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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sermon for September 25

September 25, 2011 Gospel: Matthew 21:23-32 Psalm 25:1-9
1st Reading: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 2nd Reading: Philippians 2:1-13

I can really appreciate Paul’s comments in his letter to the Philippians this morning, “Just as you have always obeyed me, not just in my presence, but much more now in my absence…” It is kind of a tongue in cheek comment, since the Philippians weren’t doing very well being faithful in Paul’s absence. I couldn’t help but relate thinking of my upcoming absence and hoping for your steadiness and faithfulness while I am away. Not that I need you to obey me, but that I need you to keep on listening to God and obeying God and also keep this place running.

I can appreciate Paul’s approach. He starts with why we’re all here. “If there is any…encouragement, consolation, sharing, compassion, or sympathy in Christ…” Well, of course someone is going to pick one or more out of that list. Even if church is not going well at all, in order to keep people there, one or more out of that list has to be happening. And I would hope that as we look through that list, we’d see several that we’d found to be true at King of Kings. So let’s say we all agree that something good is coming out of our relationship with Christ and our work in this congregation, just as the people of Philippi could find at least one of those good things happening at their church. We all agree then so we can go to the “then” of the “if…then” clause.

If that’s true, then Paul asks that the members complete his joy. How could they refuse him? He had been imprisoned for his faith. He was in a terrible situation because he had brought them the good news—arrested as a criminal and held in chains and still writing to encourage them, despite all that.

I’d like to ask the same of you—make my joy complete. Do you want to make me happy? Look at me, asking for your cooperation and continued participation. Who of you would tell me, no, that you aren’t going to continue on in faithfulness while I am away, working for the Gospel and keeping this church and your fellow members strong and our ministries making a difference in the neighborhood? And it is in your interest to keep on working for the Gospel, because in many ways this is even more your church than mine.

If you want to make Paul happy, he asks you to put on the mind of Christ. Get a brain-transplant and put Christ’s brain inside your own head. Start thinking how Christ would think. And he outlines some of what that would mean. Look to other’s interests rather than your own. Be selfless. Don’t take advantage of other people. Use your privileges to help others. Empty yourselves and give up some things you’d prefer in order to help others. Trust God fully. Be willing to face death as well as all the scary places in life that make you think you’re going to die. Confess Jesus Christ and worship him. And follow through on your commitments.

This description of Paul’s is about all the things we believe about Jesus and reminds us of who he is for us. This is one of the very first creeds, like the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed. It is a statement of what is most important in our faith and what we need to remember for when our community is arguing or our leader is absent or we just need to stay on track. And it should describe us as his followers if we really believe in him. I think of the video last week with Shane Claiborn when he says that even the demons believed in Jesus. You can believe in Jesus and his power and not follow his ways. To be a Christian is more than believing. It is following.

So what can an imperfect people do with this overwhelming job description of Jesus’ that Paul is reminding them of while Paul is away? First, let’s remember this is a job description for the whole community. It isn’t for individuals. We can all do our part in fulfilling and following Jesus together. It doesn’t just rest on one person. Second, this job description sets us up to fail. We aren’t going to be able to do it. We are sinners. We aren’t Jesus. If we were, we wouldn’t need Jesus. It brings us to the very humility that it asks of us. We die a kind of death to the notion that we could do it. Instead, when we read all this, we realize we can’t do it, and we turn to Jesus who can and did. And we experience that forgiveness. We forgive ourselves. We forgive each other. We are raised with him in a way to new life. So we move forward in that state of forgiveness to try to live a new way that comes close to this job description, but also gives us that feeling of freedom instead of failure.

Soon I will be leaving you temporarily. I have a list of things I’d like you to do, that I have been preparing you for. I have to say you have showed a level of commitment that impresses me, following through on visitation and using what you learned in the Children’s Message refresher course. You aren’t just saying what I want to hear like the first son in the vineyard. You have more than just good intentions. Most of you have been here a lot longer than I have and have the experience of taking up the slack when there has been an interim or in the time when your new pastors have been getting to know you.

When I say, “Make my joy complete,” I have on that list that you would keep coming to church. It isn’t that church is going to get you to heaven or make everything right in the universe. I’d like you to keep coming because at church we get reminders of why we are people of faith. We see that good that can be done for others. We remember what is most important to us. We also get strength and encouragement, being here. The ancient stories combined with the current ones of good friends, help us keep moving forward on our journey of faith and keep us going when we feel discouraged. There is accountability here at church. We aren’t just living for ourselves, but as part of a community and we get to check in about how we’re carrying the good news to the neighborhood through donations or smiles or volunteering or in our work.

