A Lutheran Says What?

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

Life Together in Focus Sermon on Luke 10: 38-42 July 22, 2019

This sermon was preached at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, Utah on July 21, 2019.

Children’s Sermon: Have a hoola hoop, gather the children forward and have the hoola hoop laying on the ground. “We are going to pick this hoola hoop up with each of us only using one finger. Ok here we go!” Let them work together and see if they can do it. Offer hints and help if necessary. Once they have it lifted to waist level have them stop and hold it. “You did it! Working together and focusing on the same task, made this possible. Now that you have it lifted- I’m going to ask you some questions: If you don’t like to hoola hoop, or don’t know how, let go and step back. Ok come back and hold the hoola hoop again. If you like to read instead of watch tv step back. Ok come back. If you like to play outdoors more than video games step back. If you like video games more than playing outdoors, step back. What happens when we lose someone from our hoola hoop? It drops. We need everyone to keep it up off the ground don’t we? And despite the differences we just talked about-we all liked to do different things-we worked together to get the hoola hoop lifted. Our bible story reminds me of this working together, how we live together, even though we are different people. Martha and Mary were sisters who liked different things. Mary wanted to sit and learn from Jesus to show her love for him and Martha wanted to make sure that everyone had enough food to show that she loved Jesus. They both loved Jesus and both had good gifts to share. But Martha on this day, wanted Mary to be just like her and help serve and cook. And she was mad about it. Has that ever happened to you? When you wanted someone to like the same things and do the same things as you, but they wouldn’t? Yep. It’s happened to me! Martha was so mad that she told Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Jesus knew that Martha loved him, and had many gifts as did Mary, but at this time was so worried about small details that didn’t matter, that she lost her focus on Jesus. Jesus reminds Martha that Mary is staying focused on what matters, Jesus, and so should she and so should we. Just like when we focused together to lift the hoola hoop, we can stay focused on Jesus by not worrying about who likes what, or is like us or different from us but how we work together to show Jesus’ love in the world. When we focus on Jesus, this is what we do. We focus on Jesus’ message of God’s love, grace and forgiveness for everyone. What helps you focus on Jesus? Prayer? Reading the bible? Helping people in need? This week say this blessing to one another in your house : +Jesus holds all people together in love+

A few years ago, I added yoga to my fitness routine mostly because as a distance runner, I needed something that would help me to stretch my tight hammies. And I need to work on balance. I have the grace and balance of a water buffalo, which is to say, none. I can trip and wipeout on a perfectly safe floor-and have! My mom recognized this in me at an early age and put me in every ballet class she could find but to no avail. I’m just not very coordinated. My mom used to say that I stood behind the door when God was passing out gracefulness. So, I took up yoga. What a train wreck I was at first. I would wobble and bobble, fall, look at certain poses and just laugh as there was no way that was ever going to happen. And I was certainly self-conscious. I would be trying to get into a pose and I would look up to see all the graceful people around me and inevitably, I would fall. The teacher would gently remind us all (probably mostly me) to find a focal spot and don’t look anywhere else to help you center. At first that didn’t even help me, as if I’m honest, I only focused on it for a bit and would become frustrated that I still wasn’t doing the pose like everyone else. The teacher would also say annoying things like “don’t compare yourself to others, this is your body, do what you can do and focus on that.” Sigh. You mean it’s not a competition to see who is the best at yoga? Mind. Blown. I kept going to yoga classes for some reason, even though I was uncomfortable, usually couldn’t wait for them to be over, and it only seemed to remind me of all my bodily weaknesses.

Then over time, something shifted. I started focusing on what I was doing and (mostly) quit looking around me at what other people were doing. When I did that, I could hold those uncomfortable and tricky balance poses. Now the second I looked over at the Gumby person on the mat next to me, I would fall. It’s all about focus, letting differences, competition, and worry, go. It’s about trusting in what God has given me, sinking into the promise that it’s enough, and that through Jesus, who I am is enough as are all the other people around me in that space. When I simultaneously focus and let go, not only in yoga class but in life and ministry, I can surrender to the flow of the Holy Spirit that surrounds me and us all that sweeps us up into what Jesus tells Martha is the only needed thing: Focusing on Jesus.

