A Lutheran Says What?

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

Inconvenient Love: Story of God’s Love Advent 4 Year A December 23, 2019

This sermon was preached at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT on Dec. 22, 2019. The texts were:

Isaiah 7: 10-16
Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19
Matthew 1: 18-25

Children’s sermon: How many of you have heard story about yourself from when you were really little, from before you can remember or even a story that you do remember and you remember it differently? Such as when my sister and I talk about Christmas’s when we were growing up, she has different memories than I do. She remembers what we ate for the meal, and I remember who was there, or she’ll remember having fun sledding and I’ll remember being cold and wet. What’s cool about that is between us, we have more pieces of a story and important parts are remembered. I have this book to read to you “Room for a Little One,” Jesus’ birth story told from the perspective of the animals. This story reminds us that there are different ways to hear and tell a story. Today we hear from the gospel of Matthew the story of Jesus being born. If you come back to church on Tuesday, you’ll hear a different story of Jesus’ birth from the writer of Luke. They remember different pieces of the story and sometimes that might seem confusing. But both stories tell us that the important piece is that Jesus was born to be God’s love with us. The details of both stories help us to connect with how much God loves us and the world. Here are crayons and paper. If you were going to tell the story of Jesus birth to someone what would you say? Let’s pray:

This really isn’t convenient at all. This makes my life more complicated and messier. Pregnant before I’m married by the Holy Spirit? Who’s going to believe that? And if no one believes that, then the message that this baby is the Messiah is going to be a really hard sell. As it is, everyone in town is talking about this-well about me. I see the side glances and hear the whispers behind my back. The people shaking their heads at me in judgment. Friends pretending to not know me. My family too embarrassed and angry to even leave the house, as this isn’t how they raised me to act and they think I’m bringing shame to the family name and legacy. I wonder if they’ll let me live with them still, especially since I’m was supposed to go live with my husband soon and not even be in the household any longer. And Joseph…he’s such a good, God-fearing man who lives his life by the law and would never dream of doing anything scandalous. What is he going to do? By law, he could have me stoned and then none of this will matter. At the very least, the marriage has to be off and I will be alone and expecting a baby.  Why God is choosing this way to bring the Messiah? Surely there is an easier way that would be more convenient and believable. If only I understood the whole plan.

This really isn’t convenient at all. This makes my life more complicated and messier. But I can’t shake this dream of the angel speaking to me. It’s hard to believe that Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit…yeah right. Who is going to believe that? I hear what everyone in the town is saying, the names that they are calling her and how they look at me with disbelief. I never thought that I would be involved in a scandal like this, that’s not who I am or how I’ve lived my life. Following God’s law matters, the law keeps just these sorts of things from happening, you know. People were surprised when I simply went to her father to quietly end the marriage when many thought that Mary should receive the full punishment of stoning, but that is also not who I am.

Don’t be afraid the angel said. Well what does this angel know? Afraid doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what life will be like if I continue with the marriage. We’ll always be “that family” and I’ll always be the guy who is raising a child that isn’t mine-a son none the less. Not really my heir, not technically from my lineage which does come from King David himself. I am supposed to just ignore that truth? But what if the angel is right, that this baby IS the one who will live up to his name that comes from our ancient history-Joshua or as some would say Jesus-the one who saves from sin. God doesn’t give names lightly. I remember from the reading from the prophet Isaiah who spoke of this that there would be a child who will be God with us. I never thought that I would be connected to such a thing or that God would really come as a helpless child. Babies aren’t convenient in most cases, but God as a powerless baby? How will that save us?

This whole experience is inconvenient. But what if this isn’t only about me and my reputation and future? What if there is something beyond myself and Mary? Is marriage or any relationship ever convenient? God is mysterious and doesn’t always seem interested in convenience in how God acts, I mean look at our history as Israelites, wandering around in the desert for 40 years wasn’t super convenient and neither was placing the law on heavy stone tablets or our exile experience. Being Israelite and belonging to God has never been convenient and has often been cause for hardship. But in those experiences, we did learn to trust God, and that God’s love never leaves us. We learned that God keeps God’s promises. What if this isn’t an inconvenience but an opportunity for me to trust God? No matter what choice I make, my life is forever changed, as is Mary’s. Maybe this is living life faithfully, not by the rules I’ve always known, but by trust and love of God. Love is rarely about what’s the easiest but is about what matters in the big picture for living and trusting in God’s love. The easiest thing is for me to walk away, the loving thing is for me to believe that God loves me, Mary and this baby who God says will transform the world, even though I don’t fully understand. Perhaps one day this will all make sense to someone and God’s promise will be clear.

