Monday, July 8, 2019

It's all about hospitality.

July 7, 2019
4th Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 66:10-14
Psalm 66:1-9
Galatians 6:[1-6] 7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

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

It was just over a year ago when 13 youth and 4 adults all filled with the spirit, yet quite exhausted returned from the National Youth Gathering in Houston.  This past week many memories from a year ago popped up on my social media feeds. 

This picture is the last meal I had in Houston, at the airport. 

It's the biggest breakfast quesadilla I’ve ever seen...and eaten.

Everything is bigger in Texas. 

We ate so well when we were in Houston, but the place that left the biggest impact on our stomachs and our hearts was Daisy’s Deli.  We found this place on Yelp and were wondering why the address led us to an administrative building.  Yet, as we filed in past the security guard and the other folks dressed for work we found this small deli on the first floor.  I’ve talked about this place before, but it was definitely a highlight of our trip. 

Here we are with the owner, Pil, and another employee who took care of us not once, but twice while we were in Houston.  

Our bellies were full, and Pil was a little weepy when we asked to take this picture with her after our second visit.  

I know this place left a huge impression on us because of the hospitality they showed to us.  They welcomed us in, took great care in getting our order correct, which is sometimes tricky with a group of 17, and we watched them prepare each burrito and bagel sandwich fresh for us. 

It’s all about hospitality, isn’t it.  Especially when you travel.  That was one of the first things we talked about as we were leaving for Houston, as soon as we boarded the vans to take us to the airport, we were dependent upon the hospitality of others until we returned back to good ol’ Robesonia. 

Maybe some of you have experienced something similar in your travels.  That as soon as you leave the comfort of your own home or community, you are dependent upon the work and service of others for your well being while you are away. 

It’s all about hospitality. 

Sometimes I think it’s a humbling experience to be at the needs of others, especially when you are away from home.  It’s often humbling when you realize that you and you alone may not be able to care for yourself, and you need the presence, help and care of others to meet your own physical needs. 

In our gospel lesson today, Jesus addresses not only hospitality, but also relationship, as he sends 70 followers out to proclaim and share the good news of Jesus Christ. 

He appoints 70 and sends them out in pairs. 

That’s a good start, right?  They are not sent out on their own, but in the company of another.  They are to carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 

They are sent without anything, which shows that they are dependent upon the hospitality of strangers for their well-being as they travel and evangelize. 

They are to greet no one on the road…seems strange to say that, but here again, it’s that reminder, that they are on a mission (from God).  They need that reminder, to focus, on the mission of getting this gospel message out there. 

They are to enter a house and first say, “Peace to this house.” They enter with a word and greeting of peace.  They are to remain in the house eating and drinking whatever they provide.  Who knows what will be offered, but again, it pushes Jesus followers to be open and ready for the hospitality of others.  That’s not always easy. 

And then this line, do not move about from house to house, but remain in the same house. 

And this is where we move from hospitality to relationship.  How do you get to know a person?  By spending time with her or him. 

How do you learn about a culture or a community?  By spending time there, eating the food that is set before you, listening to the stories of the people there and sharing your own life stories. 

It is through time spent with others, specifically listening to their stories and experiences, that we learn about others and are able to see where God is at work in the world already. 

How we know God and have experienced God in our lives is through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

That is the story we are called to share with others.  What we experience in this place: forgiveness, grace, love, supportive prayers, the body and blood of Christ at this table, God’s word breathing into our lives in word and song, that is what we are called to share with others. 

How do we respond to this calling from Jesus today? 

So, how are we, just like the 70 we read about today, sent out? 

Each and every week we are sent out of this place…to share the good news of God, to go to the places Jesus sends us, to build relationships with others, to listen to their stories and to share the places and experiences we have had with Jesus in our own lives. 

That’s how the gospel message is shared, folks. 

Yes, fed and strengthened in this place we are prepared to share the message out there, but it’s not until we leave this place that the gospel message is shared. 

