Who is this Guy?

Who is this guy???

Listen (below) or read on for my sermon on Mark 6:1-15


Pentecost 6 B- Hope Lutheran Church- July 8, 2018

It was a tragic story. In 2006 a university van carrying nine students collided with a semi truck. Give young people died that day. Among them a young woman with long blonde hair and blue eyes identified as Whitney. Four survived, among them a young woman with long blonde hair and blue eyes, identified as Laura. Whitney’s family went through all the proper responses. The burial of their beloved daughter was well attended with over 1400 mourners present. Their grief and distress was not eased by news of some surviving because for them, Whitney was gone.

Laura’s family on the other hand held vigil at the hospital. They had been warned before seeing her of the injuries which included severe head trauma. Coma was to be expected along with difficulty communicating. They were shocked to realize Laura had gotten a belly button ring, but not angry. How can you be angry with your child when they have barely escaped death? Still, there were inconsistencies- but how do you question if your child is not your child? The nurses and doctors assured them it was the trauma making things confusing for Laura, until one day a nurse brought a whiteboard and asked the young woman in the bed to write down her name. Whitney. Not Laura.

She had been in front of them and they had not known her- because she was not who they thought she was.   But they let themselves believe the mistaken identity in order to cling to the life given to them.

For one family the mistaken identity brought death. For the other it delivered life.

The entire Gospel of Mark seems to be a question of identity for Jesus. Even he acknowledges that there is confusion. “who do you say that I am?” is tossed around like a beach ball at a pool party. And of course, Jesus doesn’t help this much by continually telling those who are with him not to go and tell what they saw.

But this is Jesus hometown! Surely they knew him, yeah? How big could Nazareth have been? We know it was considered a backwoods size town, one of no repute. The likely population of about 400 meant that everyone knew everyone.

Yet here they stand, unsure of themselves when Jesus returns to preach and teach.   Something doesn’t match up for them. “Who is this guy?”

He healed a few folks, but in the end, left for other villages where he was welcomed more warmly and along the way, he tells the disciples that they should do the same when they go out. If they are not welcomed, even in their hometowns, they should leave and not even the dust of the town should remain with them.

The people of his hometown knew the snotty little kid, the pimply faced teenager-not this man who has quiet confidence and can heal people. But this guy? This guy has a full on entourage! How can this be the Jesus they knew? In their inability to see Jesus as anything more than just the same old guy he always was cost them.

Isn’t that the way of things though? When we are more willing to talk than to listen, more willing to hold to our frame of thought and not hear another person out, when we are unable to consider a new way of thinking or doing things we lose out. If the people of Nazareth had questioned, that would be normal, but when given the opportunity to see and know Jesus as the Messiah, they ignored the proof before their eyes and it cost them everything.

It does not cost anything but ego and time to listen to a different way of thinking, believing, or even doing things in the world. It may provide exciting new areas of growth, commonality, and even closer community. It could provide life to just listen and consider.

There is a motif that runs through the Gospels called the Messianic Secret. It is a slightly outdated idea that is centered on the idea that Christ could not be known as the Messiah until after his resurrection proved it. It is fascinating to read up on, but when considered differently takes on a powerful impact for us. Initially introduced in the 1920’s, it argued that there were lots of false messiah’s and there was a xenophobic and nationalistic expectation of what a messiah would look and act like at this point. This explains the rapid turn of events during the passion week when one day Jesus is welcomed in with waving palms and cloaks thrown over the road to pad his way, and a short time later has crowds screaming for his death. They thought he was coming to literally take over Roman rulers. But that isn’t who Jesus is. The Messianic Secret also argued that it was a way to protect Jesus from his enemies. But none of this stands up very well in the bright theological lens of scrutiny. However, when we consider another way of thinking, it finds firm ground.

What if Jesus didn’t want people to point at him and identify him and look at him, as much as people to accompany him, to live with and like him in a way that does not allow for pointing him out as different? My colleague D. Mark Davis wonders if it is not a redirection of the reign of God- rather than something we observe, it becomes something we participate in.

He argues, “As long as they had the Messiah to embody the reign, they were missing the participation part. To ‘follow’ is not to point to, observe, marvel, coronate, or even profess. It is more about joining along, taking up the message, indeed taking up the cross that is central to the message, and “believing” by living in the present reign of God. It is healing the sick, delivering those who are oppressed, etc…Mark saw Jesus trying to re-direct his message away from himself and toward following-as-participating.”

And that is where his hometown just could not get in on the action. For whatever their reasons, they couldn’t participate with Jesus. For them, the idea of changing they way they lived and participated in the world was not an option. It was too scary and hard. So they denied him and his offer to live a new commandment of loving one another in radical hospitality.

And he told the disciples, that is ok. When that happens, and it will happen, just walk away. Don’t force the issue. Don’t argue and stay until communication is completely broken down. Don’t push and try to force someone to hear you. He said, “If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet.”

In a world of heated sharing, it can be hard to consider another’s point of view, let alone listen to it at all. It can be even harder when listening and considering may reveal truth and may mean that we can change who we identify ourselves as and how we do things.

Maybe, we, like the people of Nazareth, and Laura and Whitney’s parents, need to consider that the person in front of us is not who we think they are either. What if we stopped seeing them as “ours” our enemy, our friend, etc. and instead as God’s; a precious child of God who is trying to participate in the reign of God and radical hospitality of Christ here and now in their own way.

Jesus Christ is not just some guy. He was the Messiah, he is our risen savior, who calls us not to point and say, “Hey, that is my Jesus.” He offers to teach and show us, to let us listen and learn by walking with him, doing the work, preaching and living the gospel here and now in our daily lives. It begins with listening, but it continues with being.

Confusing Jesus as some great person to read about and talk about but not to actively follow is a deadly case of mistaken identity not for Christ, but for us. If you are a Christian, then be one. Live into your true identity as a child of God and heir to the kingdom and reign that begins here and now. Go out and proclaim the gospel. Heal the sick, comfort the poor and lonely, feed the hungry, and wherever you are welcomed, share the promise of eternal life in Christ with hospitality and love that knows no measure.










Rise Up, Daughter, and Live


A sermon for Hope Lutheran Church in Riverside, CA on July 1, 2018

Mark 5:21-43

The woman was on the brink of death.  Her cancer was winning. She said goodbye to her students and within weeks was bed-ridden.  Conversations turned to her last wishes. Life was miserable and clouded with pain and narcotics to ease it.  She had nothing left to lose but the pain so her doctor gave her an experimental drug. Within weeks she was pain free and her tumors began melting away.  Before she knew it, she was declared a medical miracle because in a matter of a few months time she was completely cancer free. Yet the trauma, the memories of being at death’s door and the lost time, the fear of death,  all remained. While her body was healed, her heart and mind were not. The cancer was gone but now she had to live again and she sat unable to ignore the pain and anger over the process of it all and the emotional pain of living when she had been as good as dead.

