Posts Tagged ‘Rev Dalen’

You Can’t Get There From Here 9-25-16

In this sermon, based on Luke 16:19-31, I explore the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, and what it means to be known by God.

You can listen the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/you-cant-get-there-from-here-9-25-16

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

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

Ever heard the expression “You can’t get there from here?”  When I was younger, admittedly, I could never wrap my head around it. It just didn’t make any sense…but keep in mind that I grew up in the northern part of the state…far enough away from the rivers that border both sides of Iowa that things are pretty open and flat…and for the most part…every road is straight, and there’s an intersection pretty much every mile…so if you are trying to get somewhere…more often than not…there’s a direct route…You can get there from here.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve driven in some different places where this…IS NOT…the case. Having lived in the city…you deal with all sorts of stuff that gets in the way…Vacationing in the mountains of Colorado…its even more prominent as the roads follows the contours…and you can’t drive straight to anything.

And finally, living here now…down close to the river…and the ways that pretty much all of our roads within 50 miles curve and bend all over the place…I’ve certainly learned the truth of the statement…particularly when I’m trying to drive over to Crescent…which is only about 10 or 11 miles as the crow flies…but somehow it still takes almost half an hour to drive there.

You can’t get there from here…we all know what that really means don’t we? Its not just the lack of a straight road between where we are and where we are trying to get to.  Rather, it implies some sort of barrier in the way. It can mean rolling hills or rivers…it could mean bridges out or road construction…it can mean a lot of things…but unlike those physical barriers to travel that the phrase implies…those things that the human race has found ways to overcome…making travel to literally anywhere in the world possible…in today’s gospel story, there’s a barrier that we hear is unbeatable…not just difficult…but impossible.

Now today’s gospel is an interesting parable…the rich man and Lazarus…one unique here in Luke’s gospel…but perhaps if think about the other stories we’ve encountered in recent weeks, one that kinda fits in. There’s a rich guy and a poor guy…and the little details that Jesus shares sheds light on just how opposite these two guys are.  The rich guy wears purple, nearly impossible to get in those days…saved for the ultimate elite in society…and he feasts every day…living every day in celebration of all that he has.

And on the flip side, there’s a poor guy laying at his gate…physically kept out…and he’s stricken with some disease that leaves sores all over his body…which would make him ritually unclean…and not only that but his only companions seem to be dogs who come to lick his sores…which sounds bad enough…but add to it the fact that dogs were unclean animals…and we see that he’s ostracized completely.  (pause)
These two guys in the parable lives their lives as polar opposites…utterly separated both physically and culturally…even though Lazarus literally lays at the gate of the rich man…they exist mere feet from each other…but they might as well be on opposite sides of the planet.

But…as we hear…regardless of their differences…regardless of the separation…the great equalizer shows up, seemingly at the same time…and they both die. (pause) Now this is where the parable often times gets hazy…because we see that the rich guy ends up in Hades…tormented in flame…and Lazarus is hanging out in paradise with Abraham…and though apparently they can see one another…there’s a great chasm placed between them…some sort of separation…and though the rich guy cries out for mercy and help…Abraham says well, you can’t get there from here.

Now there’s the odd little statement made about their respective lot in life…and how that’s been reversed here in the afterlife…and because of this…often times this parable gets lumped into the notion that wealth is bad…and to limit this parable to that understanding is a bit of a mistake.

Rather…I think we need to focus in on attitude of the rich guy…who, upon finding himself in the midst of torture here in Hades…which if you’re wondering is simply “the place where dead people are.” We see that his attitude of self-importance that must have defined his life as he ignored Lazarus languishing just outside his door…this attitude continues.

Father Abraham…Send Lazarus to attend to my needs…send him with water to cool my tongue…Now we already know that this doesn’t happen…and can’t because of the great chasm…so then, he changes his tune.  Well then Father Abraham…send him to my home…for I have brothers and I don’t want them to end up here as well. (pause)

Its almost funny, how this guy seems to think that he can order others around…and how much he’s clinging to his status…even in the way that he addresses Abraham…Father Abraham…By doing this…he is claiming the status as a Jewish person…as a descendent of Abraham…and an heir of the promise God made so many generations before…and ironically, Abraham doesn’t dispute it…going so far as to call him “Child” at one point…confirming that YES…he is a child of Abraham…but where does that get him? (pause) Absolutely nowhere.

Now we might think that its commendable that the rich guy changes his tune and hopes to warn his brothers so they will avoid his fate…but Abraham’s response here is telling…for as Children of Abraham…as members of the Jewish culture…they have Moses and the Prophets…they have calls to repentance…invitations to turn away from sin and look back to God…to turn away from selfishness and follow God’s command to care for all people….the invitation is already there…offered to them freely in life…before the great barrier of death places them on the opposite side of the chasm…before the separation occurs.  (pause)

Now perhaps as you hear all this, you are thinking that this is a call to repentance…and that’s all the message that Jesus is making today…you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking this…and yes I think that Jesus is reminding us of the need to repent from our selfishness and to open our hearts to meet the needs of those around us. (pause)
But…its also important to look at the flip side…to look at Lazarus…now as per usual…we lose a little bit of meaning in translation…because the way many of our current translation read…we hear that Lazarus seems to just be standing there next to Abraham…just standing there on the good side of the chasm of death…seemingly in heaven, which admittedly is where we would expect to find Abraham in the afterlife…he was counted as righteous by God after all.

I think we can all agree…that where ever it is that Lazarus is found…it represents paradise…heaven…and Abraham, being the father of the covenant…the original recipient of the promise…the one who seems to be the embodiment of God’s promise…well, it doesn’t seem like much a stretch to think that Abraham is the stand-in for God within this parable…and we also need to recognize that Lazarus isn’t just standing next to him…in the original language…Lazarus is found in his bosom…pressed up against his chest…within the very heart of God…and all we have to do is consider how close a mother is when nursing her child to see that Lazarus is experiencing the ultimate connection with the Lord. (pause)

And we need to remember…that this has not happened simply because Lazarus was some poor guy…but rather because Lazarus is known. (pause) Remember that this is a parable…a story told by Jesus to make a point…and Lazarus is the only character within any parable…the only one ever…to have a name.  Lazarus is identified…he is known by God…known intimately just as God knows each of us intimately…calling us by name, Lazarus is named…and interestingly enough his name is a clue into this as well…for Lazarus means “helped by God.” (pause)

If this parable teaches us anything…it is that to enter into paradise, whatever that’s going to look like in the age to come…to be on the “good” side of that great chasm caused by death…we must be helped by God…we must be known by God…its not about our status here in this life.

