Living in the Brokenness

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For many this has been a week to rejoice in our democratic process in selecting a new president-elect to lead this country for the next four years.

For many this has been a week of shock and astonishment bringing tears and a sense of fear.

I believe one thing is clear from this past week, which has not changed. We are a broken people. We are a broken country. We are a broken world. This election has proven how divided as a nation we are and I don’t think it would have mattered who won, that division and brokenness would have still been present. The brokenness can be found in our sins we have knowledge of and those sins of omission. It is the reality of humanity living in a world where the Kingdom of God has not come fully into view.

The news has revealed some awful hate rhetoric that has occurred this past week. Children in middle school have chanted in a lunch room to build a wall. In another school, they formed a wall of bodies prohibiting other students to get to class. These two examples are from our own state. Graffiti has appeared across the country that spews hate and division. Muslim women and our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community have stories of being assaulted in one way or another this past week.

In the midst of all of this we get a gospel text that is assigned to us from the Revised Common Lectionary. A text that speaks of an apocalyptic time that makes us wonder if some of the signs Jesus is speaking about are represented today. Luke writes of the temple being destroyed, which Luke himself would have already witnessed before he wrote his gospel. In Luke’s gospel Jesus is not speaking to a specific time though. Every generation has seen similar signs in their lifetime. In the twenty first century alone there has been no exceptions. From the planes crashing into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 to the tsunami in Indonesia in December 2004. Don’t forget Hurricane Katrina as well. These all point to the brokenness that surrounds us and the signs Jesus points to speak to the brokenness in the world in which he walked 2000 years ago. In this brokenness, we suffer. Shawn Copeland states, “Suffering always means pain, disruption, separation, and incompleteness. It can render us powerless and mute, push us to the borders of hope and despair.”

In this suffering, we find God. Jesus’ concern for the disciples this morning is that they are putting their faith in the establishment of the temple. A large and grand building that distracts from what is truly important. It distracts from the truth. It distracts from God. Jesus calls them to turn away from that which distracts and turn towards God. We have been distracted this week and must not forget that it is God we turn in the midst of brokenness. It is God the protects and saves us. We are encouraged Jesus’ word since not a hair of our head will perish. By our endurance we will gain our souls.

In the meantime, what are we to do? It does not matter what side of the aisle we find ourselves on because first and foremost, we are Christians. We are to continue to live a life that Jesus Christ has called us to and one in which he has set an example. We are to reach out in love to our brothers and sisters and stand by their sides when they are attacked and are made to feel like they are less. We are to speak up for those that cannot speak for themselves. We are to ensure that the poor and hungry get fed and that the naked get clothed. Jesus reached out to a population that could not or did not know how to raise their voices. As Christians, we continue in Jesus’ walk today. While we may be living in a world that is broken, let us be reminded that it is still full of God’s grace and love.

Let us pray,

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

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The World Has Not Come to an End

Though it may seem like it.

What a bitter election season we have just experienced. I sat down last night to watch the returns with a pit in my stomach that must have been anticipating the outcome that I would wake up to this morning. No matter which candidate won, there would be people not happy with the outcome. I went to bed with an inkling of how the populace voted and what the outcome was going to be. Hoping that by chance I would wake up in the morning and it would have just been a bad dream.

The thing is, I am a white Christian male, what do I have to fear? I am in the majority and apparently that majority voted for drastic change in Washington. Just from watching the returns and listening to the pundits talk, the racial divide is still strong in America. We clearly are not a unified nation. If we truly want to move forward, we must be able to look beyond these labels.

Regardless of who won the election, my calling has not changed. I am called to serve God and proclaim the good news that is the gospel. A gospel which comes down to the lowly and the least of these. A gospel that leaves no room for misogyny, racism, sexism, xenophobia, or fear. I will continue to stand up for those that feel excluded and will continue to speak of the love of God for all people. I will continue to preach a gospel that proclaims the inclusion of all people. I will stand up for the creation God has granted us.

My prayer is that we can come together in unity. A unity that will break down any walls, real or proposed. A unity that encourages conversation. A unity that encourages strengthening relationships. I believe that America is already great because it is composed of a great diversity of people. There is nothing to go back to. We can only move forward.

I cannot even pretend to know how my LGBTQ friends and family feel this morning. I cannot pretend to know how my African American or Hispanic friends feel this morning. I do know that many have expressed fear and anger. May we step up as a united people to combat any hatred that is spread and bring about the love of God. God is good. In this we pray.