It’s not an easy thing to be told you will not recover, only to do so.  It is not easier to be on the brink of death only to find new life.

The life and ministry of Jesus is about overcoming these deaths. On the surface, it may appear there is not a common thread in the acts of Jesus ministry, but if we pay close attention, story after story are about Christ casting out or denying death of a permanent grasp on us.  Today, it appears that he casts out death only from the 12 year old girl, but the honest truth is that he also cast out death from the bleeding woman, too.

The woman had suffered for as long as the girl had been alive.  For 12 years, every penny had gone into attempts to heal. Every doctor had been called and here she was, still bleeding.  While she lived in a mixed community and many did not hold to the same religious standards and laws as she did, she knew that her religion deemed her unclean.  To the men of her circles, touching her or even the cushion she sat upon meant they were unclean. After 12 years, the news gets around though, and people surely knew her story, even if it was whispered behind backs in the manner of all juicy gossip. Yet here she is.  She is close enough to Jesus to touch his clothes and in all honesty, she has nothing left to lose. Her life is an empty shell. She cannot marry or have sex, thus she cannot bear children. She cannot participate in cooking and cleaning because anything she touches is ritually unclean.  She has no value anymore. She is worthless. A ghost walking among the living. She may as well be dead. So she does the only thing left that she can do.  She reaches out in faith.

Jesus knew that someone had been healed.  He felt it in his own body to every cell so of course he turns around and seeks who he has healed.  He seeks not to punish but, I believe, to finish the healing and to declare it true and complete! Seeking the person who needed such healing, he turned and asked to no avail until

“the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.” V 33

She told him her entire story.  She told him of her burden, her ghostly life, and admitted her status as invaluable right there in front of everyone because in the end they all knew anyway. Jesus heard her story and more importantly, he calls her “daughter.”

Jesus gave her permission to speak her truth and “something beautiful happens when we give each other permission to tell the truth.  Something dies when that essential permission is stripped away.”  She has already had enough death for a lifetime, and Christ is all about giving life, so he gives her life in hearing her story.

When her faith heals her of her bleeding she is given corporeal life again.  Christ continues the healing and hears her, she is given fullness of being again.  Not only has she regained her life, she has regained her status by his simple words of declaration.

“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Daughter! She is claimed as worthy!

“Your faith as made you well!”  Her body was already made well by her faith.

And finally, “go in peace and be healed of your disease.” Christ encourages her to speak her truth and the dis- ease of her mind and all that goes with this horrific life she has led for 12 years is healed. “Daughter, you have been healed, now go and live this life!” Christ understood there is more to healing than a body.  There is more to death than loss of breathe. There is more to life than having breathe too.

And Jairus daughter has neither breathe, nor life.  Twelve years old. A daughter on the cusp of womanhood and motherhood herself.  She had the fruition of life in her grasp at that age and yet she died. We should notice the sandwiching of the story of the value of a woman of no consequence in the middle of the story of a powerful man’s daughter.

Christ acknowledged both daughters.  He comes to heal this daughter too when he speaks to her.  He reaches out and at his words he brings her back into life.

“ Talitha Cum.  Little girl, get up!”

He speaks these words calling her into life, calling her not just into bodily life, but life eternal.  “Little Girl, get up!!!Rise UP daughter!”

Christ cast out death for both of these women by giving them a chance at full life.  Both had value not because of who the men around them were, but because they were both daughters of the most high. They deserved to rise up in Christ.   Christ did not give preference. He healed them both from death or life like death.

For those who go to Christ in prayer for a loved one’s life and the loved one died, this is a hard story to hear. It feels like a promise for everyone but those who didn’t get that physical healing.  We wonder why God didn’t say yes to us. Why our loved one died. This story reminds us that there is more to healing than a body. Not everyone will be healed in a physical way, but Christ heals in a fuller way, a way that casts out death, eternally.  A way that speaks to every one of us and says, Talitha Cum, child, stand up, get up, LIVE.

Beth Moore has a study on Daniel and in it she speaks of the story of the fiery furnace as she teaches about the ways we are delivered from death by Christ.

From the flames- we never actually feel the flames we are literally delivered unscathed.

Through the flames- they may lick at us, burning us and leaving marks and pain, but we are delivered alive to the other side.

By the flames- The flames consume our body, but in them, we are delivered by God to the other side of eternal life.

In each way, death is cast out.

Christ, who sees our value, whether we are the daughter of a wealthy and powerful man or a woman of no accord, has conquered death.  Christ delivers us all from the hand of death in a new way, a way that shuns eternal death and delivers true life, encouraging us to Talitha cum, child, GET UP!

Your deliverance may begin here.  It may begin with a medical miracle or awareness to care for your body better so that you live this life longer.  It may begin with recovery or victory over depression with medication or therapy. Or it may not. It may be awareness that these things will win here, but that God always wins in the long run.

Either way, your eternal healing that can begin now and it will see you through every ill in this place.  It doesn’t guarantee we won’t see hard times and face consequences of years of bodily burden. But it does guarantee that this will not last, that God is always with us in our darkest moments, and that we are truly delivered in our eternal life.

The greater question now is if we are healed from true Death,  into eternal life, what shall we do with this life? What will we do with this healing?  We are freed from death in all ways through Christ.

We will never know if the girl goes on to marry and have children and teaches others the value of precious and few days on this earth.  We will never know if the woman overcomes the stigma that has been attached to her like a different kind of scarlet letter. Maybe she moves to a new city where she can start over. Maybe people welcome her in.  Maybe she herself marries and has children. No matter the road ahead, they are both, we are all, claimed as children of themost high God and delivered in Christ, the redeemer who cast out death once and for all on the cross and daily grants us new life, eternal .

Talitha Cum.  Little Girl, Rise up.



Turning Points

Trinity Sunday Sermontrinity-painting.jpg

Isaiah 6:1-8 Focal Point

Today we hear the call story of Isaiah- and of Nicodemus. In fact, the call story of every person who hears the word of Christ. But not every one answers, “here I am Lord.”