We are living in a world that seems to become more divisive each day.   It rough out there…but out there…that’s where God is already in the midst of the struggles, disagreements, misunderstandings and in the joys, too.  Out there is where we are called to see Jesus at work and to be Christ’s hands and feet reaching out to those in our community, nation and world who are in need of a word of forgiveness, a hug of peace, a meal or a safe place to sleep.  It is far too easy for us to leave this place, feeling the love and grace of God and holding on to it until we come back next week. 

It us much more challenging for us to leave this place and enter into relationships with people who are different than we are (for whatever reason) and to enter into relationship with them and see how God’s love and presence grows when that happens. 

We’re not going to run out of God’s love and grace and forgiveness when we share it.  It will keep going and going and going. 

That’s the good news, my friends, this love of God, this grace of God, is NOT limited in any way, shape or form.  We are free to share this unending love and grace with everyone we meet. 

I pray that as we leave this place that we are able to see God at work in the world and be drawn into the places, conversations and relationships that Jesus calls us to be part of. 

May we be the hands and feet of Christ in our community and in our nation. 
May we show the love of God to all God’s children. 

May God show God’s love through our listening, our loving, our serving and our learning. 

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Sunday's Sermon: Tabitha, Rachel, Mabel...

May 12, 2019
4th Sunday of Easter

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

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

I’m not sure how to begin today. 

So, I’ll start with this.  Rachel Held Evans was a popular writer who challenged the evangelical Christian establishment.  She was a voice for many through her blog posts engaging posts on twitter.  She lived a life called by God and one that was transformed by a living and loving God. 

Rachel was born in Alabama in 1981 and moved to Dayton, Tennessee, as a teenager.  She was an enthusiastic and devout believer from the start, steeped in the American conservative evangelicalism of the 1980s and ’90s; as a teenager, she was quoted in Christianity Today praising her high school’s federally funded abstinence program. 

She left and returned to the faith many times trying to wrestle with the Bible, it’s teachings, her life experiences and the world around her. 

Rachel became a forceful and winsome public voice for progressive evangelicalism, first as a blogger and later as an author and sought-after speaker. She started he blog more than a decade ago, and in her years of writing she confronted every controversial issue in American evangelical culture. 

Her political and cultural polemics attracted the most attention. But she also wrote passionately about her own evolving faith, her prayer life, her wrestling with doubt, and her love for the church.  In her most recent publication Rachel wrote, “Anyone who has loved the Bible as much as I have, and who has lost it and found it again, knows how a relationship with the Bible can be as real and as complicated as a relationship with a family member or close friend.” (Inspired)

Rachel’s last blog post was on March 6, Ash Wednesday. 
In it she wrote:
“It strikes me today that the liturgy of Ash Wednesday teaches something that nearly everyone can agree on. Whether you are part of a church or not, whether you believe today or your doubt, whether you are a Christian or an atheist or an agnostic or a so-called “none” (whose faith experiences far transcend the limits of that label) you know this truth deep in your bones: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.”
Death is a part of life.
My prayer for you this season is that you make time to celebrate that reality, and to grieve that reality, and that you will know you are not alone.” (Previous details about RHE from

In mid-April, Rachel was admitted to the hospital for flu and had reactions to the antibiotics.  After being placed in a medically induced coma to help control seizures she died a week ago on Saturday, May 4th at the age of 37.  37.  Really?!? 

Her writings inspired and encouraged me to lift my voice. 
Her experiences helped me to know that it’s okay that faith and doubt are part of this life’s journey. 
And that it’s okay to be firm in your faith one day and completely wonder what God is up to in your heart the next day. 

She was a woman and a person of faith who grew up in the church, was shaped by the church, challenged by the church, but through it all learned of a God of love and grace and forgiveness who called her to share that same love and grace and forgiveness with all God’s children.

She will be missed, and not forgotten. 

This past week, Mabel, a dear saint of the church died.  She was known throughout this congregation for the many, many quilts she made when infants were baptized at Trinity.  Several years ago, we took a picture with Mabel and many of the youth with their quilts.  She wrapped the most vulnerable in our community in warmth and love in those quilts. 

