Going from zero to seventy…

The scriptures from this Sunday reminded me of my one of my very favorite rollercoasters. Until earlier this year, it was located at Kings Dominion in Boswell VA but is no longer. Called Volcano: The Blast Coaster, you get all strapped in and the car leaves the station at a leisurely pace and you turn the corner. And then it happens. With two intense accelerations happening just seconds apart, the next thing you know you are being vertically catapulted going 70 miles per hour in a matter of seconds, spit out of the top, and hanging on for dear life. All in the name of fun!  

Jesus is taking us from 0 to 70 mph, starting with “do not be afraid, little flock, accelerates through “where your heart is” to “be dressed for action.” I felt like I’m going to 70 miles per hour straight up by the time I got to “you must be ready” and exploded out into the bright sunlight.

What do you feel as the ride begins? Excitement? Queasy tummy? Dread? “Do not be afraid” is Bible speak for God is doing a new thing and this ride is going to get wild! So get strapped in and don’t let the gently meandering out of the station fool you.

Many times this passage gets interpreted as coercive, “do it or else,” fear tactic. Nothing could be further from the truth. How do we know this?

We hear: “It is YOUR father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” God does not get God’s jollies from making us suffer and then sit back and watch. That’s not the God I believe in!

If this is a loving God, and I believe that this is a loving God, then perpetrating fear makes no sense at all. Fear makes us do crazy stuff. It triggers the amygdala, that residual reptilian part of our brain that tells us to “fight”, “flight” or “freeze.”  Paralyzed by fear, we have limited vision, cloudy thinking, don’t see much of a future and find hope absent.

And now the first acceleration: “Where your heart is…there is your treasure.” It is easy to get this backwards – we naturally want to go the other way. But it is where your treasure is, your heart follows. Think about that for a moment. Heart follows treasure, not the other way around. Treasure then heart.

To understand this, what happens when you purchase a car? Suddenly everyone on the road has the same car! Because we have invested in that particular car (put our heart into it) then we see that car and mostly only that car.

Jesus talks about alms in these verses as well. There is an interesting fact about the Greek word that gets translated as “alms.” It uses the same root as the English word “pity”.

To the 1st century Greeks that word means that human beings are connected at our core. That means I feel what you feel. You feel what I feel. We’re connected. We’re in relationship. We’re in community.

This connectedness transforms us and the way we think. The homeless are now our homeless, the hungry are now our hungry.”  They are our treasure and so our hearts naturally follow.  Not just writing checks but getting involved – really involved by empowering those who find themselves without advantage.

The way we use our money trains our hearts, our wills, our ways of thinking. Where are our hearts for ministry? What are our passions?

This call to this passion accelerates when we hear “be dressed for action and have your lamps lit…”

The gospel of Luke trades on social reversals. It begins with Mary’s Magnificat in the 1st chapter and continues through the gospel. We encounter this parable where the slaves are served by the master, perhaps a foreshadowing of Luke 22:26 where Jesus reminds the disciples, “greatest must become like the youngest and the leader like one who serves.”

The truth revealed about God and kingdom is that the leader is like the master who tells the slaves to sit down and it is HE who serves THEM. God has tied on an apron and served us. In dressing for action, serving others, God serves us.

Think about that for a minute. God shows up in the faces of those who we serve.  When we serve other people, God comes to us through the other and serves us.  How many have said, after experiencing service in the community, that we came to serve the least, the last, the lonely and the left behind only to discover that they, in fact, have served us.

And now going 70 mph we explode out of the top of the blast roller coaster, into the bright sunlight with “be ready.”

Ready for what? The answer is yes. In the Greek, the words for “coming” in verses 39 and 40 are present tense. Here. Now. And as such, that means we are participants in this thing called the kingdom and you never know – the unexpected hour – when God shows up and you just might see Jesus in the face of another person.

Jesus is. Here. Now. Not just the one who was and who is to come (barrowing from Revelation) but the one who is.

So how are we to be ready? Memes that pop in my head, “Jesus is coming…look busy.” To me, that feels like deception, as if we could get one over on God. Are we saying we don’t have to actively BE busy, we just have to LOOK busy, right? God sees right through that. We’re fooling no one.

And as I wrote those lines, a realization took hold. I’m fooling no one. What if all my thoughts and prayers were just so I LOOKED busy?  What about that sign in my office, that I got from one of the marches on Washington, THIS sign…thoughts + prayers = action.

Have you ever noticed that math doesn’t lie? Do the math.

We are called to actively, deliberately, and intentionally create and hold space for the least, the last, the lonely and the left behind so that all can experience God’s love through us. We do that by recognizing, listening, advocating for those whom society has deemed less than.

