A Lutheran Says What?

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

Stopped in Our Tracks Sermon on Mark 10: 46-52 October 26, 2021

This sermon was proclaimed in the community of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT on Oct. 24, 2021. It can be viewed on YouTube on our channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC. The texts were:
Jeremiah 31: 7-9
Psalm 126
Mark 10: 46-52

How many of you have your phone on you right now? To be honest, sometimes I do during worship and sometimes I don’t. I almost never leave the house without my phone and on the rare occasion that I do forget it, it’s very uncomfortable. I feel as if I’ve left a part of my body behind. And ironically, when my phone does ring, and it’s a number I don’t know, I rarely answer it. Or I get a lot of texts and DM’s and I might see them but if I don’t stop what I am doing and respond right away, I’ll forget. We can get overwhelmed with all the constant access from people that these alleged smartphones offer us. This connection can be helpful, necessary and healthy, and it can be a source of consternation, maybe even at the same time. Phones can cause us focus on distractions or distract us from what we should be focusing on for a quick peek at social media or YouTube video. And phones can remind us that stopping matters. A few years ago, at a conference for ELCA rostered leaders, we were encouraged to use our phones to set an alarm for every hour to stop and pray. I did it for a day and it was difficult as stopping whatever I was in the middle of to pray seemed in itself distracting. Except I was opened to how little I stop in a day for much of anything.

I’m not great at stopping, it’s not my comfort zone and I have to be intentional about stopping. Whether it’s stopping when a muscle or tendon hurts on a run, taking a zoom break, eating chips and salsa, or more seriously, stopping the relentless hamster wheel of tasks and meetings, filling my calendar with what one can argue are important activities, and don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind these things. But perhaps that’s the real challenge. I can justify not stopping because it is my job, my direction, MY priorities. Stopping for me feels like failure, inadequacy, or worse yet, laziness. If there’s any thing our society dislikes, it’s someone who is perceived to be lazy, not doing enough, not focused enough, not producing enough. I fall into the trap of justifying my nonstop, life at the speed of light as holy and righteous.

When we stop, what might happen? We might connect with another person or people, or even connect with ourselves, we will experience our surroundings, our lives differently. Stopping is reorienting ourselves where and who we really are. Stopping feels vulnerable because if we stop, people can catch up to us. In our gospel story this morning, Jesus, his entourage of disciples and the ubiquitous crowds, are heading to Jerusalem. Jesus is focused, he knows that he is on a collision course with the Roman Empire and the religious authorities. They go to Jericho, a city steeped in Israelite significance, and then, to quote Willy Nelson, they are “on the road again.” I imagine that Jesus isn’t in a hurry but is determined as he knows that a confrontation is coming and he just wants it over. He’s not even teaching at this point, they’re all just walking on the way to what is next.
But then someone calls Jesus’ name, and more than that, calls him by a royal title, Son of David, the one who came to redeem Israel. Jesus could have kept going, or even just walked over to the person calling him. But Jesus stops. He “stood still” the text says. I wondered why this man’s words, of all the words, stopped Jesus in his tracks. I can only speculate, and I know that I’m grateful for this detail and this stopping of Jesus for the man only known by his father’s name “Bartimaeus,” son of Timaeus.” B-a-r in Aramaic means son, much like b-i-n in Arabic or b-e-n in Hebrew means son. This son of Timaeus calls on the son of David, which isn’t quite right as Jesus was yes, in the lineage of David, but the Son of God. One son to another son asking for mercy. One son to another son who won’t be silenced by the crowds. Jesus stops and stops the crowds from silencing this son of Timaeus and turns the crowds into his accomplices and tells them to “call him here.” When the crowd is stopped from their silencing behavior, they have a change of heart, they see this man differently and tell this man, the one is on the edge of the road, on the edge of society, on the edge of life, to take heart for Jesus is calling you.
I can see in my mind’s eye, son of Timaeus shedding his cloak, his only worldly possession, jumping up to get to the Son of David as quickly as he can. And the two sons standing face to face. Now it might be obvious to you and me that the son of Timaeus would want his vision returned, but Jesus the Son of God, doesn’t assume that’s what this other son desires. Jesus knows that there are worse things than having physical blindness or any disability, as disabilities or abilities, don’t define people. God’s love does. What we can or can’t do isn’t who we are because that inevitably changes throughout life but our beloved-ness never changes. If this was truly only about physical sight, Jesus could have returned his sight from afar and kept moving. He’d done it before. But he remained stopped in that place and asked, “what do you want me to do for you?” When the disciples were asked this question, they wanted prestige and power, but the son of Timaeus? It turns out that regaining his sight IS what Bartimaeus wants; he wanted to stop being known as the “blind beggar,” and to stop being seen as lesser than other people. He didn’t want greatness only for oppression to stop for equality with other people to begin.
Jesus tells him that his faith, his running to Jesus without knowing what would happen next only that his old life could stop so that a new life could begin, is what made him well. “Well” in the Greek meaning whole. He was whole without or without his sight, his wholeness came in being willing to stop what he knew and to call out to Jesus. We then read that while Jesus told him to go, Bartimaeus followed Jesus on the way to Jerusalem, on the road to the Temple where Jesus would flip over the tables to stop the economic, social and religious oppression; Bartimaeus followed Jesus on the road to the cross.