I learned this week, too, that when Mabel was still able to come to church she would bring a bag of food for the food pantry.  The volunteers knew right away that it came from Mabel.  Apparently she tied it a special way and in it each week was a meal: cereal, fruit, vegetables a starch or grain.  When the volunteers asked her why she did it she said that she would do it as long as she could because God wanted her to. 

Our lesson from Acts today echoed the life of Rachel and Mabel.  Once you get passed the Greek translation of Tabitha’s name as Dorcas. 

Growing up, and maybe even now, the word Dork, is not flattering or complementary.  So let’s get passed this hiccup together and also learn that her name means gazelle.  (That’s much more complementary.)

Tabitha has lived a live of that of a disciple.  She is the person throughout the entire New Testament who is labeled as a female disciple.  She has lived a life where she has used the gifts and talents she has received from God to help provide to those in her midst, primarily by making clothing for those around her, specifically widows.  She helped care for those in her midst who were the most vulnerable in her society.  Upon her death, they were not just mourning her death, but also perhaps fearful of what their own futures would be without her presence and help in their lives. 

When Peter arrives after hearing of her death, those gathered are showing him the clothing and sharing the ways she helped provide for their needs.  He steps into her room, kneels down beside her and prays.  Then he turns to her and says, Tabitha, arise.  (the same word that we use when we say Christ has been raised from the dead….same arise.)  She sits up, he holds out his hand and he raises her up, and presents her as living. 

That, my friends is the vision of hope, is it not? 
Presented to her friends, and to those who depended upon her for clothing and support, Tabitha – alive – is hope for the present day and hope for the future. 

No doubt as the prayers went out in the beginning of May for Rachel Held Evans, they were full of hope.  Hope that the doctors could diagnose the problem, figure out a solution and bring her out of the coma, out of the hospital and back home. 

But Rachel’s outcome was not the same as Tabitha’s. 

So, for those of us still on this side of the grave, we wait. 

We wait in the light of the empty tomb as we cry out in anger, grief and loss. 

Those of us who have experienced the death of a friend, especially a young friend, struggle with this loss. 

Those of us who have experienced the death of someone whom they have relied upon either financially or physically cry out as they wonder and perhaps worry about what their future may be. 

Those of us who have experienced the death of a loved one know the feelings of loss, of sadness, worry, anger, stress, frustration and sometimes even hopelessness. 

We wonder what the future will bring. 

We wait.  In grief, in longing and in hope. 

And the hope, my friends, the good news this day, comes to us straight from the book of Revelation. 

“For this reason, they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” 

This, my friends, is the promise of the resurrection. 
This my friends is the story of hope that we are called to tell over and over and over again. 
So that in this broken world, in this world of death and brokenness, there is hope. 
There is comfort and the promise of a future of eternal life. 
There is comfort in grieving together, leaning on one another and returning to this place week after week to hear these words of comfort and unconditional love from an amazing loving God. 

Listen to those words.
Take those words into your hearts and your mouths and share them with those who need to hear them this day. 

This is the story of Jesus we are called to tell. 
The story of a savior who walks with us in our darkest valleys, leads us beside still waters, restores our soul and never, ever lets us go. 

Share that story. 

In her book Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water and Loving the Bible Again Rachel Held Evans writes, “Jesus invites us into a story that is bigger than ourselves, bigger than our culture, bigger even than our imaginations, and yet we get to tell that story with the scandalous particularity of our particular moment and place in time.  We are storytelling creatures because we are fashioned in the image of a storytelling God.  May we never neglect the gift of that.  May we never lose our love of telling the tale.” (P. 164)

Friends, never lose your love of telling the tale of Jesus. 

Tabitha, Rachel, Mabel, these faithful women shared and showed the example of Christ’s love in word and in deed. 

We, too are called to tell the tale, to show Christ’s love and live it out. 

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


Monday, May 6, 2019


May 5, 2019
3rd Sunday of Easter
Acts 9:1-6
Psalm 30
Revelation 5:11-14

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

At the beginning of each Star Wars film, the screen looks like this

and if you’re in the theater there is a hush that falls over the crowd. 

And then the iconic theme starts as we see the famous logo.

And then comes the opening crawl.  

