where are we? Underwood…ahh yes…and we’re Lutherans right? How about Underwood Lutheran? (pause) Distinctive…Absolutely…but Original, well, not so much.

So I guess when it all boils down, we are in Underwood, following Martin Luther in a reformed version of the church…which itself is made up of Christians…defined as followers of Christ…sound about right?

And as it is Reformation Day, we share the assigned reading…from John’s Gospel in which Jesus encounters believing Jews…who very quickly…decide to backpedal.

Here we are in Jerusalem…hanging out in the Temple during the festival of Passover…and Jesus is interacting with fellow Jewish people…some of them seem to appreciate what he’s got to say…other’s not so much. And of course, this is nothing new…we’ve been hearing stories like this for several weeks now…but it doesn’t take much for these Jewish individuals to turn their backs on Jesus…as soon as his teaching starts to touch a nerve.

Needless to say, the people at the time had a lot of cultural pride…they were God’s chosen people after all…but the second that Jesus says that the truth will set you free…they freak out…JUST A SECOND JESUS…WE ARE DESCENDENTS OF ABRAHAM AND HAVE NEVER BEEN SLAVES TO ANYONE…hmm…so I guess they’re forgetting about Roman rule…and maybe those little issues known as the Babylonian and Assyrian captivity…not to mention that brief little snippet of time in their history…hanging out making bricks in Egypt…it was only 430 years…I can see how’d they’d overlook that…

But what’s apparent is that the people consider themselves to be free…and its offensive that they might just be subject to something besides themselves…but they are missing Jesus’ point here…because Jesus isn’t talking about physical freedom any more than he’s talking about physical enslavement.

Even though Jesus goes on to spell it out for them…he’s actually talking about something a little more sneaky…but a whole lot more diabolical than anything physical. (pause) Sin. That which separates us from God…that which severs the relationship intended between us and our maker…the one who formed us in the first place…

But sin…you know what…sometimes that whole sin thing…is really tricky. We talk about it a lot…it’s a common theme here in church…and it has certainly found its way out into our regular day to day lives as well…but just what the heck is it…I mean, what is it really? (pause)

If you’ve heard me preach out of John’s gospel before, you’ve probably heard me talk about what John thinks sin is…and that’s failing to believe that Jesus is God…but if we think about that for just a moment more maybe we begin to see that sin is flat out failing to believe what Jesus has to say. Yes, at times he calls himself God…he also calls himself the way and the truth and the life…He promises that whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life…in short…Jesus seems to tell us a lot of stuff…and he promises a lot of stuff…and if sin is not believing that…then I guess it really means rejecting his word…rejecting his teaching…rejecting the God-given divine truth that he promises us…that’s sin. (pause)

And that’s exactly what he tells us that we will be freed from…but you know what…that’s not all…Maybe, just maybe…what this freedom really is…is the realization all that all the lies the world tries to tell us don’t matter any more…All those things that whisper in the back of our minds…those voices that tell us we aren’t good enough…or smart enough…or attractive enough…or rich enough…you’ve heard those voices haven’t you…they talk a lot…and they come from a lot of different directions…all that judgmental garbage that tries as hard as it can to pass judgment on you. (pause)

Maybe…just maybe Jesus is telling us that when we abide in him…when we live in him…when we hang out with him…when we accept that he is God and that he wants to be in relationship with us…maybe then we are freed from the power of all that judgmental crap that tries to control us…and when that happens…well then my friends truly we are free. (pause)

Free from listening to the lies that everyone else is okay…but you aren’t. Free from listening to the person who says I’ve got it all together, and you don’t. Free from being subject to the notion that anyone…that any single person in all of history is ANY more…or ANY less worthy than you are…Jesus tells us today that when we live our lives…IN HIM…then we are subject only to the promise that he makes that you are good enough…that you are of worth…that you are formed in your mother’s womb by a God who loves you…and that all that loud obnoxious BS that the world tries to spew in your direction FLAT OUT DOESN’T MATTER…then you’re free from it…and the Apostle Paul screams at us that if anyone is in Christ…NEW CREATION!!!!!

