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March 11, 2018, 12:00 AM

Christian Morality

Well let us dig right in with the very first paragraph that I read. Now it may be helpful to remember that almost everything that they bothered to record in the Gospels that relates to a Jewish authority was not a positive. This does not say that the Jews of Jesus' time never did anything right, but those are not the things that are recorded in the Gospels regarding the Jewish authorities. Today's lesson is no different and they are wrong almost from the moment we read about them so let us start.

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning.

OK, No problem.

They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover.

Now wait a minute. So these people who are accusing Jesus and bring him before the occupying Roman law are not willing to go themselves in front of the judge. They have decided to bring the accusations to Pilate but they will not go in to the building because to do so would make them ritually unclean and they would not be able to eat the Passover. There were many rules at that time for those people regarding what they could or could not do, if they wanted to be pure enough to participate in worship. Thank God we have Grace and forgiveness and have the law written on our hearts. That said it is a good reminder that not all actions are acceptable in the eyes of God.

Let us continue.

So Pilate went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ They answered, ‘If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.’

Now here is, in my experience, a very human moment. “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” The ever popular self evident truth problem. And I see a lot of this today in our own society. Well I see this and then I see people going, “It must be true because it feels right for it to be true.” So, here are the philosophical changes that have happened and it might be time for the pendulum to swing in a new direction.

First we had modernism, which loosely stated that there was an identifiable truth and that came from things like the scientific method. Then we had post modernism which was the reaction to that and that was the belief that there was no such thing as a verifiable truth. This eventually gave way to the meta-modern philosophy which states that there is truth but that it is naturally bounded or if you prefer only true in a particular set of circumstances. It make some sense that if there is truth then we must define under what conditions something is the truth. But we have proceeded beyond this to an age of post truth. In post truth we can scientifically prove that something is true and then argue that it is not true because I did not prove it to myself or maybe because for all I see the data I still don't believe it. It is saying that I know that people with a waist line over 38” have a higher risk of heart disease and then saying but I feel OK and so it must not be true for me. Another time this is easily evident is when someone says, Yes that is true, but it does not affect me or will not be consequential inside my life time, so I don't care. So we have the problem today of rejecting truth because we don't like it or because we can not prove it with our own eyes or because the problem is so far removed from this moment that I can not be bothered.

The other problem with the logic pattern of the religious leaders in our text is circular logic. We would not have brought him to you if he were not a criminal. Consider the following and even I may have been guilty, although I tried not to do this. I teach it to my children because it was taught to me and it was good enough for me, … with no evidence it was good for you. This is a problem because it is the same logic used by an abuser. I beat my children because I was beaten and then so often they will say “and I came out OK” and yet this just after you had a long discussion on the psychological impacts of that abuse. 

Finally we come to this little gem.

Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.’ The Jews replied, ‘We are not permitted to put anyone to death.’

And here again we see this reflection of the human condition. We know what we want to see done but often want someone else to do the dirty work. In this case it is the Jewish authorities of the day want Jesus dead because he threatens their status quo, he threatens the way they make their living, but they want Pilate to do their dirty work. Having someone else do the dirty work helps us to keep from feeling responsible. If they did it then I am not morally responsible for the outcome because I did not do it. This logic is interesting because if we are still feeling guilty then we will say, “They could have refused to do it if they did not want to do it.” Sorry folks but if you ask someone else to do something it does not remove your responsibility for the crime.

I guess you might have sensed that I am frustrated at the current condition of our world. I see people who are not doing, that which is not convenient, even though it is right. I see people who are not doing that which is right because it would require real thought. I see people doing that which is wrong because it was done to them. I see people justifying they are right because they see other people doing it. I see the presence of a morality if you will, which is not based on any principle other than hedonism, the moral philosophy that if it feels good it must be right. And here is the problem with that for people sitting in a pew on Sunday morning. That my friends is the tempter often known as the devil.

Consider the following. Jesus had been in the desert 40 days and he was hungry, the devil says to him why not make bread from these stones. In other words give up the spiritual gains to settle your physical craving. Eve is in the garden and the serpent says, surely God did not mean you will die when you eat this beautiful fruit. And once again it looks good and tastes good and is physically satisfying but the death it brought was spiritual in nature. It is tempting to settle the physical craving and may well be OK some of the time, however that is not universally true and might lead to a spiritual death or some separation from God.

