A Lutheran Says What?

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

Don’t Look Away Sermon on Reign of Christ Sunday November 20, 2020

This sermon was proclaimed on Nov. 22, 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 for Christ the King Sunday were:

Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24
Ephesians 1: 15-23
Matthew 25: 31-46

Have you heard of the “red car” phenomena? It goes something like this: You decided that you want to buy a red car, and suddenly, it’s all that you see. You notice how many red cars are in your neighborhood, at work, for sale, etc. This psychology works in all kinds of ways. Once, as a child, I wanted a certain doll and that commercial for the doll was on all the time so I thought that meant I should have it. That is not what that meant, by the way.But something gets your attention and then it’s all that you can see. And once you notice, you can’t unsee it. Often it is positive such as an object that might truly be useful to us and other times, it’s something we wish we had never seen, such as a tragedy. We might think that it’s not good to see those negative situations and try to sweep it under a rug. But often, once we know, it doesn’t just go away. And we all know that once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
This year has given us much that we can’t unsee. Things that we didn’t or refused to see before now. We can’t unsee disparity of responses to a deadly disease, where often money was prioritized over health and well-being of people. We can’t unsee communities of color, Native American and immigrant communities ravaged at an alarming rate from COVID19 versus white communities. We can’t unsee low wage workers suddenly become essential or unsee the growing numbers of infected and or the dead stacked up in morgue trailers or put in unmarked graves. We can’t unsee the final straw in institutional racism and white supremacy break as people can’t unsee George Floyd calling out to his mother as he was murdered. We can’t unsee the long lines at food banks, or the people facing losing housing or the effects of climate change destroying communities. And maybe that’s the point.

In our gospel text today, there is a lot going on, and to add more freight to the passage, it’s Christ the King Sunday. As a fairly new liturgical holiday, (and if I’m honest, not my favorite as the “king” language seems a bit patriarchal, colonial and hierarchal and gives me hives) it originated less than 100 years ago by a Pope Pius XI in an attempt to build a coalition of resistance to the rise of fascism he was witnessing in the world. He declared a Sunday (originally in the spring) to be Christ the King or the Reign of Christ Sunday. He was very concerned about what he was seeing with people professing their faith in and allegiance to authoritarian charismatic leaders rather than to God. Or worse, conflating that leader with God’s will. The intent was a Sunday to reflect and confess that God is sovereign and people are not. A day to recalibrate political views and hearts to what God sees and desires for God’s creation. The Pope’s hope, perhaps naïve hope, is that people would see and understand the harm happening and remember that they follow a God of love. It was his attempt to halt what would take place in the 30’s and 40’s with xenophobia, genocide, racism, homophobia, war, and hate, all supported and even sanctioned by many institutional churches. Not all churches, it’s true, but too many stayed silent or spoke out too late against these atrocities. In the end it was clear that the Church was complicit in the suffering and oppression that the church is supposed to alleviate. The Church looked away while 6 million people: Jews, LBGTQIA, refugees and supposed traitors went to death camps. They looked away while whole countries and communities were decimated. They looked away while people went hungry, unclothed, and languished from disease and torture. They look away from the rising black smoke from burning bodies in the crematorium. They looked toward their own comfort, safety, and security. They looked toward proximity to power and authority. They looked to ensure their own future and prosperity. They looked to be their own king in their lives. This is what Pope Pius didn’t want to see.

They forgot, as we do, that they serve a different kind of king, or really the anti-king. A king who renounces his own power and authority, a king who is put to death for boldly hanging out with the powerless and seeking to protect them from suffering, a king who sees the world not for what it can offer him but what he can offer the world. A king who sees the world as it should be, not as it is. Most of the world, particularly those with power and status, clearly didn’t truly see Jesus. To see Jesus is to see the world differently. It’s to look beyond oneself and not look away when harm is being done.