If anyone abides in Christ…lives in Christ…remains with Christ…hangs out with Christ…then they are free of all of that…and not only that but that they are RE…formed…they are made something new…and all that baggage…all those lies that the world spews at us…all those falsehoods that Satan whispers in our minds…all that stuff…I WANT YOU TO KNOW…THAT IT DOESN’T MATTER…ITS ALREADY GONE…

And how do we know that this is true? Because Jesus said so…and abiding in his word means living in the promise that he has made. (pause) But now all that being said…and as wonderful as that might sound, I know that there are times when believing it is easier than other times…and of course there are those moments in our lives when we doubt…when the questions kick in…and when those lies of the world get really loud…and the strength of our Faith in Christ just isn’t as strong as other times…and maybe we find that loving ourselves enough to accept God’s promises…to live in God’s promises just doesn’t quite work…and we ask the question of just what are we supposed to do when that happens?

And the answer is that we turn to others…and together, we as a church support one another…love one another…and in doing so, we remind each other of God’s promises…we do this by offering a word of grace and forgiveness to one another…uttering the words that we as individuals long to hear and cannot speak for ourselves…that you are of worth and because of the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ…you are forgiven…and you are free…freed from the powers of sin and death…freed from the lies of this world…(pause)

We are the church…and the church is the place where the forgiveness of sin is declared…not by our own power…but because of the promises of God…made real in the words of Jesus Christ…and made possible through his death on the cross…and together…as the church…each and every day we are being made new…We are being re-formed…ever closer to the image of God in which we were created in the first place. (pause)

Are we perfect? Heck no…but we are free…free from having to be…because God loves us anyway. Amen.

What if Jesus Was Serious About That Whole Love Your Neighbor Thing?

As a pastor, I do quite a bit of writing; weekly sermons, notes for classes, monthly newsletter articles.  In working on my article for November, it struck me that this might be something to share with all of you out there in the world.

I write this article shortly before Reformation Sunday, the last weekend of October. In celebration of the Reformation, our scripture lessons supersede the texts regularly assigned for the 20th Sunday after Pentecost. Had we gone with that set of scripture passages, the Gospel for October 26th would have been Matthew 22:34-46. I had to chuckle when I realized that, as it is a passage that I’ve run into more than once recently.

Recently the combined Confirmation/Adult Forum class discussed the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert in the 40 years between the Exodus and entering the Promised Land. Within that discussion, we looked at Deuteronomy 6:4-5, commonly known to the Jewish faith as the Shema. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” As the class talked about this passage and its importance, we also recognized that Jesus himself passed this vital Jewish command onto us, and this happens in the passage from Matthew 22.

When challenged by the religious elite to pick out the most important law, Jesus responded back with this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the command of our Lord, to first love Him, and then to love everyone else as well. But perhaps this is easier said than done.

We live in a trying time, and perhaps in those moments when we pick up a newspaper or visit a news website or turn on the nightly news report, we see too much negativity in the world to even begin to think about love. We are dealing with fear and paranoia over Ebola, videos and reports of ISIS beheading Christians and threating to attack the United States, and the ever present tension/conflict between Israel and Palestine. And that doesn’t even begin to take into account the constant barrage of attack ads on TV and the radio as we creep up on Election Day on the 4th.

With all of this staring us in the face day after day, perhaps we find ourselves feeling a little cynical about that whole “loving our neighbor” thing, and rather than loving God, we throw exasperated questions in the heavenly direction, “Where are you on all this stuff?”

But it is precisely these times that we must cling to those two commandments…love the Lord with all you’ve got, recognizing that maybe today “all you’ve got” isn’t as strong as it was last week, nor is it as strong as it will be a year from now. And at the same time loving our neighbors…all of them, and I don’t just mean the people that live around the corner from you.

In times like this, I find it helpful to return to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…” And funny enough…that means all of it. The world includes all of the people in constant conflict with one another. It includes the politicians cutting each other down to try and grab one more vote. And the world includes you and me, even in those times when the negativity present in life gets the better of us.