This really isn’t convenient at all. It’s more complicated and messier than we like. We want God with us, Emmanuel, Jesus to makes our life easy, comfortable, and predictable. God at work in our lives and in the world should mean that everything in our life will be respectable to the outside world, that following whatever rules we think matter will mean that we are protected from chaos and hurt. But that is not the promise. God works through the inconveniences to reveal God’s transformational presence and love with us and for us through Jesus, an inconvenient birth, in an inconvenient place to fill our lives with God’s forgiveness, mercy and life forever. Jesus, as God incarnate, enters the real everyday messiness of our lives, the strained or broken relationships, the worry of our reputations, the fear of harm and rejection, and hardships that come when we focus on only ourselves. It might seem inconvenient for God to decide to meet us in the form of a fallible human with grace, mercy and love, but God has never been interested in convenience. God has always been interested in you-in offering love and abundant life to you, and us all, in whatever way possible, no matter what the cost. Love that comes in words of encouragement and words of reflection. Love that is tenacious and vulnerable. Love that moves us beyond rules and the past. Love that comes from people whom we like and from those whom we don’t. Love that comes to us in memories or dreams. Loves that comes to us whether we want it or not. Love that calls us to trust and step forward into a future we don’t fully understand to reveal God’s promise, healing and embracing of all. Love that might be inconvenient but with us always. Amen.

 

God’s Story of Joy: Unmet Expectations Advent 3 Year A December 18, 2019

This sermon was preached on Dec. 15, 2019 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT. The texts were:

Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19
Isaiah 35: 1-10
Matthew 11: 2-11

Children’s sermon: I have these two boxes (one beautifully wrapped and one that is very plain). Which one would you pick if you could? This nice one? Yep, I would too. We would expect that whatever is in this box to be wonderful and we would expect what is in this box to be plain. This time of year, we have what we call expectations-which means we have an idea about how things should be. As in Christmas morning we expect that we will have presents to open and to eat a yummy meal. We think we know how the day should go. In our bible stories today we are thinking about how things should go. Mary, Jesus’ mother, is so excited that she is going to have a baby that is God’s son that she sings a song that is about how she expects God will  change the world with her son. And then we hear a story about John, Jesus’ cousin (do you have any cousins?) who also had expectations for what the Messiah would do and Jesus wasn’t necessarily doing those things. John thought that the Messiah from God would totally change the world and be a little more like a worldly king. But Jesus tells him that the world is changing, just not quite the way John expected. Instead of big events and Jesus directly taking on kings and rulers, Jesus is with the people whom no one else wants to be with and is taking care of them-and this is what changes the world. It’s hard to us to see this sometimes as we expect little things to not matter. But Jesus says-they do! And that’s what joy is! Joy is when we realize that things may not be what we expect but God is at work and loves us.  Let’s open both boxes: Hey there was a treat in the plain box! We didn’t expect that did we? Nope! So let this candy cane remind you to always look with joy for God doing things differently that what we expect. Let’s pray:

One of our favorite go-to holiday movies is Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase. It sums up every holiday challenge in one hilarious over the top movie. One of the early scenes in this movie is a conversation between Clark and Ellen around the whole extended family coming for Christmas and Clark is so excited with planning and details. Ellen says to him: “Clark you build these events up in your head with expectations that no one can fulfill.” Clark says “oh honey when have I ever done that?” She replies deadpan, “birthdays, weddings, funerals, family dinners, vacations, anniversaries, holidays…” and the scene closes with her unending list of when Clark has put a high expectation and it doesn’t work out. And in this movie everything goes wrong: the tree catches on fire, dinner is ruined, the house is destroyed and they are all almost arrested and yet, at the end joy is had as the big expectations gave way to the overlooked importance of being together. The movie is funny because it’s true for many of us, I think. This is a time of year that is loaded with expectations, some of which are obvious, and some that are unspoken. We all feel the expectation of gift buying, house decorating, baking or big meal prep, attending parties, Christmas cards (an expectation I dropped about 14 years ago), and other trappings of the season. And then there are the underlying expectations: no tension in family relationships, people will get along, we will feel festive and happy, everything will be exactly how we planned it and joy will abound.

