Posts Tagged ‘Authority’

To Be Remembered 11-24-19

This sermon for Christ the King Sunday is based on Luke 23:33-43. It is perhaps strange to consider a passage in which we hear of Jesus on the cross as the basis for his kingship in the kingdom of heaven, and yet that is precisely what we find.  Christ’s example reminds us that true power and authority is not found in strength or military might, but in weakness.

You can list to the audio of the sermon here:

Note that this was another extemporaneous sermon, so there is no text to follow along with.  Likewise, the audio is weak, so you’ll need to turn up your volume about the 1:26 mark.
(As I continue with this experimental style of preaching, I’ll be exploring alternate audio recording options to overcome this current situation.)

Epiphany 1-6-19

In this sermon for the day of Epiphany, based on Matthew 2:1-12, I explore the visit of the Maji, which starts off a season of texts in ways that Christ is revealed to the world.  In this story, we switch focus away from the Magi to the reaction of King Herod the Great. His action reveals truth about those who cling the illusion of power and authority in the world.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

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

The grace and peace of our Triune God is yours, now and forever. Amen

You’ve probably heard me talk about some of the congregations that I’ve been connected to in the past…both large and small. I grew up in one about the same size as Underwood. I provided monthly pulpit supply at a tiny country church for a couple of years where a dozen people was a good Sunday…but on the flip side I’ve been at some pretty big ones too.

My internship congregation was about 1200 people…and for about a decade, my wife and I were members and staff at the largest congregation here in our Synod, which at its peak had nearly 2000 members. Now the thing about a congregation that size…there’s a lot kids…and therefore…there was a pretty good sized Confirmation program…and it took a lot of people to make that happen…small group leaders, prayer partners, mentors, and of course…teachers.

Now that church had 2 pastors on staff…but with the large number of kids and classes, they needed more than just the two pastors to teach…and so by the time I was about 25…they started asking me if I’d help out…but let me tell you…I resisted that like the plague…I never thought of myself as a teacher of any sort…and so I kept saying no.

This went on for about 3 years…until finally reaching the point where I knew I’d be going to seminary and becoming a pastor…and since teaching confirmation comes with the territory, I figured it was about time that I start saying yes.

And wouldn’t you know it…it became one of my favorite things to do. I love teaching…and as you might have seen I do so in a lot different ways and formats…but teaching confirmation is one of the most enjoyable…and not only that…but I’ve got a favorite lesson that’s grown over the years.  Of all the different subjects that we cover in the 2 year cycle of confirmation…hands down…my favorite one is the Birth of Jesus.

I love it…because over the course of the lesson we debunk a few traditional aspects of the story that aren’t actually present…for instance…many of you have heard me point out that there’s no donkey for Mary to ride anywhere in the story…but the other one that always comes out…ties us into today’s story.

Epiphany…a focal point that only pops up here in worship on rare occasions…its always the same day of the year…and so it is typically happening during the week…but every once in a while it lands on Sunday…and we get to hear today’s gospel.  Now…I can’t help but think that a moment ago as I was reading the lesson…that someone out there…at least one person, reacted to our story like this. (Pause) “THE MAGI?  Wait….Christmas was like 2 weeks ago…they’re just showing now?” (pause)  Yep (and nod).

There is a common misconception that the Magi or wise men or three kings, whatever we chose to call them…were part of the nativity…but…they…weren’t. And based on a few bits of info we’re given throughout the course of their story, the best guess is that they showed up anywhere from a couple months up to a couple years after Jesus was born.

Now…as much as I love the Magi…we really don’t know a ton about them.  We know they’re from the East…and tradition has filled in all kinds of possibilities about them that we really can’t confirm…including names and even ethnic varieties…but best guess…they were likely from Persia…the remnants of a once large and powerful empire…and their title of Magi indicates that they were likely the court magicians or astrologers…maybe even the “scientists” of the day…and in their work, they’ve witnessed the rising of a special star…an event that has told them of the birth of someone with incredible importance…and so they’ve come looking.

History does tell us that this sort of thing occurred…there are records of Magi visiting the Emperor of Rome at one point…but this time around they head into Jerusalem…apparently whatever sign was present in the heavens through this star…it only led them so far…and they needed some assistance. And so…they go right to the top…stopping off at the palace to inquire with King Herod about the one born king of the Jews.  You know how the rest of the story goes…they figure out Bethlehem…Herod tells them to go and find the baby and then come back to let him know so that he can go worship as well…wink wink…they go searching…the star pops up again, pointing them to the right house…in they go and there is Mary and Jesus…they kneel down….open up their gifts…worship him with joy…and angelic warning dream points them away from Herod and they depart…very likely into the sunset with a lone violin playing a poignant song…and other than one brief reference back to them a few verses later…their part of the story is done.

That’s the story of the Magi…the story of Epiphany. Now Epiphany in itself is important…by its very definition it means a dramatic reveal or revelation about something…and that’s what we see. Jesus…the divine made flesh…is being revealed to the world…and as we move through the season of epiphany through the next several weeks we’ll continue to find stories of similar nature…as Jesus continues to be revealed. We see it in many different settings, with different types of people…some quite small and intimate…others on a much larger scale.

And that’s true today as well…because the story of the Magi following the star and stopping off for directions in Jerusalem points us to some intriguing facts about this big reveal.  Now remember, Bethlehem is only a couple miles away from Jerusalem…and even though Jerusalem was no longer the ultimate center of life in the region at this time…it was still important and the political and religious big wigs spent a lot of time there…so you’d think that by this time they’d have caught wind of the messiah’s birth…months, maybe even a couple years have passed…but based on their reaction to the Magi…it would seem that they are oblivious…

What we do hear…that with this news…with this inquiry about the one born King of the Jews…they loose their minds.  Some translations say Herod and the city were frightened…others say they were disturbed…but when we dig in we find that their reaction was earth shattering…the type of thing that you see in a fear filled mob…and to understand just why that is…we need to step away from the Magi and focus in on Herod…who might seem like just a secondary character…but who’s presence actually casts a really wide shadow over this whole deal.

Now when we hear the name Herod…it could mean a lot of people…the Herodian dynasty lasted the better part of a century…and included about 3 different generations of individuals who all went by the name and held various roles of leadership as granted by the Roman government…but in this case…we’re talking about the original…the OG Herod…Herod the Great.

