Pastor Roy's Sermons

November 25: The Reign of Christ

Children’s sermon: What is a King or Queen? What kind of king or queen would you like to have? What is the difference between a King and Queen and a president? Can a president do whatever he or she wants? In the past, Kings and Queens could. So was it more important back in those days to have a good, kind, just king and Queen? How would it feel to live in the land of a King who took advantage of his power?
Today is the day we celebrate Jesus as our King. What kind of King do you think Jesus is? Since Jesus is King, does that mean everything will always turn out the way we want? Do you think there have been kings who haven’t loved their people? I believe Jesus is the King of Love. Jesus teaches us how to love. We love because God first loved us.
Sermon: This is not a Gospel passage that answers all our questions, but challenges us to listen afresh to Jesus. So today I am asking more questions than suggesting answers. That was usually the way Jesus taught.
Jesus answers the Roman governor’s questions with “My Kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asks, “So you are a king?” Jesus answers, “You say I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
John is inviting us to listen. Listen to Jesus’ voice. Listen to Jesus’ truth. This conversation between Jesus and Pontius Pilate reminds us that Jesus is not about being in charge and getting his way. Pilate steers the conversation in the direction of kings and ruling, and Jesus repoints it toward listening to the truth and allowing that truth to transform us. It’s no wonder Pilate is seriously unnerved by the conversation and sends him back to Herod. This is no criminal. Maybe there is even a message for him. For some the message of Jesus is hope. For others, like Pilate, it is a message of judgment. He has worked hard, ruthlessly, to be in charge of this puny, despised, rebellious territory. What is this talk of truth? Pilate’s truth is power and control and pleasing Caesar. Caesar is truth. Caesar is right. Caesar is peace. Caesar is joy if you play by his rules and execute his judgments. As Jesus is led away, Pilate is pretty sure Jesus’ truth is not the efficient, violent power and peace of Rome. Pilate has something to think about.
What is Jesus’ Kingdom? What is Jesus’ truth? I’m pretty sure John is not looking for a quick answer here. Not something that we can claim for our own and then efficiently move on to the next challenge. Listening to the truth of Jesus will take us apart. This “not Roman,” “not Caesar” life points us in a new direction. Is Jesus calling to us today, "Why not spend a bit more time listening, for my truth, my freedom, my humility?" I hear Jesus inviting us to a deepening faith, to reconsider our allegiances, our expectations, our assumptions.
There is always room for us to recommit ourselves to the Kingdom of God, the reign of Jesus. I hear Jesus inviting and reminding us to pray, to listen, to continue to grow in faith—trusting in the reign of Christ.
Thanks be to God.



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November 21 Grace and Gratitude

Colossians 3:12-17, Luke 6:27-38
Here are a few key phrases from Colossians. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. You are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. Love each other. Forgive each other. And be thankful. Do everything in the name and Spirit of Jesus.
As I was working on this I was writing God is gracious and instead I wrote, God is crazy. And I chuckled, why did I write that? Then I stopped and thought. We sometimes think of God as a big human being, acting and thinking like a big human being. But God is so beyond anything we can think or say or even be. And the Grace of God is crazy. Not in God’s terms, but in our terms. Because we aren’t even sure what grace is. What if you raise children with too much grace? Might they turn out to be spoiled? What if we forgive too much, will the forgiven come to not take seriously the need to make choices seriously, to pull one’s share of the work in this life, to be faithful and true?
Are not People of grace crazy? Grace goes against our instincts, our anxious thoughts and plans for our own wellbeing. It feels that way. But if we think about it, what has made the difference for us, someone or some institution’s love for us? Or another’s judgment of us? Of course there is always a balance of grace and discipline. Without discipline children and adults cannot succeed. Discipline pushes us to reach deep within and do what needs to be done to overcome the challenges of our lives. But without grace as a foundation, we will struggle to find peace. For even the most disciplined soul, life without peace is a broken life indeed.
Perhaps gratitude is the lock that opens the door to grace. Gratitude is personal. No one can make us grateful. They can be gracious and kind, but unless the receiver of grace is grateful, there cannot be growth in grace.
So Thanksgiving is crucial day for our faith. We learn grace from God with us, God incarnate in Jesus Christ our Lord. We learn the extent of God with us in Jesus’ journey to the cross. 01to demonstrate the far reaching power of God’s love and the love of God’s son.
Does Grace flow from gratitude? Or does gratitude flow from grace? Or will true grace always be grateful, even as the grateful will always know grace.
So that is my simple message this evening. Grace and gratitude are holy and inseparable. A gift of God.
Thanks be to God.