And how wonderful is it to receive the promise that truly God does know us…that he knows our names…he knows our every thought…he sees every tear that falls from our eyes and hears every laugh that comes from our mouths…for we are claimed by God and we are named by God…through our Baptism, we join with Christ, and through his life death and resurrection it is made possible for us to be known as heirs to the promise…and we are claimed as beloved children of God. (pause)

This is good news for all people…but as recipients of that good news…as heirs of the promise…we are given a task…and so we must also look back to the rich man in the parable…for once he recognizes his fate…he hopes to save his brothers from the same and asks that Lazarus return from the dead to testify…but as we hear, it is not enough for someone to return from the dead…and as we know, that’s already happened…Jesus has already returned…but there are those in this life who have not come to believe…and so we pray for those people…that in this life they would come to faith…that the holy spirit would work within them.

But before the Spirit can work in them…before they can believe the gospel…they need to hear it…and so in this life…before we cross that great barrier of death…we are called to share the good news…Lazarus doesn’t come back from death…but we who are still in this life are invited into the important work of God…who is bringing reconciliation between himself and the world…and we who have been claimed as God’s children are sent out to share this good news with all that we encounter so that one day…one glorious day…every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord…and on that glorious day, when God brings about the new heaven and the new earth…whatever that’s going to look like…then may we all be held in the bosom of the Lord…to be held by the one who knows our name.

We know that we cannot get there from here by our own power…but thanks be to God, that through Jesus Christ…through his death and resurrection, God has helped each of us…and we are all known as Lazarus…as the one that God helps. Amen

 

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Fear Not 12-24-14 Christmas Eve

This sermon for Christmas Eve is based on the birth narrative from Luke 2:1-20. In the sermon I explore the notion that heavenly beings always seem to open a conversation with “Fear Not.” And I wonder aloud just why that is.

You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/fear-not-12-24-14

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

On this most special of nights, grace and peace to you from God our Father, our newly born Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Well everyone…we can finally say it…Merry Christmas everyone…after another long season of planning…getting everything lined up…here we are…finally at the big day. And for most of you sitting out there tonight…I’m guessing there has been a great deal of prep work leading up to this moment hasn’t there?
Decorations of every kind to find and put up…lights, trees, wreathes…stocking hung by the chimney with care and all that. As I look around I see many of you in fancy new Christmas outfits…there have been travel plans to arrange…family visitors to accommodate, Christmas feasts to shop and prepare for.

Here in the church, we’ve done a fair amount of prep work as well. Getting the sanctuary decorated…prepping worship for this evening…lining up the special bulletins and the volunteers for different jobs…getting all the candles ready and prepping a special batch of communion for this evening…All around…people have been hustling and bustling to get ready for the big day.

But despite all the craziness of the season…which is admittedly, drastic…there are also those fun little things about the holiday season that make it special every year. There are a few different things that brighten up the season at my house…for instance, the ever growing ring of Christmas cards and letters that form up around our kitchen window as we get the yearly update from many different people. And one other one is the ever present stream of Christmas specials that play on tv…sometimes even on a continuous loop.

I always enjoy these specials…the new ones and the old reliable ones…but the one that sticks out in my memory the sharpest has to be A Charlie Brown Christmas…which first debuted in 1965 and has run every year since then.

I love this show…I think its great…it features everything from Charlie Brown attempting to direct all the kids in the Christmas Play…starring Lucy as the Christmas Queen of course…we have Snoopy going all out to win the Christmas decoration contest with his dog house…several instances of people getting called Blockhead…and a ratty little Christmas tree that somehow manages to gain or lose branches from scene to scene.

But in what is probably my favorite portion of the whole show…Charlie Brown is freaking out at the dress rehearsal of the Christmas play when no one is cooperating with his direction…in normal fashion he throws his head back and screams “DOESN’T ANYONE KNOW WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ALL ABOUT?” (pause)

And Linus…brilliant as always…with his strong moral compass…and his blanket in tow says…Sure Charlie Brown…I know what Christmas is all about…He walks out center stage…asks for the lights to come down around him…and then Linus rattles off a perfect King James version of the shepherds story from tonight’s gospel.

And there was in the same country shepherds, abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night…and LO…the angel of the Lord came upon them…the glory of the Lord shone around them…and they were sore afraid…and the angel said unto them…Fear not… (pause)

Linus finishes the rest of the story in a calm monotone…walks off stage, back to Charlie Brown to say…that’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown. (pause) I’ve always loved that scene…even when I was a kid…who knows…maybe it was a preconceived notion of my eventual day job…but I have always appreciated how Charlie Brown, in a mainstream special, still gets the point across. (pause)

Now all of that being said…I do chuckle at the King Jamesy version that Linus presents…particularly the notion that the shepherds were sore afraid. (pause) Sore afraid…just what does that really mean anyway? The language is, interesting to say the least. I mean, I know what afraid means…that’s obvious…and I know what sore means…I’m a runner after all…I’m familiar with soreness…and so we’ve got these two familiar terms…and I wonder if it’s a good idea to put them together…kind of like taking tacos and pizza…two wonderful foods that combine into a monstrocity…I think it’s the same deal here. Sore afraid.

I guess if we take it literally it would mean that the shepherds were so terrified, that it made them physically hurt. (pause) Have you ever been that scared? Has something ever frightened you so much that it physically effected you?

I had an instance just a few weeks back…driving up north to visit some family when the roads were a little dicey…and during that drive, particularly the last 10 miles, I was on glare ice…and I was hunched over the steering wheel…tense beyond belief…afraid that one wrong move would shoot us off into the ditch…and when that drive was finally over, my shoulders and neck physically hurt…what do you think…is that a good example of being “Sore afraid?” (pause) Somehow, I don’t quite think that cuts it.

But just what is it? What does it mean to be sore afraid…very likely, we can best describe it as scared to death…almost literally…and the interesting thing about this whole deal is what causes it.

Here’s the shepherds…just hanging out in the fields at night…trying their best to stay awake and keep watch…likely engaging in some sort of conversation as they didn’t have smart phones to keep them occupied…and who knows what they were talking about…perhaps the census that the Emperor had commanded…when all of the sudden…out of nowhere…an angel came upon them surrounded by the glory of the Lord.