It might feel good to sleep with someone not your spouse and knowing it would hurt the spouse if they know, you do not tell your spouse and that is adultery. It might feel good to sit down at an all you can eat buffet every day and eat until you are stuffed but that my friends is gluttony. It might feel good to have lots of money, but if that means that you are over charging and limiting access to something like water that is necessary for life then greed has overtaken. So, because it feels right is not the correct reason for a Christian to do something. We need to work at being the example for the rest of the world that a higher moral ground is possible.

Now at this moment you may be feeling bad about one of more things you have done and so I want to bring you the good news. If you are repentant, truly sorry, sorry enough to try not to do it again confess it and be reminded of the forgiveness Jesus offers as we baptize two little children this morning. That is the grace and glory of our faith. We are given a better path to walk along and higher standard to live by and we are given forgiveness when we stray from the path, so that we might return to the path and try walking on it again. So, place your sin at the feet of the great redeemer and receive forgiveness so that you might walk out of here renewed, refreshed and strengthened for the road ahead.

March 4, 2018, 12:00 AM

Love Yourself

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our salvation. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.

What are you afraid of people finding out? What are you afraid will change? These are the questions that popped into my mind as I read this morning's text.

Let us start with the second question. What are you afraid will change? When you look around, there is so very much happening for most of us. When you look around, you will no doubt see that some things are changing. When you look around, what are those things that you, knowing we are in a time of constant change, worry or fret will change? I know for some people I have met along the way they are afraid of the culture around us changing. I know for some people I have met along the way they are afraid that their favorite food will no longer be available. I know that for some I have met they are good with all those changes so long as their church, the anchor that holds them, does not change.

As I look at the questions of change I am reminded of how many people have bemoaned what has already changed. Some look at our culture and think of a day when in their memory there were fewer problems. Some look at our culture and remember a day when in their memory everyone had a good job. Some look at our culture and remember a day when everyone they knew thought about things in the same way. Some look at our culture and remember the good old days. The problem is that the good old days were not good for all. We tend to gloss over the detail of the number of black people who were disenfranchised. We tend to gloss over the detail that there were great pockets of poverty even in the midst of widespread sharing of wealth. And yet for so very many it was a good time and thus it seems that all was ok then and all is going poorly now we want to know what is different.

This of course glosses over those people who are sitting thinking how much better things are for them today than they were 40 years ago. Maybe 40 years ago they lived in a family that had newly immigrated to this country and spoke no English and therefore had limited economic opportunity. Maybe 40 years ago they lived in a family with limited education and therefore had limited economic opportunity. Maybe 40 years ago they were still living in the old homeland, under a brutal dictator or maybe just in a place with an economy that had tanked.

Thus we see those who are better off today that are embracing many of the changes the we have seen. We are also seeing those, which in my analysis, like the temple leaders who arrested Jesus, fear the changes in the culture. In my experience those who are fearing the change of culture fear one of two things. First there is the fear of the unknown, those changes which make things less comprehensible and since familiarity breeds comfort, our fear is actually our discomfort with the unknown. Second there is the fear of loss, this is the fear most often of losing economic power, which is rooted in your privileged position in society. This second is the one I suspect most driving the temple authorities to arrest and try and thus silence Jesus.

There is a second kind of fear and that is the one we see today in Peter, the fear that something about us will be revealed to the world around us. Often we fear the revealing of some inner detail of our lives for the very same reasons that we fear changes externally. We fear that what might be revealed would lead to losses economically or socially. So, what is it that you hold deep in your in most core and pray that no one every figures out. What is the secret that you are planning never to reveal and thus you will take it to your grave. What is the inner truth that you fear if people knew it it would destroy the wealth and privilege that you enjoy. That my friends is what we see in Peter today with his denial of Jesus three times.