Woe the Unclean lips

We have all had some variety of the dream- showing up to school work or the pulpit in pajamas or our “glory.” The dream that starts with us needing to do something like give a report or lead in some way and becoming suddenly aware of our lack of preparation- or at least proper clothing. The very self feels unprepared and really wasn’t about the report or task ahead, but about our need to feel like we are ready to face it. Imagine then being Isaiah, standing in God’s throne room. Cherubs, winged lions are flying about along with Seraphs- 6 winged flying snakes and they are hollering back and forth to each other about God’s Holiness as though it wasn’t already fully apparent. The room is full of the smoke of incense and the ground shakes with the awe of God whose robes are so full that the hem fills the room of the space. And then here is Isaiah. He is most certainly not holy, most certainly not good, and most certainly aware of it. He is far out of his depth and in good Wizard of Oz style, he speaks out loud that he is not in Kansas anymore. Talk about a preaching/teaching/leading naked moment!

Nicodemus is in much the same place. He is a political guy and the political waters have gotten very deep. The people are not happy- there is serious class division and the recent leadership is divisive for the people. If you will, they are all blowing up their facebook and twitter about how much they love or hate them. Nicodemus knows these are dangerous tides- get on the wrong side and eventually you will be the loser in the eyes of history. He is so afraid he goes out in the dark of night to seek answers from Jesus. If he is seen, well,… naked moment. It will be all over the tabloids in the morning.

Spirit of Slavery

Our passage from Romans (8:12-17) speaks to the fear that both Nicodemus and Isaiah faced. Both were in troubled waters and they were out of their depth. Neither felt prepared to handle what was in front of them.   They were immersed in the spirit of slavery- a place where one has not tasted freedom and does not know what it entails so rather than reach for it, they remain in place, chained to the mastery of the world. This spirit of slavery is far reaching. It lies to us, convincing us that we do not have the ability to be free or to change our circumstance-that even if freed, we will not only not succeed, but may miserably fail without our captor. It keeps us from going back to get an education because we are too old, from applying to a competition because we are not as skilled as others, from asking out the person we have crush on because we don’t have enough to offer, or sharing the promise of Christ because we haven’t read enough of the Bible or aren’t gifted in “that way.” Isaiah has filthy lips- in other words, he is just a guy like everyone else- not clean enough to see God, let alone serve. And Nicodemus? He has a whole career ahead of him- how could he possibly walk away and become reliant on a world that is God centered rather than politics and world centered? They both stand naked and now aware of the chains of the spirit of slavery.

Turning Points

So, here they stand, Nicodemus in front of Jesus and Isaiah in front of God. It’s interesting to note that Isaiah’s call doesn’t come in the first chapter of Isaiah- but in the 6th. In fact, this is believed to be literary device, because it is placed firmly on the cusp of King Uzziah’s death and King Ahaz’ ascension. A turning point for the people of Judah and Jerusalem. Just so, Nicodemus stands at the other side of the cusp as well. Pontius Pilate is now in charge and he, Caiphas, and Herod will shift the way things are done- and not necessarily with the greatest effect or love of the people. Each has a choice – they stand at a turning point- a chance to start anew- to be free of the spirit of slavery. So too, do we.

Rebirth Reliant

The only way to freedom is rebirth. To be born means relianceupon something or someone bigger than us. Someone to nourish and protect us as we are taught to live fully. Rebirth is a reliance on a new way of living. Isaiah has been living as the people lived and he owns it- but with the touch of a coal to his lips, his spirit is cleansed and his lips are on fire for the Lord. There is no room for him to speak softly and carefully, but only with passion and truth. Nicodemus must also be reborn- to let go of the worldly ways as he knows it, the political game playing and alliances to instead cling to a world where God is the center. “God so loved the WHOLE world that he gave his son…in order that the world might be saved by him.” This God, who is so big, is on the side not just of Jews or Christians, but of humanity and we risk losing sight and being reliant on the spirit of slavery if we imagine God is reliant on our interests in a partisan way.

We are not removed from our circumstance by rebirth. We are still aware of the politics and wars of our world, the loss all people sustain in them and we are not called to forget or ignore the pain and loss of the world. In fact, we are called to honor that loss, as we do this Memorial Day weekend. But we are called to shift our reliance because God is not reliant upon our interests or imperfections. Rather, we are reliant upon God’s interests and perfect and all encompassing love for the entire world- for Jerusalem and Assyria. It is a new and scary reliance- one that decimates the way the world tells us to find our value and purpose. But it is the rebirth in the Holy Spirit that will nourish us come what may. The Spirit will nourish us at God’s breast (Isa 49:15, 1The 2:7) as a hen covers her chicks (Luke 13:34)- until the day we are able to stand with burning lips and answer God’s question, “whom shall I send? Who will go?”

Spirit Powered Call

Turning points are scary- I don’t know of any call stories for pastors that were an easy yes answer, and in all honesty, I don’t know of any call story at all that was an easy yes. Every one of us stands there in a naked or underwear moment afraid of what is ahead. But when you wake up and stand in the dark of night, wondering, “can I do this?” No matter what the turning point is, whether it looms with fear and sorrow or joy and potential for life, you do not stand alone. Isaiah did not stand alone in that throne room, God was with him. Nicodemus did not stand in the dark alone, Jesus was with him. And you do not stand alone now at whatever turning  point you stand at, for through the Holy Spirit, the triune God is with you now, and forever. This is what it is to have a Spirit powered call- to know we are not alone. We can stand, with burning lips and say, “here I am Lord, send me.”

Love that is Life

It has been growing- this message I am writing today. And this week, I have been bombarded by the Holy Spirit to finally preach it. Please pray for the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart as well as the hearts and spirits of those in addiction crisis.

In John 15:9-17, Jesus tells us to love our neighbor. Then he tells us there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life. A commandment to love and sacrifice for one another. 1st John tells us these (God’s) commandments are not burdensome. And this all makes me sad, guilty, and then angry. Sad because I do love my neighbor. But some of them cannot recieve that love. Guilty because I refuse to lay my life down to some neighbors. It would not help them. And then angry, because I am tired of the way addiction takes every good thing and leaves it in ruins. And Jesus is tired too.

Can you hear the exasperated “I LOVE you” in these passages? (Credit Rev Katy Stenta, link below)It’s like a parent who repeats 20 times before leaving, “no parties, no friends over, no going out.” These are words of love and guidance to live by while the guardian is out. Jesus understands he will not be with them, with us, in the corporeal sense much longer. But he does leave them with his Spirit in both commandment and presence.

These are important scriptures and I need you to read and hear them for their value. Then I need you to understand that there are new rules when addiction enters the picture. There are new boundaries and definitions that are life-giving even in the face of death and destruction that addiction leaves in it’s wake.