And it’s not just the expectations that I have for myself or others around me, this season also reminds me of the expectations that I have of God and my relationship with God. After all, this is the season where we talk about the coming of Christ, of hope, peace, love and joy. It’s the season where we have to come face to face with our expectations that aren’t met and how we cope with and negotiate that reality. If I’m honest, I have some very specific expectations of what God should be doing in my life and in the world. Expectations of injustices being righted, expectations of people caring for one another in whole and loving relationships, expectations of miracles, and the list goes on-I have a lot of expectations! And if I continue to be honest, most of them aren’t met and it can leave me wondering what to think or do. How can I be joyful when what I’ve expected for my life and of those I love, hasn’t worked out?

Our Bible passages today are filled with expectations and the question of are they being met. Isaiah lays out a vision of the expectation of deserts blooming with flowers and lush vegetation, miraculous healings and a holy, sacred path so obvious that even a fool can’t miss it! This is an expectation of God’s presence in the midst of Israelite exile and uncertainty about the future. Is God going to rescue them as they expect?

In Mary’s song-the Magnificat-we hear the young woman’s expectation of what God is up to in her life and in the world. And it’s some fairly high expectations. The powerful and rich overthrown, the lowly, the poor, the hungry lifted up and exalted, and an unmarried, pregnant, poor teenager will be remembered forever as blessed. Idealistic to say the least. But she sings this song of expectation with all her heart and soul, with confidence that God will indeed do these mighty things for God keeps God’s promises.

John has high expectations for the Messiah and God’s redemptive work in the world too. But John is struggling to see it. John is in prison for speaking truth to power when Herod wanted to marry his own brother’s wife and John condemned him. From behind bars, John is beginning to wonder if his calling as a prophet has been for nothing. Herod still seems to be able to do whatever he wants with no real consequences (which for John ends very badly when he is beheaded at the whim of Herod’s wife), the rich are getting richer, the Roman Empire is still calling all the shots, the people without voice and power are still getting kicked around and life is still very dangerous. John begins to doubt his own prophecy and expectations for God’s Messiah. So he sends his disciples to ask Jesus, are you really the one? Are you the real Messiah or are we still in a holding pattern as we’ve been for about 1000 years.

John’s proclamation and confidence in what he thought was coming was shifting to despair. What if he had been wrong? What if his work didn’t matter? The hope of the Jewish people for a Messiah, a savior, was very much one of a mighty king who would take over, enter the ring like Hulk Hogan and start tossing aside anyone in their path to make way for God’s Kingdom where the descendants of Abraham will never live in fear, will have all that they need, with prosperity and safety forever. If we’re honest this is what we expect of God in our lives too. God who uses power and might for our personal expectations. We look for God to do grandiose and unilateral acts.

Jesus’ response to John’s question is loving and gentle. John, I know that this isn’t what you expected. But the lame are walking, the blind can see, the deaf can hear, and the poor have good news. No, it’s not a complete overthrow from the center of power, it’s not a complete coup d’état. What else would you expect? Jesus asks. God’s justice and redemption are not blooming from where the worlds center of power. God’s work gestates in the weak, from the margins, from the edges, from the darkness, from the ignored. God’s at work in places were few dare to tread, in wombs and tombs.

God’s greatest work isn’t always seen but it matters. God’s kingdom comes from underground to bloom in dry, desolate places. Joy bubbles up in helpless babies, in country stables, in deserts, and bursts from darkness into the light.

When we can shift our expectations, of ourselves, of those around us, of events, and yes, even of God, we can see this joy. It’s difficult, I’ll grant you, as it’s easier to see the despair, the unmet expectations of people, family, organizations, and government, to see the harm being done and sometimes, like John, the joy is held in the promises of God that are given not in this life but in the next. But also like John, we can turn that kaleidoscope, get a different picture, and we can see what God sees. God at work underground, God percolating transformation in people and places that most consider ignoble or don’t notice at all. In the homeless shelters, in the food pantries, in underfunded classrooms, in crisis centers, in assisted living facilities, God’s joy abounds, in the people who refuse to let despair, isolation, and hopelessness prevail. Joy shines so that we will see the world as it could be, with God’s expectations of life, love and community. Joy shines to hold our doubts and our faith together and we are freed from our prisons that hold us back from exuding that same joy and shifting the expectations of the whole world. We can see, hear and walk in God’s joy that shines on us in Jesus who is the one to fulfill all expectations. Joy to the world indeed. Amen.

