A Lutheran Says What?

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

Rooted for change and growth, John 15: 1-5, Nov. 23rd, 2014 November 25, 2014

Filed under: sermon — bweier001 @ 6:38 pm
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(This Sunday both Pastor Rob Moss and I preached on the same text. Please read his sermon at http://pastorrobmoss.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/what-the-fruit-john-151-5/)
Many of you know that I grew up in the Air Force and moved around quite a bit. In many ways, there was much instability in my early life, I suppose. I had 10 homes, five elementary schools, one jr. high and two high schools before I was 18. I was at a conference not long ago where the small group activity was to describe your bedroom from your childhood! I was deeply confused. Which one? So, it’s also no surprise that we went to quite a few churches. Most often the local Lutheran church closest to the base (lots of other military families), overseas we attended the base chapel, and sometimes we did a combination of the two. The churches were places of community and stability. Even from state to state, some aspects were familiar in each church. When we moved to Omaha, my parents were slightly amused as that the first thing I did at 15, was get out the yellow pages (it was the ‘80’s after all) and started calling churches to ask about worship times and other activities. I found one I liked and informed my family that we would be attending that Sunday. We were there for my last three years of high school and many of my close friends (some of whom I am still friends with) attended there. Not Mike. He was LCMS-that was a different problem. ☺
It wasn’t just the stability of church as a building that I was seeking, it was the idea that God was the same everywhere I went. It was the sense of rootedness in God regardless of wherever I was that provided my stability. John 15:5 was my confirmation verse and I think the appeal of it to me, at 14, was the idea that Jesus was never going to move on me, change location or be different. I knew that everything in life was movable, changeable and fluid and that was ok because Jesus stays constant and with us always. Being rooted in God wasn’t about sameness or stagnation for me (I didn’t have a concept of that) but was about my source of foundation and deeper truth about the world. Roots don’t necessarily hold you down, roots keep you centered and give you what you need to grow, bend and change with the seasons. To be rooted is to also be a part of a larger organism. Roots connect all of the branches, leaves and fruit. One root system provides life for all of the extensions of the vine and branches. I like being a part of that larger whole.
Jesus tells us that he is that root-the true vine. Jesus connects us all and gives us life, not just life in the here and now but promises life forever with God. These promises fill us with what we need to bear fruit not for ourselves, but for those who need what God is growing in us. We do this together as one vine rooted in the centeredness of Jesus’ love and grace. Each branch is necessary and is important to the overall health of the vine, but it’s when all of the branches come together that there is a rich harvest and enough for all. Just as we need to be rooted in Jesus to bear fruit, we also need each other to be fruitful. When we work together at the Action Center, Habitat for Humanity, Green Mountain Elementary or Molholm Elementary, in your work places, schools, or activities, we offer the world the very love and life of Christ that runs through our branches. It’s more than just doing good deeds: we offer fruit that provides more than sustenance for today, but offers all people true life-hope, love and joy for tomorrow and for eternal life with God.
This morning we celebrated those promises to Dean. We welcome Dean into the community of those rooted in Jesus Christ, the true vine. No matter where Dean goes in his life-he is always connected to this community and to the whole of God’s people-roots that will allow him to know that Jesus is with him always, a community of God’s people will always welcome him and his very life is in the life of God who loves him forever. It will allow him to bear fruit-to bring the love of God that shines through him to all people that he meets.
Rooted in our baptism we are interconnected, we matter to one another, we matter to the world and we matter to Jesus the vine. We are a part of something bigger than ourselves and bigger than our imaginations. Jesus abides with us and we can do nothing separate from Christ or one another. And the promise is that we are never separated from God or the people of God no matter what changes in our lives, no matter where we are today or where we may go tomorrow. Thanks be to God.

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Risking it all-Matthew 25:14-30 Nov. 16, 2014 November 17, 2014

Filed under: sermon,Uncategorized — bweier001 @ 3:57 am
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(This is the sermon I preached at the first worship service this morning, 11-16. The second worship service went, well, differently…)