When I go into labor, after I’ve made that call to the Church Council President or Nick does, I’m pretty sure my mind will be elsewhere. I am preparing myself to place you and this congregation entirely in God’s hands. And although I will be praying for you and thinking of you now and then in the weeks while I am away, I will treasure that time to concentrate on my new family and my new role and getting some sleep and having patience. I will not be fretting about you, because I know only you can decide whether to follow through and knowing you that you will for the most part and when you can’t you will forgive yourself and others will forgive you and you’ll all move forward anyway.

I’m sure you’ll want to be here, to experience the different preachers we’ll have, to experience worship in a different way. Heck, I’m sorry to miss some of what you’re going to hear and see. You’ll want to get in on the work that will still be going on because it is God’s work, and God working through you, rather than being my work as your pastor. I also encourage you to be here, regardless of whether you feel like it or not, because that’s part of putting others before yourself and emptying yourself in that job description. You have a community that needs you here. Even if you think you’d rather have the sleep, there may be someone here that only you know the right words to say to, or only your hand squeeze could console them, or only your smile could make their day. So come for each other and support each other and make God’s joy complete.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sermon for September 18, 2011

September 18, 2011 Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16 Psalm 145:1-8
1st Reading: Jonah 3:10-4:11 2nd Reading: Philippians 1:21-30

I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news, and that is that God is generous. It depends on your perspective, right? I want you to put yourself in the story. Can I have a show of hands: How many of you would consider yourselves to be the workers coming to work at 5 o’clock? How many of you would put yourselves in the category of bearing the burden of the day and the scorching heat? How about somewhere in between? Wouldn’t want to be too toot your own horn to much, but don’t mind taking a little credit!

I am a lifelong Lutheran. I’ve pretty much always gone to church. Sometimes I take communion twice in a day—if I visit a homebound person. I volunteer my time for the poor. I visit the sick. I try to follow the Ten Commandments. I try to grow my faith, read the Bible, and pray. I’m a pastor! I’ve dedicated my life to God and the church and God’s people. Certainly I have born the burden of the day!

Then I look out at all of you. Some of you have been at this twice as long as I have! Some of you have been through trials I can barely imagine and come through with a strong faith. Some of you have faced illness, faced cancer, lost a spouse, lost children. Yet here you are. Some of you have served on councils and building projects, slept outdoors in solidarity with the homeless, given away your coat or shoes to someone who needed it. Certainly you have born the burden of the day. My day’s just getting started. Maybe I’ve come in in the middle.

And then I look to Jesus Christ. He’s the only we can truly say bore the burden of the day and kept on working. He threw himself into his work, was completely obedient to God, ignored what other people thought of him and always did what was right in relationship to others—especially the poor. He didn’t think of himself and what was due him as God’s son, as one being there from the creation of the universe, who gave up his throne to walk in dirt and pain and human experience.

And Jesus came to make us all equal with each other and with him. We don’t like to be equal with each other. I don’t mind being equal with those that are better—I don’t mind being lumped in with all of you. But to be put together with the really late-comers seems insulting. We can think of reasons they weren’t there to be hired. Maybe they were sleeping late. Maybe they were hung-over. Maybe they didn’t have it together. They were probably lazy. Why would I want to be lumped in with them?

But if I am to be lumped in with Jesus—which I do not deserve, then inevitably I’ll be lumped in with all of you and all of the late-comers too. It just doesn’t seem fair, and it isn’t fair. But aren’t we glad that God isn’t fair and gives to us generously? We’re glad when God is generous to us but we get grumpy when God is generous to others.

Jonah is so angry in our Old Testament story. Let me tell you, you’re supposed to laugh at this story. It is funny! Jonah is mad that God is so generous to the people of Ninevah because it makes him feel foolish. He told the people God was going to punish them and then God doesn’t do it. It makes Jonah look like a liar. It makes him look stupid that what he said would happen didn’t and that God is gracious “and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and ready to relent from punishing.” So Jonah has himself a little pity party—a pout fest. He’d rather die than see the people Ninevah repent and God be kind to them.

