A Lutheran Says What?

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

Planning on the Promise Sermon on Luke 12 August 11, 2019

This sermon was preached on August 11, 2019 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, Utah.

The texts were Psalm 33: 12-22, Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16 and Luke 12: 32-40.

 

 

 

Children’s sermon: School is starting soon and so are all of the activities at church…here is my planner where I try and keep it all straight, so that I have everything under control. I like to think that if I plan, then I won’t have to worry. But even planning makes me worried about everything going on! How do you get ready for things such as the first day of school? You set an alarm to remember to get up. Get dressed: Do you wear shorts in the winter or a heavy coat in August? No, you check the weather. You might take a shower, brush your teeth, pack a lunch maybe a snack, make sure you have your homework in you backpack…Why do you do all of those things? I mean you pack a lunch at 7 a.m. and lunch isn’t until much later…but you do these things because on some level you’re afraid of not having what you need for your day. If you didn’t you would get to lunch time and be hungry, or get to math class and not have your homework. This thing about my calendar and how we plan our day, is that it’s all about ourselves. We spent a lot of time last week getting ready for VBS, not because we were afraid of all you kids coming but because we were excited and wanted you and all the children to feel welcomed and loved! Our bible stories remind me today that being ready is important but I don’t have to be afraid or panic. Jesus tells us to not be afraid for God gives us God’s kingdom! What do you think is in God’s Kingdom? Well, God’s kingdom probably includes lots of things that I don’t understand about but here’s one thing that I do know is included in God’s kingdom: God’s promise to love us, to keep us together as a community, and that we are with God always-right here, right now and when we someday die. And God GIVES it to us-to all of us together! Do you know what a promise is? Yes, it’s a gift to do something. We can’t earn it or lose it! God gives the kingdom to us simply because we are loved. And so we live our lives being ready, not out of fear, not out of worry of what will happen next, but ready to receive all that God will give us and to share it! Let’s pray:

There seems that there is a lot to fear in our lives right now! Perhaps there always has been, but it seems in hyperdrive. Especially in the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton last weekend. We can be fearful about even going to the grocery store or other retailers to do back to school shopping knowing that spaces we once held as public, safe and communal now cause us to be on constant guard and vigilance. I was reading where some parents are buying their children bullet proof backpacks out of fear…that never would have occurred to me or been on my radar as a parent of young children or a teacher. And that’s not the only fear that seems prevalent: fear of the stock markets, trade wars and economy, which might lead of never being able to retire or maintain retirement (I’m personally not planning on being able to fully ever retire), fear of actual wars and rumors of wars, fear of the mass deportations that are occurring, fear of global warming and the effects on the environment and on our health as a people. And then you layer that with what I call fears that persist at an underlying hum in our lives: health, family, day to day finances, relationships, work, childcare and we spend much of our day to day lives mitigating or coping (in productive or unproductive ways)  those fears by financial planning or plain old calendar planning, following the stock markets daily, checking the weather, knowing the news, mapping out our children’s future, working out, dieting, organizing, and we fool ourselves into the illusion that that we can on our own know everything and be ready for any eventuality in our lives. But really all that happens is what psychologists call being in a state of hypervigilance, which is a leading cause of anxiety and depression, both conditions of which are skyrocketing in our society, particularly among our children. And this doesn’t only effect mental status but anxiety and depression have real physical symptoms as well. And it feels the more we try to plan and control, the more anxiety we can have.

And then we get a passage like this one in Luke. And in our current state of affairs, what do we hone in on in these nine verses? The being ready part! We bypass the first couple of verses and our hearts go straight to where our own treasured anxieties lead us: We must be ready! If we’re not something bad will happen! We must do all that WE can to be ready, it depends on us! If we don’t prepare-we have no one to blame but ourselves.

But that’s where we have to back that train up. Jesus says in this passage and so many times throughout the gospels “Do not be afraid.” Yeah, right, Jesus, easy to say in bucolic ancient Palestine when times were simpler…well, Jesus was on the way to the cross, the Empire and the religious authorities were after him. The people he was talking to were poor, oppressed, marginalized and lacked power over their own lives. They had much to fear. They never knew when a Roman solider would enter their home demanding money, food or to take them away to be conscripted. They never knew when disease would strike. They never knew if the food would hold out or where they could get what they needed to survive. Don’t be afraid? Fear was in the very air that they breathed.

