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Sunday, July 9, 2017


There is hope in living and loving as Christ, and there is hope in failing to live and love as Christ, for Christ bears the load with us, in good and ill, and helps us walk the path of Christly love.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
   The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 14, year A
   Texts: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30; Romans 7:15-25a

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Paul of Tarsus was a saint. The Church says so.

We know it is so. His brilliant and passionate proclamation of God’s love in Christ, his tireless mission work, creating congregations across Asia Minor and Europe, his letters that still inspire and move us into faith, all witness to the holy grace that he was.

But sometimes he could be a jerk. He struggled with arrogance, had a temper problem, would sometimes wish terrible things on his opponents. Paul wasn’t always a gracious, kind, Christ-like person. And this is after his conversion from being a persecutor of the Church. Rightly or wrongly, there are many who do not see a saint when they consider Paul.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a saint. The Church says so.

We know it is so. Her life among the poor is inspiring to us all. Dedicating her life and all she had to caring for those on the fringes of the fringe, those whom so many had abandoned and ignored, her establishing of clinics, orphanages, and hospices, and an order of sisters who expanded her ministry, all witness to the holy grace that she was.

But she struggled with faith, often feeling God’s absence from her life. After her death, her writings were made public which described a deep sense of alienation from God lasting many years. During her process of canonization, some accused her of misusing donations, and said her methods weren’t intended to bring those who were poor out of poverty but to keep them there. Rightly or wrongly, there are some who do not see a saint when they consider Teresa.

What of the saints in our lives?

Think of those whose holiness of life and word inspired you, taught you, shaped you. Those about whom you and I could tell stories of awe and wonder, whose lives are ones for which we are still thankful. If the Church in East and West has not seen fit to formally canonize them, nonetheless we witness to the holy grace that they were.

Yet can we not also tell other stories of them which don’t neatly fit the title “saint”? There are fourteen names I name in the final petition of our prayers each week, when we each name our own beloved dead, fourteen loved ones from my mother to my uncles and all sorts of relatives in between. Some are dear models of faith to me. Not one was free of failure. With each I could tell of things that weren’t Christ-like. So could you of yours. Depending on which part of the story we tell of these who were holy in our lives, others might not see saints when they consider these people.

But think of all these and ask, are you ashamed of their failings?

I doubt it. We find inspiration and hope in their lives, and always will. People like Paul still teach us with their words, and always will. People like Teresa still inspire us with their devoted ministry, and always will. People whom we name and love still are the lights by which we first saw in the darkness, and will always be blessed in our hearts and minds.

We don’t ignore their failings, but we aren’t embarrassed by them. Their mistakes aren’t a source of shame. We love them for who they are and for the blessing they have been.

So why has the Church so long served the main course of the Good News of God’s love in Christ covered in a rich sauce of shame? For centuries now, we have been taught to be ashamed of our sin, to look at the lives of saints and note how unlike them we are, to hang our heads in humiliation before God as if we aren’t worthy. Only then are we told we can know we are loved by God’s grace.

But this is in direct conflict with the Scriptures, with the teaching, life, death and resurrection of Christ, with the teachings of the apostles and the very saints themselves, even our own. What we hear from all these is that we are beloved of God, worthy of God’s deepest attention, even to the point of God taking on our humanity alongside us. These witnesses name our sin not to humiliate, but to correct. They name it as we name the sins of our saints, as a truth needing forgiveness, not a truth that changes our view of the person.

It’s time we learned from the saints and Christ Jesus to set aside our shame and finally hear the real Good News.

Instead of shame, from the saints we receive the grace of a shared struggle.

Paul’s words from Romans 7 comfort and bless us. We hear from the apostle who taught us of God’s love for us, that he struggled to do right. “I can will what is right, but I can’t do it,” he says. “For I don’t do the good I want, but the evil I don’t want is what I do.”

We understand this in our bones. But what a gift for this saint and apostle to say, “I’m like you. This path of Christ is hard for me, too, and even when in my inmost heart I want to follow Christ, I don’t always do it.” What a blessing to hear!

