A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

Quality of Life Sermon on Matthew 22 October 9, 2020

This sermon was preached on October 11, 2020 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT. It can be viewed on our YouTube channel Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:
Psalm 23
Philippians 4: 1-10
Matthew 22: 1-14

One of the goals of parenting, caregiving, teaching or mentoring, is to help another person achieve a healthy, vibrant and sustainable life-to have what we often refer to as “quality of life.”  Such as when my children were very young, I knew that making them take a nap would ensure a better rest of the day. Now that doesn’t mean that they were always receptive to this nap. Sometimes I had to make them lie down to get them to rest. They thought I was being mean and unfair because they wanted to stay up and do what they wanted to do. But I knew that if they didn’t rest, they would be crabby and melt down later and it wouldn’t be good for them or anyone around them. Their resistance to this reality is not unique as we often can’t see consequences for our choices, for ourselves or those around us. I usually think that I know what I need to have the kind of quality of life I want and deserve. And yet, I have to admit, when I consider my own quality of life, rarely do I consider the impact of my decisions on others.

This idea of our quality of life is front and center right now in our culture. We all have our individual opinions on what is a good quality of life and tend to think that we should have autonomy over those opinions. Where we go, what we do, where we live, what we buy, and what we share. We all want security: financial, health, food, housing, work, etc. And we are sure that we each know the best way to have a good quality of life. The crisis comes when others don’t agree with us and when our decisions for ourselves impact one another in negative ways.

Jesus challenges our concept of “quality of life” in our parable today. This is a hard parable, and I seriously considered preaching on one of the other two texts, except I realized Psalm 23 and Philippians 4 only support what Jesus is saying in Matthew 22. This parable is filled with invitation, rejection, killing of the messengers, destruction of the city, the good and the bad gathered off the streets and ultimately someone thrown out of the wedding banquet. Not a lot of good news it seems, as reality abounds in this parable.

Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. Wedding feasts were about unity, the combining of clans, cementing of relationships and alliances. They were political. Attending a wedding feast was a statement about your allegiances and how you lived. You didn’t attend a wedding feast lightly or just to make an appearance. In this harsh parable Jesus offers that we must understand that we have been invited to God’s wedding feast. God is offering us a relationship that is important and permanent. All too often, we walk away from the invitation of this relationship because it might seem risky to accept it, to be seen at the feast, or we mistakenly think our daily lives are the real invitation from God. We look for ways to avoid making visible our allegiance to the good news of Jesus in the world. We make light of the importance for showing up, and not just showing up half-heartedly or because we have nothing better to do. God desires for us to show up fully clothed in our baptisms, fully clothed with the love for our neighbor, fully clothed in the understanding that we can’t be speechless, like the guest who didn’t understand that half-way doesn’t cut it. We show up knowing that our quality of life is not something that we decide for ourselves nor is it what we can control and master. No, good quality of life, only comes from our lives in God through Jesus Christ who lived, died and was raised from the dead to usher in quality of life for all to flourish today and forever. Good quality of life requires something from us, it requires that we do the things that may not make sense or seem too hard. Good quality of life means that we recognize that our quality of life is interconnected to the quality of life of each other.

When we show up fully as God’s people, living the message of love for the world through Jesus, in the hardest of situations, that is a good quality of life. Paul, in Philippians, was writing from prison, probably about to be killed and yet, rejoiced in his quality of life in the grace and mercy of Christ that he shared with the people of Philippi. A good quality of life is a life lived for God and for others. It’s not living perfectly, or the absence of hard situations, but it’s the ability to deal with what is, even if what it is, is hard.

 Our presence matters, and not just for appearances. How we live our lives, our actions as the people of God must be clear and plain. Jesus offers that the wedding guest not clothed correctly was thrown out, and I wonder if that is because when our inside intentions don’t match our outside actions, we have the possibility of harming those around us. We can’t talk about loving our neighbor while refusing to wear a mask to keep them safe, or deny them healthcare, or go hungry, or sleep on the streets, or the right to immigrate, or to allow racism to abound. We are called to consider what will further human flourishing, not just our own. God’s invitation is indeed for all and how we respond matters. When I don’t respond fully as a person of God, I not only undermine my own quality of life, but the quality of life of others around me. When I’m silent on matters of injustice, when I avoid hard conversations with a misguided notion of keeping the peace, when I stay in my comfort bubble because my privilege allows me to, when I don’t do the hard actions of putting my money where my mouth is for reparations for Black and indigenous folks, then I lessen the quality of life for others in the world. For Jesus, our quality of life is bound up in one another, as a community, AND our individual response matters as it impacts the community. For Jesus, our quality of life can be rich only through our connection to God and accepting the invitation to God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness. Our quality of life is not about us, and yes, when we think it is, difficult, unpleasant and harmful events unfold in our midst, this is the reality of the parable and our lives. Our quality of life is full with promise and hope and when we open our hearts, spirits and souls to life fully with God in God’s kingdom, and we are connected to the joyful feast of life that never ends in Jesus.
You are loved. You are beloved. Go and be love. Amen.

 

Rock Bottom Sermon Matthew 21: 33-46 October 2, 2020

This sermon was preached on Oct. 4, 2020 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT. It can be viewed on our YouTube Channel Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:
Psalm 80:7-15
Philippians 3:4b-14
Matthew 21: 33-46

I have had the experience a few times in my life of hitting rock bottom. Now, realize that is perhaps not as dramatic as it sounds. That term has some strong connotations in our culture, mostly associated with the disease of addiction, but Fr. Richard Rohr notes that as a culture as whole, we are a very addictive people and discusses the 12 Steps from AA and spirituality. We’re all addicted to something, whether it’s work, diet coke, food, tv, social media, exercise, shopping, doomscrolling, there is something that each of us does that keeps us from perhaps healthier pursuits. For many, it’s mostly an eccentricity and doesn’t interfere with daily life, but every now and again, we all reach a point with a situation that causes us to realize that we aren’t managing very well. That’s hitting rock bottom. It’s being crushed and broken open to see something truthfully and to acknowledge that something has to change.  One time, for me, it was the recognition that I needed to lose the weight I had gained from having three children, to be healthier. Our youngest was medically fragile and after his first surgery at seven months old, I hit rock bottom in realizing that he would need care his whole life and I needed to be around as long as possible. I hit rock bottom and knew I had to change. So I began to eat differently, exercising differently and got healthier, to take care of Ben. I saw my life differently than I did to before, and changes were needed. After admitting this was true, I was broken open to do and live in a new way. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was living out the first principle in AA’s 12 step program: to admit that we are powerless [over alcohol] and our lives have become unmanageable. We can’t simply go the way we are and be healthy.