This fear of being revealed has been most clear to me in those I have known who are Gay, those who are Transgender and then there are the alcoholics, the drug addicts, those who embezzle, those who cheat on their spouse and those who may love their family but not their spouse. All of these people and many others have something to loose if the reality they are hiding were to come to light. The interesting thing is that much like Peter, people around us know the truth even as we are denying it. Much like Peter, there are friends who are be hurt by our denial.

And thus we have the paradox because if Peter had not denied his relationship with Jesus, what would have happened to Peter. Look at our text and you see the woman asking if Peter knew Jesus because he looks an awful lot like someone who was hanging out with Jesus. What is Peter's fear, that for the truth to come to light he will be persecuted with Jesus or …. What is that nebulous change that Peter fears, which he does not actually know. What is the niggle in the back of Peter's head that causes him to deny Jesus three times. What is the unknown change that would occur if Peter did not deny Jesus to those who thought they had seen him in the garden.

The temple authorities never get to see the answer that Peter comes to know. You see if all we had was the first part of Jesus' trial and the denial of Peter there might not be much room for hope but that is not the only text we read today. Our first reading today focuses on that moment, later, after Jesus has been resurrected, when he is with Peter and three times Jesus asks Peter do you love me. This time having watched Jesus die on the cross, having watched Jesus be buried in the tomb and having witnessed Jesus be resurrected from the dead Peter has a little more faith and a lot more courage. And yet is that not the way for us as well, if we have seen the right events occur we will have far more faith and courage that it will all work out in the end. And yet we also know the text from the bible that says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Often we have good reason to fear. People who live in privileged positions have watched those who have lost their status and/or their money and the lives they live do not appear to have the luxuries that have come to find as normal even needed. People who are Gay or Transgender have watched as that one little part of them, when revealed about others has led not only to financial ruin but also being ostracized by the community or worse when they are actually physically beaten up or raped for that reality. People who are alcoholics or drug addicts have watched as those who have revealed their reality are required to clean up their act, which seems like an impossibility, but must happen if they are to have to opportunity to preserve some part of their economic or social position. People who are in loveless marriages or who have had an affair, rightly fear the loss of their family situation and yet may well be slowly tearing that family situation apart for not sharing what is their reality or on their heart. And yet there is an answer and we know that answer and that answer is to return to a relationship with our God. The answer lies in the three times Jesus asks Peter do you love me, The answer lies in turning it over to the very same one who created us.

The answer to the problem lies in the answer to Jesus' question which is being asked of all of us everyday and that is, “Do you love me?” At some level this question is also, “Are you willing to entrust the whole of your life and your reality to me?” And then there is the challenge of answering yes. By saying, “Yes, Jesus I love you and I entrust my life to your way of being.” by saying this we are also accepting that the answer to our conundrum, that the salvation that awaits us, that the freedom of not hiding our reality also may involve accepting our losses and we as humans are terribly loss averse. In each of the situations I quoted above the path to freedom, the path to healing and the path to following God may also be a path that takes you places that are not labeled with “You are here.” And yet as those who have been enslaved to such realities and have come through to the other side and entrusted their lives to the very same entity that created them, the one who promises salvation and promises that if we trust it will all work out in the end, those people have found freedom just as I believe that Peter found freedom and strength by finally openly accepting what it means to follow Jesus.

And so the invitation lies before each of us today, to let go of, to put together a plan to, to figure out how to live in the light, the light that peers into the darkest corners of our soul, not to condemn us but to figure out how to heal us, to figure out how to offer us salvation, and to figure out how to help us live our truth freely. And so I am going to pause for just a moment before I finish for you to ponder the question, “What reality is Jesus calling me to start to bring to the light so that my soul might be healed?”


And so let us close in prayer. God, creator of the universe, you make us as we are, help us to understand but even more so to embrace the persons you have created each of us to be. Help us as well to embrace others, accept others as they are and to ease their journey when they are working to embrace their own reality. Finally, take our fear from us, show us how the fear of losing what we have keeps us from what we might be, even when what we might be is greater than what we have. God, what we are saying is help us to be ourselves, embrace ourselves, and tell Jesus that we love his way and will follow his lead so that we might learn to love all others from the love we have for ourselves and the love we have first known when it was shown to us in Jesus. Amen.