Likewise, Teresa’s writings themselves give us hope, because her life of faithfulness continued in spite of her sense of a missing faith. She longed for God’s closeness, but she kept serving and loving as Christ. What a gift that is in our own times of God’s silence!

All these aren’t blessings to us because they were perfect, but because they share the same struggle we do. The best of them, if we read their writings, or remember their conversations with us, freely admit their failures to be like Christ.

When we look at the problems of the world, and at our own lives where we’re complicit in so many unspoken and unexplored areas, when we realize how hard it is to walk as Christ, even though we want to so badly, we can see around us these saints, not on pedestals but right next to us, who say, “I know exactly what you mean. It’s hard.”

But then they all say, turn to Christ for help. All these saints who share this struggle with us have this in common: they drew hope and life and strength from Christ, not themselves.

Instead of shame, from Christ we receive the grace of a shared burden.

Jesus never shamed people, or humiliated them. Yes, he called out sin, named it. But always in love, always ready to accept those who strayed. He said his job was to seek and find the lost and bring them home.

It is this crucified and risen Christ who now says to us: “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Christ Jesus says we are beloved and that as we walk the cross-shaped path that frightens and daunts and intimidates us, we do not walk it alone. In fact, we are yoked to Christ, each of us, like a fellow ox. The yoke is this life in Christ we seek. And Christ is harnessed alongside us, so we are pulling together, bearing the burden together.

When we stumble and fall, because we do, Christ doesn’t shame us or humiliate us. Christ picks up more of the weight, helps us right ourselves, and off we go again, forgiven and loved still, on this path of love of God and love of neighbor.

When Paul asks today who will save him from his struggle, he says it is God who does it, through Christ. And partly he means it is God who forgives him. But what Paul really desires is help with the struggle, help carrying the burden.

That’s the promise Christ gives Paul, and Teresa, and all the saints. And us. To pull alongside us, help us when we stumble, and get us going forward in love again.

This is the grace of our struggle to faithfully follow Christ’s path. We never carry the weight alone.

When we grasp this, it’s like the sun breaking through dark clouds. We find hope and joy in living and loving as Christ, of course. But because Christ is yoked alongside us, we also find hope and joy in failing to live and love as Christ. Because in our weakness we are made strong. In our failing we are made perfect and in our failing we are also the most aware that we are always joined to Christ, and therefore to the love of the Triune God.

Christ’s path often seems overwhelming. But once we truly see the witness of the saints in failure as well as grace, once we remember who’s yoked alongside us, we finally understand how this yoke can be easy, this burden light. “Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus our Lord!” Paul says. Thanks be to God indeed!

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Go in peace. Serve the Lord.

Go in peace. Serve the Lord. This is our promise and hope, that we go out into the world always in Christ’s peace. This is also our calling, our sending, that we go as Christ’s peace.

Vicar Kelly Sandin
   The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 13, year A
   Texts: Matthew 10:41-42, Romans 6:12-23

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Most Sundays, except the Easter season, we end our liturgy with “Go in peace. Serve the Lord.” This dismissal is a commissioning after we’ve gathered to hear God’s word for us and have come to the table for the meal that sustains us. The meal that promises forgiveness of sin. The meal that is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The sacrament of bread and wine that fills us with God’s presence. And then we’re sent. Go in peace. Serve the Lord.

Last week I was struck with the thought, right before I was about to speak the words of this dismissal, “Am I really thinking about what I’m saying?” Go in peace. Serve the Lord. Do we truly hear this sending? It isn’t simply the signal that the liturgy is over so we can now have coffee hour treats or get on with the plans for our day. We are literally being authorized to go into the world, now that we’ve worshipped God and been filled with God. And with God in us, we are to go and serve.

Whoever welcomes you, Jesus says, welcomes me.

These were the parting words of a long list of instructions Jesus shared with his twelve disciples before they were sent on their mission to proclaim the good news of God in Christ. They were given authority to do all kinds of things from curing the sick to casting out demons. And while doing so, they were to rely upon the hospitality of others. They had to be humble and receive food and housing from whomever would give it. And it wouldn’t be easy. They would be persecuted from town to town, but were told to let their peace come upon every house they entered and if no one welcomed them they were to let their peace return to them and move on. Shake the dust off their feet. In other words, truly go in peace because whatever happened, whether the twelve were welcomed or not their peace wouldn’t be taken from them. Jesus covered all the bases. They had what they needed for their mission, but that didn’t mean they weren’t afraid.