Interestingly, in Matthew 25 neither the sheep nor the goats, knew when they had seen Jesus. They both asked, “When did we see you and when did we not see you?” Jesus simply states that we see Jesus when we see people whom we don’t want or refuse to see. You see, when we see Jesus, we have to see everyone who comes along with Jesus. Jesus was always with the wrong crowd, the authorities said, the people who weren’t considered upstanding members of society, according to arbitrary rules. But it’s those people who Jesus saw, and knew by name. People who have been incarcerated, who live without housing, people on borders shoved together in overcrowded cells, people who suffer from addiction, people with disabilities. We can’t see Jesus and not see the whole community of Jesus. And not just see them, but be in relationship and learn their names, their lives, their wisdom and work together to relieve the suffering of all.

What we forget is that Jesus sees us, too, our wholes selves, each intricate piece of us, the part of us that is a sheep and the part of us that is a goat. Jesus doesn’t want us to be separated into categories or separated within ourselves. Jesus wants us to be whole, to be one, as that is how Jesus sees us-all people and creation-together. Not as sheep or goats, or rich or poor, or hungry or too well fed, healthy or sick. Jesus understands that we all suffer when we separate and categorize one another and ourselves. We languish in our own incompleteness in not recognizing gifts in people whom we assume don’t have anything to offer us. Jesus is an “anti-king” who can give us the vision of how we should see and understand the value not only in ourselves but in all people and the world. Jesus sees and calls us to this God vision.

Yes, it’s hard, yes we will be uncomfortable. It is risky to see the world this way, as it will compel us to act and others may try and separate from us. But that’s what it is to see, be a part of Christ’s reign of fulfilling love and belong to Jesus’ anti-kingdom, it’s to see and belong to the one body of Christ, a living, breathing, acting and loving force that refuses to not look away from who and what matters to Jesus and in Christ’s kingdom and kin-dom. May we only see Jesus.
You are loved, you are beloved, go and be love. Amen.

 

Worth Fixing: A sermon on Restoration John 21 and Genesis 33 November 13, 2020

This sermon was preached on Novemer 15, 2020 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT. It can be viewed on our YouTube channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC. Be sure to subscribe!

The texts were:
Genesis 33: 1-17
John 21: 1-19

This summer I noticed that my Surface laptop, that was about five years old, started not holding a charge, was running slower and slower despite attempts by my IT husband to keep it going. I asked Mike how to fix it and his response was “well, it’s probably better to get yourself a new one. It’s lived out it’s life span.” So, I did, I still have the old one, but I don’t know what to do with it now, as with my old cell phone that quit working.  The old tech just doesn’t have any worth. In our disposable society, if something breaks, or isn’t working well, just get rid of it and get a new one. Sadly, in the tech industry, products are not even designed to be fixed anymore, they are designed to be replaced every few years. This is a huge shift in mentality from the past 60 years or so. My grandfather used to have a tv repair side business when my dad was growing up. When’s the last time you took your tv in to be fixed?
When I stop to take a hard look at all the disposables I use in my day, it’s embarrassing. Things I get rid of without a second thought.  Make-up remover, food packaging, paper towels, and the list goes on. Some of that is simply necessary, but I truly wonder how much of it isn’t? This disposable mentality around material goods is having an impact on how we view other parts of our lives, particularly our relationships. The past few months have been rough on relationships for so many reasons, with politics and COVID19 just being two of the big ones. I know I’ve unfriended people on social media and ceased communication with certain people because that relationship was becoming very broken. And I know that certain people have done the same to me for similar reasons. Brokenness upon brokenness has prevailed. Some of those relationships were fine to let go but there were a couple that really hurt. People I have known for decades, friends and family, with whom now there was a serious rift. Serious hurt was being inflicted on one another. And speaking for myself, I found myself in despair and wondering what to do. No longer communicating with them seemed like the easiest, safest and best choice. Again, maybe for some people it was, but for others? I’m not so sure, and I wonder what I could have done differently, or what I should do now to restore what once was? What will I have to give up?

