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Yoked

Available on YouTube, simply click here.

Our scriptures reflect a tension that exists within our discipleship, vocations, and lives in general. It is a tension that is held between rest and restlessness, between rest and service.

In the previous weeks, we have explored our co-mission and its high cost, for the cost of discipleship can shatter valued relationships, cause scorn, and for a few physical death.

This morning, we have the yoke of discipleship.

A yoke is a device that joins two or more creatures, often oxen, together as partners in mission and labor. It is used to increase their cooperation in sharing the labor of pulling heavy equipment or a burdensome load. Thus, the yoke has become symbolic of constraining, burdensome labor and servitude.

Within our Matthew scripture, Jesus utilizes the yoke as a metaphor for our relationship, particularly regarding our shared mission, ministry, and baptismal vocation to proclaim Christ in word and deed, to seek justice, to act with compassion and mercy, and to love and serve all people.

Perhaps, we may understand it best within our own personal, human-human, Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Rippling Welcome

Our Gospel this morning, concludes a trilogy:

Installment one was Jesus commissioning the disciples into his ministry and mission, because Christ was compelled by compassion and overwhelmed with the abundance of human need. This initial commissioning, however, was limited to the lost sheep of Israel but would later be extended in the Great Commissioning in ever-expanding ripples of God’s inclusion, grace, and love of all people, all creatures, the entire earth, and the whole universe. Thanks be to God!

Installment two was Jesus informing the disciples of the high cost of discipleship, because discipleship is to follow in the footsteps of your teacher mimicking (or proclaiming) them in word and deed. As disciples of Christ, we are sent forth to seek justice, to act with compassion and mercy, and to love and serve all people but especially our most vulnerable siblings. This ministry challenges the status quo, especially those who benefit from injustice, and can lead to sharp divisions and conflicts among our most valued relationships. This ministry can also lead to rejection, scorn, and for some persons physical death.

Installment three is about hospitality and welcome. As you might recall, Jesus sent the disciples forth without extra clothing, food, or money in order that they would be vulnerable and completely dependent upon the hospitality and welcome of strangers. Additionally, the act of hospitality was of the upmost importance in the Ancient Near East, including Jewish culture.

Our countdown video begun with a profound observation about our scriptural commandment to ‘welcome the stranger’ and our human nature, stating:

Sometimes our worse nature gets activated by people from other lands, from other cultures, by people we don’t immediately understand when they are in the neighborhood with us and that we maybe don’t get the chances to know well. And it can activate something about our human response to difference that isn’t a very attract quality. So you go back to scripture and you say, ‘oh, that is why this is a commandment that repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats because it is hard to do’.

This commandment, as in our countdown video, is often associated with immigrates and immigration policies, but it is not intended to be so narrowly applied.

The unfortunate truth is that we, as sinful critters, have an unflattering response to difference. Thus, we are most comfortable in social circles and situations that mirror ourselves.

Additionally, it is this unflattering response to difference that manifests as bias and prejudice in word and deed that divides and conquers us as a human family.

The apostle Paul, by the grace of God, reached out to the “strangers” across those divides and embraced the ever-expanding ripples of God’s inclusion, grace, and love. He understood and taught that we have been freed from the “law”.

  • This freedom, however, does not encourage an increase in our sinful, self-centered conduct.
  • This freedom, however, does not incite unlawfulness or moral anarchy.

Instead, it liberates us from justifying and rooting our bias and prejudice in and through the “law”.

But, even within a nation that highly values freedom, the freedom from the law is intimidating. The law offers order, meaning, and identity, but Christ calls and will continue to call us into divine order, deeper meaning, and a truer identity as beloved children of God.

Similar to Paul, we were, are, and will continue to be called into freedom from the law in order to embrace the “stranger”, for he wrote later in Romans, “love is the fulfillment of the law” (13:10). This ‘love’, however, does not only fulfill the letter of the law but the intensified spirit of the law.

Yet, we continue to permit our bias and prejudice to distract our hospitality, welcome, and love, whether based upon:

race, ethnicity, or nationality;

gender identity or sexuality;

socio-economics;

social circles;

political affiliations;

religious adherence or lack thereof; and

numerous other invalid reasons,
for difference does not necessarily equal division.

I read a sign that read:
“Hospitality is when someone feels at home in your presence”.

I also read one that read:
“Hospitality is simply an opportunity to show love and care”

These are beautifully stated truths.

We are called to be a safe, comforting home for all persons.

We are called to care for, love, and serve all people.

May we reach across those bias and prejudices to extend a hand to the stranger.

May we be an embodiment of God’s ever-expanding ripples of inclusion, grace, and love.

May we be examples of hospitality that welcomes the “least of these” or “little ones” as Christ himself.

May we use our freedom from the law to fulfill the more challenging spirit of it…
for LOVE is its fulfillment.

The ministry and mission that Jesus commissioned the disciples and us into is not easy, it is costly, but it is worth it. Amen.

