A Lutheran Says What?

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

Insurance, Mayhem and What God Sees Sermon for Affirmation of Baptism Sunday June 2, 2019 June 9, 2019

This sermon was preached at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, Utah. The texts were chosen by the two youth affirming their baptism.

Genesis 6:11: “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.”

Matthew 6: 25-34:

Children’s time: What God sees.

I have worn these glasses since I was 11. They help me to see things far away and up close. Without them, I can’t see important things, like you! What are other objects that help us to see things more clearly? Yes, binoculars, telescopes, all help us to see God’s universe, near and far! We might miss seeing something unique and interesting! Well, these Bible passages read by Aidan and Katie today remind me of what God sees and wants us to see. The Genesis text seems a little hard to hear but when you put it with the Matthew text where Jesus says not to worry, we remember that it’s a good thing that God sees the hard stuff in our lives too. Good sees it all as God created it! In Genesis 1, the very beginning of the Bible, we read the creation story and every time God created something God said what? Do you remember? Is there an adult who remembers? Yes! God saw that it was Good! And when God created humans, God said that we were “very good!” God loves what God has created. God sees us as good and doesn’t want us to be hurt or unkind to one another. In the Genesis verse, people were being unkind and hurting one another and hurting the earth. God saw this and didn’t look away but knew that something had to change. This is the beginning of the Noah’s Ark story or the great flood. Now we know that the people saved were Noah and his family as well as all those animals. And when the flood was over, God sent a rainbow to let the people and animals know that they didn’t have to worry about another flood-this was a promise from God that this wouldn’t happen again. But we still worry don’t we? What do you worry about? That’s what Jesus is talking about in the Matthew story. When we worry about flooding, we worry about what to eat, drink or wear, we are worrying and seeing only ourselves. But Jesus reminds us that by not worrying, we can know that God sees us, God loves us and thinks we are very good. When we stop worrying-we can see God’s love and care all around us! the flowers bloom each year, how the birds are fed, people who care for us. We don’t have to worry about is being alone, or being afraid as God promises to be with us no matter what-even if there are scary things happening or we don’t know where food or clothing might come from. God promises good for us because we are precious to God. And Jesus tells us that if we look, we can see God’s love and care all around us, even if we don’t have a telescope! I have a blessing for you today: +You are God’s precious joy+

 

What are things that you worry about? I’m a worrier: mostly about silly things I can’t control-especially at 2 a.m. It seems everywhere we look there are reasons to worry in our community and throughout the world. Now it might seem prudent to worry about somethings such as our health, retirement, our children, as this worry can lead us to make sound choices today that we think will ensure a certain type of outcome for tomorrow, and some of these choices are a good thing! But we think that our worrying, will create some sort of guarantee of controlling outcomes-like an insurance policy that covers us. This is the heart of the insurance industry-isn’t it? I love that one commercial with the man who personifies “mayhem.” In one commercial a car owner is at a football game and gets a facetime call from Mayhem who informs the man that he is about to steal his car. All the car owner can do is watch helplessly as this happens. The company is wanting you to worry about mayhem and then claim that you can protect yourself from it with their policy. Maybe you can a bit, but truth is that mayhem is simply part of life and no insurance policy can totally protect you from it.

We don’t like to think about that reality too often as it leads to anxiety and a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. But what do we do when that reality smacks us right where we live? When it’s more than just our car being stolen or our she-shed burning down. What about when it’s something a bit more substantive such as a loved one dying, a scary diagnosis, a long term relationship ending, or more systematic challenges such as lack of healthcare, climate change, wars, immigration crisis, racism or as was lifted up at the Utah Pride Interfaith Worship service, the reality of violence against those who are LBGTQI or on the margins of any kind. It’s mayhem, it’s violent and God sees it all.

