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Sin Boldly… Pray Boldly

“Sin Boldly” is perhaps the most infamous Luther quote with the exception of “Here I Stand”. Yet, it is unfortunately removed from its context and often misunderstood.

On August 1, 1521, Martin Luther wrote to Philip Melanchton, whose contributions to the Protestant Reformation and its Lutheran tradition is undeniable. Melanchton was the ‘soft footed’ reformer who attended conversations with the Catholic Church on behalf of the ex-communicated Martin Luther, who feared execution. Melanchton was well-written, mild mannered, and a systematic theologian who provided the future Lutheran tradition with its own confessional writings.

In this letter, Luther wrote the following to Melanchton, his friend and colleague:

If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly (or bravely), but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly – you too are a mighty sinner.

Martin Luther taught that ‘sin’ is being curved in on the self, which is a condition of our being and not necessarily our poor actions. Therefore, we are always in a state of sin for our focus and intentions are never purely spent on God or Christ reflected in our neighbor, particularly the most vulnerable among us.

Since sin is a constant state of being, the sins of fornication and murder mentioned are not the literally acts of sex outside of marriage and murder alone. The sin of fornication would be the lustful thoughts, glazes, or acts while the sin of murder would be any thought, word, or action that ignores, criticizes, or harms a person in body, mind, or soul. Thus, Luther’s assertion that our shadow side (sinful nature) commits “fornication and murder a thousand times a day” may not be an exaggeration.

Luther understood this shadow side of humanity, which should be acknowledged and not hidden.

The shadow side is always present, yet always forgiven by the pure grace of God.

The truer the shadow side the truer the grace that is needed and appreciated.

Remember, Sin boldly… but pray more boldly – you too are a mighty sinner.

But, may we pray and act more boldly for the sake of our neighbors, the world, and all creation. Amen.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2019 in Newsletter Articles

 

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Divine Judgment

Welcome to the end… of the Church Year.

Christ the King is a celebration that reflects upon Jesus the Christ as our ultimate authority, which can be observed throughout the entire Church Calendar from his birth to baptism; in his public ministry, parables, and miracles; and from his passion and death to resurrection.

Our scriptures this morning paint an image for the final days of humanity, if not the entire creation. Unfortunately, this image is rarely (if ever) warm-and-fuzzy. These paint a particularly judgmental scene foretelling of divine authority administering justice.

Ezekiel provides insight for the necessity of said divine judgment.

We, fallen humanity, have been scattered by those in positions of authority, influence, and privilege gained and maintained through the abuse of under-privileged and vulnerable persons. This is contradictory to the whole of scripture, thus God “will judge between sheep and sheep” (34:22b). And yet, there remains a glimmer of hope because God will send King David as a shepherd to gather, to feed, and to tend to the entire people of Israel.

The Gospel of Matthew provides insight for the rhyme and reason of said divine judgment.

We, fallen humanity, often serve those in positions of authority, influence, and/or privilege or those who can otherwise elevate our own status.

We, fallen humanity, may occasionally serve those within our inner-most circle of family, loved ones, and friends through a rough patch without immediate reward.

We, fallen humanity, however rarely will:

  • Welcome the Stranger, especially the Under-Privileged and Vulnerable;
  • Feed the Hungry and Give Drink to the Thirsty;
  • Clothe the Naked;
  • Tend to the Ill in Mind, Body, and Soul; and
  • Visit the Imprisoned

without expectation of earthly or heavenly reward.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus will be the divine authority to separate the “sheep and goats” based upon the above criteria. Therefore, it can be quite tempting to consider it as a checklist of sorts for gaining favorable divine judgment… but it is not.

Instead, Jesus is sharing limited, tangible examples of embodying our shared Christian vocation to:

  • Proclaim Christ in Word and Deed;
  • Seek Justice;
  • Act with Compassion and Mercy; and
  • Love and Serve ALL People, especially the “Least of These”.

Instead, Jesus is building upon the concept of Stewardship Investment from last Sunday. We are called to invest our time, energy, and resources (financial and otherwise) to again:

  • Proclaim Christ in Word and Deed through Welcoming the Stranger;
  • Seek Justice by Giving Food & Drink to the Food Insecure,
    while Advocating for their Well-being;
  • Seek Justice by Clothing the Naked & Sheltering Homeless,
    while Advocating for their Well-being;
  • Act with Compassion and Mercy while Tending to those Suffering
    in Mind, Body, or Soul; and
  • Love ALL People, Serve those in Any Need, and
    Build Relationships with the Imprisoned.

Similarly, it may be tempting to utilize this scripture for judging and dividing persons and communities into the “sheep and sheep” of the “sheep and goats”.

I confess. I have persons and even communities that I would condemn to hellfire.

I am confident persons/communities have me on their ‘condemn to hellfire’ list.

And yet, Ezekiel and Jesus do not hesitate to emphasize that we, fallen humanity, lack the ability and the knowledge to be said authority, judge, and jury. The all-loving, all-merciful, and grace-filled Triune God is the divine authority, judge, and jury… for our sake, for the sake of our neighbors and the entire creation:
Thanks be to God.

May we embody our shared, baptismal Christian vocations;
May we embody Jesus’ example of loving service;
May we resist the temptation to be judge, jury, and the ultimate authority; and
May the Holy Spirit transform us as need.
Amen.

The Scriptures were Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24 and Matthew 25: 31-46.
Originally preached 22 Nov. 2020 for Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Stewardship Investment

This is a ‘Stewardship Sunday’ of sorts, because Matthew 25 is a scripture about slaves/servants, who are entrusted to manage the property of their master, how they do so, and their reward.

As a Millennial, I have heard us criticized for not being involved in organizations or institutions.
I have had conversations with persons of previous generations about possible reasons for this.

One reason is that Millennials expect a return on our investment, which may sound selfish until it is explored a little deeper. When a millennial invests our time, energy, and resources, we expect a return on investment but it does not necessarily benefit the individual personally.

For example, I know GenX and Millennial persons who are involved in service organizations but these organizations are seemingly not fulfilling their missions. The GenX and Millennial persons struggle with their investment of time and energy in meetings, as well as their investment of financial resources in dues, without bearing witness to a return on said investments, not personally but to the community. This is similar to the slave/servant with one talent, who hides it and thus no return on investment.

Ourselves, the entire creation, all that is tangible and intangible, our time, our energy, our talents, our resources (financial and otherwise), and EVERYTHING was given by God for us to manage, or steward.

