There are many books available on the market that explore what it means to be part of the LGBT+ community in the Church of Christ. Those that are opposed to full LGBT+ inclusion often use scripture to make their point known for all that will hear. In the process they often neglect that everyone is created in the image of God.
Brandan Robertson presents a well-researched proclamation as he advocates for a full inclusion of LGBT+ people in the church today. He brings to the forefront that we are all called to be in relationship with God and it is of great importance how we live out that relationship in the rest of our lives. He addresses the six “clobber” passages that have been used time after time to berate the LGBT+ community. These passages have always been taken out of context when used in this manner and as people of God, we have learned a lot as we grow into relationship with one another. Robertson writes, “Any relationship centered on a consensual commitment to sacrificial love for the good of another is a holy relationship, and any attempt to break that commitment is seen as less than God’s desire for humanity.”
This resource compliments his previous offering, True Inclusion, which discussed what it truly meant to be a welcoming church in the world today. Doing such, requires change among our thought patterns and the denigration of those that we see as different. This is not just true for the LGBT+ community, but also for immigrants, gender, race, and any other way that we as broken people decide to divide.
This is not an easy step for the church to take, because of the damage that has been done over time. The Gospel has been co-opted by humanity to use to its own advantage in various times and places. It is time to speak up and be bold in our proclamation. Robertson shares, “We must know that our silence is being complicit in oppression. Silence is opposed to the gospel. We must, in Christ’s name, speak up. We must be willing to sacrifice our positions of privilege, power, and comfort in order to lift up the oppressed and give the voiceless back their voices.”
There is redemption to be found in Christ and we are not called to get in the way of the Holy Spirit working among the people of God. We are called to love and inclusion. Brandan Robertson’s book shares this in a way that is full of wisdom as well as from a full heart that has experienced many things. It speaks boldly and calls us forth in love.
This sentence alone can be interpreted in many ways. For a
teacher asking a student the answer to a math or science question, it shows
that the student does not comprehend or simply failed to do the homework or
When it comes to hearing this answer in the setting of the
church, how does it make you feel? Are you comfortable with living into not
knowing, or are you more like the disciples that are constantly seeking
concrete answers from Jesus? Are you comfortable with mystery, or are you
stymied by it?
As a pastor, I hear plenty of questions where people want
specific answers. Sometimes that is just not possible. At one point in my life,
I have even had asked some of the same questions. I recall during CPE in
seminary, where I was a chaplain in a hospital, the struggle and challenge of
walking with families that encountered various diagnosis. One family I visited was
in the ICU and they were sitting with their father, whose chance of recovery
was very slim. As we prayed together, I could sense the love that filled the
room. The next day I stopped by and he had awakened from the coma he was in and
was beginning to communicate with his family. Another family had a sister that had
had routine heart surgery and died a couple of days later due to complications.
Where was God in these circumstances, I questioned at the time. It was safe to
say I didn’t know and to just be present.
That is the mystery of God that we live into and it could not
be made more apparent than today when we recognize Holy Trinity Sunday. The
mystery that is God, lays in the very heart of the Trinity.
The disciples were uncomfortable with this mystery. They
wanted answers before they were even ready to understand what those answers may
be. They constantly sought answers to the mystery that was unfolding in front
of them, yet they did not fully understand what was happening. They knew the
God they followed in the Hebrew scripture, yet something was not computing when
trying to equate God with Jesus. There was a disconnection with fully
understanding that Jesus was both divine and human. There was a disconnection
occurring when they tried to understand that Jesus was the Son of God. There
was a disconnection when Jesus promised to send them the Holy Spirit.
So, where does this disconnection happen for us? It happens
more times than we would like it to. To say that we fully understand God and
the mystery that surrounds the Trinity means that you are fooling yourself. As
David Lose writes in his blog,
“As I’ve said before, I don’t
understand the Trinity and don’t trust those that report that they do. The
Trinity is, at heart, our best if manifestly inadequate attempt to capture in
words the mysterious nature of God.”
