“God As Renewable Resource”–Sermon for Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, July 1, 2018

 

wind farm

2 Samuel 1:1-27

Mark 5:21-43

 Children’s Message:

Do you know what this is? It’s a pinwheel! So, how do these things work? Yeah, you blow against one side, and it moves. There are some big versions of this that people have used for centuries to provide energy for their lives. One is a wind mill—these were used on farms all across America to bring up water for cattle and farm homes. Another is a water mill—often used to create energy to saw lumber.

But they aren’t used in quite the same way anymore because they aren’t very efficient. Now we have turbines. What makes wind mills and pinwheels and turbines go around and around? Air! The wind moves, and the blades spin. Do we ever run out of moving air? No. Another source of energy is the sun. Do we every run out of the sunlight? No—though, sometimes it seems like it when the clouds are over us for days at a time. Another is moving water. And another is the heat coming from the center of the earth.

All of these are resources that produce energy without using them up. They never run out. Isn’t that cool?

Today, we heard about two sick people who needed Jesus to heal them. One was a little girl—only 12 years old. She was about to die, and her father came to ask Jesus to come heal her. The other was a woman who had been very sick for 12 years. She was desperate and just wanted her life back. While Jesus was on his way to visit the girl, the woman shoved and pushed her way toward him just to touch part of his robe. When she did, she was healed.

And then, Jesus got word that the girl had died. And everyone probably thought that not only was it too late, but that his healing powers had been taken up. He proved them wrong and brought the girl back to life, too.

Like the wind and sun and water, Jesus’ powers don’t run out.

Let’s pray. Gracious God, help us trust your renewable source of love and grace. When we are afraid it might run out, remind us that there’s enough of you to go around. Amen.

Message:

Two healings—one, the daughter of an important leader in the synagogue; the other, a nobody woman who had been dealing with her illness for years, was destitute, and her life was literally flowing out of her. Two women—one, just ready to come of age for marriage and birth-giving; the other, no further option for either. Two approaches—one, asking permission for Jesus to heal and giving up when the daughter dies; the other, brazen and desperate enough to launch herself at him just to get a grip on his cloak.

At times of great disaster medical personnel are trained to practice triage. To decide who is most in need of medical attention and care.  The injured are tagged with tape.  Green for not serious. Yellow for serious. Red for critical. Black for terminal. They are prioritized to see who will be dealt with first.

In those situations, status doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what color you are, what religion you are, how rich or poor you are, or even what country you come from. It doesn’t even matter if you’re the cause of the trauma or an innocent bystander. Medical personnel look at the injuries only.

But in other situations, we tend to factor in those other elements. It’s as if we get to decide how deserving someone is. We talk about who deserves governmental assistance and who doesn’t—in education, in farming, in social assistance, in welfare, in healthcare. Should someone who smokes get as much assistance as someone who doesn’t? Should someone who works get more than someone who doesn’t? Should schools that struggle with high drop-out rates get as much assistance as schools which are ‘successful?’

Should a woman who is clearly a mess be given priority over the child of an upstanding leader? Maybe—maybe not. And yet, this woman was so desperate that she worked up her last bit of energy to grab at the only hope available to her—Jesus. And, it says, he felt the power come out of him.

As I told the kids, it wouldn’t have been uncommon to believe that healing powers were limited. If this woman had stolen his power, there clearly wouldn’t be enough for the girl. And what right did she have? She hadn’t even asked. She didn’t wait in line. And she clearly wasn’t as important as Jairus. She crossed boundaries and barriers in a last ditch hope for healing—for acceptance—for life. She had nothing left to lose.

And then there was Jairus. Also desperate, he had gone to the one man his colleagues were skeptical of. He also crossed boundaries in an attempt to save his daughter’s life. And then someone else came along and took what was rightfully his—what he followed the rules to receive. And now, his little girl is dead. How dare this woman interfere? How dare she interrupt? How dare she strip his child of life?

When we’re afraid and sad and desperate, we so quickly go to passing the blame—pointing to someone else for the bad that has happened. But that’s the beauty of the gospel—the beauty of Jesus. He is for everyone. He always has enough. He looks at Jairus with pity and compassion and says, “Do not fear, just believe.” And off he went to raise the girl from death.

Do not fear—just believe. Just believe that we do not have to do evil in order to preserve good. Just believe that someone else doesn’t have to give up for us to have what we need. Just believe that we don’t have to live in fear for others to have what they need. This is the belief in abundance, not scarcity. Scarcity says, “Give me mine first and you’ll get what’s left.” Abundance says, “You take what you need. There will be enough for me, too.”