History remembers him…as a strong leader…as a great builder…but also as a backstabbing, blood-thirsty tyrant. This was a guy who claimed power by marrying into an important family…finagling his way into the title of king by sucking up to the Roman authorities…and then promptly terrorizing anyone and everyone that might threaten his position…up to an including murdering several of his own kids…not to mention countless officials.

If you started to gain any popularity…or maybe gave an inkling of future plans…Herod would have you killed…because you can’t be a threat if you’re dead right? And honestly, this knew no bounds…because if we continued reading through Matthew chapter 2 we would see that once Herod realizes the Magi avoided him, he had every baby boy in Bethlehem 2 years and under killed…simply because of the rumor of a future king.

I can’t help but think that this reveals insecurity…and fear.  Even though he had been given pretty much the ultimate power in the region…I can only think that Herod was secretly terrified that someone would take that power away again. (pause)

Now I don’t know about you…but when I hear the name Herod…and when I think about this whole story and all the stuff he did…I just think…man, he’s just the worst. But then I stop and think about it…and I think it sounds pretty familiar.

We live in a world that is pretty constantly defined by might makes right…an idea that my way is the best…and I’m right…and you can join me as long as you agree with me…but if not I’ll destroy you.  We see it in our interactions…we see it in our conflicts…we see it between individuals, we see it between nations and political leaders.  We blame the other…we demonize…we shout them down…we threaten…we dig up dirt…we do whatever we can to destroy or discredit ANY opponent to get them out the way.

And what’s the motivation? It might be a lot of things but I think the base of it all is fear…fear that we have been given will be taken away…fear that the illusion of power and authority that we hold might crumble…fear that the things we’ve come to rely on will fail and we’ll suffer because of it.

Herod was guilty of this…all because some random guys from the east showed up asking for the one born to be king of the Jews…because if there is one born to be king…then that means Herod’s not…no wonder he reacted with turmoil and fear…lashing out to kill a helpless baby. (pause)

Now here’s the thing…you’ve all heard me say this before…but whatever it is that God is up to through the life and the death and the resurrection of Jesus…whatever God is accomplishing by the divine becoming flesh and dwelling among us…it shows all the world that might makes right doesn’t cut it anymore.  God is showing us that there is a new authority…a new definition of power…but to those who hold to the world’s way of thinking…to the illusion of control…that’s a threat…and they’ll do anything to beat that down.

In Jesus God was showing us the new way…a way of humility…of love and humbleness…a way of care for our neighbor…and harmony with one another…and the world…the apparent powers that be…killed him for it.

But if the Christ event taught us anything…its that this tiny baby…would grow up…would continue to show us that that the old way of thinking…the old way of being…the old notions of power and authority can’t win…they might of killed him…but not even death can shut this news up…and three days later he walked out of the tomb…overcoming that which should be the last word.

And that should make us sit up and pay attention.  We don’t have to look very hard to find present day Herod’s…and if we are honest with ourselves, we probably even see him when we look in the mirror…I know I do more often than I care to admit…and maybe, just maybe that’s why we hear this story and we think about the atrocities that he committed and we think “he’s the worst.” Because then we don’t have to feel so bad about ourselves…but those same tendencies are alive and active today. (pause)

But…the promise also remains that somehow God has already overcome those powers…even if it doesn’t seem like it when we turn on the news…see the junk that’s going on…and hear our “authorities” screaming about who’s to blame for it.

The promise remains that in the end…God wins…and no matter how messed up the world might be…and no matter how hard we ourselves crash and burn as we try to live out our lives…the love of God will never be taken from us…and that true power lies in vulnerability…something God showed us by bringing ultimate power into the world in that which is ultimately vulnerable…a tiny baby who’s very birth threatened those the world called powerful.

And that promise…that’s earth shattering…it’s a revelation…and when we hear it…and I mean really hear it…we might even call that an epiphany. Amen.

Who Is Called Greatest 9-23-18

In this sermon, based on Mark 9:30-37, I explore Jesus’ second passion prediction, and the way that it leads to expectations of personal greatness and prestige. Jesus is up to something different.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

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

Over the course of the past couple of years, I have gotten into the habit of watching tv shows that focus in on life in the political spectrum. I’ve made our way through several different series, the most notable being The West Wing.

It was a great show that zeroed in on the lives of several of the prominent senior staff that surrounded the President of the United States in the hectic day to day activity of the White House. The show ran for 7 seasons, and a pretty major feature of the final season was the presidential race that would culminate in the final episode with the inauguration of the new president and the subsequent change over in staff from the old faces to the new ones.

In one of the final scenes, the new senior staff walks into the West Wing and they all pause for just a moment, before pealing off in different directions to find their new offices…and in one instance, we see the overlap as the outgoing character picks up his belongings…shakes the hand of the new guy…and then stands there for a brief moment watching as the new guy sets down his stuff…and excitedly begins arranging his new office.

It makes me think of the expectations that this character must be feeling…the ideas of what things will be like in this new role…of the work that he’ll be doing…whether he’s accurate in his assumptions or not. (pause)

Now the theme of expectations is one that we keep bumping into here over the course of several chapters of Mark’s gospel, including today’s lesson.  There’s a stretch of Mark that features several different teachings from Jesus that appear difficult…unexpected…maybe even a little harsh…teachings that maybe, just maybe make it difficult to even want to be a follower of Christ…some of these teachings or themes are unique…and others pop up more than once.

We’ve mentioned before that when something repeats itself within the scriptures…its usually worth paying attention to…and if you happened to be here last week, you might have noticed something that sounds familiar.  For the second time…Jesus predicts his upcoming betrayal and arrest…he predicts his suffering and death…and he predicts that three days later he’ll rise again…its nearly identical to what we heard back in chapter 8…and funny enough…it would seem that 2 times isn’t sufficient…because a chapter later…in a passage that we’ll encounter a couple more week’s from now…Jesus is going to do it a third time.

3 times he shares this prediction with the disciples…this honest and open revelation of his eventual fate…of how things are going to culminate at the end of his ministry. (pause) Now, the disciples’ reaction today is interesting…we hear that they lack understanding of just what Jesus is talking about…and even though they want to ask him questions…they remain silent.

Maybe, just maybe they are remembering the last time Jesus brought this whole deal up…and Peter getting a little testy with Jesus before getting a verbal smack-down. Maybe that’s why they dummy up and don’t ask the questions that are clearly on their minds…not even Peter in this instance.