Thus, the questions become:

  • How are we stewarding, or managing, these gifts entrusted to us?
  • Do we hoard our time, energy, and resources for ourselves in self-indulgence?
  • How do we use our time, energy, and resources?
    Do we engage in ‘keeping up with the Jones’?
    Do we engage in the game ‘He who dies with the most toys, wins’?
    Do we share for the sake of the Kingdom of God to Come?

In Baptism, we commit to seeking justice, acting with compassion and mercy, while loving and serving all people but especially the most vulnerable. The scriptures instruct that this includes sheltering the homeless poor, clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry.

Therefore, we must ask ourselves:

Are we hoarding, hiding, or burying our time, energy, and resources?
Or, are we managing well and sharing our time, energy, and resources?

If we share these our time, energy, and resources, the two becomes four and the five become ten. Thus, we are able to witness the blessing of God manifold.

We welcomed Lutheran Child and Family Services this morning.
We have a history of supporting the Wernle Home.

These are causes, outside of our walls, that engage in the work of the Kingdom.

These are service organizations that use their time, energy, resources and those gathered from the community for a return on investment that is greater than themselves.

These service organizations practice stewardship and our shared, God given, Christian vocation.

It doesn’t matter how little or how much time, energy, and resources (financial or otherwise) one has to share, but when used for the sake of the Kingdom of God to Come on earth, we are guaranteed a return on our investment. And for that, thanks be to God. Amen.

Scripture was Matthew 25: 14-30.
Originally preached 15 Nov. 2020 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, Indiana).

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2020 in Sermons

 

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What is Justice? and When?

Amos and the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids is an odd pairing. And yet, odd pairings are able to complement one another and offer profound insight.

Amos is a ‘minor prophet’, which is a description of its shorter length compared to ‘major prophets’. Unfortunately, the ‘minor prophets’ are too often under-appreciated in my opinion but I am bias for Micah and Amos are ‘minor prophets’ and my personal favorites for their down-to-earth, blunt honesty.

Amos’ down-to-earth, blunt honesty is displayed through this proclamation that:

  • God despises our celebratory festivals;
  • God does not delight in our solemn assemblies;
  • God will not accept grain or burnt offerings;
  • God will not accept animal sacrifices; and
  • God does not want to hear music or voices lifted in songs of praise.

If God despises, will not accept, and does not desire our festivals and gatherings, our offerings and sacrifices, and our rituals and worship, then what does God demand from us.

In the words of Micah:

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and
to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8, NRSV).

Amos words it:

But let justice roll down like waters, and
righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
(Amos 5: 24, NRSV)

But, what is righteousness and justice?

The Hebrew concept of righteousness emphasizes being in ‘right relationship’ with God and ‘neighbor’.


We will fail.
We will be in broken relationship with God.
We will be in broken relationships with our human siblings.

And yet, we have the opportunities for repentance, reconciliation, and
healing with God and our human siblings alike.

Justice, even the biblical perspective, can be more challenging to define.

  • The ‘major prophets’, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah,
    tend to paint an image of ‘justice’ as divine punishment
    for our rebellion against God and the Torah (or teaching).
  • Meanwhile, the ‘minor prophets’ tend to emphasis ‘justice’
    as our benevolent actions toward the most vulnerable in need, equity, and equality. Amos, Micah, and the ‘minor prophets’ frequency proclaim that our festivals, gatherings, offerings, sacrifices, and
    worship is WORTHLESS WITHOUT JUSTICE.
    (You might say that said gatherings, rituals, and worship are simply the icing on the cake).

This justice is manifested in a multitude of means.

  • Justice is our benevolent actions to ensure all persons
    have access to resources and needs are met.
    God provides the entire creation and its creatures, including humans,
    an abundance to meet all needs. Unfortunately, we are sinful critters.
    We hoard said abundance in fear and greed, rather than sharing it.
    (One simple example is toilet paper during the COVID-19 pandemic).
  • Justice is when all persons experience equity,
    or fair practices that are a means to equality.
    Equity has been hindered by systems that have benefited the privileged at the disadvantage, expense, and harm of vulnerable persons and communities often based on race, ethnicity, and nationality;
    biological sex, gender identity, and sexuality; age and health; and
    socio-economics.
  • Justice is equality. Equality is not only hindered by systematic injustice,
    but also the prejudice of persons. This personal prejudice includes
    the before said vulnerable persons and communities,
    but can further expand to political affiliations,
    religious adherence or lack thereof, and far beyond
    reaching into every aspect of our lives.

Justice as equity and equality is firmly rooted in the Scriptures emphasizing God’s grace extended to all nations, all peoples, and all languages, as well as the Holy Spirit poured out upon men, women, and children.

This perspective of justice, biblical justice, causes Garth Brooks’
“We Shall be Free” to echo in my mind, heart, and soul.
Simply listen to these lyrics:

This ain’t coming from no prophet, just an ordinary man.
When I close my eyes, I see the way this world shall be
When we walk hand in hand.
When the last child cries for a crust of bread,
When the last man dies for just words that he said,
When there’s shelter over the poorest head,
We shall be free.

When the last thing we notice is the color of skin,
And the first thing we look for is the beauty within;
When the skies and oceans are clean again,
Then we shall be free.

We shall be free, we shall be free.
Stand straight, walk proud, ’cause we shall be free.

When we’re free to love anyone we choose,
When this world’s big enough for all different views,
When we all can worship from our own kind of pew,
Then we shall be free.

We shall be free, we shall be free.
Have a little faith, hold out, ’cause we shall be free.

And when money talks for the very last time,
And nobody walks a step behind;
When there is only one race and that’s mankind,
Then we shall be free.

We shall be free, we shall be free,
Stand straight, walk proud,
Have a little faith, hold out; We shall be free.

We shall be free, we shall be free,
Stand straight, stand straight,
Have a little faith, walk proud,
’cause we shall be free.

If that is justice, when will equity and equality free us?
When is the time for ‘right relationships’ and justice?

Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. and Beyond.

The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids emphasizes the urgency for ‘right relationships’ and justice.

The bridesmaids do not know when the bridegroom will arrive to escort them into the wedding celebration, similarly we do not know when Christ will return to usher in the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom to Come. However, we do know that the Kingdom to Come is here now, it is near, and it is not yet fulfilled, but we are called to strive for the Kingdom to Come here and now. We are called to seize glimpses of the Kingdom to Come and expand these through our baptismal commitments:

  • To proclaim Christ in word and deed;
  • To seek justice;
  • To act with compassion and mercy; and
  • To love and serve all people, especially the most vulnerable among us. 