Friends, we’re living in a time of scarcity. We are afraid of what we don’t know, of what we can’t control, of who we don’t understand. We are afraid that someone else is going to get more, going to get what they haven’t earned, going to get what is rightfully ours. We are afraid of color and culture, of organizations and uniforms. We are afraid of our own shadows. We are afraid, and we are angry. And it’s time to be healed.

In today’s gospel there are two healings—one, awaiting Jesus to take her hand, to hold onto her and call her forth; the other, tired of waiting, grabbing onto Jesus for dear life. Two women—one, a daughter, clearly known and beloved; the other, ostracized, belittled, and turned away, and only now called ‘daughter.’ Two people from different backgrounds, different ends of life, different social statuses, different directions—brought to wholeness by the God of abundance, the God for whom healing and love and grace never run out.

That is the healing we need so desperately. We need to be made whole. And whether we grasp at it like a woman in her last efforts at what seems hopeless, or we beg for it like a father pleading for his child, or we wait for it like a little girl who is on the brink of death, Jesus has enough to heal us all.

Pastor Tobi White

Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church

Lincoln, NE

 

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“Crossing the Sea”–Sermon for Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, June 24, 2018

peace

1 Samuel 17:1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49

Mark 4:35-41

 Children’s Message:

Milestone Ministry—So, you know the first reading, about David and Goliath? Who can tell me part of the story?

So, David took down Goliath with one stone. Stones can definitely hurt. But we’re going to use stones to celebrate, and we’re going to do it throughout the summer. You see, I have these small stones here. And each one is to be used for a milestone moment—a moment when you want to share with the congregation something important in your life. It might a good thing—like losing a tooth (which is good for kids, not for adults), getting a new puppy, or getting a good grade in school. Or it might be not as good—a grandparent died, a friend moved away. This goes for adults, too. At the end of worship, after announcements, I’m going to ask if anyone has any milestone moments. And when someone shares a moment, they take a stone from here and place it in the basket, and the congregation says, “Milestone.” Shall we try it?

This week is going to be VBS, and I’m so excited! “Milestone.” Now, someone else can do it.

Let’s pray. Dear God, you give us these opportunities to build up your kingdom, one stone at a time. Help us stay faithful, even when it’s difficult. Amen.

 Message:

Left on a sinking ship were the captain and three sailors. The captain spoke first. “Men, this business about a captain going down with his ship is nonsense. There’s a three-man life raft on board and I’m going to be on it. To see who will come with me, I will ask you each one question. The one who can’t answer will stay behind. Here’s the first question: What unsinkable ship went down when it hit an iceberg?” The first sailor answered, “The Titanic, sir.” “On to the next question: How many people perished?” The second sailor said, “One thousand five hundred and seventeen, sir.” “Now for the third question,” and the captain turned to sailor number three. “What were their names?”

Can you imagine the terror the disciples must have felt as the storm came up? Several of them were fishermen. They knew, first of all, that you don’t cross the sea at night because storms can come about at the drop of a hat. But they trusted Jesus. He knew what he was doing. And so they set sail.

And they knew how to sail, how to pull the rigging, how to position the boat so that they would have the best chance of survival if something did happen. And they had Jesus. They trusted Jesus. He knew what he was doing. They would be okay.

What they didn’t know is that Jesus would be sleeping like a baby through the whole thing. And they panicked. They couldn’t believe they had been so stupid as to put their trust in him. He was a carpenter, for Pete’s sake. What did he know about sailing? They should have resisted when he told them to sail at night. “No, Lord. You don’t understand. Storms can come up.” Now they were in the middle of the lake, fighting for their lives against unknown forces. And Jesus is asleep.

Finally frustrated beyond belief, they wake him. “Don’t you care at all that we’re about to die?” Don’t you care, Jesus? Don’t you care about us? Don’t you care that our lives are hanging in the balance?

And that’s the question, isn’t it? That’s the question at the heart of so much going on right now. Not only do we wonder whether Jesus cares; we wonder whether anyone else cares. The media is filled with stories about families being met at the border, being detained, being separated, being arrested. Some are asking, “Why does nobody care about our well-being here? Who will speak for those who feel threatened by a continual onslaught of unknown people coming into our borders? Who’s paying for their food and housing? What if some are sneaking in under the radar to bring drugs, to establish gangs? And what about our economy? What about the people already here—citizens who need help? Our resources aren’t unlimited. We can’t serve everybody. Maybe it’s not our primary problem.”

