David Zahl presents a lively discourse on what we turn our attention to in the present time. What is it that leads us away from God and what do we treat as our priorities today.
If you have never heard of the term seculosity before, it is because it is of Zahl’s creation. “What’s more, there does seem to be a discernible difference between grounding your hope in something material and something spiritual. Blanketing both groups with such a loaded label could come off as patronizing. Which is why I am proposing a fresh term seculosity. I’m using it as a catchall for religiosity that’s directed horizontally rather than vertically, at earthly rather than heavenly objects” (xxi).
As we get overwhelmed in our daily lives, there are many areas that get prioritized over our dedication to Christ. Zahl ventures into the areas of parenting, work, technology, politics, and much more as we have turned these into our own type of religion. He even ventures into how we co-opt the church and what we have made it to be that is far from the vertical faith that God has originally called us.
Zahl includes a great sense of humor that brings the discourse to heart and one that the reader can relate. While he points to the things that create seculosity, he does conclude the book with “What to ‘do’ about it.” His argument is not that we are less religious than we have been in the past, in fact, we may be more. We have just turned our religion to things that are not the God of creation. He points to the unique position we have as offering the grace of God. However, amid the grace, we are also sin and are broken. To repent of this and be awash of the grace of God is a hope that nothing in the secular world can offer.
the recurring themes from our lessons this morning. Could living our lives be as simple as
stripping everything away to whether we are living in fear or if we are living
in faith? Do we know how to name fear, and do we know how to name faith?
Sometimes fear is very evident and can be seen in the faces of little children. This past Thursday I had the opportunity to meet Alice whose husband was deported after following the legal process for nearly two decades. She shared how her five-year-old granddaughter had developed a fear of police after her grandfather had been taken. She would scream and cry while they were in the car whenever they saw a police officer. To combat this fear, she had a friend dress up as a police officer come over to their house and teach her that the police are not people to fear. She wanted to make sure that if she was ever in trouble, she knew that she could go to a police officer for help. For some, that feeling of safety and freedom is hard to find in this earthly world. That is when we turn towards God to catch a glimpse of the hope that resides in Jesus.
There is an
absolute freedom in the reign of God which calls us to live in faith and to
banish fear from our lives.
It can be
easy to let fear control our lives. It has happened over and over again. As we
turn to history, we can look at the rise of the Third Reich and Nazi Germany. Fear
in the face of Hitler gripped Germany, while many people knowing what was
happening, chose not to raise their voices. Many of those people were Lutheran!
The fear also went the other direction as the reich created a fear of those
that were different, resulting in nearly 11 million people killed during the
Holocaust, simply because they did not fit the model picture of what the
leaders thought humankind should look like. Fortunately, the rest of Europe and
America stepped up to this manufactured fear of the other and fought to bring
peace and freedom to Europe.
It is easy
to co-op the gospel to your own making and we have seen it done in our own
country through slavery, segregation, opposition to suffrage, and even to our present-day
treatment of the stranger and neighbor among us.
Fear is not
new. Fear has shaped humanity from the very beginning. Fear gripped Abram as he
was afraid that he would not have any heirs to receive the blessing of the Lord.
He was fearful of what would happen to his possessions after he died. What
would happen to those things that he had been promised? He was fearful it may
go to a slave born within his house.
gripped the disciples as they think about the difficult call that Jesus is
continuing to make for them to follow. They worry about what is coming next and
how they are going to live in their lives with Jesus. Jesus’ ministry is
changing things and that change brings the unknown. Change can easily heighten
our sense of fear.
surroundings change, our sense of direction is thrown out of whack and it can
be easy to get lost. Do we become complicit to the negative changes around us
like history has done in the past, such as Nazi Germany? Do we embrace the change that lifts up all of
God’s creation and pray for it as the in-breaking of the reign of God?
toward the freedom found in Jesus, we must acknowledge our fear.