The bridesmaids were divided into two categories:
the ‘foolish’ and the ‘wise’.

The five ‘foolish’ bridesmaids were ill-prepared for the evening, for they did not bring extra oil for their lamps. Thus, when these bridesmaids heard the bridegroom was approaching, they were unable to light their lamps and were forced to seek an open shop from which to purchase the oil. The consequence for their lack of preparation was missing the wedding celebration.

The five ‘wise’ bridesmaids were prepared for the evening, for they did bring extra oil for their lamps. Thus, when these bridesmaids heard the bridegroom was approaching, they were able to light their lamps. The consequence for their preparations was attending the wedding celebration, or the Kingdom fulfilled.

Similar to these bridesmaids, we are divided. In fact, we are in a time, a nation of significant divisiveness that hinders our ‘right relationships’ with God and our human siblings, as well as seeking and doing justice. And yet, we always are foolishly confident that our own perspectives and actions are the appropriate preparations for the Kingdom to Come. Thus, we presume ourselves to be the ‘wise’ bridesmaids. Why?

Honestly, none of us want to be ‘foolish’.

  • How often are we given the chance to right our relationship with God
    and human siblings, but do not?
  • How often are we given the ability to seek and to do justice, but do not? 

It is far more often than we are willing to admit to ourselves, our human siblings, and God. 

The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids reminds us that we do not know when Christ will return to usher us as individuals, communities, humankind, and all of creation into the Kingdom fulfilled. Meanwhile, we do know that God has for centuries, is currently, and will continue to demand ‘right relationships’ and justice.

We have, are, and will continue to be called to seize opportunities to expand upon glimpses of the Kingdom to Come yesterday, today, tomorrow, and beyond. Therefore, we are called to be the ‘wise’ bridesmaids prepared and ready to light our lamps and shine Christ forth into the world.

And yet, we often seat on our comfy couches and in our lazy chairs thinking
“not today, but one day I will restore ‘right relationships’ and will seek and
do justice, but it will have to wait until I have more time, energy, or resources, and thus more convenient for me”?

We are called into ‘right relationship’ and
the challenging work of justice NOW!

We are called to love and serve all persons, especially the vulnerable, NOW!

Are we prepared, ready to shine the Christ light in word and deed,
in ‘right relationships’ and justice?

Or are we too tired, perhaps too lazy, to shine said Christ light in our lives,
communities, and beyond? 

In the title of another Garth Brooks’ song,
“What if Tomorrow Never Comes”.

May we be prepared.
May we be ready.

May we repent, reconcile, and heal
our relationships with God and our human siblings alike.

May we seize opportunities to seek and do justice in compassion,
mercy, love, service, and advocacy.
Amen.

The scriptures were Amos 5: 18-24 and Matthew 25: 1-13.
Originally preached for 11-08-2020 and Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Fall and All Saints

Welcome to the mid-point of Allhallowstide!

Allhallowstide is a three-day celebratory festival to honor the saints of all times and all places: past, present, and future.

It began yesterday with All Hallows’ Eve (or Halloween).

Today is All Saints Day, originally designated for the canonized capital “S” Saints.

Tomorrow is All Souls Day, honoring the lower case “s” saints who were, who are, and who will be. 

Death is not often celebrated among those who remain behind for our grief and the memories that will never be weigh heavily upon our minds, hearts, and souls.

Death is associated with the unknown, the fearful, and the permanent.

Although death is one of only two guarantees in this life, it ALWAYS feels unnatural.

But as I stated this is a three-day joyful celebration of the dead rather than a sober affair. 

We can learn from nature and its changing of the seasons. Autumn is a beautiful reminder of death.

Fall teaches us how beautiful it can be to let go of our leaves, preparing ourselves for a death of sorts.

These leaves can be arrogance and pride, hate and anger, pain and resentment, guilt and shame,

toxic relationships and unrealistic expectations, and beyond.

Fall prepares us for a death of sorts that is mirrored throughout creation in Winter.

It is a death to our old selves.

It is a death to self-centeredness and projecting a false self to the world.

It is a death to seeking harm to or fostering ill-will towards another in mind, body, and soul.

It is a death to harming ourself in mind, body, and soul in our desire to
harm or in ill-will towards another.

It is a death to relationships, situations, and expectations that do not serve God’s Kingdom to Come.

It is THIS death that prepares us for a resurrection into new life in the Spring.

Our First John scripture reminds us that we are the children of God, and thus will inherit the Kingdom to Come which is here now, near, and not yet fulfilled. The image of being made pure connects to Baptism and the Revelation scripture (not included in this flashback 1940s service). The particular Revelation verse reads:

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and people and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands”. (Revelation 7:9)

A few Sundays ago, I noted that the traditional practice of Baptism included the individual stripping naked, walking through and being completely submerged in the water to symbolize their drowning death, and came through the water onto the other side where they would be greeted by the Baptized community and clothed in a white robe. The white robe was a sign of having been made clean, or pure, through said waters of Baptism, and thus among the great multitude clothed in Jesus the Christ.

Revelation reminds us that the children of God, this great multitude, includes persons from all nations, tribes, peoples, and languages gathered together at the foot of the divine throne, gathered together in worship and praise.

This means there is no space for nationalism among God’s people.

This means there is no space for racism among God’s people.

And yet, racism and nationalism has historically and continues to remain among God’s people.

Revelation continues with language in our Holy Communion rite, which proclaims that salvation, blessing, glory, and power belongs to the Triune God alone.

This means that salvation and blessing does not come through a person or institutions,
including religious or political leaders, denominations or governments.

This means that said glory is not to be given to a person or institutions,
including again religious or political leaders, denominations or governments.

This means that said power and authority does not belong to a person or institutions,
and yet again including religious or political leaders, denominations or governments.

Ultimately, our First John and Revelation scriptures are about a hope that is rooted in the Triune God, who may be active among persons and institutions but cannot be substituted by said persons and institutions.