We fall short when we think that we have everything figured
out and those that are different or have different thoughts than us are wrong. We
stumble when we move forward in our own reasoning without listening to the
Spirit’s guidance. We slip when we bow to the expectations of the world in
preference to the teachings of Christ.
Jesus calls us to trust in the mystery. The mystery that we
are not expected to fully comprehend. To be comfortable in the unknown requires
faith. As Jesus tells us in today’s lesson, “I still have many things to say to
you, but you cannot bear them now.” The disciples have already been overwhelmed
with the journey thus far and Jesus knows that they are not quite ready to bear
anything else. It will only be revealed when they are ready. It is the same for
all of humanity.
As children of God, we are invited into this wonderful
mystery. We are invited to join in community and walk with each other as the
Trinity leads us. Richard Rohr, in his daily meditations, recently shared this
about the Trinity,
I see mystery not
as something you cannot understand; rather, it is something that you
can endlessly understand! There is no point at which you can say,
“I’ve got it.” Always and forever, mystery gets you! In the same way, you
don’t hold God in your pocket; rather, God holds you and knows your deepest
Whatever is going on in God is a flow, a
radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three—a circle dance of
love. God is Absolute Friendship. God is not just a dancer; God is the dance
itself. This pattern mirrors the perpetual orbit of electron, proton, and
neutron that creates every atom, which is the substratum of the entire physical
universe. Everything is indeed like “the image and likeness of God”
the opportunity to encounter each part of the Trinity in our own time and
place. We are invited to join in the dance of the Trinity as Richard Rohr
refers to and that we will sing about soon. To enter that relationship is
mysterious and yet also overwhelming. God is much greater than we can ever
imagine. God is the creator that calls us to care for God’s creation. Jesus is
the part of the divine that has come to us in our own human form to show us the
way. The Holy Spirit completes the three to companion us on this great journey
The Holy Trinity
is present with us at all times in our lives. When we are born. When we fall
off the bicycle for the first time and scrape up our knees. When we enter the
scary world of high school. When we must start providing for ourselves. When
our own children are born and when we grow old and experience all new aches,
pains, and terrible diseases. The Holy Trinity is with those that wake up from
comas as well as those that breath their last breathes in this earthly world.
Trinity is at the heart of our Faith and is revealed to us in Jesus Christ as
he died on the cross to reveals God’s unbounded love. The Holy Trinity is the
Spirit that companions us throughout all of lives twists and turns. The Holy
Trinity is the creator God that brings us all together in a relationship that
is growing and is mystery.
okay to say, “I don’t know,” when you do not have an answer. For we are not
expected to know it all. For as Jesus tells his disciples, you are not yet
ready to bear it all.
pray. Holy Trinity, your mysterious way leaves us dumbfounded. As we enter the
dance of the Trinity, let us be open to those teachings that draw us ever
closer to you. In the meantime, let us be at ease with those things we cannot understand and let our faith guide us in your ways. Amen.
There is an anxiousness that often times will creep up within me
when I find myself in a place that is unfamiliar. Perhaps, you know exactly
what I am talking about. It is that feeling when you feel yourself at an unease
and you begin looking around for someone that you may know. Someone familiar to
make the unfamiliar not seem as unnerving.
Believe it or not, some people live for these moments! And to
be honest with you, as an introvert I do get anxious, but that little bit of the
extrovert within me loves the new surroundings and the ability to experience
new people and places. I want to believe that extrovert is the Holy Spirit
within me pulling me in a direction to try and experience new activities,
people, and places. It is the same Holy Spirit that energizes us to go out and
share the good news of Jesus Christ.
Our first reading this week unfolds onto the birth of the
Christian church as we know it. Now, Pentecost is not a new celebration for the
followers of Jesus. It has been known as the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot, and
eventually Pentecost by the Jewish people. Pentecost would follow 50 days after
Passover and on it they would celebrate the handing down of the Torah, or law,
to Moses and also the giving of the first fruits of the harvest at the temple. Therefore,
the disciples are already gathered, and it is in this place that Jesus sends
the Holy Spirit to take up residence in them. It will guide and teach them in
the ways of the Lord and drive them out into the world to spread the gospel.