In our reading this week, Jesus continues his occupation of the Temple and confrontation with the chief priests and elders. He tells them another parable, offers a scripture from Psalm 118 and has stinging words for these supposed leaders. Jesus is laying down some harsh truths. In the parable, the tenets were supposed to care for the land, collaborate with the landowner, give the servants of the landowner the fruits of the land and their labor, for the landowners use. But the tenets became unmanageable, they forgot that none of the land, the produce was theirs. It all belonged to the landowner. They harmed and killed the servants of the landowner, addicted to their own power and authority. The landowner then sent his own son thinking that might manage the situation, but they threw him out and killed him too. They only cared about their own wealth, status, wants and future. They didn’t even realize that they were unhealthy and unmanageable. They thought they had it all under control, they didn’t realize that they were really hitting rock bottom.

Jesus knew that the chief priest, the elders and the pharisees would simply keep operating the way they always had, rejecting anyone who challenged their power and authority, getting rid of them, debasing or discrediting them. They were addicted to their own power and authority like the tenets. They didn’t even know how unmanageable and unhealthy they were, not only for themselves, but for everyone else too. Lie the tenets as well, they forgot that their work was not for them but for God and God’s people. Jesus knew that they would have to be broken by the reality of God’s kingdom, hit rock bottom, in trying to manage it all themselves as if it was their kingdom.

We’re not different than those chief priests, elders and pharisees, here in 2020. We think that we can manage it all, the way we always have, we just need to keep complete control, try harder, grab on to whatever we can, discard anyone and anything that challenges us. But we can’t manage it all and we are hitting rock bottom. We are being crushed by the truth and reality that we aren’t in control, that nothing is really ours, and we have to work together and with God for anything of value and worth to be produced. We can’t continue to abuse God’s creation, the earth, and use up all of her resources. We can’t continue to dump millions of tons of plastic into our oceans, we can’t continue to ignore climate change that brings the most active Atlantic hurricane season ever, weeks to months of no rain in other places, wildfires that destroy ecosystems, livelihoods, and lives. We can’t continue to not deal directly with COVID19, to make compassionate decisions for others. We can’t continue to sit in our white privilege while our siblings of color are harmed and killed by oppressive and unjust systems. We can’t continue to think that we are managing all of this, because we’re not.

But we aren’t supposed to manage everything. Jesus knows that we will hit rock bottom and be crushed, we will realize that we are powerless, and our lives are unmanageable the way they are. But in being broken we can be transformed. Our broken pieces can be rebuilt on the Holy One who is the foundation and owner of the heavens and the earth and all that is in it. When we hit rock bottom, when we admit that we are broken and powerless, God is there. God sent Jesus to be the foundation, the cornerstone that transforms, rebuilds and renews us in love. This is when we produce fruits of the kingdom, when we are broken open and can admit that it’s not about us, but it’s about what God needs from us for the flourishing of all creation and humanity. Jesus, the cornerstone, the first fruits of God’s reality of eternal life, comes to us over and over with this invitation from our brokenness to produce fruits of the kingdom: care, love, forgiveness, mercy and hope. We hit rock bottom, and in our breaking find that we fall into God’s wholeness.

You are loved. You are beloved. Go and be love. Amen.

 

Breaking Orbit Sermon on Matthew 21 September 25, 2020

This sermon was preached on September 27, 2020 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT. It can be viewed on our YouTube: Our Saviour’s Lutheran SLC.

The texts were:

Psalm 25: 1-9
Philippians 2: 1-13
Matthew 21: 23-32

As a child I loved the original Star Trek series. The Starship Enterprise voyaged through the galaxy at warp speed to explore and discover new life and new civilizations. They would enter the orbit of the planet, that invisible yet powerful gravitational pull, explore, learn, and then break orbit to go to some other new adventure. Occasionally, part of the plot of an episode was that they COULDN’T break orbit because of some misunderstanding or nefarious plan of the inhabitants of the planet. Maybe the people of the planet needed a resource on board the Enterprise, or they needed the people themselves, to supply the planet with what they needed for comfort or status quo. In this scenario, reasoning rarely worked, and it took a major rupture of the planetary system or a scheme to leave the orbit that freed the ship and the people. It took a force greater or equal to the gravitational pull of the planet’s orbit to free them. Breaking orbit meant life, freedom, justice, continued exploration, and the fulfillment of the crew’s mission.
As a military kid this idea of encountering new people, the tension of needs of the planet and the needs of the crew resonated in me. As I moved around the world, I encountered people and systems that were foreign and unknown. Some I could understand, some I could not, and some seemed invisible to the people living in that system, even though on the outside, I could see it. It’s only in my adulthood that I am more aware of the orbits I am in, the gravitational pulls to systems, people and actions in which I participate unconsciously and consciously. But what if I need to break those orbits?

