Pastor's Update

Pastor's Update 

June 28, 2020 - Pentecost 4
Gospel: Matthew 10:40-42
 
Let’s be honest – welcoming is difficult for most people. The history of America is we have in past centuries and continue to benefit from the variety of humans living here from around the world. But our history is also one of reluctance to accept immigrants; often out of fear or dislike of “those people” or …. Ben Franklin was worried that too many arriving Germans would lead America to adopt German rather than English. Protestants worried about and disliked the influx of Catholics. Irish, Japanese, Chinese … name a national group, name a religion, name a race … many in our country are fearful, uncertain, defensive and yes, racist toward immigrants.
 
And, for many, especially introverts, it is difficult to welcome a stranger and “make” conversation whether at a party or church. Of course, Jesus is talking about much more than saying “hi” to someone. To welcome, Jesus declares, is to care, share, reach out. 
 
Jesus said, “A cup of cold water given to a stranger in my name will not go unrewarded." (Matthew 10:42)
 
Writer of Hebrews wrote: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Jesus went further than the writer of Hebrews. He indicated that when we help the stranger, we are in fact ministering to him--Christ. (Matthew 25:40).
Giving & receiving go together.
Hear St. Paul’s words: “let us not grow weary in doing what is right … whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all…” 
“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” – Albert Schweitzer.
 
Someone notes: “happiness is a byproduct of living generously.”   Caring about others will have its reward boomerang to you. 
 
“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” – Booker Washington
There is a second part of happiness – givers need to also be receivers: "When a person doesn't have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude."-Elie Wiesel "Gratefulness is the key to a happy life, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy."   "Expressing gratitude is a natural state of being and reminds us that we are all connected." "Happiness is a spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude."
We all rely on our Lord to forgive our sins and to overshadow our actions.
We simply cannot justify the grace of God. We can only receive, growing smaller or larger by the way we do it.  
Gratitude –thank you Jesus.
Generous givers / gracious receivers. Making it possible for us to welcome strangers with care and love.


Pentecost 3      June 21, 2020
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 10:24-39
 
A story for Father’s Day …
A man was waiting to pick up a friend at the airport in Portland, Oregon when he noticed a man coming toward him. The man stopped nearby to greet his family.
First this father motioned to his youngest son (maybe six years old) as he laid down his bags. They gave each other a long, loving hug. As they separated enough to look in each other's face, the father said, "It's so good to see you, son. I missed you so much!"
His son smiled somewhat shyly, averted his eyes and replied softly, "Me, too, Dad!"
Then the man stood up, gazed in the eyes of his oldest son (maybe nine or ten) and while cupping his son's face in his hands said, "You're already quite the young man. I love you very much, Zach!" They too hugged a most loving, tender hug.
While this was happening, a baby girl (perhaps one or one-and-a-half) was squirming excitedly in her mother's arms, never once taking her little eyes off the wonderful sight of her returning father. The man said, "Hi, baby girl!" as he gently took the child from her mother. He quickly kissed her face all over and then held her close to his chest while rocking her from side to side. The little girl instantly relaxed and simply laid her head on his shoulder, motionless in pure contentment.
After several moments, he handed his daughter to his oldest son and declared, "I've saved the best for last!" and proceeded to give his wife a long and passionate kiss. He gazed into her eyes for several seconds and then silently mouthed. "I love you so much!" They stared at each other's eyes, beaming big smiles at one another, while holding both hands.
For an instant they looked like newlyweds, but by the age of their kids it was evident that they couldn't possibly be. The man standing nearby asked, "Wow! How long have you two been married?
"Been together fourteen years total, married twelve of those." the man replied, without breaking his gaze from his lovely wife's face.
"Well then, how long have you been away?" the stranger asked.
The man finally turned, still beaming his joyous smile. "Two whole days!"
Two days? The stranger was stunned. By the intensity of the greeting, he had assumed this father had been gone for at least several weeks, if not months.
The stranger added, "I hope my marriage is still that passionate after twelve years!"
The father surrounded by his family suddenly stopped smiling. He looked the other man straight in the eye, and with forcefulness said, "Don't hope, friend . . . decide!"
 
Earlier in Matthew we heard Jesus say: Matthew 6: 20-21 “…store up for yourselves treasures in heaven …For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters….” In other words – decide!
Today we hear strong words from Jesus calling his disciples and us to decide. Jesus tells us as followers not to fear someone who can “kill the body”. We should know as followers that Jesus comes not to bring peace or we should know our household can become a tense and an unfriendly place for us. Deciding for Jesus will not always be easy or comfortable. 
 
As we hear these very challenging words Jesus assures us that we “are of more value than many sparrows.”Yes, the grace and love of God are with us. Jesus shares caring, affirming words even as we are being challenged to be a follower. Even as we fall short of what Jesus calls us to do we hear that God loves us.
 