There is so much in my life that I need to stop to truly follow Jesus. I need to stop frenetic activity that makes me feel important, I need to stop giving into distractions, I need to stop and see the people around me and what ask what they need stopped for abundant life. There is so much that must be stopped for our neighbors to have wellness and justice. As Church, we must stop acting like the crowds in Mark putting obstacles between people and Jesus, silencing voices that we deem uncomfortable or unworthy. We stop. We stand still and hear the cries from the edges and see who is unseen. We stop thinking that it’s too hard to redistribute wealth so that there are no longer economic divides. We stop worrying what the future holds for us. We stop holding on to old identities and ideologies. We stop pretending that our bodies will be able forever. We stop. We stop to hear Jesus calling to us. We stop and see Jesus in the people with whom we are face to face. We stop to boldly tell Jesus what we want: to be seen, to be loved, to be whole. We are stopped in our tracks by Jesus’ love and mercy. Jesus stops to hear you, to see you, to love you. We stop and follow. Amen.

 

What’s So Great About Great? Sermon on Mark 10 October 17, 2021

This sermon was proclaimed at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT on Oct. 17, 2021. It can be viewed on our YouTube Channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC. The texts were:
Isaiah 53: 4-12
Psalm 91: 9-16
Mark 10: 32-45

Young Friends Message: If you could be famous for one thing, what would you want it to be? Adults how about you? We all think about being famous don’t we? When I was a teenager, I dreamed of being a famous violinist or pop singer, either would have worked for me. I practiced and practiced and could envision it. People telling me how great a musician I am, applause, travel, glamour, great clothes, the whole bit! (I fully admit to loving clothes, although as I age, I now love comfortable clothing less than trendy.) Now, it turns out, my talent lagged my ambition. It’s a hard reality we all face at one point or another but if we’re honest we all think about being famous for SOMETHING. We all want that at least fifteen minutes of fame. I mean we think to be famous and known by everyone like Jeff Bezos, Beyonce, or Oprah or being  social media influencer or the most watched on TikTok is fabulous. Sometimes we know some famous people, and it’s fun to tell people. We think even knowing famous people makes us kinda famous. Famous adjacent. Famous people seem very separate from us as they live very differently than most of us. Famous people have money, freedom, glamour and they can go and do whatever they want, and they are smarter, kinder, and help more people than anyone else, and are the best human beings ever on the whole earth, right? No? Hmmmm….you mean famous people aren’t better than everyone else? But they’re FAMOUS? Isn’t that everything? You’re right and very astute! We know this isn’t true, but don’t we still want to be famous, to be set apart from other people, to be great? We do! We confuse being famous with having worth and being loved. We confuse ambition with purpose.
This confusion is baked into our social structure from education, to health, government/politics, economics and yes, dear friends, even into Church. Every institution has the goal of being the best, the greatest, famous. We are in a pipeline from birth that says greatness is ours to achieve, to earn, whether it’s great health, wealth or status. And I can get sucked in every time. Every. Time. Who doesn’t want to be great at something? I want to be the greatest pastor who ever pastored, give the greatest sermons every week, the greatest at pastoral care, the greatest and budgeting, community outreach, thousands of followers on social media who hang on my brilliant, witty repartee, all of it. I do have like 10 people who watch this YouTube-hi! Why are you laughing? Oh because I’m HUMAN? Yep, this line of thinking only sets me and you, up for another kind of great: great disappointment. I can convince myself that being the greatest pastor is altruistic, I want to be the greatest pastor for you, my beloved people, and I do, sincerely, AND I want the recognition. I need my ego fed, my self-esteem buoyed. It turns out I’m great all right, great at missing the point, great at deceiving myself, great at looking for the spotlight and not seeing who’s in the shadows. I’m great at having ambition but forgetting my purpose