Amid this Pentecost celebration the anxiety had to be escalated!
This was not a normal Pentecost, as everyone was speaking in their native
language speaking about the amazing deeds God has and will continue to
accomplish. I would like to know how Philip felt at this point in time following
the conversation that he had with Jesus in the gospel lesson this week.
Philip needs to learn a little patience as the disciples walk
with Jesus. Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father so that they will be
satisfied. He does not sound much different from Thomas after Jesus’
resurrection. He wants some proof of who Jesus really is. This will satisfy
him. He knows that it had happened before with Moses, so why can’t Jesus just
reveal the Father to the disciples so that they are better equipped to go and
share Jesus’ message. There must be more. Philip could simply be afraid. His
expectations of God, the Father is not what he has witnessed so far with Jesus
as he eats with sinners and touches the outcast. He is afraid and his heart is
troubled because he is still looking for God among the actions of Jesus. This
therefore feeds into the unbelief that Jesus addresses further in the gospel
Fear and a troubled heart can lead us in many wrong
directions. Out of fear, we seek to exclude those that are different from us.
Out of fear, we lock all our doors and are afraid to step out into the greater
world. Out of fear, countries engage in war with one another. When this fear
takes over our very being, our hearts become troubled and we fail to see Jesus
in anything. The enemy has worked its way in and is doing exactly what it
intended to do; to believe that we are separated from the love of God.
Personally, it is hard to overcome that unbelief! On my own, I
struggle with this from time to time. The moment that we think we have it all
figured out ourselves is when we begin to find ourselves in trouble. If we keep
going down that hole, it just keeps getting deeper and we definitely cannot climb
out on our own.
While Philip cannot help is own unbelief, Jesus can. And Jesus
does the same thing for each one of us, for every person in our community,
state, country, and around the world. The proof of Jesus helping our unbelief
is that fact that he laid down his own life to share with us the depths that
God is willing to go to bring us a love greater than we could ever imagine in
our earthly home.
To relieve Philip’s anxiety and fear, Jesus gives him peace.
It is a peace that will wash over him and guide him. This peace comes to him in
the form of the Holy Spirit. Jesus once again reminds the disciples that he is
different from anyone that has come before him. He tells them, “I do not give as the world
gives.” What a blessing this is for us to live into. You name it, we can find
it out there somewhere in the world. But if we are looking for a grace and love
that knows no bounds and is willing to knock down all barriers, that alone can
be found in Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit is alive and active in our lives and is just
waiting for us to listen and heed her guidance. It is not just for us
individually. The Holy Spirit is also alive and well at Trinity Lutheran and it
is our hope with the Tune-In team that we hear that Spirit moving and calling
us to new and wonderous ministries.
Are you praying for the Holy Spirit to reveal itself in the
life of our congregation? If not, will you? The Holy Spirit is just waiting to
set us on fire with the passion to go out and share the good news, and oh, how
much sweeter it is when we are able to do it in community.
Jesus went to the cross for us. It is here that we lay our
unbelief and are reminded of the gifts of God found in the waters of baptism
and the presence of Christ in the bread and wine at communion. The Holy Spirit
is not a noun. The Holy Spirit is a verb that is active and moving around us as
we continue to be God’s hands and feet in the world. It is the Holy Spirit that
keeps everything moving. It is the Holy Spirit that takes up residence within
our very beings and guides us and teaches us in the ways of the Lord. The
promise of Jesus Christ has been fulfilled in the Holy Spirit!
