A Lutheran Says What?

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

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.

 

Service and getting a good night’s sleep November 16, 2013

First, I was deeply moved by all the response to yesterdays post. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts with me as well. So I think I will lighten it up today for a post. Plus, it’s one of those days that I honestly didn’t do, say or think about much worth blogging about. So here we are 15 days into national blog post month and I got nothin’.

It’s one of my day’s off as a pastor and typically on a Friday I do errands, housework, might take a nap, you know, important stuff. But today I needed to work on a volunteer part of my job for the Rocky Mountain Synod. For those of you not Lutheran: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is divided up into 65 Synods. A synod is determined by a certain number of churches in certain area. I think the magic number is 250 churches (but don’t quote me on that). But I can tell you that many synods have fewer than that number now. The Rocky Mountain Synod is geographically huge. It spans the five states of Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and the very western and southern edge of Texas-mostly just El Paso.

I volunteer with the synod in the area of faith formation and Christian education. One of the things I am currently working on is the RMS Middle School Youth Gathering that happens every January in Colorado Springs for approximately 800 12-14 year olds. It’s as awesome as it sounds! Seriously, it is a good time with great kids. One of the key components to the gathering is a day of service on the Saturday of the weekend. Well, little old me said she would take that on. Yep, really.

I have been working on it in spurts. Not procrastinating, but it doesn’t always get my top priority. We have a planning team meeting this Sunday and the list of things I need in place very soon has had me waking up at 3 in the morning in a cold sweat. Such as this morning. I like sleeping, so I decided today to plow through what needs to be done: a spread sheet with all the pieces filled in, emails sent as reminders and follow up with details, and a tally of how many service spots I have filled. Did I mention there will be about 800 youth? Well, let’s just say we are a tad short as of this morning. If 400 or so spots is a tad. I have called and emailed every agency I was given and I even managed to branch out a bit. It’s amazing how many non-profit organizations go out of business each year. I had email after email bounce back and number after number ring with the familiar three shrill beeps and the friendly female voice telling me that the number has been disconnected. Sigh. Don’t worry, it will all work out or I will be cleaning a park with 400 youth on a cold Saturday in January. Either way…

As daunting as this task is, I love the premise of it. Many youth gatherings tend to focus on the kids “having fun,” or can be viewed by parents as a child free weekend or a mini vacation for the youth. But this is so much more. The youth never complain about (or rarely) serving, helping and doing some hard work. They love it. They thrive on it. And they can’t wait to tell others about their experience. Last year on Saturday evening in the large group gathering the youth were offered a chance to tell others what they did and learned that day. We had kids lined up to speak in to the mic and tell this very large group about their learning.

Notice we don’t call it mission projects. We want to communicate very clearly that going out of your way to work a soup kitchen or a thrift store is not mission-it’s service. Mission is what God is already doing in the world and everyday we pray to use our whole lives, every bit of it, to participate in God’s mission. So mission is not ours-it’s God’s. My congregation calls the youth summer trips “learning trips” for this very reason. Inelegant? Maybe. But far more accurate.

We also emphasize for this day of service that there is not a hierarchy of “more meaningful” service. It’s ALL good. We even have some service opportunities at the hotel so that if a group can’t leave for some reason there is an accessible opportunity. You don’t have to look hard or far to find service to do. The hope is that the youth will understand that they are valuable in God’s world and capable of more than perhaps we adults give them credit for. Often, it is the adults that learn more than the youth.

As I contact these agencies and organizations I am reminded of all the opportunities right outside my door to serve God’s people and God’s world and how excited these young people will be to do so. So, I guess that’s not too shabby for a day off. But I think I will go to bed early tonight.