James and John also wanted to be great. And before we make a self-righteous sandwich out of them, the other disciples wanted this too, they just didn’t ask first. They were only mad because they weren’t quicker. James and John confused being famous and ambition with their great purpose in the Kingdom of God really means. They had just heard for the third time Jesus tell them that he would be violently captured and killed by the worldly powers because of his message of radical social change of wealth redistribution, care for the vulnerable in society, such as women, children and the disabled, inclusion and as we’ll hear today, the end of hierarchies, humans having power and control over each other. Maybe the disciples thought that Jesus was exaggerating or being dramatic. Or maybe they believed him and thought that his martyrdom would bring them fame and ultimately power in the new world order. Regardless of their motivation, they asked Jesus the presumptuous question of being seated in places of ultimate honor-on his right and on his left. Now wanting to be near Jesus is a good thing, and we should all want to be near Jesus, to be Jesus adjacent.

Jesus pulls them aside and lays out the power structure of the world, where the people in authority who liked their power and control over people and will sacrifice the integrity, humanity, dignity and worth of other people to keep power. It’s a power structure that hasn’t changed in 2000 years. We like to think that our political system of today is great, that it’s so much more humane and advanced than ancient Rome. Again, it’s only great if you’re on top of the structure, which, to be honest, most of us here on this lawn and watching on YouTube are. We are indeed first, a first world country, and the exploitation of countries doesn’t make them second or not as great, it makes them greatly exploited.
But Jesus then says something that I can’t shake: “But it is not so among you.” It’s a statement of fact on our purpose. We, as disciples of Jesus, who follow Jesus to become more like Jesus to do what Jesus does, won’t exploit people, we won’t exert power over people, we’ll give up our ambition for the spotlight, worrying about being great, for our purpose to be near Jesus. Being near Jesus, Jesus adjacent, is to be near who’s in the shadows, who’s being exploited, who’s considered not great. When Jesus hangs on the cross, there is indeed someone on his right and on his left, bandits, which the Roman Empire defined as people who opposed Roman rule, like Jesus, who society felt they could torture and throw away. Being near Jesus, is to be near those who oppose the rule of this world and usher in the Kingdom of God where we proclaim that there is enough power, wealth, security to go around for all and if someone else has enough it doesn’t mean less for us. We give up being the greatest by the world’s standards and work to abolish the systems that lead to people having power over others. Jesus’ mention of slavery is tricky, it’s not an approval of systematically enslaving and owning people as property. Jesus is declaring that slavery has no place in human relationships, and in God’s economy, no person is bought or sold as property, no person should live in poverty, in economic servitude with unlivable wages, and unrealistic expenses. No life, no voice is more or less valuable than any other.  It’s never God’s will for some to have it all and others to be exploited. It’s not God’s will for any person to suffer and some people to have every creature comfort at the literal expense of other people. Jesus is clear that human suffering is caused by human sin, not God’s will. And Jesus’ death on the cross also isn’t God’s will, it’s God taking the reality of the violence, chaos and brokenness of this world and proclaiming that it doesn’t have to be this way, it won’t be this way among us. That isn’t our purpose.
Among us, we live out our purpose, to be near to Jesus, to be near the people farthest from the spotlight, farthest from worldly power, farthest from safety, farthest from our own comforts and ambitions. We are drawn near to God’s greatness to serve in God’s mission of reordering us and the world. God reorders our lives, our hearts for God’s kingdom to reign in all creation. God’s love reorders the world: having money, property, status, isn’t our purpose. Our purpose is to give away our lives for others to fully live out their purpose. And it’s hard and unpopular. In God’s economy poverty is ended and decriminalized, there is economic, racial, gender and climate justice. God’s purpose is to ensure that our purpose is reordered by God’s love and grace; our purpose is to live in this new order of God’s kingdom where we are close to Jesus, and close those whom Jesus loves. Our purpose is indeed great as God’s love is great. Amen.