well aware of our fears and says, “Do not be afraid.” Our first response may be
Jesus! Sometimes that is much harder than what you suggest. Change is
difficult. The unfamiliar can scare us. When we venture into the unknown our
knees begin to quake and buckle. And in the midst of it, you tell us, “do not
be afraid!” Yet, somewhere amid our fear we can begin to find just that tiniest
seed of faith. That is all it takes. And, each one of us has that seed within
us, even when it does not feel like it.
of Hebrews reminds us of what faith can look like. “Now faith is the assurance
of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Abraham learned what
it meant to have faith. He found the freedom that is in the grace of God. As he
listened to God and released all of his fears, he began to truly understand
what God had been calling him to from the very beginning.
the seed of faith in the disciples that are following him, “have no fear little
flock.” Jesus continues to nurture those seeds within us through the freedom
that is given to us to follow and obey his word. Our faith, as it grows, begins
to drive the fear out. There is an absolute freedom in the reign of God which
calls us to live in faith and to banish fear from our lives.
history the faithful have been lifted for us to remember. Today we remember the
faith of Clare of Assisi. Clare was friends with Francis of Assisi before he
heeded the call from God to rebuild God’s church. Clare faithfully followed in
the footsteps of Francis. Clare learned what it meant to give herself
wholeheartedly to living into her faith. Her faith led her to found the Order
of the Poor Ladies. Fear was not on her radar and the example of her faith
lives on today as we remember her.
faith are both powerful entities. The question is, which one are you allowing
to direct your life? Will you live into the fear of the unknown, the fear of change,
or the fear of those that are different? Or, will you embrace your God-given
faith to bring the reign of God closer to all of God’s creation?
I leave you with a prayer from Clare,
you most gentle Jesus…
Give me a
lively faith, a firm hope, and perfect charity,
As a child,
I could not wait until Christmas break came upon us. It meant that Christmas
was usually less than a week away and the excitement that built up in my family
home was almost uncontainable. At least among myself and my younger siblings. The
excitement that my parents exuded would at times be present in raised voices
because of the anticipation of getting everything ready to host Christmas Eve. Four
of my older siblings would return home with their families and the house would
nearly be bursting at the seams.
had to get her Martha on, at least a week or two before Christmas Eve. The
amount of Christmas treats that she made was incredible. She would plan for
dinner on Christmas Eve, which usually consisted of ham and various sides
topped with all those wonderful treats that she would make. Over the years, as
nieces and nephews were born, and then they began having their own children,
Christmas Eve became a good type of chaos. Unless you were my parents because it
could easily become overwhelming.
I could see
my mother and Martha agreeing on the hecticness of having a houseful of people.
Martha’s anxiousness that appears in Luke’s gospel could be expected as she
wants to make sure everything is right for Jesus and his disciples. We have no
idea how many people came into their home. I am sure that it was Jesus and at
least the twelve closest disciples, but nothing rules out that this group could
have contained the seventy that Jesus had sent out earlier to share the peace
of God and cure the sick. It is the hospitality that Martha is showing now that
he had told the disciples to look for.
Martha have chosen to be hospitable in their own ways and sometimes the better
part is to pause and listen to the Lord.
It is not
hard to find a sermon that puts Martha in a bad light. She appears to be
self-obsessed because she must do all of the work while Mary sits at the feet
of Jesus. Mary has stepped out of the norm as she chooses to listen to Jesus
and his teachings. Much like the Samaritan last week that stopped to help the
stranger, which in Jesus’ time would have been viewed as counter-cultural, Mary
chooses to sit at the feet of a male teacher. This was nearly unheard of in
first century Israel and if the right person had seen it could have possibly
got Mary in trouble.
teachings and actions move well beyond expected norms. Martha is uncomfortable
with Mary’s actions and raises her concern to Jesus. She is anxious and wants
help. Jesus does not necessarily tell Martha that she is wrong, but let’s her
know that Mary is in the right place at the right time. She has chosen the
better part. She has released any concerns that she may have so that she can
fully turn her attention to their guest, Jesus. We do not hear Martha’s
response, but I would like to believe that she began to fully understand what
Jesus was talking about in this moment. Martha was serving where she felt
called to serve at that time and so was Mary. We each have our own calling that
connects us to the body of Christ.