But instead…as they continue walking along towards Capernaum…their conversation takes a turn…and they start bickering. Now maybe their debate has something to do with Jesus’ prediction…but maybe it has something to do with this location as well. It seems a little specific to name that they are in Capernaum…unless we know a little something about this community on the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee.

Capernaum was an important city in those days. It was located right along a major trade route…it was also a boundary between two different territories and as such it was a taxation point.  The Roman government and military both had a presence there…and the residents, Jews and Romans alike, benefitted from all this with wealth and affluence.  It was a place of prestige…of authority and influence…in short…this was a place a power…and I’m guessing, as this merry band of Christ followers approached the city with words about this Messiah walking in their midst, the topic of authority and power seemed pretty important. (pause)

Now once they get into town and settle into one of the homes there, Jesus starts asking some questions…namely what they’d been bickering about…because it seems that their conversation escalated into an argument over which one of them would be called the greatest…who would hold the most authority…who’s the most important among them. (pause)
I can’t help but think that this starts to reveal a little bit of similarity in the expectations the disciples hold with what we heard out of Peter a week ago.  Jesus, you are the Messiah…and Jesus says yes, now let me tell you what that means…and Peter says No lord…the Messiah cannot be killed…you’ve got important political work to accomplish…take back the throne…free us from oppression, bring about this kingdom of heaven that you keep talking about…obviously you can’t do that if you’re dead. (pause)

It’ll be the same sort of thing when we encounter the last Passion prediction too…Jesus shares what will happen…and two of the disciples hit him up with a request to sit at his right hand and his left when he comes into power.

And today…same deal…Hey guys…Jesus is talking all that Messiah stuff again…I don’t know why he’s so set on the idea that he’s gonna die…I don’t know what that’s all about…who knows…maybe he’s being metaphorical…but you know what…when he takes control…its gonna be awesome…and we’ve been following him around…I wonder what spot we’ll each get.

That’s the debate…Jesus is here to bring about something UTTERLY new…a new way to live…a new way to be in this world…claimed and loved by God…and freed from the power of the brokenness that is still so prevalent…and in the midst of all this…the disciples are bickering over what cabinet position they are going to hold “in the kingdom.” Of who’s gonna be second in command…of who will hold more authority or prestige or status.

3 times Jesus tells them plainly. (slowly) I am going to die and rise again. It will be brutal, it will be painful, and you will all abandon me…and in three different ways, they reveal the same thing. What can we get out it? (pause)

I wonder…do we fall in the same trap? Do we get caught up in human expectations over what Jesus is going to do for us…of how we’re going to benefit from this identity as a follower of Christ? (pause) Is that how we look at our association with the congregation…or our identity and position within the greater community because of our membership here in the local faith institution? Do we wonder…or even seek out…the self-image of being called great? (pause)

That’s the rub in the disciples debate…they are arguing over who will be the one to be called…or named great.  Funny enough, they know better…because when Jesus calls them on it…they don’t say a word…its almost like they’ve already figured out that this isn’t what Jesus is all about…and yet it’s the issue most important to them.

Maybe its because the world works that way…their society was not that different from ours in that regard.  Power and influence and prestige and authority and fame and glory and riches were the currency of the day…just as they are now.

But Jesus proposes something different doesn’t he? It is not these things that will make your name great…you will not be called great because of these things…you want to be called great…welcome the least of these.  And he places a child in their midst.

Now in Jesus’ day, children were the lowest of the low on the status ladder…lower even than slaves…but Jesus could have also grabbed a begger…or a lepper…or a foreigner or a tax collector.  Anyone who their society dictates was unacceptable…Jesus says put them before yourself…serve them…and then you’ll be called great. (pause)

I’m drawn to that idea of being called great…maybe its subjective, because depending on the moment we might call a lot of things or people great…but Mark’s gospel really doesn’t. In fact…there are only two times when this exact phrase is used…to be called great…this is one…and the other is when Jesus answers the question of what commandment can be called the greatest.

Anyone remember how he answers?  Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself.  Place others ahead of you…that’s what Jesus calls great. (pause) But maybe, just maybe that doesn’t compute. Because this is an idea that is so utterly foreign in a dog eat dog world…a world where we have to look out for number 1…a world where we bite and claw our way to the top…but I always wonder…where does that get us?

There’s an old saying “the one who dies with the most toys wins” (pause) but there’s another saying that refutes it “the one who dies with the most toys still dies.” It’s a sober reminder that this life has an expiration date. (pause)

But…Jesus is doing something different…utterly different. This kingdom of heaven…whatever the heck that means…its different…it doesn’t focus in on power or authority or prestige or status.  None of those things that the world tells us you have to have in order to be complete will actually get you there.  But a promise that there is something more…that you have been claimed by the one who created you…that you are loved and accepted and treasured as you are right now…and that no matter what happens that everlasting love will not be taken away from you and not even death can get in the way of it.  That promise gives us hope to cling to in the midst of all the mess of this world that we are constantly surrounded with and bombarded by.

Trust me…there is plenty of stuff in this world that can drown us in despair…and there are plenty of times when that hope of the promise might just be really hard to see…and this is why we need one another…to reflect that light of life that Christ has brought into this world…to shine that light so those stuck in darkness have something to look to…to be the hands and feet of Christ, even in some tiny way…just to show this world that no matter how hard it rants and raves…and no matter how loudly it screams that might makes right…or that gaining just a little more and a little more at the expense of another will make you satisfied…no matter how hard the powers of darkness in this world rave that light WILL shine brighter…because when light shines darkness loses…that’s the simple fact of the matter…even when it doesn’t feel like it. (pause)

The future is unknown to us…we might have our plans or expectations…we might have our hopes and our dreams…but the reality might turn into something completely different.  May we find hope in the one thing that will remain constant…God’s promises for you have already been made real in the life and the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That’s something that we can call great.  Amen

Power or Weakness 1-1-17

In this sermon, taken from Matthew 2:13-23, I explore the illusion of power within the world, and just why God entered the world in a powerless fashion.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

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

Considering that my college degree is Horticulture, you’d think that I’d have a lot more plants around than I actually do…at least inside plants. But the fact of the matter is, I don’t have a lot. We have a couple house plants that sit in our front window at the house…and currently, I have one small plant sitting in my office window. And that’s it.

But that being said, the other day I was standing in the kitchen over at the house, looking out over the parking lot, and I could see my plant sitting in the windowsill in the office, just soaking up the sunshine. And in that instant, I got to thinking about just how amazing plants really are.