Focusing on Jesus seems so simple doesn’t it? We come to worship, we pray, we read the scriptures, the word of God, experience the Eucharist and then…we look up and get distracted and fall out of the balance of seeing people around us how Jesus sees them. We worry that not everyone looks like us, thinks like us, values the same activities that we value. We see other people’s differences as a problem or competition instead of a gift. We see change as threat and not as promise of a vibrant future. We see life together in a community as conflict and division and not beautiful diversity and unity.

The Martha and Mary story has been much maligned in interpretive history. It’s been touted as one sister is right and the other one is wrong, or as a model of discipleship for all women for some weird reason, or that Jesus is scolding Martha. But I would offer that those interpretations are not actually in the text. Jesus doesn’t tell Martha she is wrong in serving. After all, just a chapter before, Jesus sends the 70 out and tells them to rely on people like Martha for hospitality. And last week we heard Jesus say go and serve your fellow humans. No service isn’t the issue. Focus is. Where do you want to focus Martha? On other people? On details of lunch that don’t ultimately matter? On your anger and self-righteousness? Focus on me, Jesus says.

And what do we see when we focus on Jesus? We see what life together can look be. When we focus on Jesus, we begin to see people and creation through the eyes of Jesus, who sees us all as created in God’s image, as the beloved community. Not in sameness or homogeneity, but in a myriad of the diverse gifts needed to proclaim the kingdom of God in a world that is so set on the either/or of life instead of being open to a both/and mindset. Who’s in and who’s out, who’s like me, who’s different. When we focus on Jesus, we truly see each other and we see the truth of life together as the writer of Colossians stated in our reading this morning, verse 17 “[Jesus] himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Jesus holds all things-things we like and things we don’t like-together so that each day, we begin anew to let go of details, fears, worries, anxieties of changes, differences, what distracts us from loving our neighbor and proclaiming the good news of God’s love and grace. Jesus holds our tensions, holds the paradox and holds the mystery of life in the 21st century. Jesus holds our lives and holds us in life together, not for our own comforts and preferences, but so that as the people of God, our lives together through Christ make the word of God fully known to a world that is dying of division, anxiety and fear. Jesus holds us to each other and to God.

When we focus on Jesus, we witness the promise that began at creation: All creation in richness and diversity is good, humanity is very good and Jesus as Christ, the one who is, was and is still coming to us over and over for all time, holds us all together and hold us in the flow of the life  of the Holy Spirit and tethers us to the promises of God for abundant and eternal life, not someday but beginning today. So, we focus, we center our lives on the one needed thing for life together: Jesus. Amen.

 

What if there’s not enough Jesus for everyone? John 10:1-10, Easter 4 May 11, 2014 May 11, 2014