Now, these are legitimate issues and concerns. They speak of an unknown. Like entering the sea against our will, we find ourselves at the mercy of a storm, fighting for our lives. And we ask, “Lord, don’t you care about US?”

There are also those asking if God cares at all about those families seeking asylum and refuge. We have helped establish the systems they are running from—shifting their economies, encouraging low-paying jobs, and turning a blind eye to the violence that has taken root in their home countries. What will happen to children who are separated from their parents? It isn’t about breaking the law but about seeking a better life—a life here. Who will raise these kids if their parents don’t? Who will pay for the psychological turmoil we are inflicting? If we are the wealthiest and most powerful country, why can’t we also be the most merciful? Again, it is as if the forces of the storm are overtaking us, and we cry to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care?”

And Jesus is sleeping at the back of the boat, letting us fend for ourselves. Or maybe, he’s letting us figure out how to reset our priorities—ALL of us. Because the truth is, it is not an either/or problem. It’s not a matter of either stopping them all at the border or letting them all in. In fact, most problems are not either/or—they are both/and. And in our divisive world of media and social media, we are drawing firm lines, letting our emotions cloud our judgments, and believing only the information that solidifies those lines further.

Part of the problem is that every challenge requires a more complex answer than simply yes or no. It’s more than just building a wall. And yes, we have the resources to address the complexity of the issues before us. Do we have the courage, the tenacity, the willingness? Do we have what it takes to go into the water and across the sea in the middle of the night simply because we trust that Jesus is with us?

Let’s look at the rest of the story. Once the disciples finally awoke Jesus in a panic, he faced the wind and the sea and silenced them. And then he turned to the disciples—who just realized they had gone out of the frying pan and into the fire. It was at that point that they realized just how dangerous Jesus was. It’s one thing to put your trust in someone who you think will create a safe passage to the other side, as if there will be nothing and no one to worry about. It’s a whole other thing to be riding in a boat with someone who has the power to influence creation.

The question for us is this: Are we willing to get into a boat with this kind of Jesus? We may want a friendly, kind, safe Jesus—but that isn’t the one we’re going to get. That Jesus is a false prophet, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a liar. Jesus the Christ doesn’t let us be in charge, doesn’t concern himself with where the next meal comes from, doesn’t worry about who is greatest, isn’t satisfied with our ways of sorting out things or people.

No. Instead, he crosses the sea at night and falls asleep in the boat. He turns over tables in the temple. He touches lepers to heal them and dead people to raise them up. He’s dangerous. And he’s horribly compassionate. He doesn’t follow rules, he doesn’t ask permission, and he doesn’t concern himself with what makes sense. He asks us to follow him, and then dies. He asks us to follow him to and through death. Make no mistake, there’s nothing safe or self-serving about our God.

So, what are we to do today? What are we to believe? How are we to respond—as a people, as a country, as Christians? Like the old sea captain at the beginning of the sermon, maybe we should go farther than knowing numbers. It’s time to learn names. And stories. Know truly who it is that is knocking at our borders. But not only that. We need to learn the names of the homeless veterans within our borders, of the elderly who wonder about their next meal, of the women seeking help, of the man succumbing to addition. And, equally important, the people we disagree with. Learn what their fears are—what their stormy seas look like. Rather than arguing your own point of view ad nauseum, start listening.

Yes, it will take longer. It will be tougher. It will challenge us. It won’t be comfortable. But Jesus has never been a comfortable savior. And if we truly intend to follow him, it’s time to cross the sea.

Pastor Tobi White

Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church

Lincoln, NE

“The Seedy Gospel”–Sermon for Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, June 17, 2018

Mustard4

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13

Mark 2:26-34

 Children’s Message:

“The Tiny Seed” by Eric Carle

In autumn, a tiny seed is blown away with the other seeds. Some fly so high that they are burned by the sun. Across the mountains, another lands in the snow where it is too cold to take root. They fly over the ocean, where some fall into the water. And across the desert where others fall to the hot, dry earth.

They land in the grass, and some are eaten by the birds. And in the winter, a mouse eats some seeds. But the tiny seed remains. In the spring, the seeds begin to grow, but a large weed snuffs out one of the plants. A foot squishes another plant. A boy plucks another plant that has now bloomed to give to a friend. But the tiny plant has survived and has grown and is very tall. Everyone likes to look at it. The birds and the bees and the butterflies visit it.