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November 18: The path of Grace

How often and with how much energy do we concentrate on things that are just beyond us? Our phones, cars, houses, cures for diseases, powerful people on our side or against us, entertainment, and all the forms of media. Not that these things are terrible, but there are so many distractions from what and who is right in front of us. Sometimes we are distracted from what is within us, a need for emotional healing or friendship, or prayer which brings us fully into the presence of God, creation, and all of God’s gifts for us.
Sometimes we seek distractions from things that amaze or interest us for the moment. The latest news story or event.
It feels like the kingdom is often beyond us. And for what are we hoping? For whom are we waiting?
Jesus warns his disciples, “Don’t be led astray! Don’t assume because someone speaks for me that they have anything to do with me at all!”
How do we know the difference between a distraction and the wisdom of Christ, the wisdom of God?
Jesus speaks of a great upheaval a time of great trouble, terror, and suffering. Since the time of Jesus, there has been so much suffering and trouble, sometimes entire societies ripped apart violently, it’s hard for me to imagine what Jesus is talking about. And that’s hard for a preacher to admit.
Of course, I can’t leave it there. Some have interpreted these passages as referring to a specific, future time of suffering which surpasses all other times of suffering. But it’s tough to really measure that. When someone dies a very, very difficult death, what could be more painful than that? When millions of Jews and Slavic peoples, and disabled people are slaughtered during WWII, what could be worse? When genocide happens more and more throughout our world that we turn away from it and no longer want to hear about it in the news, when there are more and more refugees caused by civil wars, we are tempted to simply be glad it is not our own country embroiled in civil war, though the way we speak about our political enemies is clearly the first step toward that end.
Even so, it feels to me that Jesus and the other prophets are getting our attention. This beginning of birth pains, are not pain and suffering and grief and illness the very things that bring us back to our faith? Faith in love, salvation, and resurrection to a new creation of hope and peace? Don’t those dreaded shadows in our lives end up being the very thing that calls us back to God’s Grace?
Until we despair of making it by our own strength, we never learn to trust in God’s Grace which is freely, lovingly, mercifully provided to all who allow themselves to fall into it? We cannot gently lower ourselves into it. We cannot devise our own plan of survival to overcome all of our troubles.
We struggle, spare no effort to save ourselves by believing the right things, eating the right things, avoiding the wrong things, loving the right people, preparing for the future, making the right decisions, you fill in the blank.
I hear Jesus and Daniel, Ezekiel, John on the isle of Patmos writing Revelation saying, “Try all you want, but this is just the beginning of the great trouble that will cause you to finally let go. . .and fall into the grace of God—no strategies, no strings attached, no secret knowledge, just faith in God’s love and mercy.
God, teach us to let go of all of our distractions to save ourselves and finally trust You and your lasting care. Amen.



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November 11: Generosity

Each person we meet, we tend to either respect, ignore, or fear. We will not be generous with those we ignore or
would rather ignore. What turned the church into a movement was that Jesus’ followers found in their faith the
capacity to be generous in many ways toward those others feared and ignored. It wasn’t, I believe, as much because
they were nice people but because they had been touched by profound hope and grace. The Grace of God.
What is generosity? Is it not to give to another with joy, gratitude, abundance, and freedom?
Doesn’t it make sense that if we give with open hands out of a sense of joy, gratitude, and freedom that those qualities
will increase in us and around us?
But what if we are taken advantage of? It could be argued, and some do, that the widow giving two copper coins to the
temple, and the well-off people who ran it, was being taken advantage of. They should have been giving to her in the
form of alms.
We hate the thought of being taken advantage of. We will go to great lengths to make sure any cause toward which we
contribute is an authentic need and that the gift is well used. If we give and then learn that the money was redirected
toward an unworthy cause, we feel guilty and irresponsible. The joy of our giving is lost even though our intention was
good.
I believe today’s lessons do not end begin and end with money. The widow from Zarephath sacrificially gives of her oil,
flour, and energy to provide bread for Elijah. She is willing to cast her lot with the poor prophet from Israel. If he dies,
she and her son dies. The widow giving two copper coins supports the place where she meets God, the place where
others meet God.
And Jesus notices her. He lifts her up as an example of faithful giving. Abundant generosity. He doesn’t go and
interview her and make sure she has the right attitude. I always imagine she has a very serious face, but maybe she was
smiling! Think about your favorite causes. When you give and when this congregation supports various ministries, you
smile, at least inwardly because you know your giving is needed and will accomplish good. Those without resources will
have opportunity.
But even beyond good causes, is it possible to live our lives with generosity? That each decision we make, each moment
of work, or reflection, or celebration, or even grief is. . .a chance to show love, to experience grace.
I don’t know about you, but I confess that not every moment for me is a moment grace. I worry. I forget to be grateful.
I get grabby with what I want to accomplish and get frustrated when I feel failure. I neglect the relationships around me.
Not that I don’t try. But sometimes I can try so hard that the grace of God is turned into an effort on my part. And I say
this because I’m guessing you do the same.
It is the human experience from which we need to keep turning back to God. Back to the generous love of Christ acting
in the world today even as Christ gave his life for the world so many years ago. The Spirit is inviting us to be mindful of
God’s free and abundant provision. To experience the grace and mercy of God to us and those we love first hand. Then
to place ourselves in the place of the widows and orphans—whoever in our society is without resources. To seize every
moment to offer ourselves in love for those around us—as we are able.
Today is Veteran’s day. Veterans have offered their lives for the good of the common order and the wellbeing of our
nation. Many have lost their lives defending those whom they love. Veterans are an example of generosity, often at
their own emotional and psychological peril. And also police officers, first responders, paramedics, EMTs, and fire
fighters who do the same. May we take notice of their courage and willingness to serve generously.
We sit at the feet of Jesus, we receive God’s grace. Courage be with you as you take notice and care for the forgotten
and despised. Amen.