Interestingly enough, when we think about all that conflict going on “out there,” the fighting and the battling, and the terrorism and the atrocities happening all over the world, we begin to realize that despite our differences, we’re fighting a simple family squabble. Jesus’ commands remind us of our connection with the Jewish faith which traces all the way back to Abraham. And if we look back at the story, we realize that he was also the father of Ishmael, considered to be the patriarch of the Arab nation, what we would call Islam today.

And so, if all the conflict and tension in the world really can be sifted down into a family squabble, then maybe it’s time we all start taking Jesus’ command to love our neighbors seriously…because everyone out there is our brother or sister. What might happen if everyone started believing that, and seeing one another as God see each and every one of us; as beloved children of God.

In Christ
Pastor Scott

Who’s Are You? 10-19-14

In this sermon, taken from Matthew 22:15-22, I explore the conflict between Jesus and the joint effort of the Pharisees and Herodians. They intend to trap Jesus over a question of taxes, but as per usual, he simply points out a new way to think about the truth of the situation.

You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/whos-are-you-10-19-14

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here.

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

It never ceases to amaze me when I think about different groups that have come together in and around an issue…Groups of people that ordinarily wouldn’t be in the same room with one another find common cause against something, and because of this, they wind up working as a team. (pause)

Perhaps the most prominent example of this in recent memory occurred in 1985, when a committee was formed in Washington aimed at controlling and possibly even censoring lyrics of songs released in the public media.

As concern grew, particularly among the music artist community, about the actions of this committee infringing on 1st Amendment rights, an unlikely trio banded together in opposition. Frank Zappa, an unorthodox musician producer…Dee Snyder, the loud and gaudy front man of the popular heavy metal band Twisted Sister…and in a shock…mild mannered John Denver, a folk icon…these three men who had nothing in common except a connection to the music industry…banded together in opposition.

And in today’s story, we see a similar situation…individuals that normally have nothing to do with one another binding together in opposition of someone that they seem to hold equal distaste for…the Pharisees and the Herodians…working together with common cause…to discredit Jesus. (pause)
Now this is an interesting pairing to be sure. One group that we’re pretty familiar with…another…not quite so well known. (pause) Now the Pharisees, we know all about them don’t we? The religious elite…the upper end of the social spectrum in Jewish culture…the ones who knew…and followed the law to the letter…and all too often…the recipients of a certain stigma in today’s reckoning…slammed with the nickname the Biblical Badguys.

They are forever hounding Jesus, opposing his teachings…questioning his motives…and hounding anyone that aligns themselves with him…and on the other hand, we’ve got the Herodians…a group that, admittedly, we aren’t all that familiar with…We only hear about these guys a couple times through the entirety of the four gospels…this story and one other brief mention early in Mark…but what we do know about them is who they represent…Herodians…sounds like Herod doesn’t it?

While we might not know the specifics of just who these guys are, we can assume that the represent Herod Antipas…a “ruler” in Israel at the time…but more accurately, a Roman stooge…someone set up to help maintain the peace between the Roman control and the Jewish people that suffered under it.

Ironically, in most situations, these two groups would want nothing to do with one another…The Herodians, being loyal to Rome, not only represent the oppressive government, but they also represent the alternate view points of the Romans, up to and including what gods they paid attention to…To them, the Pharisees are old fashioned…stuck in their old ways of thinking.

And on the flip side, for the Pharisees…arguably the most pious of the Jewish people…possessing the most “cultural pride,” they would see the Herodians as traitors at best…loyal to the rulers of the day, but far to willing to compromise in order to get along. (pause)
But despite these differences…it seems in this case…that both groups…the Pharisees and the Herodians start listening to that old question “is the enemy of my enemy my friend or my enemy.” And in the very least…within today’s story…they decide that the answer is…friendly.

And so they take common cause in opposition…to Jesus….and they’ve devised a trap for him…a trap that, ironically, highlights the very differences between them that they are choosing to ignore…and after some initial…and likely quite snarky…flattery…they pose Jesus with a question…Tell us what you think…is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor or not?

