Archive for July, 2018

Now I Have Heard Everything 7-29-18

In this sermon, based on John 6:1-21, I explore two miraculous signs of Jesus, and how they remind us that God is with us even in the midst of terrifying events.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/now-i-have-heard-everything-7-29-18

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

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

My late grandfather had a habit, or maybe we can call it a ritual…one that started up about the time that he took on the status of “semi-retired farmer.”  About 10:30 every weekday morning, he’d head into town and pull up a chair with several of the other semi-retired farmers at the local watering hole. They’d each have a cold one and they’d share the news of the day…and once they’d solved all the world’s problems for another 24 hours…they’d trickle out and head home for lunch.

Now, maybe you’ve got a ritual kind of like this…a gathering place or even just a group of people that you swap the news with…those big stories that have caught your attention…those unexpected events that make you say “well now I’ve heard everything.”

I can’t help but think that with our 24 hour news cycle and the myriad of information available at our fingertips at any given moment, that’s probably a statement that we make with a fair bit of regularity…we hear something crazy…for instance I just read an article this week about a drug sniffing dog in Columbia that is so good at its job that the cartels have literally placed a bounty on its head…I can’t lie, I read that article and literally said it. “Now I’ve heard everything.” But I also know that in another day or two, something new and unexpected will happen…and I’ll probably say it again.

Now pondering along these lines…I find myself wondering if the same sort of conversations were happening about 2000 years ago around Israel…as people sat around talking about the events of the day…which I’m guessing they did…word of mouth conversations were the C-Span of the day after all…and so I wonder just what those conversations might have sounded like…

Hey man…you’re not gonna believe this. But I heard there was this wedding in Cana…and get this…part way through the wedding, they ran out of wine…and there was this random guy with a bunch of friends there…and his mom was there too…and when she heard they were out of wine, she went and told him…and he looked over at this huge water jars that they use for washing up, and he told them to take some out and give it to main dudes…and they did and it was wine…guy turned water into wine.  Woah…now I’ve heard everything.

But then like a week later they were talking again…Hey man, you know what I heard about that guy with the wine? I heard he’s been walking all over the place…like, healing diseases, and casting out demons, and I guess he was doing it down in Jerusalem during the Passover and he even threw a giant ruckus in the temple at one point. Woah…NOW I’ve heard everything.

Wouldn’t you know it…next time these guys get together…they start talking again. Hey man, you remember that guy we were talking about…get this…I heard he went up by the Sea of Galilee and SO MANY people followed him because of crazy stuff he’s doing…that like, they were all sitting around and it was late…and he told his buddies to get bread for the whole crowd…and get this, it was like 5,000 people…and you know his buddies, they just freaked out…thinking about how much it would cost to give everyone like a tiny bit of bread…well and another one spotted this kid who had a few loaves and a couple fish…but get this…the guy…yah the same one who’s been doing all the other crazy stuff…he took that tiny amount of food…and he said a prayer…and somehow…I don’t know how but somehow he managed to multiple it so that everyone ate…and there’s more…because after they ate…there was a ton of leftovers…I mean they started with hardly anything, but there was like 12 baskets left afterwards and he told them to pick it all up so the abundance wouldn’t get wasted.  Man…Now I’ve heard everything. (pause)

But wouldn’t you know it…the NEXT day…Get this, you remember the guy from yesterday…the bread and the fish and 5,000 people…dude there’s more…cuz last night, after that was all done…he went off up the mountain for a while, and his buddies, I think there’s like 12 of ‘em…they got in a boat and took off across the Sea for some reason…and one of those storms came up, you know like they do on the sea…and anyway, it was pretty rough and they were having a pretty hard time getting where they were trying to go…and you know they were freaked out right…I mean, I’ve been out on the sea when its rough too…comes out of nowhere and it can be scary, so I bet they were scared…but anyway out of nowhere…that same dude…he comes walking out to them…wait for it…ON THE WATER…You mean he wading in the water…NO MAN…HE WAS WALKING…ON THE WATER…You mean on top the water…Yah man…on top of the water…and his buddies were all kinds of freaked out…cuz, he’s on the water right…but he’s like…Dudes Its me, or maybe like I am or something like that…which isn’t that sorta like what God would say, but anyway, he told them not to be afraid…and then he was just with them in the storm while they were freaked out…can you believe that?  Man…Now I’ve heard…everything. (pause)

Here’s the funny thing about the gospel…and all these miracles or signs as John calls them…they keep happening don’t they? About the time we think we’ve heard it all, Jesus does something else unexpected…and blows our expectations out of the water…and maybe, just maybe as we consider all of these signs, including the two pretty impressive feats that Jesus pulls off in the lesson that we shared today…all we can is scratch our heads…and ponder on just who this guy is who can perform such awe-inspiring events.

