Lutheranlady's Weblog


Crawling back into the Womb: Being born with Jesus: A sermon on John 3
March 21, 2011, 6:03 pm
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Grace and peace to you, my sisters and brothers in Christ,

 

Today we have the joy of welcoming a new sister into our family of faith. Jocelyn will be claimed as a daughter of God in the waters of her baptism. She probably won’t have any memories of this day, but throughout her life, it will be our job to remind her of the promises spoken to her today.

 

Just as each birthday might find her family telling stories of her birth, we, her baptismal family, are called to tell her stories of the birth that occurs today. Pictures, and the gifts she will receive: a towel and a candle, are all things that will remind her of her baptism. More important will be each of you, the community who will affirm her baptism and remind her of her status as a beloved child of God as she grows up in this church community.

 

It’s fitting that our gospel this morning is a story of Jesus talking about a new birth that opens the way to the kingdom of God. In chapter three of John, we meet Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a learned and respected leader of the faithful Jews. He comes by cover of darkness to Jesus. He’s seen something of Jesus, something of a power behind Jesus, something that has made him pause and consider what God is doing in this man. However, many of the other Jewish leaders have been skeptical and uncertain about this Jesus’ claims and orgins. So, Nicodemus comes by night, to engage in his own investigation.

 

We each come to Jesus in our own way, with our own questions. Maybe you’ve come to check out Jesus with the hesitancy of Nicodemus. Many of you were perhaps raised in a family where going to church, reading the Bible, and praying were part of what you did. Others may have experienced something- a glimpse- of God, or grace, or the unexplainable, that led them to explore more deeply the witness to Jesus. This is what happened to Nicodemus.

 

Jesus’ answer to Nicodemus’ probing isn’t to perform another great miracle, or to definitively explain his relationship to God. Jesus talks of birth. He talks first of being born from above, and then of being born of water and the spirit. He presents these as conditions for seeing God, or being a part of the kingdom of God.

 

Are you able to see God, or the kingdom of God, in our midst? Sometimes our vision can get dulled. Many people in our communities have a passing relationship with faith and the church. They are sort of connected, have had a history in the church, but have lost some of the activity and vibrancy they once had. A Sunday School faith hasn’t served them into adulthood, or a busy schedule has pushed church lower among many priorities. We get lulled into thinking God’s distantly approving of us when we’re good, and there for us when we need to be comforted. Nicodemus has been woken out of his comfortable faith by a startling encounter with Jesus. He doesn’t quite understand about Jesus or the kingdom of God yet, but God has somehow stirred him to engage a little deeper.

 

Since Nicodemus is trying to figure out who Jesus is, and what his relationship to God is, we should start to unravel this text by considering Jesus’ birth. As we’ll be confessing in our Apostles’ Creed, we believe that Jesus is “God’s only son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.” Jesus is the one who is born from above. Jesus comes from God and is born of a human mother to live among us.

 

In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, we hear a poetic witness to Jesus identity. Jesus- the Word- was with God from the beginning, through him all things were created, and then this cosmic Word “became flesh and lived among us.” Through Jesus come “grace and truth.” Jesus is born from above and God’s servant John the Baptist witnesses to his birth by the Holy Spirit. “John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.’” (John 1:32).

 

The Gospel of John does not contain an explicit account of Jesus being baptized by John. From the other Gospels, we might infer that it was at his baptism that John saw this vision of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus. The other Gospels tell of Jesus coming to John in the wilderness to be baptized by him. Jesus then is also born of water. First and foremost, the one who is born from above, or born of Spirit and water, is Jesus Christ himself.

 

As Nicodemus tries to sort out what Jesus is saying, he wonders how this talk of birth can apply to him. He points out that it’s impossible to crawl back into his mother’s womb. He’s getting confused by thinking Jesus is telling him he has to be born again. But Jesus is saying that seeing the kingdom of God comes from being born from above. There’s a different type of birth that ushers people into a new way of seeing.

 

Today, you may have heard people talk about a need to be “born again” in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. People think of this as a new start on life, or a new commitment to faith. Sometimes this being “born again” is connected with baptism. In our church, we don’t talk of being “born again.” But this text from the Gospel of John speaks of the importance of being “born from above.”

 

For Jesus, being “born from above” means being “born of the Spirit.” It’s about being given life from God. It’s about being united with the one who is born of water and the Spirit, who is born from above. This special birthing happens to us at our baptism.