Plants are pretty much the most passive life that exists on this planet. They are rooted into the ground…meaning they stay put…not a lot of movement in plants…and through the amazing process of photosynthesis, they are able to just soak up the sunshine and somehow get energy…their power…comes from sunlight.  (pause)
Now admittedly, the idea of energy within a plant is a very different meaning than we usually associate with the word power. Power is typically understood as strength or force, or perhaps authority. But yet as I thought about a plant passively living its life, and the power of the sun feeding it…I somehow came around to thinking about today’s gospel story. (pause)
Now admittedly…as we find ourselves 1 week after Christmas Day…still in the midst of the season of Christmas…still in the process of celebrating the savior…the messiah…coming into the world…today’s gospel lesson likely comes across downright shocking doesn’t it? A story known as the slaughter of the innocents…Not exactly something that gives us a lot of warm fuzzy feelings as we are still riding high from the holiday celebrations. (pause)

Now admittedly, chapter 2 of Matthew’s gospel is really the story of Herod the Great. He’s an interesting character…he’s the king of Israel…appointed and authorized by the Roman emperor…a man who literally fought tooth and nail to get himself into this position of authority within Israel…a man who is so obsessed with his own political standing that he literally kills 2 of his own kids and one of his wives who he suspects is conspiring against him…not only, he’s so obsessed with his standings when viewed by the rest of the known world that he commonly bankrupted the nation with his expansive building projects.  Certainly…this is a man consumed and obsessed with his apparent political power.

Matthew chapter 2 starts off with the arrival of the wise men…so yes, today’s story is slightly out of order as we typically celebrate the wise men at Epiphany coming up in a few more days…but we see them arrive in Jerusalem, looking for a newly born king…as they have discerned from a star…and they quite literally end up on Herod’s door step.

Needless to say, this comes as a great shock to him when these foreigners come asking about a new king. (Pause) A NEW KING? I’M THE KING!  And Herod’s alarms are going off…but through some quick thinking, he conspires to use the Wise Men to find this supposed new king…and kill him. That was his MO…if there’s even a slight chance that someone is going to oppose his power…kill him…because they can’t challenge you if they’re dead.

Now this is where the story picks up today…the wise men get an angelic warning…something that is apparently pretty common right about this time…and they avoid Herod…but he’s still on the warpath and goes after the baby king anyway…and using the information that he’s gathered, he sends his soldiers off to the Bethlehem to kill all the baby boys younger than 2. (pause)
Shocking isn’t it…this abuse of power…that those innocent children would get caught in the middle of one man’s quest to hold on to his power.  It’s a sad reality…that those innocent lives were lost…that those families were shattered by the event…and honestly it raises the question of just why Herod was so paranoid in the first place.

But the more I think about that…the more I realize that the power that Herod possessed…was nothing more than an illusion. (pause) Think about it…because I think we often end up falling into the very same trap don’t we? The illusion of power…of control…this idea that we are in charge.

Maybe it’s a cultural thing for us in this day and age…but we like to be in control don’t we? We like to think that we’ve got everything figured out…and that we can direct the outcome of what’s going to happen. (pause) But let’s be honest for a second…can we?  Despite all the planning…all the prep work that we like to do…all the worrying about what may or may not happen…how much do we actually control? (pause)

I’ve been thinking a lot about that recently…and I’ve had conversations with many of you along the same lines…and I think we can agree that this past year has been rough, especially the past few months…a lot of death…a lot hardships and heartaches.

Now I’ve never been one to say that God does this to us intentionally…or that these things that happen are God’s doing…because I don’t believe that…but hardships do happen…they are a reality…and they do provide us with opportunity to learn and to grow…and if these past few months…have taught me anything…it’s the sober reminder that tomorrow is not guaranteed. We expect it…we plan for it…but the truth of the matter is that we are finite beings and tomorrow may not happen for us.  And no matter how hard we try to fool ourselves into believing the opposite…we are powerless against it. (pause)

And this…is exactly where the Christmas story becomes so vital…because God…the creator of the universe…the absolute epitome of power…enters our reality as one of us…the ultimate power, who comes simply in order to overcome the forces of sin and death and darkness in our reality…does so in utter-powerless-ness. (pause)
Let me say that again. God gives up all power when he enters our world as a helpless baby.

This is on display in today’s story…Herod, the political bigwig…is so threatened by the mere notion of the Messiah, who had traditionally been the one anointed to be the future king…that’s literally what Messiah means…Herod is so paranoid that he tries to kill him…Herod tries to kill a helpless baby.

Now through some angelic intervention, Joseph heads off into Egypt with baby Jesus and Mary in tow…and here’s the thing that I find kinda funny. Several times in this short passage, we hear of Joseph acting, and bringing along “the child and his mother.” 4 times in 10 verses we hear that phrase…and through the repetition, we are reminded that Jesus was utterly passive in this moment…he was helpless…a very small child…utterly dependent…period. The ultimate power in everything…God…was in the world in an utterly dependent powerless fashion. A baby, cared for by political refugee parents, moved around from place to place to avoid death at the hands of those who were threatened by his very existence.

And the funny thing about all this…is that it worked. Herod…died, and Jesus was still alive. Later on, Herod’s decedents would still go after him. And not only that, but the religious power would one day go after Jesus too…because he was a threat to their authority.

It seems that Herod, and later on the Pharisees and Sadducees put too much stock in the authority that was granted to them by other people. Because that’s all this illusion of power is…that other people respect it. When it gets right down to it…power as we like to think of it…is nothing more than another person giving in to you. (pause)
And in contrast, God choses to be revealed to us in the physical sense in utter powerlessness…and why? (pause) Because that is where we are. Maybe you’ve noticed in your own lives…it almost always seems that God is revealed within the absolute worst moments in our lives…in those times when we realize just how powerless we really are…how broken we really are….when the world seems to be throwing absolutely everything at is and we know there’s nothing we can do about it.  It’s in these times that God seems to show up in our lives…though often times in the way we least expect.  (pause)
No one expected the Messiah to be a helpless baby, and yet somehow, some way, that baby defied the power hungry tyrant. (Pause) No one expected the savior of the world to die on a cross…and even more so, once he was dead, no one expected him to be raised up again…but it happened. (pause)

And I’m guessing, that when 2016 started, 1 year ago today…none of us expected that our community…that so many of our families…would be rocked by the loss of loved ones…and yet through each of those deaths…our community gathered around one another…bearing the burdens of one another…and in doing so, shining the light of God into the darkness that is still fighting tooth and nail against his divine light.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it…but not for lack of trying. Just as Herod fought tooth and nail to hold on to his political power….just as the religious elite fought tooth and nail to hold on to their cultural authority…and just like countless different examples of stuff in the world today…the darkness fights tooth and nail to hold on to its power here in our reality…but the glorious truth is that when Light shows up, darkness loses.