Broken relationships are nothing new, as we read in both our Genesis and John passages today. It took humanity about 2.5 seconds to start harming one another and put our own needs ahead of family and friends. Jacob stole Esau’s birthright for his own gain and security and Peter, after denying Jesus three times for his own safety and well-being, is given a chance to restore his relationship with Jesus. Both men had some work to do to fix what they had broken. They had relationships to restore. In Genesis, Jacob offered Esau tangible gifts that at first Esau refused as he said that he had plenty, but relented after Jacob insisted as he too, had enough. Jacob knew that a simple “I’m sorry” wasn’t adequate. He had to put his money where his mouth was, which in the ancient world was with livestock. The passage ends tenuously as Jacob tells his brother that he will meet him at Seir and then doesn’t go. We don’t know Esau’s reaction to this, but I’m going to guess that more hurt was inflicted by Jacob. Just because Jacob gave up some wealth doesn’t mean that the relationship was restored. Jacob didn’t seem to want to do the hard work of being together in community of putting the pieces back together. Jacob didn’t want to do his piece of restoration, he seemed ok walking away from Esau and moving on to something new. What’s interesting is that God isn’t mentioned at all in this passage. I wonder if either brother had wondered about God’s presence in their relationship what might have been different?

By contrast, Peter didn’t have to wonder about God’s presence, as the resurrected Jesus was before him and six of the other disciples. Peter, the one whom Jesus said he would build his church, had denied Jesus three times at the crucifixion. Peter chose safety and security over the truth of his relationship with Jesus. Jesus offers Peter restoration in the three-fold questioning of “Do you love me?” By the third time Peter felt hurt by Jesus, but this time, stayed in the dialogue, didn’t walk away from the tension. By engaging Peter, Jesus was revealing that God won’t simply give up on us, dispose of us when we hurt each other or God. God will stay in the thick of the relationship, working to restore even if  WE are the ones who broke it. Jesus’ ministry is one of recognizing that whom and what the world names as disposable and unworthy, God names as essential and worth fixing. Jesus is telling Peter, you are worth restoring into relationship with me and more importantly, you will be a part of restoring the world to wholeness and love in my name, follow me.

God says that no matter what we have done or not done, we are worth restoring, we are worth keeping, helping us to see and claim our original purpose, to be a part of God’s restoring love in the world and for the world. Nothing is disposable to God, everything and everyone has purpose and worth and we all have a piece in God’s restoration, God’s vision of wholeness for humanity and creation. This truth has not changed in the past 60 over the time of ministry here at OSLC. As we each contributed a piece to our whole Mandala, we each contribute to the wholeness of the kingdom of God. We contribute to God’s restoration when we give up our need to be right. We contribute to God’s restoration when we stand with and amplify the voices of people who are marginalized for the color of their skin or for whom they love. We contribute to God’s restoration when we place other people’s needs ahead of our own, even if it means limiting our own autonomy. We contribute to God’s restoration of humanity when we care more about people than profit. We contribute to God’s restoration when we give up our own safety, ego, status, and yes, wealth in order to show people that we don’t give up on them.

This is what following Jesus means, and it may not be where we want to go, and it might be more than what we want to give up. Peter would give his very life for the gospel, to be a part of God’s restoration that began in his own life and flowed out to the world. For God, nothing is broken beyond repair, and as the people of God, we give all that we have, all who we are to follow Jesus into the brokenness to be agents of love, hope, grace and restoration. Amen.