 

Baptism unites us with Jesus in his birth and his death. Jesus is the primary one to be born from above. We join in this birth from above through Jesus, in the waters and promise of baptism. We join him in his death, which he died on the cross for the sake of the whole world. We are raised out of the waters, raised to new life, as Jesus was raised from the dead and the tomb to resurrected life.

 

 

 

The Holy Spirit comes to us, and God’s presence remains with us from the time of our baptism through eternity. Fresh from baptism, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. No matter where our lives take us, or how faded our vision of the kingdom of God becomes, God has already claimed us forever. From this day forward, Jocelyn will never be apart from God. The Holy Spirit will be with her forever.

 

Today we will plunge Jocelyn into the waters that unite us with Jesus for eternal life. This life is God’s gift to us through Jesus Christ. In John 1:13, we hear, “(The Word, the light, Jesus) gave power to become children of God who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” As an infant, we know that Jocelyn is helpless to communicate her dedication or her faith. It is not her professed will to be baptized. But it is God’s will to claim her through Jesus Christ, and to gift her with the Holy Spirit and life forever.

 

God has rebirthed us, making us born of water and the Spirit. God does this out of love, for the sake of the whole world. This water carries a promise: God claims us as God’s beloved children in baptism. We are all set on a new path when we emerge from the waters of baptism. We live in the kingdom of God right now. This whole congregation is called to see the kingdom of God around us and join in God’s work to make it more fully present. We learn part of this role through the baptismal promises we affirm at confirmation. We promise to: live among God’s faithful people,

to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper,

to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,

to serve all people, following the example of Jesus,

and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.

We are called to live for the sake of the world. How well Jocelyn’s parents, sponsors, and congregation live out their own baptismal promises will have a direct affect on her ability to live out hers. We form each other into a community that follows Jesus, living as people who have been born from above.

 

Baptism is the means by which we are born from above, born of water and the Spirit. It is God’s gift to us on the day of our once and for all baptism. It’s a gift that continues to shape us our whole lives. It’s what has formed us into brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, called to daily remember our baptisms and remind each other of the new identity and new life we have received through baptism. Together we witness to Jocelyn’s new birth through Jesus today.

 

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Larger than life? A sermon on Temptation: Genesis and Matthew
March 13, 2011, 5:25 pm
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Grace and peace to you, my sisters and brothers in Christ.

 

As we begin our Lenten journey, we hear the two great Biblical stories of temptation with commentary from the Apostle Paul. From Genesis, we hear the temptation of the first humans, and from Matthew, the temptation of Jesus. Between the two, we hear truth about our own reality in the face of temptation, and the source of our rescue from it.

 

First, we have to ask, what is this temptation all about? When I hear the word temptation, I tend to think of the bag of m&ms in my cupboard. They call out to me, “eat me- why did you buy us if you didn’t want us- we will make you happy- yummm….” While the Biblical temptation stories have to do with satisfying one’s own desires, like my issue with the chocolates, they go a little deeper than that.

 

Temptation has a voice in these texts. In Genesis, it is the crafty serpent whose retelling of God’s words intends to trip up the couples’ interpretation. In Matthew, it is the devil who quotes Scripture to find a breaking point in Jesus’ resolve. The character of the devil in much of the Bible, especially in Job and Matthew, has one divinely ordained job to do: to protect God and God’s honor. This devil travels throughout the earth, testing peoples’ allegiance to God, especially testing those whom God seems to put too much faith in.

 

Adam and Eve were created by God, and unlike the rest of creation, were made in God’s image and received God’s breath of life. One who was protective of God might wonder if God had made the right decision in sharing so much of Godself with a creature.

 

Jesus has just been baptized by John. At his baptism, the Spirit of God was seen descending upon him like a dove and a voice from heaven declared “This is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 4:16-17). One who was protective of God might find this dangerous and blasphemous.

 

Surely the devil must think that God has been too free with God’s trust. So, he goes about to determine the danger. The most important question is if God’s sovereignty is being usurped. Are these new human creatures, and later this one called the Son of God, setting themselves up in the place of God?

 

The human couple fail this test. The serpent twists God’s words and convinces the couple that the tree will make them like God, knowing good and evil.