I must admit
it is easy to forget that. It is easy to forget that everything we do affects
those around us. It is easy to forget that our own actions have consequences,
either good or bad. It is easy to get caught up in the anxiousness of making
sure our checklists are completed. It is easy for us to get caught up in our
work (even if it is the work of the church), in school, with finances, in our
relationships, in our time management, in the events of the world, and even in
our aging. In all those things, are we preaching the gospel, or is Jesus just an
part of this is to pause and sit at the feet of Jesus. To listen to his
teachings and be fully present to his word. This is the kingdom of God that has
came into Martha’s home and Mary has chosen the better part for her of sitting
and listening. Perhaps Martha has even chosen the better part for herself if
what she is doing is a proclamation of God. For her to project her expectations
upon Mary is not what Jesus expects in the kingdom.
We are each
called to serve the Lord in various ways and sometimes we must break out of the
barriers that fence us in. The Good Samaritan visibly showed this last week by
loving his neighbor and caring for his wounds. Mary shows her love for God by
sitting at Jesus’ feet and hanging on his every word. While Martha gets caught
up in her anxiousness, her act of doing may be the best way that she can
express her love for God. The Samaritan and Mary have both broke through the
fence of the norms of their day.
can point to times in our own lives where we have welcomed God into our midst
in our lives and the lives of those around us. Jesus helps us break through the
barriers that fence us in and welcomes us and walks with us in love. To love
others as we love God requires us to break through those barriers. Jesus sets
us free! It has happened many times throughout the last couple of centuries as
we have confronted the evils of slavery, racism, sexism and homophobia. Not to
say that we have fully came to a full reconciliation of any of these, but we
have made our voices be heard as we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus
sets us free to open our hearts, minds, and souls to embrace all of God’s
sets us free so that we can love the strangers and refugees among us. Jesus
sets us free to love our Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and atheist neighbors.
In that freedom we are given the chance to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen
to his words. The words that bring us closer to him and our lives in the
So, let us
continue to be hospitable and embrace all of God’s creation with love and
compassion. Let us listen to Jesus for what is the better part in our lives.
Let us pray.
Loving God, you walk with us and in that we can be empowered as faithful
witnesses. We give thanks for the faithful witness of those that have gone
before us, those in our midst, and those that will follow. May we be bold in proclaiming
your good news and share your love beyond all boundaries. Amen.
Growing up I would say that I had the greatest freedom I could
imagine. Probably the only thing that could have made it better was if my
parents had been millionaires. Still, I would usually receive what I asked for
within reason. Of course, it helped that I am a white male that lived in a predominantly
My parents gave me the freedom to make many of my own
decisions and befriend whomever I wanted. I had the freedom to choose to attend
Central Michigan University and the freedom to discern and decide to go to
seminary and become a pastor.
Some of these freedoms may come to us because of where we
live. As we approach Independence Day, it is important to be reminded of the
roots of our country and the many struggles that we have been through and will
continue to go through. We give thanks for the freedom that has come to us
through the sacrifice of many generations, however, we must remember that the
ultimate freedom we encounter is not our American concept of individuality,
autonomy, and self-determination.
As Christians, in Jesus Christ we have been given the gift of
freedom. What we choose to do with that freedom is reflective of our life in
Christ. You have a choice!
If you read in entirety, Paul’s letter to the Galatians, it
will not take too long to figure out that Paul is not too happy with the
community that has started following Jesus in the city of Galatia. They have
been arguing amongst themselves. They have been bickering about the proper
practices that they should be carrying out as followers of Christ. They have probably
used not so kind words for one another as they have failed to live fully into a
new community. One of their biggest arguments has erupted over the necessity of
It was disagreements like this that threatened to tear apart
the early church. Paul’s letter was a response to all that was happening. It came
to a point where he even wrote, “If however, you bite and devour one another,
take care that you are not consumed by one another” (vs. 15). Perhaps Paul
needs to write a letter to our modern times, or we could simply use the Letter
to the Galatians.