We are called to follow the example of the Fall trees letting go of all that hold us captive, including:

Arrogance and Pride;

Hate and Anger;

Pain and Resentment;

Guilt and Shame;

Toxic Relationships and Unrealistic Expectations;

Nationalism and Racism;


and Beyond…

We are called to prepare for a winter death:

to our old self, self-centeredness, and projecting a false self to the world;

to seeking harm to or fostering ill-will towards another in mind, body, and soul;

to harming ourself in mind, body, and soul in our desire to harm or foster ill-will towards another;

and to relationships, situations, and expectations that do not serve God’s Kingdom to Come.

We are called to embrace the impending Spring resurrection:

Into the persons and community that God has, is, and will continue to call us to be;

Into the Kingdom of God that is here now, near, and not yet fulfilled; and

Into the company of all the Saints and saints gathered around the divine throne and the Lamb.

Jesus offered a glimpse of said Kingdom to Come in the Beatitudes, which was a manifesto for his disciples. The Kingdom to Come is where the needs of all will be met while seeking:

to comfort, or more accurately advocate for, the poor;

to comfort those who mourn;

to be meek peacemakers when possible;

to hold-fast to righteousness; and

to proclaim and reflect Christ in word and deed.

Although we will fail, we have the example of the Saints and saints, who:

proclaimed Christ in word and deed;

sought justice;

acted with compassion and mercy; and

loved and served all people, but especially the most vulnerable.

Martin Luther defined a ‘saint’ as a ‘forgiven sinner’, this includes each one of us.

And I want to share a quote I read and LOVE:

Every Saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

We all have a past, perhaps we can let go of any negative hold it has upon us.

We all have a future, perhaps we can embrace it fully in mind, body, and soul.

May we remember that death does not have the final word. The Triune God does.

Amen.

Scriptures were Revelation 7: 9-17; 1 John 3: 1-3; and Matthew 5: 1-12.

Originally preached 1 November 2020 at for Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, Indiana)  

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Trust & Allegiance

Available on YouTube.

We have been taught to avoid religion and politic among polite company.

However, this is a disservice to our lives as individuals, community, and entre world. We should be taught how to be in respectful dialogue about both religion and politics, which listens to understand rather than listens to respond.

Our language for ‘politics’ is from the Greek word for citizen/city (public), it is the language used to describe our public life together. The opinions about how our public life together should be lived is as numerous as persons existing within all time and all places. This leads to potentially harmful and destructive dialogue among family, loved ones, friends, co-workers, and beyond.

Jesus did not avoid public life, or politics.

We enter into a conversation between Jesus and the religious elite, the dichotomy that has been established in this context is rather intense.

The religious elite question Jesus about a topic people have loved throughout the ages… NOT. It is about the lawfulness of paying (Roman) taxes. Their question is not rooted in mere curiosity or an intellectual exercise, but it is rooted in a malicious intent to entrap Jesus with words of treason against the Roman Empire.

Jesus will not be so easily tricked.

Jesus asks these religious elite to produce a Roman coin, which they can.
It displays the image of the Caesar and his inscription upon it.

Jesus tells these religious elite to give to Caesar want belong to Caesar, or give to the Roman political life what belongs to it. Jesus continues teaching that we are to give to God, what belongs to God.

Jesus transforms the question into one about where we place our trust and our allegiance.

Martin Luther discussed that the source of our greatest trust and allegiance is our god. We often hear this language in association with substance abuse or an addiction for wealth, power, authority or otherwise.

But, these religious elite were displaying their trust and allegiance in Rome, perhaps in the security of Pax Romana (“Peace of Rome”) established and maintained through oppression and violence as needed. This “peace” is not aligned with the Hebrew Scriptures summarized as a mission of seeking
justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

Where do we place our trust and allegiance?
Where do you place your trust and allegiance?

  • the United States of America;
  • elected officials/candidates; or
  • the Democrat or Republican Parties.
  • the Christian Church;
  • Lutheran Confessional teachings;
  • the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA); or
  • Trinity Lutheran Church.

Perhaps, we place our trust and allegiance in another human institution.
Perhaps, we place our trust and allegiance in our relationships with:

  • a parent;
  • a significant other;
  • a child;
  • a friend; or
  • a pet.

In another words, our trust and allegiance must be prioritized.

God is not naïve. God is aware that we place trust and give allegiance to institutions and persons.

But, what or who is at the top of of our priority?

We, similar to the Roman coin, bear an image.
We bear the image of God, the image of Christ.

We, similar to the Roman coin, have an inscription.
It is written on our hearts by God alone, it is the law or teaching and it reads “You are ay beloved”.

We are called to give God what belongs to God.
That is our entre being: mind, body, soul, trust, and allegiance.

God uses people, in their personal and public life, to bring forth the Kingdom of God to Come through justice, compassion, mercy, love, and service.

God uses human institutions to bring forth the Kingdom of God to Come again through justice, compassion, mercy, love, and service.

God, again, can use any person to bring forth said Kingdom to Come including the Gentle (uncircumcised, pork eating Pagan) political leader in our Isaiah passage.

This Kingdom to Come should be the frim ground all our personal and public action is rooted. It should be the priority, well above and beyond:

• nations;
• governments;
• leaders;
• political organizations;
• religious institutions;
• human relationships; and
• otherwise.

Where do you place your trust and allegiance?
Where do we place our trust and allegiance?

May it always and forever be in the Triune God
who has placed the divine image upon us and
who wrote the inscription “You are my beloved” upon our hearts.

May our personal and public lives reflect
the justice, compassion, mercy, love and service
of the Kingdom to Come.
Amen.

Scriptures were Isaiah 45: 1-7 and Matthew 22: 15-22.
Originally preached 18 Oct. 2020 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, Indiana)

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Invitations & Robes

Jesus continues to teach the Pharisees, Scribes, and other religious elite in parable about the Kingdom of God.

It is a parable that paints a grand wedding banquet, which is more reminiscent of the ever-expanding, universal nature associated with the Gospel of Luke instead of the Gospel of Matthew. Luke often enlists the imagery of banquets with food, drink, and space abundant enough for all people, but Matthew adds a bitter taste of judgment, not once but twice, within this parable.

Recently I had been invited to the wedding of my cousin, who lives in Ohio. The invitation was expected.

Similarly, the Pharisees, Scribes, and religious elite would expect an invitation to the Kingdom of God, to this wedding banquet.

Despite the invitation to the wedding for my cousin, I declined after confirmation that my immediate family in Arizona was not invited. The reasons given were applicable to myself with the exception that my address read Indiana.

Similarly, the Pharisees, Scribes, and religious elite declined the invitation to the feast, the Kingdom of God. Additionally, members of the spiritual elite had seized, caused harm, and killed massagers from the host.