Our gospel lesson today is all about orbits, strong and powerful gravitational pulls that keep things moving in a certain direction, around certain people, for a certain purpose. Indulge me as I set the context for us here in Matthew 21: Jesus has entered Jerusalem on a stolen donkey to crowds shouting Hosanna, Save Us Now. We tend to sanitize this story for SS pageants, but let’s be clear-it was a protest. People were coming out to support this Jesus who stood up to the rulers, who healed the outcast on the Sabbath, who ate with tax collectors and sex workers. Then the protest continued with Jesus going to the center of economic power and turning over tables, knocking over chairs, freeing the animals to be bought for sacrifice. And the people were cheering him on with shouts of Hosanna! Jesus then healed those who had come to Temple to buy their way out of misery in the system that intentionally kept them poor and on the outside. The leaders were angry. Destroying property? Protests in the streets? This is not how problems get solved. This Jesus should stay in his place and not make waves. He has no authority or voice here.
The next day Jesus returns to his occupation of the Temple for more truth telling. The chief priests and elders have had enough with Jesus’ disruption of their daily lives and confront him. How dare you disrupt the system! By who’s authority do you do these things? Jesus then asks them an orbit decaying question regarding John the Baptist, who had people breaking orbit from the Temple system to hear words of forgiveness, wholeness and freedom from the status quo out in the wilderness. But the chief priests and elders knew it was a trap. They had a lot at stake as the whole system was set up for them and others like them in power and privilege to be at the center, to be kept comfortable and given resources to support their lives. And everyone else? Well everyone else was merely in their orbit and needed to stay there to keep the system going without interruption.
But interruption is the whole point of Jesus’ ministry and the kingdom of God. God reaches into our orbits and propels us from the gravitational pull of status quo and comfort. Jesus tells the story of the two sons, one who refuses to go to the vineyard but then does, and one who says he will but doesn’t. Gravity is hard to overcome. But Jesus says that this is what the kingdom of Heaven is like. God calls us to break orbit and go to the vineyard, the kingdom of God, and do the hard work of breaking other people out of the orbital systems in which they are stuck. Jesus says that when we break orbit, new possibilities await and arise. Breaking orbit allows us to encounter new people, new places and allows God’s renewing and redeeming love to pull us even closer to God and to one another in true common mission. Breaking orbit allows us to encounter and experience new life.
I’ve thought about this a lot this week. We live in a society that was intentionally erected to ensure the comfort of an elite class-mostly white, straight, cisgender men. The rest of us, women (although white women, we can move in and out of the center and let’s remember our privilege), black people, indigenous people, people of color, LBGTQIA people, poor people, our job is to be in orbit of this system and keep it going. If that offends you, I’m not sorry. It’s the truth. I say this knowing that in being in this orbit myself, I contribute, participate in and affirm this system. I’m guilty of staying in orbit, as it is easier and less work. By staying in orbit, I help keep the systems in place that killed Breonna Taylor, Say Her Name, and allowed police officers not be held accountable. I am not anti-police-I am pro-accountability, for us all. I, too, need accountability for my part in the systems that allows for harm, such as bullying of LBGTQIA people, the system that keeps poor people poor, that keeps women underpaid and without access to reproductive healthcare, that keeps stereotypes and hate swirling.
I have decided that I am breaking orbit. I’m breaking orbit to be pulled by God’s powerful force of love into the work of the vineyard, to cultivate life, to bring forth abundance from dirt, to grow something wild and new. I’m breaking orbit, and I know that it will cause many people around me to be uncomfortable and to ask by who’s authority am I not going to follow all the rules. I’m breaking orbit, not for myself, but for you and for others and for the people whose  names we don’t know to say out loud but are being harmed or killed. I’m breaking orbit, for I will no longer willingly circle around systems that bring death, harm and oppression to anyone. I’m breaking orbit and I pray that you all will hold me accountable for my words to match my actions. I’m breaking orbit, come with me to explore God’s kingdom and discover new life and a new civilization of mercy, forgiveness, hope, justice and love that awaits for us all.
You are loved, you are beloved, go and be love. Amen.

 

“No One Hired Us” Sermon on Matthew 20 September 18, 2020

This sermon was preached at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT on Sept. 20, 2020. It can be viewed on our YouTube Channel Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.
The texts were:
Psalm 145: 1-8
Philippians 1: 21-30
Matthew 20: 1-16

It is the eighth anniversary of my ordination in the ELCA at the end of this month. As I reflect on my journey to ordination, I am grateful for the joys, the blessings, the challenges, the learning, when it was bewildering and yes, even the times when it was just plain hard. I do know that I have been mostly lucky in my ministry calls so far, and yes I am using the word “lucky” intentionally. Let me tell you why. You see, getting immediately ordained after graduating from four years of graduate level training, yes four years and we only get a master’s degree, for most is a given. But not for all. In the spring of our last semester of seminary, my colleagues and I began the interview process with congregations. Well, some did. I had one interview for a youth and family pastor position, totally my wheelhouse with over 15 years of experience, where in the interview I was repeatedly asked questions about being a mother and a pastor at the same time. Ultimately, they chose someone with more experience they said. It turned out to be a 26 year old, white male. I discovered that even the Church isn’t fair. That was my only interview until later on that summer. My Rostered Minister Profile, clergy resume in the ELCA, went to several churches, but I didn’t get any interviews. One didn’t even open my file once they saw my name. But other colleagues had multiple interviews and were snatched up right away. What did they had in common? Honestly, being white, straight and male. But as I said, I was lucky, I interviewed at another church that summer and they did call me, part-time and drastically underpaid. But it was my only option for work, besides Starbucks. Don’t feel sorry for me, that’s not the point. I have siblings in ministry, women, femmes, Black, Indigenous, people of color, LBGTQIA, who waited years for a call. In these demographics, the average wait is over a year for first call. I have one friend who waited ten years because he is an out gay male. When you are waiting to receive a call from a congregation, you are frequently asked: Why has no one called you? The implication is that there is something wrong with us, that maybe we just don’t have the skills, the intellect, the interview acumen, etc. There is a reason that you are being passed by. And there is. There is something we are lacking. Often, it’s beyond our control. We can’t control our anatomy or skin color or biology.

When we do receive calls, they are often for lower wages, part-time and in less desirable situations. Not all the time, again, I’ve been lucky, as have a few of my colleagues. But I see those who are not lucky. Now, some would say that we’ve made great progress, after all we’ve had ordination of white women for 50 years, ordination of black women for 40 years and ordination of LBGTQIA people for 10 years. But really in the 2000 year history of the Church, we’re relative late comers to the professional work, although these populations have always been doing the work of the kingdom, just without official recognition and compensation. Many in these demographics just aren’t as desirable for congregations as they don’t fit the perfect picture of who should be in leadership in the church. Again, let me say, being a white, straight middle class woman, I am lucky.

But it shouldn’t depend on luck, Jesus says in our parable today. We often read these parables and think that they are about salvation or heaven when we die and I think that often we miss the point that Jesus says that heaven isn’t somewhere else, it’s here. What if here and now, today, in this life, we don’t pass some workers by? What if we hire everyone who wants to do the work regardless of our first impressions, biases or prejudices? What if we recognized that everyone, every ability, every skin color, every sexual orientation, every class, every gender, every body type, every one, has worth? But is that fair, we might ask? What if some can’t work as long, or don’t have the skills or simply don’t come from the same perspective on work as we do? What if we do more and they do less? Jesus is clear in this parable that God isn’t interested in fair. God is interested in justice.