What follows from Jesus is the heart of the gospel: “For it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” As I told the children, this is the promise. God loves us as a parent adores a child and gives us, no matter what, God’s kingdom. With this promise in mind we read the next verses on being ready. God’s promise permeates all that we think, say and do. Any planning that we do isn’t wrong or bad, and it’s also not a command that is up to us to follow. We plan out of faith, what we hope for in God’s kingdom, that the promises of God cling to us more tightly than fear clings to us. When we focus on God’s promises, this is where our heart will be and so our treasure.

When we plan and live out of this promise and faith that is part of God’s kingdom, we live differently than those around us. Living out of fear will always seek to divide, hoard, worry, terrorize and polarize us. Living out of faith and promise witnesses to sharing, including, welcoming, contentment and loving. God’s promise isn’t just to us as individuals, but to us as a whole people. How we are prepared to receive God’s kingdom is about how we live together. We live together from faith when we support Urban Crossroads, when we offer VBS to children as a place of hope and love. When we support Linus Project to offer hope to children with something as simple and meaningful as a blanket. When we for God’s Work, Our Hands, work at Family Promise. We live from faith of God’s promises, anytime we walk with people on the margins to make visible this assurance of hope. This week at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in WI-a memorial was passed that the ELCA would be a sanctuary denomination-which means essentially that we will walk in meaningful and purposeful ways with people in this country who are marginalized due to their immigration status. While some would worry this a partisan stance-it’s not. It’s a political stance-one the highlights God’s politic-God’s heart-that we all love and care for one another despite paperwork or human made borders. We forget that politics are not bad, as Jesus was highly political. The word politics comes from the Greek word “polis” which means “city” or “living together in a city.” God cares very much how we live together. When we follow God’s politics, God’s heart, we also care how we live together, our heart will be with whom we treasure, when we serve one another as Christ. This will make us, as the writer of Hebrews states, “strangers and foreigners on the earth.”

We will be very strange and foreign indeed, to live fully into the gospel of promise of being ready to receive God’s kingdom, not from fear but from hopeful anticipation. God calls us to live together and to be ready for God’s transforming presence in our lives-not by our own deed but by the work of the Holy Spirit. Hebrews also states, “God has prepared a city for them/for us.” God has already prepared what we need to live together in peace and we are ready to participate in God’s work of  God’s heart for the world, clinging to faith and not fear, hope and not despair, promise and not worry.

We cannot know the future, and fear will continue to swirl around us. But so do the promises of God, so do the words of Jesus, “do not be afraid little flock,” and so does the gift of faith from God who prepares our hearts, minds and souls with what we need to live together, to live into the promises and to receive the kingdom that is already here and is still being revealed. Amen.

 