Let us pray. God of Spirit, you have sent us your Son, Jesus
to heal the sick, walk with the outcast, feed the poor, and so much more. May
the Holy Spirit that comes to us as an advocate continue to teach us and guide
us to be bearers of your goods news. Amen
This past Thursday, I had the opportunity to take Emali to
Central Michigan University for orientation. After all the visits to different
schools over the last couple of years, you would think that I had been ready
for this point in time to occur. As many of you know, sending your first to
college is a scary, yet wonderful experience. I am excited by the diversity
that she will encounter and the sense of community that is to be found on
Unity seems to be a common theme of all the schools that we
have visited. Every single one of them have promoted their inclusiveness and
diversity that can be found among the many organizations on campus. I know that
diversity is something that is hard to come by in our rural communities, and
especially the Lutheran church. Did you know that the ELCA is the most
segregated denomination in the United States on any given Sunday? We are the
whitest denomination in the United States. Part of me wants to say, “what do
you expect when you were founded primarily by Germans and Scandinavians.” Another
part of me is upset by this fact and desires the diversity that is found in the
university environment. We cannot live fully into unity until we meet our
sisters and brothers of every race, religion, sexual orientation, and ability, with
a warm embrace and loving welcome. Jesus Calls us to live into unity with one
another. Are we welcoming our neighbors into that unity as Jesus leads us?
This morning we come to the end of Jesus’ last prayers before
he is handed over to the authorities. It is a prayer that challenges the
disciples as well as those believers to come. It is a prayer for all to become
united in Jesus Christ so that they may come to know his love and grace. His
prayers are evoked from the experiences he has had with the disciples and the
challenges he knows future believers and seekers of the divine will encounter.
He prays for unity because he has experienced division among
the disciples. There are several times within the gospels that the disciples
appear to be divided. Peter shows his division with Jesus when he tries to
sweep Jesus’ talk of crucifixion under the rug. He does not want to hear about
it and does not want Jesus to talk about it. We witness James and John arguing
about who is going to sit at the right and left hand of the Lord. Jesus is not
even dead yet and they are arguing about who will be with him in his glory and
how they will be present to advise him. This is not much different than the
disciples arguing about who is the greatest. And don’t forget about the
disciples insecurity when others are healing and casting out demons in the name
of Jesus. They seem to think that they are the only ones worthy of performing
these mighty acts.
When it comes to Christian unity today, in certain circles,
that can sound like an oxy-moron. We argue and bicker among ourselves over
orthodoxy and doctrine. We overlook the teachings of Jesus Christ to simply
help support our own points of view. We choose not to worship with this group
or that group. Of course, I am speaking in broad sweeping strokes, but we can experience
this in our own community. While our table is open to all, we find the table
closed off to us in other congregations in town. I am sure that there are even
certain practices and actions that we do that make others feel excluded that we
may not even be aware of. We create division when that is not even our
Fortunately, we can find the grace in the prayer of Jesus. A
prayer that begins with prayers for himself, flows into prayers for his
disciples, and concludes with prayers for all believers that are yet to be.
This prayer flows down to us in this time and place so that we may be one with the
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus is praying for us! It is a prayer for unity
that we are still seeking to fully live into. It is the promise of the kingdom
of God to come into this world as we look forward to a new creation.
Jesus’ prayer is not for one single group. It is for all of
humanity that is formed in the very image of God. Jesus’ prayer is a sign of
the love that he has for all of creation. Bede Griffiths is quoted in Pathways to Peace, saying:
invisible, but it is the most powerful force in human nature. Jesus spoke of
the Spirit which he would send as Truth but also as Love. “If anyone loves me,
my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our abode with him.”
This is the love, the prema and bhakti, which was proclaimed in the Bhagavad
Gita, the compassion (karuna) of Buddha, the rapturous love of the Sufi saints.
Ultimately a religion is tested by its capacity to waken love in its followers,
and, what is perhaps more difficult, to extend that love to all humanity. In
the past religions have tended to confine their love to their own followers,
but always there has been a movement to break through these barriers and attain
to a universal love.
As the ELCA, it is our hope to reach out to all people in love
and compassion. We join with our ecumenical partners to share the love of Jesus
Christ. We reach out to dialogue with our interfaith partners to see how we can
live into unity with one another. Love is the one language that transcends all
religion. It is this love that Jesus can be found praying for his disciples as
well as the believers yet to be. It is a reciprocal love that Jesus prays for
us to live into. It is a love that is reflected in the words of the Apostle’s
Creed, “one, holy, catholic and apostolic
church.” The catholic in our
creed simply means universal. We are called into unity with one another to be
one holy church.