 

Scriptures were Romans 6: 23-23; Romans 13:10; and Matthew 10: 40-42.
Originally preached on 28 June 2020 at Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, Indiana)
 
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Posted by on June 29, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Cost of Ripple Discipleship

Let’s rewind for a moment.

The Gospel of Matthew has two, separate commissioning narratives.

The initial commissioning was to the Israelite people alone, specifically noting to NOT interact with “those” Samaritans and Gentiles. However, the second or “Great Commissioning” sent the disciples forth specifically to “those” Samaritans and Gentiles originally prohibited. This demonstrates a truth in our Holy Scriptures that God’s inclusion, grace, and love is an ever-expanding ripple effect until all people, all creatures, the entire earth, and the whole universe is included.

I encourage you to remain mindful of these ever-expanding ripples of inclusion, grace, and love despite our return to the initial, limited commissioning story.

The disciples have now been drawn more deeply into Jesus’ earthly ministry and co-partners in his mission. The disciples had previously left behind their employment and careers, their homes, and their families. However, discipleship is even more costly than that, as they are instructed to be completely vulnerable without the resources of extra clothing, food, and money; thus, requiring their complete dependence on the generosity of those encountered along the journey.

Discipleship is NOT easy.
Discipleship is costly.
Discipleship can cost you EVERYTHING. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Ever-Expanding Ripples (NASCAR)

I had to make you uncomfortable, otherwise you never would have moved.
-Universe-

This quote recalled conversations with a friend in Washington, who often spoke about how if we are comfortable, we have no reason, no desire to move which pairs with a common saying of a cousin ‘do something every day that scares you’.

Similar to the lack of comfort I experience with our Matthew scripture, this sermon was uncomfortable to prepare, it will be uncomfortable to preach, and it will be uncomfortable to hear. However, this is how we are moved, how we grow, and honestly how we are formed into the persons that God has, is and will continue to call us to be. This discomfort is compounded with our social crises, but perhaps that increases its necessity and urgency.

In our Matthew 9-10 scripture, Jesus is completely engulfed in his earthly ministry.

Jesus’ earthly ministry, according to Luke 4 (14-21) and his reading from Isaiah, is to:

  • Bring good news to the poor;
  • Proclaim release to the captives;
  • Return sight to the blind;
  • Free the oppressed; and
  • Proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    including debt forgiveness and the restoring of family lands.

Returning to our Matthew 9-10 scripture, the tasks of Jesus’ earthly ministry also included teaching and curing every disease and illness.

Jesus, God in human flesh and bone, is weary but moved with compassion for the multitude of people in need.

Jesus, God in human flesh and bone, is overwhelmed by the abundancy of human need.

Jesus commissions the disciples into his earthly ministry, that is Jesus invites and enables the inter-most circle of twelve to actively participate in the curing of every disease/illness and the casting out of unclean spirits. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Trinity Teaching: What is it?

Our Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, has pre-recorded a sermon (click here).

I have chosen to preach, actually teach, on this Trinity Sunday. I am more a ‘teacher’ than a ‘preacher’ anyways.

In an ecumenical text study, I was met with facial expressions questioning my sanity as I shared that I would probably not be utilizing the Presiding Bishop’s sermon in the service.

Then, I had a conversation with my mama. She had been ‘blowing the mind’ of a colleague while discussing our sacred history in scripture and the Trinity, primarily her questions. He asked if she was the annoying child who questioned the pastor, but she admitted that she did not have these questions until adulthood including:

  1. If Jesus is God incarnate in human flesh, who is Jesus praying to in the garden?
  2. If Jesus is God incarnate in human flesh, who does he scream out to from the cross?
  3. If Jesus is God, how can he be seated at the right hand of himself?

I, however, was proudly the annoying child questioning the pastor and faith formation leaders. Now, as a supposed adult, I continue to question and can speak hours and hours and hours on religion and theology… if only given the opportunity, but when I begin with the “-ologies” and “-isms”, my mama reminds me to ‘break it down potato head style’ for her.

Yet, I cannot sufficiently offer an understanding or image of the Trinity, but it is a significant mystery of faith that I LOVE to ponder often. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Whoa, Holy Spirit, Whoa!

Our Acts scripture begun with 120 of Jesus’ followers gathered, spiritually and physically, in Jerusalem. These followers included the eleven, Jesus’ mother and brothers, and other men AND women, who had spent ten days in conversation, praying ‘Come, Holy Spirit Come’ with increasing impatience.

But, which Holy Spirit are they praying will come…
… the calming, comforting presence;
… the driving force, the motor, that will drive the Jesus movement forward gently;
… or the wild, uncontrollable source of inspiration and action.

Suddenly, a violent wind blows through the room. WHOA!

Suddenly, tongues (or flames) of fire rest upon the 120 men AND women. WHOA!

Suddenly, this chaos grabs the attention of the crowd outside. Jews of EVERY nation. WHOA!