How many of you know that there has been this little meeting going on in Milwaukee WI this past week? Every three years, the ELCA gathers together in a church-wide assembly. Thousands of Lutherans from across the nation and beyond gather in assembly.

Apparently, I had a couple of doppelgangers there as attested by the Facebook posting and messages that I got…are you there? Pictures of march participants. Sadly, no. I was at the Buffett concert and then on the Eastern Shore. But I digress…

This year was a bishop’s election. Bishop Eaton was re-elected on the first ballot. If you don’t know who Bishop Easton is, she’s the “Big Bish” over all the bishops of all the synods.

Something else happened at CWA – church-wide assembly. Yeah.

This was reported by CNN:

(CNN)The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which represents nearly 3.5 million Christians, voted Wednesday to become the country’s first “sanctuary church body,” according to church officials.

The measure, approved during a churchwide assembly in Milwaukee, pledges that in addition to providing shelter for undocumented immigrants, the ELCA could:

— Respond to raids, deportations and the “criminalization” of immigrants and refugees;

— Fight individual cases of deportation, press for the end of mass detentions and lift up immigrants’ voices;

— Take “prophetic action” to extend “radical hospitality” to immigrants and immigrant communities.

The measure, called a “memorial,” notes that some ELCA churches and organizations, such as its Metro New York Synod, are already carrying out these actions. A church committee plans to study what it means to be a “sanctuary church body” and issue a report in 2022.

The ELCA will also develop guidelines and resources for the denomination’s more than 9,000 congregations “to help them explore and develop sanctuary ministries,” according to church officials.

Here’s the elephant in the room for us or the $64000 question, “what does that mean for RLC?”

I. Don’t. Know.

This is what I appreciate about the ELCA – we, in the local congregations, get to discern, get to explore and get to choose how we respond. They will encourage us but in the end, the decision is ours and ours alone.

BUT it is something that we can certainly talk about, right? And afterward walk out the doors as friends and then walk back in the following week, worshiping together. Right? Right?

It is God’s pleasure to have us around. God chooses not to shun, shame or condemn us. God created us. God loves us. God LIKES us! God’s heart so much desires to be in relationship with us. Do you know of any other God that will put on an apron and serve you and me?

So have no fear little flock, God is loose in the world and God is doing new things! And it feels like we’ve gone from 0-70 in three seconds flat. So, hang on for dear life, this ride is going to be wild!

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It’s not what you have (or don’t have) but what you do (or don’t ) with it…

Jesus was right in the middle a critical lesson with his disciples concerning the importance of the presence of the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:1-12) when this guy in the crowd yells out, “Tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me!” This was an incredibly rude public request to Jesus to settle a private family matter.

There are several words in the Bible that should immediately ring bells and one of them is when Jesus calls someone “friend.” Because when Jesus calls someone friend typically, they are not and what will follow is a “come to Jesus” moment that includes a huge amount of tough love.

Lessons interrupted by questions of money…again. And it’s not even Stewardship season – that’s NEXT month. It should come as no surprise that here in August we get this kind of lesson because in the gospels money is the number one topic that Jesus addresses, out every 10 verses deals with money. Perhaps the gospels speak to this because there really is no “stewardship season.” Stewardship of time, talents and treasures is a way of life, not a program.

In an effort to decrease your anxiety and to keep you reading for just a little bit longer, I’m NOT going to talk about increasing your level of giving, so take a breath and hang in there with me.

About that parable of the rich man – he’s not a cheat nor has he come by his wealth using unscrupulous methods. He’s a very good business man and has managed his wealth well. AND he’s been incredibly lucky with good weather, good soil in a land that can be harsh and unyielding.

With this abundance, he recognizes that he can retire and “relax, eat, drink and be merry.” But not quite yet – there is still more work to be done. Build bigger barns. Maybe then. But for now the construction begins.

“Fool!” That’s another bible word that should set the bells off, too. That was a fighting word and if you really, really wanted to insult someone to the max in the 1st century just call them a fool. And God just called him a fool and this guy has a really big problem.

Eleven times this guy uses personal pronouns. He’s a community of one and that does not a community make. That is this guy’s number one problem. He had isolated himself from the rest of the world. In a society that focused on relationship, family and community, the only one he had left to talk to was himself and no others. And now it’s too late.

His family whom he has alienated will never know he’s gone. The greater community which he didn’t want to be a part of will never miss him. And those neighbors, the ones with whom he couldn’t even be bothered to talk to, after a while, they will notice that the crops have not been harvested, the livestock have not been cared for and that the barns are in a state of disarray. And one day, someone will go over there only to find his dead and decaying body slumped over the counting table.