The arguments and disagreements that Paul writes to are not
any different than those that we have today. We turn on the news and we view
what this one group did to another group just because they did not agree or
simply did not like them. We witness it to an extreme in the violence that we
encounter in our culture. We witness it on Capitol Hill in our elected leaders
and their failure to work together for the common good of the people. We see
arguments over whether we should care for our neighbors.
One of the biggest places to see this occur is on social media
where people seem to think that they have more freedom to say anything they
would like since they are not in front of those that they are criticizing. The
thing that has amazed me is that there is an ELCA Clergy group on Facebook and
it seems that even pastors feel they can let all their nasty out on one another
through social media.
All of this is part of the nastiness of the flesh that Paul
writes about in our lesson from Galatians. The flesh that he is referring to is
our self-oriented selves that disregard others and turn inward to our own
personal desires. Now, desires are not a bad thing. It is a matter of what
light that desire manifests itself. The flesh that Paul writes of pulls us away
from our life in Christ. Once we are pulled away, it can be easy to stay in
that and thus we must be intentional in repenting and turning back towards God.
So, the freedom that is given to us in Christ can be seen as a
two-edged sword. We have the choice to follow the desires of the flesh or to
follow the leading of the Spirit. We are given the freedom through the grace of
God to follow or not follow Jesus. Wow, how very overwhelming that can be at
times and we know that we have all fallen short of the glory of God and following
completely in the way of Jesus.
In the freedom found in Jesus Christ we are showered
abundantly with the fruit of the spirit to live out the lives he has called us
to live. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against
such things” (vs. 22-23). When we live
with this fruit, it does not mean that we will not have conflicts and that
everything will be just the way we want it to be. When we live into this fruit,
it means that we live into relationship with one another and approach each
other with love and respect. Imagine what would be of this world if we kept the
fruit of the Spirit near us and did our best to live out that fruit daily.
Psalm 16 concludes, “You show me the path of life. In your
presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures
forevermore” (vs. 11). The path has been laid down for us in the life of Jesus
Christ and the freedom that he has given to us through his death on the cross. “And
those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and
desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us
not become conceited competing against one another, envying one another”
As Paul comes near to the end of the letter, he re-emphasizes
the importance of the love found in Christ. We are reminded that love is to be
given away as Jesus gave away his love for all of humanity on the cross. It is
a love that blankets us for all of eternity. It is the love that comes to us and
the same love that we have within us to give away to others. To follow Jesus
Christ means to live fully into the freedom he has given us by giving away the
very love he has given us. A love that is meant to be shared with all.
Jesus has asked each of us to come and follow him. What is
Let us pray. Great and gracious God, you teach us to walk in
the way of Jesus. We pray that we are not tempted to walk alone desiring the works
of the flesh, but that we are open to the Spirit weaving through our lives and
communities to guide us in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Amen.
The morning burned so August-hot,
the marsh’s moist breath hung the oaks and pines with fog. The palmetto patches
stood unusually quiet except for the low, slow flap of the heron’s wings
lifting from the lagoon. And then, Kya, only six at the time, heard the screen
door slap. Standing on the stool, she stopped scrubbing grits from the pot and
lowered it into the basin of worn-out suds. No sounds now but her own
breathing. Who had left the shack? Not Ma. She never let the door slam.
But when Kya ran to the porch,
she saw her mother in a long brown skirt, kick pleats nipping at her ankles, as
she walked down the sandy lane in high heels. The stubby-nosed shoes were fake
alligator skin. Her only going-out pair. Kya wanted to holler out but knew not
to rouse Pa, so opened the door and stood on the brick-‘n’-board steps. From
there she saw the blue train case Ma carried. Usually, with the confidence of a
pup, Kya knew her mother would return with meat wrapped in greasy brown paper
or with a chicken, head dangling down. But she never wore the gator heels, never
took a case.
