Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Sunday's sermon (The one about faith)

October 6, 2019
17th Sunday after Pentecost
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Psalm 37:1-10
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

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

Increase our faith! 
How often have we said something like that?

Increase our faith! 
That apparently the faith we have is not great enough. 
Like faith comes in different sizes.  Small, medium, large….super sized? 
Is it a muscle that we can increase? 
Have you ever met someone and thought…wow their faith is amazing…I wish I had faith like that. 

I’m reminded of a scene from The Empire Strikes Back.  (It was a bit long for worship, but you can watch it here.)
Luke is in the swamp with Yoda and his Jedi skills are being honed. 
He is lifting stones, backpacks, even the droid, R2D2….
Luke wants to get his ship out of the swamp…he tries to use the force to do so, but he lacks the force or the faith…he lifts is up a little, but can’t seem to get it out of the puddle.  He gets all pouty…and says,

Luke: I can’t. It’s too big.
Yoda: Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.

Yoda then demonstrates by focusing on the ship and using the force to move the craft out of the water and onto the land, next to Luke.
Amazed, Luke says:

Luke: I don’t, I don’t believe it.
Yoda: That is why you fail.

To the apostles in our gospel passage this day, faith is something that they want more of.  They feel that they do not have enough…that more is needed…

Would you really want to say to a mulberry tree be uprooted and planted in the sea…and have it do so?  If we had faith to uproot trees and move mountains, clean up days around the church would be much easier…not to mention moving from one house to another.  But that’s not what it’s all about. 

Perhaps this is similar to the person who states: "I can't do it," and a parent/mentor type insists: "Yes, you can." They try and discover that they can do it.
I see this often in my 5-year-old nephew. He’ll be half way across the monkey bars and he’ll say, “I can’t do it!”  And his dad replies…”But you are doing it!!”

How many of us have said, "I can't do door to door evangelism."
"I can't talk to him/her about the hurt they have caused me."
"I can't forgive him/her." It would seem to me that the issue in such statements is not that of "can't do," but one of fear -- which is the opposite of faith.

How do we, in our everyday actions do things that we do not think we are capable of doing? 

Or maybe a better question is how many of us are gifted in ways we cannot see, but are living faithful lives through small and simple actions?

We are invited to take part in simple actions so often that we may even overlook them.  I received this message from a Trinity member who took part in a simple action:

This person wrote, “I just dropped off a meal.  There had been a lot of visitors and people at that house today…I sensed their tiredness and stayed for just a short time…yet in that time, I deeply felt Trinity’s ministry of joyfully giving and thankfully receiving.  There was such a loving connection between us as member of our church family.  I saw and felt God today…right in the center of our gathering of 3.  Thank you for that opportunity to serve.”   

What simple action have you been invited to take part in? 
How might this action be God showing faith to you and to others? 

A brief prayer I read recently is related to this text:
"O God, I don't pray for enough faith to uproot mulberry trees. I can get enough dynamite and bulldozers to do that. What I need and ask for is enough faith to move me.” 

What I need and ask for is enough faith to move me. 

Because here’s the thing…
God has given us all the faith that we need. 
Sometimes we just forget how amazing that gift and blessing is. 
We are given the ability to do exactly what God calls us to do through simple acts of love and service. 

This faith is a gift.  And it’s not just free-floating faith…that is just out there…it is faith and trust in Jesus Christ. 

Faith isn’t something that is ours alone that we can change and grow and increase…it is through God’s promise in Jesus Christ that we receive the basic forgiveness we are called to share…

What if, instead of asking for more faith, the question or request from the disciples was this:

Lord, draw us deeply into your creation and resurrection…into that forgiveness and grace. 

Instead of us asking for our faith to be increased, what if we asked God to draw us more deeply into God’s creation and resurrection…into God’s forgiveness and grace. 

That’s really what it’s all about. 
Being drawn in to God’s promise, God’s love, God’s forgiveness and God’s grace. 

Knowing that God calls us to tasks that we may not be ready for…but we go anyway, trusting in the promise of the resurrection….and knowing the forgiveness and grace we have already received and will continue to receive. 

How are we drawn in week after week?  At the meal at this table. 

This is the table that speaks to us and says…
All are welcome.
No matter where you think you are in your faith journey, no matter what your sins…there is a place for you. 
No matter what your questions, problems, fears, doubts….there is a place for you. 

And it's all about drawing people in to this place.  
It’s drawing people in, to feel God’s love and grace.
It’s drawing people to this table…to receive the gift of God. 
It’s helping all humanity to see our imperfections, our faults and our struggles…and the reassurance that we are not alone.  That no matter who we are, God loves us.
And that no matter what we do, God loves us. 

That is what is at the root of faith…A loving, compassionate, forgiving and saving God.  Who wants the world to know that it is loved. 