 

The Struggle is Real A Post-Election Sermon on Matthew 19 November 7, 2020

This sermon was preached at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT on Nov. 8, 2020. It can be viewed on our YouTube Channel Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC

The texts were:
Deuteronomy 15: 1-11
Matthew 19: 16-22

This week has been a struggle. A struggle to focus, a struggle to wait, a struggle to understand. It’s struggle that isn’t new or unique but seems to be on high boil for the past several months (or years depending on one’s perspective). It’s the struggle of how we are to live together. I’m writing this on Saturday morning, Nov. 7, and we still don’t have a clear presidential election outcome, as well as uncertainty in other governmental positions. Opposing political factions are protesting, threatening, and arguing. COVID19 is spreading exponentially throughout our community and nation. Opposing voices are protesting, threatening and arguing about how not only to best mitigate the disease but even if we should. And while these two situations alone are enough of a struggle, we all can name several other areas of our life together that are less than smooth.

We are struggling on how to live together. In this country, we have deep divisions, metastasized racism, rampant fear and unchecked self-interest. I caught myself this week in the simplistic thinking that a certain election outcome will fix everything and if I just held on to that hope and belief, then all will be well. But Wednesday morning, I woke up, literally and figuratively, to what was the real struggle. I woke up to my own lack of understanding, my vision of the world only through my chosen lens, and my deeply held biases. I was saddened as I realized everything I am holding on to, contributes to the struggle that only brings more division. I have to let go, and release what I might consider important for the sake of releasing others from this destructive struggle too.

I think this is the crux of the gospel story today and the place in history in which we find ourselves at this moment. The young man in our Matthew passage comes to Jesus in his own full-blown struggle. This young man seems to be genuinely trying, he knows that there is more than what he knows, that is why he comes to Jesus. He’s literally having a come to Jesus moment. He’s rich, he has all the worldly wealth, power and status that one can attain in the ancient or modern world. But he’s still struggling. All that worldly success didn’t end his struggle. He asks Jesus how to enter eternal life, and Jesus tells him to keep the commandments. “Which ones?” the young man asks, and Jesus responds with the five commandments that focus on how we live together as a people and adds from Leviticus, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man claims to follow those commandments and asks “what am I still missing?” Jesus recognizes that this young man is at a crossroads, a struggle that goes beyond simply keeping the law and being a good person, this young man is looking for truth. True meaning, true value, and true life.

Jesus tells him to be perfect, to go and sell everything, give the money away to the poor and follow him. To be perfect in this passage doesn’t mean to be without fault, it means to be whole. If you want to be whole, release everything from the world that defines you and find your value in me, Jesus says. The young man walked away sad, as he thought Jesus would end his struggles, and it turned out Jesus only laid it bare. His real struggle is that he’s struggling only for himself, his real struggle is that he didn’t understand what it meant to truly live in community. He couldn’t see that releasing himself from the ways the world that defined his value and worth also released his neighbor who was defined by the same death-dealing concepts. He couldn’t grasp that his liberation, freedom and wholeness is bound up in the liberation, freedom and wholeness of the people in his community. His struggle was that he couldn’t see the true struggle, that he was deeply interconnected to others who were struggling and needed him to release his love for them and he needed his neighbor’s love too. We can’t be whole by ourselves.

As humanity, we think that our lives, the way the world works, is a zero-sum game. Either we win it all or we lose it all and we have control over the outcome. Jesus over and over in the gospels dispels that idea. Jesus doesn’t deny or diminish our struggle, if anything, Jesus names our struggle as real. Jesus knows that we struggle with how to live together, how to weigh our own needs and wants with those of our neighbor. Jesus also knows that the way to end the struggle is outside the binary response of us or them. It’s about a “we.” Jesus enters right into the middle of this struggle to show us another way. Living together doesn’t have to be a struggle but it does require sacrifice, honesty and truth. We have to admit that we are struggling to care about our neighbor, our black neighbor, our brown neighbor, our LBGTQIA neighbor, our immigrant neighbor, and to put them ahead of ourselves. Jesus’ life shows us that being complete in God and one another is God’s desire and it’s the only way for life to abound. Jesus time and again went to the people whom the rest of society said didn’t matter. Jesus died for this human struggle and God declared that the death will not be the last word for us in this struggle. God ushers in a new economy, on where relationships matter.