Now interestingly enough…all over John’s gospel…scattered throughout the various interactions and miraculous signs and long periods of teachings…Jesus continues to remind us of just who he is…and he even said it today…I am.  Sometimes he uses this phrase as he compares himself to something else. I am the good shepherd…I am the vine…or even I am the bread of life…That particular one is coming right up just a few verses after where we leave off today…in fact the next 4 weeks will continue to feature the teaching of Jesus along with the interactions that this particular sign kicks off.

But sometimes Jesus simply calls himself I am…which happens right here in the midst of a storm as Jesus is walking on water. Now for the Jewish people…the name I am is a big deal…its synonymous with God…and the beginning of their culture all the way back in Exodus. Moses asks God what God’s name…and God says I am…if the people ask, tell them I am.

And as the disciples are in the boat, caught up in the wind and the waves, they might be crying out to God for deliverance…if you’ve ever been driving down the road when a giant rain storm comes blowing through, you’ve probably experienced that same sort of tension and terror…low and behold…in their fear…in this tension…in the midst of the frightening unknown…here comes Jesus doing something miraculous…something impossible…something that defies all logic. Something that can only be done by a being that is way more powerful than we are…

Now we’ve heard these stories before…perhaps we’ve heard them enough that we almost take them for granted…but imagine you were there…and you hadn’t heard them before…and there’s this man who is doing things that no human being can do.  And this man claims the name of God…

Could it be possible that God would be found in the human? That the divine…that which is so much bigger or larger or greater than we are would be found in a human body? Could it be? He performs these amazing miracles so maybe? (pause) Maybe, just maybe God would be found here among us…flawed and broken though we are. (pause)

But if that’s the case…I can’t help but think that it might raise some questions…or even some concerns for us as we hear these miraculous stories.  It would seem that Jesus performs miracle after miracle. Constantly doing things to better the lives of those he encounters…feeding them…healing them…and maybe, just maybe we start wonder why we don’t see the same sort of thing today.  We express faith in the same Lord right…in the same Jesus…and I wonder how many people might look at their own circumstance and wonder…where’s my miracle.

Diseases that go uncured.  Accidents that happen out of nowhere.  Jobs are lost…careers are destroyed.  Violence harms the innocent…we see all kinds of stuff like this every day don’t we…perhaps we even experience it…and maybe just maybe we wonder are those stories true.

And here’s the thing that ups the tension…we can’t prove that the miracles happened…I believe they did, let me be clear about that…but we can’t prove it…but we can still find something hopeful and reassuring if we pay attention to the little details.  That night on the water…as the disciples were straining against the oars…frightened out of their minds as a Galilee storm swept up the waves around them. Jesus miraculously came walking out ON the water…defying all logic…but what Jesus did not do in this case…was stop the storm.  He could have…we know he could have because we hear other stories when he does just that.

But this time…Jesus, the one they call the Christ…the Word of God made flesh…the divine in the human…the one who calls himself I am…he doesn’t stop the storm…he just appears to them in the midst of it.

So maybe the take away for us today…is not to be looking for a miraculous event to save us when things get lousy.  It might happen…but it might not either…and so maybe the only thing we can do is trust that we have God who is willing to be there with us in the midst of whatever storm is raging….because we have a God who loves humanity SO much…that the divine was willing to take on the flesh and dwell among us…to show us that the divine and human can and will be together…and in doing this God has made us a promise…that no matter what happens…no matter what storms start blowing…the one who can feed 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish and leave an abundance on the other side of it…the same one who has the power to walk on water…this same God will never ever forsake us…that’s the promise, whether we find ourselves in a moment when we can believe it, or whether our circumstances make us doubt it…the promise remains, and nothing will separate you from the love of the one who makes this promise to you.

And with that promise…when you’ve heard it in your mind and in your heart…then my friends…you’ve heard everything. Amen

Advertisements

Drama 7-15-18

In this sermon, based on Mark 6:14-29, I explore the story of John the Baptist’s death. This is an oddball gospel, both in terms of its location within the narrative as well as the absence of Jesus within it.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/drama-7-15-18

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

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

All we have to do is take a quick glance around the sanctuary to see the decorations, and we can tell that it was VBS week.  I love VBS week…it is wonderful…Each day, somewhere between 35-40 kids, another dozen or so jr high and high school helpers, a handful of adults, and 5 camp staff flocked into the church…and the energy level is off the charts.