Our challenge is that in our humanness we equate fair with justice and they are not the same. The workers who worked all day and received the same salary as those who came along later, grumbled, we read. They were mad that they were worth as much as the others. How is that fair? Shouldn’t they be worth more? No, Jesus says. Just because they were lucky and hired first, doesn’t mean that they have more skill or more worth. Their colleagues who came to the work later, didn’t necessarily arrive later out of their own doings. No one let them in until later, is that fair? Are they not worth as much as the all day workers? They too deserve to be paid their worth, not only for their time. The landowner is clear that he will pay what is right and that he can do with what he has as he pleases. We often think that the land owner represents God, but I wonder if Jesus is calling for us to see ourselves in the landowner and realize our own biases, and take a second look at people, do what is right and invite them in? We know that in God there is no male or female, Jew or Gentile, free or slave person, first or last, Republican or Democrat or Independent, Christian or Muslim, white or black, abled or disabled, straight or not, we know this. But we don’t act on this. All people belong in the kingdom, doing the kingdom’s work. All.
We have much work to do to be fully inclusive in the ELCA. We have repentance to ask for, we have reparations to make, we have risks to take, we have restorative healing to begin. And it’s not luck that will make this happen, it’s hard work, love, vulnerability, honesty, going out to the people who have been left to stand around alone all day. These are the people to whom Jesus went to, the poor, the tax collectors, the sick, the outcast, the criminals, the sex workers. He invited them in the kingdom of God as fellow workers and siblings. Jesus says that this is the kingdom, that is here, that is for you, and me and for all. We belong, everyone belongs, and we open our hearts to let people in. This is how we heal our world and our souls. This is how God’s justice reigns. Amen.

 

Forgiveness and God’s Power Sermon on Matthew 18: 21-35 September 11, 2020

This sermon was preached on Sept. 13, 2020 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT. It can be viewed on our YouTube channel Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:
Psalm 103
Genesis 50: 15-21
Matthew 18: 21-35

Forgiveness is officially defined as “the action or process of being forgiven or forgiving.” Ok, that’s a good place to start, but as I ponder forgiveness, I realize that it has a lot to do with power. How we use power, particularly in conflicts. If I apologize, do I give away my power? If you forgive me, am I beholden to you? If I forgive, am I giving you more power, or exerting my own power? What about when one group uses power over another? Do we stay silent or speak up? We are constantly weighing the power dynamics in our relationships. Often, we keep silent, walk away, “mind our own business,” and just worry about ourselves, thinking that is better, even noble. Yet, when nothing is said, when forgiveness is cheapened by repeating bad behaviors,  harmful actions are ignored and allowed to perpetuate and fester, people can remain caught as pawns in systems of abusive power and this doesn’t only damage individuals, but the community.

Peter’s question to Jesus on forgiveness is oozing with power, “if someone in the church (notice this is about people close to him) wrongs me how many times do I have to forgive? Seven times?” Seven is considered a holy and perfect number in Jewish numerology if you get into that sort of thing, which I’m not sure that Jesus does, as he blows it out of the water with his answer of “nope, seventy-seven times” or in some translations seven times seven. In other words, there is no perfect number for this question. Forgiveness is too complex and too much is at stake.

In typical Jesus fashion, he tells a parable. Now, we have to remember that parables don’t contain every response we might be looking for and can only freight so much meaning and I doubt that Jesus intends for this particular parable to tell us everything we need to know about forgiveness or mercy. Jesus tells the disciples about a king (probably not a stand in for God in this parable) who is one with all the power. One of his servants, a high up official, apparently owed him so much that it would take something like 600 years for him to pay it back. The king threatened to sell this man and his family to pay the debt; but the servant boldly and shamelessly begged the king for his life and the life of his family. The king reconsidered-and then forgave the whole debt! Before you think how super altruistic and merciful the king is, consider how much more is this servant now indebted to this king? The king just used his power to buy himself a loyalist for life.
This newly unburdened man goes on his way and encounters a fellow servant (probably on a lower societal rung) who owes him a much more nominal amount and it’s clear that first man has all the power in this relationship. He puts a choke hold on this second man and demands his money. The second man can’t pay and so is thrown into debtors prison until he can…much like our bail system, how in the heck is he supposed to pay his debt if he’s in jail and can’t work? It’s criminal to put him in jail frankly as now his family also suffers. There are witnesses to this event, and apparently these witnesses had heard of the first man’s good fortune with the king and are distressed and appalled that the first man would treat the second man this way. They understand that the balance of power has been shifted, that the forgiveness of the king to the first man had not rippled through the community as it should have. The witnesses knew that if this was allowed to stand, it would only breed more distrust, more injustice and more abuse of power, so they went to the king who is appropriately outraged. And the man gets his comeuppance, a favorite word at our house. The king hands him over to be tortured, not by the king, but by the man’s own actions of exerting abusive power over his fellow human being.

It turns out, Jesus is saying, that forgiveness isn’t only about us as individuals and our feelings. We don’t forgive only to have someone simply more indebted to us. We don’t forgive and keep allowing abuses to occur. We don’t forgive in order to be the better person or to bring ourselves peace or whatever self-help thing we read on the internet. Jesus models that forgiveness is about the empowerment of people to break systems of abusive power. Forgiveness is the power of truth telling and accountability. Forgiveness is about how we live together as messy, complex and imperfect people in community. Forgiveness recalls that what happens to one of us, happens to all of us, good and bad. Forgiveness is deeply rooted in our Lutheran theology of the cross where Luther purposes that part of life with God and each other is the power to “calling a thing what it is.” We have the power in God to call evil as evil and good as good and not get them confused. When they get twisted and mangled, the body of Christ is harmed. Jesus repeatedly says what the world calls is good, God condemns: some in power over many, excessive consumerism, ostracizing the sick, marginalizing women and foreigners, not feeding the hungry, ignoring the children. Forgiveness, breaking the systems of abusive power, is at the heart of Christian community.