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November 4 Revelation's reminder that God holds the saints in all things

The book of Revelation and parts of Zechariah, Ezekiel, and Daniel are a variety of literature that was common in Jewish writings a couple centuries leading up to the time of Jesus Christ and the early church. The writers create stark visions with images to communicate God’s promised presence. The children of God are never abandoned or lost. Despite persecution, disappointment, and death, the life of God’s children is held secure in God. The end is a glorious reunion—regardless of appearances otherwise. The faithful will be held faithfully. Christians, such as John in Revelation, wrote in this style for the same purpose—to encourage the children of God in faith, that they are beloved of God regardless of world events.
Today, some think of these Apocalyptic writings as prophesies of the future, but when they were written, they were written mainly to help God’s people interpret current events, to encourage the persecuted to have hope. Hope for the future is fine, but what we really need is hope for the present, that our faith has meaning—that God is with us. Since God is with us now, the future is less frightening, regardless of how it unfolds. God will still be with us. The beauty of Revelation is that it weaves the church’s worship into John’s proclamations about current persecutions and hardships. Our work is to join our worship with that of all of creation and to rest in God’s strong mercy which never disappoints.
In today’s passage when the one seated on the throne says “See, I am making all things new,” and “It is done, I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life,” John is reminding us of our faith right now as much as telling us about the future. What is going on now is what will be going on in the future.
For John, the appearances of death and loss, crying and pain have been replaced with a new reality, the reality of God with us. The love of Christ with us--God with us. The power of Revelation is that it reveals that the power of faith is all about God, not us. God brings down evil. God is creating a new heaven and a new earth. God is calling together the saints in a holy choir, a holy army. We participate, but we do not create. We do not make it happen. We don’t even make our own faith happen. We simple rejoice to grow in faith as God grants it.
Today, All Saints Sunday, we celebrate God’s gift of community in grace. The Saints are not good people. The saints are people who have been pulled into the mercy of God, the creative love and life of God and respond with joy.
Jesus raising Lazarus in today’s Gospel lesson is a sign of the life faith in God transforming our death, loss, disappointment, frustration, limitations into a new life, a new work of grace and peace.
Today we celebrate the life of the saints, which is what we are, the beloved children of God. Today we celebrate communion as a sign of our beloved community in faith, in the forgiveness and all embracing love of God.
Thanks be to God.