Its loud…its crazy…its exciting…and I love it. There is just nothing else like it throughout the course of the year. Now, I spent some time trying to come up with the perfect words to describe the atmosphere here in the church during VBS…and in the end, the one that seemed the most fitting was simply…dramatic.

Now when I call it dramatic, I don’t mean to say that there was a lot of angsty drama going on, the likes of which we see on various reality tv shows…quite the opposite in fact…but the stark difference between a normal week here in the church building and the week of VBS is…well…dramatic…its what we might call epic craziness. (pause)

And speaking of epic craziness…let’s talk about the Herod’s for a moment shall we? (pause) Interestingly enough…the Herod family is smack dab at the heart of today’s gospel lesson…and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say, this is an odd one. Because while we typically refer to this story as the death of John the Baptist…we could make the argument that even John is somewhat secondary in this passage.

But to begin to make sense of it, we need some background…as the passage kicks off today, the very first name we hear is Herod…and honestly, Herod is kind of a common name throughout the gospel isn’t it? But when you hear the name Herod, you need to remember that its not just one guy…in fact its an entire family.  They all stem from Herod the Great. He was actually the big wig at the start of the gospels.

He’d come to prominence about 30BC, and had found enough favor with the Roman Senate to get the old “king” in Israel kicked out, and to get himself established in this role throughout much of the region. He was brilliant but cruel…and he was excessively paranoid that someone would usurp his power just like he had done…he was so paranoid in fact that he actually had many of his own family executed if he thought they posed a threat.

Speaking of family, Herod the Great had a ton of wives, and countless sons and daughters…and once he found himself in the twilight of his life, he did start passing along authority…establishing 4 of his sons as something called a tetrarch…not really a king…not really a governor…but somewhere along those lines…and then once he died, all four of these sons who now had a little power for themselves, started jockeying for position and greater authority…and that includes Herod Antipas, also known as King Herod here in today’s story.

Now remember, he wasn’t a king, and in fact when he asked the Romans for the same title given to his father they just sorta laughed at him…He had authority…he had power…but it wasn’t as absolute as he liked to think it was. And so he was constantly scheming, just like the rest of his family…trying to make deals, and broker arrangements to better his position. They’d ALL learned it from Herod the Great, and from what information we can find from history, the whole family, which carried on in prominence over the course of about 4 generations, was just as guilty.

Take for instance, Herodias. By this point, she’s married to Herod Antipas…but previously, she’d been married to his half-brother Philip, another tetrarch.  Herodias divorced Philip and married Antipas at some point.  Even stranger, she was already a Herod…thought to be a generation younger…a niece to both Antipas and Philip…the daughter of yet another brother. And she doesn’t seem like an overly nice person either…holding grudges against people who speak out against her and her apparent opportunistic nature…people like John who is imprisoned over this type of thing.

Now we’ve got more junk going on to…because Herod throws himself a party…he invites ALL the bigwigs from Galilee, the region he controlled…and as they are at this party…something kinda disturbing happens.

We hear that the daughter of Herodias comes in and dances…and that her dancing “pleases” Herod and the guests. We don’t know exactly what’s going on here. We don’t know if she’s a young girl, or if she’s older….we don’t know if she’s a willing participant in this whole deal or if she’s being coerced. We also don’t know exactly what the dynamic is between these two. She might be Herod’s daughter…although she’s probably his step-daughter.  Regardless, the odd-ball language really seems to be some thinly veiled indications that there’s some pretty major inappropriateness going on here…and I’ll let you fill in the blanks yourself on that one…and if that is in fact the case, I can only think that this whole family dynamic is utterly depraved. They’re power-hungry. They’re opportunistic…they’re wildly inappropriate. (pause) You think you’ve got family drama…your family’s got nothing on the Herods.

Now in the middle of this, some more trickery happens, and Herodias takes full advantage of this drunken oath made by her husband towards her daughter, and uses it to silence the critic who has spoken out against her…as she instructs her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist.  To add to the whole deal, the daughter ups it a notch as well, giving it a flair of the dramatic, by asking for his head on a platter.