Thursday was Ascension Day. The day that Jesus ascends to be
with us in the bread, wine, water, word, and even the stranger. In Jesus’
ascension we hear the promise of unity and eventually all will be made one. May
we continue to live into that unity while continuing to proclaim the good news
of Jesus Christ.
Let us pray. Ascended Lord, we give thanks for the teachings
that have remained with us through your first disciples. May we be guided in
the time to come as we attempt to live into that unity and be directed by your
ever-present love. Amen.
I met David during my last J-Term class of seminary. J-term is
the 2-3 week period in January before the spring semester starts and the
classes offered are usually intensives on a certain topic. The class in which I
chose to enroll was Gathered at the Table.
A two-week course, led by the then director of education for ELCA World Hunger,
where the first week was spent on campus in class learning about how the ELCA
was combatting world hunger and how we made our voice heard, and the second
week was spent in Washington D.C.
David was passionate about caring for the homeless of
Washington D.C. and ensuring that they had every opportunity available to them
to step out of homelessness. Why was David so passionate? Because he himself,
traveled the United States from Phoenix to Las Vegas, to Dallas and then
Chicago, then from New York City to eventually landing in Washington D.C. as a
homeless man. He found himself homeless at the age of 29 due to schizophrenia. He kept moving around the country to find a
place where he may fit in, while living on the streets. He always tried to keep
up his appearance so that he did not appear homeless. However, he told us that
in Washington D.C. he started looking the part and probably looked like the
person he used to cross the street to avoid encountering. It was in Washington
D.C. that David met people from the National Coalition for the Homeless. The
coalition was a voice for the homeless and helped him get off the streets. They
advocated for him and assisted him in finding an apartment. They were a voice
for him when his was silent. Once he got back on his feet, he started working
as a member of the National Coalition for the Homeless by talking to groups
like ours and ensuring the voice of the homeless are heard. He had become an
Jesus promises to send an advocate, the Holy Spirit, in his
place when he leaves. This advocate will teach us and remind us of Jesus Christ
and how we are to live into the grace and love of God in this broken world.
David was living this out in his life and carrying it to the next step and
following in the steps of those that had lifted him up. How are we being an
advocate for our brothers and sisters around the world?
This is a tough question that some do not want to even be
bothered with. It requires us to dig deep into the heart of the gospel and
listening to what Jesus teaches. Some choose to walk away while others simply
go through the motions. Judas Iscariot has chosen the latter. He has walked
away from the promise of Jesus to fulfill the plan that was set in place from
the very beginning. Judas himself would suffer in the motion of eventually
handing Jesus over to the authorities. He has stepped away from the truth of
Jesus Christ and set into motion the passion that would pull all of us into the
As Jesus spends this last night with his disciples, he leaves
some challenging thoughts for them to discern as they choose or choose not to
follow him. He challenges them when he says, “Whoever does not love me does not
keep my words.” What exactly does it mean to keep the words of Jesus? Have we
been listening to his teachings from the very beginning? The disciples must be
pondering some of these same questions. They have been traveling with Jesus for
the last three years and now he starts to point out what separates you from
God. Note, this does not mean that God does not love us, but our own lack of
love for Jesus separates us from knowing the truth that is found in the word.
We not only do this with Jesus, but we do it with those that
choose to get close to us, to know us, and want to be in a relationship with us
so that we can build community. God works through various relationships to draw
us closer to Jesus. As in David’s case, it can take some time to wake up to
those that are speaking out on our behalf and reaching out with a love that is
reflective of God’s love for us.
Jesus knows our hearts!
Jesus knows that we get lost!