February 25, 2018, 12:00 AM

Towards Healing the Country

Last week I choose not to say anything about the 17 lives that were take on Ash Wednesday or if you prefer The Feast of St Valentine (also commonly known as Valentines Day) All that I could think to say last week felt either not biblical, mostly political and/or simply pablum that has been repeated by many needing to say something while trying not to offend. Maybe the worst would have been the pablum of platitudes about God and love and the call to love without specifics actions to go with it. I like most am appalled by this violence and want to make sure that it never happens again, it definitely does not fit with our faith, but what can be suggested that is not already being suggested and thus is part of the mire that keeps us stuck in doing nearly nothing.

As I think about our gospel text and of Jesus sitting there knowing that he has finally been betrayed to the religious authorities, who have been out to get him, even as he was continuing to preach, I am reminded that our faith is not one that calls us to safety. As I read Romans I am reminded that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” And so it is, with the knowledge that I am not called to safety and that I may well get some of the balance wrong, but that I am entitled to grace so long as I am acting in good faith, that I will try to see if I can speak this morning in a more productive manner.


Let me start with a memorial of sorts. The following is a list of Mass School Shootings in the previous twenty years. Numbers of the dead listed does not included the gun man nor does the list include the wounded.

2018, February 14 - Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school - (17 deaths)

2017, November 14 - Rancho Tehama Reserve - (6 deaths)

2015, October 1 - Umpqua Community College - (10 deaths)

2014, October 24 - Marysville Pilchuck High School - (5 deaths)

2013, June 7 - Santa Monica California School - (6 deaths)

2013, January 15 – Hazard College - (3 deaths)

2012, December 14 - Sandy Hook Elementary School - (28 deaths)

2012, April 2 - Oikos University - (7 deaths)

2012, February 27 - Chardon High School - (3 deaths)

2010, February 12 - University of Alabama in Huntsville - (3 deaths)

2008, February 14 - Northern Illinois University - (6 deaths)

2007, April 6 - Virginia Tech - (33 deaths)

2006, October 2 - West Nickel Mines School - (6 deaths)

2005, March 21 - Red Lake - (10 deaths)

2002, January 16 - Appalachian School of Law - (3 deaths)

1999, April 20 - Columbine High School - (15 deaths)

1998, May 21 - Thurston High School - (4 deaths)

1998, March 24 - Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden - (5 deaths)

This list is just the school shootings and does not include any of the hundreds of other incidents with significant casualties. I will note that after Columbine there were huge calls to change. After Sandy Hook, I remember the calls for never again. And once again we hear the calls to change in part because there is something particularly egregious when you target the youth. I hear the analysts going to town, some saying this time is different, others suggesting that given the list of priors, change will never happen. Mostly, I hear people who are tired of burying our children and yet I also hear the despair of those, which is most people, who want something to be different, something to change and thus help to return us to a place where we feel safe.

So, I want to point out that Luther would likely say that the government has been failing in its job. I am not going to tell any person how they need to believe the government should work, nor am I going to propose a direct way to fix it but, Luther argued that good governance was a gift from God and that good governance could be identified by its ability to provide a place and space for the people to quietly and safely live out their lives and thus their faith. By no standard that I know is the government doing an effective job of providing a place for our children to live out their lives in a quiet and peaceable manner and thus this government is not a gift from God and we can all pray to see changes that bring about the implementation of a government that could be seen as a gift from God.

This brings me to my next thought. There are some very different governing philosophies at work. As a country there are at least four different thoughts on how to govern and traditionally in this country that led to coalition building among the various groups. When we read the Bible we find advice like if you are coming to the altar and you realize you have anything against your neighbor, go reconcile with them and then return to make your sacrifice or love your neighbor as your self or forgive me as I forgive those who have done things against me. So, the bible definitely would be more conciliatory and about coalition building and figuring out how to get along than it would every be about stubbornly demanding that I get all of what I am asking for. The bible lays out guiding principles but is quite flexible on their implementation. Some might even argue that for the Pharisees and Sadducees this was part of the problem they had, when we read about them accusing Jesus because his disciples plucked wheat on the Sabbath or he healed on the Sabbath. Jesus never said abolish the rules, but instead said I came to be the fulfillment of the rules.

