Re-Members – Sermon for Easter 2

He couldn’t remember.  He couldn’t remember it.  It’s not that he had forgotten, not that the memory had slipped away like so many do these days.  You know, some of us better than other just how tricky or slippery our memories can be. But it just, it wasn’t there; it hadn’t been and couldn’t be, because he Thomas, just about all the other disciples wasn’t there.  He hadn’t actually seen the nails tear into Jesus’ flesh, he hadn’t seen the cords of rope wear and burn through Jesus’ skin.  He hadn’t seen him that first time when the risen Jesus showed up to the disciples.

 

We’ve always heard, we’ve always read and been told that Thomas was the doubter, the one who needed to see to believe, but it doesn’t have to be that way, what if he needed to see, not to believe, but to remember.  Perhaps he wanted to fill the holes in the story with his touch, perhaps he just needed something solid to save him from his guilt at abandoning Jesus.

 

There is no shame in wanting more than just listening to others talk about Jesus.  There is nothing bad about wanting to experience, to remember, to have a memory of your own.  For it is true that our memories shape us.  In so many ways.

 

Steve Jobs, you know of Apple, computers, iPods, I phone’s, and I pads.  He is quoted as saying, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

 

Steve jobs could say this because in 2003 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he died about 8 years later in October of 2011.

 

Remembering, like this isn’t just the ability recall facts, details, names and numbers.  this isn’t a mere intellectual exercise, but to have an experience, a tangible, touchable, memorable thing, a remembering that impacts how we live, changes how we see the world, the people around us.

 

That is, as studies have shown what the younger generations are looking for.  They see no reason to join a church unless they are able to really engage love in real connections and relationships.  They don’t want to talk about Jesus or have someone like me talk at them about him.  They are a lot like Thomas.  Not

             Not that they want proof.  No they aren’t looking for someone to discover Noah’s ark, or Indiana Jones to recover the ark of the covenant.  But also not to just be told, to sit and listen to someone talk about Jesus, to even sing about Jesus, no matter how fancy or hip, isn’t going to cut it.  They are not looking to see Jesus on screen or stage, but to touch him and to be touched by his body even today.

 

To be able to remember the touch of love that is so real it rips a hole in our heart.    Isn’t that what we say here every week.  Do this in remembrance of me. This kind of remembering isn’t just the mark it on the calendar, acknowledge it happened along time ago in a far away place.  No this remembering is different.

 

This is the kind of remembering that allows you to see the wounds, the scars of others.  This is the remembering that allows us to look even at our own selves at those places that are rough and ugly, at the pains.   The remembering that we do here together is a healing that goes beyond any medicine or therapies.  This is where we remember into today what peace looks like, the peace that overcomes fear.  That is the peace that will hold the hand of a stranger, hold the hand of someone who doesn’t look, think, speak, act, even smell like you do.  But to simply be touched and to touch in love.

 

In this remembering we actually heal the dismembering that happens so much in life.  We don’t have to pretend we’re perfect here, that we have it all together here. Like those disciples in our gospel this morning we’ve all got those things we like to lock up and hide, for fear they may get out.  But the risen Jesus comes to us every week and says, just as he did for Thomas that day and says, “Touch, feel, my body given for you.  Now go out and give yours away too, take what I have given you forgiveness, mercy, welcome, and peace and share that with everyone.  That is what is most important, that is a memory worth touching, that is a memory worth keeping, that is re-membering.

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Sermon for Feb. 3rd, 4th Sun. after Epiphany

 iLet’s see if it happens, or I should say let’s hear if it does. Today during the Super Bowl that many of us will probably tune into, lets see if the law will be followed. Now there’s plenty of laws and rules to football, more than I get, but that’s not what I’m listening for. The law that I’m talking about is the CALM law. If you missed that one, it is a law passed and signed by President Obama in 2010. CALM stands for Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation. What that means is that advertisers are not supposed to blast the volume in their tv commercials, a practice that developed because we watchers of tv, do actually from time to time get up and do things most often during the commercials. So, companies would crank up the volume in order to be heard in the kitchen, in the bathroom, wherever we might wander.