This is what terrified them…the very presence of the angel…even before the angel starts talking…its just…there…and you know what…we’ve seen this sort of thing before. All throughout the Old Testament…anytime an individual encounters the angel of the Lord…they freak out…terrified even to the point of death…which sorta raises the question of just what these angels really look like…Something tells me it isn’t just the nice handsome guy in a white robe with wings and a halo shining over his head.

Each and everytime an angel of the Lord shows up…we hear the same greeting. Fear not…Don’t be afraid…Don’t fear. Across the board it happens…and not just in the Old Testament…but we hear the same sort of thing over and over again in the New Testament.

Our gospel story for tonight comes from Luke chapter 2, as it does every Christmas…and as we know it features the birth of Christ…but you know what…Luke Chapter 1 features two more stories of the angel of the Lord appearing to someone. First, we hear that the angel appears to Zechariah…a priest best known as the father of John the Baptist…then we hear that the angel appears to Mary…both of these individuals learn that they are going to the parent of an important figure…one who will shape history…but before either one of them get the message…the very first thing they hear is “Fear not.”

It doesn’t end there either…this baby…this Jesus…born this day grows up…and in his ministry we see this very same theme. When Jesus called the first disciples…Peter, James, John, and Andrew…some of his first words spoken to them, even before he names them disciples…even before he tells them that they will become fishers of men…Jesus tells them…Fear not.

We hear it again when Jesus is sleeping in the boat with all 12 disciples…and the wind and waves terrify them to the point of death…Jesus stops the storm with a word and asks them…Why are you afraid? (pause)

It seems…each and every time the notion of fear comes up around a divine being…whether God himself…or an angel…or Jesus here on earth…we hear the phrase Fear Not. And it typically happens along with some sort of faith based situation. Zechariah…your son, born to you and your wife in old age will be a forerunner of Messiah…but don’t be afraid. (pause) Mary, you who are a virgin, will give birth to a son, who will be the Son of God…but don’t be afraid. (pause) You Shepherds…you will be witnesses…you will testify to the birth of the messiah…so go and see…and Do Not…Be…Afraid. (pause)

Perhaps you’ve heard me talk about repetition before. That when something is repeated in the Bible, it usually means it’s pretty important…and if in fact that is the case then maybe, just maybe we are all supposed to get this same message. Fear Not.

And if that is the case…then tonight I pose the question to you…what is it that you fear? (pause) In each and every case we’ve talked about tonight, God was asking something of the individual. Asking for them to trust…asking them to step out in faith and believe the promises that God was making for them.

We’re called to the very same thing…and sometimes…sometimes…that can be terrifying…a life of faith…a life of trusting in the promises that God has made is not always easy…a life of faith does not come fully equipped with all the answers and every contingency mapped out for us…yet God still comes to us asking that we trust him…asking that we believe in the promises that he has made…and reassuring us that we do not need to be afraid.

Tonight we celebrate with joy and thanksgiving the birth of the savior…which the angel told the shepherds is good news of great joy which is to ALL people…ALL people and that my friends…includes each and every one of you.

Born today in the city of David is a savior who is Christ the Lord. And in recognizing that to be true we ask the question of just what he saves us from…and the answer to that will be discovered a few months from now, when we gather together and recognize that God himself entered into this world as a helpless baby in order to one day take the cross and beat back death…and he does it for each and every one of us so that in the end…we no longer fear death…but recognize that through his life we are reconciled to God. (pause)

The baby born this day…lying in the manger…has been born in order to die…and shocking as that might be…we don’t need to fear that either…because this is the work of God…the work that God is doing in our reality…in order to bring us back into relationship with him.

What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping…this is the child who was born to die for all mankind…he brings the kingdom of heaven with him…he brings peace and joy…he brings healing and salvation…and even more importantly…in his life, death, and resurrection, he will bring an end to death. (pause)
And that, Charlie Brown…is what Christmas…is all about. Amen.

I Am Not 12-14-14

This sermon is based on John 1:6-8, 19-28. This is the account of John the Baptist, and explores his role with the 4th Gospel.

You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/i-am-not-12-14-14

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

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

The idea of greatness is not one that we ever achieve on our own…Never once have I heard a story of any single individual accomplishing something truly great by themselves…it involves a sense of togetherness…even in those times when one individual emerges as the public face…there is typically someone in the background…behind the scenes…

Perhaps you’ve heard that old saying “behind every great man there is a woman.” (pause) While I like the sentiment behind that phrase…it is, admittedly, a little outdated…and so in order to bring things forward into the 21st century, I did a quick google search for some more appropriate versions.

Behind every great kid…is a great parent…who’s pretty sure they’re messing it up. (pause) Behind every great dog…is a cat telling him what to do. (pause) Behind every great student…is an exhausted teacher. (pause) And perhaps the best one I could find…and certainly the case in my house…behind every great man…is a woman rolling her eyes. (pause)

All kidding aside, each of these statements shares a common theme…that the prominent figure or visual or subject…whatever you want to say…is supported by another…they’re bolstered by another…they rely on another. And so perhaps this is fitting here in the season of Advent, as we move quickly towards Christmas…now just 10 days away…when the Savior of the world will take on flesh and dwell among us. (pause)

But before that can happen, we take this time every year to prepare ourselves for the birth of Christ…we prepare our hearts and minds…just as we hope that world itself is getting ready to once again welcome our Lord. And in the midst of this time of preparation…this short season that bolsters us up for the joyful highpoint of Christmas…it seems to serve a little bit like that quiet person standing in the background…out of the spotlight…just offering support.

And in today’s lesson, we hear about an individual that also fit that role…though perhaps this notion will strike some of you as a little odd (pause) If I was to take a pole of the most famous New Testament characters…the most well known…asking you to write down your top 10…I’m guessing that the vast majority of everyone’s lists would include none other than John the Baptist. (pause)

And rightly so…he’s one of the few characters that pops up in all 4 Gospels…his personality is quite distinct…with his long crazy hair and beard…camel skin clothes and his weird diet of locusts and honey…not to mention his famous line “YOU BROOD OF VIPERS!”

