A Lutheran Says What?

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

Consider the Lilies? Yeah, THEY don’t have a mortgage… November 29, 2018

Filed under: sermon — bweier001 @ 11:47 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

This sermon was preached on Wednesday November 21 at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, CO and can be viewed at http://www.bethanylive.org.

 

The text is Matthew 6: 25-33

 

 

“Do not worry,” Jesus says. Yeah, right. I’m a worrier. I worry about everything: my kids and Mike, my job, how to keep everyone happy, should I buy only organic, do I use too much plastic, do I use too much water, retirement, how to stay healthy. Then there’s climate change, the melting polar ice caps, what will the penguins do. And the existential worries: am I a good person, what is my purpose and the classic, do I worry too much because worrying isn’t good for you and Jesus says to not do it…I might drive Mike crazy. But I don’t think I’m alone! The levels of anxiety in our culture and in the US have sky rocketed. Worry does have its uses: worry helps us to make good decisions, to not act impulsively or to plan for the future and not leave everything to chance.

Anxiety is big business in the US: Media and marketers know that we try and tackle these worries with the idea of certainty and trying to control as much of our world as we can. So, they hire celebrities to market products to us that will solve all of our problems and we can stop worrying about things. We can buy our way out of worry and uncertainty. Sounds pretty good to us all doesn’t it? And we’ve ALL fallen for it at one point or another. When we lived in OR, we were convinced by media that we needed a home alarm system, so we had one installed. In reality, it made me MORE nervous having it, using it, setting it, worrying if it would go off, so much so that we deactivated it just a few months later and we’ve never had one since. Owning a home alarm made me more worried about someone breaking in! I had never thought about it much until we put in the alarm and after we deactivated it, my worry went back to nothing. For one thing, we don’t own anything worth stealing so a burglar would quickly figure out that they were in the wrong house….

Worry and anxiety can be paralyzing as it often focuses on ourselves. Worry about our lives, our stuff and ourselves gives us blinders to what is really going on in the world. Worry can skew our perspectives as well as triggering our egocentric tendencies. Fear is the root of worry. How do we live without fear? Jesus is addressing this in our passage tonight. These words are towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus has laid out a litany of faith practices and faith challenges. The verse right before our scripture reading is the oft misrepresented “you cannot serve God and wealth.” Jesus is on a roll about what matters in your life and how we are to live. If you’re constantly in fear and worried about yourself and your stuff, what are you missing? Who are you missing?

We can wax poetic about how the birds and the lilies don’t worry and all is well, but let’s remember that birds don’t always have enough to eat and do die as do the lilies after a few days of no rain. Reality is that we may not always have enough: lay-offs, medical bills, health crisis, recessions, famines, fires, floods. Jesus isn’t saying that there aren’t real reasons to worry, Jesus is saying, will you live in fear or freedom? Who will you focus on in good times and in challenges? Yourself? Or God?

Jesus reminds us that God is at all times and in all places, focusing on you. God is the God of relationship. God is in relationship with the birds, the flowers and yes— you. Jesus knows that fear and worry are real and the fact that God is there in our worry, is also real. Jesus also knows that false gods are shouting at us that they can appease our worry with the latest technology, trend, fad, or object. Hearing God’s voice above the false gods voices of the culture has been humanity’s challenge for thousands of years. False gods tell us to afraid and to worry, to worry about me, myself and I. False gods feed us the lies that it’s all about us. False gods create a culture of fear that there won’t be enough, and so don’t share time, spaces or materials with people different from us.

But our God, the one true God that the writer of 1 Timothy proclaims, creates a culture of unity, wholeness and abundance. God cares for us, knows our needs and calls us to trust in Jesus over the background noise of fear, culture, celebrities, those who fancy themselves in worldly authority and power. Jesus calls us to lift our heads and hearts above our own worries and fears to see the needs of our neighbor and creation, Jesus calls us to see God’s abundance and not live out of a fear of scarcity, calls us to live in trust and to give thanks for the promise of God’s eternal presence with us. Not because then our lives will have certainty, no, we listen to this call to live with joy and freedom in the uncertainty.

Living in fear and worrying doesn’t add anything to our lives or the lives of our neighbors. We lose sight of the beauty of what is right in front of us: like this lily. This lily will die, but there will be more lilies, more life. There will be death, there will be hardship, but that is not the last word in God’s kingdom, there will be life. Life and life abundant is the promise over and over again. There is a lot that the world wants us to worry about. Jesus says, trust in God’s presence, love and care for you and all people in this life and forever. Consider the lilies and Thanksgiving to God, indeed.

 

 

 

I am grateful for friends, family and strangers November 29, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — bweier001 @ 5:51 am
Tags: , , , , ,

So, as I wind down this month of blogging, I have to admit my plan for today was to take the “easy way out” and write about what I am grateful for. And I do plan to talk about that but perhaps not in the way I had originally intended. As I blogged about yesterday, I am grateful for so much in my life and this gratitude is the basis for experiencing and knowing pure joy in our everyday lives. I could give the litany of what I am grateful for but I am going to narrow it to relationships past, present and future.