We have to release ourselves to God’s economy, we have to release ourselves to the truth of how we need to live together. We have to release ourselves and all people from the harmful labels of the world, we have to come close to each other, not only to people who are like us, but to people whom make us uncomfortable, challenge us, to listen understand and to not put any barriers between us. We have to be one people, Jesus says, we can’t separate ourselves by partisanship, wealth, social status, or education. If nothing separates us from God’s love, then nothing can separates us from the love of each other either.

We are released to be who God says we are: God’s treasure, each of us, together. We are released in the love, grace and forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ, for the sake of seeing our neighbor through God’s lens of love, of seeking understanding and unity with one another. Yes, the struggle is real, but we are released by God’s love through Jesus to be God’s people of love, in every time and in every place, with all who we are and all that we have. Amen.

 

Beyond Expectations Luke 2 Christmas Eve October 30, 2020

This sermon was recorded October 30,2020 for our Christmas Eve worship. Yep, we’re early as we have a lot of video to edit! It will be on YouTube on Dec. 23, 2020 Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:
Isaiah 9: 2-7
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2: 1-20

Sometimes life is beyond our expectations. I think it’s fair to say that this year fits that description. At Christmas last year, we were looking into the future with the expectation that life would only be better, or least not this. I have to say that it’s beyond my expectation to be leading worship mostly on-line, or that in person communion would become dangerous. It is beyond my expectation that I would wear a mask anytime I left the house, and leaving would be rare. It’s beyond my expectation that I would have Zoom fatigue. And it’s completely beyond my expectation to be writing and recording a Christmas Eve sermon in late October. (Happy Halloween everyone!) It’s beyond our expectations that our celebrations and worship are so different and, well, unexpected.

Expectations are notoriously challenging, as they are rarely met. Expectations are built on what we know about our present and our experience of the past, what we think we can control and know our future. Expectations have an almost truth like quality to them, as we commonly cement expectations into our own consciousness. Expectations are about what we can imagine, what we want to be true, and based on our limited experiences. When expectations aren’t met, it’s disorienting, and we’re often disappointed and disillusioned. Even when expectations are exceeded, it’s just as challenging, as it still requires a shift in our thinking and response. Anything beyond our expectations, transforms us.

The beloved Luke 2 Jesus birth narrative states that Mary “was expecting a child.” Expecting. Mary probably had certain expectations for her life and life with Joseph. I’m willing to guess that conception of a child out of wedlock by the Holy Spirit, being told by the Angel Gabriel that the baby would be the Son of the Most High who would save the world and giving birth among animals were beyond her and Joseph’s expectations.

It was beyond the expectations of the shepherds on duty that night outside of Bethlehem to be serenaded by a multitude of the heavenly hosts about the birth of the Messiah. The people of Israel had been expecting a Messiah for a long time, but it was beyond the expectation of these shepherds, on the lowest rung of society, that they would be the first to hear or see it for themselves. It was beyond anyone’s expectation that this new family would have as their first visitors the shepherds who shared the angelic message of the expectation of this new frail baby. It was beyond their expectation of what the coming years would bring for this newborn, how his life would transform the world, shatter the expectations of so many people, break open hearts and imaginations, and two thousand years later we would be ruminating on their story. Some of their expectations would go unmet, yet God’s presence, love and mercy would turn out to be beyond what they could expect or imagine.

The truth is that we have many unmet expectations this year. We expected to attend a candlelight worship, to sing Silent Night together, watch the children dressed as angels, hear the choir sing, and be together. We expected family gatherings, joyous meals, meaningful gifts, and festive parties. And as I am preaching this sermon on October 30, I am obviously projecting expectations on what December 24 will be like for me and for you. I don’t actually know what the next two months will bring, I don’t know what to expect. Just like Joseph and Mary who never expected to parent the Son of God, or the shepherds who never expected to be the first witnesses to God’s incarnation with humanity and creation, we just don’t know what to expect for the coming weeks, months or year.

