A Lutheran Says What?

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

All In! Mark 12: 41-44 October 18, 2015 Pentecost 21B October 19, 2015

*With much love and gratitude to the people of Lord of the Hills, I preached this on my last Sunday serving as their bridge pastor.

diver

Many of us have the experience of learning to swim. At the beginning of classes we would slowly dip our toes in the water, then up to our waists, and then eventually go under water to learn to hold your breath. In order to learn to swim, you have to learn to go completely under water. The final test, of jumping off the diving board, is one that combines all of the skills and is supposed to increase your confidence of being able to jump in the deep end of the pool and swim to the side. I was not interested in that skill. . .I will confess to you that I took beginner lessons for 10 years and never really passed beginner level 1 as the last part of that test to jump off the low diving board and swim to the side was not for me. I do not like heights nor water and the two of those things combined led to a standoff between me and the instructor usually ending with me walking out to the edge of the diving board and standing there until they let me turn around and come down or the instructor threw me off the diving board. I was terrified of what would happen if I jumped in and couldn’t swim, couldn’t make it back to the edge of the pool. Once I was in the air, I knew I didn’t have complete control of the situation. It was better, it seemed to not jump at all than to risk, what appeared to me, to be certain death.

When I lived on Guam as a child, going to the pool was a nearly daily occurrence. All of my friends would be down in the deep end of the pool jumping off of the diving board, except me. One day, I decided that I would try. I gathered up all of my courage and jumped. I didn’t die. I didn’t drown. My 10 years of swim lessons kicked in and I swam to the side of the pool without drama or incident. I even found that it was a little fun…once I had decided to go all in, I saw what I had been missing. I had been missing the opportunity to truly interact with my friends, know my own limits, my courage and what I can actually do. I learned to trust those things and to trust that the people around me wouldn’t let me drown should something go wrong. It wasn’t fool hardy or death defying but simply a willingness to jump into something greater than all of my fears.

This little lesson has stayed with me in large and small ways. I don’t know about you, but it seems that things go better when I am “all in.” When we only tentatively step out, or just stick a big toe in to test the water, we don’t really see the whole picture and we don’t truly benefit from the experience, positive or negative. Being “all in” is scary, it’s risky but we know that there are situations that call for being “all in.” When we are in a committed relationship such as a marriage, or parenting we have to be “all in.” Or for when we’re in school, when we put our whole selves into learning or a project we are able to accomplish so much more. But we know that we risk so much more as well. If we’re “all in” in a relationship and someone else is not, we get hurt. If we are “all in” on a project and it doesn’t work out as we planned, we risk failing, and we risk losing control.

But there is also a gift and peace to being “all in.” When we are focused on being “all in” the risks seem worth it: love is always worth it, doing the ethical action is always worth it, truth is always worth it, trust is always worth it.

Jesus sat in the temple watching people offer their contributions. Now, many were contributing and that was great. But Jesus points out that many were contributing what made them comfortable and what allowed them to stay in control. Then comes the widow; what she offered was a pittance, nothing, barely noticeable or worth it in some ways. But it was all she had; she was “all in.” You see this little bit of money was her security, her control, her comfort. Yet, she recognized, not really. The amount she had wouldn’t even last her a day. Tomorrow was already risky and uncertain. This woman had the courage to recognize that she didn’t have control anyway, she didn’t have any promises of food, shelter or comfort (let alone luxuries) for tomorrow and that really none of us do. She recognized that putting everything she had in to the collection had nothing to do with money but everything about her relationship with God and the community in which she lived.

By giving all she had, she was trusting in the One who promised to give her everything she needed: love, belonging, caring community, forgiveness and life forever. This unnamed widow knew that God had already gone “all in” with her and all of God’s people, for God withholds nothing. Jesus is pointing out to the disciples that by his very presence among them, God says a big “yes, I’m all in” to humanity and creation. Lyssa, Cobi, and Sara, will say to God, today “I’m all in.” They will affirm the promises made for them at their baptism by their parents, sponsors and the faith community; caring community who went “all in” with them at the beginning of their faith journey. They will recognize the promises of God in their lives that are true and forever. Lyssa, Cobi and Sara, living your lives “all in” for God and God’s people won’t always be easy, it won’t always be comfortable and it won’t always work out the way you might think. But I can promise you that it will always be worth it. It’s always worth it because God is “all in” with you. Never forget that God loves you always, is with you always and promises that always is what you have in the life of God.