 

Saved For What? October 11, 2021

This sermon was proclaimed at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT on October 10, 2021. It can be viewed on our YouTube Channel at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC. The texts were:
Amos 5: 6-7, 10-15
Psalm 90: 12-17
Mark 10: 17-31

Young Friends message: I love a good apple! This one is so pretty! I think I’ll save it forever. Is that a good idea? No? Why? Oh it will go bad! If I eat it now, it will be healthy for me won’t it? I can share it too and then we all get some of the nutrients from this apple. Yes, food in general doesn’t last forever and will go bad and then it’s no good to anyone. And when we share, it allows the food to nourish more people. Our bible story today is about saving. Now saving can sometimes be wise, but often we save more than we need and save what we don’t need. Jesus tells a person with a lot of things to get rid of all his stuff to follow Jesus, quite saving things you don’t need but other people do. And then Jesus talks about how with God all things are possible. In other words, we don’t have to worry about if God loves us and will keep us forever, because Jesus says that’s already done and everyone is loved and accepted no matter how much money they have, what kind of house they  have, what kind of job they have, none of that matters as God sees only that God loves us. We’re going to talk a little more about how God saves us and cares for us.

What does it mean to save something? Why do we save objects or money? Yes, we save items and money because we might need it later. We store them up like squirrels with nuts for winter. What happens when you don’t need it later, what do you with those saved items or money? Trickier isn’t it? When we save, we’re often afraid to use it aren’t we? A savings account for a “rainy day” or that precious, precious toilet paper we all have saved in our homes, you know you do! Saving seems prudent, rational, and even necessary. This week the media has highlighted how supply chains are fragile and many people can’t get some basic goods, such as canned goods, and even diapers. This is one reason why the diaper drive for CrossRoads Urban Center is so important right now. We ‘re being told to save harder to get items and be cautious about what we actually need as it’s uncertain what will be available in the future.
The concept of saving has a long emotional, psychological, and yes, religious history in the US. Saving is seen as virtuous, people who can take care of themselves are lifted up in our culture as noble, ethical, and righteous. We hold the “self-made person,” well let’s be honest the phrase is “self-made man” as the standard to which we all must adhere. If you don’t have enough saved to care for yourself, for whatever reason, even reasons beyond your control, then obviously, you’re not as smart, capable and or principled. This idea of “saving” is the basis of the Protestant work ethic that infests the white culture of the US. And this Protestant work ethic then wormed its way into the theology of many Protestant denominations and is at the root of the very problematic and misunderstood theology of salvation. Who is saved and who isn’t saved. It’s essentially trying to save up for an uncertain future, what happens when we die?

It’s at the heart of all our texts this morning. While the Protestant work ethic is distinctly American, the idea of people who are the “Haves” in society as inherently worth more than the “Have Nots,” is as ancient as the texts of Amos this morning. The idea of scarcity, that there is not enough to go around so I’d better save and keep things to myself for the future, was as rampant in ancient times as it is today. Humanity doesn’t change all that much I’m afraid. We want to have enough saved for the future so that we can take care of ourselves, and we want to take care of our own salvation too. The young man who ran up to Jesus, was obviously seeking something he didn’t have. He knew that he had saved enough material items and presumably money for the future and he didn’t need Jesus for that. Yet, he felt that his future was still uncertain. AND I bet that young man, like us, knew exactly what was missing but was hoping against hope that he wasn’t correct. You see, this young man knew that Torah, he knew the teachings, and he knew enough about Jesus to seek him out. Jesus only confirmed what he already knew, which I think is why he was shocked and grieved. He was right. The young man was right that he wasn’t contributing to justice and righteousness in his community by holding on to his possessions and money. He knew that living only for himself was not what God desired. He knew that he was no better than the people who worked for him, who had far less and lived day to day wondering where they would get food, shelter, or safety. He knew it. And we do too. We know that poverty or need isn’t a sign of character deficiency or lack of work ethic. Often the hardest jobs in our society pay the least. The world celebrates people who can manipulate and exploit other people for their own savings. If a person had 100 cats, or umbrellas or rolls of toilet paper, we shame them, say they have a mental illness and call them a hoarder, but a person who has a 100 billion dollars, we reward and put them on the cover of a magazine. When in reality the billionaire is also afflicted by the same disease.
We misunderstand the concepts of saving, to save and to be saved. An additional definition of “save” that we need to talk about is this: to keep safe or to rescue. The focus of this definition is about relationship. It’s about what it means to live in community, to shed the harmful notions of individualism and self-importance. This is the definition that Jesus gives the disciples when they ask “who then can be saved?” You see, we can’t save enough objects, money, or status to keep ourselves safe or to rescue ourselves. We can’t save ourselves from the randomness of the world. We can’t control if we’ll get sick, if our house will burn down, if we lose our jobs, our families, or are in a car accident. The big lie we tell ourselves if that if those things don’t happen it’s because we saved ourselves by our cleverness or aptitude. The young man with many possessions, was shocked and sad as he realized how little control he had. Jesus had shattered the illusion of his self-aggrandizement and told him that following him meant that he stopped worrying about saving and rescuing himself and focus on his community members who needed what he had been saving.
Salvation is about connectedness, wholeness and interdependency on God who does the rescuing, the saving. It’s not ourselves, not our works, not our cleverness. Entering God’s Kingdom means entering fully and wholly into community with our neighbors whom God also rescues. God sent Jesus to show us what salvation looks like. It’s looking on us all with deep love, and giving away everything, even his own life to connect us to God. Jesus saved nothing for himself to save us forever. And no one is beyond that loving gaze.
There is a theory that in chapter 15 of Mark, the young man who was traveling with Jesus and ended up running away naked when the authorities tried to arrest him, is this same young man from our story today. And he lost more than his shirt. He did give everything, down to his underwear, for Jesus. Because of Jesus’ loving gaze, he went from a saver of things to being saved for the work of the kingdom. God, through the love of Jesus, saves us so that we give this saving love to others. This saving love compels us to act to care for our neighbor. God’s beloved community is the saving force the world needs to bring wholeness, justice, and righteousness to creation. We are part of God’s saving movement. What do we have as a congregation, as an individual, that we are saving that maybe we should give away? We can save it and lose ourselves or give it away for God’s kingdom. We are saved, for God’s love saves us, bringing love, God’s saving force for us all, forever. For God all things are possible. Amen.