In the unmet expectations this year, the truth is also that God’s presence and work in our midst has been beyond my expectation. It’s beyond expectation how OSLC would turn our focus so rapidly and unwaveringly to protecting and caring for our community outside our walls, how robustly we would respond to digital worship and embrace Zoom simply to see each other.

God has shown up and shattered our expectations of what life can be, and what life should be in this pandemic. Just as it is beyond human expectation for God to show up as a baby in the middle of nowhere 2000 years ago, in Jesus, to live as one of us, so too it’s beyond expectation how God shows up in our midst today. God shows up in holy Facetimes with beloved family in assisted living facilities, in sacred Zoom family game nights, in smiling eyes above masked faces, in funding organizations for neighbors in need, in difficult conversations of articulating our faith in the midst of political and racial upheaval. God’s very presence has unexpectedly bound us to one another despite distancing. We are together beyond our expectations.

God is all about shattering our expectations, showing us that life with God is beyond anything we can expect because God’s expectation for us and creation transforms us, reorients us to what is true even when we don’t expect it. God transforms our unmet expectations into wholeness, healing, new life and love. We trust and expect God’s presence no matter where we are, even if the situation is beyond our expectations. God promises that life with God, through the love and grace of Jesus Christ, will always be beyond our expectations. Amen, and Merry Christmas!

 

Our Bodies Remember Sermon on Luke 22

This sermon was preached on Nov. 1, 2020 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT. It can be viewed on our YouTube channel Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

We are in our generosity focus and celebration of our 60th anniversary. “Rooted in our past, embracing our future.” This week’s theme is “Remember.” We also celebrate All Saints Sunday.

Texts:
Exodus: 16:1-18
Luke 22: 1-23

There have been significant insights gained in the past couple of decades on the link between our brains and our bodies. Most of this information is simply an affirmation of our lived experiences, with the science of hormonal and immune system responses, as well as the activity of our sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. We all know that stress, good and bad, plays a role in our physical well-being and learning how to teach our brains to listen to our bodies is necessary for overall health. Our bodies know a lot, it turns out, perhaps more than our brains but we rarely listen to our bodies until it’s too late. So often in my life, I worked tirelessly on a big paper, project or event only to fall ill immediately following the culmination of that stressor. Our bodies know, and our bodies also remember. Our bodies remember stresses, remember feelings, remember betrayal, remember love. You know that pit in your stomach when you remember an action from several years ago of which you are ashamed? Or those butterflies you get when you think about a beloved?  Sometimes our bodies are the only parts of us that do remember significant events and use bodily responses to get our attention. How many times have we not felt well or “off” only to later remember that it was the anniversary of a beloved’s death, or relationship ending, job loss, or health diagnosis? Conversely, how often have we felt great and then realized it was because we were remembering a time when we were safe, loved and cared for? Our bodies know, and they remember.

We celebrate our 60th anniversary this year at OSLC,  and we gratefully remember the people who had the vision of a community of followers of Jesus in Salt Lake City. Nearly all these people have gone before us, I believe Janice Orme is the only charter member still with us. And while we may not remember all the names, all the faces, we remember the love and faith that they poured into this congregation and this community. We remember, not just with our brains, and hearts, but our bodies. Some of us with the pit of grief in our stomach and some of us breathing easier that these saints had such an astute sense of God’s mission and vision 60 years ago. We know that where we are today, is not by our own doing but due to the love and vision of others and their bodies. This is true in every aspect of our lives. I’m wearing a stole today that celebrates the 50th anniversary of ordination in the Lutheran church of white women, 40th of Black women and 10th of people who are LBGTQIA+. I’m here as a pastor today not because of my own vision, but because of others. The names on this stole are some the faithful women in the Bible who held fast to God’s call and vision and not what the world’s vision for them was because their bodies were female. I remember that they sacrificed much, some their very bodies, for God’s vision and call. Our bodies know and our bodies remember; our bodies know that we are part of a larger whole and remember that we cannot be whole without being together. Our vision, our faith, our calls, bring us into wholeness, and interconnection like puzzle pieces, to God, and perhaps more importantly, with each other.