I have been blessed and I am grateful for my almost five months serving here with you at LOTH. Thank you for your warmth, thank you for your encouragement and thank you for your love and witness of Christ in your lives and in this place. This congregation embodies what it is to be “all in” with God. Despite bumps in the road, sharp curves and unexpected twists, you all continue to recognize, like the widow, that God is “all in” in Lord of the Hills and that your only response to God’s promises is to also say in word, deed and thought “We’re all in with you, God.” It’s risky, it’s not comfortable, and you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  But God is here, God is with you, and God promises to care for your todays and your tomorrows. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we celebrate in the words of Holy Communion today that Torrin, Jack, Toryn, Josiah, Matt, Chloe, Brooke and Kate will participate in for the first time, in the bread and in the wine, we are reminded that being “all in” has a cost, it cost Jesus his life. It does cost us something as well to be “all in,” we have to die to our fear in order to fully live in God’s promises. But being “all in” also focuses us on trusting the love and presence of God and that God works all things for good. God works death into life, suffering into joy, sorrow into laughter, and anxiety into peace. Jesus’ resurrection is God’s “all in” for all people, in all times and in all places.

May God’s “all in” with you comfort you, bring you peace, love and joy now and forever,

 

 

 

The devil is in the details? November 21, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — bweier001 @ 5:38 am
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So I will admit that here on day 20 into “nablopomo” I am starting to run out of stuff to say. Let’s suffice it to say that I am now officially reaching and considering getting “guest bloggers” here at the end. 🙂 Which I am sure would GREATLY increase the interest in this blog (thank you both readers-mom and dad!).
So I did go trolling with friends for ideas and this is what I came up with: Why do we let ourselves get caught up in inconsequential crap in our lives. You know the details such as what to write for a silly blog post? Just sayin’ and calling myself out immediately.
Now, full disclosure, I am a detail person. Just ask the people who have the misfortune to work with me in anyway. Given a task or an idea, I will immediately start thinking about every little detail to the point of distraction and almost losing sight of why I am actually thinking about the details. I can lose the big picture fairly quickly.
But I also think that there is some comfort in worrying about the details. Thinking about what colors to use in a project or what font for a lesson plan is easier and controllable. I can decide what color of paint to buy for a reflection station for worship but I can’t control if people connect with the larger idea, the community gathered for worship, or God who loves them deeply. When I plan out confirmation curriculum, my overall motivation is for youth to think deeply about the connection of God and community in their daily life but I can get caught up in worrying if I remember to get every material that I think will make that happen. In reality, it makes me wonder if I think I can somehow control the movement and work of the Holy Spirit. That’s fairly arrogant when you stop and think about it.
But there is another side, I think. It’s the human need for stability, control and predictability. Now we all need varying degrees of these things and they are not bad, but it’s frankly not realistic in the chaotic and broken world in which we live. But many of us (myself included) think that we can actually control our environment. We get stuck in details that we can control because it keeps us from the realization that there is a whole realm that we can’t. We can’t control the natural disasters that hit indiscriminately, the financial ups and downs of a global market, the future of our relationships with spouses or significant others (or our children), our health as we age, or the myriad of other big issues that overwhelm us and boggle our minds. We don’t like the unknown and it fills us with fear and deep uncertainty.
So we fill our lives with what we can control and often that is tangible, material things. This need for stability also drives our consumer culture. If we have enough stuff or resources we can mitigate any future challenges or so we believe. I think this is what fuels people who are workaholics-if they work hard enough then they can have some control over their future. We will fall for every vice if we think it will give us some semblance of control.
But here is reality-we aren’t, and were never, in control. God is, and I don’t mean that in a trite or “God has a purpose for everything” sort of way. God is in the chaos-more than that, we know from Genesis 1 and God hovered over the chaos and made something dynamic, living, giving and good out of it. Chaos is not our human “go to” and yet it is where God is at work and present. My struggle everyday is how to live in the knowledge of God’s presence in what I can’t control and to open myself up to what God might be creating where I see only chaos. I have to remind myself that God sees and has a bigger picture than I do. God sees what is truly important when I can’t. For this I am grateful and hopeful that someday I will really believe this and let go of details.