“So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

This guy’s problem was that he was filthy rich in possessions (treasures for themselves) but dirt poor in relationships (rich toward God).

God didn’t create us just to talk to ourselves. He created us to live in relationship with him in and among our family and community. Jesus never said that it was a sin to be rich. Jesus said that it was a sin to keep all of our time, talents and treasures to ourselves and not care for or to be in community and relationship with others.

In other words, this parable is not about what we have (or don’t have) but rather what we do (or don’t do) with the time, talents and treasures that we do have. It is meant to be shared, all of it, ourselves, our time and our possessions, ALL gracious gifts from God. And that is to be done in community.

And living in community isn’t easy. It means we have to talk to people we don’t like. We have to deal with those with whom we disagree, annoy the living daylights out of us and worse, have hurt us. Forgiveness and trust are vital components for a thriving community.

Let’s face it, community is messy and it takes a lot of work. That is what makes us rich toward God – giving all that love and forgiveness.

God’s will is that we are not alone but that we belong to the community of God. We are called to tend and nurture this community in which we gather around God’s word of grace, love and mercy. And in that sharing with our neighbors – the ones we know and the ones we have yet to meet – we welcome all to the table.

This parable is not about what we have (or don’t have) but rather what we do (or don’t do) with the time, talents and treasures that we do have. It is meant to be shared, all of it, ourselves, our time and our possessions The bottom line is that we are only stewards of that we call “ours”. In reality it all belongs to God and are ALL gracious gifts from God. And the miracle is that God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness is infinite — it will never run out.

Share the excitement, share the energy, share the good news of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, share what difference that has made in your life. Just share! 

Note: This blog post first appeared on the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Leesburg, website in August 2016. I’m on vacation this week…Pastor Heidi

Lessons learned…journey with Jesus

This summer we have been on the road with Jesus and the twelve disciples journeying through the gospel of Luke.

Stressing the importance of seeing, drawing near and getting involved in a meaningful Jesus shared the parable of the Samaritan and the guy in the ditch. “Go and do likewise.”

Jesus, in last week’s gospel, lifted up the value of the gathered community, including everyone – because all does really mean all – and allowing everyone to be spiritually fed.

We experienced Jesus call us by name from the places where we feel pulled back and forth in our serving and those instances where we feel perturbed. Jesus calls us from all those places where distractions and anxieties in our lives to “stay and sit” in the presence of Jesus.

Twelve disciples formed by the master as he walks toward the cross.

Discipleship formation takes four steps…in order, for success. This can be traced through all four gospels. This is how Jesus does it with not just the 12 but all of those following him.

Jesus does, the 12 watch.

Jesus does, the 12 help.

The 12 do, Jesus helps.

The 12 do, Jesus watches.

The 12 have been watching Jesus pray…a lot!

The gospel of Luke especially lifts up Jesus’ prayer life. Of all the words that describe prayer in the New Testament, over half are found in Luke and Acts.

Jesus demonstrated and taught prayer at

  • His baptism
  • Healings
  • Major encounters with the scribes and pharisees
  • The calling of the 12 – he prayed all night about that one!
  • Prayed for and with the 12 prior to going to Jerusalem
  • He will pray in the garden of Gethsemane the night before he goes to the cross
  • He will pray while on the cross.

In this scene that begins chapter 11, Jesus is praying in a certain place. We also learn that for Jesus prayer was something that you did.

It was only natural, then, that one of the 12 looks at Jesus and asks, “how do you do that? How do you pray?”

They were not looking for some great techniques or formulas for prayer, though those are not bad in and of themselves. I’ve been taught and passed on many techniques from five finger prayers to ACTS to PTA.

And I don’t believe that teaching them a prayer that has become known as the Lord’s Prayer was intended to become what it has. Don’t get me wrong – that’s a wonderful thing because it’s one of the few prayers that Christians CAN speak with some degree of unity.

At non-denominational gathering there are “sins, debtors and trespasses” all over the place – and you quickly find out who the protestants and Catholics are as well.

I concur with a Luther seminary scholar, Matt Skinner, who said that ‘“teach us to pray” is equivalent to “show us your heart” or “tell us, what IS it like to be in communion with God?”’  And I add, teach us: what does it look like to be in relationship with God who is good all the time and all the time, is good?

Perhaps that is what makes praying in public so frightening…because when we do pray we are showing our hearts, our thoughts and feelings, about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

In that moment we are vulnerable, which the world teaches us to never be, but which we must be if we are to grow and develop, learn to love God, love people and make disciples and a few other things along the way.