What are you afraid of in your life? Are you afraid of not having enough money next month? Not having enough time to get important things done? Are you just afraid of not being enough? Good enough, smart enough, relevant enough? We inhabit a culture that tells us daily that there is not enough to go around. Every piece of advertising on all of our media sources bombard us approximately 8-9 hours a day with the premise that we are lacking something. We need this wrinkle cream, we need this car, pair of shoes, this procedure, this piece of technology. We don’t have enough, or just need a little bit more, or scarier yet, we could run out of what we need or want.
And it’s not just in advertising. Watch the news and on a global level you can witness countries jockeying for resources-oil, water, weapons, and sadly even people. We see the mentality of “us versus them”. Either we have enough or we don’t. It’s enough to make you scared, scared for your family, scared for your future and your present. This fear seeps into our subconscious and invades every aspect of our lives together. We ask the question everyday as almost a reflex: “What about me?” This question has the potential to rule every decision we make and every relationship we have.
This fear and questioning invades our lives together as church, too. We ask when we come to worship or to a ministry meeting: “what about me?” Is this for me? Is it for adults only? Is it for youth and children only? Is it for the pastors (you know, the experts) only? If something is for me, then it must not be for someone else. Or conversely, if an activity, a song or a sermon is for someone else, then there must not be room for me. We tend to operate in what I call (maybe I heard it somewhere) a “theology of scarcity.” There is only so much to go around. Only so much love, only so much grace, only so much forgiveness, only so much community, and only so much Jesus. If we’re not careful, all of those things might get used up and then what?
This theology of scarcity is not new. This has been part of the human condition since the garden of Eden where the first two human beings decided that they needed to be sure to have their fair share of knowledge and power with God. But God doesn’t let us sit in this idea of scarcity. In the gospel of John, we read over and over how God creates “more than enough” out of not enough. God’s love for the world spills over and comes to dwell with us in the flesh, full of physical life in Jesus. Provided more wine at a wedding when only plain old water remained. Five loaves and two fish fed 5,000 people. Healing a man born blind so that he could belong again because there was room for one more in the community.
There is enough to go around. In these ten verses of John 10, Jesus attempts one more time after healing the man born in blindness to proclaim that all are cared for, no one is out, there is always room for one more in God’s heart, community and kingdom. Jesus uses terms like being the gate and being the shepherd. These are not meant to say that there is a narrow way and only some will make it. Those images are to say that Jesus will make a way for us. Jesus tells the disciples and us that he will call us over and over until we DO hear the voice of love, acceptance and inclusion. Jesus says it all in verse 10: “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Jesus uses the plural pronoun “they.” Not just some or you as an individual but “they”- the entire community- or as John 3:16 reminds us the whole broken world. And not just any old life as the world proclaims it of not enough or either/or thinking but abundant life. Abundance is overflowing, more than we know what to do with, enough for all, room for all. It’s the opposite of either/or it’s “and. ”
At synod assembly this weekend it was easy to see how there is room for more in our church and in our neighborhoods. We have mission starts all over the country and world that don’t take away from already existing ministries but expand the love of God to a new group of people. We have see partnerships between denominations that strengthen the ministries in both church bodies. This year our theme was Gifted to Grow and we celebrated all of the ways that we as the Rocky Mountain Synod grew in God’s love, in God’s mission and in relationship with one another. The theme for the coming year is Life Together. Together. Not as a homogeneous lump but together in diversity: latino communities, urban, suburban, rural, bi-lingual, established, developing, small, medium and large, and all of the ways that we are one body of Christ with many different gifts. It is marvelous to witness and humbling to know that we participate in these relationships in direct and indirect ways.
Here at LCM this summer we too are focusing on “together.” Growing in Faith Together will be a time between worship services-our two very diverse expressions of worship to our loving and unifying God-for us to think about living into a theology of abundance. There will be something for you-yes you. You who love Bible study, you who love to paint or draw, you who love to sit and discuss life with a dear friend over a cup of coffee, you who love hymns, you who love praise music, you who love to serve, you who love justice, you who are young, you who are….well not so young. We have this Holy Spirit filled moment this summer to explore what it means to live into this abundant life that Jesus offers unconditionally for all, including those brothers and sisters whom we have yet to meet and welcome into our midst.
I know that I can get sucked into the lie of scarcity that the world sells us at the speed of light. I know that I have to work to remember that the more room I make in my life for loving and serving my neighbor, the more God provides that space. I know that I can forget that God brings life from what looks like certain death and I know that I forget that the tomb is empty and so life is pregnant with possibility and hope. This is why we gather as the people of God to tell each other the story week after week. We tell the story of freedom from fear of scarcity in bread and wine and in belonging to a God who loves us unconditionally in water and word. We gather to be that memory of abundance of the love and mercy of God for one another- not just for one another for this neighborhood, for this city, for this state, for this world. We have a message for our neighborhood that is unique and can’t come from anywhere but God’s people: the good news that in Jesus we have abundant life here, now and always, God says we are enough as we are and that God gathers all of her children in love no matter what. Let’s claim and proclaim that message loud and clear.
We are people of abundance; people of the risen Christ; people of love; people of the kingdom and community of God. Even when we still wonder “Is there enough for me?” God answers with a loving “Yes!” There is enough life, abundant life, in Jesus Christ for you and for us all! Thanks be to the God of abundance. Amen.