In the Gospel, those who worked a full day are angry at God’s generosity to those who only worked an hour. They are mostly mad because even though they had agreed to a certain wage, they thought they would get more. They thought they were entitled to more. They thought they deserved more. They feel stupid for working the whole day when they could have worked an hour for the same pay.

The landowner here is giving those who worked an hour as well as those who worked all day a living wage. It is what they’d need to live on, no more, no less. If a person doesn’t have the minimum, they won’t go on living for long and won’t be there to work another day. Having more than the minimum can also be problematic, especially when you start to think it makes you better than other people. God gives us exactly what we need.

If we are all equal in God’s eyes, then why shouldn’t we just be lazy and let others do all the work? Why don’t we sit back and take advantage of all this grace that God so naively gives?

When I think of those who come to the pantry, I would say that almost everyone would rather work than to have to ask for food and help. And all of you in retirement—you’d keep getting your retirement income whether you sat in front of the TV all day or went out and volunteered your time somewhere. Yet you choose to give your time to help other people, your family, your neighbors, and your church. And for those of you who have been housewives most of your life—this counts as work and on top of that, it is without pay. I think most of us would agree that there is so much value that people get out of work besides wages.

Work can make life more interesting. It teaches us about ourselves. It keeps us learning new skills, interpersonal skills and maybe physical or intellectual skills. It gives us purpose and meaning and satisfaction. It gives us goals to work toward and progress to measure, and a way to participate in society and contribute.

And, yes, work brings us suffering. Other people can be a pain in the neck. Our job can get tedious. We will be frustrated at times. We’ll get overwhelmed. We won’t live up to our own expectations and we’ll be disappointed or we won’t to live up to those of someone else. Paul says, “Not only has God graciously granted you the privilege of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well.” Oh goodie! We get to suffer for Christ!

The sign at Oak Hills this morning says something about the privilege of suffering. They must still be on the lectionary. I tricked you in here with “Welcome Back!” But really suffering IS what we’re talking about this morning, too! Gotcha!
Suffering, for Paul, is a privilege. A lot of times we measure our faith by how smoothly our life is going. If things are going well, we can assume we are being faithful enough and doing everything right, that God is with us and we can just stay the course. Just like the vineyard workers were measuring the value of their work by how much they got paid. But Paul is pointing out that suffering is one way to measure whether we are making progress in the faith. The more we’re suffering, the greater our faith progress. Bearing the burden of the day is a privilege that teaches us something about ourselves and has value in and of itself.

When my life is cushy, I think a lot less about my faith life and taking the next step. Why should I, if everything is going well? It is when I am suffering or struggling, that I remember most how much I need God and my friends and my church and to read the Bible. And when I am struggling, that’s when I am really grappling with my faith and what God means to me. It means I am growing in faith, that I am learning something new about myself. And when I struggle, it reminds me of all the struggling people in the world who have it worse than I do, and reminds me to lend a hand and to give of myself to relieve suffering in the world. We can measure our progress in faith by how much we are struggling.

I’m not going to go so far as wish suffering on you this week. Life brings suffering all on its own. But I hope we learn and grow from our struggles and become closer to God and one another.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sermon on the 10-year Anniversary of the 9-11 Attacks

September 11, 2011 Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35 Psalm 103:1-13
1st Reading: Genesis 50:15-21 2nd Reading: Romans 14:1-12

We come to this house of worship because we are incomplete. There is something necessary in our lives to help make us whole. We need each other. We need God. We need to mend our relationships. We need to learn from our mistakes and find a better way to live. We come here because, as it says in the letter to the Romans this morning, “We do not live to ourselves.” Sometimes we realize this when we make a mistake or have an argument with someone. Sometimes we realize it when we get sick or can’t do all the things we’ve done before on our own. And sometimes we realize it during a time of national disaster and mourning, such as on September 11, 2001.

That day affected us all in a different way, yet that day did affect us all. We were going about our usual business, self-sufficient in our own little worlds, living for ourselves, satisfying our own desires, oblivious to others in a lot of ways—to our neighbors down the street, and to our neighbors around the world and how we might be impacting them.

Suddenly there was no business as usual anymore. Our world changed that day. We realized there was some broken relationship that we weren’t aware of. Someone wanted to hurt us and we didn’t know why. We were suddenly alert to the person driving next to us, tears running down their faces, the crowd glued to the television screen in the hospital lobby, the person desperately trying to get through on the phone to New York. We were seeing the panic, the sadness, the anger in each other’s eyes. We were suddenly aware of each other and that we couldn’t and didn’t live unto ourselves, like we thought.