But we have this God that doesn’t just watch from a distance, the Bette Midler song is incorrect. God is watching us but not from a distance, God is watching us up close and personal. All up in our grill as the kids say. We are all precious to God, so much so that God doesn’t leave us alone in the mayhem-even when it’s of our own doing. God doesn’t judge the mess-God comes down into it. That’s the scandal of Jesus. Jesus comes to us in our mess-acknowledges it and doesn’t try and explain it away. You see, the words in Matthew 6 can seem a bit Polly Anna-don’t worry! And we say, that’s easy for you to say Jesus, your well, Jesus! God’s son! And yet, we need to remember that the very human Jesus was an itinerant preacher, he relied on other people to support him-he lived in what we would consider a bit of a commune. Jesus knew that he couldn’t control the outcome of day to day life. And Jesus knew his mission-to reveal the truth of the radical, life-transforming grace and love of God is the promised outcome for the world. That world that would soon kill him for this message that breaks systems of mayhem and violence. The powers and authorities knew that worry of mayhem and violence keep the masses in line-after all, if you’re so busy making sure that no one takes your stuff, encroaches on your turf, or gets more than you then you don’t notice the powers and authorities taking advantage of your fear and worry. They want you live in the falsehood that the outcome of not worrying and protecting yourself was death. But freeing people from worry of mayhem, violence and death, would mean that people wouldn’t be afraid-they would live differently. They would live not only looking out for what’s best for them, but would be free to care about their neighbor and the world. To be clear, not worrying isn’t about not planning for the future, but it IS about not being afraid to live fully as who you are as a beloved child of God TODAY and delighting when other people do the same!

God sees the entire world: the good and the bad and loves it and us too much to leave us alone in it. Through Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, normally today we would be celebrating Ascension Sunday, God acts to destroy violence and death in the. God acts to bear joyous life and calls us to see and also bear this life, abundant life, even in the midst of harm, fear and violence. Goodness and life is about what God sees and does.

Aidan and Alex, this is what your claiming your baptismal faith for yourselves today means: God sees you, just as you are as God’s precious and beloved young men. God sees you because God is with you right here, right now and always. No amount of mayhem, violence or fear separates you from God’s love and care. And so with this truth, you don’t have to worry-you are free to be who God is calling you to be through the waters of baptism and the promises made by your parents all those years ago that you now claim today: You are free to join in the mission of God in God’s kingdom with all of your gifts, passions and talents. You, just as you are, have this day and we pray so many more, to live boldly and to show God’s colorful promises in a world where all too often people only see the darkness of mayhem and violence. Be and act on Christ’s vision-God’s life, love and mercy.

This is our insurance and assurance: God sees us, doesn’t leave us hopeless or helpless but comes along side us in love and grace to move hearts and to reorient lives. God’s hands hold our todays and tomorrows. Don’t worry, live boldly, be who you are fearlessly, bloom brightly and fly freely. +You are God’s precious joy!+ Thanks be to God!

 

All In! Mark 12: 41-44 October 18, 2015 Pentecost 21B October 19, 2015

*With much love and gratitude to the people of Lord of the Hills, I preached this on my last Sunday serving as their bridge pastor.

diver

Many of us have the experience of learning to swim. At the beginning of classes we would slowly dip our toes in the water, then up to our waists, and then eventually go under water to learn to hold your breath. In order to learn to swim, you have to learn to go completely under water. The final test, of jumping off the diving board, is one that combines all of the skills and is supposed to increase your confidence of being able to jump in the deep end of the pool and swim to the side. I was not interested in that skill. . .I will confess to you that I took beginner lessons for 10 years and never really passed beginner level 1 as the last part of that test to jump off the low diving board and swim to the side was not for me. I do not like heights nor water and the two of those things combined led to a standoff between me and the instructor usually ending with me walking out to the edge of the diving board and standing there until they let me turn around and come down or the instructor threw me off the diving board. I was terrified of what would happen if I jumped in and couldn’t swim, couldn’t make it back to the edge of the pool. Once I was in the air, I knew I didn’t have complete control of the situation. It was better, it seemed to not jump at all than to risk, what appeared to me, to be certain death.