To be heard, to really be listened to.
This is something we all want, unfortunately it’s not something that we all get. Listening to one another is too often in short supply. Unfortunately this is not a modern malady. This problem was,going on in the church in Corinth. They were arguing about what it meant to be a Christian, what it should look like to listen to Jesus, what difference it should make in their lives day to day. They were divided about what they should do with spouses and family members who didn’t believe in Jesus? Should they eat meat, when most meat available in the market was leftover meat from the sacrifices to the many other gods. Can believers sue on another? Should the rich be able to eat anything and everything they want when they came together just because the poorer folks couldn’t just get there right away from their jobs? Who was the most important in the church? This was a divided and troubled congregation.
Which means there were probably loud voices on all sides, and as often happens no one was listening. I mean really listening, listening to one another, not just to their points, their arguments, but listen to who they are, and importantly listen to those whose voices are silenced. Now don’t get me wrong, Paul wasn’t afraid to give his opinion on issues, he definitely had a point of view on all sorts of issues. However, St. Paul knew that wasn’t at the heart of the problem. Really, their problem wasn’t right doctrine, right thinking, right faith. They were missing the point. Jesus didn’t come to replace one set of laws with another set of rules. No, their problem was their hearts.
their hearts weren’t really in it. It’s not that they weren’t committed, but they weren’t committed to one another, their hearts weren’t turned to one another. an answer to all their problems, well it’s simple. Something we all could probably say, something we could sum up in one word, can we say it together now?
LOVE
That’s right.
Paul gives u beautiful words, words so often heard at weddings, but words that have their place right here, words that are to be listened to by the church, the family of God. 13If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

For Paul this love was discovered in the God who was so present, so attentive and unavoidable–the God who listens. We don’t have to convince God we are right; we don’t have to impress with big words and the logic of our argument. It is the God who simply loves us, no matter what we say, no matter how we say it, God hears us, really hears us, is patient, whose kindness goes beyond our wildest expectations. For Paul, if that is how God cares for us, treats us, why should we demand so much more. How can we demand perfection? Are those Corinthian Christians, are we more God than God?
For the Apostle Paul, the question we need to be asking not just of others, but really ourselves, is what we are thinking, saying, doing is it loving? Are we paying attention, are we listening, are we genuinely present for and with one another? It’s a simple thing to ask, but if we are honest, not a simple thing to do. That’s why we live the Gospel, we proclaim (we share God’s forgiveness of us and others).
This week, I’m going to give you homework. That’s right. My call is to preach and teach. This week as you are going about your days at work, at home, at the store, with family, listen to yourself, listen for love in your words, listen for love in what and how you are saying, listen for God speaking in your life– listen for God speaking to you and through you. This love has been what has enabled a It is that love that enables an introvert, shy, self-conscious woman who as a kid was so afraid to speak, who still after 20 years of doing this, gets butterflies and sweaty palms to stand up here. Because of God’s love, I am not standing up here in front of you, over than you, somehow better, more spiritually advanced than you. That’s not it at all. I’m with you, as Pastor I am with you, we are all in this together, and what we are in, is God’s Love. So this week, trust me, it won’t feel like it all the time. But the more and more that you pay attention to yourself and others, the more you pay attention to love,you will grow in living it, feeling it, and giving it away. Amen.

Sermon for Easter 6, May 13, 2012

First of all, it’s good to be back.  I haven’t posted in a while.

Secondly, this is basically my sermon from yesterday.  I sometimes, add, change, delete, etc. during the oral event of sermonizing.

Image
photo by Ramsey everydaypants, creative commons

It’s Mother’s Day today, right, so I get to say something about myself, right. Well, I’m not going to talk about being a mother except to say that my kids can tell you.  They’ve heard this hundreds of times.

I liked to go to school.  As a kid, I really did.  I didn’t like these next few weeks as school was about to end, and I couldn’t wait for September to come.  I had some friends I wanted to see, but besides that I actually enjoyed my classes, well most of them—math wasn’t that great but. Anyway.

I even enjoyed gym class—with one exception.  It wasn’t swimming, or wrestling, or gymnastics –it was picking teams.