 

The temptation of Adam and Eve leads them into sin. One pastor I know described sin by writing it out on the whiteboard- a normal s, a normal n, but then in between a supersized capital I. Sin is about making oneself bigger. It’s making oneself the top priority, the final decision maker, in short- it’s making oneself God. This is also called idolatry. Idolatry is putting anything in God’s place that is not God, and looking to that thing or person with the trust and worship that belongs only to God.

This disobedience of God’s command and the selfish idolatry from which it arose is explained as the beginning of sin, marring a perfect creation. The whole story of God’s people throughout the ages is the story of a people who are under the power of sin. They often choose the same idolatry that the first couple did.

 

This same sin tempts us. We often seek to set ourselves up in God’s place. We trust in ourselves and our work to provide our needs. We think we know what’s best for our lives and our families. We choose whatever options seem to give us the most gain. It’s easier to go through life thinking first about ourselves. It is more difficult to try to discern how we can make choices that reflect God’s will for our lives.

 

We often fail the test the devil puts to both that first couple and to Jesus: we try to make ourselves gods of our lives, believing we can see the whole universe from our narrow point of experience. We want power and control over our circumstances, we want the knowledge that belongs rightly to God. We attempt to make ourselves bigger.

 

Generations later, God trusts in one person to carry God’s mission to the world. This one is Jesus, and the devil is ready again to see if God’s trust is misplaced. The devil comes to Jesus after he has been fasting in the wilderness for forty days. The three temptations offer Jesus the opportunity to define his role and path. He has just been named the Son of God, will he use his divine identity and power to protect himself, care for his own needs, and amass power? How Jesus reacts to these temptations sets the course for his mission and ministry. Unlike Adam and Eve, he has access to the power of God. He has the birthright to use it, but will he?

 

The first temptation relates to his physical condition. He is starving. The devil goads hims to prove his identity as the Son of God by acting as God does and creating what he needs to survive: a loaf of bread. The second temptation pressures Jesus to prove his identity by trusting in God’s promise to protect him from danger. The third temptation relates to the “what’s in it for you” question. The devil offers him the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worshipping him rather than God.

 

Jesus’ response to these temptations proves his willingness to make himself smaller. Unlike humans, who wish to displace God and put themselves forward as gods, in Jesus, God steps down from God’s exalted and powerful position to come to and for us. All of Jesus’ temptations were really acts that he had the power to do. He is God, after all, he alone can make bread out of stones, command the angels of heaven, and claim authority over all the nations. But his coming to earth, his being born human, his choices in these temptations, is the beginning of the path we follow to the end this season.

 

Jesus comes to us to be re-connected to a humanity that has forgotten the joy of relationship with God. When Adam and Eve followed the serpent’s twisted logic and sought godship for themselves, they forgot the joy of walking in the garden with the God who chose to come to them. They forgot the freedom of being in a relationship where they knew who they were. They forgot the identity they had been gifted as the only creatures blessed to be in the image of God.

 

Jesus’ path takes him deep into the hurt and suffering that creation experiences. Instead of choosing self-preservation, Jesus chooses self-denial. Jesus chooses to enter the experience of creation in all its difficulty. He is affected by the needs of the powerless, the outcast, and the hurting. He makes himself smaller for the sake of the smallest and most easily overlooked.

 

Jesus stays true to his course, and proves faithful to God’s trust in him. The devil is unable to make him waver. Neither will angry crowds, arrest, or a violent death force him from his path. Jesus’ faithfulness covers all of humanity’s unfaithfulness. His faithfulness is the great reversal of Adam and Eve’s choice. Through him, the fate of humanity is changed.

 

We continue to make Adam and Eve’s choice to try to be the gods of our universe. Jesus’ choice to be faithful to his path changes the consequences for us. Whereas Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden so that they wouldn’t eat of the tree of life, we are given life as we are named righteous, faithful people through Jesus Christ’s faithfulness. Jesus is faithful for our sake. Jesus knows we will often set ourselves up as gods, that we would fail the devil’s tests of our loyalty to the one God. Despite that, Jesus lives God’s love for us as he faithfully follows his path to open to us the gifts of life and being made right with God. Jesus’ loving humility allows him to share the justification he has earned in conquering the devil, temptation and sin. God gives up the divine right to maintain power by passing damning judgment and instead welcomes us as holy saints through Jesus.

