Grace to you and peace…
First of all, I’d like to say how wonderful it is to be back among you. While we were in Germany, I kept saying Germans are “my people”; but the truth is, you’re my people...and I’m your people…and it’s good to be home. A preacher is only a generalist when it comes to thinking about and sharing the Gospel…until she or he is back with their own. It’s good to be back with my own, where I can be more specific about God’s grace overflowing in our time and place.
But Germany was amazing! And I am so grateful to have been able to share this experience many from this congregation. To learn the stories and breathe the air together…was such a gift, and I thank you all for being such a community of faith where that sort of “sacred adventure travel” is made possible – those who went and those who held us in prayer from afar and sent us off with well wishes.
There is so much inspiration I received and part of me wanted to just regurgitate my exhaustive list of reflection points into the newsletter for November, but I’d take up the whole newsletter. And I think many of my learnings might better be shared when they apply to our Gospel texts, which will continue obviously to come our way.
But there is certainly something from our trip to Lutherland for today! I couldn’t believe it, when I read our Gospel text, hanging over the North Atlantic earlier this week…
This image of two wanting to sit at Jesus’ right and left hands. And Jesus saying, I don’t think you realize what you’re asking.
It took me immediately to one of—if not THE—climactic site of our whole journey – [grab the picture] the famous Castle Church door…
[cover of bulletin too]
James and John didn’t know what they were asking. They wanted to flank a powerful lord…they wanted their leader to have the kind of authority that the empire had, that the dominant culture had, they wanted a master that ruled as a tyrant on their side. But that not the kind of ruler that Christ is. [hold up picture again] This is.
Whoever wants to be greatest, must serve. Must descend. Must give away their life. Must spread out (loin cloth) for the sake of the world…
I think of teachers and coaches. The great teachers and coaches, and I mean teachers and coaches in positions that may seem insignificant, by the world’s standards. I think of Micah’s soccer coach, who doesn’t care about winning. Who runs out onto the field to pick Micah up after he gets a solid kick…not a goal, just a solid kick downfield. [tell the story] The Gospel gets specific.
All those who were asked, why do you want to be a teacher, a coach a social worker, you could do a
number of other things and “get a lot farther”, and “be a lot greater”. Heather was told once: “You’re too smart to be just a middle school teacher. You could be so much greater.” But wait a minute: those teachers and coaches are great. They are the greatest! That might not be what the world would say, but that’s what Christ would say. All their love and encouragement, and self-giving humility. The Gospel gets specific.
[point to the crucified] Such love is of God. Such love is Divine.
And while we are not capable of offering that most perfect Love Divine…
…we try but we’re broken. We are still flawed, we are still proud – Luther and Melanchthon are not in the loin cloth, they’re in their scholarly robes) And we too struggle to give everything away like Christ did, but we are called to follow him in that path of humility.
While we are not capable of that most perfect Love Divine—we are offered it today! Even now, with all we’re going through, God comes down and offers us that perfect love, made real in the person of Christ Jesus. Even now, with all we’re going through, God comes down and says to you, “You are mine, and you are forgiven, and now you are made free. Go in peace and serve.”
And so we go in peace and serve, not on our own accord, but because Christ has picked us up and directs us down that road of humble service to our world, to our neighbor. (Bold move by the reformers: they have a pretty low view of the human. “Can’t we figure out serving other without Jesus?” we might say. “No,” Luther would say. We are totally dependent—way to selfish and mean spirited and proud and violent and jealous of one another to go in peace serve the earth, the world, the neighbor and the stranger in Divine love and humility. No we can’t!” Luther would say. We rely completely on Christ. Christ the crucified, at the center.)
And this Christ loves us, with a love that will never end. Thanks be to God.