A Lutheran Says What?

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

Renewed by Faith Sermon on Luke 17: 5-10 Pentecost 17 Year C October 6, 2019

This sermon was preached at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church on Oct. 6, 2019 in Holladay, Utah.

The texts were:
Psalm 37:1-9
2 Timothy 1: 1-14
Luke 17: 5-10

 

Children’s sermon: Invite the children forward. Then invite an adult for each child to come forward as well. Ask the children: “Do you wonder what you will be like when you grow up? Yes, of course! Even as adults we wonder about our future! These adults here have a lot of experience in life. I’m going to ask them to take turns and share with you one thing that they want you to know about God in your life as you grow up and what they see in you that is special and will serve God when you’re older.” Ask the children “is that what you see for yourself? Yes? No? It’s so good to hear what other people see about us that is special! It can give us a bigger vision of ourselves and what we can do!  You do your normal every day stuff: eating food, going to school, soccer, ballet, piano, cleaning your room, coming to SS and church-kinda all ordinary not exciting things but those things are part of who you are and yet they are special too, because it’s how you serve and love Jesus.
The disciples were struggling with the feeling that they felt too ordinary for the work Jesus was asking them to do. The asked Jesus to give them more faith so that they can be amazing-but Jesus said, you don’t need more of anything- you have all that you need to do big things! Faith isn’t about size, or what we know, Jesus says faith is about God’s presence in your life, how God sees you, and God’s power. Jesus tells the disciples that with God’s power, maybe you can move a tree to be planted into the ocean! That might seem silly, but Jesus says, don’t limit yourself because you think that you’re a kid, or ordinary and plain-because God’s vision of what you can do with God is limitless and it renews us each day.  Dream big about what God can do in your life! Jesus understands that we can’t always dream big-sometimes our imaginations are tired. And so that is why we gather together-we pass on the faith-God’s vision of what God can do in our lives and in the world-to each other! And that doesn’t have to be fancy, just reading the bible, talking, praying, helping other people, those ordinary things, help us to keep dreaming big together-to see what God is doing in the world and how we can do those things with God. I want you on this paper to write/draw what you want to do with God this week to share God’s love. Put it on our cross at the back.  Let’s pray:

It’s easy to feel that we aren’t enough. It can seem in life that we are always waiting for when we have enough of something: whether it’s enough money to retire, or enough courage to make a career or life change, or enough time to go on that vacation, as human beings we seem wired to notice what we don’t have rather than taking stock of what we do have. For humans, everything can be a commodity, measured and weighed, right? And then when we see exactly how much we have of something, we can assess whether we need more or not. And the funny thing is, how many of us have over looked at our bank accounts, our calendars, our courage and said-“oh this much is perfect! It will do nicely.” I know that I never have. We tend to live in the perspective of scarcity. And when we measure ourselves against others or some unattainable standard, it exhausts us, discourages us, and we can feel worthless regardless of what we do really have.

Faith has become of victim of this kind of thinking in our 21st century lives. When I think about my faith, I immediately do an inventory of all the people whom I think have more faith than I do. And the list is long. But when I talk to those people, I discover that they don’t think they have any more faith than anyone else, and often they feel that they have less. And so, we all set about trying to figure out how to get more faith. We think that to increase faith, we have to do extraordinary things and be extraordinary people-you know be like Mother Theresa, Martin Luther, or St. Francis of Assisi. To have more faith, we must never doubt, never question, and lead an exemplary life. And in our American culture, we connect faith with receiving blessings, and we buy the lie that if we have enough faith, live faithful and faith-filled lives, that God will give us things-material things-as a sign of our faithfulness. This is called the prosperity gospel-that if you live faithfully, God will bless you with wealth. This is dangerous and false. Jesus never says this, in fact, Jesus says that we will suffer for the gospel-and Paul reiterates this in our 2 Timothy reading today. So what is faith? And how does it function in our lives?