 

 

 



A Transfigured Baptism and Lent: Matthew 17:1–9
March 6, 2011, 5:49 pm
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Grace and Peace to you, my sisters and brothers in Christ.

 

Today we look forward to two beginnings: Sophia Satrom will begin her Christian life as a baptized child of God, and on Wednesday, we will begin the church season of Lent. At first, they may sound like unrelated events. What could they have in common other than the fact that they’ve both been written on my calendar for the last month?

 

If you studied your Prairie Prophet newsletter, you may already know. Lent has traditionally been a period of preparation for baptism. People in the early church who somehow heard of Jesus and desired to be a part of the community who followed and worshipped him would spend the forty days of Lent in study, worship, and introduction into the community’s life. They would be baptized at the Easter Vigil. This would be the Saturday night of Easter weekend. Much as we celebrate it today, they would gather in darkness, remembering the darkness of grief and fear when Jesus died and was buried, and then a new fire would be started, words of God’s promise would be read, and eventually the new dawn would come when all rejoice and remember that Jesus was raised from the dead. To be baptized on this night emphasized that when we are baptized, we are joined with Jesus in death. We die to our selfish way of life, we die to the power of sin, and we die in a reminder that death seems to have inescapable power over us. But death and darkness do not last. Jesus did not stay dead. God raised Jesus from the dead into life forever. In baptism, God raises us with Jesus, so that no matter what happens to us, we would always been kept strongly and safely in God’s gift of life forever. Imagine the joy of celebrating your own resurrection along with the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection!

 

Nowadays, we don’t really have any special day when we baptize. Some churches still encourage people to be baptized on Easter Vigil, and have a long period of preparation for baptism. Our new hymnal has some extra services in the baptism section just for this purpose. You might take a look at the “Welcome to Baptism” rite to learn more. We tend to have baptisms on days that make sense based on family reasons more than church ones.

 

The long process of preparing for baptism seems to have gone by the wayside as well. Today, most of us were raised in families who were at least nominally Christian. So, when we were born, our parents brought us to be baptized because that’s just one of the many things good parents are supposed to do. Confirmation may be an attempt to recapture this historic period of preparation. It provides an opportunity for learning, witness, and grasping for oneself the responsibilities of being a member of the community of Christ.

 

Even for those of us who have long been baptized and confirmed, Lent can still be a powerful period of preparation. It might be the perfect time to live more deeply into one of those baptismal promises you affirmed at confirmation: “to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism: to live among God’s faithful people, to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.” Or maybe what you most need is to live more fully into the promise we speak to the newly baptized: “You belong to Christ, in whom you have been baptized. Alleluia.” Lent is a time for us to live more fully into our identity and our calling as members of the community who follows and worships Jesus.

 

On this last Sunday before Lent, we celebrate the Transfiguration of Our Lord, Jesus. We have a glimpse of Jesus in all his glory. It’s this Jesus, shining with the divine light, in the presence of the honored prophets, recognized as the Son of God by the very voice of God, who we’ll follow on his journey towards the cross this Lent.

 

I tend to think of the Jesus of my Lenten journey as dirty and weary, burdened with the illness, hurt, and sin of the world. I tend to think of him as plodding his way towards the cross, a cloud of death and gloom hanging over him. This Jesus tends to match the mood I’ve often associated with the Lenten season.

 

But that’s not the Jesus who sets us towards the Lenten journey. We have Transfigured Jesus. Changed Jesus. Shining like a lightbulb and clothed in such a bright white that it would surely be chosen over that Clorox bleached sample.

 

When Peter and James and John see Jesus in this glory, see him talking with Moses and Elijah, and hear the voice of God saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” we can imagine that they are more than a little overwhelmed. He’s even more than the Jesus they see restoring sight to the blind, life to the dead, and outsiders to a community. He’s so glorious and powerful that these trusted disciples end up flat on their faces in fear. But then, in a few short moments, he’s the regular Jesus they’ve always known, telling them not to fear. Jesus also tells them not to share this amazing vision with anyone until after his resurrection from the dead.

 

This revelation on the mountain should have clued the disciples in to expect the amazing. In the dark hours of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, and burial, why didn’t they remember this moment and have hope?