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October 28 -A Reforming Church

Today is reformation Sunday and on this Sunday every year we recall that the church is constantly reforming. There has never been a time nor will there ever be a time when the church does not need to listen for the Spirit inviting it to humble itself and open itself to listen for God’s call in new faithful directions. We as congregations and denominations repent of our failure to love those who seem just too different, too needy, too untrustworthy, or too sinful to welcome. Jesus welcomed all who were hungry for the love of God. He made the respectable people feel very uncomfortable even as he made the hungry people feel loved, noticed for perhaps the first time in their lives. This is the good news. Those who are hungry are fed by the mercy of God, day by day. True confession, whatever we have to confess, gets us in touch with the love of Jesus.
Martin Luther, imperfect child of God that he was, welcomed peasants who had felt valued only for their meager contributions to the Church. He welcomed them by giving them the Bible in their own language. He welcomed them by teaching them about the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Pure love. Pure grace. Pure freedom. As he renewed the church with a fresh welcome, many respectable church leaders felt very uncomfortable. They worried that welcoming the masses would defile the church. They had forgotten that Jesus loved those who felt worthless, those who had given up on their own self value. They were trapped because they were out of touch with Jesus’ love—their complicated rules and traditions made love just beyond anyone’s reach.
Two thousand years before Luther, Jeremiah, the Jewish prophet, is calling the Jews back to God. Jeremiah dreams of a time when everyone will personally know God. The people of Jeremiah and Luther’s day are pretty much the same. Peasants felt hopelessly removed from God and were not welcomed in synagogue or church, those with land and wealth felt nothing but a social concern for the abundant love of God. It’s hard to trust God deeply when one’s trust is in other things.
Perhaps this is why the Psalmist invites all to find God both as refuge and strength. To find God in rest and stillness. The Good News is that all people can know God because God is present to be known to those who still themselves and listen. It’s quite simple. Sometimes our theology makes stillness complicated. Regardless, Jesus is still calling us, as Jeremiah, as Luther—to be still and rest in God’s abundant, unconditional love.
Paul preaches Jesus as the ultimate message of God’s grace and mercy. Nothing else matters for Paul. He believes in forgiveness of sins and the love of God because he has found these in Jesus like he never found them in the law and traditions. The meaning of his life is summed up in following Jesus and serving as Jesus served and loved.
Then John comes along after Paul and reminds his congregation that Jesus’ word, Jesus’ Way reveals the truth which sets us free. To know the love and life of Jesus is to be set free. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. The truth is the unconditional love of God and invitation to live in that love. For Christians our savior in love is Jesus Christ.
Where is Jesus today? How is Jesus calling the church to l love with abandon, to welcome those who despair? How is Jesus calling us to give up our mad attempts to be respectable in our own eyes, to be comfortable, to follow the shortcuts others have paved to God?
Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.
Thanks be to God for this unending love which gives us life and sets us free. Amen.



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October 21- Leadership by service

What makes a good leader? Does it matter how a leader gets things done? Does process affect outcome? Have you ever worked for someone who used intimidation and manipulation to get things done? Does that kind of leadership inspire us? Or is it a cheap short cut? As desired as immediate results might be, what are the side-affects of anxiety, fear-prone people? And on the other hand, what is the benefit of compassion and concern for another beyond whether or not I get exactly what I want and when I want it?
Jesus took his leadership cues from Isaiah’s servant Psalms. That is likely the reason we see so much of Jesus in Isaiah 53. It was part of his playbook for ministry. We might think of Jesus receiving his call from God right after he was baptized in the Jordan by John, but I believe he received his call as he listened to the scrolls read in nearby synagogues. Jesus went into ministry with his eyes open. He was not expecting to be taken care of, but to take care of those before him. He was not expecting to be served but to serve. And he was expecting to suffer under the weight of the needs of his people. He came to discover the freedom of consecration to God in service to God’s people. Difficulty was no surprise.
All of us probably at some point are tempted to take advantage of any power we have, to trust in power. Sometimes we even think of God mainly in terms of power rather than in terms of the One who provides, loves, supports, and is present without exception or limitation.
Jesus did not live and die a life of sacrifice and consecration because he knew he was on the winning team in the end. He so lived and died because he knew that was the nature of God. He forsook the greedy power mongers of his day and embraced those they rejected and despised—the sick, women, traditional sinners, and the poor in general. He was deeply in touch with God and knew that no other life was worth living or dying for. Listen to Isaiah 53:4-10: Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the LORD shall prosper. Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53 does not speak exclusively of Jesus. This and the other servant Psalms in Isaiah speak of all good leaders among God’s children. If we make Isaiah 53 a prophesy of Jesus alone, then we may lose sight of the fact that this passage also tells us about the nature of God who calls the prophet, the leader, the servant. We also might miss that this chapter is an important playbook for every servant in the church.
Also, when we feel the things that Jesus felt in his life and in his death we might feel like failures, but the opposite is true, to serve in love is to suffer, to be uncertain; but faith is listening for God’s presence to lead and guide into peace.
Serving is a tricky thing. Faith does not assure us that we will never err. Quite the opposite, faith gives us courage to err, to take chances for God’s love and mercy. To occasionally or maybe quite often look like a fool. To fall down and to rise up. To be uncertain, but to continue on, led by the Spirit of Love, not power, not might; but compassionate love. Beginning with prayer God has us by the hand, and ultimately the results are in God’s hands, not ours. May we rediscover the freedom and joy of serving as Christ served, with the Spirit of Christ’s love leading us today. Amen.