When the first film came out in 1977, we needed the back story so we knew what was happening as the movie started.  It gave viewers just enough info to get us ready to watch the movie. 

As other Star Wars films hit the screen, each one came with an opening crawl to let fans know what happened since the last time we joined these characters…if time had passed, it filled the gap.  If the film took place earlier in time than previous films, we again gained enough insight to get us into the movie without being utterly confused. 

It thought about trying to figure out how to turn today’s Gospel reading into an opening crawl like that of a Star Wars film, but it would have gone on and on and on…but here’s why I thought about it, because that’s the way our gospel lesson begins today, right? 

We’re jumping right in to chapter 21, so for a moment, let’s look at the end of chapter 20.  After Jesus appears to the disciples in the locked room, on the day of resurrection, and appears a week later, again in that room to show the disciples and Thomas that he has been raised, we read verses 30&31.  

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Sounds like the end of the book, right?  It’s a nice ending…although I’m sure many would like to know what those other signs were, not written in this book, but the closing statement, right? But these that are written so that you - pointing at us, those hearing, those reading - so that we may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. 

And so in a way, that is the end of the Easter story. 

Just not yet. 

Enter into chapter 21…After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.

It’s like we’re entering the Star Wars crawl…we are being drawn back into the story, into an ongoing story of salvation, forgiveness, love and eternal life. 

It’s like someone got a hold of John’s gospel and was like, this needs a postscript.  A PS. 

Right, you finish the letter (or the email) and realize that you wanted to add one more thing… so you add a PS. 

This PS, this postscript for today’s gospel lesson is a good one. 

It’s another appearance of the resurrected Christ in the presence of the disciples.  And it happens after they have gone back to life as they know it, or knew it to be after the resurrection of Jesus.  

Think about it, you devote 3 years of your life, following this man named Jesus as he heals, teaches, breaks through barriers, troubles church and political leaders with a radical message of loving your neighbor and your enemy.  

You’ve followed Jesus and you’ve listened, learned, been confused been loved and maybe have even denied knowing him.  And then he is resurrected….and after that Easter day, life goes on. 

You return to the fishing boat you know so well, because there is comfort in the familiar and you need to continue to earn a living for your family. 

For whatever reason, the disciples have returned to fishing, for fish. 

And when Simon Peter realizes who it is he throws on his clothes (for he was naked?) yeah…another interesting detail added to this P.S. he jumps into the sea and swims to be with Jesus. 

He crawls onto the beach and smells the charcoal fire.  Perhaps it’s reminiscent of the fire smell as he stood on the night of Jesus’ betrayal denying Jesus three times. 

As they steer the boat in and realize their catch of 153 fish, Jesus invites them to breakfast.  I don’t know about you, but this is a great invitation, right?  Come, have some breakfast.  Come, sit, eat bread and fish, let us share a meal. 
And in this seaside meal, the love and compassion of Jesus is shown so deeply, to Peter, especially. 

It’s as if this postscript is meant just for him.  Jesus asks him not one time, not to times, but three times, Simon, Son of John, do you love me? 

The third time, Peter looks hurt…because he has confessed two times already to his love of the Lord.  But the third time he says, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you."

Gosh, if you’ve ever wronged someone once, let alone three times and your offered the opportunity to repent and receive forgiveness, that’s a powerful heart-changing place to be. 

And that’s where Peter is, on the beach with Jesus, telling him over and over how much he loves him…and in that love, Jesus says, follow me. 

Jesus comes back, to Peter specifically to say, follow me. 
The one who stepped out onto the sea, lost faith and sank…
The one who didn’t want Jesus to be crucified, but when he spoke out against it, Jesus said, get behind me Satan!
The one who at Jesus transfiguration wanted to build tents and never leave the mountaintop.
The one who denied Jesus three times…after crying out to Jesus that he never, ever would deny knowing him…

This is the one, to whom Jesus returns, in love, in grace and in forgiveness and says, “Follow me.” 

Gosh, if this isn’t the best PS ever written,  I don’t know what is. 