Jesus seeks us out because of these very truths. Jesus will
leave the ninety-nine behind to find just the one that is lost. That is the
very thing that an advocate does. An advocate speaks up on behalf of those whose
voices are getting ignored. As Jesus prepares to enter the passion journey that
will lead him to the cross, he promises the disciples that he will send an
advocate in his place. This advocate that he speaks of is the Holy Spirit! This
is a glimpse of the Pentecost that is to come, and the Pentecost that we will
be celebrating in two weeks. The Holy Spirit will continue to be a teacher for
the disciples and remind them of Jesus’ words. The Holy Spirit will assist them
as they are left wondering where to turn next as Jesus’ death on the cross and
resurrection begins to set the tone for the ministry to come and their calling
to share the good news.
The Holy Spirit is our advocate as well. The gospels teach us
how to live out this Christian life and follow in the steps of Jesus Christ. We
are God’s hands and feet in the world. David began to learn this as he finally
opened his heart up to those in the National Coalition for the Homeless as they
advocated on his behalf. He in turn, heard the call to do the same for those
that are still on the streets and wondering where their next meal will come
from or how they will warm up on those coldest days and nights.
So, I return to my original question. How are we being an
advocate for our brothers and sisters around the world?
Are we being bold and carrying out the gospel of our Lord,
Jesus Christ, as he has called us to do?
There are many things that we can be advocates for. We can
choose to advocate for those that hunger and support various organizations,
such as Bread for the World or ELCA World Hunger. We can support our ministry
partners in Haiti and assist in their care and teaching of those that need it
the most. We can speak out against gun violence and the deaths of our sisters
and brothers in schools, places of worship, and workplaces. We can be a voice
for the environment and the care of creation. We can walk alongside immigrants
and those seeking refuge and asylum.
We advocate because we are Easter people. We follow and
believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Following the gospel is not always easy
and it means going against the grain at times. Maybe you feel called to a
particular cause to advocate, maybe you are praying for the Holy Spirit to
As Jesus prepares to leave the disciples, he promises them an advocate. Our hymn of the day, Come Down, O Love Divine, speaks of that advocate. In verse 4 we hear, “No soul can guess love’s grace till it become the place where in the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.” It is this advocate that comes to reside in us in love and grace. May we be a reflection of that advocate to share love and grace with our sisters and brothers around the world.
Let us pray. God, creator of all things, you promise to send
us an advocate, the Holy Spirit, to teach us and remind us of Christ in our
midst. May we be open to your words of love and grace as we reach out to share
your gospel with our communities and remain strong in our faith as we speak a
gospel that seems counter-cultural at times. Amen.
So, who here likes to create? I know there must be some
creative people among you here.
You can create out of anything! The construction of a house is
creation. Making greeting cards is definitely creation. Planting your garden
and caring for your flowers is an act of creating and caring for creation. We
create on a daily basis and some of us may not even be aware of it.
One of my first memories of creating was playing with Lego
bricks. I had quite the collection of Lego sets when I was younger, and I would
spend hours putting them together and playing with them. The real creation
would start when I left the instructions behind and just used my own creativity
to create something new out of the various bricks that I had in my inventory. I
would make buildings, cars, spaceships, and anything that came to my mind as I
locked the pieces together. I had thought that it would be cool to be a Lego
Master Builder. Imagine, building with Legos all day long and getting paid for
Everything that we are surrounded by, or pick up, or even our own
bodies had to be created in one way or another. There is also the creation that
is yet to come.
This season of Easter our second readings have came from
Revelation. It is important to remember that Revelation is a piece of
apocalyptic writing based on a vision of the author John. The message of Revelation takes two forms. First, the terrifying
visions are warnings to those that are falling away from the faith. Second, the
glorious visions of triumph offer encouragement to those who are oppressed,
persecuted, or feeling powerless in a hostile world. 
The message this morning comes to us in the form of hope for
the kingdom to come. God promises that all things will be made new and in this
promise we are welcomed into a creation that is unfolding before our eyes.
We must remember that we are already living in a glorious
creation! Looking back at Genesis, when God creates everything, it is regarded
as good! From the seas to the land. From the animals to the birds of the air. From
plants to the very creation of humanity itself. It is all very good!