 

God’s Story of Righteousness: God’s Love in Action Advent 2 Year A December 8, 2019

This sermon was preached on Dec. 8, 2019 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT.

The texts were:

Isaiah 11: 1-10
Psalm 72: 1-7, 18-19
Matthew 3: 1-12

Children’s sermon: How many of you have made a new friend, or remember when a new baby sibling came home? New relationships in our lives change us don’t they? Most of the time, those things are good-we learn that we like different foods, or we like having a sibling to play with. Or sometimes we have to change how we do things, like if we now share a room, we can’t have the light on whenever we want it or with a friend, we have to do things that they like and not just what we like. It can be hard to be in relationships and we’re never the same after we meet different people!

There’s a church word for that and we are talking about it today: righteousness. It’s kind of a long word; can anyone tell me what they think it means? And it has a couple of different ways it can be used. Yep! It’s about God. We hear the word righteousness in two of our lessons this morning and although it’s not in our gospel story, it’s at the heart of our gospel story. The word righteousness is about being in right relationship with someone-to care for one another, which God says is holy-or important. Righteousness is about “love in action.” So, when we talk about God’s righteousness, we’re talking about God’s love in action with us. God loves us so much and wants us to always know that God cares for us more than we can ever know. John the Baptist in our gospel story is telling the people to look for God’s love in action in their lives, that’s why he tells them to repent, which is another big word we’re talking about today. It can mean to be sorry for things we’ve done that we shouldn’t AND it means to “turn around and change our minds.” John says to the people, turn around and see God’s love in action coming to your life through Jesus! Jesus brings us into relationship with God and you will never be the same! Jesus shows us how to be God’s love in action with everyone we meet, even if it’s really hard, but we can’t do this love thing alone.  One way that we are going to practice that today is I have these Christmas cards. You can each have one and give to someone who you think needs to know that God loves them. It can be anyone-even someone you don’t really know. You can write a little note and you don’t even have to sign your name. What matters is the message of God’s love. Let’s pray:

A spiritual practice for me is to occasionally take the time to unsubscribe from emails that I don’t really want to get and junk up my inbox. In my personal email account-I would never delete any important OSLC business. 😊 It’s a spiritual practice partially because many of the emails tend to be consumer related. It’s amazing how many emails I get from retailers and most I’m not even sure how I ended up on their list! So, I go through and unsubscribe from the ones that are of zero interest to me and with all of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday emails, I decided to even unsubscribe from the ones who were of interest to me! I realized that the bold letters with the exclamation points of discounts caught my attention far more often that I would like to publicly admit right now…OOOO it’s 50% off…maybe I DO need one more pair of my favorite comfy yoga tights…the reality by the way is that I do not! It would be altruistic for me to think “well maybe a good idea for a Christmas gift for someone will pop up in my email…” yeah right. And then Giving Tuesday hit, and don’t get me wrong it’s a good thing to highlight all of the non-profits doing great work, once again, my inbox was inundated by organizations that I didn’t even know had my email! So, unless it seemed a true interest, I unsubscribed from a bunch of those too. My hope is that fewer emails, fewer distractions, will allow me spend less time on things that don’t really offer me substance or connections and to spend more time on things that matter. I’m finding for myself, more and more, I want to focus on what matters in every aspect of my life, listen to the voices that matter. Even in my email.

This email dilemma is really a microcosm of my life in 2019 almost 2020 and I wonder if you feel it too. There is so much and so many people pressing for our time and attention that mindfulness and focus are the casualties of 24 hour news cycles, smart phones, social media, shopping apps, and even our simultaneously beloved and hated emails. And let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, many of these things are needed, helpful and can be powerful forces for good…in proper balance. The reality is that I sometimes intentionally use these devices to drown out that lone voice that is trying to call me to what matters, it’s as if I can cocoon myself and ignore the hard things in my life and in the world with just a click of the tv remote, the FB app, or Amazon. I can pretend that what the world tells me is important, whether it’s getting just the right gift, outfit, house remodel, can make me feel less overwhelmed, fix my relationships, ease my grieving, make me eat healthy and make me happy. Sometimes it works, for a while anyway….