Jesus teaches them and us the prayer that we call the Lord’s Prayer – we pray it every Sunday using a 16th century form of English.

Not comfortable with leaving the lesson there, Jesus employs a parable to explain the act of praying. That’s when things can get a bit confusing.  

Remembering that a parable is a story that is not necessarily true BUT reveals truth about God, Jesus, and the Kingdom of God and us .

The clue to understanding this lies in how NRSV translates the parable. So we’ll do some reworking of verse 8.

Instead of “persistence” – which conveys that if we bug God long enough God will finally relent and give us what we want. Kind of like a kid whining in the candy aisle of the grocery store. I’m going to put this out there: that theology is not helpful.

If we translate that word as “shamelessness” then things begin to fall into place. Translating it this way means “lack of sensitivity to what’s proper, don’t care about acquiring public shame.” Now THAT’S going to get the attention of everyone listening in the 1st century because they were all about shame and avoiding it at all costs.

So who is the shame attached to? Answer that one and you might find yourselves down a theological rabbit hole as well.

We’ll turn to scholars again – this time to Walter Liefeld.

The one praying – the petitioner – does act with shameless disregard of his neighbor and probably the whole neighborhood as the commotion is heard throughout.

Here’s the turn about in the parable – because all parables have “turn abouts” in them.

Even though the petitioner acts in a shameful way, the neighbor acts in a way that will bring honor to both of them.

That is powerful stuff. Hallowed is your name. Forgive us our sins.

Liefeld: God will act to honor God’s name even when we act in dishonorable ways.

And notice what is happening here: God is the subject of active verbs…ALWAYS.

Skinner breaks down the prayer this way:

  • God hears.
  • God provides.
  • God forgives.
  • God protects.
  • God expects us to be generous with one another.

God is the subject of active verbs. That’s where the final verses of this parable take us on this journey.

I love it when I walk into a meeting or meal and immediately asked, “Pastor, will you lead us in prayer?” As if my prayers are heard better than others. The look on your faces when I say “no?” Priceless!

No one is the key to making prayers work. No one’s prayers are better than any others. The key to prayer is to understand that God is the one acting.

Lessons along the way…God seeks to be in relationship with us. We are to keep asking, seeking, and knocking – shamelessly – because the God of love, mercy, grace and forgiveness has done it already. God has asked of us, sought us out, knocks on our door shameless and relentlessly. God is doing it now and will continue to do it.

Rest stop. Stop. Rest.

On his journey to Jerusalem and the cross, Jesus and the 12 have pulled up to Martha’s house and stopped for dinner and a bed.

Martha is quite the remarkable women – this is HER house. She owns it, which is a rare 1st century occurrence for a woman. And we are met with a lot of temptation as we link this scripture with life.

I believe that we should start by NOT being critical with Martha but seek deeper understanding about what is going on here. Mary as well as Martha have broken culture norms of the day. Isn’t that the “Jesus way” after all? Breaking cultural norms?

For understanding, we’ll look at what’s going on in the Greek, the first language with which this story is written. We’ll also consider other places in Luke where “doing” is the preferred action according to Jesus.

Immediately we feel the tension in this vignette – both in the 1st century as well as the 21st century as we ponder “go and do” from last week versus “stay and sit” of this week.

Martha has welcomed Jesus and the twelve into her home and immediately she is, transliterated from the Greek, “pulled about through serving.”

“Pulled about” comes from the root for “spasm.” Anyone who has had a spasm of any kind knows that the pull is anything but gentle. ‘Serving” is from the word “diakone” or deacon.

Here is an aside: deacons, in the Lutheran church, are called to word and service.

Deacons are charged with connecting needs with resources. Deacons are connectors.

Martha is a deacon through and through as she connects the growls of the disciple’s tummies with food on the table. Martha got caught up in the doing as well.  

How many times have we invited people in our home only to feel that pull between kitchen and conversing.

I feel pulled in many directions at those times of the year between making sure it all gets done and having time with my family.  I see my family having a great time. And the feelings of being taking for granted slip in.

Martha complains to Jesus.

She sees her sister sitting at Jesus feet, talking with him, asking him questions. Perhaps Martha would have liked to be sitting with Mary. Martha wants Jesus to enlist or maybe shame, cajole, whatever, Mary to help her out, because after all, isn’t that the women’s role.

And that is what Mary is doing at the feet of Jesus – violating the culture norms of the day. Just like Jesus.

