Today we welcomed Fr. Ed Smith while Rev. Portia is off.
Enjoy her sermon from last week
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer.
We’ve all asked ourselves at one time or another:
What did I do to deserve that?
What did THEY do to deserve such a thing?
How could this happen?
WHY am I being punished?
These questions are one of life’s deepest mysteries:
One of human-kinds most continuous questions:
Why all this suffering?
And what does it all mean?
Jesus knew these questions were on people’s minds.
He knew that everyone wonders about this at some point.
In today’s Gospel reading:
Jesus addresses these questions.
When news comes that Pontius Pilate has slaughtered some Galilean Jews:
Jesus asks the question that’s on everyone’s mind:
Is it because those Galileans were worse sinners than other Galileans?
Is that why they were slaughtered?
Did they do something to deserve such an awful death?
And Jesus’ answer is quite clear:
And if you don’t believe it:
Jesus offers another example:
When the tower of Siloam fell and eighteen people were killed:
Crushed because they stood in the wrong place at the wrong time:
Was that because they were sinners?
Did God smite them?
Jesus again says NO.
And if you don’t believe that:
Think ahead in the story:
Remember that the very same Pontius Pilate who killed those Galileans:
Will also participate in Jesus’ brutal death.
The truly sinless one: Will also die at Pilate’s hand.
It’s not because of sin.
Surely: It’s not about “Deserving.”
Because it also happens to Jesus.
And if we’re really being honest,
We must also acknowledge that being a Christian is no magic protection against tragedy:
And that there’s much in life that’s not about deserving.
After all: The cross is our central symbol--
Where an innocent man was executed like a criminal.
Christianity doesn’t give us a way out of tragedy.
But it can give us a way through it.
Turning to God is all that we can do:
Turning to God is the BEST thing that we can do.
Tragedy would be never ending without God.
And THAT’s what Jesus is talking about when he says:
“But: Unless you repent you will all perish as they did.”
And once again:
Jesus isn’t talking about deserving.
Jesus does not mean that we must become suddenly perfect and never sin again.
That’s not what repentance means.
Repentance does not mean to confess and be good so that we will be deserving of something better.
Repentance literally means “To turn.”
Repentance is not about us becoming perfect to avoid perishing:
It’s not about deserving.
It’s about turning toward God.
It’s about crying out to God:
It’s about believing that God can help to carry us:
and hold us in times of joy and times of sorrow.
Jesus is urging us to be in relationship with God.
And not be distracted by looking at what happened to someone else.
And not to spend our time constantly wondering.
But to look at ourselves:
And to find God there.
And Jesus also refuses to let us get caught up in judging others:
He refuses to let people question whether or not someone else deserves to suffer:
Instead he directs it back:
What in your life needs turning?
What in your life needs to be turned over to God?
Our own repentance:
Our own turning to God is important.
But not because doing so will make us more deserving of something Good.
Our own turning to God is important because God has already offered us everything.
The true scandal of Christianity is that God ALREADY loves us.
Whether we’ve turned to God or not.
The real craziness is that God doesn’t need a ledger or a tally sheet to check off what we’ve done right:
Or what we’ve done wrong:
Because we don’t actually do ANYTHING to deserve God’s love.
Years ago, I had a conversation with a young elementary aged girl.
She asked me, “If you watch church on TV does it count?”
I remember responding to her saying,
“Well… I don’t know who’s counting.”
We have no favor to earn:
Because God already sees us as beloved.
All we have to do is live in it.
Live in this mystery of God’s acceptance, love, and care for us.
We can’t lose God’s favor--
making bad things happen:
Because we don’t earn God’s favor in the first place.
But we can choose to turn to God or not.
We can choose to cry out to God in times of need.
To scream out “Lord have mercy.”
We can slug through the mud all alone:
Or we can slug through the mud with God.
And no matter what:
God sees us as beloved.
There’s a famous prayer in our prayerbook.
A very OLD prayer that is recited ager the consecration of the Eucharist in the old Rite 1 language.
The prayer says:
“We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord:
Trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies.
We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table.”
Many people today stop there.
And despise this prayer:
Misunderstanding this prayer:
Thinking that it’s merely to make us feel bad, guilty, and full of sin.
And it’s meant to do exactly the opposite:
Because the prayer continues:
BUT THOU art the same Lord:
Whose property is ALWAYS to have mercy.
Not God: Whose property is to give mercy only when we deserve it.
“We are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under thy table. But thou art the same lord who’s property it is to ALWAYS give mercy.”
Because we don’t do anything to DESERVE god’s mercy.
We don’t do anything to DESERVE the tragedies that might befall us.
Yet God is the same God:
Whose property is ALWAYS to have mercy.
Whose property is to love us no matter what we do:
No matter what we don’t do.