The disciples were struggling with this too, it seems. In the verses before our gospel text started, Jesus had been teaching them to not be an obstacle for others, and forgiving someone over and over. All of this must have stressed them out because our passage opens with the disciples pleading to Jesus “increase our faith!” We can’t possibly do all those things! We’re too human, we lack so much! Give us more faith so that we have enough! Jesus’ response indicates that the disciples have not understood. Faith, Jesus says, is not a worldly good that you can have more or less of, you can’t get more, manufacture more, nor can you lose it. Faith isn’t up to you, it’s up to God. Faith is a gift from God freely given to you and to all. Faith is God’s vision of you, for you, your life and for the world. Faith is being connected to God’s presence and power in your everyday life, even if you can’t see, feel, or hear God. Faith also isn’t an inoculation against hardships. We will all encounter hard things of one kind or another, and faith reminds us of God’s presence in the midst of things we can’t understand, and vision beyond what we can see in the here and now. God’s gift of faith expands our imagination of what we, our ordinary selves, in our ordinary days can do with God. God’s gift of faith pulls us into community with God and others.

Jesus adds on to this explanation of faith that expands our vision, with the story of the master and the slaves. This story makes us uncomfortable, as slavery is a hard part of our country’s history and we know still goes on today with people who are caught in human trafficking. Jesus doesn’t shy away from this hard reality but names it and turns it on its head. The human master uses power over people for his/her own benefit, exerting their power for themselves and this is always harmful. Jesus moves us from seeing ourselves as the master to the slave as a reminder that Jesus came to serve, to be the master that uses power for other people, for healing and for us and we are to do the same. Faith from God is God sharing power, vision, and love with us. Faith is living your day to day life naming reality, even hard things, in the presence of God who proclaims you beloved and enough, and who has the power and love to transform all that we do into more than enough, expanding God’s kingdom in the world in ways that we can’t always imagine. Faith is sharing that transformation.

God gives us faith to see what others struggle to see: how the world in God’s vision can be and how we are enough to be a part of it. Each day God’s presence renews us and our faith to reveal God’s kingdom in everything we do. Things that we might think are ordinary or not worth much in worldly standards. But faith tells us we do have everything we need for ministry and mission each day here at Our Saviour’s. Can we see God’s vision for OSLC in the next ten years? What does it look like? We’re looking with God’s vision into the future and we see greater connections with our neighborhood through Scouting, a playground for all who come to our property for any reason, ensuring our building is usable for whatever ministry God invites us into in the future, engaging and meaningful worship that proclaims all people have worth, will feel safe with healthy boundaries,  will be affirmed in their gifts and faith will be passed from one to another. We can look with God’s vision where God is calling us to be people of reconciliation and healing for those who are on the margins of our society. We can look with faith for what new thing God is doing in our midst and step toward it.

Renewal is all around us-for God is already at work.  We are gifted by God with faith to be connected to God and God’s people. We live in the promise of all being beloved and having worth. We do only what we know we ought to do: use our ordinary actions as part of God’s extraordinary work in the world. We are indeed renewed by faith.  Thanks be to God.

Prayer Station: You can take a post it note and share how you can participate in God’s vision for OSLC in the coming year and place it on our cross on the back window.

 

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.

 

Shopping and the kingdom of God November 27, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — bweier001 @ 4:24 am
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We’ve all seen the Facebook articles or news sound bites, “Stores are open on Thanksgiving-will you boycott?” Or “These stores will not be open on Thanksgiving to allow their families to be together.” We all then think: ‘Oh those evil corporations making people work on Thanksgiving,” or “Good for those other businesses who have the correct morals and values.” But then comes the dissenting point of view: what about those who won’t get paid for missing work on Thursday? If you are an hourly employee (as are most retail workers), then a day off equals no pay. Happy Thanksgiving?
As usual, the issue of stores being open or not on Thanksgiving is not black or white, right or wrong. Shocking. We have a consumer culture; we want what we want, when we want it-which is now and for a good price. I am not necessarily critiquing that fact. I am as guilty of that as the next person. I am aware of the complexity of all of this. Our global market makes this all the more overwhelming. Do we buy what we can afford even if the company doesn’t have the most ethical worker practices or do we spend three or four times as much for the same item? For some in our society the latter is not even an option. Do we condemn them as unethical? Do we assume that their morals are not as high as our own? We might, but I would suggest removing the log out of our own eye before removing the sliver from our neighbor’s eye.
I think that the problem is bigger than a store being open on Thanksgiving or not. It’s bigger than Black Friday deals and “door buster” sales. In our rock throwing at corporations and malls, we are avoiding what is really going on: we continue as humans to try and fill our emptiness, uncertainty, self doubt and insecurity with stuff. Again, not pointing the finger at anyone but myself. The stores would not be open or even thinking about being open if they thought that no one would come. But we will come, even if we don’t on Thanksgiving or Black Friday out of a false sense of self righteousness. It’s not like I am not buying Christmas gifts. I am as sucked into the cultural misnomer of what Christmas should actually be as the next person. As much as I would like not to be and in some ways eschew the societal norm of a consumerist Christmas, I am as part of the problem as much as Macy’s, Kohl’s or any of the other department stores.
What will it take for us to be filled by global hunger, poverty and illness being eliminated? What would the world look like if we all operated from a theology of abundance (enough of everything: food, housing, clothing, love, grace and mercy) instead of scarcity? What would the world look like if we all truly believed that our worth was simply as children of God? What would the world look like if we all trusted one another to care and love each other as Christ has first loved us? Is this the kingdom come of God in the world? How are we participating in God’s mission of all of the above in the world? How are we participating in God’s reconciliation of all of creation which is why God became incarnate? I think these are the questions and blog posts that we should be discussing. For the record, I will not be shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. I will probably just wait for cyber Monday, I need something to do after staff meeting.