Suddenly, the 120 are forced from the building, into the world witnessing to Christ in word and deed. WHOA!

Suddenly, the 120 can be understood by ALL in their native languages. WHOA!

Suddenly, Peter begins to preach and 3000 in the crowd join the Jesus movement. WHOA!

Apparently, it was the wild, uncontrollable Holy Spirit of inspiration and action that arrived. The Holy Spirit that most, especially mainline traditions, are the LEAST comfortable. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Pondering Church (COVID19)

It is worthwhile to continually discern our understanding of church, its essential elements, and the priorities it communicates, but the global COVID-19 pandemic offers a crucial opportunity as it challenges us to be creatively adaptive.

Holy Grounds, our informal faith-based discussion, was held digitally. I invited us to ponder church, the defining elements grieved in social distancing, and how our in-person gatherings will be different (at least temporally).

In regard to the national dialogue, our discernment is increasingly appropriate.

The church is indeed essential, but the church has never been closed despite the closed buildings because it is not a building or a specific community gathered at a specific location and time.

Martin Luther defined the church in The Papacy in Rome, writing: Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

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Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

This is an odd Sunday.

On Thursday, 40 days after the Resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven.
As seen on Facebook, “this is the day that Jesus begun working from home”.

And yet, the promised Holy Spirit has not arrived.

The disciples return to behind closed doors, similar to the in-between of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but without the fear.

The extended circle of disciples are spending their time in prayer.

I imagine with each day, these disciples are becoming impatient with a growing sense of being orphaned or abandoned for forever.

But, I have been pondering if this odd Sunday is oddly similar to our current situation.

  1. We are encouraged to work from our homes as able.
  2. We are encouraged to continue social distance, social isolation, and quarantine as able.
  3. We are becoming more impatient as it continues, especially with improving weather and a long weekend.
  4. We may be emotionally and/or spiritually restless, growing in a sense of being abandoned.

Arguably the disciples are praying for the Holy Spirit to come.
But, which Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is a paradoxical ‘person’ of the Holy Trinity. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Adopted: Always & Forever

John (my ex-husband) and I adopted Highlander and Valkyrie in July 2012. Highlander was a one-year old puppy and Valkyrie was a nine-week old kitten. These fur-babies were destined to be adopted into my home, but especially Highlander.

We drove about an hour to the Tacoma Humane Society after seeing Highlander on their website, but I was informed that I could not meet him because another family had him on ‘hold’ until 5:00pm. Since it was 4:30pm and John was looking at the kittens anyways, I told her I would wait and see if they came to adopt him. Then, she realized the ‘hold’ was from the previous day, thus I could meet him. She also noted she had told another couple earlier that he was not available at this time. Then, he apparently attempted to start a puppy fight on his way to meet us. If you are keeping track, that was three opportunities for Highlander to not be adopted into my home and life.

He quickly became a mama’s boy, but had separation anxiety. It begun to ease as he grew in confidence that I would always return.

He is now nearly, if not completely, blind.

When we are out in the yard, he has moments of confidence in his environment and my presence. He will begin to pick up speed while playfully running and at times does not heed my warnings to ‘slow down’ or ‘be careful’ or even ‘STOP’. He runs face first into a fence, tree, or pavers. He bounces back, shakes it off, ‘looks’ around, and is on the move again. These moments of confidence cause my heart to be filled with joy, but the ‘bouncing off’ moments cause my heart to ache.

Then, there are moments in the yard when he lacks confidence and begins to panic with overwhelming separation anxiety. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Troubled: the Way, Truth, and Life

This gospel is beloved among Christians.

  • It is a comforting passage often included in memorial services for our deceased.
  • It is the foundational passage for an amazing junior high retreat in Arizona that I volunteered.

And yet, this scripture troubles me despite Jesus beginning with ‘do not let your heart be troubled”.

This ‘trouble’ begins with a young, elementary aged Melinda, whose only schoolmate friend was raised by divorced parents. Her father was Roman Catholic and her mother had converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon Church). We would compare and contrast the Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Mormons. At that point, I should have known I would be blessed, perhaps cursed, with a passion for religious studies.

Then, my under-graduate field was Religious Studies. Religious Studies is a relatively recent academic field in its current form, which is composed of:

  1. Establishing methods for the academic study of religion and religious traditions, as objectively as possible, whether Christian or non-Christian;
  2. Exploring theories about the definition, origin, and purpose of religion; and
  3. Comparing of religious traditions, as objectively as possible, through their core teachings, rituals, and histories.

This academic study of religion is a compilation of academic fields, including anthropology, psychology, and sociology.

Then, my graduate education was at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, a member of the Graduate Theological Union composed of multiple Christian Seminaries and non-Christian centers of study.

Thus, I have and continue to craft an intellectual and spiritual life rooted in the fertile soil of religious studies and diverse understanding. This is the foundation for my trouble with our passage. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2020 in Sermons

 

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