Jesus entire mission and ministry reveals how in God’s kingdom systems of power are upended and that using our power for the sake of others is how we love. At the last supper, right before Jesus is betrayed, denied and abandoned by his closest friends, Jesus says his blood is poured out for forgiveness, the power of God’s love to heal, unite and tell the truth. Forgiveness is indeed power, the power to usher in a new system of God’s love that will bring abundant life for all. Thanks be to God.

 

Freed to Tell the Story Acts 12 September 4, 2020

This sermon was preached on Sept. 6, 2020 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT. It can be viewed on our YouTube Channel Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:

Psalm 119: 45-56
Acts 12: 6-19

Woman after woman filed into the multipurpose room where rows of chairs had been set up in three distinct sections and the women sorted themselves into either section 1, 2 or 3 according to their designation. I had decided to sit in section three, as this was my first time there and I didn’t want to appear frightened, judgmental or frankly, a white middle class overly educated privileged person, which, of course, I am, and I don’t think I fooled anyone, only myself. Women filled in around me and I smiled and said hello. Some returned the gesture, others, well, others simply stared at me with understandable suspicion. I was kinda suspicious of myself at this point. My bravado faded when a young woman sat down next to me, not because she wanted to, but because it was the only chair left. She was irritated and it showed. My smile was met with a scowl, which once again, I understood. How many times had this young woman had someone pretend to like her, be nice to her only to use or abuse her? I looked down at my bulletin as my friend and colleague Pr. Emily welcomed us to worship at New Beginnings, a worshiping community inside the walls of the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility. She reminded the women that they had to stay in their assigned sections-she had earlier explained to the volunteers that the section numbers had to do with their behavior in the prison and did not reflect the reason for their incarceration. “One’s” had exemplary behavior, “Two’s” were doing pretty well, “Three’s” were struggling with self-regulation and “Four’s” and “Five’s” were struggling to the extent that they had lost privileges such as attending worship. As I said, I purposefully sat in section three. My reasoning was sometimes people just need to know that they are loved even when they try and push others away.

Worship began, led nearly entirely by the women. A petite, blonde and charismatic woman who was a fantastic guitar player and singer led the music. She shared her story of how she was incarcerated for killing her boyfriend, who was abusive, and how prison had really set her free. She started coming to New Beginnings simply to get out of her cell at first (very common in the prison) but then God started working in her, speaking to her, freeing her heart, freeing her soul and mind. She recounted all the things that the Lord had done for her in prison and her joy was contagious. Other women also shared their stories and while the details changed, the stories were essentially the same: what the Lord had done for them when they were scared, at rock bottom, or seemingly at a dead end. God had provided new opportunities, new pathways and new life. I was struck that in their stories, I heard my own. Again, the details were different, but the emotions, were not. I too knew what it was like to be scared, to be at rock bottom, and at what seemed like a dead end. I, too, knew what it was to have God release me from those realities for a new one. No, I have never been institutionally incarcerated, but I have been a prisoner to my own fear, shortcomings, actions, and feelings. Maybe you have too. And I know what it is to have God free me from my own baggage to undo the shackles of false idols of pride, ego and self-sustainability. I know that it’s the Lord who helped me. God has sent angels, people to walk with me along the way, even if for only a little while. But that is what God does. These women of New Beginnings knew that God had sent them angels, the volunteers, the pastor, the outside board, the synod, partnering congregations, and each other. Yes, angels come in all forms and are in all places.

The story of Peter’s release from prison recounts that we are all in bondage to something and can’t free ourselves. Peter was wrongfully imprisoned for proclaiming that Jesus is the son of God who turns the world upside down, brings rulers and authorities down from their thrones, lifts the people who are thrown away by society and says that in the kingdom of God, our story is the story of what God has done, is doing and will continue to do for us and creation, no matter our status, what we have or haven’t done, who likes us and who doesn’t. Peter’s release freed him to tell another chapter of the story far and wide in the world. Peter’s story forces us to rethink our human systems of incarceration and authority. So many in this country are wrongfully imprisoned.
This story pulls at the threads of our stories and weaves them with the stories of people who live a different life than we do, who have had different experiences and yet are part of the same fabric of God’s story of restoration, redemption and love for God’s people, all of us. This story, takes seriously listening to stories that seem fantastic, incomprehensible and requires critical thinking to uncover what the Lord is doing in the life of that person. Stories reveal our commonalities and our interconnectedness. God’s story, the story that we all love to tell, is the ultimate story that tells us that love wins, forgiveness reigns, mercy flows, and hope abounds.

A couple of year later, there was another chapter to that woman’st story that Mike and I were privileged to hear it when we attended a fundraiser for New Beginnings and she was the musical guest. Yes, she had been released and reunited with her family. She had been freed from incarceration but she told the audience how God had freed her long before her release date. She had been freed to tell more people her story in God. To declare that God was powerful and could and would do anything to show the world God’s love through Jesus Christ. God will go to great lengths to transform us and the world, to wrap us in promises of love and abundant life today and forever. This is the point of God’s story, of the woman’s story, Peter’s story, and our story. God frees us and we love to tell the story. Amen.

*If you would like to support New Beginnings ministry please go to http://www.newbeginningswc.org. This is an important and vital ministry!

 

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes Sermon on Acts 9 August 28, 2020

The sermon was preached at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT on August 30, 2020. It can be viewed on our YouTube Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:
Psalm 30
Acts 9: 1-19

“You’re never going to change anyone’s mind.” “No one ever changes.” Common phrases that I’ve heard and personally used over the past few years. How many of us have posted a meme or an article on social media thinking “oh if people just read this, their minds will completely change and they will understand.” I have! And it turns out, I’m wrong. There are so many conversations right now where it seems that we talk just to state our positions, doctrine, and dogma and not to expand our understanding. Just spend about 1.5 seconds on any social media platform and I think you’ll see what I’m talking about. When opinions are truths and religion is a weapon, we know that this is going to go downhill quickly. We get set in our own thought patterns and we assume, with good reason, that others are set too.  So we reverberate in our own echo chambers and continue on our way. Until something happens that forces us to do, think and see differently. And it’s rarely a meme from Facebook. So what does change us? What does move us into new patterns, new thought processes, new understandings?