And John…well known as he might be to us some 2000 odd years after the fact…was even more prominent back in the day. He came on the scene before Jesus…he was active in and around the Jordan river…preaching and baptizing while Jesus was still hanging around Nazareth building tables with Joseph. We hear that large crowds of people from Jerusalem and all over Judea came out to see him…priests and teachers, soldiers and sinners…he attracted quite a crowd…we even here that he had his own batch of disciples that followed him. (pause)

But interestingly enough…here…in the 4th Gospel…none of that really seems to come up….Here in the 4th gospel…John is pretty toned down. (pause) There was a man…sent from God…He came as a witness to the light…the light which shined in the darkness…the word which became flesh…and moved into the neighborhood…John came as a witness, even before the light came into the world. (pause)

Now I don’t think any of us would argue that John’s purpose…his task…his job was not important…certainly it was…but interestingly enough…he himself downplayed everything…and simply went about…out there in the wilderness…sharing his testimony…sharing what he had seen for himself.

But in the midst of his testimony…in the midst of the ministry that he was performing…preparing the way of the Lord…the big wigs started getting a little uneasy. Here’s John…attracting a crowd…getting a lot of attention…and he’s changing things up from what we’re used to…we better get to the bottom of this…and the religious elite send people out to give him the 9th degree. (pause)

You’re baptizing…tell us honestly…Who are you? Are you the long awaited Messiah? I AM NOT. Well are you Elijah…or the great prophet? I AM NOT. (pause) I AM NOT.

Its interesting…throughout all of this testimony John never does say who he is…other than some off handed comment from Isaiah…John never gives his name or his credentials…the only thing he says…is what he isn’t…I AM NOT. (pause)
Now if you’ve ever heard me talk about the gospel of John, there’s two main themes that I tend to stick to…I’ll admit it, I’m a one trick pony in that regard…but the gospel of John tends to be about the light of God shining in the world…which incidentally we hear about here….or its about pointing out that Jesus…is God…and we hear that throughout the Gospel because Jesus continues to use the phrase. I AM. I AM the way the truth and the life…I AM the vine…I AM.

Ever heard that phrase before? Maybe when a random shepherd was hanging out talking to a burning bush? I AM…the name uttered by God to give to the people…claimed by Jesus repeatedly in this gospel in order to let everyone know just who he really was.

But let’s come back around to John again…Are you the Messiah? I AM NOT. (pause) I think its safe to say that John was pretty self-aware at this point. I’m not God…I’m not the great I AM…but there’s one among you…one that you do not know…and HE IS…and I am not worthy to untie his sandal.

John sets us quite the important example here…recognizing that he is not God…he is not in charge…that he is simply following the direction that the Lord has given him. (pause) Throughout the course of his ministry, John pointed towards another…towards Christ…his whole role was to testify about the light which came into the world…and we are called to do the same thing. To testify about what has been revealed to us…through our own experience.

Now you may be thinking that you lack the ability to do this…but John’s example defies that notion as well. In the beginning…John didn’t know who the Messiah was…all he knew is that eventually he would see the Holy Spirit descend and rest upon the Messiah….and low and behold…one day, it happened…and John realized in that moment that he was in the presence of the light…of the messiah…and with that John shared his testimony…he shared that which he had witnessed…that which he had experienced…in short…he shared his testimony of the relationship that he now had with the living Lord…and this is the very thing that we are called to do…to share that which we have experienced when we live our lives with Christ…and when we recognize that God, has chosen to live his life among us.

Now interestingly enough…this realization of just who the Messiah was happened for John in the context of a baptism…when the Holy Spirit rested upon the newly baptized…and we believe that in our own baptism…that same spirit comes upon us…and we share in the same baptism as our Lord…and in just a moment we’ll all witness this same thing together as Mieren Minshall comes to this font…when she too is washed in the water…and she too is named as a Beloved Child of God. (pause)

If you noticed…John never did give his name when his opponents were grilling him about things…Are you the Messiah? No, I am not. But he was claimed by God and he did have a name…so too does each one of us…Named and claimed by our Lord in the waters of our own baptism, marked with the cross of Christ and sealed in the love of God forever.

And so…if anyone ever happens to ask you if you’re God…you can let them know. I Am not…but I do hang out with him…now let’s talk about that…Amen

Where Is The King? 11-23-14

This morning’s sermon for Christ the King Sunday comes from Matthew 25:31-46. In the sermon I explore where we find Christ, and more importantly where he finds us.

You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/where-is-the-king-11-23-14

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

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

If the church year followed the calendar, we’d be in the gap between Christmas and New Year’s…just about to put the finishing touches on another year, and spouting off our resolutions for the new one.

But the church year doesn’t follow the calendar, and because of that, we’re already on the verge of starting over. Next Sunday begins the new church year, and with it, the short season of Advent. (pause) Now the church calendar, with its many different liturgical seasons runs in a cyclic pattern doesn’t it…and rightly so. Just as the 4 seasons of the year bring their own expectations…cold blustery winters, rainy transitional spring, hot dry summer, and cool dusty fall…the church seasons have their own expectations.

Advent finds us eagerly awaiting the coming messiah…at Christmas we celebrate his entry into our reality as a helpless baby…Epiphany reveals his presence to the world…then comes Lent as things get darkest…right before the new dawn of Easter when death is defeated…and then comes Pentecost where we track the growth and direction of the church from its infancy with the disciples and a few other people up through the descriptions of the end times and the call to be watching out…because at some unknown point in the future, Christ is coming back around for the second time and his heavenly kingdom will be established.

If you’ve been paying attention for the past month or so…that’s exactly where we’ve been…hearing week after week about the apocalyptic nature of what is to come…that we will eventually reach that unknown point…and Christ is coming back…and as we hear at the beginning of today’s text…that he will be in all of his glory and he will sit on that glorious throne…a throne…which is exactly the place that we expect to find a king…and perhaps this is fitting today as we celebrate Christ the King…and with today’s text, we hear, once again…that we need to be prepared because eventually…judgment is coming. (pause)

And today, I find myself wondering if any of you are as sick and tired of hearing about the end times as I am…if you are a little fed up with the repeated call to BE PREPARED…or to BE WATCHFUL…or in today’s case…if you’re tired of being told how you should be acting in preparation. (pause) Are you there too? Or is it just me?