So, let us look at one of the differences we have in this country in governing philosophy because it is the one most directly affected by The Church. In some circles of the Church, maybe most clearly the Roman Catholic church but also in large parts of the non-denominational church movement the thought process is that we should legislate, or write laws, to keep people from doing things that are immoral. In other words the church should lobby the government to make rules that ensure no one does anything that would lead them to violate a commandment or other rule of God and thus put their relationship with God and/or their salvation in jeopardy. Now remember that the Roman Catholic church in much of the world was the Church of the State, much as the Anglican Church is the church of England and so this kind of legislation is in keeping with what they do in other places. You will even see the pope and the leaders of some countries standing together in solidarity, church and state in lock step together down the path. Not all agree as some people think that this kind of legislation puts us in jeopardy of the state having A Church, which the constitution was specifically written to avoid. So, the other option is that the responsibility of the state is to create a space where I can live a life that I find to be moral and thus should legislate only when my exercise of what I find to be moral would impinge on your ability to lead your life in the way you find to be moral. These folk would argue that it is up to me to maintain my relationship with my God and not their problem, so long as I do not impinge on their ability to lead life in a way they find to be moral. So, is it the states job to keep me from committing immoral acts or is it the states job to keep me from impinging on your ability to live a moral life.

We must add things like the above to the different governing philosophies brought about by things like whether you came to the United States to build a new landed aristocracy or came to the United States to escape the aristocracy system or you came to the United States because you were looking for a place to live out life without much government intrusion or you came to the United States to escape persecution, most often religious persecution and you can start to see how we end up in so very many different places, when trying to write the laws of the land.

The reality is that there is only one person you can ultimately change and you are standing in their shoes and so it is going to take some corporate navel gazing if we are to get back to the place of coalition building and trying to find options that work for us all and get away from imposing my view on everyone else. First, we need to find ways to reduce the corporate anxiety, we need to get away from feeling that we are constantly threatened because when we are anxious and afraid we do not think creatively. We need not to see daily reports of murder with pictures of the scene and actors recreating in vivid detail every moment because this rewires our brain in ways that keep us from cooperating with our neighbor. This is the only way for us to ever get the sort of corporate sobriety that will allow us to actually realize that there is less violence now than there was before, not to mention that reducing the corporate sense of threat means not raising children who always feel threatened and thus are prone to committing violence. So, shut the TV off, read the news in print without all the pictures and then with the extra time you have read a gospel lesson or a psalm, say a prayer, spend some time meditating on who God is or go out and pull some weeds. This is just a thought, but if I can only really change me but am supposed to be an example to my neighbor then it has to start with each person here individually. You are responsible for being the change you wish to see.

Next we need to learn to listen again. We need not to goad our neighbor because that raises their anxiety and we need to protect ourselves from the things that raise our anxiety because that creates tunnel vision and then we can not open our ears to hear our neighbor. Let us hear and respond to the pain our neighbor is feeling. Let us reach out with our extra time to our neighbor. Let us do what the church has always done best and be and create community, so that there are fewer children who are isolated, which is one of the common denominators among those who commit this sort of violence. Take the time to actively listen to your spouse and your children. Take the time to hear what is bothering your neighbor. Take the time to practice active listening. If the pundits are right and national politics needs to change, if politics is to become effective then it means we corporately need individual change and so let us start with what we are capable of changing and that is the person standing your shoes.

There is so very much I could say on this and the corporate heavy sigh that goes along with the failure of hope that things can be different is palpable. I am not suggesting there are not things to be done by the state and nation to help. No there needs to be a change in the state and nation, so that they can become the gift from God that creates a safe place for us to live out our lives in peace as suggested by Luther. I also realize though that the state and country are reflections of us as people and thus to change the whole we must change as individual people. If all we manage to do is figure out how to reduce our individual anxiety enough to learn to hear our neighbor fully and then seek the common ground that once built coalitions in this country, I believe we are on the way.