 

My problem with Costco November 9, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — bweier001 @ 1:33 am
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Now before I start getting hate mail, let me clarify-I love Costco. I love that they have ethical employee policies, that their CEO is content with a “normal” wage (still more than most people will ever see but it’s not excessive), that now I can get gluten free items, and that their self-brand is named for the town I was born in (Kirkland, WA). But here is the problem that Costco triggers for me-a case of the “what ifs.” Let me explain.
The first time I went into any sort of warehouse store was in Portland, OR in 2000. We had just moved to Oregon and one of the “benefits” of my husband’s new IT job was a membership to Costco. Many people had told me how amazing and awesome Costco was so I thought I would give it a go. I loaded up my two babies (3 and 1) and off we went. The first thing I loved as a young mom was a cart with double child seats. Marvelous! So I started my trek. Carter’s brand clothing for the children at a discount price-yay! Diapers and wipes cheap-double yay! But then it happened…I went down the paper products aisle. I froze and simply stared at the shoulder high stacks of paper towels, napkins and-oh be still my beating heart-toilet paper. Yes, an odd reaction to toilet paper I am aware. But again, hang in and let me further explain.
I am an Air Force brat. My dad served 26 years as an officer and we moved frequently. One of those moves was to the island of Guam, where we lived for two years. Guam as a kid was awesome: out of school everyday by 1 p.m., hanging out on a beach about 4 days a week, roller skating in shorts on Christmas Day, trees to climb, bats to annoy, palm fronds to learn to weave, plumeria flowers to make into leis and a myriad of other activities unique to living on an island. But there were some quirks about being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Such as no department stores, not many restaurants and your grocery items arriving by boat or plane on a schedule. What that meant is that you were only allowed a certain amount of food and other products such as…yes, toilet paper. Basically, we were rationed. My mother figured out exactly how much we could eat each day (don’t get too concerned-we never starved and I was largely unaware of food rations, until we didn’t follow my mom’s plan and we ran out of something), how much soap, cleaning supplies to use and how many squares of toilet paper you could use at a time.
Now, often things were fine that this was not really a true hardship-just a reality. But my sister and I would get frequent reminders of when the next toilet paper shipment would come and so don’t use more than you need! Occasionally, a storm or some military issue would delay the arrival of grocery items and the rationing became “what if we don’t get supplies until next week.” When this happened sometimes the toilet paper issue would hit what my dad referred to as “critical mass.” Rations would get smaller and you hoped you didn’t get sick (that was a frequent problem for many on the island). Yikes!
Fast forward to my paralyzed amazement in the toilet paper aisle at Costco. Now I had seen large packages of toilet paper before and my husband is generally tolerant of my residual need to always have a stash of toilet paper, but this…this glorious place where toilet paper was plentiful and I could be nearly guaranteed of never needing to ration. I bought two cases.
Now, I am not a hoarder, so don’t think if you come to my house that my basement is a toilet paper warehouse (it is not) but there is this strong sense of security knowing that if something happened and I suddenly could not have access to a store, that I have a stockpile of toilet paper.
Today was my monthly trip to Costco-those two babies in the cart that first trip are now very hungry teenagers and so diapers and wipes have given way to pizzas, meat, bread, and other carbs of all kinds. Now I am sure you are curious-did I or didn’t I? You will be shocked to know that I am capable of growth and I convinced myself that I have plenty of toilet paper. For today. Costco opens at 10 a.m. tomorrow.