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When was the last time you came unhinged, I mean, really lost it? Why did you get mad? Was it something you looked back on later and thought, “What a waste of energy!”? Or, as you looked back, did you think the emotional, physical, and psychological expenditure was worth it? I think I know what Paul would say about his angry tirade at the people of Galatia we hear this Sunday.
In Galatians 3:1 Paul begins, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” At first hearing, I raise my eyebrows, take a step back, and think, “Whoa, what’s gotten into him?” But then I hear what’s gotten into him: absolute frustration and sadness as the people he loves are convinced by other preachers that Jesus’ love for them, in and through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, isn’t enough. I might get a little irked, too.
While yelling and name-calling is something most parents instruct their toddlers not to do (come on, Paul, step your game up), I think it’s rather beautiful how upset Paul is by what’s gone down among the churches in Galatia. I often feel like Paul is in love with his own arguments, his own conclusions, and, well, himself. But in Galatians 3 what we hear is that Paul loves the people of Galatia. He cares so deeply for them that he doesn’t want them to waste a moment of their lives under the oppressive lie that Jesus’ love isn’t enough.
So, people of God, hear Paul’s rant for you – Jesus’ love is enough. Jesus’ love forgives, restores, heals, resurrects, and will never run out. It’s for you. No matter what anyone else might say. You are loved. Completely. Right now. Forever.
See you Sunday…
Ever lost something you were sure you wouldn’t find again – your keys, wallet, or sanity? In the book of Acts, after our reading for this Sunday from chapter 15, we lose Peter.
Peter’s kind of a big deal. By grace, Jesus and Peter’s bond is unbreakable. Peter becomes THE leader in the early church. He’s “the man” in God’s Jerusalem church plan. Then, in Acts 10, it’s through Peter that the introduction of Gentiles into the people of God is sanctioned by the Holy Spirit. But after Acts 15, he’s gone. In John 21, it is suggested Peter is martyred. But what happened to Peter between Acts 15 and his execution? God only knows. And in the book of Acts, that’s enough.
This is kind of a big deal for us. Although Acts tells us of great leaders in the early church, the point is made abundantly clear: the church IS NOT dependent upon any one person’s charismatic proclamation, administrative skills, or visionary prowess. The ONLY constant in the church is God’s presence in and through the Holy Spirit, in order that Christ’s ministry continues on the earth. That’s good news, indeed!
Sometimes, we feel that if we don’t save the world, no one else will. We assume that it’s only through our exhaustion that the Kingdom of God comes. Without our work on church projects, at the food pantry, and in our neighborhood, we imagine faith will fizzle out. Yet, while my work for God’s Kingdom is important and given to God’s glory, Acts reassures us that God’s kingdom comes because God wills it.
Faithful child of God, do what God has empowered you to do! Love, serve, and explore your relationship with God. Then, let it go. God only knows what’s next, hallelujah!
See you Sunday…
After 23, yes 23, weeks in the Gospel of Luke, we’re moving on. For the next few weeks, we’ll find ourselves in the book of Acts. As one of my favorite theologians, Justo Gonzalez, says of this book, “It’s not the ‘Acts of the Apostles,’ it’s the ‘Acts of the Holy Spirit!’” How true.
I’m incredibly blessed to serve alongside a group of courageous, Holy Spirit-filled children of God. I’m constantly amazed at their willingness to take risks to follow Christ where the Holy Spirit is calling them to go. They feed the hungry, house the homeless, welcome the stranger, and give themselves away without fear. They love recklessly. I don’t say it often enough: Thank you, people of St. Tim’s! “The church” will never be perfect but I love our imperfect, beautiful community of faith.
If I take a step back and look around our city, state, and throughout this beautiful planet, I’m struck by how many children of God are living out the calling in Holy Baptism to follow the example of Jesus and work for justice and peace in all the earth. We’re doing this daily at work, school, home, in places of suffering, and of joy. We gather with “the Church” near and far, daring to love in Christ’s name and to discern the Holy Spirit’s work among us. Thank you, Church, for your beautiful courage to live the love of God where you are!
Still, Justo Gonzalez is spot on. While courage and daring in the life of the church need to be recognized, the ultimate thanks always rests with the one who gives life and breath to all. Even when we are fearful and far-from-perfect, God is faithful.
Thank you, God, for the Spirit! Please come and ACT in us! Amen?!
Of all the Easter stories, the Gospel of Luke has to be my favorite. There are great one-liners from divine messengers, and God’s promises through Jesus are fulfilled. But even more compelling for me, is that on Easter morning, Jesus is nowhere to be found.
The women who have been serving Jesus since Luke 8 go to the tomb to prepare his body. When they arrive, the stone has been rolled away and there is no sign of Jesus. They are reminded by two sharply-dressed, heavenly messengers that Jesus said he would rise from the dead. When they leave the tomb to return to the gathering of Jesus’ followers, we’re not certain how they feel. What we do know is they tell the others what they’ve seen and the vast majority doesn’t believe a word of it. All signs point to a miracle, but…
Jesus doesn’t give a speech. He doesn’t offer instructions. He doesn’t call anyone by name. He’s vanished.