I posted this question to my Facebook page about risk-risks you’ve taken and how did it go, and what’s the one risk you wish you had taken. I had several responses in the course of a few minutes! It was crazy how the conversation about risk just kept going! Over 20 diverse people (from all walks of life, professions and denominations) told me about the risks of vocational decisions, moving, leaving harmful situations, marriage, having children, changing one’s mind about something, divorce and leaving family and friends. Risk is a part of life. They commented that these things were HARD. These weren’t calculated risks like which carpet to choose but risks that altered the way they lived their daily lives. Yet, I didn’t hear one person regret a risk that they actually followed through on. Some even commented that the risk they took that initially felt and looked like failure (such as their divorce) turned out to be a meaningful step to wholeness and joy. The only regret talked about was for risks not taken.
Risk is often an invitation to something that we’ve never done before or to think differently about our lives and the world around us. When we take a risk, when we step out beyond our fears, we are stepping into a vision that is bigger than ourselves. We are stepping into a vision that is beyond what we can imagine, explain or fully grasp. Many people on the FB conversation pointed to the fact that it was because of risk that they took, they grew, they were transformed and they now live with people differently. Risk is an acknowledgment that maybe there’s more than what we can presently see. The apostle Paul names this in 1 Corinthians 13: 12, as seeing in mirror, dimly. We don’t know exactly where the risk will take us, only that it will indeed move us from where we are now.
Risk also forces us to explore who were really are and often forces us to redefine what success means for us. When you are uncertain about the future, you begin to know more about yourself, your identity, your gifts, and your short-comings. Success, in the face of risk, ceases to be measured in dollars earned, our title or position but takes on a quality of being true to who we are. Success becomes about living out of our gifts and passions and not into material things. Taking risks also makes us vulnerable and exposed to judgment, and yet, often risk connects us with others around us in ways that are not possible when we shelter ourselves and don’t step out into the unknown. Risk drives us to community-finding other risk takers for partnership on the journey. The conversation of risk brought 20 people (many who don’t know each other) into honest conversation about risk and the reality of fear.
Matthew’s community would have been wrestling with risk. Things would not have been easy for these early Christians. Their risk was not about being given a funny look when they mentioned their church or Jesus in the grocery store line or at a dinner party(as it is for us) but risk was that their community could dissolve at any time, they could be arrested and put to death for their belief in this radical God who risked everything to be with humans, who hung out with the unclean and the criminals, who spoke truth to power, who gave up life on a cross to show forgiveness, mercy and love, and who was resurrected to break the barriers of death and despair.
Matthew places this story about three slaves right before Jesus begins his journey to the cross and uses it to turn the definitions of success and risk on its head for his community and for us. Matthew is making the point that the greatest risk with this precious story of the love of Jesus Christ, is to bury it and not do anything. The greater risk is to do nothing, accept the status quo, be safe and be sure that no one is inconvenienced or uncomfortable. Matthew doesn’t spend a lot of time on the first two slaves other than to point out that their only reward is more work in the master’s realm and they have the joy of relationship with the master. But Matthew spends some time telling us about the third slave and his issues. The third slave proclaims his fear of the master but really that fear is about himself. In his fear, he couldn’t see beyond himself or see a bigger picture outside of his own perspective. He was afraid to fail and so did nothing. In the doing nothing, he had already failed.
Matthew knew that his community had been given much already. They had received the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, they had each other for support to live their identity as beloved children of God and they had all of this in abundance. They were people who had absolutely nothing to lose and by living their daily lives proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ in their neighborhoods and towns, the world had everything to gain. God’s abundance is to be shared and not buried underground. Yet, it seems fear was rampant in this early Christian community. Fear was overtaking the joy of living in relationship with God and with one another.
What is it for us here as the gathered community of LCM to live in the joy in our relationship with God and each other? Like Matthew’s community, we have been given much. We, too, have been given freedom from sin and death, freedom from worrying about messing up, unconditional love, we have been given our core identity as a child of God, we have been given each other, this gathered community, no matter what time you worship, for deepening our faith, caring for each other and the neighborhood. God has provided us everything we need to risk sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. We know that we are called to take this risk: we know that we will not be comfortable, we might be afraid, we know that our risk might seem like failure, and we know that success in God’s kingdom is nowhere near the same as the worlds.
While we here at LCM, may not risk our physical lives to proclaim the gospel, we are living in a time not unlike the early church. The culture and society around us is suspect of Christianity and Christians. We believe crazy stuff like unconditional love from God, resurrection from the dead and eternal life, forgiveness for all, the primacy of community and living one’s life for their neighbor, and caring for those whom society neglects. Living out our core identity as followers of Jesus Christ, makes us different than the rest of the world. It means decentering our personal preferences, it means we gather with other to read and wrestle with ancient texts that still speak truths, we serve and care for those in need daily, we truly believe that continuing the ministry that Jesus began of revealing God’s love to the world makes a difference. Following Jesus means risking not being popular, risking not being comfortable, risking not worrying about ourselves, risking being part of a community that will change us, risking that we will no longer be who we were before we began the journey. But in that risk is the deep joy of being who God created us to be. It turns out that living from a place of deep joy in the life of God with the people of God is the definition of success the world needs to hear.
God has trusted us with much in God’s kingdom. God calls us to be faithfully risky with the treasure of God’s unconditional love, grace and God’s vision of success for the world. We are called to be faithful-not perfect. We are free to do whatever is necessary: love with great risk, share generously with great risk, offer peace with great risk, connect to the neighborhood with great risk, or whatever God calls us into participation with her. It will transform us, not leave us the same, move us beyond ourselves and our own preferences, deepen our faith yet fill us with joy. Thanks be to God.