Mary is listening, and in the Greek verbal form, listening and keeps on listening to Jesus’ word. Logos in Greek, which is also a root for logic.

Not only is Mary listening but she is engaging Jesus. We know from the other Gospel writers that these two women had no problem pushing back when it came to Jesus’ words and questioned him intently when it made no sense to them.

Jesus response to Martha feels like he throws her under the bus, turning the shame onto her. We in the 21st century could read it that way. Many do. The Greek after all says “turbid” or perturbed or bothered. I have gotten really bothered or perturbed by what just happened in vs. 41.

Sweeping away the same shame that Martha feels, I see this little vignette as a story of possibilities – of freedom, of invitation, of inclusion, of belonging, of acceptance, of “both/and” rather than “either/or”.

Martha, Martha…or perhaps put our own names in there…Heidi, Heidi…taste and see that the Lord is good!

There is a woman at the feet of Jesus, being his student, his disciple! There were very few roles for women in the first century and disciple was not one of them and yet here is Mary! We are FREED for the kingdom of God!

Jesus is inviting us, too, breaking the cultural constraints, doing the Jesus thing that Jesus does. Set free for faithful listening so that we can love the stranger, the alien among us – those who are of other beliefs or no beliefs at all, those whose sexual identity are different from ours, those of different party affiliation. The list of “other” than ourselves is endless. This is how we are going to love our neighbors and love God.

What is this “better” part of which Jesus speaks? He is saying that Mary is better than Martha? Heavens no! He is opening up Martha’s eyes to see that it’s not “either/or” but rather both/and.

“Both/and” in that Martha’s sees her role as providing for Jesus but in fact Jesus is the one who provides for her the one thing needed. Jesus is the host no matter whose house he’s in.

Jesus the host is calling Martha and calling you and calling me to sit at the feet of the master. Receive the grace of the Lord. It’s here for the taking. The rest can wait. The time is now.

That’s a difficult leap. I find it particularly challenging. As I was preparing for last weeks sermon I revisited and reviewed my ordination vows and charges. One in particular stood out: “give and receive comfort as you serve within the church and be of good courage, for God has called you, and your labor is not in vain.”

Give and receive comfort. Be both Marth and Mary. It’s a vulnerable feeling and not a whole lot of control. Again, isn’t that the Jesus way of doing things? Isn’t that what the cross is all about?

There is urgency in Jesus’ call of Martha, Martha. He’s on the way to the cross and the time is now. We are to have a “both/and” faith – a time for doing and a time for sitting. We are freed for both.

How has Jesus blessed us with the freedom to believe that we are who God see us to be – his precious and beloved child and that NO ONE is outside of his grace?

Is Jesus calling us to stop and rest in his gracious and merciful word? Rest in his word that is for all and that his life, death and resurrection is for all, that there is room for all and when Jesus says all, he really means all!

Stop. Rest.

Stop! Pull over!

Early on in the week, as I prepare the sermon for the upcoming Sunday, I begin the process of “data uploading” – review the research on each passage that I’ve collected over the years, perhaps even past sermons – oh those poor people of God who listened to THAT! – and then I begin the search for new information, point of views, commentaries, studies that I may have missed the other times and upload that information, too.

On those rare occasions when I haven’t preached on a text included in the RCL – revised common lectionary – this whole process can take upwards of 20 hours. For one sermon. 1000 words. And in a perfect world, I’ve completed the data upload by Tuesday. Rarely, is it a perfect world.

This passage – I have a file two inches thick. And my head hurts for many reasons which may or may not reveal themselves. And then I went to Power in the Spirit. With Alli.

We’re working through our summer sermon series — Hitting the Road with Jesus – And this sermon is entitled, “Stop! Pull over!”

Ah, the Good Samaritan! Best known parable ever!

 Couple of things before we launch into this…

What is a parable? It is a story that is not necessarily true that reveals truth about Jesus, God, and the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. 

AND the Samaritan is never called “good” –Jesus never calls him good. Unlikely hero, yes but good? That’s for you to decide. Just saying…

And finally, what does this have to do with Migrant and Refugee Sunday… well, it’s that “love your neighbor as yourself” stuff. And why is it so hard…

Like I said I went to Power in the Spirit where Dr. Rolf Jacobsen was the Bible study leader. I went to one of his workshops – Pastoral Care During Trauma.

He’s a prof at Luther Seminary. He lost both legs to childhood cancer in the mid 80s and had a recurrence in lungs in 2007. So he knows a LOT about pastoral care during trauma. And then Luther Seminary went through major layoffs, many of his colleagues lost their jobs and he was dealing with survivors guilt.  Health traumas and job traumas.