Like the fig tree that bears no fruit:
God the gardener has great mercy:
Does the fig tree deserve it?
Of course not.
But it doesn’t even matter.
Because little in life is about deserving.
Yet our God is the same God:
Whose property is ALWAYS to have mercy.
Announcements March Ministry Schedule
Please help us fill our ministry schedule.
Sign-up on the table by the elevator.
Greeters and hospitality needed next week
Mark your Calendars: Holy Week Services
Maundy Thursday, April 14 6pm
Good Friday, April 15 6pm
You are Invited!
Bring a friend and join us as we
"Get together for Faith Sharing and Prayer Needs"
This group will meet the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month from 11:30-1:00 in the River Room at Familiar Grounds Coffee Shop in New London.
Contact Sharon Harwood at 920-858-2626 with questions.
Men's Group: All men of the parish are invited to the Men's Group every other Sunday at 8:15 am (March13 & 27). Contact Mike Sperger with questions 920-982-7575.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord our strength and our redeemer.
The ashes are Gone:
We’ve washed them off our faces:
But as we enter the first Sunday of lent:
We may still feel the dust and darkness of those ashes:
Especially as we hear the story of Jesus tempted in the desert:
And his encounter with the devil:
The story reminds us of everything we’ve been taught about sin, the devil, and temptation.
We’ve put away the Alleluias:
And we can FEEL the absence.
And we have 40 long days to think about it:
Forty long days when we’re reminded to repent and be saved.
Is this what Lent is really all about?
If we go back to our childhoods,
We might remember waiting for Lent to be over:
Where we can get back to the real world:
Where we trade in this somber season for the long awaited Easter celebration.
But look at our readings today.
If we really pay attention to what we’re hearing:
There’s a whole lot more light than darkness:
A whole lot more graciousness poured on us by our God than punishment.
A lot less damnation:
And a whole lot more love and acceptance.
We’re reminded about the temptations of sin:
We’re offered the unstopping gift of forgiveness:
And the opportunity to model Jesus in the best way we can.
Lent can help us go deep into ourselves:
Not to make us feel guilty:
But to make us responsible:
To push us to really be who God has created us to be.
Look at today’s readings for proof:
Deuteronomy shows us plenty of light:
God has given the Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey:
Which is an image of peace and beauty.
All they have to do is show gratitude through their offerings.
God heard the people’s cries:
And responded with Loving grace.
Today’s Psalm says:
“He shall call upon me, and I will answer him:
I am with him in trouble:
I will rescue him and bring him to Honor.”
This is another image that should remind us that God continues to hear our cries:
Even when they’re moaned from the depths of our sinfulness:
God doesn’t banish us away:
At the beginning of Lent:
We’re reminded that we’re not alone:
God has not abandoned us:
But even more so: God is “so bound to us in love”
That’s what the psalm says:
Bound to us in love:
That even when we are focused only on ourselves:
EVEN to the point of sin:
God is with us:
Bound to us in love:
Ready to brush the ash from our faces.
Paul says the same thing to the Romans:
“The word is near you:
On your lips and in your heart.”
And he doesn’t just mean the word of faith:
But the WORD with a capital “W”
The WORD of God: Jesus.
GOD IS NEAR YOU:
On your lips and in your heart:
“You will be saved,” Paul says:
“Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
What news could be better than that?
This first Sunday of Lent is looking less and less somber!!
And more and more hope-filled!
(As it should)
And that’s not even all:
Notice: In the Gospel story:
That Jesus didn’t send satan:
Immediately to hell.
I mean: couldn’t Jesus just have Gotten rid of the sin-filled tempter?
Just banished him away?
But that’s not what happens.
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus only responds to the temptations by reminding his tempter that God alone is worthy of our worship and service?
There was no argument:
No casting out into darkness:
But God alone as the refuge, and stronghold in times of trial.
The gospel reminds us that Jesus, too, was faced with temptations.
He was, after all, fully human as well as fully divine.
He knows what we face.
He knows the power that tries to turn our hearts from God.
Yet Jesus is much better at dealing with it all than we are!
And in this season of lent:
We remember that:
Like the ashes on our forehead at the beginning of the journey:
We are reminded that we are imperfect:
Yet no imperfection is too great for God’s mercy and grace.
We, too, have been promised a land flowing with milk and honey:
As we journey through lent:
To the hope-filled resurrection:
Let us know that not all is somber and sin:
There’s also a lot to be joyful about in Lent.
A lot to be grateful for:
And more love and mercy from our Great God than we can ever imagine.
Don’t look at Lent as merely somber:
Consider it to be a quiet moment of reflection:
To reflect on the hope:
And the love that God promises us:
At all times,
And all places:
Even during Lent.
Enjoy the weekly sermons at anytime.