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October 14-Freedom to truly live

A man with many possessions asks Jesus how he can inherit eternal life. Another way of translating “eternal life” is “life of the ages.” The life of eternity. He is asking, “How can I truly live, and for all time?” Jesus reminds him of the commandments--which he has taken seriously and kept. Jesus then tells him to give his many possessions to the poor and follow him. Mind you, Jesus does not tell him to give his money to Jesus, but to the poor. By doing that he would be giving with perfect freedom and no strings attached—he would gain no advantage over anyone by his generosity. But he just can’t do it.
He walks away sad and weighed down with responsibility. He isn’t a bad person, he is a good person. The Gospels reveal that Jesus loved freely, but this passage comes right out and says that Jesus loved him. It’s as if Jesus knows this man can be a great kingdom person—living in full joy. He knows what would happen if this man were to put all of his energy into following Jesus—to proclaim the good news in word and action. Perhaps he could also tell that this man would truly benefit from letting go of the responsibility of all that stuff. He could do better with his life.
But the man probably felt it would be irresponsible to behave as Jesus asks him to behave. He has this responsibility to mind the stuff that he has inherited. That is his family responsibility. Perhaps he had a wife and children? How could he do that? It was his job. Either way, he doesn’t feel free to give away the wealth passed down from his father and grandfather. In Jesus’ day wealth was either inherited or stolen. That’s why tax collectors were despised, they got rich over and above what they collected for Rome.
It appears Jesus has a different agenda than the man. He and his disciples sacrificed. And we know virtually nothing about their families.
This man will spend the rest of his life taking care of stuff that will outlive him. If we truly listen to this encounter, our lives can be changed. We might think of this passage as a test of the man’s willingness to give up all for God. A test of his highest priority. But Jesus doesn’t seem interested in theoretical tests here or asking everyone to do the same thing.
He wants this man to be free. He wants the very best for him. He is so close. And he walks away. I don’t think today’s gospel is asking us all to take vows of poverty. Jesus holds the door of freedom open for the man with much stuff, he looks down the hallway longingly, to taste this freedom Jesus offers, but he just can’t step through. Such sadness as he walks away. Such potential for freedom and friendship.
I think this lesson is inviting us to also look through the door of freedom and to ask questions. This is prayer. To still ourselves, and listen to the Spirit speaking. What prevents me from being faithfully free? How much energy do I invest in outcomes that I will never control, but live as if do?
How shall I invest my life? What are my gifts and opportunities? What are my assumptions about what is best for myself and my family? What would it feel like to be free of unnecessary burdens and control? The true answers to these questions can only come from prayer. Silence and conversation with God. Listening with faith. Free to make mistakes and find grace along the way. God is calling us to freedom and mercy. Will we step through the door of prayer and follow anew the path of freedom and generosity into which God is calling us?
Thanks be to God.



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October 7 Hard vs. tender hearted faith

Mark contrasts two of Jesus’ teachings in today’s gospel reading. Jesus’ opponents try to stump him with the law on divorce. Jesus does not deny the law but reminds them that one who seeks to abuse and oppress a spouse through divorce is violating the law of God’s peace and justice rather than living in it. Divorce is a tragedy, not an opportunity. Jesus is pointing out that law helps guide us in faithfulness. It appears that some treated the Law in the Old Testament like we do tax law today. The better you know it, the more advantage you have, the less taxes you pay, especially if you have plenty. The religious leaders had turned the law into a point of advantage over others. Jesus’ words about divorce and adultery are quite realistic and reflect the deep pain of divorce. Though Jesus mentions men and women, Jesus’ main focus is on men because in his day, they had the most power and legal advantage over women. It is often still true today.
Jesus invites us to take a long look at the hard heart. Part of repenting and believing in the good news is openness and honesty about ourselves. How is my heart hardened and cynical?
Then he brings in the lesson of the child for contrast. Sure, children are smart, and when they see an opportunity, they can work it to their advantage. But children are open, they are learning, they are listening to and watching everyone around them and still forming opinions. Children tend to be more trusting, not cynical. Meanwhile, adults tend to have very complicated and hard to pin down reasons for liking certain people and disliking others, or any decision that we make. It’s complicated. Children tend to be pretty straightforward when they make judgments. They are also often filled with wonder. They haven’t yet learned to ignore the beauty and amazing details of this planet and universe.
This is one of those teachings that we all should probably sit with for a while. To allow the example of children to lodge in our heads and ferment. How am I like a child? How might I become more open, more listening, more welcoming, less convinced that “the other people” are wrong and I and mine are right? I’m not saying it’s easy, but necessary if we would like to be free with a growing edge as Jesus calls us by these teachings.
Put simply, another way of putting this lesson in contrasts is that Jesus and Mark are showing us a standard of emotional and spiritual health. Are we open or closed to God and life? Have we already decided what needs to happen for us to be satisfied? Are we listening and watching for new revelations, new experiences, new opportunities to live into the love of God?
Change is all around us. But so is opportunity. May we greet change as opportunity. Not with anxious weariness, but with childlike wonder in the ever new promise of the life and eternal presence of God? Amen.