 

On this side of heaven, we won’t get any answers from Peter, James, or John. But, we can ask ourselves and see how our lives will answer. Most of us have been baptized into Jesus Christ. We have died with Christ and have been raised with him. We know both Jesus’ servant humility and his divine glory. As we enter Lent, as we hear the promises of baptism being spoken to Sophia, to her parents Kris and Kayla, and her godparents Nick, Steph, Megan, and Brandon, and wonder how well we live into those promises in our daily lives.

 

Baptism is a gift from God that includes God’s unfailing promise to claim us for life as well as God’s calling us into a specific way of life. That life is cruciform, cross-shaped. The baptized are united with Jesus Christ and so their lives look like Jesus’. Lent is a time in our church year when we especially ask ourselves if that is true, and take on practices that are meant to help us follow Jesus. We also spend much time in confession, recognizing that we often fail to live as Jesus, fail to heed God’s command that Jesus is the Son of God, to whom we should listen.

 

It is difficult to follow Jesus today. I think that’s why I’ve always pictured my Lenten Jesus as dusty and road-weary. Today’s Gospel reminds me that the same Jesus who enters all the grime of our lives is also the one who shines in bleached white.  The path of baptized discipleship may leave us dirty and discouraged, but we follow knowing that we have already been made clean, claimed for life, and granted the power of the Holy Spirit. We have been united with Jesus.

 

The Jesus who is revealed as the glorious Son of God is the same Jesus who seeks out the lost, the shamed, and the broken. He is the Son of Man who enters all the pain of our human experience. He is the One into whose body we are baptized and whose lifestyle we are called to follow this Lent. The glorious vision of divinity and resurrection might be just the hope and promise we most need as we try to bravely enter the Christian life.

 

 



No worries?! : A sermon on Matthew 6
March 2, 2011, 12:51 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Grace and peace to you, my sisters and brothers in Christ.

 

Do not worry. I feel like that’s the message I’ve always heard Jesus preaching in this text from the Sermon on the Mount. It’s right on the cover of our bulletin- “Do not worry.”  It’s that little phrase that gets stuck in our heads and we think- how can we not worry?

 

Worry comes each day, especially as we have people in our lives whom we love. Relationships cause worry. People have told me, “You don’t know worry until you have kids.” Our baby’s not quite here yet, but we’ve spent plenty of time worrying already. Doctor’s appointments, all the things that can cause problems, what to buy, and whether we’ll cut it as parents all provide plenty to worry about.

 

In relationships, we have responsibilities, and sometimes, they are just too much for us. We know we can’t protect, provide, or even love enough. Inevitably, something goes wrong. Our kid will bump her head. Jobs will change and we’ll need to move. Anger and frustration lead to hasty words. Plenty of ways to mess up means plenty of reasons to worry.

 

We worry because things are so uncertain in this life. As much as we try to control our circumstances, build a good life, and work hard for financial stability, we are just never sure what might happen. Many people in these last years have lost jobs they thought were secure, and homes they thought they could afford. Illness and death come unexpectedly and affect both relationships and finances.

 

We worry because this life matters. Tomorrow matters. Each person and creature and all creation matters. What we do matters. Each decision we make affects not only us, but also other people. Planning for the future is important! So what is all this from the Sermon on the Mount about? Why would Jesus tell us not to worry or to plan?

 

As I prepared my sermon this week, one little word struck me. A word I don’t think I’ve ever noticed being there before. The word is “Therefore.” In Greek, it’s a whole phrase: a more word for word translation of the Greek is “On account of this, I say to you-.” If you want to be really cool and learn a new Greek phrase- it’s ——.

 

What this English word or Greek phrase led me to discover is that this whole familiar bit about not worrying and looking at the birds and the lilies doesn’t just stand on its own, but has to do with what Jesus has been talking about. What Jesus has been talking about is money, wealth, and possessions.

 

We don’t get all of his previous speech, so here’s some highlights. Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where most and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matt 6:19-20a); and “You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt 6:24b)

 

Directly after that last verse, Jesus continues, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.” (Matt 6:25) Money, wealth, and possessions are easily lost. They also take our energy and loyalty away from God. So, money and the goods it can buy are not so important to Jesus. Jesus advises us that those things are not worth worrying about.

 

Jesus continues, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” I don’t suppose Jesus ever studied modern psychology. If he had, surely he would be familiar with concepts such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and would know that people need their most basic needs satisfied- like safety, shelter, and food, before they are able to attend to higher needs- like love, compassion, and spirituality.