Saul was a man who knew what he believed, who knew what was right and knew what to do about people who were wrong. He had been raised as a devout Jew, a second generation Pharisee leader and had much invested in ensuring that nothing ever changed, that the religion remained pure and adhered to the truth. So this movement that had sprung up of John the Baptist and Jesus was a huge problem. All of the sudden people were challenging both the Roman and Temple authorities, and were gathering in groups by the thousands demanding that those whom those in power devalued, marginalized, oppressed, abused and murdered by the state and the religious authorities mattered. It was frightening indeed. Ordinary people, people who should just stay in their place in society, be quiet and be glad they are allowed to live in the Roman Empire, were hearing this message that God said they deserved equality, justice and an opportunity for an abundant life. They protested and shouted Hosanna as Jesus paraded into Jerusalem and after Jesus was crucified and allegedly came back from the dead, they grew in numbers and power. These people of The Way, who shared, cared and spoke out against injustice were dangerous, they were upsetting the status quo and they needed to be stopped at any cost, even death.

So Saul began a campaign of misinformation to rile up people who would be willing to confront The Way people. And he had pretty good success. He pushed people to stone one of these apostles who were keeping the memory of Jesus alive. He got the temple authorities in Jerusalem to give him official papers to root out followers in Damascus. Anyone Jew who was off track with this Jesus stuff needed to be silenced. Ensuring that the religion was followed correctly was more important than people’s lives. And really, it was their own fault if they were imprisoned, harmed or killed. Afterall, they were wrong. For Saul, his religion and beliefs meant that some people didn’t matter or worse yet, shouldn’t exist.

But then on the road to Damascus, there was a flash of light, a voice and darkness. “Why are you persecuting me?” It was Jesus. The Christ, the spark of God’s love who lives in us all, proclaiming that harming any person is harming Godself and that if his religion was causing him to hate someone, he needed a new religion. Saul was suddenly confronted by his own hypocrisy and previous inability to see what he was really doing. Saul’s companions escorted him the rest of the way to Damascus, where Saul sat in darkness, hunger and thirst for three days and waited for Ananias.

Ananias had heard about Saul of Tarsus, who among The Way hadn’t? Saul was hunting them down like prey and apparently had the backing, even if unofficially, of the Temple authorities. Suddenly, Ananias himself had a vision, he was to go help him to see. Ananias was appropriately afraid and voiced what he had heard about Saul. Could this man really be changed? But God tells Ananias that there is more than he knows about Saul, God is going to work through Saul, and work through Ananias. So a nervous Ananias goes to Saul, lays his hands on him and his vision is returned. Saul is baptized, eats and recovers. Saul had changed indeed.

We might say that the miracle is the flash of light, Jesus’ voice and Ananias’ vision. But I don’t think it was those experiences that changed the hearts and minds of Saul or Ananias. I don’t think it all happened in a flash. What if it was the journey? What if what changed those two men, is what can also change us? What if we need to stop looking for the miraculous flash of light when suddenly all is made clear and everyone lives in harmony singing Kum By Yah? What if the point of this story is that God indeed can change us but we have to do the hard work? God equipped Saul and Ananias with what they needed to see how a religious viewpoint that compels you to hate certain people or live in fear can be transformed. God equipped them to change and gave them everything they needed, each other. But they still had to do the hard work. They still had to give something up, their sight, food, drink, comfort, and safety, vocation, thought processes, and deeply held convictions.

We are having our Damascus Road moment my friends, Jesus is calling out to us-why are we persecuting him? This pandemic, the racial reckoning, the #blacklivesmatter movement, the destruction and death from wildfires, hurricanes and derechos from climate change is the flash of lightening and the vision and now we have to do the hard work of change-we have to go. We have to do the hard work of change so that not one more Black beloved person of God is murdered by our institutions, the hard work of caring for God’s creation, the hard work to see those who disagree with us not as an enemy to silence, the hard work of setting aside previously incorrect religious teachings regarding gender justice and our LBGTQIA siblings. This is hard work of the gospel, of truly loving our neighbor my friends. You and me, together, on this road and it will take more than three days and we may feel inadequate to see everything clearly but we keep doing the hard walk. We have to for there is no going back, and we have a new road, for we know God’s grace ourselves and that it is for all.

Saul changes his name to Paul to mark his transformation in the promises of God. Paul will suffer for the gospel it says, and what that means is that he gives up his own control over his life and turns it over to Jesus. We too, will suffer, we will give up our control, power, ego and our very lives so that the gospel of Jesus can be lived and proclaimed. We will have to change, transform, stop doing what we have done before particularly what denies life to any person, for in status quo and living in the past is only death. We go out, new people, with new hearts, renewed minds and we know that life will not, cannot ever be the same. But God is always the same with love, grace, mercy, strength, courage and plenty of ways to keep transforming us for the journey. Thanks be to God.

 

Seeing is Believing Sermon on Matthew 28 August 21, 2020

This sermon was preached on August 23, 2020 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT. It can be viewed on our YouTube Channel “Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:
Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24
Colossians 3: 1-4
Matthew 28: 1-10

I always get sucked into those Facebook posts or that have the abstract pictures that ask you if you see or don’t see certain objects like animals or numbers or whatever. Sometimes I can see what I’m supposed to and that’s fun but sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I can’t see what others do. Then I wonder if there is something wrong with me, why don’t I see it? Maybe it doesn’t really exist and I’m being punked? The phrase “seeing is believing” has been resonating with me this week as I ponder our gospel text of Jesus’ resurrection. Just as we did Christmas in July, with no snow, or presents or egg nog, we have Easter in August, with it’s dry, hot, waning days of summer as the growing season wraps up. Easter in August forces a different perspective versus tulips, lilies and cool spring mornings when everything seems new. It’s easier to see the new life in Jesus’ resurrection with so many visual reminders around us than in late August when things are drying up and dying. How can I see new life and hope when all around me is death, endings, and empty places where life once was? I think of the angel’s statement to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (probably Jesus’ mother), “I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.” In Matthew’s gospel, we don’t know why the women came to the tomb in the early hours of Sunday before sunrise. In Mark and Luke, the women went to apply spices to Jesus’ body, but in Matthew, it doesn’t say why the two Marys’ went. Did they expect to see a dead body? A resurrected Jesus? Something else entirely?

