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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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Freed to… What?

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So, this is the 4th of July weekend. A lot of things are going on to celebrate what the 4th of July is for us, whether that be cook-outs or fireworks shows. It comes down to a celebration of freedom. Its a luxury that we hold dear to our hearts in this country: Freedom. We think about the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, the freedom to be who we are.

But today, we can celebrate another type of freedom:
a freedom that comes from our baptismal rites;
a freedom that frees us from the baggage of the past;
a freedom that tells us we are no longer held in bondage to sin, or for Luther that would be bondage to being curved in on the self, selfishness, self-centeredness. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2017 in Sermons

 

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A Call to Division?

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There are some weeks when I look at our texts and I don’t want to preach on them.
This was one of those weeks.

The text is not warm and fuzzy.
The text is challenging and frustrating.

Often times, I try to connect our current texts with those we have recently heard or the larger Biblical story as a whole.

There were two main sources of frustration for me in our Gospel today.

First, the theme of division. We have our Prince of Peace saying “I didn’t come to bring peace, I came to bring division”. Yet, a common theme in my preaching is that the Holy Spirit has taken those differences that we let divide us and broken through those walls so that we can reach across the divides to be reconciled, to love, and to serve one another no matter where we might find them on their path and we find them on our own. That (theme) is a little bit of a challenge to preach with the text we have today.

Second frustration, last week was Father’s Day. I preached about the role of a (ideal) father or parent as one that helps is to have wings to go fly with and when we fall picks us up, dusts us off, and sends us further into who we are called to be and the journey that we are called to travel. Today’s text has father against son, mother against daughter, and it reads daughter-in-law against mother-in-law (which from my experience is not that difficult of a division). BUT, it is about divisions between relationships that last week we honored and we lifted up.

I think this text and the reality of our lives show why language of God as the Father, the Mother, or the Parent is challenged. In our own lives, we know that not all (earthly) fathers are good fathers and not all (earthly) mothers are good mothers. Some try and fall short, while others just don’t even try. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2017 in Sermons

 

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Testing Our Wings: Father’s Day Sermon

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These texts that we have today were a challenge for me. We have different texts that give themselves to or have themes that have been hijacked for purposes other than what I would call the gospel, or the good news.

I was wrestling with that this week.
How do I preach this, especially on the coat tails of a Sunday where I loved the gospel?

Then, I got to thinking about Father’s Day, who a father is, and our image of God as the perfect Father (the model of what fatherhood should ideally be).

I became a little more comfortable with the texts at that point.

In our gospel text (Matt. 9-10), we have Christ sending his disciples out to do those things we have been talking about:
the proclamation of the WORD in word and deed;
we don’t have the baptizing yet, but that will come;
the acts of compassion and mercy; and
the love and the service (of others).
They have been sent out into the world to do that, but not quite fully yet. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2017 in Sermons

 

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