So hear me now. This sermon is about love in the face of addiction. Do not twist my words- because addiction has already twisted the promise and word of God and we must break free of that malicious lie. Addiction affects nearly every home in some way- it can take the form of gambling, food, sex, drugs, technology, cruelty, alcohol and more. Addiction cuts us off from life and relationship with each other and God. Most importantly, I need you to hear that addicts are God’s children. But addiction is NOT. Addiction is evil and life consuming. It does not give life- it takes it, by hook or by crook, it steals in pennies and pounds. Even so, we are called to love indiscriminately- to love our neighbor with tenacity, patience, generosity, and joy. The trick is learning what Love is and looks like in the face of addiction.

Love is LifE

Last week I preached and begged you to just hear and receive that you are loved and created in love to be loved, to give love, to BE love in the world. But that first you must receive it. Pure and perfect, Love gives hope and help. It lifts us up in the dark places so that we can keep dancing- even in the dark. Yet as a person who has a loved one in the grip of addiction, I feel sad, guilty, and angry when I hear the love passages. Because the things I do don’t feel like love according to the world. But they are love according to God. And that is what I want you to hear today.

Our congregation is in crisis. Nearly half of the people of our regular worship attendance are living with or loving someone in active addiction crisis. We are called into community in our baptism and part of being community is bearing one another’s burdens. That is love. But it is also love to be transparent and real. It is love to throw off the ugly mantle and shackles of shame and share the burden of addiction with others so that we can be community together. But we have to start somewhere, so: I have a son who suffers from drug addiction. He is in VERY recent recovery. Every day I wonder if he is ok. Every day I wonder if addiction will take back over because this recovery is so new. Every time my phone rings from him I am afraid. Every day it doesn’t ring I am afraid. Every time. Addiction is part of my family life now and even though he is now in recovery, we are still in crisis and we covet your prayers.

The mysteries of scripture are profound and deep. The moment we think we understand them, they well up new ideas and applications. Love in scripture is one such topic that continues to garner new thought and application. Love is not just a feeling. It is not just an action. It is what flows from the Spirit, it is what life is created in and is nurtured by. And I feel sad because addiction steals and twists our feelings and actions of love. It turns the love of a parent or child that is not a burden according to 1st John, into guilt and mind games.

When we are told to give love freely, it means to love without expectation of anything in return. We can love our neighbor by bringing them meals and spending time with them, but when it comes to addiction, it is often given with the expectation, or at least hope, that they will get clean and sober. That isn’t the love we are called to give. We have to indiscriminately love our addicts with no expecation of healing or hope for the future. That is where it becomes commandment- because let me tell you, it is not easy to love someone who has stolen trust from you.

Giving without boundaries or consideration for the damage living without boundaries can cause is not love, it is enabling. Love is not enabling. Love is not guilt. It is not bruises or poverty. It is not trust in the face of truth that demands distrust. It is not spiritually decimating. Love is life giving. Anything else is a fake. Don’t fall for it. Love is Christ and life, not death and guilt. We can and should love our addicted people indiscriminately. Which means we cannot enable them. Stopping enabling is LOVE according to Jesus. He loved indiscriminately and he also told sinners to stop their ways and go forward into life and health.

I feel guilty. I said I will not lay my life down for some of my neighbors. I refer to the addicts in my life who are in active addiction crisis. Scripture tells us that love is to give freely of oneself. Addiction says that too. But addiction doesn’t value the sanctity of life. It consumes to death and then moves on. The Bible reminds us that life is precious, crafted by God and worthy of redemption and healing. It tells us to honor life, to nurture it and to protect it. It tells us to celebrate it and not to squander it. God gave the us boundaries to live within which honor life and guide us away from that which brings death, either here or eternally. To lay down your life is sacrifice. But sacrifice that does not bring life is worthless sacrifice. That is why Christ came to die for us. He understood meaningless sacrifice and gave us a way to stop it.

Addiction will take life and it does not feel guilt. That is how addiction works. It is an endless pit of lies to the addict’s spirit and body. Giving of ourselves freely to one in addiction is to literally give them death, not life. It is not life-giving and it is most certainly not love. It is called enabling. Enabling is giving in and being held hostage to the evil that is addiction. So no. I will not lay my life down for my addict. I love them too much. I will trust in the scripture that gives me healthy boundaries to live by- to nurture and care for that which is life-giving, not life-taking.

And I feel angry. Addiction has shitty boundaries. It doesn’t give a moment’s thought for ruining the joy of an ordination that was 13 years in the making. It doesn’t care for the heart of children who miss their mother and wonder why she won’t call. It doesn’t replace the stolen items in a grandparents house. And it sure doesn’t feel apologetic when a life is harmed or taken from drunk driving. I am angry that it is here among us and we must face it. I am angry that we cannot love freely and have to play mind games to figure out if our love is healthy or enabling. I am angry that one in the grip of addiction cannot see how they are perfectly beloved in Christ.

Wherever you are in the battle with addiction, Love is life. And it begins with Christ. Christ loved us indiscriminately. From women at the well on their 5th “husband” to adulterers, to the outcasts of society, he loved. He loved so much that he gave his life for us and gifted us the reminder and promise in communion and baptism. Through the Holy Spirit which he spilled out among us we are called to the renewing waters of baptism where we are born anew in his great love. Through the sacrament of bread and wine broken together we are nourished to love and live in community. Even community that faces addiction. Despite addiction. The key is doing it together, with each other, with Christ. Because in Christ, with Christ, through Christ, we are saved and given new life.

Given new life in Christ, we are called to share that life with others. We are called to sacrifice in ways that are life giving. We are called to love freely and in ways that always give LIFE. This is the love to which we are commanded. This is the love which we are given. Love that is life.

I am eternally grateful fur the enduring wisdom of many pastors out in the webs…today, I referenced Rev Katy Stenta’s blog in my sermon. Check out her post about exasperated and Easter love.

It’s not my power- Thank GOD!

Easter 4 B-April 22, 2018-Hope Lutheran Church, Riverside, CA

I am the Door, the Gate, the Way
Shepherds are a fertile image for the people who live close to the land, which of course, we rarely do in places like the greater Los Angeles Basin. They understood the metaphorical implications in ways we do not. Each year, you hear this passage in church and I am sure that over time you will learn many of the metaphors of this passage. Today though, I want you to hear the metaphor for a shepherd and what that means. At night the shepherd would craft a make-do pen of rocks and branches. Rather than crafting a
door, the shepherd would lay himself down in the opening, becoming the actual door to the dangers of the world. When Christ declares himself a shepherd, he proclaims what we see over and over again, that he is the door, the gate, the way. But for more reasons than can be covered in one sermon, instead of the way into death and danger, he is the way of truth and life.