I dunno, maybe its just seasonal burn out…perhaps I’ve just grown weary of the same topic time after time…week after week…but at times I find myself incredibly weary of trying to account every second for that unknown day in the future when Jesus will be sitting on the throne. (pause)

Now, before you all take a couple of steps back…perhaps trying to distance yourself from me just in case I’m suddenly struck down with lightning or fire for having uttered such things…hear me out. (pause) I grow weary of looking for Christ sitting on the throne out in the future…because if I recall correctly, the kingdom of heaven doesn’t really fall in the “not yet” category that we Lutherans like to talk about…on the contrary…I’m pretty sure that the kingdom of heaven is already here. (pause)

Way back in Matthew chapter 3…following nothing except a genealogy and King Herod trying to exploit the wise men…we hear John the Baptist declare to the world that the kingdom of heaven has come near…Its already here…and why? Because God made a choice to enter into our reality…In short…the word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood and with that…in that instant…the kingdom…became…reality. (pause)

And this whole time…throughout the course of the whole year…we’ve been hearing story after story…instance after instance of Jesus…of God in the flesh…walking around…encountering people…and today, in our story…we hear that reality of God encountering people never stopped…even when Jesus stood on a mountaintop…tipped his cap to the disciples…and ventured off into the clouds. (pause)

Today’s story features a division that apparently will happen at some unknown point in the future, when Jesus takes the judgment seat and divides the people…but I’m not really concerned about the division today…I’m more concerned with the response that everyone shares when Jesus addresses them.

I was hungry…I was thirsty…I was a stranger …naked, sick, and in prison. (pause) Everyone hears these words…and everyone responds in the exact…same…way…Lord, when did we see you? (pause) And Jesus response? When did you see me…More often than you think. (pause) You just weren’t looking for me.

That’s the crazy nature of this whole idea that Christ is the king of a kingdom that we don’t really recognize…its all around us…we just aren’t looking for it…but trust me…its there. (pause)

The kingdom is present when we help pay for supplies at the local food back…its there when we fill up a water bottle for a homeless man walking by Underwood on his way from Wisconsin to Oklahoma…and when we spend a few minutes talking with him even though he’s a stranger…the kingdom is present when we give clothing to Goodwill, or when we sit with a friend in the hospital…and its there when we take a moment to spend with the social outcast. (pause)

And if the kingdom is present…then you better believe that the king is present…and he tells us that today…whatever you did to the least of these…you have done it to me. (pause)

We have a God who made the choice…the conscious effort to put on flesh and experience this life…this life with all of its joys and with all of its hardships…and because of this, we have a God who is present in these times, good and bad…and so that’s where we look to find Jesus…we find Jesus in vulnerability…whether that vulnerability is our own…or someone else’s…that’s where Jesus is found…not because we’re looking for him…but simply because God is present in those circumstances.

We see evidence of this all over Matthew’s gospel…whether during Jesus first major address to the multitudes when he assured us that blessed are poor in spirit…and those who mourn…and the meek, and those who hunger and thirst…or when he reaches out to heal the sick and the lame, the foreigner and the unclean…for where they are…God is there also…and he tells us that he will remain with us, even to the end of the age…and you better believe that when God makes a promise, you can take it to the bank.

And today, we know especially that this is true…not only because God chose to put on flesh and dwell among us…but because Jesus was about to become the embodiment of the vulnerability that he talks about in today’s lesson. As far as the story goes, this is it…right after this, it’s go time…and the crucifixion train is off and running. (pause)

And in that, we see that God…is imprisoned…and stripped naked…he is the stranger on trial with the Romans…he hungers and he thirsts while he hangs on the cross…Jesus Christ…God in flesh becomes the physical embodiment of vulnerability…and he does so in order to share the experience with you. (pause)

We have a God who experienced every facet of life, so that he can meet us in those moments when we are most vulnerable…and through his example we learn that we are to meet him there as well…even in those times when we encounter the vulnerability of others.

Lord, when did we see you? More often than you think…because the kingdom of Heaven is here now…and we have a king that is with us always…even to the end of the age…even when we don’t recognize him. (pause)

And certainly there are many times in our lives when we fail to recognize Jesus being present in vulnerability…but in a short amount of time, he’ll prove it once more…Next week we enter Advent as the world waits in anticipation for the coming Messiah…as the world waits for its king…and that king comes into the world in the most vulnerable way possible…as a helpless baby…utterly dependent on others…just as we…utterly depend upon him.

Behold, the kingdom of heaven is here now…even if we fail to look for it…and if the kingdom is here…you better believe that the king is here too…and he promises to remain…even to the end of the age. Amen.

 

 

 

Go All In 11-16-14

This sermon is based on Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the rich landowner giving talents to his servants. Through the example of Texas Hold ‘Em style poker, I explore how we go “all in” with the gospel, and when we do, we are not risking the lose of the gospel itself…for the gospel does not decrease, it can only increase.

You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/go-all-in-11-16-14

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

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

About a week ago I was playing the late evening channel surfing game…sacked out on the couch, not ready to go to bed, and just hoping to find something on tv…I ended up watching coverage of the final table of a World Series of Poker championship. Now I’ve never been a huge poker player, but occasionally would play a game with my friends…and in particular the style Texas Hold ‘Em that gained popularity in the past decade or so.

This particular version of poker involves two cards given to each player face down, while 5 more cards are periodically laid out on the table. You use your two cards along with the available cards to make the best hand you can, and there’s a series of betting along the way. If you’re struggling to make a good hand, you can always fold, giving up any bets that you’ve already put into the pot…or on the flip side, if you’ve made a great hand and think you’ve got everyone beat, you can bet everything you’ve got…commonly called going All In. (pause)

Now, as I mentioned, I’ve played this from time to time before…and as I was sitting there watching it the other night, it wasn’t long before I picked up my tablet and started searching for an online poker app. I found one pretty quickly and so for the last few days I’ve been playing Texas Hold ‘Em against people all around the world…theoretical stakes mind you…but it’s a lot of fun.

In the midst of a game the other day, I had one really great hand that landed me a really strong payout…and suddenly my stack…or my pile of chips…was way bigger than everyone else’s at the table…and from that point on, I found myself way more willing to bet big…to let my chips do the work…even when other players tried to go All In, I was pretty willing to call them, because I knew I could handle it…and that I didn’t have to risk everything I had.

But on the flip side, I’ve been on the other side of the coin…working with a short stack as they call it…which means being the person without very many chips…knowing that any big bet could empty me out…and knock me out of the game…and in those instances, I get pretty tight…and I hesitate to take much risk…I guard my stack…because what little I have could be gone in an instant. That’s the risk when you go All In…either you double up…or you lose everything. (pause)

Today’s gospel story shares a similar type of situation…although I’m guessing high stakes poker probably wasn’t involved. Today’s story involves yet another parable…yet another story intended to point out how we should respond to certain situations.