Distractions, thank you notes and the one thing we actually need July 21, 2013

Filed under: sermon — bweier001 @ 6:33 pm
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Let me paint a picture for all of you of my last week. As you know I was away to Portland to run a half marathon and then on to Seattle to see my parents. I flew in late Monday night and needed to be early on Tuesday as I needed to connect with Pastor Rob before he left on vacation. So I had my head full of many details of church and home and on top of that I had scheduled for Tuesday a meeting with someone from the synod office for 11:30 which seemed like a good idea weeks ago but on Tuesday- not so much. I was on my way out to this meeting and I was running late, feeling like I didn’t really have enough time for this meeting and mentally going through all the things that I had to do for the week-including writing this sermon! I was busy, harried and focused on my own stuff. Then this caught my eye sitting on the table by the front door. Now being a former teacher anything with paint and glue immediately captures my attention. So I stopped for a closer look. I put down my purse and keys-even though I was running late- and really looked at these hand print flowers, the rainbow, the sun and the beautiful words of gratitude from the children of Brighter Future Learning Center. Then I took it to show Pastor Rob.
Now I don’t know if any of you have noticed but we have had some wonderfully meaningful, deep, thought provoking and Holy Spirit filled conversations here at LCM this summer about unity, worship, God’s mission and our participation in that mission. Many of those conversations have been fruitful, Christ centered and mission centered but some of them have been a bit distracted and busy with details. I am the first to admit that I easily get distracted by details and can lose the big picture. On Tuesday morning, Pastor Rob and I had just had a long staff meeting about many details here at LCM and my head was full from this conversation. Then I saw this poster. Just like that I was jolted into the central thing that we do here at LCM-love and serve God and the world. Our focus on this is crucial and while we don’t always get a tangible sign of that fact, on Tuesday we did.
Two weeks ago we opened our doors to this daycare not knowing if we had all the space or equipment that they would need. We didn’t have time for any real preparation and just had to go with the flow…… as did they. But we talked with them regularly, checking in and communicating with them, the Mad Science camp people who also use our space and the Green Mountain preschool director. We most certainly had some actions to take but we also had a lot of listening to do in order to be hospitable to all the people using the LCM building. We didn’t get hung up on the details but just moved forward knowing that the most important thing is that we provided care for these children and families in our community and communicated clearly that we are here for them.
The daycare didn’t care if we were the perfect space or not but were just glad that we were here and willing to help. LCM’s value to Brighter Future Learning Center families was not just in what we did, but simply in who we are in the Green Mountain community. And they are grateful for our presence and we are grateful for theirs. It’s been wonderful hearing children on the playground, getting to know the staff and parents and having the building not just full but full of life.
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing,” says Jesus in verses 41-42. Popular to contrary belief about this story of the two sisters, Jesus is not scolding Martha for her tasks, her focus on gracious hospitality or her attention to detail-this is all part and parcel of how God created Martha and is good. Jesus is not elevating Mary over Martha-no in the Good Samaritan story last week we hear Jesus say, “Go and do likewise.” Jesus is clear that perpetual belly button gazing isn’t ok either. But Jesus is concerned that in all of Martha’s busyness and frustration with what Mary is doing or not doing that Martha is losing sight of the big picture-her relationship with God and others.
It’s very easy to lose sight of our relationship with God in our lives. We are told by our culture that working hard at our jobs, having a nice house for entertaining, or money for good food, that these things give us value to others. What can we offer someone else that is good enough? We work so hard to keep up the house, for instance, for visitors-cleaning it, pulling weeds or mowing the yard that when we do see our neighbor we often only have time for a head nod and a quick hi! What if we stopped and really asked our neighbors how they are? One of the lessons we all learned in Chicago was the importance of stopping and talking to someone instead of rushing by them. To hear someone else’s story, to share your own experiences and to pray with them and declare that God is present is powerful, connects us to one another through Jesus Christ and pulls us out of our own lives to walk alongside another child of God. Many of these people we talked to in Chicago did not have a job or a place of their own to live-yet they have deep value as a human created by God.
Or how often do we even as a community of God ( and I am talking about all churches) get distracted by the details of keeping up a building, making sure that we have certain policies in place, what kind of worship to hold and when, what color the carpets should be, what snacks should be offered and by whom, and a myriad of other details that we think gives us value to others when they walk in the door and we begin to focus on that as the most important thing. Is everything just right so that people will think we are worth getting to know? Now please hear that thinking of all of these details is not a bad thing-for it most certainly is not!!! But all have the potential of distracting and pulling us away from the need of one thing-to love The Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself-to offer real and authentic relationship to whomever God sends to us and whomever God has us encounter in the community. To welcome each other and all people regardless of what they say and do.
Reminders to get past the tasks-even good, missional tasks such as all the ways we serve our community here at LCM—- and move to forming relationships can feel risky, insecure and vulnerable in comparison to just doing an activity with familiar people in a familiar way. Jesus calls us time and time again to move out of our comfort zone to walk with those we know and those we don’t.
Jesus understands that it is easy for us to get stuck in the details of life and forget the one thing we need-God who loves us for who we are and not for what we do. I can get caught up in the doing and I need to be reminded every day that I have value not for the things that I do or say but for being a child of God. God wants you to be reminded of this fact as well-you are valued and loved simply by being who God created you to be. Jesus died on the cross and was raised again not for what we might do or say but for who we already are—-God’s beloved children. I need to be reminded of this over and over again and to hear Jesus voice saying, “Brigette, Brigette, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.” Amen

Reflection stations-written prayers, font, card stock cross to write the things that distract you from God in your life to take home.