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Join Us For Worship!

Join Us For Worship!
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Advent Meditation on Joseph

The reading for Sunday, December 17, 2017: Matthew 1:18-25 This Sunday we read about an angel appearing to Joseph in a dream. We've no...

Saturday, August 08, 2009


SERMON FOR SUNDAY

Ephesians 4:25 - 5:2

In 7th grade science class, the teacher was distracted. For him, unfortunately, it was not an unusual occurrence. Just a few desks away a circle of boys surrounded a lone student who looked scared, like a hermit crab who had just lost its shell.

“Who finished first in the race the boys chanted?” With gusto they answered their own question: “Charley Horse.” And as the words were spoken, one boy in the circle moved in quickly, bringing his knee up into the lone boy’s thigh. The pain registered immediately on his face and he stumbled, while the teacher continued to answer questions up at his desk, oblivious. Laughter filled the room as the boy choked back tears as much from the pain as the humiliation. Then something happened. With eyes. burning in anger and teeth gritted with determination, the boy saw that his tormentor had turned away.

But the circle was not yet broken.

A lookout confirmed that the teacher had not yet noticed them.

“Who finished first in the race?” came the call. “Charley Horse!” shouted the chorus. followed quickly by another blow.
Down the lone student stumbled, his legs giving out.

Things happened quickly then. The circle broke up and crowd left him there, bored with the game. The lone student jumped up and made a fist, throwing all of his weight behind one defiant punch. The first attacker received the blow with great surprise. In a flat voice (was it pain? Embarrassment? Menace? Who knows?)
The attacker turned victim turned to the lone student: “Don’t you ever do that again. Don’t you ever do that again.”

And truth be told, I never did.
Though, truth be told, the thought did cross my mind from time to time.

We read:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

There is almost nothing sweeter in Scripture then those words of admonition from Paul. Listen:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But how we struggle with those words. How we love to justify every unloving behavior, rather than confess that when it comes to imitating God, to living in love as Christ loved us, to having our very life be a fragrant offering to God; that when it comes to all of this, we do stumble and fall and we struggle and sometimes even fail flat out.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Rachel’s mother had suffered through a terrible first marriage. You see, Rachel’s father was both an alcoholic and abusive to her entire family. When he died, Rachel’s mother hardly felt like grieving. Well, a few years past and Rachel’s mother met a wonderful man who proved to the entire family that there were still a few decent men left in the world. That men were not all drunks and screamers with fists. During that first year of marriage all of those years of suffering and pain were redeemed by a joy that all of them had never known even existed in the real world.

As Rachel shared her story with me, she paused here for awhile. Fixed her eyes down. Played with the pack of cigarettes in her hands. Then she continued: On the night of their first wedding anniversary, my step father suffered a massive heart attack and died, then my mother contracting a debilitating disease. She could no longer work and needed help taking care of herself. While my brother went off to college and got married and had a family, I took care of mom. Usually my brother would remember to call on her birthday.

For Rachel and her mom, life was hard. Money was scarce. Rachel was unable to work because her mother required constant care and continued to get worse and worse. Then one day her mother died and after the funeral expenses were paid a small insurance policy left Rachel about $10,000. Within the week, her bother called. Not, “Hi, how are you holding up?” Or “Thanks for taking care of mom all of those year.” Or even “Sorry I didn’t help out more.” No. He called to demand half of the inheritance. They would never speak again. Ever.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

For most people being an imitator of Christ, being an instrument of Grace, embodying such grace as to make our life that fragrant offering and sacrifice to God is flat-out impossible. Rachel is not the exception here. She not only refused to speak with her brother for the rest of their lives, her hatred of him seethed within her. Which might just be why I was sitting there that day, sinking into an old couch, watching puffs of cigarette smoke curl their way to the ceiling. The collar always seems a bit tight at times like those.

People damage each other. Sometimes badly. Sometimes maliciously. Sometimes with intent for harm.

And then we have all of these challenges trying to stand their ground within our souls. We have our Lutheran faith as expressed through Martin Luther calling us to be "little Christs" to one another. That our faith doesn't have to even ask if a good work needs to be done, but before we are even ask, there we are already at the doing of it. We have Jesus asking God to forgive those responsible for his death even as he was hanging on the cross. We have Paul telling us to be imitators of God. For our lives to be fragrant offerings.


And here we are with a part of us wanting to stink up the joint with our anger and our hatred and our desire to see those who made us suffer to suffer at least as much, possibly more, if it could be arranged without too much trouble.


If we had to rely on our own strength, our own power, our own hearts to find the strength to forgive, then being an instrument of Grace would be a task for Christ and for Christ alone. But notice that the writer of Ephesians says otherwise. Notice that the writer of Ephesians declares that you and I can be that very instrument. You and I.


Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.


The writer does not say try to be or aspire to be or hope to be. He says “Be!” Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us.

And how is this possible? Because we, ourselves, have been the recipients of God’s own limitless grace. We know that in Christ, the wounded can be made whole. The lost found. The outcast embraced by love and drawn into mystical communion with God.

As we come to the table today; the table of mercy; the table of Grace; God’s own table where all of us have been assured of a seat and a welcome – as we feast on the bread of life and drink once more from the cup of salvation – lets us hear as Christ continues to call us to forgive and we have been forgiven. Amen.

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