Right now we are grappling with a variety of social issues. Do you wear a mask or not? What does it say about you, if you do or don’t mask? What about the recent protests? Do we focus on the issues or the violence? Do black people have long standing concerns that white people have never addressed, never experienced, never understood how it feels to be black?
In today’s Gospel Jesus takes us out of our comfort zone -= completely. We are likely uncomfortable with everything going on around us. As we seek to be Christ-followers and attempt to respond properly to the social issues of our time we need to remind ourselves each day that we are called to express love. And that all of us are of more value than many sparrows! God’s grace extends to those we may be uncomfortable being “around.” God’s love is much “bigger” than we can imagine. 
 
"God so loved the world that He gave . . ." At the heart of Christian faith is compassion. How will they know we are Christians? By our love. Christians do not live by the law of the jungle but by the law of love. Love is more than emotion. Love is a decision!
 
Pentecost 2 – June 14, 2020
Gospel: Matthew 9:35-10:8 & Romans 5:1-8
 
“When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless….” This is a succinct description of the motivation behind all that is going to take place across the rest of the pages of Matthew’s story of Jesus’ ministry: When he saw the crowds, who were harassed and helpless, he had compassion for them.”
 
The power of this description is not just about the people in Jesus' day, but also about us. How many of us also feel “harassed and helpless”? The young parents who feel ill-equipped for raising their child. The persons unexpectedly in mid-life thrown into crisis by loss of a job. Those coping with the death of a spouse, sibling, or friend. Those whose relationships with their parents or children are simply not what they’d imagined. Those who feel they are seen, and dismissed, because of their age, gender, or ethnicity. The young people recently graduated from high school or college who see no clear future before them. The retirees who wonder if they are valued or will have enough income to make it. The “c” word that means I must deal with doctors and harsh chemical treatments. The impact on my life that the color of my skin has on me – harassed too often if I’m not white. And our current pandemic with all the unknowns leaving us with a feeling of helplessness – just nothing I can do (other than masking, distancing, avoiding crowds, etc.) about it to make it end – go away! 
I imagine many of us have at one time or another or right now feel “harassed and helpless”.  Feeling harassed and helpless is not a sign of failure but of being human! Life is often tough – and sometimes very unfair.
Admitting we have our moments, weeks, months when we don’t feel in total control opens us to hearing the second truth of the opening words of this passage: Jesus sees us and has compassion! Jesus did not come primarily to teach or inspire, let along to judge, but rather out of the abundant compassion of God for the world and in order to demonstrate that loving compassion through word and deed. This wonderful compassion is for ALL children of God! Yes, White, Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian. All races, all ethnic backgrounds, all social levels, education levels, all ages are God’s children. 
 
Compassion – a caring God! The word “care” comes from “Kara” which means lament. To care is to grieve, experience sorrow, cry out with. Jesus wants us to witness, to go “out” for there are many needing to hear the Good News. We are to love God and one another.  As God is compassionate, so too compassion – care – for another with our hugs or tears or quiet listening, sharing of food, demanding justice for our brothers and sisters is essential. 
 
The prophet Isaiah spoke for the Lord: “do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Jesus doesn’t promise freedom from storms that come our way. But he promises in the midst of every storm. "I am with you ... I abide with you ..."  
 
As Paul writes, because of God’s act of sacrificial love in Christ, we know that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
 
"I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Mat. 28:20).
 
YouTube Music
The Irish Bless – over 300 churches: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TascsWZPj8U
The Lord Bless You & Keep You (John Rutter): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akT32E83zjI
Amazing Grace (50 countries sing): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BA7pdABvpnc


Holy Trinity Sunday June 7, 2020 
Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton has recorded her national sermon and Gospel reading to share with the church on Sunday, June 7, The Holy Trinity.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCxlyckuam4&feature=youtu.be

Gospel   Matthew 28:16-20

 
Well, a lot has changed since last Trinity Sunday, not just the COVID-19 pandemic under which we live. But also, the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed, handcuffed black man by a white police officer in Minneapolis. Just a few weeks ago, we learned, many of us, of the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, but since that time, Breonna Taylor, Dreasjon "Sean" Reed, Tony McDade have also been killed. And how many others whose names are known only to their families and to God? 
 
Today is Trinity Sunday. It's a hard holiday for us to wrap our minds around it's a difficult, a difficult concept. But, we learn about the Trinity, particularly in today's first lesson from Genesis. In this beautiful song of creation, we hear, "In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep. And a wind from God swept over the face of the waters." 
God said and creation began. Martin Luther put it this way, "So also the Christian Church agrees that in this description there is indicated the mystery of the Holy Trinity, Father created through the Son who Moses called Word, and over this creative work brooded the Holy Spirit. Later, God says, "Let us make humankind in our image." This is the glorious relationship with God that spills out into all creation. God is not a lone ranger. And all of God shows up, all of God shows up, delighting in creation, caring for creation, weeping for creation, redeeming creation. 
 