My own know my voice
Sheep knew their shepherds voices. From a distance a yodel or call from just the right voice would bring just the right sheep coming in for protection, leaving the others behind. Like the response of a newborn babe to voices that they were exposed to in the womb, there is an autonomic response. It is as though they did not need to think, they just knew. This is a voice in whom I am loved and cared for. Christ is clear that when we are his, we know him, we respond to him and we trust in him.

There are other sheep
But he also talks about other sheep. The John text on the good shepherd this morning is Jesus interpretation of John 9, where a blind man is healed. It is important to realize this man is not Jewish, to him, Jesus should be a nobody- not even on his radar, let alone a teacher and prophet of any sort. The miracle here is not only that the man was healed. Rather, that his life was transformed and he found new being, not just new sight. His life went from sitting in mud to being able to be a productive participant in community. He could earn a living, could marry, could be considered “one of the rest of us.” He was no
longer a random guy who did not belong because he was different. But he was not a follower of Jesus and he was not a Jew and he did not follow the rules in any way. His
very blindness made him and outcast as though he chose to be blind. Yet he knew Jesus voice; he was one of the other sheep that followed and knew Jesus in another way.

And Jesus claimed him.

Jesus healed him and led him into life and newness of being.

Unauthorized and dangerous.
In the Acts reading, the disciples are on trial. They stand declaring through whom they have healed a man, just as Jesus instructed and equipped them to do. But to those they were gathered in front of, this was unauthorized healing- it was dangerous and unknown as the proper way of doing things. It was inexplicable and thus, not acceptable.
Sometimes, in the church, we respond the same way.

The idea of giving a small child communion can create controversy because it is not the way it has been done. The idea that a child can understand the implications of the bread and wine just as an experienced adult goes against our “knowledge” and tradition. And yet, I am often more impressed with a child’s simple and solid knowledge that this is absolutely given “for you” because “Jesus loves you” than by an educated adult’s expression of what communion means. It is controversial because we cannot explain the work of the Holy Spirit let alone how it works in a small child. It is controversial because it is not what we believe to be true or explainable.

So, too,  is the idea that there may be other ways to follow Christ. It is unauthorized and dangerous to consider that maybe we don’t have the only way to Christ. It is a theological earthquake of epic proportions to consider that being a Lutheran/Christian is way to Christ, but in the end, we are not Christ and thus not THE way. Because the only gate, the only door, the only WAY is THROUGH Christ. And even though we may not like it, even though we cannot explain it, the sheep of Jesus Christ know his voice and follow him. Which means we cannot argue that we know the only way to follow Christ, only he can know and only he can judge. What matters is that we do not have the power and he does.


The Power of Laying Down his Life
It boils down to the fact that Jesus has the power.

All of it.

Not us; not humanity. We are truly powerless. In our corporate confession we state that we understand we cannot free ourselves from sin and the truth is not in us. But God who is faithful and just still forgives our sin. The power is, was and always remains God’s. And as part of the Triune God, Jesus holds the power over who is his. Not us.
On the night he is betrayed, he chooses to come out of the Garden, leaving the sheep protected in the garden. He chooses to come away. He chooses to be arrested and tried. Christ never loses his agency in this- his power and control remains his even in the moment of giving up his last breath. Every last second he is in control and his power is fully his- even when it looks like humanity had it.

The Act of Love
When Christ lays down his life, it sounds like an act of imperialistic violence, degradation, and shame (thanks and credit Workingpreacher.org!)And while it is all of these things, it is most fully an act of Love. It is an act of selfless giving that we can
only hope to copy but never achieve on our own. It is an act of welcome- to offer up his life even for those who do not yet know him, but will recognize his voice when they hear it. It isn’t our power or our choice to love that decides who is saved and right about how to get to heaven. It is always about God’s sovereignty- Jesus agency and power.

And our choice is in this: that we can love. We can try to love like Jesus did- with open and forgiving hearts. We can love abundantly and trust that even if we get it all wrong, even if we are like sheep and dumb as rocks and can’t find our way, Christ is still watching over us and will call us into the fold at the end of the day. We can love EVERY single person in front of, beside, and around us without reserve because it doesn’t
matter if we are right or not. Jesus has the power, Jesus chose to love us first and his love, his forgiveness, and his power are the way to everlasting life.

I am Witness.

Easter III Year B, Sermon

I am witness.  

While living in Florida, we were dirt poor.  Lance was a reservist and was working on his degree, but we had nearly no income.  We lived in government subsidized housing, or as some will know it, Housing Authority.  We were so grateful for a roof over our heads. It was a difficult time and we were surrounded by folks who had little hope.  The evidence of it was all around us- broken homes, broken bodies, and drug use were of the pain and attempts to ease or escape it..  

So it was no surprise that a drug deal went badly.  And the fall out happened in our front yard, where my 4 small children had been playing only 2 minutes before.  Our neighbor was shot multiple times. Immediately after, he was pulled into another car, bleeding and crying out.  And we witnessed it. We were not alone in the witness. When I called my children in to wash up for dinner, I had seen porches full of people.  Yet when the detective came around, it turned out that Lance and I were the only “witnesses” to be found. Our lives became a living hell from the moment we went on record and witnessed to the detective.  

We are witness

What does it mean to be witness? It is a two part verb.  It is to see and know, but to witness also has a follow up action- it is to declare what we see and know.  For example, “she witnessed the accident” and “she witnessed in court.” For the sake of this sermon and simplicity, I will call the second part “bearing witness.”  I do so because I believe it is a burden we carry- and we do not have choice in it when we put on the name of Christ.

What does witness require of us? In many ways, the first part of witnessing we have no choice in.  We cannot choose to be a witness to something- it simply is or is not an event or circumstance that we are a part of in some way.  We cannot make up that we saw something we did not. However, in the second part of witness, we are given a small bit of agency (will to act for ourselves.)  We are able to bear witness to the circumstances that lead us to believe that something has or has not occurred. There is a birthday cake in the Gathering Place this morning.  If we go in and there is a finger of icing missing, we do not need to have been there to bear witness to the fact that indeed, someone enjoyed a bit of icing early. We could all see the evidence that icing is missing and in the shape of a finger swipe.  No need for DNA analysis or first hand accounts of it happening. It is obvious. Yet, we have a choice in bearing this sort of witness.

We are witness to the Crucifixion.  

While we are not first hand witnesses of Christ, we do actually bear witness to the effects and history as well as the current work of Christ in our lives.  One did not need to be there to see the difference in how a person of faith can live their final days with cancer.. I am not saying faith and the hope of the future automatically gives us grace and patience.  But without it- there is none to be had.