The specific distractions might have changed, but the experience of not paying attention to the things that matter and getting caught up in worldly schemes, seems to be ancient. John the Baptists cry cuts through 2000 years of human distraction to rudely awaken us to the truth of what God is up to. John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, was sent to get our attention for God with harsh words and images. He proclaimed repentance, as I told the children, which means to turn around, to change our minds, to see ourselves differently than we have before. We tend to think of that word as negative, as an act of abject unworthiness, but John never says that. John baptizes people to help them unsubscribe from what is separating them from what really matters in their lives. To the Pharisees and Saducees, groups of people who thought that they were focused on what mattered, their connection to Abraham, John says, bear fruit worthy of repentance, that is, you are already worthy, you can turn around and try again. You can be righteous, God’s love in action-you can be pay attention to what matters and show others this love too.

God’s love in action, is coming, in Jesus. Jesus baptizes to not only turn you around and cut through the distractions of your life, Jesus baptizes to connect you to what matters-God’s love and presence in your life through the Holy Spirit. The very breath of God that fills you and brings you to true life. And the reality that somethings about your life will need to go, be burned away and it won’t be easy or comfortable. When we listen for what matters in our lives, other concerns such as ego, self-image, our emotional armor, addictions, whatever is not our true selves created in God’s image, are all drowned out by God’s loving voice.

When we turn around and know that we are already immersed in relationship and righteousness with Jesus, we can hear that voice cutting through the noise and distractions. That voice will call us to live differently, to care about what God cares about-to know what is truly important as we live in the time when the Kingdom is indeed near but not yet. We bear fruit that serves our neighbor, that creates the bold vision of Isaiah that there is indeed life and hope where the world proclaims all is lost. Transformation of both predator and prey can happen. Those who benefit from the weak will turn around, be content with less and sacrificially offer care, dignity and equity for all and those who have been hurt and oppressed will turn around to see trust, safety and affirmation restored. Fruit that all can partake in and no one is left hungry, without or neglected.

No, we’re not there yet, and this is hard and uncomfortable work. And it might seem overwhelming and not possible so we might as well just worry about our own happiness. Only, that’s not how it works. Whether we like it or not our futures, our lives, our joy and our happiness are bound up in one another. Jesus gathers us all with his winnowing fork for what matters, to call us and the world to turn away from death and destruction, to sift out of our lives what distracts and from what we need to unsubscribe in order to hear God’s voice of love, mercy and hope that cries out to us.  Thanks be to God.

 

Tied to God’s Story of Welcome Advent 1 year A

This sermon was preached on Dec. 1, 2019 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT.

The texts were:

Isaiah 2: 1-5
Psalm 122
Matthew 24: 36-44

 

A couple of weeks ago I read a story about a young woman, 23, who’s father had died four years earlier. When he was alive, she used to call or text him every day about her day. When he died, she continued these nightly texts. How she had been diagnosed and beat cancer, how she went to college, about her first job, apartment, ups and downs of her life. Of course, she never had a reply and she assumed that these texts were just going to digital void. But these texts made her feel that she was still connecting to her dad, tied into his love that she had known from him while he was alive. On the fourth anniversary of his death, she sent her usual daily update but with a note of how much after four years, she still loved and missed him. But on this night, she received a reply…her texts had not been going into a void but to a man who had been given her dads cell phone number not long after his death. This man had lost a daughter about the same time that this young woman had lost her dad. He began to wait and watch for those nightly texts not knowing if they would continue to come or not. He never responded until that anniversary text, and he doesn’t know why. But he texted her “sweetheart, I’m so sorry that your dad died and that you miss him. My daughter died a few years ago too. If she were still alive today, I would want her to be like you. You are amazing.” They connected in real life, and the man said that the nightly texts are what kept him alive when he felt that he couldn’t go on without his daughter.

He and this young woman, though strangers, were tied together, connected into something bigger than their grief. They both felt left behind and lonely from the deaths of their loved ones and were trying to make sense of a senseless situation. And while, they still didn’t have pat answers, one thing was clear, that they had needed each other and this young woman who thought that she was only sending messages into nothingness, was tying someone into a bigger story of love, connection and welcome. And on the night the man texted back, he included her into a bigger story as well. There is no such thing as strangers or outsiders, only people who don’t realize that they are connected to one another yet for purpose, affirmation and walking together, even if the path isn’t always clear.