Jesus exemplifies this truth in his earthly life and death. Jesus points to the power of what our bodies know and remember throughout his ministry. Jesus desires for his disciples, and us, to trust that power of what our bodies know and remember. Our bodies are part the very kingdom of God, they matter and are declared very good. Jesus wants us to watch and listen to his body so that we learn to listen to our own and others. Jesus knew that the time after his death and resurrection for the disciples would be challenging. Their bodies would also be on the line. This faith in following Jesus is not intellectual, it’s incarnational, it’s fleshy, it real and it’s risky. Jesus offered his own body for the work of God to bring eternal life and wholeness for all bodies. Jesus knows that our bodies will need sustenance for this work. So, Jesus, at that last meal with his disciples, gives bread, saying this is my body. It’s broken, it’s divided, it’s sustaining and it’s for you. Eat it, be filled, be reconnected to the body that matters, the body of Christ, to remember. And then drink, for you don’t live by bread alone, drink and know that this is my blood coursing through your veins, through your body. It’s love that runs through you, remember, be reconnected with hope, mercy and forgiveness and then fill others. Your body knows, and your body will remember.

This is why we celebrate the meal, to listen to Jesus’ body and to hear our own. Our bodies know what it is to be loved, to be valued, to be cherished. Our bodies remember every time they are violated. Jesus wants our bodies to only know love, to only remember wholeness, to only remember what it feels like to be in this body of Christ that has no end, that sustains, visions, frees, and hopes. This remembering that Jesus offers in this supper, this reconnection, gives us strength as we go out into the world.

We remember and give thanks on this All Saints Sunday, that we are never alone, we are connected and cared for by the people who have come before us, surround us and are yet to come. We are heard and filled by Jesus’ body, not for our own sake but for people who will come after us, in the next 60 years. People who will be very different, worship differently, live differently, dress differently but who’s bodies are loved all the same by Jesus. Their bodies will know and remember that they were thought of and loved by us today.

Our bodies know and our bodies remember. We remember that we are loved by God, and we are God’s love in the world. Amen.

 

Statements of Faith Sermon on Mark 12: 38-44 October 23, 2020

This sermon was preached at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT on Oct. 25, 2020. It can be viewed on our YouTube Channel Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

We are in our Generosity Focus with our theme: Rooted in our past, embracing our Future. This first week is Reimagine.

The texts were:
Leviticus 19:9-10, 25: 8-12
Mark 12: 38-44

Luther only wanted to make a statement, not start a revolution. Martin Luther, 503 years ago, posted some statements on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, as he had done before, hoping to open up a conversation regarding the church system. The system that he had participated in his whole life, the system he actually loved, the system that had been in place for centuries, although with some evolution and nuance, the system that Luther believed was failing thousands of people. Luther considered his statements logical and obvious harms being perpetrated on innocent people who were reliant on the system and the structure to daily life it provided. But in truth, Luther’s statements were a vision, a reimagination of how the system, the world, the community of faith could operate. Luther saw through and beyond the system to something else, to something new. They were his statements of a reimagined life, of faith, daily living and community. That kind of reimagining, Luther soon found out, is always a threat to those in power in the system. Keeping the system stable and keeping those whom the system privileged comfortable was paramount at any costs. If some people were exploited, well, that’s just the way life works isn’t it? Nope, said Luther. When challenged by the powerful of the system, Luther was offered two choices, stay quiet and stay in the system, or be cast out from the system. Luther recognized that there was a third choice, and that was to follow his faith in God and God’s mission, risk everything to challenge and transform the system. Luther’s reimaging captured the imagination of many around him and the system was forced to alter. Many were upset, scared, bewildered, and angry that the status quo was shredded, for after Luther’s statements of faith, life was never the same again.