Peter was witness.  He had seen and lived following Christ.  He knew his power and yet, when he denied to those around the fire, he denied only to himself- the folks who accused him already knew.  He could not escape his witness of Christ and neither can I.

Witness of the evils today

I need not be direct witness to an exact evil, but only be aware of it and see the signs of it, even if in the negative  in order to bear witness to the evil among us. This week the news has been heavy and it has been doubled down by statistics that anger and frighten me. The Syrian conflict has been ongoing.  Nearly countless lives have been lost. 5 million Syrians seek refuge. That is approximately the entire population of both Orange and Riverside Counties. Yet, I do not see and hear of Syrians flooding our nation.  Rather, I hear of congregation after congregation prepared to receive them and none come. These congregations have done the work to partner with the state department and are certified refugee resettlement partners. And yet they wait with no word of families in need.  Because in our fear, only 11 Syrians have been let to resettle here in the United States this year. 11.

I do not need to see the Syrians to know they are out there in need- the world has born witness.  I also do not need to see them personally to have the refugee partners bear witness that they are not engaged with new refugees.  And I do not need to see the eyes of those who suffered the chemical attacks or the subsequent NATO approved bombings to try to take out chemical facilities this past week to bear witness to the fact that we as a nation are complicit in the death of innocent lives.  Because they are not here being saved and protected. That means by simple math, they are out there, desperate for safety.

What Shall I do?

If you recall my opening story of witness you may wonder what the difference was between my family and many of the others whom we knew also bore witness.  We had hope for the future. Lance and I had seen and experienced a wide world already and knew that things can change. We knew he was working toward his degree and that we could find financial security once more.  We knew the future had good and different things prepared for us. But many of the families there did not. Of course they all had heard of college- but few of them had any clue how to get there, let alone a real belief they could.  They had lived generationally poor in education, finances and hope of achieving either. For them, to witness would be a dead end road- a promise of being followed and likely shot, if nothing else, they would be ostracized in their community forever.  For me, it was not. I knew we would not be there forever. I knew there was hope.

Beloved, in our world of hopeless news stories, we are the ones who hold the different witness.  We are the ones who hold hope for the future. We have seen the evidence of Christ in our lives. We have seen the dance of the Holy Spirit moving among us and changing hearts and spirits.  We have glimpsed the promise of what is to come. And we are called to bear witness to it. We do bear witness to it- with our very bodies- even if not our voices.

Every time you reach out a hand and help you bear witness.  Every time you smile you bear witness. Every time you cut someone off, curse them out, or are dismissive or judging, you bear witness.  And every time you love beyond reason you bear witness.

I do not have an answer to the Syrian crisis or any other crisis of life in our world.  I wish I did. I have cried out like the Psalmists, in desperate plea and do not have an answer.  This past week was International Holocaust Rememberance Day. It was meant to be a day to bear witness- to remember the trauma and cost of humanity in the days before, during and following Nazi rule.  It was to remember innocent lives left because others would not bear witness by first choosing not to see. Then, not to speak, and finally not to act. Our nation and other countries not directly impacted,  were complicit in letting it get to atrocity and we then paid the cost of our sin by holding ourselves accountable and paying with precious lives to correct the sin we allowed to run rampant in our world.

This is the sin our first reading calls us to repent from.  We ARE witness to our world and what happens in it. We cannot avoid it.  But how we choose to bear witness matters too. And we are called in our baptismal waters to bear witness with integrity.  We are called to bear witness to Christ’s suffering and to his risen presence among the disciples as proof that we are forgiven and there is more than life lived in fear and defensiveness.  There is promise and hope for more- for grace and mercy to flow like Niagara Falls- bountiful presence in every Eucharistic meal. Peace to be found in locked rooms and a Christ who comes to us just where we are- always with us, never forsaking us and bearing witness to God’s infinite and forgiving love for us.  

This week- go out and live like this.  Live like we have hope- Live as witness to the promise and presence of Christ among us now.  For this, we are called. For this we are bound. For this, we are born again.

Making our Joy Complete

Easter II- Year B Sermon


“We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”

The words of the Gospel of Christ and the new church were written for us-a gift from the past to sustain the future, our eternal one, but also equally important, the current one.

John shares with us that there is joy in being community- because he writes these things so that the joy of the new church may be complete- by sharing.  

Many would struggle

The writer John, not to be confused with John the Baptizer, understood that we would struggle today because the young church was already struggling.  History tells us of the struggles as the word spread via story. This was a different story, not like the ancient stories that are memorized and did not change from generation to generation of verbal story telling.  This was a new one. It was getting told as personal and second hand experience. It had not been committed to memory by a storyteller yet- it was the average person sharing. This struggle would be so profound that within 2 lifetimes, a creed was necessary.  John The Evangelist, who wrote the Gospel of John and at least the first of the 3 epistles of John, trained Polycarp and Polycarp trained Iraeneus. It is in Iraeneus’ writings we first see a creed- the precursor of what we know today as the Apostles Creed. And that would not be the end of the creedal war- just the beginning.

This was necessary because followers were already arguing over things like the Gnosticism (the idea we can learn our way to eternal life) or the Quartodeciman Controversy which argued over whether and if so, which days Christians are supposed to celebrate the Passover Feast.  

If you think we have too much controversy now, let me tell you, it was no different in the early church.  We are humans trying to understand God! No wonder then that folks would struggle.

Some would doubt

In fact, some of even the first hand accounts would even doubt.  Beloved Thomas is an example, along with Peter and the Beloved Disciple (name unknown) who had to run to the tomb to see for themselves.  Somehow though we forget that Peter and The beloved disciple didn’t believe in the midst of Thomas’ doubt. There is a cartoon circling now about how “the guys will take it from here now, Mary” referencing that even though Mary was the first to witness and spread the Gospel of the Risen Christ, this is set aside and that she is dismissed in history’s telling in deference to the men.  I am not saying that it was sexism at play, but it has had an effect throughout the remainder of history and even impacts us today. When I am out in public in my clerical collar, I am repeatedly asked how I think I am justified or qualified to share the gospel since I am a woman. But I digress.

The point is, Thomas was not the only doubter who wanted to see to believe.  And when Jesus first shows himself to “the guys” in a locked room, Thomas is not there.  He is in fact the only one courageous enough to be out and about in a very dangerous and volatile time.  They have all had the benefit of seeing to believe, but he missed it.

I think what happens with Thomas makes him my favorite disciple.  You see, he has the courage to say, “I know you all believe. But I didn’t see what you did.  I am just not able to believe. I need to see what you saw- in fact, the reality is, I can’t even believe if I see, I need more. “  

This is deeply courageous to say to your closest friends of faith that you are just not there.  And I wonder how much we all might gain if we crafted a place where people feel safe to be like Thomas and admit their doubt and lack of faith.  