I did not seize, cause harm, or kill any person.

But as we can image, the host was not amused by their declining of the invitation and further their violent actions. Thus, the host ordered his military to destroy and burn their property.

Perhaps, my lack of violence is the reason my Jeep, house, and otherwise was not destroyed, although it apparently caused drama between my aunt and uncle due to a lack of communication. I also was not invited to the bridal shower.

The first part of this parable emphasizes, yet again, Jesus informing the religious elite that they will not enter the Kingdom of God before the sinners, who are considered unworthy. Jesus also emphasized again that the religious elite have ignored, seized, caused harm, and even killed the true messengers, or prophets, sent by God.

The parable shifts into scene two.

The host sends messengers into the town, on the road, in the back alleys to invite all persons to the prepared banquet, again seemingly with food, drink, and space abundant enough for all persons. Yes, the unclean, the unworthy, the sinners, the vulnerable easily dismissed by the elite.

This is that ever-expanding, universal invitation of God for all persons, despite:

  • Race, ethnicity, or nationality;
  • Gender, gender identity, or sexuality;
  • Socio-economics;
  • Political affiliations;
  • Religious adherence or lack thereof; and
  • Any boundaries we seek to place on God’s grace freely given.

These unexpectedly invited guests seize such an opportunity, put on the expected robes, and gladly arrive for this banquet.

Then, we arrive at the third and final scene of the parable and that second bitter taste of judgment.

The host notices and questions one of the unexpectedly invited guests, who was not adorning the proper robe, or clothes, for the celebration. The host has this unwelcome guest removed from the celebration.

This parable does not reflect the reality of the Ancient Near East (ANE), which is common for parables, for the poor and vulnerable may not own the proper robes for such a celebration. And yet, it is deeply ingrained with theological importance, particularly the early practice of Holy Baptism.

In our rite of Baptism, we note that the newly baptized is clothed in Christ. This is when I place a quilt around the newly baptized.

This is to symbolize shredding our sinfulness, in order to take on the commitments, to imitate and embody Christ through proclaiming Christ in word and deed, seeking justice, acting with compassion and mercy, while loving and serving all persons but especially the most vulnerable.

In the ancient rite of Baptism, it occurred in a room with a small but fairly deep pool of blessed water. The soon to be  baptized begun on one side of it, while the community of the baptized stood on the other side. The soon to be baptized would strip themselves of their clothing, or old self, and walk naked through the pool ensuring complete submersion in the water, symbolizing their own drowning death to the old Adam, or old self. They would exit the pool among the community of the baptized and be clothed in a white robe to signify taking on those baptismal commitments, of being clothed with Christ.

The wedding and celebratory robe in our parable is simply being clothed for the Kingdom of God. It is God’s freely given grace that incite our good deeds, which to quote Martin Luther:

“God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does”.

It is not about proper theological belief.
But it is about how God’s grace changes us.

It is not about completing particular rites or proper worship.
But, in the words of Micah 6:8, it is about seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God.

It is not about upholding the letter of the law.
But, it is about upholding the spirit of the law.
In the words of the Apostle Pau, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor;
therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10, NRSV).

Ultimately, it is about being clothed with Christ.
It is about a change in us by God’s grace alone.
And thanks be to God for said grace. Amen.

Scripture was Matthew 22:1-14.
Originally preached 11 October 2020 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Vineyards

The similarities in our Isaiah and Matthew scriptures are undeniable, and yet these have striking differences. These scriptures use the agricultural imagery of a beautiful vineyard provided by a landowner who carefully prepared the ground, cultivated the soil, and planted the best grape seed. This landowner also anticipated a long-term, relational venture with the security of a fence and watchtower and the fore-thought of a wine press.

Isaiah describes a less than desired bounty for despite all the efforts only the sour, wild grapes grew. These were good for nothing, literally nothing; not for eating, not for pressing into grape juice, and not for further fermenting into wine.

In Isaiah, the landowner is God, the vineyard is the entire creation, and the planted seeds is all humans.

The intended bounty from us (summarizing the prophets with Micah 6:8) was justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God. Thus, the intended harvest was justice and grace, compassion and mercy, and love and service. Unfortunately, the harvested bounty was sin (or self-centeredness), injustice, and violence whether individual, communal, or systematic.

God was (and is) disgusted with the state of the vineyard. Thus, God intends to destroy the whole in anger, but does not. God, in accordance with the Scriptures, is steadfast love, slow to anger, and always ready to turn from punishment. Thus, Jesus is teaching in the temple centuries afterwards.

But, I want to pause a moment for the context of this text in our worship differs from in the Gospel.

We have been engaging Jesus’ parables that utilize the image of a field/vineyard.

The Parable of the (Day) Laborers:
Jesus was speaking to the disciples prior to their journey to Jerusalem. The essential lesson is that it does not matter when an individual begins to labor for the Kingdom of God to Come. Similarly, it does not matter who a person is for we all deserve a just daily wage to ensure our basic need is met.

Jesus arrives in Jerusalem to begin the Passover. Christians recognize this arrival as ‘Palm Sunday’. Jesus arrives at the temple and ‘cleanses’ it by over-turning tables and chasing the corrupt money-changers and merchants from it.

Jesus begins to teach in the temple to those who are gathered, specifically the Pharisees, Scribes, and additional religious elite.

The Parable of the Two Sons:
A landowner requests that his sons go work in the field/vineyard. One son refused, but then does go. The other son commits, but then does not go. The essential lesson is that the ‘work’ in the field/vineyard is justice, compassion and mercy, love and service for all people whether the individual self-identifies as Christian, religious, or otherwise. Thus, it doesn’t matter how “messed up” we are, but rather about a pure heart.

These Pharisees, Scribes, and religious elite have not yet realized that Jesus is criticizing them.

So, Jesus shares another parable.

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants/Landowner’s Son:
It was common practice in the Ancient Near East (ANE) for tenants to provide the landowner a portion of their harvest as rent. Since the quality of the harvest is not noted, it indicates no importance in the parable.

Similar to Isaiah, the landowner is God and the vineyard is the entire creation. However, instead of the humans being the grown grapes, we are the tenants.

The parable is about the tenants and their stewardship, their responsibilities, and their conduct. We, humans, have been given such stewardship of creation, its resources, and all within it. We, humans, have been given such stewardship of our energy, time, talents, and other resources.