May God bless you and order your steps, bringing you shalom and thus that sense of peace and wholeness that passes understanding, that you might be a beam in that beacon of light calling a world so broken and in need, back to our creator, the source of healing and light.

November 12, 2017, 12:00 AM

10, 10, 80 Whole Life Stewardship

Tis the season to talk about stewardship. And before you say why from the pulpit I submit to you that 16 of the 38 biblical parables taught by Jesus were about how to run our finances. Why money in the church well it is also true that 1 out of every 10 verse in the gospels has something to do with money. So, apparently how we deal with money is important but there is far more to stewardship than just money.

There are many stewardship topics we could talk about. We could talk about how the church is one of the only institutions left that operates solely on your donation. We could talk about how you see fifty people in worship and that ignores the fifty that worship in chapel on Wednesday from the nursery school. We could talk about how the school, the quilts, the harvest program, thanksgiving baskets, Christmas baskets and the “men's” breakfast help us to reach out to the community with the love of Christ and from that ask how are you reaching out and/or participating in the outreach of the church. And all of these would be worthy of the time.

Instead this morning I want to spend some time on two very concrete thoughts. First, I want to speak to you about 10, 10, 80 as a way to live and why it works. Second, I want to talk to you about $1 per day.

Starting with 10, 10, 80. This is a way to deal with both tithing and long term financial success. Actually, it is a rule that is based in caring for the church and making sure you can retire.

Let us look at the retirement side of the equation first. If you save 10% of your income and manage a 7% average return on investment (which you might do in the stock market) and then after thirty years were to turn around and start living off the money, your interest income would be 80% of your pre-retirement income. The interesting thing is that if you have spent the last thirty years living on 80% of your income then you effectively have no drop in income when you shift to retirement.

Now I will admit that this is somewhat overly simplistic in that it assumes steady income and I hope and pray that you are getting raises every year so maybe you have to run the equation a little longer than thirty years. This also assumes a 7% return on your investments, which at the time the equation was created was probably a standard for bonds and bank CD's. However, this also does not account for Social Security retirement income or that fact that more and more I see people taking part time work well into their “retirement” and thus our incomes are supplemented in a way that the differential should more than take care of itself. So, I posit to you that saving 10% of your income for thirty years and living on 80% you could retire in about 30 years. For those of you sitting here and planning to start full time work at 25 that means early retirement at 55 if you want it.

Now if you take 10% and add it to 80% you will note that this only adds up to 90% thus leaving 10% behind. That 10% is then designated for the church and the work of the church and that is known as a tithe.

The term tithe as the 10% offering goes all the way back to Abraham and the old testament. At that time Abraham gave one tenth of all that he had to Melchizedek the great high priest. We know as well that offerings were commanded of the Jews and that those became the means for caring for the Levite tribe who were the tribe of the priests. We know as well that this continued into Jesus day because he rebukes the scribes and pharisees for tithing “mint and dill and cumin” but they had “neglected weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.” In other words these folk were worried about making sure that they did not short change God one cumin seed even as they neglected the nature, character and intent of the law. We have no direct command from Jesus but infer from his not telling them the principle behind tithe was wrong and the long history of tithing among God's people that this continues to be the best option for us today.

The interesting thing about this is that if the average income per person was $35,000 per year and we averaged 50 people in worship on Sunday it would give us a income in the plate of $175,000 leaving us to fix the roof, pay me, pay the utilities and (wait for it........) and.......... fund ministry. Even at $25,000 per person per year we would have $125,000 per year in offerings. Do this and retain the large annual gift we currently receive and the possibilities are nearly endless.

In fairness, I must also say thank you to those here who do contribute generously. I also understand that each of us has a different ability to give and that life circumstances get in the way of lots of good plans but often a goal and a concrete goal is helpful in working toward our future. I will also note that I have never heard of anyone who tithed and most do it for spiritual reason, but I have never met a person who was sorry that they intentionally tithed their income. And thus I bring you 10-10-80 as one way to live well.

The second thing I want to bring to you is One Dollar a Day. It is very easy to look at something like 10% when we are currently at 2% and look at the differential and determine there is no way I could give that much. It is very possible that the shift in your budget would be too much but what if I were to suggest that you give one dollar per day more in the next year than you did in the year before. That might seem like a more manageable number. Combine that with always upping your tithe when you get a raise by an amount that is 10% of your raise and I think you will find that you are tithing sooner than you might imagine.