Our faith gives us hope to cling to in these times when the darkness looms…and we know that it does…and the amazing thing about the Bible is that it doesn’t sugar coat this. The darkness exists, and we don’t have look very hard to know that’s true…because we see just as much shocking stuff in the world…and on the news, and even right here in our community…shocking events that are right on par with a 1st century tyrant ordering the deaths of innocent babies.

In our weakness there is power…but it not our own…and God in the flesh…a helpless baby, hauled off into political exile in order to save his life against the apparent authority in the world…this is how God reminds us that he is with us always…in the good and the bad…in the triumphs and the struggles…and that this helpless baby would grow up and then be willing to undergo that same powerlessness on the cross in order to prove it…and that’s where God meets us. Amen.

Speak the Word Lord 5-29-16

This sermon is based on Luke 7:1-10. Jesus heals the slave of a Centurion, and we are reminded of the importance of authority, both recognizing it as well as believe in it.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

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.

I’ve heard it said that some of the people that you grow closest to tend to be the parents of kids who do the same activities as your kids…and I’m starting to learn the truth of that statement…particularly now in the midst of baseball season.

But I suppose it makes sense…over the course of 2 months, 2-3 times a week you sit on the sidelines for hours at a stretch with the same people. There’s friendly banter and conversation…and you get to know them.

This phenomenon was on display earlier this week. We were sitting at a game, our lawn chairs in line with a dozen or so other parents. And during the game, one of our kids hit an easy little pop up that should have been a routine catch for the other team…but low and behold…the kid trying to make the catch bobbled it…and in the end dropped it. All the parents on our side clapped for the successful hit…and then the dad sitting right next to me leaned over and asked “You have anything to do with that?” I chuckled, but then reported “Nope, couldn’t take credit for that one…it wasn’t in the air long enough to get a prayer out.” (pause)

I hear this sort of thing fairly often…whether it’s for a kid dropping a ball in this case…or prayers that the game will go our way…or asking that we either get the rain that we need, or avoid the storm that we don’t…because…apparently…I’ve got pull. (pause)

If only that were the case…In truth…the title Pastor before my name doesn’t actually authorize me to do that much. According to our denominational structure, being a pastor allows me to preside over the sacraments…though there are certain loopholes tied into that rule…and because of my ordination our state laws grant me the authority to legally bind two people together in marriage…and honestly…that’s about it…beyond these two things…pretty much everything that I do could be done by anyone…preaching, teaching, visitation, leading worship…anyone can do these things…offering invocations at events, funerals…those things too.

And yet, I am entrusted to do these things…I’m given the authority to do so…and its this notion of authority that catches my attention today…because we see discussion around this notion within the gospel. (pause)
Jesus comes into Capernaum…the small town of about 1000-1500 people…the small community on the northern shores of the sea of Galilee…a place marking the cross roads of a couple important travel routes through the region…and the place where Jesus has established his home base in the midst of his traveling time of ministry.

Now also present in Capernaum…the home of a Centurion…a man placed within the hierarchy of the Roman military…One rung on the ladder…not the low man on the totem pole…and certainly not the top dog either.

Why exactly this particular individual is here in Capernaum is unclear, though its likely that Rome has stationed a garrison there due to the importance of trade coming through the area…regardless this man, tasked with overseeing 100 soldiers appears to live in the community…and as we hear…he’s respected.

The Centurion has apparently contributed greatly to the building of the local synagogue…and he’s on friendly terms with the Jewish establishment…likewise, as a commander with men under him…he’s well versed in the authority granted to him. He gives orders to come and go…or to do this or that…and its done…because of the respect that his position gives him…because the people honor his authority. (pause)

And yet…in the midst of this…what do we really know about the man? Honestly…not much…We know his position…we hear that the Jewish elders seem to like him…and we know that he’s got slaves…and that’s about it. We never hear his name…nor does he physically appear on the scene. Everything we know about him, we know…second hand…as he speaks through others…not even approaching Jesus. (pause)
I think it is often the tendency that we think of this man as a good guy…and he certainly might have been…but we don’t know…he might have been a jerk…he’s got slaves…he’s part of the oppressive forces occupying Jewish territory…and even his supposed generosity in building the synagogue could have been nothing more than political savvy to keep the locals happy. (pause) Long story short, we really don’t know anything about this guy. Even his relationship with the sick slave is in question. We hear that the slave is highly valued…but does the Centurion value him as a person…or on the more likely side…was the slave simply worth a lot of money that the Centurion didn’t want to lose. (pause)
Now I bring all of this up…because first and foremost…its important that we not romanticize this guy…good, bad, or otherwise…he was just a man, flawed just like we all are…and as he is stationed in this small town, he’s caught wind of Jesus and he’s heard about the healings that Jesus has already performed…perhaps with his close ties to the Jewish Leadership, the Centurion has heard stories of Jesus’ teachings…and his reputation as one who acts with authority.

And its this notion of authority that the Centurion grabs hold of…as he hopes against hope that Jesus might just be willing and able to do something about this illness that threatens his slave…and so, the Centurion really seems to play his cards right…honoring the various cultural rules that might be in play…those things that could possibly stand in the way of Jesus lending his healing hand in this situation.

He starts off by sending the Jewish elders…a group that he’s got some sway with…to go and get Jesus…and they play their part perfectly…This man is worthy of having you do this…for he loves our nation and built the synagogue…but perhaps more important than their words…is the inherent authority that they possess as elders in the community. Surely Jesus will listen to them.

And then…as the story continues we see that Jesus is, in fact willing to go help out, for what ever reason…and then, in order to continue to save face…recognizing the cultural limitation that a Jewish rabbi would be unlikely to enter into the house of a Gentile and risk becoming ceremonially unclean…the Centurion sends another group…and whether his humbleness is genuine…or simply another sneaky ploy to make himself look good in front of the locals…his words carry an important message. (pause)
Lord…speak the word…and let it be done. (pause) This phrase…this request, regardless of the motivation…is given by the Centurion because he understands authority…and Jesus names this as faith…but I found myself wondering, just what was it that Jesus praises here…what is it about the Centurion’s words that Jesus is so impressed by?