Whoever welcomes you, Jesus says, welcomes me and the one who sent me. Even if it’s simply giving a cup of cold water. The one giving it was welcoming God into their presence and whoever received the disciple with such a gift, a cup of water, would not lose their reward. They would see God, not only in the promised life to come, but in the present, in the faces of those they welcomed.

As the church, we continue Jesus’ ministry. God is with us in the going as we are welcomed and share the love of God in Christ Jesus. Share the reason for our hope. And for this to happen there needs to be strangers to meet and greet. Strangers who will see Christ in us. It’s hard to receive a welcome if we don’t go outside that which is comfortable. We must go and trust that God is with us and in us and will provide. Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Last weekend I went to the Pride Fest right after liturgy to represent Mount Olive as a welcoming church. I kept my collar on, but contemplated not wearing it at all. In truth, sometimes I just want to blend in with the crowd and not get all the looks I often get while wearing it or have the possible expectations that come with it. As I was searching for my booth that I couldn’t find, a young man sitting on a bench met my eye with his and in a half second his whole face lit up with a beaming smile as he leaned toward me with expectancy. He seemed so happy to see me. Of course it was the collar that enabled this to happen. I smiled back and he asked if I would sit with him. In that holy moment, while I came to Pride to do the welcoming, I was the one welcomed. I’m fully aware it was the collar that enabled this privilege, but I almost didn’t wear it and would have missed an opportunity of being God’s presence in the world. Because of it, I was able to hear his pain, but also his faith. God was indeed present as I listened and while we held hands to pray. And then, since I still needed to get to my booth, he grabbed a map and helped me find it. He had given me more than a cup of cold water to quench my thirst that afternoon. His welcoming spirit allowed two strangers to connect in the middle of a crowded park and experience the mystery of the Triune God.

Whoever welcomes you, Jesus says, welcomes me and the one who sent me.

The joy of being received, of being welcomed is transforming. Jesus welcomes all of us with grace we don’t deserve, as we are, but doesn’t leave us that way. God’s grace changes us and enables us to love. Through God’s love we become right with God. We are forgiven. Life becomes more holy as we are aligned with God’s will. Having been set free from sin, our hearts want to become more obedient. As we go out and serve, we open ourselves up more and more to receive God’s love that never leaves us the same. Of course, it’s a way of life that requires intentional effort. It will not always come easily. We will miss opportunities and ignore the Spirit’s nudges, but when we do align ourselves with God’s desires we are blessed with unforgettable moments that makes life so worth living.

As we go and carry God with us, sharing the good news, God is welcomed and rewards us in the encounter. The one going and the one receiving is transformed. And while the ultimate reward is eternal life with God, that can never be lost, we also have the joyous reward of being received in the here and now, of truly connecting with a stranger, even for a moment, and experiencing that which is holy.

But the truth is, being welcoming has its own mistrusts and fears. It takes courage to welcome – to open the door and give a cup of water when mistrust of strangers is so prevalent. This can leave us quite vulnerable to all kinds of possibilities. Likewise to be sent brings its fears, as well. We have no idea who it is we are being sent to and what kind of person they might be. Our hesitancy to avoid encounters with strangers is understandable and many of us would rather not do it. It puts us in an extremely vulnerable place. To be obedient to God, to love our neighbor, to see God in them and pray they see God in us is a high calling. Thank God that when our fears get the best of us and we don’t follow through God doesn’t have a score card! However, we also miss out on what could have been when we shrank back from the call and played it safe instead.

As baptized Christians, we carry Christ in us and are given a mission in word and deed to serve others, to be Christ’s presence in the world. Whoever welcomes you, Jesus says, welcomes me. God needs you and all have gifts to share. Some of you are doing street ministry. You’re giving out bottles of water and talking to strangers. Some of you cook community meals and welcome those who walk in the door. Some of you are a voice for social justice and are fighting to have health care for all, advocating for our neighbors being detained and deported, confronting racism against the black community, and fighting for climate justice. Others offer the kindness of a smile and the recognition that they see the stranger among them.