I don’t know about you, but Peter is the disciple with whom I seem to identify with the most.  The one who messes up and is called out for it. 
The one who steps out in firm faith and then falters and sinks. 
The one who tries to do her best to love and serve God’s people but then messes up. 
I forget to thank someone, I miss an important meeting, I take time for myself when I could have taken time for someone else. 
I feel like I’m living the Gospel as faithfully as I can, and then I’m reminded that no one can do it perfectly, and that even with all the good work I do in God’s name in this place, there are some who feel slighted, left out, overlooked or forgotten. 

I’m not perfect.

Thank God that Peter wasn’t either…

Because if (not if) because Jesus loves someone like Peter, Jesus can love me, too. 
Jesus can still come into my heart and my life and my world and break in, to break me out of myself to see that there is a God of forgiveness and love who wants to continue to use me to reach out in love and forgiveness to God’s people. 

That’s some PS, right? 

It’s this kind of a PS… 

It’s Jesus coming back, after that glorious resurrection and reaching out to Peter as he fishes, as he is living his life. 

That’s the same Jesus, who comes back here, today…and not just today, and not just in this place. 

It’s that same Jesus who comes back tomorrow, as you’re having breakfast with your family…
As you’re getting on the school bus…
As you’re commuting to work…
As you’re filling up at the gas station or at dunkin’ donuts….
Walking into work, or onto the golf course or reading the paper at home. 

Jesus is there, saying to you…PS.  I love you.  Follow me. 

Look for the resurrected Christ in your midst. 
He loves you.
He forgives you. 
He bids you, follow me. 

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. 

Saturday, April 20, 2019

There's just no way...

This week has been a long, fun and very Holy Week.  
I've had the opportunity to love and be loved, to serve and be served, to laugh, to cry, to nurture and be nurtured.  New life is springing up from the earth as people around us die.  It is how this life works.  Life, relationships, death.  Except that death is NOT the end.  

On this Holy Saturday (after preparing the sanctuary for Easter services and preparing the feast for Easter breakfast) we wait.  We sit in the stillness, darkness and grief of death.  We remember that the earthly life of Jesus ended on the cross.  

For me this day brings me into reflection on the times in my life when I have wondered about the presence of God in my life.  As I went for a run today, I looked down at my wrist.  
What I saw today was this: 

I saw so many reminders that no matter what I'm going through, God is with me.  I could not get through this life without the presence of God in my life.  Looking at my wrist, I was reminded that God is with me through the presence of many people in my life.  

My RoadID (the purple band) contains my name and contact information of family members who can be reached in case of an emergency.  They know they are on my wrist and have promised to be there no matter what.  Thanks, family.  Unconditionally, you are there for me.  I don't think I thank you enough.  I love you! 

The purple cross bracelet is the third one of its kind, because apparently I wear these bracelets out.  I love looking down and seeing the cross no matter what.  That, in itself, is a reminder of God's presence with me, not to mention the friend who I know who wears one as well.  She's replaced a few of these for me.  Thanks, L!

The blue bracelet has been on my wrist since Ash Wednesday.  It is Trinity's Lenten bracelet for this year.  So many people I know (Trinity folks and beyond) have been wearing these every day this Lent.  I see them at the communion railing, handing out food at the food pantry, serving on the Parish Planning Committee and other boards at church.  These bracelets are showing God's love on the wrist of those who wear them as they prepare meals, give communion, fill Easter eggs and bags, shake hands, sweep floors, hand out bulletins, open doors and embrace others in hugs.  

The multi-colored blue bracelet is the latest addition.  An amazing, generous, smart, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit girl at church made it for me and gave it to me yesterday.  Each time I see it, it makes me smile.  I can't help it.  It just happens.  I love it!  Thanks, S!

And so I got to thinking and praying as I ran.  I thought to myself (and God) that there is no way I can do this thing called life on my own.  I need the presence of God with every single step that I take.  I need that grace and forgiveness and unconditional love from a God that loves me no matter what!  And knowing that this God conquers death, offers forgiveness, grace, love and peace, for me (the real me: the imperfect, bound to make mistakes once, (if not more than once), growing, learning, trying to be the woman God created me to be: Me) is amazing.  