At face value…this seems like a pretty logical question…but in their minds…they’ve got Jesus in a corner, because either way he answers, he’s going to land in hot water. On one hand…just as the Pharisees despise Roman rule…the latest in a long line of conquering empires…the rest of the Jewish culture is equally hateful…and the mere fact that they are required to pay taxes to the very people that are oppressing them…supporting that very oppression…is a slap in the face to the Jewish people…and so, if Jesus comes out and says “well yes…of course it is lawful to do so,”…he’ll lose credence with the people…and the Pharisees will gain the upper hand over him.

But on the other hand…the Herodians…well their interests were certainly more…politically minded…they represent the “king,” even if he is a Roman lackey…and so if Jesus makes the statement opposing paying taxes…well, in their eyes, that’ll land Jesus in some political…perhaps even legal…hot water. (pause)

Two different groups…who normally fall on opposite sides of the fense…joining together in opposition…to Christ. (pause) But of course…not wanting to seem too bloodthirsty…they begin their scheme with flattery…and reading this almost makes me laugh…just thinking about how thick they’re laying it on. (pause)

“Teacher…we know….that you are sincere…and teach the way of God in accordance with truth…and show difference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality.” (pause) It had to be dripping with sarcasm…and yet…do they say anything that isn’t true? (pause)

Jesus is always sincere…people might not like what he has to say all the time, but he’s nothing if not sincere in his interactions…and of course his teachings are true…and yes he teaches the way of God…HE IS God for pete’s sake…and truly, he shows no partiality but deals with each and every individual as God sees them…as a beloved child of God…worthy of respect…and time…and relationship.

And thinking about this…about how Jesus’ opponents are trying to be funny and yet they still speak truth…and not only that but also about how their well devised plan, where they are working together…really does nothing except point out their respective differences in loyalty…I realize that when we deal with Jesus…the truth is going to be revealed…whether we want to…whether we intend to…or not. (pause)

Not only does Jesus make a point with the coin about the importance of giving what is due to any individual, whether Caesar or God or anyone…but he also reveals the truth of just where our loyalties really lie.

As Jesus talks about the coin…he’s talking about ownership. “This coin has the face and inscription of Caesar…so its his…so give him his due.” And in the same sentence he also tells us that we are to give God his due.”

But then this raises the important question of just what is God’s due? So let’s think about that for a bit…we know that it is right that we offer God our worship and praise…that’s a no brainer. And perhaps we can use this to talk about stewardship and offering our gifts back to God…or maybe we expand it a little bit and think about the notion that everything in the world belongs to God and we shouldn’t hold anything back. (pause)

While these are all valid thoughts, I think today that Jesus takes us beyond that…and just as he proposes that the coin belongs to the emperor because it has his name on it…I think we need to ask the question of who do we belong to…who’s got their name…on us? (pause)

And perhaps that’s hard to think about…after all, we are constantly drawn in so many different directions at any given time…but in the end…its important to remember the words and the promise that was made for each of us in the waters of our baptism…when God claims us as His own…when we are marked with the cross of his son Jesus Christ and we hear the promise that we are sealed in his love forever. Pause)

We celebrated a baptism just last week in worship…and while that is a wonderful reminder…we must each remember our own baptism day by day…when we put to death the sinful self…and we received the mark of Christ upon us…and in doing that…we remember not just who we are…but more importantly, we remember who’s we are…and today, here in this sanctuary, we remember in who’s name we gather…the one that names and claims us…even in those moments when we overlook it…or forget it…or even turn our backs on it…the name of God…the cross of Christ…and the seal of the Holy Spirit remains upon you…to carry with you as you go through this life…and what joy we find in knowing that God shows no partiality…and because of that…we too…are included in his number…and that is a truth, which will not…be denied, no matter how hard the world tries. Amen.

 

Don’t Forget Your Robe 10-12-14

Today’s sermon is based on Matthew 22:1-14. This is the parable of the wedding banquet. Its a difficult and strange story, but yet there is hope to be found. I also explore this passage through the lens of a baptism which occurred in worship.

You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/dont-forget-your-robe-10-12-14

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here.