Where is God calling you to serve? Are there neighbors you’ve yet to greet? Are there those you’ve avoided that might yearn to welcome you? God needs your hearts, your hands, and your relentless hope for a better world where all will give and receive God’s love.

In our time of gathering, renewed and strengthened with God’s word and meal, know Christ lives in you and Christ goes with you. In your encounters the Triune God promises to be present. You’re not alone. Go in peace and boldly serve the Lord.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

How Far?

It is enough to be like our Teacher, Jesus says. But that’s harder than we thought, and asks a lot of us. So it’s good that we are beloved of God.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
   The Third Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 12, year A
   Texts: Matthew 10:24-39; Romans 6:1b-11; Jeremiah 20:7-13; Psalm 69:7-18

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

It is enough, Jesus says, for the disciple to be like the teacher.

Be like Christ, and that’s enough. But how far are we willing to go?

A week ago I came into the office on a Friday. My day off, but I had a couple hours of things I didn’t get done.

As I was finishing, the door rang. Reluctantly, I went down the stairs and found a social worker and an older woman. The woman was homeless, had difficulty with the accessibility of some of the shelters, and this social worker, helping in her off time, was trying to connect her. We were their eighth church.

I told her we weren’t really set up for this, and the shelters we’d recommend were the ones she’d tried. And I sent them to Central Lutheran Church, where they have a restoration center designed specifically to help people who are homeless get off the streets. Help with shelters, financial advice, showers, clothes closet, it’s a wonderful program, and I refer people there a lot.

But as I walked back up the stairs, ready to finish my work and enjoy the rest of my day, this felt too easy. I can justify what I did. I just don’t think I was Christ. I could have taken her in at Mount Olive. But we don’t have a bed, or showers, or adequate coverage of needs. I could have accompanied them to Central, made sure someone was there to connect with, so we weren’t the ninth door closing in her face. Isaiah 58 says we truly serve God when we welcome the homeless poor into our houses. I could have offered to take her home. We have beds and showers, and could have let her stay until she could get settled more permanently. But none of these options even occurred to me until later. It was easy to say, “not here, but there,” and close the door and go up the stairs. That’s right – I didn’t even invite them in. We had this whole conversation at the door.

It is enough, Jesus said, for the disciple to be like the teacher. But how far are we willing to go to be Christ? How far am I?

After last week’s sermon about sharing the heart, the guts of Christ for the world, I had a conversation with someone who thought I could’ve gone further describing our complicity in the problems between police and people of color. I certainly could have. But how far are we willing to dig?

Are we willing to admit most of us live in safe, mostly white bubbles, where problems like this just don’t happen to us, and that’s part of the problem? Are we willing to look deeply into our hearts at the implicit racism there that we don’t want to see? Psychologists have long known that the majority of Americans, when asked, will give answers that say we aren’t prejudiced, or racist, but that when unthinking actions and attitudes are studied, a very different picture emerges, even among those who consider themselves enlightened. It shows most of us have deep-rooted bias and prejudice we don’t want to see or admit. Are we willing to peel away those layers? Dig deep into things that are really hard to get rid of, to be like Christ?

How far will you go?

There’s a struggle to raise the minimum wage in this state to $15 an hour. Our Neighborhood Ministry committee endorses this. But if Minneapolis, or St. Louis Park, or or Apple Valley, or Bloomington, raised the wages of city workers, where will that money come from? Will we who live in these cities pay more in taxes to fairly pay those who keep our cities clean and safe and beautiful? Are we willing to pay more at restaurants and grocery stores? Or will we go to the place that sells things the cheapest, not caring who made it or who worked to get it to us and whether they were paid fairly? How far will you go?

Our economy is unjust, and many work very hard and cannot make a living. The gap between the rich and poor is widening. Laws keep getting made that benefit the one percent, and, if we’re honest, benefit many of us, while making it more and more difficult for those on the edge to survive. The current health care plan in the U. S. Senate will benefit the wealthy of this nation while depriving many who are poor of adequate insurance and care.