Listen to them again. “Lord, do not trouble yourself…only speak the word and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to one Go and he goes, and another come and he does.” (pause) The Centurion holds on to authority and what it means when someone who has this authority gives an order…he believes that when this authority manifests itself in a a command…that it WILL be done…and Jesus recognizes this…as…faith.

Believing in the word spoken by one with authority…Now of course this raises the question of just what the Centurion recognized as authority within Jesus…was it authority granted by humanity…or was it something different?

Because that’s the thing about the position he found himself in…or that any of us find ourselves in. Authority within humanity…must always be given. Perhaps its granted to an individual through an establishment…or by laws…or as in the case of the Centurion it is handed down from those higher up the ladder…but additionally…we also grant authority to those we perceive as being above us, by following what they say.  (pause) That’s the crazy thing about human authority…it can’t be taken, one way or another, it has to be given.

But when we start talking about Jesus…well that’s something altogether different…and whether the Centurion recognized it or not…he was appealing to divine authority…authority over disease…authority over nature…authority over creation itself…and that’s not something that is received from another…divine authority, which Jesus possesses…simply…IS. (pause)
Whether he realized it or not, the Centurion was appealing to the same authority that spoke the words and calmed a storm…he was speaking to the same authority that made up its mind that there should be light…and then said it…and sure enough, there was light. This same authority that literally spoke our reality into reality is present within this man…within the divine word of God made flesh.

And so today, the big question for us, is what does this authority…this divine authority, not that which is granted to anyone, but which simply is…what does it say about us? (pause)

That divine authority of Jesus Christ…the authority living word of God…the literal voice of the divine…SAYS…You are mine…I have chosen you…and there is nothing that will stand in the way of that…and I for one feel blessed that each and every week, we get to hear that…it’s a humbling thing to stand before you, not under my own authority, but under the authority of Christ, who declares to you that you are forgiven…that you are of worth…that you are chosen by God because of his perfect love for you…and just as the Centurion seemed to believe…that if Jesus says the words, then they are true…and Jesus has said these words to you…and if there is any doubt in your minds that God has accomplished this amazing work…this amazing thing that we are in no way capable of doing on our own…just remember the last things that Jesus said as he hung on that cross. It IS finished. (pause)

That work of redemption is already done for you, whether we realize it or not…because that’s the amazing thing about the divine authority of God which manifested in Jesus Christ…we don’t have to grant it…we don’t have to understand it…and in fact, we don’t even have to acknowledge it in order for it to be true…

But it is true, because Jesus has already said so…may this be our prayer today and every day…that when we recognize our own failings…our own shortcomings…our own unworthiness…that we also believe the words of our Lord who heals our brokenness anyway…
Speak the word Lord, and let us be healed…And then believe that this word…has already been spoken for you. Amen.

Authority-Its Tricky 9-28-14

In this sermon, based on Matthew 21:23-32, I explore the notion of authority. Jesus’ authority is challenged and he responds with a parable about obedience. This leads us to think about how we recognize authority and how we respond to it.

You can listen to the sermon here:

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

If you have ever watched me in the final moments right before worship starts, you know that I am a pacer…when nervous energy starts in I have the tendency to just keep moving…and particularly, I pace…a lot.

I also have the tendency to get up and walk around when I’m thinking about something…sermons for instance…and this week was a perfect example. As I was trying to get my brain into sermon mode Friday afternoon, I was walking around…and as I walked I realized that I was also doing something with my hands…(hold up whistle, step out and start twirling it).

Yes I have a whistle…yes, I twirl it. (pause) But as I was doing, just that, I got to thinking about other people that have whistles…the refs at my son’s football games…teachers when they are out with the children at recess…lifeguards overseeing the safety of swimmers…and as a self-professed fine arts guy, one that I greatly appreciate…drum majors.

And thinking about drum majors reminded me of being at the football game here in Underwood just last week for the Homecoming game…as well as quite a few other home games over the past year…and something unique that I’ve only ever seen from the marching band right here in town.

At the beginning of halftime, the band marches across the field from the backside…each coming to their assigned starting position…and the drum major turns away from the band…facing up towards the crowd and the announcers box. The announcer asks if the band is ready…which the drum major acknowledges with a salute…and we hear the announcement “The field is yours.” With that brief exchange, control…or perhaps it would be better to say…authority over the field and what happens on it…transfers over to the drum major. (pause)

It’s the notion of authority that brings us into the gospel lesson for today. We find ourselves in Jerusalem…Jesus has finally made it…and upon arriving, he has gone into the temple…and Jesus does not like what he finds…and just before today’s lesson…just before our story picks up for today…Jesus has had a divine temper tantrum…losing his cool and going off on the merchants and money changers…clearing things out in the event known as the cleansing of the temple. (pause)

And as our story picks up today…the chief priests and the elders of the people confront Jesus…wanting to know just what he’s up to…why he’s justified in his actions…for what reason or purpose he feels the need to upset the status quo…or perhaps more specifically, why he’s challenging the way things work here…on their turf…where they are supposed to be in charge…in short…they question…his authority. (pause)

Now, in Jesus day, teachers…or rabbis as they are called…receive their authority from their own teacher…who in turn had received it from their teacher…and so…proper authority to teach or issue commands as Jesus has done should be backed up with two-fold…or perhaps two-name…credentials…but as we all know…Jesus tends to buck the status quo doesn’t he? And the “regular way” of doing things just doesn’t tend to apply in matters that catch his interest.

And instead of quickly snapping to the “right answer” to appease human standards…Jesus answers the challenge in his normal way…by posing a question right back at them…You question my authority? Well how about this…who gave John his authority? God…or humanity…whad’a ya think boys?

And rather than cause any sort of commotion, we see the priests decide among themselves to try and maintain the peace by walking the middle ground…by giving the easy answer…they don’t want to recognize John as having had divine authority, because he made them look bad…and yet they don’t want to deny him, because the crowds backed him and the priests don’t want to lose the favor of the people…and so they shrug their shoulders and say “we don’t know.” (pause) And Jesus responds by refusing to name the source of his authority…which of course we recognize to be the same as John…divine…but that’s getting ahead of ourselves just a touch.