However, we know that over time humanity has taken dominion
over the earth in ways that are not beneficial and has eventually led to death
and destruction. We look at this destruction and become numb to it. An apathy
sets in and we turn inwards and just worry about our immediate surroundings. We
forget about our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world that are
dying from hunger. We forget about wars happening around the world if they do
not immediately affect us. We lose sight of what it means to care for creation
as it has been given to us. As we worry about things falling apart, we turn
even more inward and close off the outside world instead of trying to create
In our gospel lesson this morning, the disciple’s world is
starting to fall apart around them as well. We enter the reading just after
Judas receives the piece of bread from Jesus and he exits the supper to betray
Jesus. While the disciples may not know exactly what Judas is up to, Jesus has
already been predicting his death. There is a sense in the room that things may
be headed in a different direction than what they would prefer they had.
Judas’ betrayal is part of that same brokenness that is
reflected among us in the very care of creation. Judas is taking things into
his own hands; however, it is unavoidable. It is part of the procession that we
have become familiar with during the passion. It points to the ways that we too
will betray Jesus in our sinning. Jesus is present in the very creation that we
have turned our back on, yet in our own brokenness, we must come to realize
that Jesus is standing there feeding us the bread of life.
That bread of life comes to us is a new creation. The new
heaven and the new earth that John writes about in Revelation is a hope that
comes to us through Jesus Christ in the present time, but also in the time to
come as we encounter a new kingdom. The heavens and the earth as we know them
today will pass away. That does not mean that the earth as we know it today is
disposable. We still have the call from God at the beginning of Genesis to care
for creation and not to take advantage of it. Every time that we exploit the
earth and any part of creation, we are sinning and revealing our own brokenness
to those around us.
Not only will the old pass away, the sea will be no more. Now,
this does not mean that the oceans will evaporate or completely disappear. The
image of the sea in the Hebrew scriptures is a reference to the chaos of the
world and the brokenness and the sin that lies within it. In the coming of a
new heaven and a new earth, that means that chaos as we know it will vanish.
In the meantime, Jesus has risen, Alleluia! In this very
action, God has already shown us the wonderful and mysterious that can be done
in creation. The new heaven and new earth are already on their way as we move
ever closer to the kingdom of God. In the midst of it, we too, can help in the
Patrick Carolan wrote in a
newsletter this past week, “What if the
purpose of the Incarnation and Resurrection was not so we could go somewhere
else, but rather so we, with God, could create a new earth.”
Imagine what that would look like. The chaos would be gone.
And even more importantly, we would be fully living into the teachings of
Jesus. In the gospel lesson he instructs his disciples to “love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone
will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
What if we were to begin creating a new earth today and
approached everyone with love. Not judgement or scorn. But pure, simple love.
The love that Jesus showed to us by his death on a cross. The love that he wants
each and everyone of us to experience through the grace of God. It is a love
that knows no end and a love that pulls us into the very being of God.
Let us pray. Creator God, you give us the opportunity to reach
out in love to our neighbors and be a part of the breaking in of your kingdom
into this world. May we walk with creation in love and care as we are guided
along our path by your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
One class that is not offered in seminary is how to care for a
As a new pastor, it is important that it is properly
maintained. Mowed on a regular basis and ensure that it looks like it is in
decent order. Not to mention that proper records are maintained. Also, you
better make sure that there are flags on all the graves of the military veterans
on Memorial Day. How this became part of the pastor’s job I was never sure. It
did not help that the cemetery was located a few miles from the church on a
dirt road near the original church.
Every year when we come to this point in the lectionary, I am
reminded of my first call and their cemetery. Why? Because it was not just known
as Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery, but also the Swedish Lutheran Cemetery and more
importantly, the Sheep of the Good Shepherd Cemetery. There is a metal archway
over the entrance that reads, “Sheep of the Good Shepherd.” It was a serene
spot. A place that I truly enjoyed visiting and being surrounded with the
saints of the congregation that had already entered the church triumphant. If I
was lucky enough, I may be visited by livestock whose grazing area butted up to
the cemetery. I walked along the Anderson’s, Nelson’s, Sandahl’s, Hanson’s (you
know all those good Swedish names), and many more while praying. I especially
enjoyed going out there on Easter Sunday just as the sun was rising and
rejoicing in the Resurrection.