What would I have expected to see that morning after witnessing Jesus’ crucifixion? I know that my vision can be sorrowfully myopic. I might only see Jesus in what you might call the obvious: in specific church places, activities or events, or in certain people. I might see Jesus only in my scripture reading or in prayers. I might see Jesus only where I expect to see Jesus.  

If I’m honest, I don’t see Jesus as much as I should. Time and time again, in all the gospels, in the entirety of the Bible, God shows up in unexpected ways, in unexpected places and in the least likely people. Over and over. God shows up as wind, as a stranger, a wrestler who wounds, as a burning bush, as still silence, in the voices of men and women prophets, and as a baby born in the middle of nowhere to refugees whom no one cared about. The Marys’ went to the tomb to see what would happen, and they experienced an earthquake, a large stone moving, an empty tomb and an angelic message. None of these actions typically herald new life. But the women knew that they were God’s actions and where God is acting, they needed to look again. And when they did, they saw Jesus. Without those unexpected and frightening experiences would they have seen Jesus as readily?  

As I said, it’s easy for me to see Jesus in sunrises, in hummingbirds, smiles, and stained glass. But I admit that it’s harder for me to see Jesus in the midst of this pandemic, in the midst of the racial turmoil, in the midst of the divisions and in people whom I disagree with. And yet, that’s the whole point of the resurrection. It’s the point of Jesus’ life and ministry. It’s the point of the Bible. That God acts in all times and in all places, even when we can’t or won’t see God. God acts in tombs of death, God is acting in the pandemic, God is acting in our nation’s racial reckoning, God is acting in our divisive conversations. God is acting whether we can see it or not. God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, hope and new life exist even when we can’t see it and we can’t believe it. This is good news, because it’s not all up to us and what we can see or do. It’s what God sees and does. It’s what God promises.

God is bringing new life to us, and maybe we’re being forced right now to see it. Maybe we had to experience frightening events to see differently, like the Marys at the tomb. Maybe we had to stop seeing our faith and church life, and our daily lives, in the same old way to see God’s actions of new life. Maybe we had to see our sanctuary as empty as the tomb to see that Jesus has gone out ahead of us to meet us on the road. Maybe some of us had to see how privileged our white upper middle class lives are to see that is not true for all people in our community. Maybe we had to see that relationships can’t be taken for granted, that our health, our status, our abilities are all fleeting in order to see that when we let go of seeing our lives as our own, we see Jesus. Like the women, we can see Jesus right in front of us with words of hope. We see Jesus in our neighbor, we see Jesus in diversity, we see Jesus in hard conversations, we see Jesus in what is changing, we see Jesus in what is hard for us to comprehend, and we see Jesus in our own fear and great joy. And in the midst of this, we worship right where we are. The promise is that we will see Jesus, who is God’s action in our midst through the power of the Holy Spirit. We see Jesus in water, bread and wine. We see Jesus and we then go to tell others to see Jesus too. We walk beside all people so that they can see Jesus in their own lives, and in the world, even when it’s hard, even when it’s unlikely, even when they don’t want to.

This is what it is to see the resurrected Jesus, is to see life where others see death, to see new beginnings where others see endings, to see abundance where others see emptiness, to see love where others see fear. We see Jesus and believe that God is acting. Amen.

 

Comfort Food Sermon Matthew 14 August 14, 2020

This sermon was preached on August 16, 2020 at OSLC in Holladay, UT. It can be viewed on our YouTube channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:
Psalm 145: 8-9, 14-21
Isaiah 55: 1-5
Matthew 14: 13-21

Like many of you, I’m sure, I have many memories tied up with food. Some joyous, some not. I remember Thanksgivings, Christmas’ or birthday meals with family and friends. And I remember a plate of chicken, rice and broccoli being shoved in front of me on the day of my son’s funeral by loving friends who knew that I hadn’t eaten in four days. I remember the meals that poured in for months to support us when Ben was in the hospital and after he died. I remember how people expressed that only sending mac and cheese and fruit seemed inadequate in the wake of what we were experiencing. And yet I can tell you that those simple homemade meals from people who loved us were worth more than any sumptuous, high end feast from a celebrity chef could ever matter. Many times, people just made a double recipe of whatever they were cooking for their own families, as it didn’t take that much more to feed two families. Those meals from and sometimes with the people who cared for us and stuck with us  even though it was hard, brought comfort. Often the phrase was “we’ll bring you some comfort food.” Food that not only satisfies our bellies but our souls. Comfort food is categorized as food that not only tastes good, but evokes memories of feeling safe, secure, loved and protected. Comfort food reminds us that our bodies and our souls are connected, and we have to feed both. Comfort food is compassion in action.

Jesus’ compassion is on full display in our gospel text for today. He gets into a boat to get away by himself for a bit, as he has just heard about the death of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod at a lavish dinner party where John’s head was served on a silver platter. Jesus was grieving and needed some time away. But the crowds heard of John’s death too, and of Jesus’ leaving town, so they followed him. Why we’re not quite sure, other than by now the connection between John and Jesus was evident to the people, and what Jesus offered people for their lives was a stark contrast with what Herod and the Roman Empire was offering them. Jesus saw this large crowd and their desperation. He had compassion, which in the Greek is far more descriptive, as it means, Jesus was moved to his guts. Jesus’ body ached for these people. This story isn’t only about food, or how Jesus feeds us spiritually, it’s about bodies, and that to God, bodies, our physical selves matter. We tend to gloss over in this passage that Jesus cured their sick. Jesus attended to their physical bodies. And Jesus must have healed for a long time as then it was evening. So here is as large crowd, in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat or drink. The disciples correctly suggested that the hungry crowds be dispersed to go get food in the towns. That is a practical and loving decision. But Jesus turns to them and says no, they can stay, you feed them. I love the disciples reaction, as I’ve had it a time or two in my life as well, “we’ve got nothing here.” Well, except this little bit but it doesn’t count. So many times when I am faced with deep need, deep sorrow, I worry that I don’t have enough to offer that person in need. How can I help someone grieving a death? How can I feed all the starving people of the world? How can I help so many people dying of cancer, heart disease, mental illness? How can I house all those experiencing homelessness? It’s too many. And so I tell God that I’ve got nothing here.