And here’s where things get really dicey. Herod doesn’t want to do it. Granted he’s had John arrested…and he probably didn’t like the criticisms any more than his wife did…but apparently he also enjoyed having John around…but when those who think they have power foolishly flaunt it, often it bites them doesn’t it? And that’s what happens here.

Herod has a choice to save face with the people he needs to impress, or he can do the right thing and deny the execution of an innocent man…and we see what happens…and the innocent…the one who lacks power in this particular case, suffers at the hands of the powerful. (pause)

Here’s the thing.  As we’ve already mentioned…this passage is known as the death of John the Baptist…and rightly so.  But did you notice that this entire thing is basically a narrative side-note…this whole account is simply the apparent thought process behind Herod Antipas remembering that he had John killed…an event that had happened quite a bit before where we find the story in Mark’s gospel…we’re about half way through the whole deal…but we actually heard that John was arrested back in chapter 1…clear back at the beginning…so why don’t we hear about his death until now…why on earth did Mark think it was fitting to interrupt the flow of the gospel narrative for Herod to hear some current events and then justify it by remembering a utterly crazy situation that had happened a year or two earlier? Think about that.

And as you think about it…I want to back up to VBS…Monday through Thursday of this past week…the church was crazy…good crazy…but crazy. But then as I sat in my office on Friday…the silence was deafening.

You’ve heard that phrase before right…a deafening silence…its weird but somehow fitting…that once your ears have grown accustomed to the noise…silence seems to be somehow “louder.” (pause) I bring this up…because in the midst of the craziness of this story in and around John and the Herods…there is a silence that is equally deafening. A profound silence when we recognize it.

Keep in mind…this is the gospel lesson right. Now is there someone we haven’t heard from? A name…a person…that we tend to think of whenever we think about stories from the gospels? (pause) This passage has the RARE distinction…of never mentioning Jesus. He’s not here…granted…this story happens because Herod hears about him…and as soon as this gospel side-note wraps up, Jesus pops up to feed the 5000…so he’s around…but he’s not here is he?

Where’s Jesus…or perhaps, we might ask the broader question…Where’s God in the midst of this story.  The powerful, preying on the weak…where’s God?   Family members stabbing each other in the back to better their own position or authority….where’s God?  Horribly inappropriate actions going on between a girl and her step-father, not to mention being manipulated by her mother…where’s God? (pause)

It’s a little disturbing isn’t it? Shocking even…to notice the apparent absence of God here. And I can’t help but wonder if that’s often the interpretation when we see the brokenness in the world.  Where’s God when innocent people get caught in the crossfire…when students are gunned down in their classrooms…when young women and even small children are trafficked…or pulled from their parents.  When there is famine, or pollution…or disease…or accidents…where’s God then?

I hear these questions constantly…or I hear something similar…what does your Bible have to say about this stuff? (pause) Here’s the thing…if you read the Bible…and not just to cherry-pick feel good verses, or something to smack the other side of the political line with…but if you really read it…you’ll find that narrative of the Bible is just as much about the apparent absence of God’s presence as it is about God being among us.  And that can be a tough pill to swallow if we take it at face value.

But here’s the thing about the scriptures…they aren’t intended to be taken one verse or one story at a time…the scriptures, even though they were written over the course of thousands of years in several different languages by people of multiple cultures and faith traditions who lived on different continents….somehow the Holy Spirit has shaped them into a narrative that all fits together…a narrative intended to reveal that even in those instances when it seems like God is far away or worse yet that God hates me…or even worse yet, that these is no God…even in these times…somehow someway God is still work behind the scenes, whether we see God’s presence or not.

Jesus isn’t named in this story…and yet Mark tells us this past-tense recollection of a previous event here…in the midst of Jesus’ ministry…in the middle of the physical presence of God in our reality…in whatever it is that God is up to, bringing about the kingdom of heaven in the midst of this brokendown messed up reality…this is where Mark tells this story.

Because Jesus came into our realty…the one where it often seems like God is far away or just non-existent…and Jesus has done something about it…and not only that, but Jesus has given us a promise that despite the brokenness that all too often rears its ugly head…and makes those without power or influence feel even less so…that this is not the end…and that there is somehow more.  And so we hope for that amazing, mindblowing promise…of which we’ve only been given a glimmer…we hope for it…and because this promise is given by the man who is also God we trust it.

And we live our lives in a way that reflects it.  That’s what a life of faith is.  We live out our faith as we trust in that which we can only hope for.  We live in a confidence that no matter how bad things might be….this is not the end…and that the last word will belong to God, whether we can find God’s presence in this moment or not. That’s faith…when we can still hope, even in the midst of drama. Amen.