Joseph’s brothers thought they lived unto themselves. They didn’t think they’d ever see Joseph again after selling him into slavery and lying to their dad he’d been eaten by wild animals. They just wanted him out of the picture out of jealousy. They did whatever they want. Then the famine hit and they realized they don’t live unto themselves. They need others to get by in life. They needed the grain that Egypt could provide. And they realized even more that they don’t live unto themselves when they went to ask for help and who shows up to talk to them but their own brother they sold down the river years before. They actually needed him, the one they had sought to destroy. They suddenly realized that all things are interconnected. None of us is an island.

The servant of the king in this morning’s parable was living life unto himself. How else do you accumulate billions of dollars worth of debt? Suddenly the King comes to collect and the servant realizes that he needs the king’s mercy. He is responsible to someone else. So he begs for that mercy from the king, who forgives the debt and forgives him and releases him. He sees his interconnectedness with those who can do something for him, and is willing to accept their help and their relationship, yet he is willing to destroy the life of someone more vulnerable than he is, rather than show that same mercy and connectedness with another.

I did not pick the readings for this Sunday, but if I were going to pick them, I don’t know if I would be so bold as to pick these. To advocate forgiveness and mercy on September 11 is asking a lot. But I am not asking that. These texts were picked many years before September 11, 2001 came about and will be texts that are used on this particular Sunday every third year for many more to come. So you could say that the Holy Spirit had something to do with it.

God is the one telling us to forgive. Was God ever so wronged as we were on 9/11 that God could give us such a mandate? Did we ever owe God so great a debt as a billion dollars?

The truth is, we act as if we are entitled to everything God has let us borrow. We take it for granted that God will continue to lend it to us when we abuse it and damage it and hurt other people around us. We put ourselves in the place of God, saying we earned this or that privilege we have, acting as if we made it all by ourselves, and denying our relationship with God and each other. How often do we say, “My house,” “my car,” “my church,” “my yard,” “my children?” And we do think of them as our own, but they are really gifts from God that we get to borrow for a little while and care for.

Of course God is the one who should get the credit for every good thing we have—for every bite we eat, for the roof over our heads, for our family and friends and health and pets and clean water to drink and all our blessings. God didn’t have to give us all this. God certainly has reason to deny connection and relationship with us—we’ve screwed it up millions of times. We’ve turned our backs on God and God’s friends. We’ve wasted what God has given us and ruined it. We’ve taken it for granted and taken credit for us. And when God came to be among us and try out our life, we nailed God to the cross and killed him. So yes, God has been as wronged as we have and more and yes we owe God more than a billion dollars. And God has forgiven us all of it. Every last cent is erased from the record. It is an amazing sense of relief to know that it won’t be held against us. We’ve still got that relationship. We can still go to God and sit on God’s lap and receive that love and comfort and help God’s always given us.

So we have the choice of how to respond. I always say this about a time of grieving for a family and maybe it is the same for a congregation or a country, “It can bring out the best in people, or it can bring out the worst.” We have a choice to respond with anger and vengeance and retaliation. We can decide it happened because “They hate our freedom.” We can kill and destroy and try to make this world better through those means.

But God says that never works. When people came to kill his Son, Jesus, one of the disciples cut off the ear of one of the guards in the garden of Gethsemane. But Jesus stopped him. Jesus went without resistance. When we nailed him to the cross and left him to die and mocked him, he did not return violence for violence.
God teaches us the way of forgiveness, reconciliation, relationship. Forgiveness is a sticky subject. It doesn’t mean forgetting what happened. Instead it means remembering so that we can learn from it. It doesn’t mean simply pronouncing forgiveness without examining the situation. Jesus says, “Forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” That doesn’t just happen overnight.

Forgiveness is a process of learning from the other person, understanding what brought them to that point. It means claiming your own part in the situation—taking responsibility for the brokenness that occurred and for the healing that can occur with God’s help. It means moving forward in a different way than before, learning from this terrible tragedy what to do differently in the future.

Many of the results from September 11, 2001 have been anger and retaliation. Not only has our country become involved in several wars in which many innocent people have died and one could argue that the economy suffered greatly as a result of these wars, a mosque in our own state was bombed, Arab Americans have been singled out and threatened, kept from flying, and held without charges. We continue as a country and individuals to meet violence with violence.