 

God’s Powerful Word October 8, 2021

This sermon was proclaimed in the community of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT on Oct. 3, 2021. It can be viewed on our YouTube channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC. The texts were:

Genesis 2: 18-24
Psalm 8
Mark 10: 2-16

Young Friends Message: How many of you know any words in another language? Yep, I know a little as well. I took French in high school and college, that’s actually the class where Mike and I met our sophomore year, and I can remember learning some words and phrases in French that when translated to English made no sense at all and were kinda funny to me when I was 15. Such as when we are walking in a mall or on a street with shops but not going in, we say that we are window shopping. In French, the words for that activity literally translate to “window licking.” Mike and I still use that from time to time. When we went to Paris and we didn’t see anyone licking windows, which is good as that’s gross. But if we took it literally and didn’t know the culture of France, we might think that people went around licking windows. Or that the word “gateau” in French is “cake” and in Spanish is “cat.” You don’t want to mix that up!
Something we forget when we read the Bible is that we are reading a translation. It wasn’t written in English originally but two ancient languages of Hebrew and Greek. So, we are careful when we read the Bible, particularly passages that seem hard to understand. The English words may not tell us exactly what’s going on, and then we misunderstand. Today we have two bible stories that are hard for us and have been used to make people feel bad about themselves, to make certain people seem less important or to imply that God doesn’t love them. If you learn nothing else from me, I want you to know that yes, that God sometimes says some hard things, but God only wants you to be healthy, safe, and loved. All the words, the words we don’t like, the words we don’t understand, the words that make us uncomfortable, are all words in the Bible are ones that we should hear as love you and for everyone. And sometimes it’s hard for us to remember that.  We’re going to talk a little bit more about that.

You might think it’s a cop out to take this angle of how we read the Bible with these two really hard passages from Genesis 2 and Mark 10 in our lectionary today. And maybe you’re correct, but what I couldn’t shake all week was how these two stories are ripped from their cultural, historical and textual (which means the placement in the Bible) contexts deeply matters in how we wrestle with them. It matters that what we understand that what we read in English, isn’t the same as in the Hebrew or the Greek. These words have power, because God’s word has power, and it matters how that power is wielded. You see, when we take passages such as the creation of humans, and one of Jesus’ teachings on divorce and use the question “what does it mean for me?” instead of “What does God intend?” we will always pervert it. The Genesis 2 passage has been used for centuries to exert power over women and to deny LBGTQIA+ folks relationships. But when we really dig into it, that’s not what God intended. Genesis 2 tells us how God uses God’s power to create what God desires, community and connection. God sees that the new human is lonely. Here’s where words matter: the Hebrew that is translated in English as man, isn’t “man” in the Hebrew. It’s ha’adamah, the earth, mud creature. No gender. In Jewish tradition this person is non-binary. And while in our English we use the word “adamah” as a proper name of Adam, in ancient Hebrew there are no capital letters. None. Not even for God, Yahweh, Elohim, El Shaddai nor the gender pronouns used for God. (Gender pronouns for God is another sermon.) Giving the first letter of certain nouns a capital letter is a western concept and one that is directly rooted in hierarchy and human power.