 Statements that change the world can be made with words, spoken or written, but sometimes statements are made with what seems to be simple actions. Jesus called attention to this fact in our Mark lesson today. Jesus highlights the statements that the scribes, the supposed leaders of the Temple, who were tasked with caring for the people spiritually and physically, really were. Their long robes and overly ornate prayers were statements of status quo, power, elitism, and privilege. He also pointed to the statements of the rich people giving to the Temple treasury, and how they made a show of the amount they gave, a revealing of their bank statements so to speak, and how the scribes often privileged and fawned over those who gave copious amounts, even if it was really only a sliver of their actual wealth.

Jesus carefully watched the widow approach the treasury deposit site. Widows, who were often poor, as a woman’s only status and power were in relationship to a male family member, were exempt from giving to the Temple as the Temple leaders were supposed to be caring from them. The Torah teachings are clear that widows, the poor, orphans and resident aliens, immigrants and refugees are to be provided for from the Temple treasury and the community. The widow put in her two coins, all that she had, even though it’s a pittance. Jesus honors her but maybe not for the reason we think. Yes, it’s an act of faith, yes, it’s a statement of giving all that she had, but here’s what I think Jesus is really saying: it’s a statement of reimagining. It’s a statement of defiance and calling out the system. No, she didn’t get in anyone’s face, no she doesn’t write an angry note to state her disappointment with the leaders. Those two coins might have come from the treasury to begin with, and weren’t enough to help her at all, and so she gives it back. She knows that the scribes are supposed to be caring for her, and not just her, but all in need, and they are giving some, but not enough. It was a token. It was enough to soothe the conscious of those with all the power and wealth. See we gave them something! It’s not our fault that they can’t actually live on that! It’s Rome’s fault! But the widow knows better. The widow is reimagining what true community looks like. What equal and just distribution of wealth could be. She is reimagining beyond the Roman Empire and beyond the institution of the Temple- to the kingdom of God. She’s recalling our Leviticus text of Jubilee and offering a vision of trusting God AND trusting each other to provide for all needs, including the earth.

Jesus pointed out this widow to the disciples and to us so that perhaps we too can reimagine. What statement of God’s vision do we want to offer in this time and place? We have to reimagine beyond our broken and human political system, beyond our broken and human institutional church and offer a vision to the world of God’s kingdom. Luther, while by no means perfect and he had his flaws, was attempting in his own way to do this. It’s the foundation of our faith tradition-to reimagine the world that centers the kingdom of God and not the kingdom of the world, of human greed, selfishness, and egocentricity. When we center the kingdom of God, we center a vision of wholeness, justice, mercy and community, not for some but for all.

I have been ruminating more and more on how my life can be such a statement of reimaging life ushering in the kingdom of God in our current world. I truly believe that as a world and a Church we are in a time of reimaging and our statements of faith with words and actions matter. Nothing will be the same after this pandemic, and do we have the imagination, like the widow, Luther and Jesus, to join what God is already up to? We must reimagine our statements of faith that our communal lives together are more important than our individual rights, so we wear masks, curb our activities to necessities only, don’t hoard, and offer patience and compassion with leaders and each other. Reimagine our statements of faith that in our lives together white supremacy, racism, homophobia, misogyny is a sin, that our consumer culture is killing and harming us and the earth, that there is enough for all, and that yes, we will have to set aside our own power, privilege and entitlement. Reimagine our statements of faith that enable our bank statements to match our vision of abundance. Our statements of faith matter, for our statements can reimagine the world, bring down unjust systems and reveal the mercy and grace of God for us all.

God’s statement is clear, God’s living statement is Jesus who states in words and actions what God reimagines the world to be. Jesus’ statement is to reimagine a world where death isn’t the final word, where God’s will is done, all humanity and creation exists in health, interdependence, mercy and hope and the tenacious love of Christ binds us together. You are loved, you are beloved, go and be love. Amen .

 

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.