But my pension is tied to the stock market. I get regular reports of how my money is growing. How willing am I to poke at this bear? To dig into the reasons that stocks are going up while more and more are falling short of basic necessities? Must I let go of my retirement security so that others can survive? Is that being like Christ?

The problems of our society Christ would heal are so deep and complex that we are complicit in ways we can’t even imagine most days. We’re much more comfortable confessing the petty sins of everyday life and calling it even, than we are taking a hard, close look at all the ways our lives are benefitting from others’ suffering. Taking a hard, close look at all the things we might have to let go of to be like Christ.

It is enough, Jesus says, for the disciple to be like the teacher. But Christ suffered and died for the love he bore in the world. Just trying to be nicer to folks and calling that Christly doesn’t really cut it, if we’re honest.

But God’s Word today helps us discern how far we’re getting toward being Christ.

We’ll know we’re getting closer to Christ when we understand Jeremiah’s anguish today and don’t need to be given context. When we hear Jeremiah talking about his best friends hoping he’ll fail, because he’s always all about this God stuff, or when he says not doing anything makes him burn up inside. When we can say, “I know what you’re saying, Jeremiah,” we’re starting to dig deep enough.

We’ll know we’re getting closer to Christ when we sing a psalm like today and don’t need explanation to understand what it is to feel overwhelmed trying to follow God’s way, like we’re sunk in a swamp. Or when we hear Paul say it is like a death to get rid of the things that are sin in us, the things not of Christ, and we don’t need someone to theologically explain that. When we actually think, “It is like dying sometimes.”

We’ll know we’re starting to dig deep enough when we aren’t shocked by anything Jesus says today. Not shocked that following Christ might lead to breaks in relationships with people we love, or lead to us being mocked by others. Jesus said if they call him the devil, we should expect that, too. We’ll know we’re getting to closer to Christ if we ever are called names for it.

We’ll know we’re closer when we don’t have to ask why Jesus calls this “taking up a cross,” because we have felt what it is to truly sacrifice.

And if we hear today’s readings and say, “It’s not like that for us these days,” that’s a pretty good sign we’re not scratching the surface of being like Christ.

But this is really overwhelming, frightening.

The more we dig, the more we find. The more we pull on threads, the more complex the web. That’s frustrating and scary, overwhelming and tiring. But that’s good news. Because now we can understand the rest of God’s Word today.

We can hear Jeremiah say, in spite of frustration and fear, “The LORD is with me. Sing to the LORD, who delivers my life.” We can hear the psalmist call out for God’s love. We can hear Paul say, yes, it’s dying when we peel away the depth of our sin, but we are joined to Christ’s resurrection. There is abundant life from this death.

And we can finally understand why Jesus says losing our life is actually finding it. As we dig deeper, become more like Christ, we find healing and hope and grace. Where once we protected ourselves and our privilege and our wealth, now in letting go of the things that are not of Christ, all people start to find life and hope. Including us. In letting go of things that are not of Christ, we find don’t need or want them after all. We want the life and love we find in becoming more like our teacher.

And best of all, when we find ourselves overwhelmed and frightened, we can at last hear Jesus’ grace today.

Because at the center of all these challenging words, Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid.” Don’t fear things and people that can’t harm your soul. Don’t fear losing all this. Not only will you find life in me, he says, you don’t need to be afraid because you are beloved of God.

Look at the sparrows, Jesus says. You see how they bounce off the ground, fly around, and land again, only to bounce back up? How the whole flock does that all day long? Every single landing, every single bounce, God sees and loves.

You are as valuable to God as sparrows, Christ says. Everything, even your hairs on your head, God knows and loves and values. So you don’t need to be afraid.

So let’s dig together. Peel away together. Die together. Learn together how to be like our Teacher.

It’s complicated, it’s harder than we thought it might be, and it’s going to take a lot of wisdom. So let’s trust that Christ has put us together to help each other. And that we don’t need to be afraid, because we are God’s beloved.