So, this mud creature is lonely, and the animals aren’t quite cutting it as friends. Our English alludes that it’s the mud creature who can’t find a suitable partner, but in the Hebrew, it alludes that it’s God who thinks the animals aren’t suitable. Ha’adamah might have been perfectly happy with a cat, but it’s God who decides to make another earth creature.  The English translation says God wanted to make “ha’adamah” a helper, but that’s problematic, as that word in Hebrew is “ezer”, and means divine helper and is only used in the rest of the Hebrew Bible to reference God. That doesn’t sound like a subordinate creature to me. God causes ha’adamah to fall asleep and takes a piece of them and creates another creature who is slightly different from the first creature because God loves diversity. The mud creature wakes up and see the other human and speaks words that were a Hebrew idiom or poetry for connection. “Flesh of my flesh” can mean “one who faces my face.” This new human pair are standing together, connected, both created by God, equal, not separate. There is not a command to be fruitful and multiply in this creation story as well. They are created to simply be together with each other and God. God’s power creates flourishing relationships and community. Yes, that gets disordered just a few verses later, but the rest of the Bible is God’s word to us that God is at work to bring us back to this face to face relationship with God and each other.
And we come to Mark 10 and this pernicious passage on divorce. This too been used and abused to wield power and shame, so let’s dive in. While ancient divorce mores are far different than ours today, a commonality is that divorce is hard, can cause economic hardships, often leaves women and children vulnerable and causes grief for all involved, even if it’s needed and the best answer. The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus and ask him if a man can divorce his wife and Jesus asks them what Moses says. Yes, Jesus knew Deut. 24:1, but he was curious how these learned leaders would respond. They quote the verse. Jesus doesn’t disagree with them and notes how humans are always looking to exert power over each other, even the people we’re supposed to love. And then Jesus flips the script on the pharisees, he recalls Genesis 2 and what God does, what God’s desires and what God’s power enacts: connected, beloved community. Jesus showed this power throughout in the previous nine chapters of Mark as well as, throughout all the gospels, but time and again, the disciples, the religious leaders, the Roman leaders keep getting stuck in their own power needs. This is evident when the disciples asked Jesus again, and Jesus levels the playing field and responds that anyone, male or female, who simply discards a relationship for a new one, causes hurt. What Jesus doesn’t do here, is condemn anyone. Jesus doesn’t use his power for condemnation only to reveal God’s love and mercy.
This is witnessed fully in the last verses seemingly unconnected to the divorce conversation, but they’re not. As we discussed last week, children were the most powerless and vulnerable in ancient society. Jesus welcomes these powerless and vulnerable little ones and says that this is what power in the kingdom of God looks like, it looks like not worrying about your power and coming to God. And then Jesus blesses them, by touching them and gathering them to himself and holding them. This is God’s power on full display.
These texts have power, not because they give us specific rules of what we are supposed to do, the Bible is not a rule book. The Bible has many stories of humanity’s broken relationships: marriages, families, friendships, and even Israel herself divorcing into two kingdoms. The Bible also has many stories of God’s power to create love, connection, of community authentic and healthy relationships. It’s stories of God’s presence and blessing amid heartbreak. Broken relationships are real, and God understands that they break for reasons that are valid and necessary for healing and wholeness to take place. God never wants us in relationships that keep us powerless. If you hear nothing else today, divorce is sometimes necessary and yes, can be a holy and good decision that God supports because God loves you, and the person you are divorcing. Not every relationship is for a lifetime and that’s part of the human paradox.
The Bible opens us to witness God’s power active today, as we are more divided and divorced from each other than ever. God gathers us and blesses us, all of us, people we like, people we don’t, and people who don’t like us. God’s word of love echoes from the past to now translated by God’s Holy Spirit. God created us, for God’s purposes of wholeness. God blesses us to bless others, to be part of God’s gathering and care for the vulnerable in our society and speak words of love and connection, not condemnation or separation. God’s word joins us together to be face to face, not separated, and that is a powerful blessing. Let’s turn to the person next you and offer this blessing: +God’s powerful word of love is for you+
Amen.