A man was leaving on a journey…and obviously he must be a wealthy man, because he calls his 3 servants together…and dolls out a huge sum to them. To the first, 5 talents…to the second, 2…and the third, 1…each according to their ability. Not long ago we heard another story about talents…and in that sermon I talked about the value…a talent was worth 15 years of wages for a day laborer…15 years worth of work…I don’t know about you, but I’d say that would make a pretty great bonus if the boss just walked up and handed it to you…and regardless of how we look at it…in today’s monetary figures or the wages of Jesus’ day the simple fact that this is a sum equal to one and half decades worth of work should put it into perspective…what he is handing out…is something of immense value.

Now we hear that the three men received different amounts…each according to his ability…and that’s an interesting point…we don’t know what it is about the first guy that distinguishes him to the point of receiving the largest stack…but he does…and then the second guy must be a little more average…and the last, maybe not quite so skilled…but regardless of the amount, remember…they all received something of great value.

We hear that two out of the three immediately put their talents to work…we don’t know what they do…likely not poker…but however they do it…in whatever way it is that they risk the treasure given to them…the talents increase…they each manage to double down…so when the master eventually returns they are able to say “look Lord…you gave me 5, here, take 5 more.” Or “You gave me two…here they are and two more with them.” And this return is a joy to the master…and he tells them “Well done good and faithful servant…you have been trusted with little, you will be given much…enter into the joy…into the DELIGHT…of your master.” (pause)

But then there’s this third guy…the guy who only received a single talent…for whatever reason…and he’s not quite so pumped about the whole situation is he? We don’t know exactly what’s going on with this guy…but for what ever reason…he’s afraid…afraid to risk it. (pause)

Maybe he looked at the other two guys…and he felt jealous…he got twice as much…and he got five times more…they’ve got way more to work with…and perhaps his jealousy froze him…and just like that time when I was playing poker with the big stack, unafraid to risk some…knowing that I had more…or perhaps even more fitting when I was the short stack…sitting there afraid to bet…afraid to risk what little I had…because what if he loses it…what then? (pause) Whatever the reason…fear…fear of eventually having to face his master…a man that he believes to be harsh…that he believes reaps the benefits of other people’s hard work…he simply decides to sit on it…risking nothing…nothing gained…but nothing lost…so that when his master returns he won’t be blamed for losing anything…and he can just give the talent back to the master…and how does it turn out for this guy?

It certainly…does not…end…well. (pause)

Perhaps as we sit here today, thinking about this story…we start to wonder just what those talents are…and there are quite a few different answers to that question…considering the time of year that we find ourselves in…and tendency for the topic of stewardship to pop up…maybe we hear this and think its speaking about money…about how we are called to use the money that God gives us wisely. Nothing wrong with that.

Another option is to take the word “talent” literally and think about the gifts that we are each given…those gifts of the Holy Spirit…about how we are one body with many members and each member has an important role…so how are we going to chose to share those talents…nothing wrong with that either.

But the more I thought about it this week…the more I reflected…especially considering the theme that’s emerged in recent weeks…I got to thinking that maybe, just maybe, the talents that Jesus is speaking about in this parable…maybe they’re the gospel…the good news of Jesus Christ…the wonderful news that through his life death and resurrection, we are forgiven of our sinful nature…washed clean in blood through our faith…that the free gift of God’s grace is available…is offered to each and every one of us….because to me…that’s something of great value. (pause)

But if that is the case…then it raises the question of just what are supposed to do with that? The first two servants in the story put their talents to work…and their talents increased…while the third guy just sat on it…doing nothing with it…and it remained exactly as it was…and not only that…it was taken away from him.

So what does that mean? How do we put the gospel to work? (pause) How do we risk it? (pause) Jesus himself answers that question for us, just a few short chapters after this. Following his death and resurrection, Jesus takes the disciples out to a mountain…and he tells them…All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me…Go make disciples of all nations…teaching them all that I have taught you…and remember that I am with you always.

That’s it…putting the Gospel to work…risking the gospel…means making disciples…and how do we do that? Well…its pretty simple…we share the gospel…that’s it…because a person can’t become a disciple…they can’t learn about it unless they first hear about it? That’s what we’re called to do…and not out of obligation…but out of love…someone back in your history loved you enough to share the gospel with you…they must have because otherwise you wouldn’t be here today…and loving someone enough to share this life altering news with them…that’s just one way that we follow Jesus’ other command to first love God, and then to love our neighbor.

And the beauty of all this…the wonderful nature of the gospel is that when we risk it…when we go all in and share this incredible thing with others…we don’t lose it…we can’t…the gospel doesn’t work that way…we don’t divide part of what we have to give to someone else…when we share it…the gospel simply grows…and they have the full measure just as you do…and this is why those two servants were able to come to their master and say…look, what you have given us has doubled. (pause) The gospel cannot help but grow when we put it to work. (pause)

But what of that third man…the one who lived in fear…the one who chose to guard the talent…to safeguard the gospel and not give it away lest he lose it and have nothing to show for it…what happened to him? In his fear, exactly what he was afraid of became his reality.

The gospel does not live in fear…in cannot…because to be afraid to lose it…means that you never had it in the first place. (pause) The gospel…the good news that Jesus Christ lived and died for you makes you a new creation…and as a new creation, we know that this good news is not something that we keep to ourselves…we don’t guard it…we don’t hide it away from others…we must share it…because we know that this good news of salvation in Jesus Christ is not something that we are allowed to hinder…we do not get to judge who is worthy to hear it…because no one is worthy…including us…and at the very same time everyone is worthy…including us.

In God’s incredible wisdom…and immeasurable love for all humankind, God risked it all…God became human…lived among us…and willingly paid everything he could….because God died for you…God went all in…and because God is generous, he shares that with us.

And so today I pose the question…what are you willing to risk for the Gospel? Are you willing to risk it all…knowing that the gospel cannot be taken away from us when we share it…when we put it to work…knowing that it can only increase…

Truly we are all given gifts…we are all given talents and treasures…but most importantly we are given the Gospel…and when we chose to use it…when we take it out into the world and share it with those we encounter, then one day we too will hear those wonderful words from the master…Well done good and faithful servant…enter into the joy…enter…into the delight…of your master…and make no mistake…God delights in you…because God loves you

This is why God went All in…will you?