Rolf introduced a concept that I had not heard of…psychic pain. This came up because he talked about how when he was losing his legs at 15 and 16, his friends never came to see him in the hospital. They visited at his home but never the hospital.

Psychic pain repels other people. Pain of other people can repulse you. No one wants to be around someone who is in any kind of pain – be it physical, emotional, etc. It is a natural response.

He told a story about a couple who had lost a son to cancer and how a person who saw them coming, crossed over to the other side of the street to avoid them. Took a deep breath and then crossed back over, confessed his sin to them. Did I mention that he was a pastor?

And that got me thinking…

Could psychic trauma at play in the story of the Samaritan? That maybe the priest and the Levite were really good people, just like you and me? Repulsed by the psychic pain emitting from the guy in the ditch, they simply crossed the street.

Who knows – maybe even the Samaritan crossed the street too. After some soul searching, he took a deep breath and crossed back. And we know the rest of the story.

And what about those in our society that we hold at arms length – symbolically crossing the street. The trauma that is happening in far away places – not just at our borders but elsewhere in the world. What about those in detentions centers? What about those who are on the front lines, just trying to do their jobs? How can we care for them as well?

Where have I crossed the road and couldn’t find the courage to cross back?

At the conclusion of Rolf’s presentation on pastoral care during trauma, he said that his goal was that entire congregations become places of Christian care.

Entire congregations.

Equip people to lean into the idea that ALL the people around them are people that God has entrusted to their care. Remember that all people are children of God.

Look to our right and to our left and God has entrusted you to our care. Look again – and say to yourself, “God has entrusted you to my care…”

Not just here but as we go out into the world – to our vocations, our workplaces, schools, ANYWHERE that we are, to respond as Christians.

Everyone around us is entrusted to our care. Everyone. You know…our neighbors. The ones we don’t like, etc., You know… all. Means. All.

And this is where I stub my toe HARD – because “all means all” means even the ones who have grievously hurt me. Those I don’t agree with. Those that I do not like. The last thing I want to do is stop and pull over. I just want to keep motoring along.

At the end of the day, though, isn’t this what Jesus is all about? Jesus does stop and pull over. Jesus shows up in the suffering, shame and alienation. That’s what the cross is all about.

Jesus showed up for the lawyer who was wrestling with self, neighbor, living God’s word and commandment.

Sometimes, we just need to stop and pull over to care for those whom God has entrusted to our care. Because Jesus always shows up for us, too. 

And not only that, Jesus shows up for those whose psychic pain repels. Jesus show up in the people who are entrusted with their care…you and me.

Jesus entreats us to cross the road, go and do likewise, and love those entrusted to our care – the neighbor, the stranger, the alien, immigrants, refugees, the ones in detention centers, the ones who are doing the front line work. All. Means. All.

In order to do that we must stop and pull over…to do God’s work with our hands. And in doing so, we “go and do likewise.”

Cleared for departure…

Departure time…

When you set out on a trip, what are some of the preparations that you make? What’s the first thing that you do? Airline reservations or if driving, a tune up for your car? Hotel or campground reservations? Pack your clothes? House sitter? Pet sitter? Paper? Mail?

At my house, I get made fun of the way I pack. It is very systematic. For each day, a set of clothes gets chosen and put in a pile on the bed according to the activities planned, right down to the accessories. And if there is a pair of shoes or perhaps a pant or jacket that is worn more than once, then that gets moved down the line.

Now, after nearly 36 years of marriage, my husband has figured out that you don’t talk to me while I’m packing – as a matter of fact, NO ONE talks to me when I am packing. This is serious stuff and it requires my full attention.

Even the cats get tossed out of the bedroom – because every time I turn my back, one of them is IN the suitcase or depositing hair on my clothes.

And yet, no amount of ritual takes away the that nagging feeling of I’ve left something – an item, a task undone. Iron unplugged? Stove turned off? Instructions and key left for the pet sitter? And the list can go on and on and on…

For 70 of Jesus disciples the time of departure has arrived and Jesus is handing out the packing lists and final instructions.

Forget the packing rituals.

Don’t worry with the car tune-up.

Don’t shop for the “car munchies.” 

Cancel the hotel reservations.

Leave the tent and sleeping bag behind.

Travel light. Leave the suitcase at home.

Trust me, some total stranger will give you a place to sleep.

Given the “pre-trip head-spinning episodes” that seem to creep into my own travel preparations, maybe I might want to give this “no-frills” approach a try.

The difference, however, between our trips –whether for business, pleasure or both – is that the “Sent Out 70” were on a mission. 70 specially chosen, unnamed individuals on a mission from God working as the Team Jesus front men.