Grace and peace to your from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Social decorum seems to set a certain benchmark in different situations regarding the proper mode of dress doesn’t it? In a given situation there is usually an expected way to present ourselves…and yet at times, when we are entering into an unknown situation, sometimes we have to ask.

I’ve found that to be the case when helping out in different congregations in recent years…most recently just a few weeks ago when I helped out a neighboring congregation on a Saturday night…and typically when I am faced with one of these unfamiliar situations I’ll ask the question “What’s the mode of dress?” That way I have some idea and I don’t show up wearing something inappropriate for the given situation. (pause)

But I had to learn this the hard way…on both sides of the coin. For instance…a number of years back…probably been about 9 or 10 by this point…I was a young wiseguy serving as Council Secretary for the congregation of 1st Lutheran Church in Milford, IA. Our congregation was coming towards the end of a building project…as we had outgrown the current building, and so we were constructing a much larger facility.

Now we were blessed enough to have identified a small fledgling congregation, Wisconsin Synod Lutherans, who were interested in purchasing our old building. Considering that the building would continue to be utilized as a place of worship, we were ecstatic…and so the day arrived when the leaders of both congregations would gather and sign the paperwork, making the sale official. The meeting would involve the pastors of both congregations as well as the council presidents and secretaries…and so, it would fall to me to be there.

Now you should know, at the time I was working in a local factory, and my attire on a daily basis included heavy steel-toed work boots…old greasy blue jeans…and a company t-shirt that picked up gobs of grease and dirt throughout the course of the day. (pause) It never occurred to me that I should allow myself enough time to run home after work and grab a shower…much less to bring a change of clothes…and so I walked into that meeting, where everyone was in suits and sports coats…and I could only think to myself. Wow…I am underdressed…and of course there was a picture in the paper from the meeting as well…Figures.

Now on the flip side, I’ve also overdressed…I once showed up to a job interview…thinking that it was going to be a slightly more high scale job…and so I was decked in a full suit…only to discover that this job was a phone sales position…and my soon to be boss, was wearing jeans and a polo. Awkward to say the least.

Based on the extremes of both of these instances, I have learned to think carefully about what to wear in given situations…though sometimes…a unique situation still arises…and that’s the case that we find in today’s story.

Another parable…Jesus is fond of them isn’t he? And today, he shares a doosy…a wedding banquet…that seems to be full of odd situations…Call me crazy…but doesn’t pretty much every detail of this wedding banquet seem strange…ludacris…almost laughable in the way that Jesus presents it? (pause)

Let’s think about this…a king throws a wedding banquet…the invitations have all gone out…the preparations are completed…the food is ready…everything is good to go…and so he sends out his servants to fetch the guests…and the guests…blow it off. (pause)

There’s craziness #1 right there…this is the king…social decorum would state that you would NEVER say no to the king…he invites…you go period…but yet these folks have something better to do…and they ignore the servants…at least the first few do…some of the other guests seem to be irritated…downright enraged at the interruption of the invitation…and they mistreat the servants…and some of them flat out kill them…WHAT? Kill the servants of the king? I don’t know about you but that sorta sounds like treason to me? No wonder the king gets mad and sends out his army…and that’s the next crazy point. Perhaps its understandable that he orders his army to kill the killers…but in an even stranger situation he also orders them to burn the city to the ground…hold on a sec King…this is your territory…that’s your city you’re burning down there…crazy…none of this makes any sense does it?

But after all of this, the king takes a look in the banquet hall…see’s the bbq all prepped and ready and thinks to himself…well…someone needs to eat this…and he sends his servants out to collect anyone they can find…good, bad, or otherwise…gather them in…bring ‘em on in…and that’s exactly what happens.

And now…despite all the craziness that has gone on to this point…its time to party…and the king…despite the earlier snubbing of the invited guests…goes into the party to welcome his new guests…and out of the entire banquet hall…his eyes fall on this one…random…guy.