Christ met the need right where they were

Because here is the thing, Christ met Thomas in his need- he didn’t just show up, he invited him to touch and feel the reality of his wounds to assure Thomas he was not dreaming.  Thomas said, I need more. I am just not there. And Jesus response was, Ok- let me help you believe. Let me let you SEE first hand.

We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete- our community is in God through Jesus Christ

And that is what we are called to as the church. To do the same as the early church like it noted in John and Acts: to provide for every need in our community.  To share freely everything. Our time, our money, our property, our lives, our story and our love. It goes against every capitalistic bone in our bodies- and it did then too.  

John shares with us that there is an utter joy in this sharing- because he writes these things so that the joy of the new church may be complete- by sharing.  It takes courage to share- and it takes even more courage to receive. Imagine the courage it took for Thomas to stick his hand in Jesus side? Imagine the risk he was taking- if it was an illusion his world would be shattered.  If it was true- it would be turned upside down forever.

So how do we do this?  Well, we have been given a great commission:  we can forgive the sins of any and we can hold tightly to them until they too believe.  Take a moment and look closer at the Gospel in the original language and it will reveal that it never actually said we could hold onto the sins of others.  As my professor, Dr Mary Hinkle Shore points out translation work by Sandra Schneiders, the text actually reads:   “A more adequate reading would be the following: ‘Of whomever (possessive genitive plural) you forgive the sins, they (the sins) are forgiven to them; whomever (objective genitive plural) you hold fast [or embrace], they are held fast.

In this then, we are given our task- to meet our community where they are- each member in their faith and doubt and to offer to them the forgiveness of their sins- to let that sin GO.  And we are to hold tightly to them until they can believe for themselves. We are to love them, to care for them and to nurture them just as they are until they too are ready to believe.  

There are two ways to believe: seeing, which the disciples all had the benefit of, and by faith, unseen.  This is all we have. But the change and gift is so profound when we live in the illumination and promise of Christ that the early church knew their joy would not be complete if they kept it to themselves.  They knew it would only be complete in sharing it.

So hear the words that Christ said to the disciples in their fear in the locked room- even after they had seen him alive:  Peace be with you.

Receive the peace of Christ.  Cling to it- and when you cannot, let us, this community of hope, cling to you; let me as your pastor cling to you until you have the faith to believe.  We will cling to you 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.


Lent isn’t about you or me and our sacrifice.

Ash Wednesday Sermon- February 14 2018- Year B

It’s not about you. It’s not about me either. It’s a common thing for folks to come to Lent and Ash Wednesday thinking that it’s all about them and their sin and they’re need to repent. They come prepared to spend 40 days thinking about themselves and what they have failed to do. But it’s not about them. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about God. It’s about God and what God is doing in spite of you and me.

Lent is supposed to be a time for us to ponder what God is doing in our lives, and what we are not letting God do in our lives.

Jesus didn’t go into the wilderness to focus on himself. He went so that he could focus on what God was doing in him and through him in the world. He went into the desert to pray so that he could get out of his own way and focus on God and God’s promise for us that he was to live out in the world.

When he returned from the wilderness, he went into community and he called people to action. Christ tells us to pray, yes, but overwhelmingly more so, he calls us to action in response to the gifts God has given us. He calls us to action to care for creation and the ones around us.

When we speak of ashes we are supposed to be thinking about how temporary our life is. We are supposed to be remembering that God created us, loves us, redeems us, and returns us back to God’s bosom when the fleeting days of life here end.  Today, that reality has been made far too real for hundreds of families in Florida. As I followed the images and stories of the high school shooting there, I was moved to frustration and tears by the image of a stoic woman with ashes on her forehead holding another devastated woman as she sobbed. And then to social media where everyone is calling for prayer. But I am tired of hearing our children will be prayed for when we can do something to save them.

This sermon is NOT about telling you who should own guns or how many. It is about telling you our children are DYING and our answer so far has been to pray. It was not enough to save those 20 who died today. Prayer did not get a young man who desperately needed mental health care what he needed before he destroyed his life along with dozens of others.

Our Gospel tonight reminds us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. Is your heart found among providing safety for our children? Or is your heart found among your individual rights to own things?

Is it found in creating and supporting accessible and affordable mental health care? Or among capitalism and getting ahead?   Is it in trusting yourself and your defenses or in God and what God can do for you and with you?

These are hard things to hear and they are harder to say. I don’t know the answers, but I know that what we are doing as communities of faith is NOT enough. Every one of you would not rely on prayer if there was medicine or surgery to save a loved one, would you not? Then why are we relying solely on prayer to save our most innocent and vulnerable among us?

Lent is not about you, but it is about what God is doing for and with you in this world and community. It is about what God is doing through our community together. Fasting and prayer are not enough. We are called to more in our faith. We are called to love, to honor, to lift the yoke of burden and let our light break forth like the dawn.

Tonight, there is no comfort for those families. There is no comfort for a parent whose arms will forever remain empty from here forward.

In such tragedy, promise of eternal life is paltry and weak in the face of not getting to see their child and kiss their face again, even in death. It does not comfort them right now. It is too far off and the devastation is just too close.

As we move into lent, look around you and see the brambles and branches, the hard and scratchy places we must move through as we look inside our own hearts to see that Jesus came for the world- and that we are called into caring for that world.

The time ahead may feel lonely and desolate, yet we have the promise that was unknown before Christ died for us- we have the promise of God with us- always.  We are not entering the wilderness alone- rather with Christ.  And for this, if for nothing else in the midst of worldly pain, we are grateful.

God Cried Out, Too

Palm/ Passion Sunday

25 March 2018

Life is hard. Recently I was reminded to count myself lucky that this hand injury was not something life threatening like cancer. The man went on to share the story of his brother’s recent discovery of metastasized bone cancer. In nearly whispered tones he asked, what kind of God does that? My only answer was, “not a God I can believe in.”

Day after day I hear the anguish of humanity around me. Anguish over missing having a home to live in, money to pay the basic bills like medicine and food, let alone water and lights. Anguish over divorce, losing a very alive child to the life of addiction, or worse, losing them to death from addiction. Anguish over good people who live last days dragged out in pain and finally die agonizing deaths from cancer, MS, heart disease, diabetes. I hear and see women crying out for safety, to be seen as valued, as more than objects of desire. Yesterday, I heard children crying out to be safe at school and parents angry over having to choose education or life for their children. And even this morning my heart cried out in anguish over missing my mother in law, even 2 years after her death.   But I am aware I manage to go on. And some folks don’t. Their anguish over losing a loved one is simply inconsolable.