On that Easter morning in Luke’s Gospel, everything is very unclear. It’s murky. That suits me just fine.
All too often, we hold the perception that Easter morning must be filled with joy…nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, I celebrate Christ’s resurrection with all I’ve got, much of the time. But I may or may not be able to sing “Alleluia” on the day the church has set aside to celebrate Easter. According to Luke, whatever you’re feeling, you fit right in.
This Easter morning you may be filled with the joy of the resurrection. If so, come and sing, “Alleluia!” at the top of your lungs! If not, come anyway. Confusion and disbelief are a part of the story, too.
Just be ready. All signs point to a miracle!
See you Sunday…
It’s rather astounding how many “outcasts” Jesus runs into in Luke’s Gospel. Tax collectors, widows, lepers, the demon-possessed: each have something that makes them unclean, untouchable and/or destitute. We tend to feel grateful, even self-satisfied, that we no longer understand those who suffer with mental illness to be demon-possessed. But, have we really come so far?
It’s March Madness and I’m a sports nut. I’m from Wisconsin and, of course, I was cheering for the Badgers all the way to the Sweet 16 when they faced Florida. Somehow, in the last two seconds of the game, Florida drained a three to win it. Being the wonderful disciple and faith-leader I am, I immediately began hoping Florida would get blown out, I mean embarrassed, in the next round. Why? Because they beat us!
If you’re not a sports enthusiast, try these on for size: Did your party/candidate beat their party/candidate in the last election? Are they (kids, dog owners, homeless folks, late-night-motorcycle-revvers, etc.) a problem in your neighborhood? I’m just getting warmed up…
The passages from Luke 18-19 we’ll hear on Sunday point, yet again, to people who have been ostracized and cast aside from their communities. Yet again, Jesus seeks these individuals out. He loves them. He heals them. He restores them. Why is this so hard for me to remember?
Instead of wallowing in self-loathing about my inability to stop myself from finding ways to make someone an “other,” I’m going to take this Lenten opportunity simply to notice it. How many times a day do I see someone else as “other” because of their sports team, political leanings, driving(!), or socioeconomic status? Will you join me?
Jesus makes the blind see – maybe there’s hope for me yet!
See you Sunday…
It happened again. I had an incredible day filled with God’s love, the work of the Spirit, and great people. Right in the middle of the day, however, I had one negative encounter. One person said some not-so-nice things. In the grand scheme of things, the day was one of the best in recent memory. But when I went to bed that night, any idea what I thought about? Yep, that one negative event occupied my brain.
Has this happened to you? Why is it that negative events can carry so much more weight than beautiful moments? Maybe I’m alone in this, but I have the sneaking suspicion it’s not “just me.”
In the Lenten season, we go through a process of preparation. We prepare to affirm the gift of baptism, and that involves all sorts of reflection. We ask ourselves how we’re doing with our commitment to God’s purposes. We think about God’s call to each of us in and through baptism: that we follow the example of Jesus, work for justice and peace, and renounce the forces that defy God. Why is it when we reflect, so many of our poor choices and missed opportunities rise to the top? Is that God’s ultimate hope for us, that we realize our brokenness? Is there any purpose that includes grace?
This Sunday we’ll experience the whole of Luke 15 and hear God’s response. How does God respond when we know we’re imperfect? What does God do for/to (gulp!) the “lost?” How can I affirm my baptism when I am so aware of the negative consequences of my decisions?
For all of us who need God’s grace, God’s mercy, God’s unending and perfect love, we CANNOT miss Jesus this week!
Will you join me?
See you Sunday…
I sit a lot. It’s been made clear how unhealthy – some would say dangerous – a sedentary
lifestyle is. It’s detrimental to our physical and emotional health. I try to move. I stand while talking on the phone, writing sermons, and watching my son’s hockey practices. Still, I’m in one place for extended periods of time. My faith life feels like that sometimes…sedentary. That’s pretty dangerous, too.
Sedentary faith manifests itself in all sorts of ways. My first indication (to which I rarely pay attention) is increased fear: What if I can’t get it all done? What if I don’t measure up? That person didn’t smile very broadly at me, are they mad at me? Is that person who looks really different from me a threat? You can see where this leads. Another indication is fatigue: God, you don’t really want me to love my enemies, do you? That takes so much energy! Perhaps the biggest indicator is inertia: The problems of the world are way too big. What can I do? Sedentary faith manifests itself physically, emotionally, relationally, psychologically, and every other way imaginable.
In the season of Lent, God comes to us with an opportunity to move.
For the next 40 days, we will be “on the road” with Jesus in the book of Luke. In Luke 9, Jesus sets his face to Jerusalem and he doesn’t look back. He calls disciples, he offends with provocative teaching, he casts out demons, he heals, and he loves and forgives to his own destruction. He invites us to join him on this road. He invites us to move with him as he shows us and the world what love looks like: to and through death…to life everlasting.
Will I move?