In John’s gospel this morning, we enter the story in the midst
of The Good Shepherd chapter. Therefore, the 4th Sunday of Easter has
come to be known as Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus, the good shepherd, knows each
and every one of us and calls us by name to follow him and have life eternal.
While Jesus knows us and calls us, that does not mean that we
fully understand what is taking place. We too often attempt to make Jesus into
the very thing that he is not! Don’t think that we are the only ones. There was
confusion in Jesus’ time as well. The Jewish leaders in the temple wanted to
know who Jesus was. In our lesson this morning, they cannot stand the waiting. It’s
like waiting for the name of the latest royal baby that was born. Ok not
really, but those talking to Jesus this morning really wants to know if he is
the Messiah or not!
We are told that it is winter and the time of the festival of
the Dedication. We know this festival better as Hanukkah. It was a celebration
of not only the rededication of the temple at the time of the Maccabean revolt,
but also a celebration of liberation. As they gather for this festival, the
Jewish people are looking towards the coming of a Messiah, and are waiting for
Jesus to respond and tell them the truth. However, he chooses not to answer in
the affirmative because he does not fit into the box in which they are trying
to place him.
They are looking for a Messiah, who will save them from the
Roman empire. A conqueror who will destroy all that is in their way and will
bring them to a place of peace. Their concern is around earthly matters and not
the promise of salvation that the Messiah can provide eternally. They desire
someone that can conquer their oppressors and bring them back to a point of
Wow, we do not learn from history, do we?
Time and time again, we gather around political leaders that
we think are going to bring great change and we remove our eyes from what truly
matters in Jesus Christ. We want them to save us from what we think is wrong.
We look for leaders in businesses to save them from failure. The church is even
guilty of this! Congregations call pastors in the hope that they will turn
everything around. Sunday school classes will be back to levels of the past, the
sanctuary will be full, and the offering plate will be over flowing. In all of
these cases, we look past what truly matters in Jesus Christ. Not to say these
things cannot be done, but they are done in community. We are not called to
conquer. We are not called to save anybody from anything. That is the calling
of Jesus Christ!
Jesus is the Messiah! He just is not the Messiah that the
Jewish leaders are looking for. He does conquer. But he does not conquer the
Roman Empire as they are hoping. He conquers what truly matters. Jesus, the
Good Shepherd, conquers sin, death, and evil! It is this Messiah that we are
called to follow. We follow him and he tends to us as his flock.
More importantly, he reaches out to those that need him the
most. He looks to welcome all of humanity. Especially the part of humanity that
is abandoned, thrown out, cast out, and tossed out. Those that are on the
fringes of society. His concern is not with political parties or the bottom
line. Jesus’ concern is for his flock. To care for and love us as children of
While we may have no clue how to be a shepherd in the literal
sense, we can learn from Jesus and reach out to the same people that he ushers
into the kingdom of God. And you know what, Jesus does not exclude anyone. In
his call to follow him, we too can learn to share the love and grace that is
bestowed upon us by God.
This past week, as the church of Christ, we lost another great
saint. Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche Community for people with
developmental disabilities and those who assist them. He is an example of what
it means to truly follow Jesus Christ. He wrote the following in one of his
a good shepherd is to come out of the shell of selfishness in order to be
attentive to those for whom we are responsible so as to reveal to them their
fundamental beauty and value and help them grow and become fully alive.
As we choose to follow Jesus, are we truly following him, or
are we just giving him lip service? Are we being his hands and feet in the
world or are we just talking the talk? The grace is that Jesus welcomes us in
whatever we choose to do, however are we truly living in our faith? What are we
choosing to shepherd?
Let us pray. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, you call us to follow
you and you know us. You know our hearts and what is on our minds. May we continue to listen to that calling and
be open to your movement in our lives and the life of our community. Amen.