And for me, I need this God in the presence of a community of faith.  That faith community for me is found at Trinity.  It's a place where I can lead, love, learn and grow.  It's a place where people love me for who I am, even when I mess up, which is bound to happen.  It's a place of people who are like me and not like me.  It's a place where we all learn and grow together.  It's a place where we help each other, keep each other in check and encourage one another.  We work hard together to proclaim the message of God's love through Jesus Christ as we live, love, serve and of course, eat.  Is this faith community perfect?  Heck, no!  But I'm not perfect, and it's good to have a place that accepts me for who I am.  

On this Holy Saturday if you are waiting by the tomb with hope and expectation, God waits with you.  
If you are waiting by the tomb in grief and sorrow, God waits with you.   
If you are waiting by the tomb questioning or knowing all the answers, God waits with you.  
We wait, and as we do, we do not wait alone.  
Thanks be to God.  

PS.  Looking for a community that is imperfect, growing in God's grace and serving God's people?  Come check out Trinity.  There's a place for you.  Not from around here?  Look for that community of faith near you.  Be surrounded by a loving God and God's loving people.  

And now...we wait...

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Palm Sunday Sermon

April 14, 2019
Palm Sunday

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 21:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11

Please pray with me,
Gracious God, as you led the Israelites through the wilderness, as you were with Joseph and Mary as they journeyed to Bethlehem, and as you journeyed with Jesus to the cross….you are with us now.  Guide our hearts, minds and bodies on this Lenten journey.  Continue to turn us toward you, creating within us clean hearts, marking us with the cross, lighting our paths and guiding us every step of the way.  In Jesus’ name we pray amen. 

A friend of mine shared this story recently and I’m allowed to share the story, just not the name of the friend and in a moment, you’ll know why. 

So, my friend was at a coffee shop, a place where you can get coffee, baked goods and light lunch options.  She noticed a bowl of small wrapped ‘chocolates’ by the cashier. 
She figured perhaps a college student or local resident was starting a business and these were out to help that person out. 
So, she picked one up. 
After her bowl of soup, she unwrapped the chocolate, popped it in her mouth, and began to chew. 

In the next 5 seconds she had all of these thoughts pretty much at the same moment.
Wow, that’s a weird consistency for chocolate, that’s a bizarre taste too, almost floral, oh good gracious, I’m eating soap! 

Needless to say, she was in a crowded coffee shop, so she couldn’t make a scene. 
She headed to the bathroom. 
She tried to get soap out from between her teeth, I don’t know if you’ve ever bitten soap, but from her description, I don’t recommend it. 
I picture her frantically, yet not efficiently picking soap from between her teeth. 

She finally realized she needed to rinse her mouth out…
With warm water….
You guessed it, then she was foaming at the mouth….

I can only imagine that it took quite some time to completely rid her mouth of the soap. 
She may be shy of trying sample anything anytime soon.

But for her, it was not what she expected. 

Nothing is what we expect. 
Think about that as we look around the sanctuary with palms in our hands. 
A parade that leads to a cross…
Palms that become ashes…
Nothing is what we expect…

It sounds like an episode of the twilight zone. 

Because isn’t that the way the gospel works in our lives…
How we see and experience God’s love for us through Jesus is nothing like what we expect. 

Even though we shouted hosanna today, this parade that we reenact isn’t one that ends with a king on a throne.  It is a parade that ultimately leads to a cross.  Where God will show us the great love that God has for us in the death and resurrection of the only son.  This final journey of Jesus begins today. 

The folks gathered around Jesus that day were hopeful that he would flip the world upside down!  They were ready for change and hopeful that it would come through the presence and leadership of Jesus. 

And the change did come.  And the world would be flipped. 

Just not the way they expected. 

Their shouts of hosannas would change to shouts of crucify him before the story would end. 

Nothing is what we expect. 

The palm branches that we wave this day as we shout hosanna, will one day be transformed. 
Our Sunday School youth learned about it at the Lenten Fair as they took part in burning the palms to make the ashes for Ash Wednesday. 

They remembered shouting hosanna last year and that the palms were a reminder of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  Then we burned them. 