Again, autumn comes. The petals blow away. And as the wind gets stronger, the seed pod opens and the seeds blow away, too—to become…God only knows.

Today, we heard about a mustard seed that grows into a great shrub and provides shelter for lots of birds—kind of like the tiny seed that bloomed into a big flower and was visited by birds and bees. Imagine that you’re a tiny seed. Even a tiny seed can become something amazing, like the mustard seed and the tiny seed of the story.

Let’s pray. Dear God, thank you for making big and amazing things out of very little things. Help us trust you and your promise when we feel so very small. Amen.

Message:

Let’s talk about parables for a moment. Parables are more than fables—more than stories. They don’t have a moral at the end. In fact, the message of parables can change over time—just like the Living Word of Scripture. You can’t just plug in who God is, who you are, and who another might be. Those might change, too, depending on where you are in your own lives.

A parable leaves you hanging, can make you uncomfortable. It leaves things open. And it generally comes off as being ridiculous. Consider the parable of the day laborers in which the land owner hires laborers all throughout the day, and at the end of the day he pays everyone a full day’s wage. Or the parable of the lost son whose father welcomes him home and gives him part of the older son’s inheritance because he is so glad he has returned. Or the shepherd who leaves 99 sheep alone in order to find the one that wandered off.

The original audiences of these parables would recognize just how unreal Jesus’ parables are. Today, we have two mini parables. One is pretty boring—a man throws out some seed, possibly unknowingly. The seed gets into the soil and does what seeds do—it grows. And when it produces its fruit, the man harvests it.

The second parable seems just as boring. A tiny seed is planted and grows into something big in which the birds find refuge. These seem more like basic science texts than parables. Perhaps we need to listen as first century Christians.

You see, those first Christians were primarily Jews who had come to follow Jesus. Early in the life of the church, there were questions about whether Gentiles would have to become Jews first in order to follow Jesus. Would they have to be circumcised? Would they have to follow Jewish practices in order to appreciate what Jesus was about? What are the rules? How does this work?

This first parable suggests that the reign of God (not ‘kingdom’, as in heaven, a place where we go but our lives with God in charge) grows even in unintended places—without our oversight, without our influence, without our rules, without our making sure everyone knows the right things about God. Because God’s reign is more than theology. God’s reign is about relationship—with God and with each other, both friend, enemy, and stranger. It is about acceptance and compassion and a willingness to learn and listen, to grow and change. And that, my friends, can take place in anyone—at anytime. And while God encourages and chooses the Church to steward the gospel, God doesn’t need the Church to ensure the gospel.

That’s the good news, though! God doesn’t rely on us to instill the good news of love and life in others. It’s good news because we so often put barriers and caveats on it—boundaries that say ‘only if’ and ‘only when’. It’s good news because God chooses us to participate—even in our broken ways of doing so.

And then there’s the parable of the mustard seed. What’s so uncomfortable about that? Clearly, Jesus means that something insignificant will become something mighty; something small will make a world of difference. Except any good Jewish farmer would know that you NEVER plant mustard seed. Ever. Because it’s a noxious weed. It gets into everything. It grows super fast. It overtakes all of your intended crops. And it’s not all that pretty—not by human standards anyway.

And yet, that’s what Jesus uses to compare the gospel and the reign of God. The reign of God is like a noxious, ugly weed. You’ve got to be kidding! It gets planted in those places where we have cultivated and worked so hard to maintain order and produce a bountiful harvest—where we have created what we think is God’s plan only to discover it’s a tribute to ourselves.

I can imagine a few guffaws as Jesus tells about the mustard seed. It can crop up anywhere, at anytime. It infiltrates well-manicured lawns and well-maintained fields. Jesus, you’re just being silly. Think of thistles—only more sturdy, bigger, and honestly more useful. Mustard plants have a variety of healing properties. And even birds can nest in its branches. The birds don’t care if it’s pretty or not. They don’t care if it isn’t a cash crop. It has what they need.

And now we get to the crux of the matter, pun intended. Jesus called the mustard shrub the ‘greatest’ of all shrubs. Now, we know it isn’t the nicest looking. It’s not even the biggest. But it’s prolific. It blooms where it’s planted. It overtakes everything—not by our design but by God’s design. And it provides for others. Jesus is reframing what we think of as ‘greatest.’