Things Change 7-8-18

In this sermon, based on Mark 6:1-13, I explore the rejection that Jesus faces in his hometown. Often our tendency to resist change blinds us to the invitation that God offers into a new reality.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/things-change-7-8-18

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

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Just a couple of weeks ago, my hometown of Graettinger celebrated their 125th anniversary. I wasn’t able to make it back to town, but I heard about many of the different things that went on…one of which included an all-school reunion. Now granted, I’m not sure how many of the 24 members of the Graettinger class of 1997 attended…I’m guessing a few…but I was thinking about that…and about the fact that my class hasn’t done an overly great job of having reunions.  We missed the 5 year…I skipped the 10 year. We missed the 15 year…and I think since our 20th was just last year everyone probably thought “let’s just wait till the all school next year.”

And so, with that track-record…I have yet to attend any of my class reunions…but I have been to one…and it gave me the opportunity to take an objective look back in time, as I tagged along to the 15 year reunion of the Manson Northwest Webster graduating class of 1997…my wife’s class. She and I road-tripped towards the booming metropolis of Manson, IA. And after a bit of driving around town, which is a small town about the same size as Underwood, and giving her the chance to see her old neighborhood, we parked the car and walked into the local bowling alley which was serving as the sight of the reunion.

Now, I should mention the fact that I did not know anyone that was going to be there. So this is where the objective part came in for me. We walked in, being one of the first to arrive…and over the course of the next half hour approximately 25 members of my wife’s class along with some of their spouses came through the door. And for the most part I just sat back and went into people watching mode for the duration of the evening.

It was fascinating. Some had stayed put in this small town, never leaving. Others had spread out a little ways but were still easily in driving distance, others had moved across the country, but then ended up “moving back home.” And a few, my wife included, have completely relocated to another region, but managed to make it back for the reunion.

But regardless of where members of the class put down roots…they all seemed to share a bit of a common trait…in my “objective” observational opinion…they never left high school. Everyone fell into the old cliques pretty quickly…gravitating towards those that they were comfortable with in school…mostly ignoring everyone outside of those old social circles beyond the polite greetings initially offered up upon arriving.  I can’t help but think at the 15 year mark, there’s a lot of truth that old saying that “some things never change.” (pause)

But you know what…I also can’t help but think that saying is wrong…because things do change. We might not notice it when we’re in the midst of it…but changes do happen…they happen in communities…and they happen in the lives of individuals.

The only problem is that we tend to forget this fact, until something or someone comes along that brings us face to face with it. And its possible that the best example of this is when someone “comes home” after years of being away…and we just can’t see them in a new role…but we think they are still the same person that they were when we knew them.

Now I can speak to this from personal experience…because if you had asked 20 years ago about a wise cracking blond kid from the class of 97, no one in my hometown would have anticipated that I would become a pastor…and when I bump into people at synod events, I still hear comments to that effect…and it would seem that I’ve got this in common with Jesus in today’s story.

He comes back to his hometown….and he finds himself bogged down in old expectations.  Granted…maybe its understandable. Nazareth, where Jesus spent most of his formative years…was tiny…I’ve seen the remains and the whole town is all of about 100 feet across. They estimate that the population was probably only a few hundred people…I’m guessing everyone knew each other.

Now imagine yourselves in first century Israel. There’s not a ton of excitement going on…but word is spreading around the region that there’s this new rabbi on the scene. He’s traveling around…hitting all the towns. He’s teaching, he’s even healing and casting out demons. There’s even rumors of miracles that the guy is performing.  And then you hear he’s coming your way…that he’s gonna be teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath…probably worth checking out.

And so, as Jesus makes his way into town along with his entourage of disciples…pops into the synagogue and starts teaching…people start squawking. (pause) WAIT A SEC…THIS IS THE GUY? That’s Jesus…known him for years. I remember when he was knee-high to a grasshopper. Dude’s a carpenter…learned it from Joseph. He helped put the roof on my house a few years back. That’s his mom right there…his brothers too.  (pause)

Now we hear that the people are in awe of what Jesus is up to…maybe in a good way or maybe not so good…but it seems, based on this whole deal, that they can’t quite wrap their heads around things…around the amazing stories that they’ve heard. About the miracles and the radical teachings about the kingdom of heaven coming near that Jesus has been embodying up to this point…I don’t know if the stories that had spread around had called Jesus by name, so that when the source comes strolling back into town they’re shocked to find it’s the young man who grew up playing in their neighborhood…or on the flip side if they had heard it and couldn’t quite believe it was him until he showed up again…but clearly something’s going on…and we hear that they took offence at him. That they were scandalized by it…you can even say they were tripped up at this new reality that Jesus was bringing about right here in their midst.