I often wonder, what can I really do about it? I feel helpless at the same time that I feel responsible. Sometimes I wonder if it is up to me to do the forgiving or leave that up to others who lost loved ones or suffer from respiratory illnesses from the cleanup. In some ways, we aren’t capable of such forgiveness as Jesus commands. When we realize this is another way we fall short, may that turn us back to God to do the forgiving for us and soften our hearts toward one another.

Whether we can forgive all or part or none of these wrongs, there are ways we can become better informed about why these attacks happened. We can read about other perspectives. We can pay attention to news that is more than just sound bites of what we like to hear, but digs deeper to hear people’s stories. We can try to understand. We can sit down with an Arab American or invite a Muslim person to come to talk to our adult forum class as we have in the past. We can examine our purchases or our stock portfolios to see if we are supporting companies that support the war. And we can take actions of nonviolence in all areas of our lives, toward the earth and in our advocacy work and as we volunteer to empower people to have options other than violence.

This kind of tragedy can also bring out the best in us and in some ways it has done that, as well. On that day we found ways to reach out to those around us. Strangers who hadn’t been to church in ages, or maybe even ever, gathered in houses of worship to pray together. Many of us contacted our loved ones that day and told them how much we loved them. Maybe we don’t take so much for granted anymore—all the gifts we have from God, how much we owe God and those around us for their love and support. And if we can begin to see our neighbors around the world as family, too, and be in relationship with those we see as so different from us, we won’t be living unto ourselves but for each other, as God hopes we would do.

Although God did not cause the events of September 11, God can make something good out of it and build a world where we all understand our relationship to God and one another and are generous and loving toward all our brothers and sisters around the world.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sermon for September 4, 2011

September 4, 2011 Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20 Psalm 119:33-40
1st Reading: Ezekiel 33:7-11 2nd Reading: Romans 13:8-14

“Wherever two or three are gathered…” has become a joke that we use to refer to dwindling church attendance, so how apt that it comes on Labor Day weekend. It has the feeling of resignation about it, because it has a piece of the truth, that church attendance isn’t what it was in the ‘50s or ‘70s. And it helps us to remember that God is still with us, so all is not lost. It is a good thing if we can laugh at ourselves, or else we might cry!

“Wherever two or three are gathered…” there is the potential for great love. There is opportunity to work together, to have companionship and understanding, to learn about yourself and the world, to give of yourself, to be in relationship, to listen and be listened to. The benefits of love go on and on. Love is the highest good, wanting the best for another person, looking beyond yourself and having compassion, putting the best spin on another’s actions. Love is the ultimate blessing. Love is an experience of God. We can experience God/love in our family relationships, in marriage, in domestic partnerships, at work, in our neighborhoods, in our volunteering, and in our church.

And “Wherever two or three are gathered…” there is the chance for arguments. That’s what the lessons are focused on today. There are a million things that can go wrong in a relationship that can lead us away from love.

The reading from Ezekiel doesn’t lay out what the house of Israel has done, but God is heartbroken and angry because they’ve broken their relationship with God. If you read the book of Ezekiel, you can see that Israel has worshipped other Gods and not followed God’s commandments. Israel has ignored the widows and orphans and not cared for the poor. God is letting Israel know that God is displeased, hoping that they will listen and change their ways. Of course they keep right on the same path, despite all warnings and eventually are taken as slaves into Babylon and the temple destroyed.

Paul writes the Roman Christians who argue and can’t agree on much of anything. He gives some examples of what happens when love breaks down: Adultery, murder, theft, envy, reveling and drunkenness, debauchery and licentiousness, quarreling and jealousy. “Why can’t we all just get along?!” Instead he tells them to put on the armor of light and to put on Jesus Christ—to put on love, compassion, justice and so on.

Now isn’t it too bad that we’ve now found a community of peace and we never disagree so we can’t use these words of Jesus anymore? Sometimes churches pretend to be places of peace when they aren’t or we pretend to agree with someone when we don’t. I’ve been guilty of it plenty of times before, too. It is a fine line between putting a good spin on something someone does or says and shoving it aside while still holding anger deep down inside that someday is going to need to get out.