Greatest doesn’t mean the most influential. It doesn’t mean the most beautiful. It doesn’t mean anything that humanity has attributed to it. Jesus has undermined what we think of as greatest and turned it on its head. It is not the most powerful, the most wealthy, the most educated, the most put-together, the most religious, the most well-designed, the best.

‘Greatest’ is found in what we think are the ‘least’—the ones we consider ‘other’. Jesus uses what the good religious people of his day and ours consider ‘seedy,’ uncontrollable, and invasive and says it this is like the gospel. The gospel is ‘seedy,’ uncontrollable, and invasive. It works beyond our plans and our imaginations. It overtakes what we intended—thank God. Because, quite frankly, what humanity intends and plans and designs is nearly always self-serving.

Again, that’s the good news today—that God doesn’t operate within human constraints, according to human design, bound by human sensibilities. If God did, we would be even more of a mess than we already are—because we already act as if God abides by our standards. We quote Scripture to verify what we already want to be true—affirming our desire to set rules that defy God’s commands, justifying violence and saying its ordained by God, setting our allegiance to self-serving security rather than the well-being of the vulnerable and oppressed.

A mustard seed kind of faith gets in the way of our well-defined ideals and values. A mustard seed faith defies safety and security. A mustard seed faith challenges the status quo. If we aren’t uncomfortable hearing Jesus’ gospel, then we haven’t been paying attention. Because mustard seed faith disrupts nearly everything we as Western Christians have built up in the name of faith. Mustard seed faith means that God is turning our world on its head. That’s the good news.

Pastor Tobi White

Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church

Lincoln, NE

“Lord of the Sabbath”–Sermon for Second Sunday after Pentecost

The-Lord-Of-The-Sabbath

1 Samuel 3:1-20

2 Corinthians 4:5-12

Mark 2:23-3:6

 Children’s Message:

Who knows what the Sabbath is? (Day of rest, day to go to church, day to…?) Maybe. You know, today we heard some church officials tell Jesus that he was doing the wrong things on the Sabbath—plucking grain and healing a man. What do you think are the right things to do on Sabbath?

Now, here’s the thing: Sabbath was a gift from God to people who had worked every day. And God reminded them that Sabbath was a time for putting God first. Can you think of things that you do that get in the way of putting God first?

Maybe it’s different for everybody. One thing that I hope keeps you centered on God is worship—but that’s not the only thing you can do. You can help people. You can pray. You can sing. You can read. You can play. In fact, these are things you can do every day. What are some things you shouldn’t do on Sabbath?

You know what, even though I’m in worship, I’m working. My Sabbath is usually Mondays. It’s when I get things done around the house, mow the yard, get the groceries. Hmm…maybe I need to rethink my Sabbath, too.

Let’s pray. God, you gave us the gift of Sabbath, and we get too tangled up to use it properly. Show us how to be focused on you so. Show us how to rest and recover. Show us how to have fun and rejoice. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Message:

As many of you know, I spent a week in Washington, D.C. attending a preaching conference called “Preaching and Politics.” And this past week, I spent 3 days in Kearney attending our synod assembly. Starting this Sunday afternoon, I will be spending half of a day each day with our youth at Catechism camp. That is all to say…I’m not sure what you’re going to get today.

No, actually, I have a lot to say. I’m just not sure how to say it. My mind is full of information by this point, and I’m still sorting it out. The week in Washington was a mountaintop experience, the pinnacle of which was attending a movement called ‘Reclaiming Jesus.’ The movement started with several theologians of varying backgrounds coming together during Lent to set forth what it is we believe as Christians—over and against some of the things being lifted up right now. It culminated in a worship service that focused on the six very particular statements. It ended with a silent walk to the White House and the theologians stating there what they had stated in worship (not that anyone but us were listening, and we in the back couldn’t hear any of it anyway).

I think that what I found compelling about the movement and the conference was that everyone there seemed of the same mind. Everyone there felt the same way that I did. Everyone there was wondering how to speak truth to lies, how to proclaim the gospel of the cross to those claiming the prosperity gospel, how to clarify the humbleness of Jesus to those seeking power, fame, and fortune.

But as I am home, there’s a reality that sets in. And that reality is that we, as a community of varying backgrounds and beliefs, are not all in the same place. Some of us are far beyond where I am in faith, and others are slowly coming to it. Some of us find what I heard offensive, and others don’t feel it’s enough. Some of us cling to the ways things were, and others want to abandon it all completely. And most of us are somewhere in the middle.