And within the story, Jesus decides to explain things in yet another normal “Jesus fashion”…with a story…But admittedly, at first glance…this parable seems oddly disconnected from the present situation…Jesus is asked about authority…and he responds with a story about obedience.

A man had 2 sons…he told them both to go get to work…one said no, but then changed his mind and did it…and the other said okay…and then totally blew it off…which one was obedient to the father? (pause). Perhaps Jesus is actually asking us “which is more important? Being honest but eventually listening…or paying lip service and not following through?” (pause) But if we limit this parable in this nature…if we try to sum it up that easily…I think we miss the point…and if we stop here then perhaps we all walk out of worship today with nothing more than moral guidance and the notion that we just need to shape up and follow orders…or worse yet the idea that we can chose to walk the “right path” and earn our way into salvation…and if we do that we truly miss the connection to just what Jesus is really talking about.

Because remember, Jesus is addressing the notion of authority…where it comes from. (pause) Now perhaps it goes without saying that the religious leaders recognize that Jesus does, in fact…have authority…but what they can’t figure out is where it comes from…he doesn’t have the right 2-fold rabbi deferred credentials…and by their established human standards…they find themselves confused.

But think about authority for a bit…think about how you recognize it…who carries it…and how we respond to it. If I asked the question of which direction authority flows, what would you say…at least of the top of your head? That authority flows downhill…that it stems from the top? I don’t think you’re wrong to think that…for certainly there is evidence that this is true…all we have to do is take a look at the structure of the military to see that…but when we stop and think about it…perhaps we also begin to realize that authority is granted from the bottom up as well…because if the proposed authority fails to inspire or persuade those it is trying to influence…then is the authority really there? (pause)

In short…we grant authority to those that seek to exert it…whether we realize it or not…true authority is followed…it is respected, perhaps even earned…but most importantly…authority…is bestowed…it is given…and much like faith…it is never self-generated.

And so we see that the flow of authority…or perhaps the power within it…flows back and forth between individuals…those with the proposed authority…and those following it. (pause)
But you know what? As I stand here talking about this today…I’m struck by how much it seems to resemble a motivational speech…or perhaps a keynote address at a business leadership conference…and that is not what we need to be talking about…and so how do we begin to switch our minds over to matters of faith…I mean, just what does the question of authority have to do with us here in worship today? (pause)

And the answer is this…if authority really is a two way street…and we grant authority to those who are attempting to influence us…then the question really becomes who are we gonna listen to? (pause)

Because there are a lot of different thing flying around these days…notions and ideas that try to persuade us one way or another…things that try to make us think one way or another…things that make us try to feel one way or another…and all too often, that message…that feeling that blares in our day to day lives is the flat out lie that you…just…aren’t…good enough.

Whether its subtle advertisements that let you know that you’re life will only be complete if you lose 15 pounds…or if you have this new flashy phone…we are constantly bombarded…and it seems like we always have that little whisper in the back of our mind that calls us “worthless.” (pause)
But…we also have a God that loves us so much…that cares for us so much…that desires to be in relationship with us so much…because we are of worth…and he tells us so…he tells us that we are loved…that we are accepted…that we are…of worth…regardless of our inadequacies. (pause)

And so today, I pose you this question…which voice are you going to grant the authority to? The sly one in the back of your mind that whispers the lie that no one cares about you…that you are worthless? (Pause) Or are you going to grant the authority to the voice that says my beloved child…I love you…and there is nothing that I will not do to show you that? (pause)

We hear in the story today, that the tax collectors and the prositutes…those who were socially outside the fence…those who were considered “unacceptable” in the eyes of the religious elite…they were the ones who recognized the need to listen to that second voice…that voice that told them despite their flaws…despite their failings…that they are loved…that they are accepted…and that their minds are changed. (pause) A better way to say this…at least according to the original language…is that they turned away…that’s what it means to repent…to turn away from the sin…but its also important to note that its passive here…they are turned away by something else…by the loving voice of God, who loves them enough to forgive their sin…just as he loves you enough.

And rest assured…he loves you enough…and so today, I’ll leave you with the question one more time…there are two different voices trying to take authority over you…one that says you are without worth…and one that loves you so much that you are priceless and worth any cost…so which voice are you going to listen to? Amen.

Its Not Over 6-29-14

Today’s sermon is based on Matthew 10:40-42. This is the tail end of Jesus’ address to his disciples before they go on the two by two mission. In order to put the scripture in context I also included additional verses from the beginning of his address in chapter 10. Within the sermon, I talk about the authority of Christ as it is manifested and entrusted to believers. Likewise I talk about what that looks like and how often, particularly in the world today, it doesn’t look the same “as us.”

You can listen to the sermon here:

Note that a few minutes into the sermon, there is a pause in the audio. At this point I am removing my robe to reveal the clothing I’m wearing underneath.

You can also follow along with the sermon text here.

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

Its been a year. Today marks Sunday number 52 since I began the call as pastor of Underwood Lutheran. And I find myself wondering today if you have picked up on my patterns yet…particularly in terms of worship and especially in my preaching. (pause)

Every preacher has their own style, one that develops over time…and I’m no exception. Just about every one of my sermons can be mapped out the same way. An opening story, often times something that happened in my day to day life during the week or an applicable pop culture reference that I describe…typically trying to include a little edge of humor to get you to laugh a time or two.

Then I switch gears into the scripture lesson, attempting to explain how, at least in my mind, the scripture is connected to the opening story…I talk at length about what is going on in the scripture story itself…just what God is up to in the midst of it…I tie in what this means for our day to day lives often times including a list of real life examples to get you all to sit up and pay attention so that when the “good news” of the lesson kicks into gear you all have something applicable to hold on to. Then I attempt to tie it all up together, connecting the whole message up in a pithy final couple of statements…I pause for a brief moment and finish it up with a final “Amen.”

Sound about right? Yah, that’s my style…oh and have you also noticed that they pretty much all start the exact same way? With the opening line “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Have you ever wondered just why I say that? I mean, its not really connected to whatever I end up saying right after it and I’ve even noticed that my tone of voice and delivery tend to switch between saying that line and then actually kicking off the sermon…Weird huh?

