Reformation – Build, rebuild, repeat – Sermon for October 27, 2013

Save big Money at. _____________ Menards,

More saving, more doing that’s the power of ____________Home Depot,

Get in, get out, get done — get your weekend back.  __________ Ace Hardware



I think there’s two kinds of people. The first who enter a store like Home Depot or Menards and feel energized, like they can tackle any challenge. I bet King Solomon would have been that kind of guy.  While, he didn’t build the temple all by himself, he is credited as the one who got it done.   So there’s that kind of person–you know the handy ones, who like to tinker, fix, and build things–the ones who look at a building a home and eagerly say what project, what improvement, what next,–repair or build with just the right tool, just the right stuff.


And then there’s the rest of us, Who when thinking about a home improvement or repair, just get the willies, and pray that nothing breaks, that nothing will need fixing. Bbecause when we walk through those doors of those big or little hardware stores, those palaces to home improvement we automatically  feel lost and overwhelmed, unsure of where to turn, where to go, what the name of the do hickey it was they came in there for to begin with.


Faith, life, being the church isn’t it all about confidence at knowing we got the right stuff, the right tools to tackle whatever life throws at us.  Because no matter who we are life is going to give us plenty of trials and tribulations. 


Martin Luther, now I don’t know how handy he was with the hammer, nails, and saw, but Martin Luther was one of the men who led this Reformation, this tearing down, tearing away at the abuses of the church to repaired and rebuilt God’s church.


However, and I feel we can not say it too many times, this room this building, is just another building.  It is not the church.  In a sense, we can call it God’s house, like the temple that we read about that King Solomon built thousands of years ago.  But you want that it’s not around anymore. a temple that no longer stands, even in Jerusalem there is disagreement about where it once stood.  These walls, these beautiful stained glass windows, these pews (you know the churchy name for the benches you sit on) while they feel so solid and permanent are not the church.  As any good handyman, property guy like Bob, or others know, they will slowly ever so slowly fall apart, they will be replaced or hopefully reused or recycled. That is really and truly what happens with these temples, these houses of worship we build.  It doesn’t mean they are not important.  No, they like any good tool, serve a purpose.


for King Solomon and the people thousands of years ago it gave them a central place to be able to come and pray, to bring their offerings, a place for the people to gather in times of joy and in times of terror and pain.  That is what made it holy, that is what makes this place holy, because we use it to gather together. In our disconnected world have a sense of connection to God and one another; in our violent world, where schools and streets have become shooting galleries we come together here to feel a sense of safety in this sanctuary with God’s people.  That is what makes this God’s house, that is what makes it holy.  But it is not the church.  As a hymn, a song we sing tells us, the church will stand even when all steeples have crumbled.  Because the believers, the faithful, the family of God, we have lots of names, but the one true name for you and me is the church.


And you know what, we are being built, torn down, repaired, and rebuilt all the time.  Sometimes it’s the events of life, the challenges and the tragedies, sometimes it’s our joys, but most importantly it happens when we come here together.  You see, just like in the days of the Reformation. Over 500 years ago, we need to have our faith repaired.  As many of us know, the church seems to be disintegrating.  Fewer and fewer people find any meaning within these walls, fewer and fewer people know Jesus, know who he was and is, experience feel his love and forgiveness, that amazing grace of God.


The answer is not to just pull out some old blueprints for how we did things years ago, because the world has changed–I’m not saying we tear everything down, and build a Jesus shopping center.  What we need is to rebuild our passion for Jesus, and our passion for one another.  Sure there’s lots of things we could do gives us all sorts of tools, we could have the best organ in the world, an elevator, a Greet parking, lot, could move out of this neighborhood, a great web page and Facebook, a blog, or an app, all that is built on a weak foundation of just survival.  We need a real cornerstone, we need something so solid that it will not bend, or break, or rust, it can not be stolen, and that  it is Jesus radical life changing love.  Love that compels us to share it wherever and with whomever we have a relationship.


That’s at the heart of the Reformation; that is what makes us Lutheran Christians, not the songs we sing, not the language we speak, but the gospel, the good news that Jesus is Lord, and Jesus gives us freely the love, the forgiveness of God.  If that good news could repair the church, change the whole church in Europe, for hundreds of years, it can repair us, and build us up, it can build us into a church that can overcome evil, we can be the church in an age of indifference, and violence, we can be the church in society of haves and have nots, the church in a world of pain, looking for pleasure, we can be people of peace.  Through prayer, through listening to God, though following Jesus, reading and studying the bible together, though worshipping together, coming together to set this time and space apart we declare it! we are declared holy, God gives us all so many tools, so together let us build the church.  Amen