What kind of God does that? What kind of God takes children, mothers, helpers, healers? What kind of God decides to give someone a dreaded disease or make them suffer addiction? My answer has not changed. Not the kind of God I can believe in. Not my God.

Not the God who we will read about today.

Not the God who missed us so much that the Son was sent to be with us. To feel the coolness of air against his sweaty skin, to feel the kiss of his mothers tender lips against his cheek, to feel the sting of the whip, to feel the crush of the cross as it drowned him in his own flesh.
Not the God who ate with the dredges of society because he saw them as absolutely precious. Not the God who taught us it wasn’t about exact translations of the law but about the intent, the greater purpose.

Not the God who begged not to be left alone to pray, or who made sure his mother was in the hands of another to care for her as he hung dying. Not the God who cried out. That God, our God, who did all these things loves us too much to make us suffer.

I believe in The God. The one who knew our anguish personally so that he could bring us back into right relationship.   The one who would give up heaven and then earth to show us how much we are loved. The one who came for us, left the Spirit to remain with us and promises we are never alone.

I believe in that God. Because that God, my God, the God of Salvation through the death of the Son and the presence of the Holy Spirit, Our God, the one I can put my trust in, Cried out in anguish too. God knows our anguish. Felt it at the moment of sinful separation and for eons since. And God felt our pain and sorrow, our anger and fear, our humiliation and our frustration. God felt our anguish and cried out. That is not the kind of God who punishes us and takes babies to make angels of them. Our God is with us. Loves us. Desires us. Knows us. Remains with us.

Listen then, to the passion of our Lord, according to Mark the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters.

Please, Sir, May I have some more?

There is someone in your life waiting for you to show them Jesus. They are too afraid to ask and they are starving spiritually.

5025126481_494d79d4ea1-750x499Sermon for Hope Lutheran  based on John 12: 20-33.

“We want to see Jesus.” It almost sounds like a poor orphan child from a Charles Dickens novel in my mind, “please sir, may I have some more?” In Dickens’ famous novel, Oliver Twist, an orphaned child is sent to an orphanage where he suffers from hunger and cold. When the gruel, which is cold oatmeal, runs out and he is hungry, we read the famous line, “please sir, may I have some more?”

It tugs at the toughest heart strings, this idea of a child hungry and cold. It’s why the images starving children of Africa, South America, and China were used for years for commercials to get folks to help, let alone used by more than one mom to get her kids to eat their peas and carrots.  And for the record, I still won’t eat peas no matter who is starving. They can have mine. I am all about sharing.

When we hear this plea, our hearts swell with desire to care for and provide what is desired, let alone needed. These Greeks, though grown men, are no different. They are spiritual children, orphans, who understand that there is something more and they are hungering for it. They believe they must ask for it to receive this soul nourishing encounter. And I wonder, have you ever had to ask for something you really needed and were afraid you might not be given? In the vulnerable moments, we know that even in the asking,we take a risk, we die a little. Just by asking. But these men, they knew they had to take the risk. They had to ask. They were starving for more spiritually.

There is someone in your life waiting for you to show them Jesus. They are too afraid to ask and they are starving spiritually. They are hungering to hear that they are not too broken for this gift. That they are not too depraved, too sinful, too far gone. They are starving to hear that they are precious, a gift, created by God exactly as God wanted them to be, down to the last precious hair on the head. Knit together in the womb by a loving God who wants deep and abiding relationship with THEM. They are yearning to hear that their choices have not taken them too far from God, that God is with them. But they are waiting for a personal introduction. Like the Greeks, they don’t understand this gift is already theirs, already has their name on it and already belongs to them for eternity.

Jesus explains to the disciples, “those who hate their life in this world will lose it.” And I wonder if that is part of what keeps people from letting Christ in. In that personal introduction that others are seeking, they need to hear that this life Christ speaks of hating is not the life we imagine. It is the one we have bought into. The one that says we have to get ahead of our neighbor and protect ourselves first. In the recent movie, The Black Panther, the nation of Wakanda is the wealthiest nation in the world, but only they know it. They have secrets to long life, nearly miraculous healing, space age technology that will knock your socks off. No one is poor, everyone has all they need. And they keep it a secret. They keep it a secret because it also comes with knowledge that can be misused. So in their misguided attempts to save the world from potential harm, they also hoard the answers to life. Children in other countries, like ours, grow up without education, skipping meals and watching their only caregivers die of disease that could be treated. It takes an entire movie, and horrible loss for the to finally realize the error of their ways.

Today, Christ tells us that if a single grain keeps to itself, it is just a dead grain. But if it dies to itself, if it offers itself up, it is broken open and life will spring forth. Sharing what Christ has done for you is the same process. Embracing vulnerability and letting people know your past that God has saved you from and even more importantly, the imperfection of your life today, like that you drop curse words like bird seed, is being broken open and offers up new life to those who are silently begging, Please sir, we want to see Jesus.

The life Jesus tells us to hate is a life of limitation and lonliness. The one he asks us to share and receive is one of unlimited spiritual wealth. He is telling the disciples and us that if you are going to live his way, it needs to be with your whole heart. Do it well. Life is too short to live half heartedly.

In week 5 of our Lenten focus on  our mission statement, we focus on the line that reads our mission is “To serve Human needs in our community.” It is paired up with a Lenten discipline this week of offering our bodies up to those around us. What might that look like for you? For me as a young mom, that might mean getting down on the ground and playing barbies or trucks or dinosaurs with my children. It might mean sitting patiently in a doctors office with a sick friend, or offering to keep company with an elderly shut in. It might mean making a meal for a frazzled parent, or sitting with my 18 year old and listening to him explain his gaming and the techniques he has mastered. It might mean taking a walk with your lonely neighbor or signing up to help make meals for the homeless. And it might mean sharing a story of your life that might make you cry and hurt or be ashamed to talk about, but might show the person listening the face of Jesus in your life now.

The Greeks implored Phillip, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” We do not know if they ever got to see Jesus in person. But we do know within days he was lifted on a cross and died, so that the world might “see” his message of love and mercy. It isn’t the way of the world- it is a life that is so much more expansive and unlimited than we can imagine. It is a world where all are fed, all are loved, all are free, all are equal, and all are in relationship with God. He did not hate his life. He loved his life and everyone in it. But he lived a different kind of life, one where he offered his body up so that we too might have eternal life.
Which life will you choose to love today? The one that says there is not enough and goads us to hoard our wealth, freedom, and luck? Or one that generously shares radical hospitality through love, justice, and mercy? Jesus offers either to you. Choose carefully .