I love this story so much as it exemplifies the heart of the good news from God as we enter into the Advent season. We wait and watch for messages from God about Jesus coming to us-returning to finish what was begun at creation. But we don’t like the unknown and waiting much as humans and we grow impatient. In our current culture of immediate gratification, and with all our technology and learning, we think that we should be able to predict an exact time and place. We also want to know who will be included in the coming of God’s kingdom-some people? Which people? Why? Our need to know everything, to think that we can play God and should be on par with God isn’t new, it’s as old as the story from the garden of the first people wanting to know what God knows about right and wrong.

Jesus reminds us that we aren’t God, and that’s a good thing. We don’t know when Jesus will return, not even Jesus knew that when he was with the disciples here on earth. Partially, I think because it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter when Jesus will come again because we should always be living with purpose and with mission for God’s work, not to ensure that we are not “left behind” but because we already are left behind. All the cultural appropriation of the “end times” throughout history has been based on fear of not making the cut, of not being good enough, of not being included. But Jesus says that’s not how any of this works. The person left in the field and the woman left grinding meal, aren’t excluded from God’s promises, not at all, they are left to continue the work of connecting more and more people into God’s welcome of love, grace and mercy. God needs people, needs us, to reveal these promises all over the world. Maybe through text messages, or maybe in person, merely by our presence.

Isaiah points to the reality that all people will come to God’s house and will be welcomed! No one is left out, all will learn the ways of God’s peace and mercy for the sake of living lives of praise, joy and gratitude for the work that God has put before us all. All people are tied to this story. We may not understand this story fully on this side of the kingdom, and the good news is that we don’t have to. Being tied to God’s story of welcome means that we can let go of knowing all the details when, who and why, and we can focus on being that light in the void, the people who keep awake, not for worrying about ourselves, but keeping awake to see whom God is including and so we can too. Being awake allows us to see people for whom they really are: beloved by God made in God’s image. We can learn from God to love all people-which is more than only tolerance and acceptance but is about relationships. We are to learn peace from God, which is to move beyond our fears of those different from us and work side by side with people for the good of all creation.

War, hatred, divisions, borders, fear are not of God. When Isaiah sees people streaming to the house of the Lord, it means that people will cross geo-political human made boundaries, people will gather with different customs, food, thoughts and rituals. And God will gather them all, judge them, not with anger but with love and trust. God’s judgment of love and peace transforms weapons of war to instruments of cultivating newness, life and growth. God brings life from death and destruction. Our personal weapons may not be ones of guns, swords or tanks but we wield weapons of war and hate with our words, our actions, or inaction and even the bible, the story of God’s unending love, has been used for division and destruction. Keeping awake allows us to see and learn to turn our words to compassion, our actions to peace and inclusion, our scriptures to welcome, wholeness and love. We then can see what God sees, humanity and creation bound together in the God’s promises for peace, abundant life and love forever. We can see that our purpose is to share God’s welcome even when we can’t see the outcome, even when we don’t have all the answers, or can’t understand God’s timing. God sees that we can walk together in the light of Jesus who illuminates our path and reveals that we are all tied to God’s story of welcome forever.

I’m going to invite the children forward to talk some more about this. You wondered when I was going to do the children’s sermon, didn’t you? It’s like our bible story today! What are some of your favorite stories, either books or on tv or a movie? What makes those stories good? There are all kinds of reasons, but often times, really great stories, pull us in and make us a part of the story somehow. We’ve been talking about that this morning and how the bible is God’s love story to us, and how God wants to welcome us and everyone into this story. And when we are a part of this story, it’s so good that we will want to share it with everyone we meet! That’s part of our work here in our lives, to share the story, not just with words, but with actions. It’s sometimes hard to remember that we are tied to God’s story though, isn’t it. We can worry that maybe we’re not part of God’s story or worry that someone else isn’t. But we just heard that we don’t have to worry about that-everyone is included-even if they haven’t heard the story yet. To help us remember this I have these blue ribbons. We use the color of blue in Advent to remember the night sky when Jesus was born and it represented royalty in Jesus’ time-and we know that Jesus is a special kind of king. So we have these blue ribbons that we are going to tie on our wrists to remind us that we are tied and welcomed into God’s story of love and peace for the whole world. I’m going to have you help me hand these out to everyone here and we will tie them on one another and offer this blessing: +You are tied and welcomed into God’s story forever+