You may be sitting here and thinking what difference does $1 per day per person really make to the congregation. Other than I have never seen the treasurer snivel at one penny, I will submit to you that we usually have about 50 people in worship on a Sunday morning. If this is true and since $1 per day is $365 per year simple math tells me that it would add $18,250 per year to the income of the congregation. Now if we take and consider that there are probably another at least 15 people for whom they are not present either because they are on vacation or because regular attendance means once or twice each month and the number becomes $23,725.

If you are sitting in the pew thinking that does not sound like a lot of money and how can that small sum solve our problems I will suggest to you that if we did this for four to five years running we would have $100,000 in growth in our income, which would nearly double the portion of our income not given as a major annual gift.

So, I propose to you that if you are sitting this week considering your pledge form and how much you might increase the pledge, $1 per day is not a bad option. Now I understand that different people have different abilities to give and so for some of you this may be an unreasonable stretch and maybe you need to do it over two years but I also know that some of you are very capable of giving $2 or $3 per day more than you are currently. Mostly though this is a concrete way to think through the question of how much to increase your giving.

Whatever your pledge, Thank You. You are helping us to bring the Gospel to a world much in need whether it is through the Love of God we show in a quilt or the Love of God we share in our weekly chapel service or the Love of God shown to a hungry person in our community and maybe who is not even aware of the work that went into getting them fed and for those moments when I am available to someone during the week who has just had a bad time and needs a person to pray with them. Your donations support the work of this congregation and help to ensure the hand of God and the Love of God are present in the world.

So, whether you are considering the grand arc of life and how you might run your finances or you are considering how to increase your pledge to the church you have two concrete ways to work on the equation. First, consider splitting your income into 10% for savings, 10% as a tithe to the church and living on 80% of your income. Second, if you don't know how to get the the 10% tithe or simply are trying to figure out how much you might increase your pledge for next year, I suggest $1 per day. And in this way, together, we can continue to serve God and serve a world much in need by bringing them the love of God. 

November 5, 2017, 12:00 AM

All Saints - Living the Beattitudes

Let me start this morning with a list of the Saints I know. There is my mother Marjorie Robison and her sister, my godmother, Aunt Gwen and there are my Grandparents, Gaga, Papa, Grandpa Robison and Grandma Robison and then there are others. Just yesterday Vivian Cooley joined the company of Saints and then we have Dorothy Conley and Debbie Bennett. I would like to think that Ian and Pam, high school friends who have already passed, are in the presence of God and part of the company of Saints. These are some of the people who have gone before me to join the company of Saints in light.

As I contemplate the saints who have gone before me there are two realities. The first is the question of whether they have joined the heavenly throng and are thus part of those we celebrate as part of the company of saints. The easiest way to determine this is through the questions of baptism but then some of these people I know, I think would have made it simply on the lives they lived. I am talking not of those who were always troubled and for whom we pray God has mercy but those like Dorothy Conley and Debbie Bennett who lived lives that would seem to exemplify the best of what we might think of as Godly behavior.

Even as I am thinking this through I am reminded that we are also starting into our stewardship campaign and that part of our stewardship is how we live our lives. I would like to propose two things. First I would like to propose that those we think of first when we ask who are the saints, likely were good examples of the best of behavior and thus are people we might emulate as we try to live lives that are pleasing to God. Second, I would like to propose that there are some biblical standards we can use to guide our contemplation of the right courses of action. In other words when we think of the word saint, often the first people to come to mind are those who have lived lives in keeping with God's will and that we might also want to consider living in these ways.

Now thankfully we are not left without a rudder in determining whether our actions are in keeping with God's will. We are given both minimum standards and aspiration standards or standards to strive for. Minimum Standards would be say the Ten Commandments, read in a literal way. In other words it is pretty easy to judge whether I have murder someone or stolen a physical object. Luther teaches us that reading through these as guides we can also see the aspiration standard, things like not stealing points to the fact that we should instead help our neighbor to keep and care for all they have. I however want to point out another aspiration standard. This would be a standard of conduct that Jesus believes if you managed to live such a life you would have been a good steward of all God has given you.