These 70 are handed what amounts to primer for missionaries. Perhaps “Mission for Dummies” or “The Accidental Missionary.”

So the “Sent Out 70” go forth with their Missionaries Field Guide tucked under their arms – this simple manual for spreading God’s word in the world.

Here at Resurrection, we might even call it, “10 Simple Rules for Reflecting the Light of Christ.

Everything is here – job description, mission statement, proposed spending plan for ministry. All that we need to know for reaching, loving and caring for the world.

Starting with verse 2, “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few”

Rule One: Share the Good News – because the world needs to hear the Good News. Oh, but there is a catch. There is no way that we are going to be able to do it all – Jesus is already sending the team out understaffed.

Rule two: Pray! So, if we’re already going into this mission understaffed – this might be a good time to get down on our knees and start praying for the “Lord of the harvest to send more workers.”  Not for the pastor or the inviting team, formerly known as evangelism team or someone else – but for all of us to pray – for more fellow workers in the Kingdom of God.

Rule three: No side trips. Jesus means it when he says to “go on your way.” We’re to be on our way, not someone else’s way. We are called to be faithful to our mission and not covet someone else’s. The mission of that really huge church down the road — you know the one that we all love to compare ourselves to – which, of course, is NOT a smart thing to do – is not our mission. Our mission is Reflecting the love of Christ through reaching, sharing and caring.

Rule Four:  Be sincere, vulnerable, turning aside from anger. We will be like lambs among the wolves. Harkens back to Luke 6:29 – the verse that tells us if someone strikes us on the cheek, offer the other; they want your coat, hand them your shirt, too.  Let’s unpack what it means to be “vulnerable” – that means listen with an open heart. Be fully present. You may not agree with what the person is saying BUT if you are ready to refute, rebut and looking to rearrange the other person’s opinions and thoughts the moment that the person has stopped talking that means you are not listening.

This mission stuff is not for cowards. And maybe there is a bit of pragmatism here – travel light – the less you have, the less there is to lose, the lighter you are, the faster you can run… just saying.

Rule five: Focus! “Greet no one on the road” – This is not a vacation, it’s a mission. Mind you, Jesus was not counseling them to be rude. 1st century etiquette rules meant that a simple, “how’s it going?” could result in a delay of not just seconds but days. Jesus’ urgency and singleness of purpose can be heard in these words.

Rule Six: Share with everyone what God has done, is doing and will do by saying “peace to this house”.  God reaches, loves and cares through us – God’s work, our hands.

Rule Seven: No complaining. Eat what is set before you. OR, in preschool vernacular: You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit! Accept people for who they are – wonderful gifts from God, worthy to be called his children!  There is also a pragmatism to this rule as well – if you were a Gentile, then there was no problem. If you were a Jew – problem! Staying with Gentiles meant you ate what they ate and you would become unclean. But for Jesus, this was a non-issue.

Rule Eight: Understand true faithfulness. “They do not welcome you…” We are called to be faithful in our mission. Success in God’s eyes is not the same as success in the world’s eyes – know the difference. This gets back to working on ourselves and to be the best missionaries that GOD has called us to be, where we are to be and how we are to be.

Rule Nine: Expect Failure. “We wipe off the dust” – It gets back to the instruction given to 12 back at the beginning of chapter 9 – shake the dust off your feet and move on – if at first you do not succeed, try, try again…with the folks down the road. Don’t give up – mission work is not for sissies! Keep moving. Not everyone is going to like you or the message that you share.

Rule Ten: God’s got our back. “Yet know this – the kingdom of God has come near.” Remember the sure and certain promise that God is with us every step of the way – and God’s mission will succeed, even if we mess up!

We are cleared for departure!

And to God, the glory will be!

Journey with Jesus…time to hit the road!

Jesus steps it up and gets to the heart of the mission when he sets his face to journey to Jerusalem in Luke 9:51ff.  

He has just come down from the mount of transfiguration with Peter, James and John, where God has said, “this is my son…listen and keep on listening to him.”

This is Jesus at a turning point in his ministry. For Jesus there would now be no turning back.

But first, he must traverse the Samaritan territory and sent messengers – an advance team — ahead.

The good people of Samaria tell them to go take a hike, don’t even bother coming here, we’re not interested in what you’re selling, we’re not going to listen so don’t bother talking.  

This should be no surprise. Jews and the Samaritans didn’t get along. The two groups were always squabbling about whose temple had priority, which form of worship was right.