Their apparent reaction is so extreme that it Jesus compares his reception with that of the Old Testament prophets, and how they were often ignored or worse…and its even to the point where miracles aren’t happening…and it all seems to boil down what Mark calls their Unbelief.

That’s actually a pretty good description…its literally the opposite of believing…apistis in case you want a little Greek…Jesus is amazed…and probably not overly happy…at their lack of faith.

But if that’s the case…then just what is it that they are supposed to believe?  That he is who he says he is? That maybe, just maybe there’s something divine at work within this man that they thought they knew?  That maybe when he says the kingdom of heaven has come near…that it has done so in the flesh of this person that they’re scoffing at?  That maybe just maybe that which is divine and so utterly other than we are has made the choice to come among us…AS ONE OF US…that the divine will be found amongst and even within the human?

Maybe that is kind of a tall tale…but what if its true? Just what does that mean for those people on that day…or even for us today….that we might turn from unbelief to belief…from a lack of faith in the good news that Jesus has brought forth into faith….and not only that, but just how might that happen?

I think that’s a big question right there…especially for us in the church now in the 21st century…as we continue to look forward into an unknown future, within a society that doesn’t really seem to care if we’re around or not…with individuals who have either been burned by the church…or they’ve got zero experience with it…or perhaps worse yet, the only things they hear are the judgmental wrath that tends to get spewed around on social media or on the news by people who seem to have missed the utter magnitude of just what the gospel really means. (pause)

I think we all wrestle with that don’t we? How can we make this make sense to someone else…something that is so meaningful to us…something that has changed our lives….its changed our perspectives…this idea…or this concept…or maybe we just call it the truth of our own existence that there is something out there…we call it God…that takes so much love and delight in us as individuals who exist bearing the divine image of that thing we call God, that we are chosen and claimed as children even in the midst of the brokenness that is a part of us…that’s the gospel…while we were sinners, Christ died for us.

That’s it.  And it seems so simple…and it just kinda makes sense doesn’t it…and I don’t know about you…but this mind blowing truth of God’s grace changes everything…and once you’ve have seen you can’t unsee…once you have heard you can’t unhear.

But perhaps the biggest problem that we face is the desire that we have to MAKE others see and hear that which we have experienced…to somehow force them to have the same experience with the divine that we have had…because if we can make that happen…well then their faith will be the same as ours. (pause)

But that’s not how this works is it? How many of us can “make” someone else believe?  How’s your track record? How many people have you willed into believing this stuff? How many can you claim on your evangelism scoreboard?  (pause) I’ll be honest…if you say any number larger than zero, you’re lying to yourself…because we can’t do it…and in fact I believe we can’t even do it for ourselves. Others will disagree with me on this and you are entitled to…but I believe that faith…that believing in Jesus…that trusting God’s love is for you now as you are…it’s a gift…its not of you…and we find this if we explore the only other time that the idea of “unbelief” comes up in Mark’s Gospel.

There’s a story, its in chapter 9, when man comes up to Jesus, utterly desperate for someone to help his son who is possessed by a demon. And he asks Jesus for help…Jesus tells him, all things are possible for those who believe…and the man responds “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

That guy gets it…that the reality of the kingdom of heaven is WAY bigger than we can comprehend…and that even when we come face to face with it, it might be too big for us to handle…and so we look to the one who is able to do something it…for the Lord is the source of belief…God is the source of faith…not us.

That’s the beauty…all of this stems from God. Its not of us. The promise comes from God. The claim on our lives and our souls comes from God.  Through Christ the good news from God LITERALLY came among us…and just as Jesus sent out the disciples 2 by 2 in the back half of today’s story, to share their experience with this life changing news, we’ve been given the same authority and the same command to do the exact same thing.

I don’t know about you, but I find it a relief to know that all I’ve been called to do is to share what I’ve experienced…to share what I’ve found to be true despite my shortcomings.  God will handle the rest. Things change…and I thank God that its possible…and that through Christ, its not only possible…it is a reality. That, is what I have experienced. Amen.