 

Jesus turns our modern theories upside down. He insists that disciples must first seek the kingdom of God, and not worry about all the things of life. The kingdom of God has different priorities than the kingdoms of our culture and our self-interest. Those latter kingdoms tell us to take care of our own needs, or our family’s needs, before worrying about helping anyone else. They rationalize this argument by saying we need to take care of ourselves first so that we don’t become people who are in need ourselves. In contrast, the kingdom of God includes disciples who have left their families and their jobs to follow Jesus in giving their lives away for the sake of the world.

 

Jesus is about the business of helping disciples reorient their lives and concerns. Jesus doesn’t tell us not to worry in general, but not to worry about claiming and protecting the things of life. Food, drink, and clothing are necessities of life, but they are not gods from whom we receive life. Centering our lives around attaining and amassing them does not give wholeness of life, but only wasted worry.

 

Think of your past week. What took up most of your time and energy? What worries woke you up in the middle of the night? If you’re like me, it’s been family, health, the unknown future, money, bills, work, taxes, and that darn dog who thinks he needs to alert me to other creatures awake at 2am outside our door. Sometimes I’ve thought and prayed for those in need, both in this community and around the world. But it’s been food, drink, and clothing that remain major concerns for me. It’s not a matter of finding enough to eat, but getting the right things to eat. It’s figuring out what clothes are appropriate for what functions, and right now, figuring out what’s going to fit, and how few maternity clothes I really have to buy. So often I’ve head radio and tv shows that glorify the challenge of living frugally, with super coupon-clipper heros, who get everything everyone else wants, but at a cheaper price. These worries and heros point to what we find most important.

 

We uncover a lot about a congregation when we look for evidence about what is being strived after. We might look at the church budget and see how much money is being used to serve neighbors and the world, and how much goes to other “things.” We might check out the calendar to see where the congregation’s time is being spent. We might track the use of the building to see how the community is being served. We might ask worshippers how they see themselves continuing God’s work Monday-Friday.

 

I’ll let you consider your church on your own, and I’ll make it easy on us and tell you a story about another church. When Pastor Jeff and I are in Fargo for visits, meetings, or appointments, Pastor Jeff often plays noon basketball with a group of pastors, youth workers, professors, and other folks who can stand the company of those types of people. On certain days, they play at a church that has a gym.

 

This week, Pastor Jeff walked in to find three men arguing. The man with the complaint was in charge of the church finances and property. The other two were familiar with the church, but weren’t actually members or staff any longer. This one man was yelling at the two about how they shouldn’t be allowed to play basketball in the gym anymore. Earlier that week, someone was showering after basketball and somehow managed to bang a chip off the bathroom sink. The culprit had brought the chip up to the church office and explained the accident. The two men thought it seemed like an innocent accident, which could easily be fixed by having the chip reattached to the sink. Sure, there might be a little line around it, and it wouldn’t look perfect anymore, but it would still work just fine. But the one man thought the whole sink would have to be trashed and a new one purchased for upwards of $500, and since he was in charge of the budget, he knew that would put even more strain on their finances, and therefore, this whole basketball thing would just have to stop. It is just too costly and dangerous for the building. The two men tried to get the one to understand that this noon ball is an important ministry, a time when folks can burn off some energy, and share some concerns and prayers about their own lives. But sometimes it’s difficult to see the ministry for the dollar signs.

 

I think it’s pretty easy to write the angry man’s concerns off as an overreaction. It’s easy because it’s not my church, or my budget. But I’m sure we can all think of ways that finances or people’s status as givers have affected how decisions about ministry are made.

 

Jesus has a promise to comfort those of us who are prone to worry, to care about food, drink, and clothing, or who appreciate budgets and hard work a bit too much. He says, “your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things… all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:32b, 33b)

 

That’s an amazing promise- everything we need is a gift from God. It’s also a sharp reminder that puts us in our place- we’re not the ones who create and sustain life. That’s God’s job. God is the one who gives us- and the sparrows and the lilies- life, and who keeps our lives each day. God is the only one who will be able to give us eternal life after we die. No matter how hard we work, or how hard we worry, we can’t create all these things, we can’t create life, from nothing. It all comes from God, who is happy to give us what we need.