They knew that Jesus was on the way to his temple, not theirs; on the way to where he worshiped, and in their eyes, “other” temple.

They may have thought Jesus rather presumptuous to assume that they would offer any Jew hospitality.

They treated Jesus’ front team like outsiders – the same way the Jews treated the Samaritans.

Tossing aside God’s command just given on the Mount of Transfiguration, James and John get this bright idea – how about a little fire and brimstone? Some fire of heavenly revenge? They don’t think and act like us. Can’t stomach our teachings? Try this lesson on for size! They deserve it!

Are we any different than James and John?

How many of us are guilty of these thoughts?

If other people don’t think the way we think, act the way we think they should act,

follow  our version of God, much less Christianity, well then THEY, and certainly not us, are going to hell.

And don’t forget the requisite Facebook post condemning them.

We are so good telling each other who’s in and who’s out of the kingdom of God. That is so not our joub!

Yet, we have got to be in control. That’s the way we feel safe. Control everything around us, including other people.

And when things don’t go our way, well then, stop our feet, scream, have a total meltdown like a two year old, call people names or worse, cut off from everything and everybody around us and employ isolationism and nationalism and triumphalism and a few other isms along the way.

And don’t leave out unfriending them on Facebook!

This is not any different from James’ and John’s excited request, “Jesus, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” There’s some unfriending for you!

That wasn’t what bothered Jesus.

What bothered Jesus was the disciples’ response! THEY are the ones who received Jesus’ rebuke, not the Samaritans.

Jesus explicit actions of journeying on tells us that he doesn’t have time for all this foolishness, and neither should we. Time is of the essence.

These men have so much to learn about being disciples of Christ. WE have so much to learn about being disciples of Christ.

Fear gets in the way of faith and compassion and listening for understanding all. the. time.

So begins some intensive instruction that will last through the 19th chapter and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday and onto the cross.

The first lesson we get is how to see as Jesus sees.

Jesus never tells us what to see, he teaches us how to see.

“but first let me…” 

These are legitimate requests – bury a parent, say goodbye to family and friends.

No one could argue that they were not very good reasons for not immediately embarking on the Jesus’ journey, for not wanting to be a disciple today but perhaps tomorrow, when it’s just better timing. When I’ve got all ducks in a row, when I have all my stuff figured out.

That’s what we see. Each time Jesus teaches us how to see.

Because the call to discipleship,

the call to grow in faith, is a call TO follow Christ, a call to something other than our self interest.

There will always be other things that will compete for the priority in our lives. Yet, that is what discipleships requires – prioritization.

That requires us to give up the illusion of control. That’s the point of these harsh passages.

The responses that Jesus gives are all about control. And if we’re hitting the road with Jesus, get ready for transformation.

Life on the road with Jesus takes courage. The son of man has nowhere to lay his head and neither will you.

Life on the road with Jesus takes compassion. You go and proclaim the kingdom of God because death is a part of life even though God never wanted it to be.

When you hit the road with Jesus, you don’t look back. Trust that God is on this journey with us, that God is part of the adventure, that God has our back, even if our plowing isn’t exactly straight because God’s promise of eternal life is eternal.

That’s the life of faith. We won’t always get it right or perfect, just like Jesus’ first disciples. But unless we hit the road, get on the journey with Jesus, be a disciple, get our feet wet in the waters of baptism and live out our baptismal covenant, and have a few “holy failures,” then we will never know what we can do. We will never know what kind of adventure through this chaotic thing called life will be like and where we will see, feel, hear, sense, or touch Jesus along the way.

Yes, some of the choices that we make have been, are and will indeed be heart-wrenching.

That is what the transformative power of Jesus feels like, when courage, compassion and trust coalesce.

We might find ourselves with the courage to speak for justice, call for righteous rather than waiting for someone else to do it.

We find ourselves with the compassion to stand up for the least, the lost and the lonely and the left behind– those that world would rather not think about. 

We find ourselves trusting in God as we risk telling the truth about the kingdom even if no one seems to be listening.

We too are called with urgency by Christ, to be on the journey, to be about his mission, in this time and in this place – reflect the love of Christ,

reach out to a hurting world,

love those whom we don’t want to love,

care for all God’s children.

Jesus set his face to Jerusalem and never looked back. Jesus reminds us that now is the time to act.

Luther said, “Be little Christs in this world. See like Jesus. Love like Jesus. Do like Jesus. 

It’s time to hit the road with Jesus – our summer adventure, our journey through a sanctuary renovation, Dream! ministry evaluation and decision, new fiscal year beginning – not going to be easy, folks!

We’re journeying with Jesus…and it’s time to hit the road!