Martin Luther reminded us to put a good spin on other people’s “bad” behavior. We say to ourselves, “They are just having a bad day,” or “They must be driving like that because they are trying to get to a hospital in a hurry,” or “They didn’t really mean that.” But thinking the best of others can become a game of make-believe that as time goes on and these encounters stack up, we may not be able to play so easily anymore. To love is not only to think the best of others, but to build relationship with that person, to go to them and apologize for unkind thoughts, to find out what is going on with them. It becomes easier to be kind and compassionate when we learn what people are really going through and share our feelings with them before they are bottled up so long that they start leaking out in gossip or passive aggressive behavior. There is another scripture that says “Live peaceably with all, so far as it depends on you” Romans 12:18. There are times when you try to make peace and build relationships with those you disagree with and they won’t participate. The way to love in that instance has to be to let them go and let it go, maybe until the timing is better or maybe forever.

Especially at church we tend to gloss over our differences and pretend that we all get along, but is that really love? We want people to like us. I want people to think that I am a nice pastor so they will come to me with their troubles and concerns and trust me to be there with them in their time of crisis. Don’t we want a nice Jesus to tell us what we want to hear, that we’re doing mostly ok and just keep up the good work? Wouldn’t we rather pretend to be at peace than deal with conflicts out in the open?

Sandy and I went to seminary together. I didn’t like Sandy very much. She was kind of a flirt. She was living together with a man about 20 years older than her and talked about her relationship openly. I thought she ought to be ashamed of herself. Seminarians are expected to live a certain life and she was not meeting the requirements and she didn’t think she was doing anything wrong, plus she flaunted it in front of everyone. Sandy and I ended up in the same year-long chaplaincy program. I pretended to be her friend. I fed her cat when she was out of town. We had lunch together. We supported each other. And yet I was still judging her. I was not being real with her. Chaplaincy is all about knowing yourself and being real with each other so at some point during the year, my supervisor encouraged me to tell Sandy what I thought of her behavior. It really hurt Sandy. And I then had to confront all the ways I am also a hypocrite and break the rules, just like her, because that was what my anger toward her was really all about. As hurt as she was, Sandy didn’t give up on me. We met for lunch once a week to work out our mess. We started sharing on a deeper level. We got real with one another. And now that is one of the relationships I treasure most in my life. We can share anything with each other after that.

In church, too, we can have fake relationships and gloss over our differences, put on a smile when someone hurts our feelings, hold our judgments deep inside hoping the other person will change. Or we can love. I think this is one of the major complaints that outsiders have about church—people aren’t real with each other. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can engage each other and learn their point of view. We can look for our own responsibility within the situation. We can ask ourselves, “What am I doing to contribute to this problem and what can I do to be part of the solution.” We can take responsibility for our own feelings rather than believing that someone else made us feel that way. We go to someone and say, “You really puzzle me sometimes, I’d like to know you better. Would you like to have lunch?” We can go to someone and say we’re sorry or that there is something we don’t understand in their words or actions. If both people are willing to be adults about it, love can blossom that makes for deep friendships that can withstand anything.

As the body of Christ, our unity can’t be based on what we agree on, because we will always disagree and have different opinions. It has to be based on love, relationship, compassion, because that is the only thing that lasts. It has to based in love, because God is love and God must be the basis for everything we do as the body of Christ.

Many of you have set a good example for me. Here are some ideas I’ve noticed you trying for carrying this idea out. Some newer members have been inviting some longtime members over to their homes to build relationships. Some of you have invited neighbors over who are full of negativity and don’t have very many friends as a consequence to make friends with them and learn to love them. Some of you have thought of leaving this congregation because some things didn’t sit right with you, and instead you came and talked to me and helped me understand what you needed. Many of you have worked to make this place one that is comfortable for to worship, for instance purchasing new microphones or making artwork that has enhanced the worship space. Some of you have started sitting somewhere besides your usual spot during worship or coffee hour, even coming to the front row, in order to meet new people and build new relationships. You’ve stretched and challenged yourself to be on council or on committees here to learn more about each other and yourself and your church. Some of you have invited your friends and neighbors and family members to attend church or provide special music here. Some of you have reached out to someone you know was having a similar difficulty that you’ve faced before, for instance reaching out to someone who has an adult child with a mental illness or who is facing addiction.

You’re already doing this love work that Jesus invites us to do. You’re already reaping the rewards, feeling that satisfaction when you’ve made a real connection. I’d encourage you to keep up that good work until God’s love is obvious to all around us and we truly experience God with us.