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Sept. 30 Faith Questions II

Last week I spoke of the Scriptures, by the leading of the Spirit, giving birth to our faith. And the Bible as the agreed upon beginning of our conversations about faith, about God, about Love, about justice in our relationships. As we are reminded weekly in the confession, Grace comes first from God to all of us through every means so that we become light houses of grace for those around us. This is not work, this is the gift of our lives. We each have gifts for sharing this grace as individuals, families, and congregations.
As Christians our central focus is on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ--the ultimate sign of how God’s grace continues to act and bless. Jesus’ willingness to consecrate himself for his own crucifixion is an invitation for us to prayerfully practice. . .the way of the cross. After pain and suffering he entered into joy in God’s glory. With his death he did not raise walls of judgment, but in dying he drew ever wider the circles of friendship and mercy as he followed God’s call each step of the way.
The early Christians called themselves followers of the Way. The Way of Christ. The way of friendship and compassionate welcome. Grace, Peace, Forgiveness, Love. By nature we usually try to avoid pain and suffering, especially the mental and emotional kind. But those who love, in fear and trembling, embrace their own pain and that of others. Love is an oasis of peace. Grief, loss, illness, relationships which are strained, become more bearable in the presence of love, welcome, friendship. Welcoming friendship is why the early church took hold, grew, and could not be crushed or persecuted out of existence. Trouble transformed by love.
Resurrection is our life in God which begins when we give our lives over to the way of the cross. The things we would run from, we come to accept—even embrace with time. As love grows we are more concerned about those we love than about ourselves. This is the message of the cross. This is the way of the cross. The way of healthy, suffering, love.
For example: 1. The way of love allows Moses in today’s first reading to resist jealousy and share the prophetic role and wish that all of Israel were passionate prophets of the Spirit.
2. In the Psalm today, it is the way of faithful love that allows us to pray, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”
3. James reminds us that love invites us to pray while suffering, to sing songs of praise, to pray for the sick, to remind all--of God’s forgiveness.
4. Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel that we have fellowship with all who share the common cause of proclaiming God’s love. “Whoever is not against us, is for us.” And whoever offers a cool cup of water because we are followers of Christ, they will be rewarded. He also reminds us to spare nothing for love’s sake. Let nothing get in the way of lifting up, of helping the little ones. There are many little ones among us. In fact, we are all little ones. God’s little children. We must work hard to be at peace with one another. To share the peace. To practice love. In the congregation. In the community. In politics. In care for our neighbor. “Whoever is not against us, is with us.”
Finally, faith is a verb—an action. For Christians, faith is actively leaning in the direction of the cross of Jesus Christ. Every aspect of our faith is a gift of the Spirit. We do nothing because of ourselves. The Gospel, good news of Christ, is that we are beloved first, then we are invited to love, to serve, to practice justice and mercy and peace. To feed the hungry, to care for the sick, to provide for the homeless, to share our freedom with those in bondage.
Faith is much more than thoughts and beliefs about God in our heads. Faith is the direct experience of receiving the love of God in every way conceivable so that we can share that love and watch it grow. The Love of Christ pushes us beyond what is comfortable into what is truly faithful. But our souls never depend on what we do. Our souls are welcome in the presence of God for all eternity which most importantly is right now. The presence of God is an eternal now, in this moment. That is the essence of our faith. May we grow in it, may we be beacons of hope and peace and love to all around us, today, right now. Thanks be to God for this grace.



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