It is enough to be like Christ because that’s where life is for us and for the world. We can share Christ’s heart, Christ’s guts, and act on them for the sake of the world because we are always in Christ’s heart, beloved of God, who died and rose to begin this new life in the world. From that heart, we can freely go and be God’s heart in the world. It is enough. It is how God is making all things new.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Apostles with Guts and Eyes

Christ’s gut-wrenching love for the world embraces us and sends us out with the same kind of visceral love and a call to be Christ.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
   The Second Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 11, year A
   Texts: Matthew 9:35 – 10:8; Romans 5:1-8

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Jesus was torn up inside over the crowds, because they were harassed and helpless.

He felt his love for them in his guts, his insides, because they were sheep without a shepherd. That’s what Matthew says. We heard, “he had compassion on them.” That’s accurate. Empathy, pity, this word can mean that. But for the Greeks, the root word of this verb is innards, bowels. That’s where you feel compassion. Viscerally, in your guts.

That sounds so much more like Jesus. He looked at these people longing for his help, following him everywhere, with needs more than he could count, and he felt their pain in his bowels.

This is the heart, the guts, of Christ that shapes the rest of this story. This pain inside, birthed by love for people in great need, people with nowhere to turn, people who had no guidance, who were harassed and helpless, this gut-wrenching love Jesus has causes him to do something very important.

We should pay attention, because it directly affects us.

This love of Christ changes everything.

It is our hope and life, that God’s love for us and this world is that visceral. Paul says God’s love for us is proved by Christ dying for us even while we were sinners. That’s how deeply Christ felt the pain of love for humanity.

So this is the grace we have received freely: you are loved by God to the depths of God’s guts, when you are lost, frightened, even when you are sinful, complicit.

And the Triune God looks at this whole world, harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, and is torn up inside. God sees the injustice of our society that means if you are a person of color, you can be killed by the police and your fellow citizens will rule that it wasn’t wrong. God sees the injustice of our society that means that if you make the laws you get full health care coverage but if you don’t have a job that pays fairly, or you’ve had medical crises before, you now face losing your health care. God sees the injustice of our society that believes that as long as the stock market is growing everything must be fine for everyone.

God sees all this and feels it in God’s very guts. Love for Philando and his family. Love for those falling through health care cracks. Love for those who struggle every day for food and shelter.

Christ’s death on the cross is God’s answer of love for these things. God enters human suffering to transform it through resurrection life. But this transformation only happens when God’s gut-wrenching, sacrificial love is shared, so it’s known everywhere. We see this plan born in today’s Gospel. Christ’s sacrificial love will not only embrace people, like you, like me, it will send them out as Christ to love the same.

Jesus, who loves us viscerally, commands us this: Love one another as I have loved you.

Feel what I feel in your guts, and act on it, like I did. See what I see, and do what I did. You received my love freely, without payment. Now give it freely, without payment.

Jesus changes his followers from disciples to apostles right here. So far, they were in it for themselves. They were drawn to Jesus, to the love of God he bore. They’d been healed, graced, changed. They found a shepherd to follow.

Now in two short verses, Matthew says Jesus summoned twelve disciples, and then says, “these are the names of the twelve apostles.” The followers are suddenly those who are sent.

Jesus looked at these followers and sent them as Christs like him, because of his deep love for the harassed crowds. He gave them the authority over unclean spirits, to cure every disease, and raise the dead. Like he did. He commanded them to go to as many villages as they could and proclaim by their presence, like he did, that heaven’s reign was near. That God’s love was with these people.

This is the place we can get stuck: the place of knowing we are loved deeply by God, forgiven, transformed, and realizing we’re being sent to others with the same good news of love. Realizing it’s not all about us.

So don’t be distracted by the specifics of this story, and stay stuck. Look at the greater call.

For example, here Jesus only sends twelve men. There were lots more disciples, women and men. So, maybe we’re not sent, just those original twelve, we think. But Luke says that later Jesus sent 70 out. And we just celebrated Pentecost, where all of them, women and men, over 120, were filled with the Spirit and sent. So no, it’s our new role, too: apostle.

But they did things we can’t, we say. We can’t raise the dead, heal the sick. Maybe we don’t have the same call.

Well, we don’t know we can’t do these things. Miracles do happen. But even if we aren’t given that particular authority, it doesn’t matter. The overarching command, love as I love, is for all, and can be done by all. The first command to these twelve, “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near!’, is for all, and can be done by all.