Bread, cabbage, kale, cheddar–a recipe for disaster

Last week if you were blessed to be here, we were talking at least for some time about our daily bread. Well today we’re still talking about bread, bread also known as dough, chips, cabbage, kale, green, or maybe cheddar, benjamins, loot, moola. Money.
Money, the problem with having too much of it, or greed wanting, having, hoarding, desiring it is deposited in all our assigned readings for this morning. But I’m going to start this morning by looking at the passage from Luke, which begins with a question about inheritance, about most likely a younger brother hoping to have Jesus take his side and tell his older brother to share more of the inheritance than the law says he has to. The law of God in the Hebrew bible, the Old Testament in Deuteronomy and other places provided somewhat for younger siblings, by declaring that the oldest son could only have one half, and the rest were to share what was left over. Now that probably wasn’t all that much, but hey at least it was something.
Jesus, however doesn’t want to even go there. He’s not here to be a small claims or family court judge. Instead he tells a parable, a story about a farmer who is very successful. He’s so successful that he runs out of space to store all his good stuff.
And I’m going to stop right here because looking at both of these parts of Luke’s gospel, and looking (and well knowing so many of us) it just seems that this passage really doesn’t relate to most of us. I mean, let’s be honest, of all the problems in the bible, of all the problems in life–having too much stuff, an inheritance to fight over, having too much money well at least for many of us, that at least is not one of our problems. So we might be tempted to let out a sigh of relief, or be tempted to quit listening. Or others may have thought that a sermon on the list of despicable behaviors from the second reading, you know–fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire,), anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Now those are problems that are everywhere. You don’t have to be rich to own all that stuff–the Rich and poor, and the in between, well– we all got a fair share of all those things.
I’m sure that in lots of pulpits around this country and around the world there are sermons upon sermons, hand raising, and finger waving about these evils running rampant. And I too might be tempted, and some of us would be happy to hear preaching against fornications, against our sexualized society, prostitution, sex trafficking or the slander (meaning lies) we hear and read about from so many politicians, powerful corporations, and the paparazzi we call the press. But remember and before you get too comfortable, remember anger and wrath, they’re in the list too. And I’m pretty sure none of us has escaped the grips of that emotion. Everyone, with perhaps a very very few of us have something’s that make our blood just boil–things that make us if not froth at the mouth, at least spout off or post to face book a few choice words.
Money and greed on the other hand well that’s a whole different story. I can tell you as I perused, read the ELCA pastor group, now this is a whole other thing. You see money, the love of it, money the need of it, the wealth of it, it actually hits home, and for some of us way too close to home.
And if you may be tempted to think that this is something new, you know a problem of our affluent society, a problem that we are particularly experiencing because of the huge gap that is widening in our country between the rich and the poor, well you are partly right.
But here’s what another preacher preached about greed. And I am going to share just a bit of his words and before I begin. He’s using covet, covetousness to talk about greed: and he says:
For plainly the world, particularly in our day, is completely submerged in the vice of covetousness. It is impossible to enumerate the subtle arts it can invent, and the good and beautiful things it knows how to pass off whereunder it masks itself as a thing not to be considered sinful, but rather extremely virtuous and indicative of uprightness. And so idolatry ever does. While before God it is the worst abomination, before the world its appearance and reputation are superior. So far from being recognized as sin, it is considered supreme holiness and divine worship. …It is evident the vice is gaining ground. With its false appearance and ostentation, and its world-wide prevalence, it is commonly accepted as legal. Without censure or restraint, men are engrossed in coveting and accumulating to the utmost. Those having position and power think they have the right to acquire by violence as much as they can, daily making assessments and imposts, and new oppressions and impositions upon the poor. And the common rabble seek gain by raising prices, by extortion, fraud, and so on. Yet all desire not to be charged with wrong-doing; they would not they should be called unchristian on account of their conduct. … If you will not desist from the vice of covetousness, then know you are not a Christian.

A quick guess out there, who might have preached those words? Yes, Luther, Martin Luther in a sermon on the passage from Colossian. And what he is saying in a more modern world is that greed is truly the root of all evil, but what makes it worse, greed the acquiring of wealth, trying to get ahead, the very making of money, and the ways we go about it, well our world, our culture, back then and today just assume it’s normal. We, if not worship rich, those who have made it, we too want a piece of the pie, we want to be movin on up an apartment in the sky, or we want at least enough to make our problems disappear. And this quest to make money, money, money, to make profits–is so evil, is so nefarious because it masks itself, it makes us think that its’ normal, that it’s the only way to live. It’s the only way to meet our needs, and that is idolatry.
You see we all have holes in our lives, they don’t need to be empty pockets, wallets, and bank accounts if we’re lucky enough even to have them. We all have fears and insecurities, so we work, work, work like the writer of Ecclesiastes talks about, we hope to prepare and to take care of ourselves. All we are thinking about is ourselves.
That was the problem with the guy in Jesus’ story. He thought his bigger barn filled with food and good stuff would bring him happiness, would take care of him. He didn’t think about others. He didn’t think about their need, and he didn’t think about his need for them.
Remember If we call ourselves Christians, if want others to call ourselves Christians, it means follow Jesus. And Jesus is the one who fed the hungry, Jesus is the one who overturned the tables of the temples market place, Jesus is the one who reminded his people again and again to listen to the good news of the prophets Isaiah, and Micah, and to do more than even the laws of Moses which set up systems to care for the widow, the poor, the orphan, the stranger who in the Old Testament is the immigrant.
We will never have enough money to fix our problems, we will never have enough money to keep us safe, we will never have enough money. Because money isn’t the answer. Instead it is God, and what God gives us, forgiveness to heal our broken hearts, to mend our broken relations. It is God who gives us one another and allows us to live for and with one another, to truly care for one another. It is God who gives our life meaning and frees us from all empty things, who frees us from all things vain. Amen.