Amen.

Talents. Metaphorical or Literal?

Here in November, as we approach the end of the season of Pentecost and with it the end of another church year, our weekly Gospel texts have become quite apocalyptic in nature. Jesus talks with his followers about the end times, affirming that at some unknown point in the future, it will occur. Jesus will come back…the kicker is that no one short of the Father himself knows when this will be. And so, Jesus stresses the importance of living out our day to lives reflecting the truth that at any moment, it will be time. It may happen 5 minutes from now, or it may happen a millennia from now. Despite this, often times maddening unknown, Jesus stresses that we know the truth and we are called to live in a way that reflects that.

This week’s Gospel found in Matthew 25:14-30, fits right into this same theme, as we hear the parable of the three servants, each given talents as their master departs on a journey. One receives 5, one 2, and the final a single talent. The first two servants immediately put the talents to work, and by the time the master returns, they have doubled their investments. But the final servant, worrying about the Masters ability to be a harsh judge, simply hides the single talent until such time as he can return it, along with some harsh words based on his perception of the master himself. It does not end well for this final servant.

This passage, partnered up with last week’s gospel lesson of the 10 bridesmaids, 5 of whom eventually find out that the door into the celebration is shut, as well as next week’s lesson of the eventual separation of the sheep from the goats, paints a tough picture. The reality that Jesus implores us to recognize is that there WILL be a time when the door is shut (10 bridesmaids) and you’ve been entrusted with this amazingly valuable gift (the gospel) so what are you going to do with it? Its not about earning your salvation…its about sharing what you’ve been given…not storing it away. It seems to be, once again, how you live your life today in a way that reflects that Jesus could come back in 5 minutes.

Some may find a connection between this train of thought and the notion of stewardship. While stewardship can, and often does get associated with money, its more important to consider that stewardship is all encompassing. How do we honor God with all that He has given us? And perhaps this is fitting for us today as we begin to look forward at the upcoming year. How is God calling us as a congregation, as a community of believers, to act with the gifts we’ve been given?

A talent was the equivalent of 15 years worth of wages for a day laborer in Jesus’ time…so in short, it was of great value. Perhaps this gospel lesson speaks of talents as our Spiritual Gifts (the most common interpretation). But I tend to think of the talent being the Gospel itself…something of far greater value than simple wages. If this is, in fact the case, then it seems as if Jesus is telling us that today, right now, we need to live in a way that reflects the life-shattering difference that the gospel makes in our lives. No longer are we called to live in the darkness, but rather to bear witness to the amazing light that is Christ himself. And as the Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Let us keep this in mind as we continue to do the work entrusted to us by God until the day when we see our Maker face to face.

How Are We Supposed to Prepare Ourselves 11-9-14

This morning’s sermon is based on Matthew 25:1-13, the parable of the 10 Bridesmaids. Jesus instructs us to be prepared, and I explore just what that means for us.

You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/how-are-we-supposed-to-prepare-ourselves-11-9-14

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

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

Over the course of this week, I found myself reflecting back on the process that prepared me for pastoral ministry…namely the process of candidacy through the Synod office, which I began in the fall of 2007…including 3 separate steps which were completed at different stages alongside the process of my seminary education.

Both candidacy and seminary included a lot of milestone moments…each defined by a specific portion of time and effort…there were papers to write, interviews to endure, work to do…and in many instances, I found myself in a big hurry to finish some specific requirement by a deadline…only to find myself then in the process of waiting for that next step to occur…but one trend emerged throughout all that time and all those steps…for each and every one of them, I had to be prepared, even those that I really didn’t know what to be prepared for.

As I look back at all those different steps, I think my favorite one was my year of internship, fairly late in the whole process…a time when I was able to start putting all the theory into practice…experiencing ministry by doing it in a congregational setting…and while the year of internship had its fair share of times that I had to be prepared in one way or another…there is a specific instance that really stands out in my memory.

Fairly late in the year I had the opportunity to go along for a week in Green Bay, WI on a Junior High mission trip. Admittedly I was pretty excited about this whole deal. I’d been teaching the jr high confirmation class all year and had a pretty good relationship with most of the kids…I did, and still do, claim to be on the same mental level with jr high students so it promised to be a good time.

During the week in Green Bay, we had one evening of “free time” and the plan as the group, including about 40 kids and 5 adults…to head off to a small amusement park. We divided up into groups, and I found myself surrounded by about 6 or 7 8th grade boys…and we joked around as we headed off to our first destination…the roller coaster.

Now this particular roller coaster was an old time wooden coaster…and if you’ve ever ridden of those, you know that the safety system that keeps you in the cart…while certainly functional…isn’t exactly the most comfortable situation…2 people to a car, with a big metal bar that locks down over your lap. It keeps you there, but there’s a lot of sliding back and forth as you go around curves…not to mention a certain amount of bouncing up and down when you go over to top of hills.

Now as this group of young gentlemen and I took on the coaster for the first time we were all surprised at a certain point towards the end of the ride when a very quick hump lifted us up before immediately yanking us right back downwards again…and with the loose safety bar situation…you can imagine the reaction when we unexpected made contact with that bar locked down across our laps.

Interestingly enough, being jr high boys…and one adult leader on the same mental level…we all got quite the charge out of that…and it was certainly the immediate topic of conversation as we exited the coaster…and it took us all about 5 seconds to decide that we needed to go again.

Now on our second time around…as we approached this certain spot on the coaster…all of us anticipating the shock that we would once again experience…I yelled out the boys. “PREPARE YOURSELVES!!!!” and heard laughter from the whole crew for a brief second until everyone…once again…reacted to meeting with the cross bar…Now let me tell you…this whole group got such a kick out of the whole situation, that we actually named that portion of the roller coaster “prepare yourselves” and we spent the next hour standing alongside the coaster itself, just so we could laugh at the reaction of every single guy that went over it. (pause) Was it wise on our parts, probably not…was it foolish? Most likely…prepare yourselves.