First of all, I dreaded being ever chosen “team” captian.  Some folks would have relished and sought out that power.  But not me; nope if you’ve ever been with me while I’m fretting over a menu at a restaurant, or even standing at the counter at say McDonald’s or Taco Bell—I can’t make up my mind.  It’s tough to make that choice.

Now just imagine, there I am faced with other students—some friends, some maybe not so much.  But there I am, and I know what’s like to not be chosen, I know how it feels to if not be last, to be pretty close.

So, the one time I was chosen to make the choices—well let me tell you that team wasn’t going to win any championships.  I didn’t base my calculations on the hopes of winning.  I went the opposite route.

That’s the way it was even when I wasn’t captain.  I still stressed, not because I wanted to get picked first (ok that would be nice), but not also because I wanted to be on the winning team.  No, I wanted to be on the team that would get me playing the most.  That’s what I wanted the most, I wanted to be where the action was, and to get my hands on the ball.  Winning, who cares it’s jr high or high school.  I wanted to play!

I think that’s why I really like the words of Jesus we heard this morning from John’s Gospel – words that are for some of us—well pretty familiar.

Jesus is talking about love, and it’s not like we haven’t heard this before.  It seems like all he’s been doing, and all that we’ve heard from the other passages is love, love, love.  Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not complaining.

I know how we work; I know how our brains work; I know what it’s like to live in the real world.  We need to hear something often and in several different voices or different methods for it to actually begin or have any chance of sinking in, and getting stuck in our hearts, and actually sticking in our heads, our mouths, our hands.

So yeah Jesus loves everybody, absolutely, unequivocally everybody.  There’s no stopping this love; we don’t have to ask for it, earn it.  It’s definitely not about winning it.  It’s a forever deal for everyone.  And I’m talking each and every one of us—whether we sit in a Lutheran pew, a Roman Catholic, or a Mormom, or kneel for prayers as a Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or even say there is no such thing as God as atheists do; it doesn’t matter—God still loves each and everyone of God’s children.

The thing about these words of Jesus today, is that there’s something else going on.  And it has to do with Jesus calling his disciples (his followers) friends.  And unlike Facebook, this status of friendship comes with real meaning.  Jesus is asking us to be mere aquaintences.

What is a friend?  What’s a friend do?

The thing about us being Jesus’ friends is that it’s not based upon what we like.  In our world, we like to make friends with—well folks who are like us—share the same work, or interests, who talk, eat, dress, same political, or cultural, societal views, how live, look like us—we base our friendships on commonalities—right—that’s how the world does it, and well Jesus is doing something different than how the world works.

But Jesus is choosing us as Friends not based upon how similar we are whether we are like one another.  No, Jesus chooses us to not just be friends with some benefits, but friends with responsibilities.  We are being chosen to be on the Jesus team.  What that’s all about—the point of the team—is to accomplish something—to work, do, play together towards a goal.

And again unlike the world the goal is not necessarily for us to win.  We don’t have to worry about winning.  Jesus has done that in the cross and resurrection.  The decision has been made, for the power of Jesus life over the forces of death.  So as a team we’ve got a different goal and that my friends is to simply play.

God is calling each of us as God’s beloved child, calling us together to be on the Jesus team to get that love that we talk about so much in here, to get that love we taste, see, feel, we learn about we, practice, we sing about to get that love we share in here—to get it out there—wherever we live as individuals, but teams play together and this is where we are together—so it’s most certainly our purpose, our mission to do that love thing out there.

Now of course, no team is good if one person is handling the ball all the time—hogging it.  We have to always be checking, are we dropping the ball, are we equipping everyone to be part of the team.  And here me now, everyone is part of the team.  Maybe you just physically can not get out there, but everyone (no excuses) can welcome warmly, you can exercise these muscles –these mouth ones to smile, you can use your ears to listen openly, you can support the team in all sorts of ways—with the words you say, the offerings you give, and most importantly the fervent and strong prayers you say.

As I said we are loved, there’s no doubt about that.  God loves us so much, that Jesus is choosing us to be on his team—the church—not to just come here occasionally, but to be in this relationship, to exercise all of our gifts, our talents, our mad skills—to be God’s church in here and out there.  And you know what it is hard work, but it is fun; it’s all about God’s joy—So hey, let’s play!  Amen.