But, how are we stewarding?
Are we willing to share?
Are we willing to pay our rent?

The ‘Wicked Tenants’ desired to hoard, not share, the land and the harvested bounty.

Slaves were sent to collect the agreed upon portion but were captured, beaten, and a few murdered.

The landowner chose to send his son, the heir, to collect the agreed upon portion expecting a different result, but the son was also captured, beaten, and murdered.

Jesus asked the religious elite about the appropriate response of the landowner. These religious elite responded culturally correct that the landowner shall come, get rid of the wicked tenants, and replace these with good tenants who will care for the vineyard and freely offer their agreed upon portion.

Jesus informs the religious elite, again, that the “sinners” will enter the Kingdom of God ahead of them. It is in this ‘light-bulb’ moment that the religious elite realize they are the son that commits to work in the field but does not and the wicked tenant who mismanages the entire creation.

Again, these religious elite are displeased with Jesus, who continues to teach while turning the parable upside-down. Jesus reminds the religious elite that Scriptures foretell of the elite rejecting the cornerstone, which Christians consider to be Jesus the Christ.

We are the ‘Wicked Tenants’.

We have destroyed those children working for and towards the Kingdom of God to Come.

We will (and have) killed the divine Son of God, Jesus the Christ.

Jesus had previously questioned the religious elite regarding the authority of John the Baptist, which they did not answer for fear of the crowd who beloved him and regarded him as a prophet. These religious elite are similarly silenced for fear of the crowd who beloved Jesus and regarded him as a prophet, the Messiah, and/or the divine Son of God.

Thus, the religious elite stood there convicted while considering how to get rid of this Jesus.

We know the events of Holy Week. Jesus is arrested, beaten, crucified, murdered, and buried.

We also know that it concludes with Jesus defeating death itself with his resurrection.

Through this lens, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants/Landowner’s Son has another perspective. In addition to a parable teaching, it is a foretelling of the next several days.

I once read: Jesus was not crucified for being a nice guy.

The truth is Jesus was crucified for standing against those misusing positions of power and authority.

The truth is Jesus was crucified for criticizing the religious elite aligned with those not doing God’s Will.

The truth is Jesus was crucified for standing against the sour, wild grapes of sin, injustice, and violence.

The truth is Jesus was crucified for standing with the oppressed, under-privileged, and vulnerable.

The Gospel does not always sound like “good news”, but:

  • Jesus, rooted in these truths, sought to warn and inform all people;
  • God is steadfast love, slow to anger, and always eager to turn from punishment; and
  • The vineyard has not yet been destroyed (and it will not be).

God sent Jesus, the divine Son, into the world for the sake of the vineyard and its people. Thus, Jesus continues to warn and inform all people holding a mirror before our eyes, in order to evaluate our own work in the field/vineyard, the grapes we are producing, and how we are stewarding the creation, humanity, and all the gifts God has given us.

May we produce the grapes of justice and grace, compassion and mercy, and love and service.

May we be the children working in the world
to bring forth God’s Kingdom to Come.

May we be the good tenants, the good stewards,
of all that God has rented to us.
Amen.

The Scriptures were Isaiah 5: 1-7 and Matthew 21: 33-46.
Originally preached on 4 Oct. 2020 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, Indiana).

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Sinners & Hypocrites

Our scriptures are profound. These might be as sweet as honey for some, but bitter to another.

Ezekiel highlights that we are responsible for our own thoughts, words, and deeds, as well as the consequences of such. Thus, we are responsible for our sin; how we respond to the perceived sin of another; and how we allow sin (our own, those of another, or our human systems) to influence our thoughts, words, and deeds.

Although it seems bitter, God reminds Ezekiel and the people of a truth as old as the fall of humanity. God does not desire death. God is concerned about all life for all life matters, all life is beloved, and all life is sacred. Unfortunately, we are (or should be) aware that this truth is not always embodied in our thoughts, words, deeds, and human systems. As the protest sign of a young, beautiful, black girl read:

We say Black Lives Matter.
We never said ONLY Black Lives Matter.
We know All Lives Matter,
but we need your help because Black Lives are in danger.

Or as a beautiful clergy woman and classmate of mine wrote:

Black Lives Matter, and Blue Lives Matter, too.
Dehumanizing some Lives will leave All Lives Black and Blue.
Some roses are red, and violets come in shades of blue,
but I know that God loves me because God loves you, too.

But, the Apostle Paul takes our call to action another step while writing to a community divided by difference resulting in tension and conflict. Paul wrote to be united in diversity. This is a high calling that we have far too often failed to answer.

In the history of the United States, we lift up an ideal of unity among diversity within a large melting pot that (1) has not embraced the difference of persons, particularly our indigenous, brown, and black siblings, and (2) demands these persons assimilate, at times by force, to white, European norms.

Unfortunately, the church universal, denominations, congregations, and cultural Christianity has demonstrated these same demands.

Paul wrote that we are not to love the other as equal to ourselves…
but as greater than ourselves.

This love would not permit forced assimilation or dehumanization.

Lets look at the gospel.

Jesus was teaching in the temple and the religious elite questioned his authority because of his association with sinners.

Remember:
Be like Jesus, spend enough time with sinners that it ruins your reputation.

Jesus criticizes them for questioning the authority of John for he was a ‘righteous’ man, considered a prophet by the people, and who offered repentance in baptism to the sinners.

Note:
These baptisms remind us all that ‘Every saint has a past. Every Sinner has a future’.

But, for the religious elite it was a lose-lose.

Christians are often defined as such by their belief in Jesus as the Messiah alone. Thus, Christians can profess the faith without a change in their lives. This is a defining aspect of Christianity that separates us from other faith traditions.

Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other faith traditions also require a change in life and adopting faith practices that interweave and root your entire being within the teachings, the philosophy of the tradition. It is quite beautiful.

Jesus asks the religious elite, who does God’s will on this earth?


Is it the one who claims, or commits to do it, but does not?

This is the “Christian” who does not seek justice, act with compassion and mercy, or love and serve all persons but especially the vulnerable “other”.

Is it the one who does not claim, or commit, to do it but does?

These are perhaps Christians, non-Christians, and otherwise, who does seek justice, act with compassion and mercy, and love and serve all people but especially the vulnerable “other”.

Surprise!
It is the one living into and living out said Christian vocation whether identifying as “Christian” or not.

We often hear the criticism that Christians are hypocrites. It is fair.