So why do I say that line? (pause) Good question. And the answer is that it’s a subtle reminder of the authority represented in the sermon. I don’t just say grace and peace to you. Because its not my grace to offer…and I can’t give you peace…only our God can do that…and that’s why I say it. (pause)

And have you noticed that there are a few other spots in worship where the same sort of thing happens? Does this sound familiar? “As a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ…and BY…HIS…AUTHORITY I declare unto you the entire forgiveness of all your sins…”

I stand before you today as I have for the past 52 weeks…and as every other individual who has come before me, not under my own power…but through the authority entrusted to me by God through Jesus Christ. And I am not alone in this. (pause)

Do you realize…that this same authority is entrusted by God to each and every believer in Christ? (pause) And that includes every…single…one of you. And not just you…but every single believer gathered together for worship around the world today…and not just that, but every believer that has gathered together across time all the way back to the disciples who were gathered together with their teacher and Lord Jesus Christ in today’s story, about to embark on important mission…one in which they would each be entrusted with the same authority…not their own, but God’s authority, manifested in humanity through Jesus Christ, and placed upon every believer through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And as we gather here today, we can ask the question of just what does that look like? Are there signs of this authority? As I look out amongst you today I see individuals gathered together…decent looking clothes…some quite dressy, others not as much…and perhaps as you sit there in the pews, looking up this direction, you recognize normal “authority style” garb on my part too.

I’ll admit it, I’ve got a normal style that applies to worship. You either see me in a suit with my clerical shirt one…or you see me with my robe and stole like I am today…but I ask the question…is that normal? (pause) Or perhaps a better question would be…is that necessary? (pause)

A month ago, we held our blockfest party…a wonderful event that was attended by many in our community, and one of the goals was to introduce ULC’s “new pastor.” If you were there…you may recall that it was hard to pick out just who the new pastor was…because I was walking around like this…
(pull off stole, robe, put on hat and sunglasses to reveal casual outfit)
I remember at several different points when individuals told me I was hanging out pretty incognito…and they were right…because that’s how I view the authority granted to me through Jesus Christ…the office of pastor is given to an individual chosen from amongst the people…it is given to an ordinary person…a sinful person…a person who is equally in need of salvation offered only through Christ. In short…I intentionally dressed casually, just like I am now…to make the point that I am no different than you…I am a fellow member of the human race, fallen…flawed…and in need of a savior.

And as fellow members of the human race who have been fortunate enough at one time or another to have heard the good news of Jesus Christ…that through his life death and resurrection God himself became human, lived a life full of every temptation that we likewise faced…and through his bloody death on the cross overcame the powers of sin and death so that we as individuals may once again be in relationship with our Lord…and through his resurrection we too may share in the inheritance of eternal life…that is the gospel in a nutshell and in today’s story Jesus Christ is charging his followers, both the 12 disciples then and everyone else including us today…to take that very message out into the world. To carry his authority, entrusted to us, out into the world…and why? (pause)
Because we are all members of it. Through each and every one of us the gospel travels incognito…there’s no special type of person…there’s no pre-requisite…there’s no pre test or entry fee or anything else of that nature…there is only the authority of Jesus Christ entrusted to you so that you too might be sent out into the world.

But now here’s the really interesting part…and it requires us to think about just what it is that Jesus tell the disciples…anyone who welcomes you, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. (pause)

Did you catch a theme there? The mission of Jesus’ followers…the authority to proclaim the good news that the kingdom of heaven has drawn near only manifests itself when we cast off all notion of control…and are at the mercy of another individual’s hospitality. Jesus says “you wanna proclaim the gospel…then go be welcomed.”

But just what does that mean for us today? This is an important question to ask especially in the context we are in right now…sitting here…in worship…together as a community of faith where, at least for the most part…we are members…we are the hosts.

And we are aren’t we? Think about it…as worship begins I say a special welcome to visitors. We have greeter before worship…we try to go out of our way to welcome others into worship together and that’s fine…but Jesus us today that this is not our mission…our mission isn’t to bring them in here…our mission is take the good news and go out there…to those that welcome us…

The gospel is not one of gathering, but one of sending…the gospel does not manifest itself by us proclaiming the message to the outside world You need to come in here…you need to look like us…you need to think like us…you need to be just like us…RATHER…the gospel manifests itself when we go out there, bringing the gospel with us of course…but not in order to make them more like us…but rather that we can explore that gospel…that good news with one another…learning from another…and who knows…maybe even discovering that God is already up to something in the life of that individual…and in those moment we might even find ourselves changed by the power of the gospel…the gospel which we have already heard.

And now when I say that…I do not mean to say that we should gather for worship…I do not mean to say that we should not be welcoming to the visitor that chooses to gather with us…these are important things…after all we gather together to hear the word of God proclaimed…to receive the forgiveness of sins…and to share the sacraments…these are all good things…but they do not represent the entirety of life with Christ.

Because a life lived with Christ is not compartmentalized…its all encompassing…yes it includes worship…but it also includes the remaining 6 days and 23 hours of the week…the gospel sends us out…and so I want to you to think about it this way…

The gospel is sending me…or more accurately, Jesus has entrusted me to go out and share the gospel with those that welcome me…even if they don’t look like me…or don’t talk like me…or don’t think like me…and maybe…just maybe through the sharing of this marvelous gift of the gospel, I too will receive a gift…that I too may be changed by this encounter…and that maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly what God has intended all along.

As the church of Christ continues to move into the future, the church is changing…whether we want to admit or not…its changing…and we are called to change along with it…to embrace the other…to shaped by one another until that glorious when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.

But before all can confess it…all have to hear it…and only then can the Holy Spirit work to bring them to faith…because if you haven’t heard it you can’t believe it…But once you have…who knows what changes it might just bring about.

Make no mistake, the gospel of Jesus Christ is not just some nice story…its way too brutal for that. The gospel is earth shatteringly awesome…it is utterly beautiful to learn that we have a God who willingly took on flesh, who became one of us…who depended on humanities hospitality…who did all this in order to reclaim the relationship between the individual and the Father…and likewise it is utterly devastating to learn that this relationship can only be possible because God chose to die for it.

That’s big people…we can’t hear it without being changed regardless of what the person looks like who is entrusted to share it with you…and we can’t proclaim it without witnessing how it can and does change those who encounter it…even if the person encountering it, is us.

And so today, I’m not going to try and wrap this all up with a pithy phrase…I’m not going to try and tie up lose ends…because the work of Christ isn’t over yet…we’re all sent and so that means the story’s not done…and if the story’s not done then the proclamations not done…and if that’s the case?