I am reminded that aspiration standards are doable but sometimes stretch goals for us. In other words we might see the best possible in these and start working for them knowing that we are not there quite yet. What standard might that be, what if I were to suggest that Jesus' sermon on the mount and in particular the beatitudes were that sort of a standard. Follow me for a moment here but I think that being blessed is a positive and some indication that God is happy with your conduct. Jesus, son of God, second person of the trinity, God incarnate and come among us, would be teaching according to the will of God and thus a teaching which included being blessed would be the standard we should, could, might try to live by.

If these last statements are true then we have in our texts today one of the most concise lists Jesus has ever produced on how we are to act and behave as he points out all of those who are due to receive preferential treatment in or a special blessing from the Kingdom of heaven. I am talking about the beatitudes. So, let us start looking at what they might teach us.

Jesus began to speak, and taught them, saying:

  3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I would like to suggest that “poor in spirit” could also be interpreted as humble. We have all met people who regardless of there station in life or their income are naturally humble and they are usually inspiring people to be with.

  4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Look around the world and see the pain and suffering that we inflict upon each other. Look at the damage that one person can do to another and the words of Desmond Tutu when asked, “How do you cope when you see the destruction and pain in the world?” and he responded, “I cry every day.” might be your words also. If you see the world for what it is, how can we do anything by mourn for the losses, losses of innocence, losses of humanity, losses of life, losses of dignity. There is plenty to mourn.

  5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Here is a word that we do not hear very often, meek. Other words you might use are quiet, yielding, gentle and deferential. This is not to say they are not strong people or people who don't stand for what matters, since often not imposing upon others but being gentle while also standing for truth takes real strength.

  6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

To Hunger and thirst for righteousness is not the physical hunger we feel in our bellies and the thirst is not simply a dry throat. No, these people want to see the world and God reconciled. Righteousness is no more or less that being in right relationship with God and how wonderful to long for being in right relationship with God.

  7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Mercy is something that we don't often consider because mercy is often about not giving the person who did wrong what they deserve but instead helping them out or helping them to see a new and better way to interface with the world. All to often we want them to get their just due or to suffer retribution when we are called as Christians to seek mercy on their behalf.

  8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Have you ever met a person for whom you could say that they have no agenda, except to make the world a better place. Have you met the person who could love anyone and everyone. Have you met the person who was able to see the good in each person even those who had treated them wrong. What does it take to become pure in heart but to give up and let God show us the world through a different lens, the lens that God uses.

  9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

What more is there to say, are we doing nothing, are we sowing discord or are we making the world a more peaceable place. Are we helping all the worlds people to live together in harmony or not.

  10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Here is one we might not want to hear. People who do the right thing because it is the right thing to do and will not do otherwise are often at a minimum taunted a bit. The person who does not fight back because they are more interested in being right with God than right in the world is often looked down upon but then would you rather be right in God's eyes or the world's eyes. I might suggest being right with God is more important and more fulfilling that being right with the world.

  11“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

And finally, as if to anticipate the reaction we might get for following Jesus final command to go into all the world sharing the good news, we have this little gem. If people revile and persecute you, as they did the prophets before you and as they did Jesus your savior before you, because you are busy sharing the good new then so be it. Take heart in the fact that your reward is great in heaven and your efforts will be recognized in the place that matters, when you are rejoined with the saints who have gone before you.

So let us recap for a moment. We are remembering the saints who have gone before us, many of who exemplify the best of Christian living. As we remember the saints and their lives we are also reminded to be good stewards of our lives. As we seek to be good stewards of our lives, sometimes concrete suggestions are helpful in determining the best course of action. Today we have Jesus' list of behaviors we should aspire to fulfill in the beatitudes. Thus if you are ever looking for a list of qualities and traits to adopt, how about trying: humble, meek, merciful, and pure in heart while being a peacemaker who mourns the pain and destruction in this world while not worrying when you are persecuted for doing the right thing or sharing the good news.

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