Unfortunately, I have witnessed “Christians” who sort and separate the teachings of Christ from their personal, professional, family, and political lives.

Unfortunately, I have witnessed “Christians” who consider themselves righteous for not partaking in “sinful” behavior such as playing cards, dancing, smoking, drinking, cussing and tattoos; and yet, they stand in sinful judgment of those who do.

Unfortunately, I have witnessed “Christians” blame our troubled world on the Godless and Unchurched while sitting comfortably in their privilege ignoring the vulnerable “other”.

I recall a conversation with a friend who knows me well. He made a comment about how ‘good’ I was.

Now, for many “Christians” I might be a rebel.

I love card games and dancing.
I enjoy a good cigar and adult beverage from time to time.
I cuss like a sailor (ask my mom and sister).

I have ink.

I will be changing the language slightly, but I replied “I am messed up”.

He said “Oh, you are messed up, but you have a pure heart”.

Although I fail, I strive to live into and love out my Christian vocation to:
seek justice for all persons, but especially those in the most need;
act with compassion and mercy, even in the face of disagreements; and
love and serve all persons whether I will benefit or not.

So, in the words of Miranda Lambert,
I think Jesus could ‘understand a heart like mine’.
Amen.

Scriptures were Ezekiel 18: 1-4, 25-32 and Matthew 21: 23-32.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Justice & Privilege

Jonah is paired with Jesus’ parable about the vineyard laborers, in order to teach us a difficult truth, calling  us to confront it rather than sticking our fingers in our ears repeating ‘I can’t hear you’, and to  encourage us to live further into the Kingdom of God that is here in glimpses, near, and not yet fulfilled.

Jonah is sent to the people of Nineveh, these were non-Israelites and thus the ‘unworthy others’ who Jonah would prefer to witness God’s wrath upon rather than their pardon.

Jonah was spit out upon the shore and in whispered tones, hopeful none would hear and heed, delivers God’s message that if the people of Nineveh did not repent it would cease to exist in 40 days.

The people of Nineveh heard. The people of Nineveh repented. God did not destroy the people.

Jonah was angry. Jonah goes outside of town, finds shade, and throws a temper-tantrum cursing God.

God sends a worm to kill the bush providing said shade.
Jonah, again, throws a temper-tantrum cursing God.

God can handle our anger, but God will also hold us accountable for the root of said anger.

Jonah is angry because God did not punish the other and is not offering him the relief of shade. Jonah’s anger is rooted in sin, or self-centeredness, and not against injustice.
 

God teaches Jonah (and us) that these “others” are also God’s children, whom God created and loves deeply.

Jonah (and us) should NOT be angry. God’s steadfast love, mercy, compassion and grace is abundant enough to be extended to all persons, including the “other” in Nineveh.

In Matthew, we have a parable taught by Jesus.

There are day laborers hired to work in a vineyard, but despite hired at different points of the day all received a full day wage. The laborers hired earlier, thus having worked more hours,  were angry.

As I pondered the scriptures, I realized that since living in California, Washington, and Indiana I cannot recall encountering day laborers. In Arizona, it is a common sight for day laborers to be in the parking lot of the local Circle K and home improvement stores. These individuals are often Hispanic or Latino men, documented or undocumented, who depend on being hired for the day to complete a task. Their labor is cheap, in fact cheap enough you can argue that their ability to met basic needs of food and shelter tomorrow depend on their opportunity to work today. 

In the biblical era and our modern day, it highlights an economically flawed system rooted in injustice. It is not limited to our day laborer siblings either, but extends widely in the United States where prior to COVID19 it was estimated that 75% of Americans were only one to two paychecks from homelessness AND most minimum wage employment at 40 hours a week cannot cover rent let alone other basic needs.

This includes our seasonal migrate agricultural workers who serve in the fields and the factories for minimal wages in often unsafe and unregulated environments.

It is the waitress, whose hourly wage is below minimum wage, who must depend on tips to survive.

It is the single mother, who works a regular 40-hour job plus two additional part-time positions.
It is her tips from  the waitressing gig that provides food on the table for her two children.

It is the young adult who heard their entire life “college, college, college” and instead of economic advancement are drowning in student loan debt that was a necessary evil for said education.

It is the school teacher who must work an additional job in the evenings or on the weekend, but still sleeps in her car unable to afford rent.

It is the associate pastor who lives in her local homeless shelter unable to afford food and shelter.

It is the children of the impoverished working-poor, who depend upon their school for food each day.

The reality of socio-economic injustice is all to real within our world, our nation. The American notion that one can climb said economic ladder easily is a myth.

Jesus’ parable includes the earlier hired laborers as satisfied with their agreed upon full day wage, but that was until those hired later were given the same full day wage. The previously hired become angry, throw a tantrum, and perhaps curse the land owner for his generosity to the other.

Similar to the day laborers in Arizona, these laborers and their families probably depended on said wage to provide their basic need of food and shelter for tomorrow. The land owner, arguably God, reminds these men that the land owner has the choice to be abundantly generous.

We, as the followers of Christ, are called to likewise be abundantly generous in sharing love, compassion, mercy, and grace to our vulnerable siblings.

Again, God can handle our anger, tantrums, and cursing but will hold us accountable for the root of it.

Again, these laborers’ anger is rooted in their own sin, or self-centeredness,  and not against injustice.

These laborers (and us) have a sense of entitlement, perhaps at the harm to a vulnerable sibling.

The truths of these passages include:

  1. God created and deeply loves ALL persons, including the Nineveh “other” and these “other” laborers.
  2. God deeply cares about the well-being of ALL persons, especially the vulnerable. 
  3. God has provided the world, this nation with an abundance of resources that we do not share well.
  4. We are called to share resources, love, compassion, mercy, and grace to bring forth God’s Kingdom.

These truths are not limited to discussion within this sermon or the church universal, for it is a conversation throughout our world, our nation. It is a conversation about ‘privilege’, who has it, and how might it be used justly for the sake of the world and for Christians the sake of the Kingdom to Come. 

We must pull the fingers from our own ears and listen to the reality that we have privilege, which does not mean that our lives have been without challenges or that we have a home on easy street. Privilege simply means that certain aspects of our identity and lives have not further challenged it.

For example:
As a white American who self-identifies my gender as my biological sex, who is romantically attracted to the opposite gender/sex, and who is a Christian…
I have privilege that is not granted to our brown, black, LBGQT+, and non-Christian siblings.