Ma always looked back where the
foot lane met the road, one arm held high, white palm waving, as she turned
onto the track, which wove through bog forests, cattail lagoons, and maybe-if
the tide obliged-eventually into town. But today she walked on, unsteady in the
ruts. Her tall figure emerged now and then through the holes of the forest
until only swatches of white scarf flashed between the leaves. Kya sprinted to
the spot she knew would bare the road; surely Ma would wave from there, but she
arrived only in time to glimpse the blue case-the color so wrong for the
woods-as it disappeared. A heaviness, thick as black-cotton mud, pushed her
chest as she returned to the steps to wait.
Thus, opens the novel, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia
Owens. It is a journey through the lifetime of Kya, who has been abandoned,
ridiculed, shunned, and bullied because she is deemed different and does not
fit the mold of those living near her and is feared as the “swamp girl.” The
novel spans over the course of a lifetime that sees many things within Kya’s
life occur to bring her from ridicule to being recognized for her gifts.
While most of us may not be able to relate to the extremes of
her story, we could probably point to times in our lives where we did not feel
like we fit in and to times that we were welcomed and a place at the table was
set for us. Jesus invites us to open ourselves to his presence and be freed and
healed so that we may go out to proclaim his wonderous deeds and good news!
In our gospel lesson this week, Jesus steps out of the boat
and is immediately confronted by a man that has been battling demons for years.
The people in the country had no idea how to keep the man under control. He had
been stripped of his clothes and appears to Jesus in all his nakedness, revealing
the barrenness of love that he failed to receive from those that were close to
him. To control him they would place him in the tombs and chain him down with
shackles. Not only this, they would guard him so that he could not escape. The
people were fearful of him and kept him at an arms distance. He was not welcome
into their presence because of the fear he invoked, and he did not meet their
standards of how one should act. He was abandoned, ridiculed, shunned, and
Have you ever found yourself to be naked and alone? Anxious of
what will happen in the future and not knowing what to do or where to turn to
next? Have you ever felt chained up and guarded by those that have greater
authority than you? There are many times that we can point towards society in
general where this has happened in the past and continues to happen.
As a society we were fearful of those that were different and
had different mental capabilities than the societal norm. We would lock up our
family members with little support and they were abused at the hands of institutions.
Then the pendulum swung to the other side and any support has been stripped
away and we regard mental illness as taboo. This is just one instance that we
need to address as society as we learn to care for our sisters and brothers.
The man battling the demons knew that Jesus was someone he
could turn to. He knew that there could be healing, and peace found in the
Lord. You can sense the inner struggle that is occurring in our gospel lesson
as the man wants to turn to Jesus, yet his demons are fearful and holding him
back. Jesus’ presence is enough to bring the man to his knees and Jesus heals
him. The man is brought to fullness and is clothed, both literally, and with
the love of God that has brought him to his true self. Jesus welcomed the man
into his presence and freed him from being bound and healed him from his
In this newfound freedom, he is sent out by Jesus to proclaim what
has been done for him and the good news of Jesus.
The healing that Jesus brought to this man that had been
tortured by the demons and the community is also available to us. Is it going
to be a healing that brings complete health and restoration? Maybe not
completely in our body, but Jesus will always come to us and bring us peace in
our heart, mind, and soul to confront anything that may be in our way. Jesus
went to the cross for us to share the love of God and reveal the restoration
found in the cross and broken for us at the table.
Jesus may even come to us in a family member or friend that
shares a caring word, smile, or simply their presence to walk with us in our
darkest hours. Kya, in Where the Crawdads Sing, had that in a young man
that she met when she was young and would encounter a relational roller
coaster. As you enter her story, we
realize that Kya is not all that innocent, much like us. She has her own faults,
much like us, yet she finds peace and hope in the young man, Tate. Tate brings
to Kya a hope and healing that she had not been able to fix on her own and provides
a freedom into who she is as a child of God. Are you open to let Jesus work
through others to embrace you in God’s tender loving care?
Let us pray. Healing Lord, you come to us in our desolation,
when we are broken and in need of healing; when we are bullied and hiding in
the corner; when we are fearful and seeking consolation. Grant us the peace to
come to you and rest at your feet. Amen.
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