I confess that I do not fully understand or even have language to describe the mystery of the Trinity, probably won't until I finished my baptismal vocation and stand in the presence of God. I can't explain how, but I can testify to the great Lutheran question, what does this mean? 
 
God is relationship. Within God and flowing from God. Creation is God's decision not to look after God's self but focuses God's energies on creation. This Trinity, this God, this relationship is outward and overflowing. God is the one who does not grasp. 
 
As we hear in Philippians, "Let this same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped. Likewise, the Spirit is poured out on us all. Again, what does this mean? God is relationship. Within God, with the creation, with humankind and among humankind. And since we are baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, baptized into the Trinity. 
 
We are also part of this powerful, dynamic, living, giving, loving relationship, with God, in God, with creation, with each other. We are inextricably woven together. No one is alone. No one is beyond the fierce, tender love of God and God is not far off. God is present in creation, in each of us and in all of us. God is flesh and blood made visible in Jesus of Nazareth and in every human being. 
 
God is spirit, closer than our own breath. And this is how God as Trinity shows up today. God is creator. God created diversity, beautiful, vital, alive. We must reject calls for colorblindness. That diminishes and washes out God's gift of diversity. We in the white majority can begin to see our siblings of color more clearly. We should be color amazed, recognizing the strength that comes with all our many colors and
God as creator made all of us in God's image. "Let us make them in our image" that means all of us are a part of this relational triune God who did create all of humankind, each and every one and all of us together, in God's image, all. And God is the word made flesh. Our flesh, your flesh, my flesh, George Floyd's flesh. 
 
Jesus in his passion still suffers with those who suffer. The crucifixion of an unarmed, handcuffed man lying face down on the street is the crucifixion and the passion of our Lord. The crucifixion of so many, too many, black and brown people, who live constantly with the violence of racism, is the passion of our Lord. 
 
And God is spirit. The wind, the breath that moved over the face of the deep at creation, the breath of God that was breathed into the first earth creature, Adam. The breath of Jesus as he gave them the gift of the Spirit, the breath crushed out of George Floyd, the breath of life God had given to him. And now, church, we as the baptized, those of us baptized into the Trinity, show up. 
 
We work for an end to violence, the violence of racism that kills bodies and maims souls. And we work for the end of violence brought about by lawlessness and also frustration, masquerading in some cases, as protest.
 
In the fierce love of the Trinity, we do not deny anger. In the face of the reality and inequity of racial injustice, anger is appropriate, is appropriate. But we use our anger to bring about change. We put out fires at the stores, workplaces, churches and property but we ask the Spirit kindle in us the fire of justice.
We work for calm and quiet throughout our country, but we remain disquieted as we search deep within ourselves. We work for peace, but not the passive peace that allows the mechanisms of racism and white supremacy to stay in place. No, it’s the peace God alone can give that gives us the strength and courage to act. The Trinity is a relationship, within God, with creation, with us and among us. Until the white majority feels in our soul that the pain and suffering of black and brown people is our own pain and suffering, it will not be safe to be black or brown in America. And until we feel in our own soul that this is our pain in our story, we are not open to the relationship that God wants to shower, share, lavish upon us as a relational God, a loving God, as a God of the Trinity, as a God who has brought us into that relationship and commands us to share that relationship and live that relationship with creation and with each other.
 
Paul's second letter to the Corinthians ends, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all " It's actually a promise and I think marching orders for us. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is with us, the love of God is with us, the communion of the Holy Spirit is with us and, together in the communion and community of the Holy Trinity, we can make that a reality. 
Amen.
 
 

Pentecost May 31, 2020
Gospel: John 20:19-23 / First Reading: Acts 2:1-21
 
For Christians Pentecost is the birthday of the church and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are told in Acts the Spirit comes upon disciples with a mighty rush. We are not told the spirit caused a physical response – no jumping or dancing around - or that there was shouting or an emotional appeal. We are told the disciples speak. Notice they were not speaking in unknown tongues; a practice we refer to as glossolalia. They were speaking and everyone heard them in their own language. People were “amazed and astonished.” It was just the opposite of language confusion that occurred at the Tower of Babel. In this scene words – speech - is emphasized.
 
