Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Holy Cross Sermon

When you preach a sermon three times, it's never quite the same....here's at least what I started with each time.  +peace

Holy Cross Day
September 14, 2014
Numbers 21:4b-9
Psalm 98:1-4
1 Corinthians 1:18-24
John 3:13-17
Please pray with me,

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Today we remember and celebrate (if you can call it that) Holy Cross Day.  It’s a day when we turn to the cross and look and see God in a place where we least expect God to be. 

Vulnerable and dying….

You see, we live in a world of glamor and glitz….and wanting everything to go our way….we also want everything to go according to our plan…We want a God who conquers evil, who saves all the good people and who does it looking good…and all the while rewarding those whom God has chosen. 

We live in a world that is crying out for a message of good news….but wants to hear it as something they deserve or something they can earn.  There seems to be this understanding  of sorts that those who are favored in God’s eyes are the ones who will be rewarded.  Some people even say, “If I do all the right things, then I will be blessed by God.” 

But what does that say to a mother who just lost her 40 year old son to cancer? 

What does that say to a family who is struggling to make ends meet while parents work two jobs and have trouble finding time to spend together as family? 

What does that say to a woman who is 37 whose breast cancer just came back after years of remission? 

What does this say to families adjusting to divorce? 

What does this say to a woman or a man living in an abusive relationship? 

The questions could go on and on….and as the time I spend serving as your pastor, and our relationships deepen…I learn more and more about what each of you are going through in your day to day lives.  I talked about it in my latest newsletter article…we are all going through something….something that makes our lives imperfect.  There is always something going on that causes us to question, to wonder and to feel the need for the presence of God in our lives. 

And so here’s the thing….God is present. 

And God is present in the places where we least expect God to be. 


Let me share a few examples of this case….

One is taken from your bulletin: 

At the circus on Monday night, several of us saw a young girl (probably 3 or 4) proudly walking back to her seat with a bright red balloon on a stick.  She was beaming.  In less than a minute, it popped. 

A teenager sitting in front of me (one of the youth from Bethany) who had just bought her own balloon, walked over to that young girl and gave her her balloon. 

God was at work in that moment. 

Several people nearby started digging in their wallets to give this young woman money for another balloon, but she would not accept it.  She said, “I’m good.” 

God was at work in that moment. 

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to get to know a woman in Trinity’s family who just entered into hospice, who I had only met once before.  Within the context of an afternoon visit the stories shared and the questions about faith and end of life led to tears and smiles and ended with prayer.  God was at work in that visit.  In a place least likely…in the presence of two good friends and a pastor just getting to know them better, God deepened our faith and our relationships.  Not that I wouldn’t have expected God to be present in a visit like that, but as I walked out of that house, I felt like I was leaving a holy space.  That was God at work. 

That’s the God who died on a cross. 

That’s the God whose power is revealed in weakness.

That’s the God that is in the worst and rockiest situations and scenarios of our life. 

In the movie Dogma that came out in 1999…there is a scene in which a cardinal in the Catholic church is unveiling Buddy Christ – a hipper, more friendly savior….one that allows people to see Jesus not dying on the cross, but as a savior who came down to ‘help us out.’ 

I know…it’s silly…and it’s from a movie, but we still long for that ‘feel good’ savior….one who came to earth and made everything better.  That’s a message that makes us feel good.  That’s a message that leads us to believe that there is something that we can do to receive God’s love and grace and eternal reward.  And in a culture where we work to get things done, it’s something we understand and can grasp.  If you’re looking for  the wow factor…that’s it. 

The God we come to hear about week after week, isn’t flashy….isn’t at work in our world because of things that we have done.  The God we hear about week after week is one that is in our midst, in our lives and in our world because of the love God has for each and every one of us. 

It’s a God who is present with us when we’ve lost a job.

It’s a God who is present with us when we argue and struggle to live with one another in community. 

It’s a God who….and this is a tough one….is at work in the world whether Trinity Lutheran Church is a part of it or not. 

You see God is on this continual mission…to bless and love the world.  And the world will be blessed and loved and then we the people of the world will mess up.  And God – through Jesus – save us time and time again – reminding us that we are loved and forgiven….and send us back into the world where God is still at work, loving and saving people.   

It’s amazing the times and places where God is at work throughout the week.  As a pastor, I get to see some amazing situations where God is at work.  And…I guess, because of who I am, it’s part of my call to tell others about these great moments. 

But the good thing, too, is that it’s not just my responsibility to tell others about these moments. 

It’s up to you too….to share these great and amazing stories of God at work in your life and in the world around you. 

You may see them at school when one student stops to help another one out for no reason.

It may be at the end of a 5th quarter as students thank the volunteers and wish them a good night. 

It may be when you are at work or when you are at home with your family or when you are at the gym, or on the road, or anywhere really…..

God is busy.

God is at work. 

God is showing up in the places least likely….like under the big top tent, when families enjoy an evening of entertainment and conversation. 

It may be watching a parade and seeing kids scramble to pick up candy being thrown from passing floats. 

It may be in the stillness of sitting on your porch and watching birds at the feeder or neighbors walking down the street. 

Keep your eyes open…and look for God at work. 

Especially in those places where you may not expect God to be. 

Because that’s the God that loves us.

That’s the God that forgives us.

And that’s the God who claims us as daughters and sons….and calls us home. 

And now may the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen. 

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