When I lived on Guam as a child, going to the pool was a nearly daily occurrence. All of my friends would be down in the deep end of the pool jumping off of the diving board, except me. One day, I decided that I would try. I gathered up all of my courage and jumped. I didn’t die. I didn’t drown. My 10 years of swim lessons kicked in and I swam to the side of the pool without drama or incident. I even found that it was a little fun…once I had decided to go all in, I saw what I had been missing. I had been missing the opportunity to truly interact with my friends, know my own limits, my courage and what I can actually do. I learned to trust those things and to trust that the people around me wouldn’t let me drown should something go wrong. It wasn’t fool hardy or death defying but simply a willingness to jump into something greater than all of my fears.

This little lesson has stayed with me in large and small ways. I don’t know about you, but it seems that things go better when I am “all in.” When we only tentatively step out, or just stick a big toe in to test the water, we don’t really see the whole picture and we don’t truly benefit from the experience, positive or negative. Being “all in” is scary, it’s risky but we know that there are situations that call for being “all in.” When we are in a committed relationship such as a marriage, or parenting we have to be “all in.” Or for when we’re in school, when we put our whole selves into learning or a project we are able to accomplish so much more. But we know that we risk so much more as well. If we’re “all in” in a relationship and someone else is not, we get hurt. If we are “all in” on a project and it doesn’t work out as we planned, we risk failing, and we risk losing control.

But there is also a gift and peace to being “all in.” When we are focused on being “all in” the risks seem worth it: love is always worth it, doing the ethical action is always worth it, truth is always worth it, trust is always worth it.

Jesus sat in the temple watching people offer their contributions. Now, many were contributing and that was great. But Jesus points out that many were contributing what made them comfortable and what allowed them to stay in control. Then comes the widow; what she offered was a pittance, nothing, barely noticeable or worth it in some ways. But it was all she had; she was “all in.” You see this little bit of money was her security, her control, her comfort. Yet, she recognized, not really. The amount she had wouldn’t even last her a day. Tomorrow was already risky and uncertain. This woman had the courage to recognize that she didn’t have control anyway, she didn’t have any promises of food, shelter or comfort (let alone luxuries) for tomorrow and that really none of us do. She recognized that putting everything she had in to the collection had nothing to do with money but everything about her relationship with God and the community in which she lived.

By giving all she had, she was trusting in the One who promised to give her everything she needed: love, belonging, caring community, forgiveness and life forever. This unnamed widow knew that God had already gone “all in” with her and all of God’s people, for God withholds nothing. Jesus is pointing out to the disciples that by his very presence among them, God says a big “yes, I’m all in” to humanity and creation. Lyssa, Cobi, and Sara, will say to God, today “I’m all in.” They will affirm the promises made for them at their baptism by their parents, sponsors and the faith community; caring community who went “all in” with them at the beginning of their faith journey. They will recognize the promises of God in their lives that are true and forever. Lyssa, Cobi and Sara, living your lives “all in” for God and God’s people won’t always be easy, it won’t always be comfortable and it won’t always work out the way you might think. But I can promise you that it will always be worth it. It’s always worth it because God is “all in” with you. Never forget that God loves you always, is with you always and promises that always is what you have in the life of God.

I have been blessed and I am grateful for my almost five months serving here with you at LOTH. Thank you for your warmth, thank you for your encouragement and thank you for your love and witness of Christ in your lives and in this place. This congregation embodies what it is to be “all in” with God. Despite bumps in the road, sharp curves and unexpected twists, you all continue to recognize, like the widow, that God is “all in” in Lord of the Hills and that your only response to God’s promises is to also say in word, deed and thought “We’re all in with you, God.” It’s risky, it’s not comfortable, and you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  But God is here, God is with you, and God promises to care for your todays and your tomorrows. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we celebrate in the words of Holy Communion today that Torrin, Jack, Toryn, Josiah, Matt, Chloe, Brooke and Kate will participate in for the first time, in the bread and in the wine, we are reminded that being “all in” has a cost, it cost Jesus his life. It does cost us something as well to be “all in,” we have to die to our fear in order to fully live in God’s promises. But being “all in” also focuses us on trusting the love and presence of God and that God works all things for good. God works death into life, suffering into joy, sorrow into laughter, and anxiety into peace. Jesus’ resurrection is God’s “all in” for all people, in all times and in all places.

May God’s “all in” with you comfort you, bring you peace, love and joy now and forever,