This guy…without…a wedding robe….and the king…is…shocked. “Friend…how did you get in here…dressed like that?” (pause) And the man…has no answer…and he is thrown out. (pause)

Truly…this is a strange wedding that we’ve got going on here. What was this man’s crime? Was it that big of a deal that he wasn’t wearing a robe? Were the clothes you wore really that important in those days? Or is there something else going on here? (pause) Maybe, just maybe, what truly offends the king is the lack of preparation on the part of the man…everyone else seems to have taken the time to dress up…even if there were simply gathered in from the cross roads…but not this guy…it seems that he failed to take the invitation seriously…and he is punished for it. (pause)

Now…let’s remember for a moment that we are talking about a parable…and typically when faced with a parable we must ask ourselves just who are we in the story…because Jesus has this uncanny way of telling a story that points out our failings…and let’s us know that the kingdom of heaven is not gonna operate in a way that makes any sense to us…and considering the various oddities in Jesus’ story about this banquet…we can see that point is true today…

And so, we bring our minds back to the question of just who are we? (pause) Are we the king? Probably not…I’m pretty sure the king is God…so we can cross that one off the list…but what about the guests…those originally…invited? Do we fall in that category? Perhaps…I’m guessing at one time or another we have all ignored the invitation to come into God’s banquet…its in our flawed human nature to do so. (pause)

Well what about the servants…the ones sent out to gather the guest, the old and the new…are we the servants? (pause) Maybe? Probably, at least at one time or another…we are sent out to gather in more for God’s banquet table. (pause)

How about the new guests…those gathered…those brought in…good and bad alike…I think we all fall in that category as well…invited…brought in…just as each and every one of us was, at one time…invited to come and see this Jesus guy…and to hear the good news. (pause)

But what about that last guy…the one without a robe…the one…deemed unacceptable…the one cast out…excluded…the one, who wasn’t good enough? (pause) What about that guy? Can you relate to him? (pause) As this week went by…I had various conversations in and around this passage…and around general matters of faith as well…and throughout the course of those conversations, I kept coming back to this one guy…and the questions that surround him.

How did he get in? Did he sneak in? Was he there dishonorably? And really…in the long run, what’s the deal with this robe? (pause) And as I thought about all that…I felt a little bit of fear creep in…a little bit of doubt…and then the question…AM I…THAT GUY? (long pause)

Don’t we all fear that…being that one individual…the one deemed unacceptable? The one that catches God’s eye for all the wrong reasons…who hears the words of accusation…and worse yet, knowing full well that those accusations are true. (pause)

Ever been there? Ever stood in front of someone, knowing full well you’re guilty…and knowing that whatever they say, you can’t say a word…and you have to stand there…speechless…and take it? (pause)

That’s what I kept coming back to this week…the what if’s…the doubts…the fears…and I kept asking the question, “What…is…this…robe?” (pause) What is it that we are supposed to be wearing when we enter into the heavenly banquet in the age to come? What is it that will ensure that we are welcomed and not cast away…welcomed…and not thrown into the darkness? (pause)

And the answer…the only thing that I could come with is Christ himself…the son…the one that God throws the party for…we must be clothed with Christ…and then I found myself asking just how we do that…and low and behold the apostle Paul told me how…in the book of Galatians Paul writes As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself…with Christ. (pause)

And it hit me…the meaning of a sacrament…when God uses regular day to day things like water or bread or wine…together with a promise…and comes to us…and today…at this font…we celebrate this very thing for small boy named Elliot Johnson. (pause)
In just a few moments…Elliot will be washed with the water in this font…and likewise, he will receive the promise that God claims him as his own…that God names him his beloved child…and that God marks him with the cross of Christ and seals him in His divine love forever.

And each and every one of us shares in this same promise…that in the waters of our baptism we are clothed with Christ…and one day…one glorious day we too will be gathered into the heavenly banquet, where the robe of Christ will ensure that we are welcomed in the love of God…expressed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord…and as the Apostle Paul goes on to tell us, if you belong to Christ, then you are heirs according to the promise. (pause) Heirs of what? Well…heirs of a place in God’s banquet hall…a place at God’s table…but most importantly, heirs to the name…beloved child of God…and that…is something to celebrate.

So when God calls…and the banquet is prepared…don’t forget your robe…your robe…of Jesus Christ. Amen.