And when you think about it, words whether spoken or read, can and do touch us, inspire us, motivate. And yes, words can also hurt. Despite the childhood “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” We know too many, especially young people, who have been so hurt, so distraught by words written on Facebook or e-mails or texts that they have taken their lives. 
And, of course, many words, many opinions are expressed through various “social media.”  David Lose observes that this year the Pentecost story will be read, heard, and referenced in varied ways. Some will see the boldness of the disciples and say we should claim our constitutional rights and re-open our buildings. Others may look to the posture of the disciples before receiving the gift of the Spirit – gathered together in prayer, waiting, and expectation – claiming the power of the Spirit to privilege the public good over individual rights. Lots of words to hear and process as we decide on our position.
Words have power; they speak to us.
In our Gospel reading, we are told Jesus met the disciples Sunday evening (Easter!) and breathed on them and said, “receive the Holy Spirit”. He said as God sent him, so too the disciples were being sent into the world. They were not returning to their previous way of life! Indeed, a church that does not bear witness to Christ is a church that leaves itself unable to deliver people from all that separates them from God, especially forgiveness.
The Holy Spirit is not our possession. The elusive, uncontrollable, and uncontainable Holy Spirit is what God uses to work in us rather than what we use to get a grip on God. The power that comes to us through the Holy Spirit is more than a warm, coddling embrace of the permissive God who says, “I love you just the way you are. Promise me you won’t change a thing.” Spirit-bestowed grace is always God’s gift of power to live transformed lives in service to God. We may come to God singing, “Just as I am, without one plea . . .” but this active God never stops creating all things new, including us. We never walk away from encounters with this God the same as how we came. Christ’s message of peace is a call to courage and endurance—because we are human, and life will not be without chaos, suffering, and pain. It is a summons to listen to the cries of injustice and to testify to God’s grace at work every day. It is an invitation into a life of loving-kindness. God’s peace disturbs our spirit. Calling us to witness. 
The Holy Spirit interprets Scripture for the believer; relates it to our daily lives and gives us the power to accomplish what God has called us to do. It also offers strength, comfort, guidance and assurance of eternal life.  

Easter 7  Sunday May 24th
Gospel: John 17:1-11 and 2nd Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
 
As we grow in our relationship, - connecting with the Holy - prayer is essential.
 
When we share a difficulty, heartache, with another person and he/she says to us, “I will keep you in my prayers” or “I am praying for you.” How do we feel? Dismissive – “That’s what he/she always says … I don’t know that it really means anything.” Or appreciative – “Thank you, that means a lot to know you are sharing my name with God.”
 
Do we pray for our friends? Jesus did. And you know what? In the same way that Jesus prayed for the apostles, he prays for us. In times of confusion, when we are unsure of what to do next, it is a great comfort to know that Jesus has prayed for us. 

How did he pray? What did he ask for? JESUS PRAYED THAT GOD WOULD PROTECT HIS FRIENDS and that they would be one – united.
 
Vs. 11 “now I am no longer in the world...Holy Father, protect them in your name….” Notice that Jesus doesn't pray for the disciples to be released from their problems. Instead, he prayed that God would care for them, watch over them, strengthen them – yes, protect – a Good Shepherd. He prayed, "but they are in the world…. Holy Father, protect them." Several verses after today’s Gospel reading in vs. 15 Jesus says: “I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.”  And “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am…." Wow! Jesus prays that we would be with him forever – “where I am.”   And he prays again and again that we would be one … relationship with God and one another.
 
Tony Campolo tells an intriguing story about being at a worship service where a man prayed a very pointed prayer for a friend. 

"Dear Lord," the man prayed, "you know Charlie Stoltzfus. He lives in that silver trailer down the road a mile. He's leaving his wife and kids. Please do something to bring the family together." 

Amazingly, as the man prayed, he repeated the location "the silver trailer down the road a mile." Tony wanted to say, "KNOCK IT OFF, FELLA. Do you think God's asking, ‘What's that address again?'" 

After the prayer, Tony preached, and then left to drive home. On the turnpike he noticed a hitchhiker and decided to give him a lift. "My name's Tony," Campolo said, "What's your name?"

"Charlie Stoltzfus," the hitchhiker said.  Campolo was dumbfounded. It was the young man for whom the prayer had been offered. Campolo got off at the next exit.  "Hey, where are you taking me?" asked the hitchhiker.  "Home," Campolo said. 

The hitchhiker stared in amazement as Tony drove right to the young fellow's silver trailer. That afternoon the young man and his wife started praying together. 
 
Sometimes there are more coincidences when there is more prayer.

We sometimes forget how powerful a simple prayer can be. 
 
“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
 
Relationships - being one - matter. This Memorial weekend we give thanks for those who served our nation; those who died serving; and their families. We pray in these difficult days as Jesus – give us strength and watch over us for the journey during this time of much sickness. In these anxious times it is important to remember Peter’s advice – share your anxiety with God because God cares for you. Prayer is a significant part of our relationship with God. We pray for each other - for our families, the community, national and international leaders. During this time of separation, we recognize that our relationship as a community of faith is important – pray for one another always.
 
Music on YouTube you may enjoy: 
You’ll Never Walk Alone (virtual choir): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gpoJNv5dlQ