Most of us are like the disciples—trying to keep up with Jesus, fighting to maintain some order in life, living in the middle of complete anarchy and complete stoicism—or something like that. So, for those of us in the middle, I offer this: wherever you are, that’s okay, as long as you don’t stay there. Wherever you are, that’s okay, as long as you don’t stay there. Because the Jesus movement is just that—a movement. It is always pushing us a little further, going a little beyond our comfort, challenging what we thought we knew for something better. Always. Forever.

For example, take today’s Gospel story. Jesus and his disciples are going through the field when they get hungry and pluck the grain from the stem. Now, the law is really quite gracious in the fact that farmers are meant to leave the grain along the edges for those who cannot afford their own. But on the sabbath, no one is to harvest. No one is to pluck grain. And, as the Greek puts it, it sounds as if this had been happening regularly. Not to mention the fact that Jesus and the disciples probably walked further than was allocated on the Sabbath.

So, Jesus takes the Pharisees back to the beginning—“the Sabbath was made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath.” The Sabbath, according to Deuteronomy, was given as a break from work. It was given to the people as they wandered in the wilderness. It was given after they had spent 400 years working every day without rest. It was a gift. It was a gift not only for the men, but for the women and the children and the servants and even the animals. Everyone got a day of rest.

But over the years, Temple leaders felt the need to clarify what that meant. They restricted it. They manipulated it. They made it mandatory. It became less of a gift and more of a burden. So, in true Jesus fashion, Jesus reframed it for them. He brought it back to what it was meant to be.

Again, in the synagogue, Jesus took a man with a withered hand and asked whether it was lawful to do harm or good on the Sabbath—to save life or to kill. With nothing to say, Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand, and it was healed. And Jesus was grieved and angry at the callousness of the Pharisees.

Now, here’s the thing. The Pharisees weren’t bad people. We like to make them out to be, but they weren’t. They merely operated under the constraints they had learned. But Jesus was messing it all up. He was reinterpreting the laws that had taken on lives of their own. He was bringing them back to the original purpose of God’s law—and God’s love. And the Pharisees didn’t know what to do with that.

We don’t know what to do with that. Jesus is still reinterpreting God’s law within us, and we find ourselves inflexible and stunned by what he challenges us to do—who he challenges us to welcome—how he challenges us to behave. It’s not what we had done before. And 50 years from now, it will still be moving us into new places—places we hesitate to go. That’s the nature of faith.

Wherever you are today, that’s okay, as long as you don’t stay there. Because, you see, the ultimate goal of everything Jesus does is love. Love is at the heart of it all. And I know how sappy that sounds, but it’s not. In fact, it’s really hard. It’s really hard to love someone who has hurt you. It’s really hard to love someone who is different than you. It’s really hard to love someone who wants to arm every citizen just as it’s hard to love someone who thinks all guns should be beat into plowshares. It may be really hard to love someone who is transgender or inter-sexual or asexual—I’m not even sure I know what some of those mean—just as it’s hard to love someone who believes a man’s role is to win the bread and a woman’s role is to be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.

And yet, Jesus challenges us to do so. He challenges us to open ourselves up to new experiences and broaden our ideas about who people are, what people are about, and where people are going. He challenges us to get to know those different than us—personally, intimately. Not just to know about them but to know them, to seek understanding in their situation, to put ourselves in their shoes.

That’s what is so hard about today’s gospel—and probably all of the gospel. But today it is this—that being right sometimes gets in the way of being loving. The Pharisees were right about upholding the Sabbath. But that wasn’t enough. It isn’t enough. It isn’t compassion.

To quote Debie Thomas from the “Journey with Jesus” blog, “This is an unnerving story.  It’s a story about Jesus walking through the sacred fields in our lives, and plucking away what we hold dear.  It’s a story about Jesus seeing people we’re too holy to notice, and healing people we’d just as well leave sick.  It’s a story about a category-busting God who will not allow us to cling to anything less bold, daring, scary, exhilarating, or world-altering than love.”

That’s what it means to follow Christ. It is what happens when we leave behind the human tasks of putting people in their appropriate boxes and take on the Divine task of loving. That is what it looks like to be a Christian—that wherever you are today, that’s okay, as long as you don’t stay there.

Pastor Tobi White

Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church

Lincoln, NE