This notion of being wise or foolish regarding being prepared pulls us right into the gospel lesson today…the parable of the 10 bridesmaids…a well-known tale that cautions us to “be prepared.” (pause) Now if we stop for a moment and think about just where we are in the church year, perhaps this passage starts to make a little more sense. It’s November, and we find ourselves rapidly approaching the end of the season of Pentecost…just a couple more weeks from now…and the season of Pentecost is one where we as the church take a long look at the ongoing history of the church itself…beginning with the acts of the apostles shortly after Jesus ascension…and culminating now as the church looks forward to the end times.

And this is exactly where our passage occurs today. In the chapter just before this passage, Jesus has been talking about the last days…speaking very apocalyptically to his followers about what will happen…about what to expect when all of this comes winding down to a close before Jesus returns…Matthew’s gospel is certainly keen on this notion as well…often times we catch glimpses of what is to come…of the trials and tribulations…of the final judgment to come…and today’s story does more of the same.

The bridegroom is coming…but when? That’s the real question…both the question for us today as we think about Christ…the ultimate bridegroom coming back for his bride…the church…as well as for the proverbial bridesmaids in the parable.

Now speaking of these 10 bridesmaids…we can raise the question of just what exactly were they doing? I wish I could give you some sort of perspective, but in all honesty I don’t really know that much about 1st century wedding customs to know what they were up to…all I know is that the groom goes and fetches his bride…and brings her to the wedding feast…and apparently the bridesmaids are tasked with bringing along a lamp and escorting them as they go.

And when we take a look at these 10 girls…all 10 were ready to do that…all 10 picked their lamps…and stepped out into the street to wait…ready to do their duty…and what happens? Well…for whatever reason…the groom doesn’t show up when he’s supposed to…and darkness falls…and still they’re waiting…and as none of them had a smart phone to mess around with while they stood around…they got bored…and they got tired…and all 10 of them konked out. All 10…wise and foolish alike…and then, in the middle of the night when things are at their darkest…they are jolted awake when suddenly he decides to show up.

Now at this point all 10 discover that their lamps are out of oil…and here’s where the division starts…5 had thought ahead and brought a flask of extra oil…and 5 hadn’t. 5 were ready for this unseen delay…and 5 weren’t…all 10 were ready for their duty in the evening…but only 5 were prepared to wait.

And that’s the kicker right there…these 10 girls found themselves in a situation where they needed to be prepared to wait…but they didn’t know it until they were faced with the reality.

And so I pose to the question today, how are we supposed to be prepared for every unforeseen situation? (pause) Think about it…were those 5 wise bridesmaids simply type A personalities who thought about every single contingency? Perhaps…and maybe the 5 foolish ones were simply more reactive…getting themselves ready for the task at hand and never thinking that it might go beyond that.

And so think about that for a second…since parables are aimed at pointing out the truth of our situations to us, which side do you fall on? Wise…or foolish…oil or no oil…prepared or reactionary? (pause) Does one side resonate with you? Or maybe, just maybe can you see yourself in both groups at one time or another? I know I’m guilty of that.

There have been certainly situations in my life where I have “carried extra oil.” One simple example involves packing for our yearly trip to Colorado. Knowing that we experience hot and cold…back and forth…each and every day I have the tendency to fill a suitcase with all kinds of clothes…and honestly, way more than I need…all I’m really accomplishing is taking up unneeded trunk space…but hey, I’m prepared…but on the other hand…I have the tendency to be very reactive…particularly in ministry situations…long range planning…not one of my gifts…but if there’s a confirmation class pending in a day or two, I can write you a lesson. (pause)

Think about it…isn’t that our situation…completely back and forth between these two groups…ready one hand and caught totally off guard on the other? (pause) I think so…but if that’s the case for most of us…if not all of us…then just how are we supposed to be prepared in that unknown day and hour when the Father finally looks at the Son and says “Okay…time to head on back.”

No one knows the day or the hour when Jesus is coming back…and despite claims in recent years by individuals who have “cracked the code” and predicted when it’ll be…the reality of the situation is Jesus is coming back…sometime…but we don’t know when…and yet he tells us that we must be prepared.

The 5 foolish bridesmaids were caught off guard, while the 5 wise ones lucked into their situation…blind luck…that’s really all it was…because what if the groom had waited till morning…it would have been light outside and the lamps would have been useless…and all 10 girls would have walked through that door with him. (pause)
No one knows the day or the hour…so live your lives in a way that is prepared…because while Jesus might not come back in our lifetime…he might come back this afternoon…we just don’t know…and since we don’t know…we ask the question again…how can we be prepared? How do we live our lives as if he’s coming back in a moment, when history and our gut instinct tells us that we likely will not live to see it for ourselves?

This is the pickle that we find ourselves in…caught in the tension of living as if Jesus is coming back now, even if he doesn’t…of trying to balance out our own interests and endeavors while still living for him….this is the pickle…this is the Christian condition…living with the knowledge that the promises of God are both now and not yet…How are we supposed to do that? (pause)

You know what…I think Jesus himself actually gave us that answer…because there was a time when he was sitting there and someone asked the question “what’s the most important commandment?” That random stranger might as well have been asking the question “how are we supposed to live to keep God happy?” (pause) And Jesus responded…really quite simply…Love God…and then love your neighbor. (pause) Yah but that can’t be it can it…there has to be more to it than that right? Love God…and then love your neighbor.

Well what about those times when we mess it up? Because those times happen don’t they? If the answer is really Love God and Love your neighbor then hallelujah…because we have moments when we fall into the wise category…(pause) But…we also have moments when we screw that up don’t we?

And so, as a community of faith…as a community of believers, we offer a word of grace and forgiveness to one another…that’s one of the reasons that we gather here for worship…to hear a word of forgiveness for those times when we are unprepared…when we are foolish…and we praise God in the promise that right now…today…the door to the celebration is still wide open…and that God desires for you to walk through it.

And so today if you find yourself longing to walk through that door…and you are wondering if in fact you are worthy…if you are acceptable…if the door will be open for you, then know this…through the power of Jesus Christ, made real through his life death and resurrection you are cleansed from your sin…and to hear this and believe it to be true is to believe the promise of God to be true and clinging to that promise is what makes you prepared. (pause)

Love God…and love your neighbor…have you messed that up lately? Yah? Okay, own it…and by doing so you are repenting of it…and God promises that when you do that, you are a new creation through Jesus Christ…and if that’s good news, then hold onto it…because tomorrow, you might need to say it to someone else…That’s why we come together in fellowship. I say it to you…and tomorrow you say it to me…and together, we are prepared to wait. Amen.