Then we talked about how those ashes would be on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday.  That is how we would be marked with the cross. 

These palms will become crosses, either on foreheads or in our own hands before the end of the service.  Some of you may be turning your palms into crosses as I speak. 

Nothing is what we expect. 

And so why Palm Sunday?  Why sing the Palms?  Just kidding….we have to sing the Palms!
But why this reenactment of this parade when the gospel of Luke doesn’t even mention palms!  Today’s gospel only mentioned cloaks. 

Cloak Sunday anyone? 
So why? 

Because just like the crowds we wonder, who is this, this Jesus? 

Who is this messiah coming into our world this day? 

We live and work among people who wonder who Jesus is.

Heck, we worship with people who wonder who Jesus is. 

Maybe you, definitely me, wonder how and when I will see Jesus this day…and what is Jesus’ call for my life?  Who is this Jesus? 

Better yet, if I’ve experienced Jesus, or should I say, since I’ve experienced Jesus, how to do I tell others about him and his love for the world and for me? 

So yes, we are roped into this procession, remembering his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, because we too, want to follow this King, this messiah because we too have hope for the future. 

We enter into this procession because we, too, are excited by the energy that surrounds Jesus and his teachings and healings and we want more. 

We enter into this procession because we still seek a savior, one who will bring justice and peace, healing and wholeness into our hearts and lives and world today…right now, preferably. 

So, we follow and we shout hosanna.  And do we realize this day that our shouts will change as the week goes on? 

On Maundy Thursday, our shouts of hosanna will quiet when we see Jesus kneeling at the feet of his friends and washing their feet. 

Our shouts of hosanna will quiet when he talks about his body being bread and his blood being wine. 

On Good Friday our voices will return as we shout not hosanna, but crucify him!  As the palm parade ends at the cross. 

And on Saturday, we wait. 
We wait in grief and longing and hope.

As we enter this most holiest of weeks, I encourage you to invite others into this place to hear this story. 

Who is this Jesus? 
Let us hear his story. 
Let us welcome others to share in a meal at this table.
Let us welcome others to see his death.
Let us welcome others so that the whole world knows that through this whole story, God shows God’s love for each and every one of us. 

We, who know the story, are empowered to share this story with others.  We help people see where Jesus is at work in the world by telling our friends, our family and our neighbors about God loves us. 

We know we are loved. 
We can tell people that we are loved and that they are loved just the same. 

You can do this; I know you can. 

Pick a service, invite a friend, heck, bring a friend. 

Show them this place and the love of God that flows through worship, fellowship, service and time together. 

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. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

5th Sunday in Lent Sermon

April 7, 2019

Isaiah 43:16-21
Psalm 126
Philippians 3:4b-14

Please pray with me,
Gracious God, as you led the Israelites through the wilderness, as you were with Joseph and Mary as they journeyed to Bethlehem, and as you journeyed with Jesus to the cross….you are with us now.  Guide our hearts, minds and bodies on this Lenten journey.  Continue to turn us toward you, creating within us clean hearts, marking us with the cross, lighting our paths and guiding us every step of the way.  In Jesus’ name we pray amen.

There is a commercial on TV right now where an older woman walks by a younger woman at the grocery store in a workout outfit, and says, you smell just like my Walter.  Apparently, the younger woman has used some type of sports rub or some other potent ointment that fondly reminds this woman of her Walter. 

Our sense of smell can sometimes be the one that is connected to the most memories.  I don’t know about you, but catching a certain smell can take me to a specific time and place.  For me, there is a smell to camp.  Something about the mix of the woods and lake that just smells like camp. 
There is the smell of the first summer rain as it hits the hot pavement.
There is the smell of sticky buns when you are in the 8am service on a sticky bun Sunday. 
I’m going with the good smells today…
You may have a favorite meal that when smell it, it takes you back to a special or favorite time or place and for a moment, just a moment, you are there. 

Because here’s the thing with the things we smell…a scent can permeate just about anything.  Just try walking downstairs after we have a lock-in…the axe body spray scent coming out of the boys’ room can sometimes knock you out. 