As I wrote about early in the month, my grandma died a month ago. When my family and my sisters family made our Thanksgiving plans in September, we had assumed grandma would be a part of our celebration. While she was not physically present today, she was most definitely present in other ways. My mom is still in the process of sorting through her things and she has found a refugee family from Africa to give her furniture, she found a single mom with two kids to give away food, and the rest has come back to her house. Today she brought out my grandma’s everyday jewelry for my sister, daughter and I to look at. Now my grandma had nothing of real value but she LOVED to wear dangle earrings and matching necklaces. She also had some beautiful scarves. My sister, daughter and I picked out a couple of things (the rest will be shipped to my aunt and her daughter) and told stories of grandma.

When we gathered around the table this year it was wonderful that my parents had both of their children as well as all of their living grandchildren present. The cousins got along (my children are a lot older so they just do whatever the little girls want) and had a great time drinking hot cocoa and eating pie. My daughter goes to college next year so who knows when all of the cousins will be together again?

The family gathering alone was great but I was also honored with several text messages, emails and Facebook messages from friends from the past, friends from my congregation and friends who are also colleagues of well wishes for this Thanksgiving day. I was struck by how many people I intersect with and how they each bring an important relationship into my life for different reasons. God has brought all of these people into my life and I am more than grateful, I am joyous over their presence. It also reminded me how if I sat and texted or emailed everyone in my life who brings me joy, it might take me more than a day! I have a friend who decided to pray through her list of Facebook friends this year. She would contact each person and ask how she could pray for them that day. When she contacted me, I was so moved and grateful for her prayers that day.

This leads me to ponder who I have yet to meet that will grace and bless my life? How can I be prepared for their presence and be prepared to be a blessing in their life as well? How does God open us up to the stranger for relationship? As a military brat, I have been the new girl more times than I can count and I am acutely aware of how hard it is to break into established groups even if you are invited in. Regardless of how well you get along, or how wanted you might be, just the fact that you are now there changes everything for those established relationships that were there before you. This is true even in places or systems that claim to be inviting or welcoming or whatever hospitable word you use, which in my experience would be church. We say we want new people and we welcome, call, send a letter, invite to a class or into a ministry and we may mean it when we invite, until they cause us to share our established friendships, or change how we move in our daily lives. Human nature causes us to not like to be uncomfortable or uncertain of our primary relationships and so when this happens our tendency is to pull in and draw tight boundaries to keep the newness and change at bay or in control.

We are all guilty of wanting status quo and opening ourselves up to a bit of chaos and change is daunting for even the most bold risk taker-especially when it comes to new relationships. So as we are grateful for the familiarity around our dinner tables today-and we should be!-how can we be grateful for new people yet to be met, for the changes they might bring, for the presence of God that they will be in our lives and for how they might change our lives and maybe God’s world.

 

Facebook, gratitude and joy November 28, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — bweier001 @ 5:31 am
Tags: , , , ,

I have to admit that I have kinda rolled my eyes all month at the 30 days of gratitude on Facebook for November. I know, I know, this makes me a bit unfeeling and callous. I don’t disagree. If you don’t know me well, let me clue you in here that I am not the most touchy feely person you will ever meet. It’s not that I am completely heartless but I am not given to spontaneous emotional outbursts and I am not by nature one to be overly affectionate. And as my best friend will tell you, I don’t cry in public. Ever. Period. And if I do you know it’s really bad. REALLY BAD.

Being thankful for the little and big things in your life is fine and a good thing. But one of the reasons I didn’t jump on that band wagon (and believe me it would have been easier than this whole blog post a day stuff), is that to me it can sound a little self righteous or smug. I didn’t want to be posting on how I am grateful for my smart children or great house or great job. I mean I have all those things, but do I need to put it on Facebook?

But then I also saw on Facebook today a saying, “The root of joy is gratitude.” It occurred to me how much I take for granted, little things and big things. What am I joyful about? Do I focus too much on what is not going well versus what is? Do I tell people how much I appreciate what they do? Do I offer grateful prayers for all that I have? Do I take for granted my creature comforts? On a day to day basis, I suspect so. Maybe the point of the 30 days of gratitude is to help us to keep perspective in our lives. I know that I can lose perspective pretty quickly. I can lose joy pretty quickly as well.

What is ironic is that there is so much that I am grateful for and so much that brings me pure and simple joy. (Emotional outburst alert!) My children, my husband, a sunrise, a sunset, seeing deer on my morning runs, meaningful work, supportive and loving friends, serving my community, neighbors and so much more! One of the aspects of life that I have actually been more aware of over the past few years is that of moments of pure joy in the midst of the ordinary, beauty in the everyday and the sense of God’s love that I believe undergirds all of humanity.

So maybe this gratitude thing is less about what we have and more about where we find our joy, beauty and love. Where is you joy? What brings you a sense of deep satisfaction makes your soul sing? What makes you notice God in your neighbor? These are things to truly be grateful for.

 

Shopping and the kingdom of God November 27, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — bweier001 @ 4:24 am
Tags: , , , , ,

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.