Go, now, and share my guts, feel what I feel, Jesus says to the twelve, and to us. And then, do what I do. Be love. That’s the rest of the sending.

The pain of the world is real, and God feels it deeply. To reach all corners of the earth, God needs us to be apostles, sent ones, to witness to what joy we’ve known, to what love is real for us and the world, and bear it in our bodies and lives. It’s what Pentecost means for us. It’s what was declared at our baptism, as it will be for Owen today.

What would it be for your life if, each day, you said, “I am sent as Christ”?

That’s the only question. What if we grasped how real this calling is, so that our first thought every morning was, “I am sent. Where should I go? What do I see? How can I let people know God’s reign of love and grace and justice?”

So, as sent ones, what can we do for our African-American sisters and brothers who cannot find justice, who face a society and a system that’s killing them? We could notice, and care like Jesus cares, in our guts, for starters. Enter their pain however we see our call, by joining protests, or demanding legal change, or simply listening and learning and standing with our relatives, our neighbors. We are sent to be Christ. So we figure out a way to go be Christ.

As sent ones, what can we do for all the other things that make God lose sleep at night? The same thing. Wake up each day and ask, “Where am I sent? What do I see? What can I do?”

Listen: if Christ is sending you and me out of such visceral love, to bear Christ’s visceral love in the world, we’re not going to be left without guidance. Trust that. We are sheep with a Shepherd, and Christ will constantly guide and advise and lead. This world, these harassed and helpless ones, matter to God more than we can imagine. God won’t abandon us when we’re sent to be Christ’s love. God’s got too much invested.

And we’re still disciples. We’re still learning and watching our Good Shepherd for cues and direction. We always will. But from now on we’re not only disciples, we’re apostles, sent ones.

Love as I love you. Now, go. That’s Christ’s word to us today.

You have Christ’s guts, you have Christ’s eyes. You see what he sees, and it makes you toss and turn, and feel it in your insides. So go and be Christ.

And don’t worry about tomorrow’s answers. Just deal with today’s sending, today’s vision. Pay attention to your guts: what things make you feel what Jesus feels, twist you up inside, make you want to do loving action, make a difference? What activates your compassion, your guts of love? That’s a good place to start serving.

It would be easier if we just could come here and be loved for ourselves. But God’s guts won’t let that happen. And, honestly, neither will ours. We’ve already been changed. We can’t look away anymore, we know we’re needed.

So you are sent now. Go with Christ, as Christ, and let your world know God’s love has come near, and there is hope.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

Sunday, June 11, 2017

With You

God’s very essence is a relationship of grace, love, and communion, which means relationship is the essence of the whole universe. Our promise and joy, that we are also in this relationship, that all belong.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
   The feast of the Holy Trinity, year A
   Texts: 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20; Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit are with all of you.” That’s it.

That’s all we need to know about the nature of the Triune God. Not Greek philosophical terms or centuries of systematic theology attempting to define the boundaries of who and what God is, and driving out those whose definitions don’t fit.

No, only twenty years after the resurrection, Paul blessed his friends in the Corinthian church with these words that say everything. Paul names the Triune God by naming three blessings we know: the grace of Christ Jesus, the love of God, the communion of the Holy Spirit. Paul offers the blessings we have received from the Three as the truth about the one God and the signs that God is with us.

Paul starts with the grace of Christ Jesus, the only place to begin.

It was Jesus who put together for us the hints the Hebrew scriptures had given. Jesus, whom his disciples came to recognize as the Son of God, connected himself to the Creator, whom he called Father, in a profound way. He said he and the Father are one, that the Spirit is from them. That to know him is to know God.

And Jesus taught us of God’s endless grace, revealed God’s constant forgiveness and welcome for all who stray. Christ’s entering our suffering and death, the grace of loving us even when we rejected that love, all that we have seen at the cross and empty tomb, is our entry into the life of God.

We could not imagine such grace. Only God could show it to us in the Son of God who gives us life.

This grace we meet in Christ leads us to the heart of God.