But seriously, I want you to think about a time when you were surrounded by a smell…because that is what happens in our gospel reading today.  And the smell, permeates the room and the bodies of everyone present. 

In the context of a dinner at the home of Lazarus, Mary kneels at the feet of Jesus, anoints them with costly perfume and dries them with her hair.  As soon as the perfume hit the air, the scent was unstoppable.  If the actions of Mary didn’t catch the attention of others in the room, the scent of the perfume most definitely did. 

It caused Judas to question her actions and how the money could have been better spent on the poor. 

The scent of this perfume draws us in to this intimate moment between Mary and Jesus a moment that brings to us the amazing relationship that Jesus wishes to have with each and every one of us. 

And that relationship is an intimate one and a reciprocal one.  Just as Jesus loves Mary, she visually shows that love in the presence of others.  This, my friends, is the depth and love that Jesus has for each and every one of us, and calls us to respond in love just the same. 

Any relationship that involves love is an intimate one. 
It means allowing time for trust to build, it means being able to truly be yourself in the presence of the other one and it means willingness to be vulnerable.  To truly build relationships with one another in love means that we need to be open and honest with one another, willing to admit faults and imperfections and willingness to love the other, just as they extend love to us. 

That’s the love that Jesus has for you and for me. 
That’s the love that Mary shows Jesus in this act of love and grace. 

That’s the love that Jesus wants for all of his followers, even if we can’t see it. 

Alongside Mary’s intimate relationship with Jesus, we have Judas.  He is labeled as the one who will betray Jesus.  He calls Mary out for wasting money that could’ve been used on the poor.  He misses this extraordinary gift that Mary gives Jesus because he thinks the money could’ve been better spent. 

Not that any of us could relate to that, right? 

We’ve never missed an amazing moment of God’s grace because we didn’t think it was done the right way….or because we were mad at someone who had a part in it. 

We’ve never been the older son standing outside the party as the younger son returned to his father’s abundant love and grace….

Oh wait. 

It happens, it happens more often than we’d like to admit.  Or maybe as a pastor, I’d rather not admit that it happens to me at all. 

But there are times and places where I have missed a moment of grace, the abundant extravagance of God’s love because I’ve been mad/self-centered/stubborn/focused on my own end game…you fill in the blank.  Maybe you can relate, too. 

I was at some sort of fundraising outing when the 50/50 raffle ticket winner was drawn.  The winner gave their winnings back to the organization to support the fundraiser.  Someone I didn’t know at a table nearby said something like, yeah they should do that, they have enough money already. 

And I thought to myself, this person missed the point.  This person was only focused on the presumed wealth that the raffle winner had and not the action of giving out of that abundance. 

It happens to us all the time, and sometimes it even happens in this sanctuary.  A place where we gather week after week, confess our sins and we all receive this gift of forgiveness and if that isn’t enough, we come up to this altar, this table and receive a gift that we could never earn, one that we don’t even deserve.  But it is freely given to us because God loves us. 

But sometimes when we sit in our pews, we’re angry about something or someone. 
We are distracted by our own days and lives and are inside our own heads. 
We are worried about what the next day will bring, let alone what is in store for us in the next year. 
And we miss it. 
We miss the love that God has for us.
We miss the depth of this gift that God has given to us. 

Yet this grace upon grace, this amazing gift that God has for you and for me….
It still abounds. 

"In our gospel reading, this grace upon grace smells like an absurd amount of the most expensive and lovely perfume, the fragrance of which when released form the bottle soaks into every possible crevice."  (Karoline Lewis)

This grace upon grace soaks into every possible crevice of this space.  It’s impossible to avoid it, but sometimes we may not notice it. 

Yet, we’ll leave this place somehow changed and transformed to continue in our loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. 

As that grace envelopes you this day, think about how you live out that grace and love with others. 

Think about how much God loves you and desires to be in an intimate relationship with you. 

You are loved.
You are God’s chosen.

Live into that love, and the abundance of grace that is part of the relationship that God has with you. 

Live into that relationship with God.

Show that love in your words, actions and deeds of generosity. 

Baffle others around you as you surround yourself with the love of God and live through it. 

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