Now, they have never asked for an apology, simply that I acknowledge my privilege and stand with them in their struggle for equality and equity.

As a non-wealthy woman, I do not have the privilege of being a person of wealth or a man. I have never asked the wealthy or men to apology, but to simply acknowledge that I lack said privilege and to stand with me for equality and equity.

Our privilege or lack thereof also includes our physical, mental, and intellectual abilities and otherwise.

One challenge we face is the urge to become angry, such as Jonah or the laborers, when an under-privileged person or persons is offered the same opportunities as the privileged. Those opportunities, the steadfast love, compassion, mercy, and grace is JUSTICE and a glimpse of the Kingdom to Come here and now.

The anger that may arise is rooted in sin, or self-centeredness, and the fear that our comfortable entitlement and privilege may be diminished… However, it is not a pie.

Our sinful humanity, has taught us and poisoned our souls to believe that justice, compassion, mercy, grace, and love are limited resources afforded to some at the cost of another. Justice, compassion, mercy, grace, and love are NOT limited resources, but God reminds us that these are abundant enough for all persons, all creatures, and the entire creation. The beauty is that justice, compassion, mercy, grace, and love does  not cost our privilege a thing, in fact it draws us further into God’s Kingdom to Come here now in glimpses, near, and not yet fulfilled.

May we recognize our own privilege and
stand with the under-privileged in their struggle.

May we rejoice when justice, compassion, mercy, grace, and
love is further extended.

May we become angry at the injustice and
the lacking compassion, mercy, grace, and love that harms a sibling.

May we be a divine presence of abundant compassion, mercy, grace, and
love to ALL persons.

Amen.

Scriptures were Jonah 3:10-4:11 and Matthew 20: 1-16.
Originally preached on 20 Sept. 2020 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN)

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Lessons in Forgiveness

Within the life of the church, we are in a season of healing the nations, the tribes, the peoples by the grace of God alone paired with learning and growing as disciples and church together.

Unfortunately, the centuries have proven and continue to prove that human creatures often fail to learn, especially the first 100+ times.

We have recently heard about the importance and challenges of community.

We have recently witnessed Jesus’ expanding of divine grace to the unexpected.

These join in our scriptures about the importance of forgiveness paired with a warning about judging.

We begin with Joseph, who was undeniably the favorite son of Jacob (Israel). Perhaps, Joseph enjoyed reminding his brothers of his status. His brothers did not properly address the conflict, but rather sold him into slavery.

Joseph become an important man in Egypt because of his integrity, dreams, and the ability to interpret dreams. One dream foretold of seven years of bumper crops followed by seven years of drought. Egypt was able to prepare accordingly, however the neighboring nations did not benefit from the prophecy and suffered greatly. One neighboring nation was the 12 tribes of Israel, or essentially Joseph’s brothers and their families.

Joseph’s brothers arrived in Egypt with the intention of seeking, begging for merciful aid in their basic needs.

Can you envision their expressions, their despair that came over the brothers recognizing that Joseph was the person who controlled their fate?

Although Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers is not explicit, it is implicit.

Joseph teaches a truth that counters our human history, a truth with the power to end a toxic cycle. This truth is that those who have been oppressed/abused, do not necessarily become oppressors/abuser when able.

In recent years, a love one shared a confession with me.
It was the fear that when “minorities”, particularly our black siblings, become the majority within the United States of America, the “whites” will be subjected to the oppressions and abuses that they have and continue to subject our brown and black siblings.

As one raised in a more diverse community and time, I shared that my experience with black and brown siblings is a desire for equality and equity, but not revenge. Perhaps our brown and black siblings, at least those I know and love, have learned a lesson from Joseph that would benefit all.

A few centuries after Joseph, Peter asks Jesus how many times are we called to forgive a sibling who wrongs us. Peter suggests, perhaps prays, that the appropriate number is seven providing the opportunity for us to carry a notebook listing our relationships with space enough for seven tick marks each.

In fairness, I do have a Scot-Irish temper AND my immediate family would share:

  1. When I am done, I am DONE; and
  2. It is not always a challenge for me to reach said point of no return.

Jesus teaches that we are to forgive a sibling more than seven times.

  • In the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), it is translated as 77 times.
  • In other translations, it is translated as 70 x 7 (490 times).

Whether it is 77 or 490 times, Jesus teaches the disciples (and us) about the abundance of forgiveness we have received from God.

Jesus teaches that despite us (humans) experiencing the divine debt forgiveness beyond our ability to repay and our imaginations, we struggle to mirror this divine mercy, grace, and forgiveness to our human siblings.

Jesus teaches that the one who refuses mercy, grace, and forgiveness to a sibling with be tormented. Jesus, again, teaches a practical truth. It is with-holding forgiveness is similar to drinking a toxic poison and expecting it to harm the other person AND that our own healing is impossible without extending forgiveness to the one who wronged us.

The Apostle Paul expands that the opposition, the enemy, to forgiveness is judgment and intolerance. We are called to not pass judgment upon another because God is the ONLY righteous judge.

Unfortunately rooted in our sinful natures, we easily misjudge persons in regards to their race, ethnicity, and nationality; gender, gender identity, and sexuality; socioeconomics; political affiliations; religious adherence or lack thereof; and so forth. These judgments are not only often inaccurate but also harmful.

Martin Luther explained in the Small Catechism that we are to always and forever seek the most positive light to view our human siblings and their actions, thus to not rush into harmful assumptions and judgment. This is particularly difficult within toxic relationships whose history is marked with challenges, traumas, and abuses. These are relationships that forgiveness may have to be extended while maintaining distance.

We have wronged God a million times a DAY in thought, word, and deed, and yet God continues to extend mercy, grace, and forgiveness to us.

As I shared, I am not a prime example of embodying Jesus’ lessons and mirroring God’s divine forgiveness. Unfortunately, I have the knowledge and understanding but not always the wisdom to put it into practice.

May we learn from Jacob to extend forgiveness and not seek revenge.

May we learn from Jesus the extent of our debt that God has forgiven us.

May we learn from Jesus to mirror and
extend said forgiveness to our siblings, near and far.

May we learn from Paul that our judgment and
intolerance of another opposes forgiveness.

May we be granted the wisdom to extend forgiveness,
in order that we might heal.

Amen.

Scriptures were Genesis 50:15-21; Romans 14: 1-12; and Matthew 18: 21-35.
Originally preached on 13 Sept. 2020 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN)

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2020 in Sermons

 

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