Vulnerability as Blessing

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November 6, 2016 (All Saint’s Day)

Luke 6:20-31

Let us pray: Dear gracious Lord, we give thanks for the saints that have gone before us and the ones that walk alongside us today. May your gospel that has been spoken and read for centuries to the saints before us guide and lead us. Amen.

Going back to school can be very intimidating when you have been away from it for some time. I was a little intimidated when I started seminary when I was in my early thirties, but in a way, was relieved when I had some classmates twice my age. It is true that we never stop learning. We begin learning from the time that we are born. We enter school so that we can become knowledgeable on many topics and have the foundation to go on to college or find a job. When we start attending school we are surrounded by other people our age and learn from the teacher as well as from our peers.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was excited to sit down and learn from Peter Rollins, an Irish theologian and philosopher. In an intimate setting with about 100 people we sat down to listen to a discussion on the parables while enjoying pints of cold beverages! We ventured into the topic of the parables and death and darkness. I had the opportunity to meet Peter when he visited Trinity Lutheran Seminary while I was a student and was excited to see him again.

This morning in our gospel, the learning is just beginning for the disciples Jesus has called. I am sure that they were just as excited to hear Jesus and his words as I was to sit and listen to Peter. I am sure that each of you can think of that one person that you would love to sit down and learn from. The disciples most likely knew all of the Jewish laws and were now eager to hear what Jesus had to teach. Wow, were they in for a surprise! The gospel as it came to them from Jesus was topsy-turvy! It was not likely the teaching they were expecting.

Blessed are the poor and hungry? Blessed are those who are crying? Blessed are those who are hated on account of the Son of man. To us, two thousand years later, these words may sound familiar. They can be compared to the Sermon on the Mount that begins in chapter 5 of the gospel of Matthew. Jesus’ words here are still cringe worthy for us nonetheless, because they turn our world upside down.

While Jesus calls us to be other-worldly, looking towards the kingdom of God, we are more focused on this world today and how we can get ahead. We want to get ahead in our own lives. We want to get ahead in business. We want to make sure we have enough just for ourselves. Yet, Jesus says woe to those who are rich; woe to those that have had their fill; woe to those who laugh.

And while there is nothing wrong with having riches, being full, or being admired, it is only temporary.  The only thing that we are promised is that in the waters of baptism we die to sin and enter into eternal life with God and become one of the saints.

Martin Luther, in The Freedom of a Christian, says that, “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” Luther’s statement seems almost as confusing as Jesus. The point that Luther is trying to make is that we have the freedom to do what we want, when we want.   Yet, our calling in Christ, calls us to be a servant to care for and to love everyone. We cannot do this on our own, and In admitting this comes a sense of vulnerability. To recognize this vulnerability is what it means to be a saint. Quite often we let our pride get in the way of that vulnerability because of fear and shame of admitting that we need help and cannot do it on our own.

Jesus comes down to us from the mountain top in Luke’s gospel. He does not stay up there to teach to us. He comes down to be with us and to sit among us. He comes to those that are hurting and in need of healing. He comes to those that are broken and are looking to be fixed. He comes to those that are so full of themselves with a reminder that he loves them still.

Being a saint does not require anything special. It does not require us to be perfect. It does not require us to be different. It does not have a requirement that we have to act especially pious or zealous. What it does ask of us is to be open. To be open to the vulnerability. The vulnerability that allows God to enter into our hearts. The vulnerability that asks for mercy because we cannot do it on our own. In this vulnerability, we are blessed.

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are his riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of God’s great power.  Ephesians 1:17-19

The Goblin Crown by Robert H. Wolfe: A Review

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It is nice to switch up my usual reading with some books for pure enjoyment. I received an advanced copy of The Goblin Crown from the publisher so that I could review it.

I have a fondness for books that venture into fantasy, from Harry Potter to The Chronicles of Narnia. Wolfe’s entry into this realm is a great addition to genre and would make C.S. Lewis proud. Reading the book, I was escorted to a land that seems foreign to us with goblins and many other creatures. Billy Smith enters this other world through his own thoughts and takes others with him. It reminds me of the wardrobe from Lewis’s books, but there is just a little bit more magic in The Goblin Crown.

In the magic you can see connects to the Harry Potter series and the wonderment that occurs in that world. The chapters move at a pace that you want to keep reading and this is truly the sign of a great book. It will keep young adults turning the pages and by the time they finish it, they will be waiting to see what Billy and his friends are up to next. It is not just for young adults though. I truly enjoyed it and even caught religious glimpses within the pages. For example, “All our songs have a final refrain, but only Father Day and Mother Night know the count. So until the last note fades, might as well enjoy the dance.”

Reading this book was definitely a fun dance.