Looking at the cross of Christ as the Scriptures show it leads to no other conclusion than the center of the heart of the Triune God for us is love. We have tried to claim God needed a substitute for punishment, needed appeasement, had a wrath that couldn’t be quenched except by death. But that is not what Jesus showed us, nor what Paul proclaimed so powerfully.

The grace of Christ Jesus fully reveals the undying, self-sacrificing love of the Triune God for us. This is how much I love you, God says at the cross. I will die to show the universe my love. And my love will break death’s power forever.

So the grace of Christ leads us to the love of the Creator for you. For us. Beyond our hope, we find that we are beloved of God. All creation is.

And this grace and love are meant to be shared with God and each other and creation in a communion.

The communion of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised we would not be orphaned, the Spirit would come to us. But here is the real joy of the Ascension: Christ returns in bodily form to the life of the Triune God so that we are not bound to see God only in this one human person. Christ ascends so we can finally recognize the Spirit of God moving in our lives and in the world, creating communion in the creation.

Just as the Creator and the Word have been moving in the world since before time, so has the Spirit. Now that we’ve met God’s Son, the Word made flesh, now that he’s died, risen, and ascended, we are ready, as the early Church was, to see the Spirit’s life in us and the world.

In the Holy Spirit, the new life that gives birth in us and in the world is a life of relationship, communion, shaped by this grace and this love that the Triune God has poured out on the world.

The Holy Spirit is how God keeps the promise to be with us always.

This communion of the Holy Spirit shows us that the very essence of the Triune God is relationship.

There is this strange line we heard in Genesis 1 that now makes sense: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness,” God says. God uses a plural pronoun because God exists as relationship, the Creator, the Word, who is Christ, and the Spirit, all present before the dawn of time, as we prayed today, all at creation, all still living and moving in the world. God’s Oneness is in the relationship of the Three, the place where the Three move and relate and live and love, what the ancients called a dance.

If this is true, and God creates in God’s image, that means the essence of the universe, the blueprint of all things, is also relationship. That is the image of God placed on all creation. The oneness of creation is also in relationship. Outside of relationship – with the Triune God, with each other, with the creation – we cannot exist.

Grace can only be received and given in relationship, not alone. Love can only be received and given in relationship, not alone. And communion, fellowship, by definition is only relationship. It’s not communion when it’s just one.

The joy of Paul’s blessing is that we are in this relationship, too. “The God of grace and love and communion is with you,” Paul says. Now we understand why God created the universe. If you’re a God who is at your core a relationship, an internal dance, you live to have relationship. God makes the creation, makes us, to be with us, to have more life join the dance, join the relationship that is grace, love, and communion.

If the Triune God’s relationship is also the blueprint of the universe, then our path is clear.

We cannot live apart from relationship. But God’s true nature teaches us the challenges of this.

First, God always shows us that relationship means risk and vulnerability. If, as we claim, we see the depth of God’s truth at the cross, then the Triune God is chiefly known to us not as almighty but as all-vulnerable. To be in relationship like God is to be open to being wounded, to risk for the other. Once again we see the cross not only is where we find life, it is, as always, the path we walk to live the joy of abundant life in relationship with God and the creation.

Second, God shows us that relationship involves responsibility. The Scriptures tell us that God’s love for us and the creation is such that God cannot walk away. Will not walk away. No matter how angry, frustrated, disappointed God might be, God’s love means God stays with us. God is responsible for us.

We can’t avoid the responsibility that relationship brings. The only way to be irresponsible is to break relationship. If the other person or part of creation isn’t related to me, I don’t have to be responsible for it. But once you matter to me, and I to you, once we belong to God and each other and the creation, all things matter, too.

But this is our joy as we celebrate God’s true nature on this day.

We matter to God. We matter to each other. We matter to the creation. We belong to God. We belong to each other. We belong to the creation. And in that relationship, that communion, shaped by God’s astonishing grace and infinite love, all our hope and life, and the hope and life of the whole creation, exists.

It really is all we need to know about the Triune God. The deeper mysteries of God’s nature, how the Trinity exists within Godself, we can never know.

But that this God is with us in grace and love, calling us to communion with God, with each other, with the creation, that’s everything. And it’s enough. It’s more than enough.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.


Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Reconciling in ChristRIC

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