But Jesus takes the little bit of bread and fish that the disciples do have (the simple standard meal in first century Palestine) and blesses it, breaks it into pieces, gives it to them and says, what little you have, give away, it will be enough. And it was. Five thousand men plus women and children (who weren’t normally counted in ancient times) were filled– with leftovers collected, nothing was wasted. The disciples were able, with Jesus’ blessing, to feed probably close to 15,000 people. It’s a miracle, but not because of the food distribution, it’s miracle because it shows us that when we come together, we can comfort one another, we can provide for the actual bodily needs of each other. This is the ultimate comfort food story. Jesus reveals that God does indeed care about people and their daily bread, their sick bodies, and their hardships. The powers of the world, like Herod only care about their own power and themselves. This would be revelatory to the people and it’s still revelatory to us today. God cares about us, each and every part of us, yes, our hearts and our souls AND our bodies too.
We instinctually know this, which is why when someone is experiencing a hardship, our “go to” is to offer meals, comfort food. It’s why we donate food to Crossroads Urban Center, its’ why as a denomination we have a whole ministry of ending world hunger. When we feed people, we are Jesus’ compassion in action. When we feed people, we are in solidarity with them as we all know on some level hunger pains. When we feed people, it’s our prayers in action. It’s a bold declaration that with Jesus’ blessing we can see past our own scarcity and know that what little we may we have to offer, is enough. It’s a bold declaration that great things happen with ordinary things. It’s a bold declaration against the excesses of this world where some have more than they will ever need while other people struggle for morsels to keep going. It’s a bold declaration of hope that when we come together, people are healed, people are fed and people are comforted. It’s a bold declaration of the promises of God not for someday but for today and for all bodies. And that is a comfort we can trust. Thanks be to God.

 

A Keen Eye A Sermon for Richard Weber

Richard’s service was held on the west lawn of OSLC on August 14. It can be viewed on our YouTube Channel Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:
Psalm 121
Psalm 46
John 14: 1-7

Grace and peace to you from God the maker of heaven and earth, Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life and the Holy Spirit, who makes us one, amen.

Richard Herrmann Weber, born in Chicago, Illinois on October 7, 1947 to Heinrich and Sofie Weber and big brother Hank, was a man who had a keen eye for many things throughout his life. He saw the normal ups and downs of childhood and youth, the joy and sorrows that come from relationships, and the peaks and valleys of adulthood and career. Rich would see what was important and then go do it. Rich’s educational accomplishments, including degrees in social work, education and a PHD in clinical psychology, led to his vocational life of service in the Air Force and then in the Utah State Dept of Corrections. In these experiences, Rich saw a diversity of people and situations through his vocational choices and saw how he could accompany people on their journeys. Rich had an eye for how his presence with people mattered and Rich’s ability to see what was truly important, to see beyond the current situation to the bigger picture was a rare gift. Rich’s gift of insight is exemplified in a few ways, such as he had an eye for well-tailored and nice clothing. He could put together an outfit and tended to be quite dapper. And his good eye was fortuitous, as one day while with a friend, he noticed Marti as she sat by the pool where she was living. The friend, as I’m told, was a bit, shall we say, ungentlemanly and Rich saw that. He apologized to Marti for his friend, and Marti could see that this Rich fellow was different than others. And the rest we say is a beautiful 38 plus year history.
I know from my conversations with Rich, that what he treasured most was seeing his family, his children, Ashley and Justin and his grandchildren Bradley and Maxwell. For Rich, his family was his favorite vision.

Rich loved viewing God’s creation too. The family chose psalm 121 and 46 today because of Rich’s deep love for nature, for animals and everything that God created. Rich had an eye for the hand and the love of his creator in the natural world around him, and this setting today out here on our west lawn where we sit under the trees in view of the Wasatch front is testimony to Rich’s vision. Rich’s faith and trust in God was evident and anyone who knew Rich not only saw this faith and trust but saw God in Rich too. Jesus in our Gospel reading is clear that we have all seen God because we have seen Jesus and so our hearts don’t need to be troubled. Rich saw Jesus in the people around him, in his environment and in all aspects of his surroundings. When Rich’s heart would from time to time be troubled, whether it was concern for his family, or his own health challenges or issues in our society and world, Rich also spoke of where he saw Jesus, in his family, in his OSLC family and friends.

Jesus states in our gospel that seeing is trusting. Jesus knows the importance for us of the concrete reminders of God’s presence with us. The writer of psalm 46, the basis for Martin Luther’s famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, one of Rich’s favorites that we’ll hear in a moment, calls out that God is our refuge and our strength and our very help in times of trouble. And in Psalm 121, we can trust that when we look at the hills as Rich did, and we see what Rich saw: the handiwork of our creator God, who never sleeps but will keep watch over us and protect us when life is difficult. Essentially, God keeps an eye on us. Jesus knew these psalms too and calls us to see God’s presence all around us, and especially in one another. We know that God’s protection and care doesn’t mean that we aren’t spared from suffering and hardships but that we are never alone in those situations. We know that not only do we see God but God sees us. Rich trusted and knew that the promise is that God had a loving eye on him and us all, always. And we are to see the world how God sees the world, through the lens of love. This was a comfort for Rich and it is a comfort for us who now mourn Rich’s death and absence from our lives. In the coming weeks, months and years, we will see the promises of God through Jesus in each other, as we together we go forward. We rest in the comfort that God has an eye on our tears, our broken hearts and holds us just the way we are.
 And just as we saw Jesus in our brother in Christ, Rich, other people will see Jesus in us. We can witness to the love, grace and mercy of God who is our keeper, our refuge, who has prepared a room, a forever home for us and for all, who keeps our life right here, right now and in eternity through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the promise that Rich now claims and that is the promise for us today. We honor the love and witness of Rich’s faith, and show that same love and witness to others. We can keep an eye on each other as Christ commands us.

Like Rich, we have an eye for the promises of God all around us, we see Rich’s legacy of love and faith that he generously shared with us, we see that this love never ends and we see the hope that God  pours out to us each day. We trust, as Rich did, that God does keep an eye on us, loves us and that “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.” Thanks be to God.