So, we ask God together, draw us in…
Dear God,
Draw us into this place for forgiveness and fellowship, for honesty and love for one another. 
Draw us into this table…where bread and wine overflow for everyone, where sins are forgiven and grace is poured out….
And draw us more deeply into you…in our homes, in our schools, in our places of work…that you may guide our hearts and minds to share this redeeming love and grace with those whom we meet. 
And may the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and let all God’s people say, Amen. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

St. Michael and all angels sermon

September 29, 2019
St. Michael and all Angels
Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3
Psalm 103:1-5, 20-22
Revelation 12:7-12
Luke 10:17-20

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. 

Well, here are, celebrating St. Michael and All Angels, and BOOM, a reading from Revelation. 

I have to say, as I looked into the texts today and sat at pericope (our weekly pastors’ bible study) my colleague and friend, Pastor Mark Rigg said, you should preach on Revelation…and I said…okay. 


Revelation, a text when even just mentioned brings fear or worry or confusion to many. 

It is unique to the New testament, as an apocalyptic text, yet even at the beginning of the book, we are enlightened to what message it has to proclaim. 

It begins with “The revelation of Jesus Christ,” so in essence we are told at the very beginning of this book that ‘revelation’ expresses the idea that God, through Jesus Christ, and through this text will share secrets about heaven and earth, past, present and future.  Yet, isn’t that in essence what the entire Bible does for us? 

As we read the word of God, we listen to and look for how God’s love and salvation is extended to all of God’s people time after time after time. 
Throughout the Old Testament it was the sweeping saga of salvation.  God creates humanity, humanity messes up, God swoops in to save them, they praise God, then inevitably humanity messes up again, God swoops to save them again, they praise God, then they mess up…you get the gist. 

As the New Testament begins, we hear the stories of Jesus’ life, teaching, healing, saving, dying, his resurrection and how the church is called to go on in Christ’s absence.  And as the New Testament wraps up, we have the Revelation to John.  What an ending, right? 

A book filled with imagery, wars, angels, dragons, Satan and all sorts of other interesting characters. 

Even today’s passage has Michael and his angels fighting against a dragon in a war in heaven.   

But the reality, for us, even as we hear a text containing warring angels and dragons, it’s a passage that speaks to us today.  We hear a story of the battle of good vs. evil.  That’s not a new story. 

From the beginning of creation, all that God made was good, yet evil entered in and with it sin and a fall from grace and with it our continual need of God’s presence, God’s love and God’s grace in our lives. 

I used to think that evil just lurked in dark places, that I could just stay in well lit places and avoid evil all together.  Not the case, right?  A friend mine in high school gave be a pin that said, ‘lead me not into temptation, I can find it myself.’  Funny to think back on that now. 

In the movie the Usual Suspects, one of the characters says, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.” 

The devil, evil is here.  And so, the fact that God’s angels battled evil, too, provides some comfort.  Yet the way they battled was one with a message of peace and hope and love.  Picture a fight like that. 

When the host of angels appeared to announce the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, they were an army, but they were an army gathered to bring about peace on earth. 

That’s a fight that we are still part of this day. 

When we sense evil, when we see the devil at work, we are called to respond with acts of love, grace and peace.  It’s not always easy, but 99.9 percent of the time, we know the right thing to do, yet we struggle to speak words of love to words of hate. 

We struggle to take actions that will lead to justice and peace when they go against the norms of society. 

We struggle to have civil conversations with one another when it is far easier to put up a wall, to block someone on Facebook or just ignore those who have different opinions than we do. 

The war is here and now. 

The earth and all its inhabitants are not at peace, which is why this text speaks to us today. 
This good vs. evil is ongoing, until we all gather together at the great heavenly banquet. 

So, how do we take part? 

We do so armed with love, with words of forgiveness and grace, with arms open, and with a readiness to change the world. 

Little do we know how ready we actually are, but we’ve been ready for a while.  We’ve been ready since we were washed in the waters of baptism. 

Welcomed into God’s family, we are siblings in Christ, loved by God and gifted with words and actions to proclaim God’s redeeming love to all the world. 

You may not have been ready on your baptism day to proclaim God’s love, you may have been in the mood to cry and nap…even if you were baptized as an adult, but that day we were ready.  And since then we have lived and learned and grown in the grace of God to love and serve our neighbors and to bring God’s peace here and now. 

Creation is crying out for peace.
Our world is crying out for peace.
Our nation is crying out for peace. 

It’s time. 

The hip hop group Arrested Development, that has been together since the late 90s seems to respond to the cries for peace that are surrounding us today. 
In their song, “Each Generation” the chorus goes like this…

'Each Generation must have their own revolution
You can’t create one for me and I can’t create one for you
And we gotta move onward at the pace of love
let truth be your fighters, let peace be your guns.

we gotta move onward at the pace of love
let truth be your fighters, let peace be your guns
we all have our own race to run'

Let God’s truth be our fight,
Let God’s peace be our guns,
We gotta move onward at the pace of love.

Let God’s truth, peace and love reign in this place, in our communities, nation and world through our words and actions. 

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