God's always "hooking us," pulling us back: back to the Word, back to the Meal, back to the Font...back to the community.

This blog is for the purpose of sharing around each Sunday's Bible readings & sermon at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.

Get Sunday's readings here. We follow the Narrative Lectionary.
(In the summer, we return to the Revised Common Lectionary' epistle or Second Reading here.)

So, what's been hooking you?

So, what's been hooking you?

Here you can...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

May 14 -- Council at Jerusalem

I’ve realized that I’m sitting on a proverbial “goldmine” several times in my life and ministry.  How about you?

A Shepherd of the Valley and Mother’s Day example that comes up for me today is Gina Seashore, our outstanding Minister of Music...and also a wonderful and wise mother.  Gina was already here when I arrived at SVLC, but her job description was much smaller, she was simply listed in the bulletin as “Accompanist”, playing piano at the early service, playing what she was asked to play, not part of the planning or crafting of a music program.  But through a long series of events -- as some of you can recall -- when Gina was considered for our Minister of Music here for Shepherd of the Valley, and I saw her impressive resume, I quickly realized “We’re sitting on a goldmine!” A goldmine of creativity, professionalism, insight, musical prowess (of course), but also her passion and community strengthening presence beyond even the realm of music for this congregation: Gina’s a former travel agent, and widely traveled, she organized our Germany trip back in 2012, she’s raised an awesome daughter, who has also become part of our SVLC community and another creative force in our leadership and administration, and Gina brings this great hora of deep and radical peace and joy that, I believe, is perfect for this community, and it’s fitting to talk about that on Mother’s Day.  I was “sitting on a goldmine” with Gina, far beyond what I -- at least -- was first aware of.  Gina’s been here now... what 12 years?...and we are so blessed by your gifts and your presence in music and beyond.  

Are there times in your life when you realize that you’re sitting on a goldmine, whether a person or an idea...that’s been there all along…you just didn’t realize it or enjoy it?

The Jerusalem Council in our text for today, the early Christians, were sitting on a goldmine.  

They had a message of grace and radical welcome to share with the world, but they didn’t realize it, because they were bogged down by “the way it’s always been done”.  There’s nothing wrong with tradition and keeping the important rituals and practices, on one hand.  But, when it becomes prohibitive -- who can receive the Good News of God through Jesus Christ (that’s the gold mine, you see) -- then it’s time to flex and stretch and let go and open up.  That requires prayer.

I think it was hard for the Pharisees to let go.  I always want to acknowledge and imagine the Pharisees, not as bad in Luke Acts (same author); they’re just typical church people.  They’re not all bad in Luke and Acts; they just want to maintain the rules.  And you got these young whipper snappers -- Peter and Paul, Barnabas and James (new disciples of this 33 year-old whipper snapper Jesus)  -- getting in there and trying to change everything.  There better be some pushback when that happens.  You can’t just come in and change everything, right?  Open up the doors to Gentiles?!  “Simmer down Paul, back off Peter, quiet down James, think for a minute Barnabas!” they must have exclaimed.  “We’ve been part of this congregation for years, carried on the traditions of our ancestors -- you can’t just come in here and say everyone’s welcome.  There are rules here.  If those weird alternative Gentiles (bunch of sinners, if you ask me) who have no sense of our tradition, no connection to our past, just come in here, contaminate our sacred fellowship, then who knows what will happen?!...”

There’s nothing wrong with tradition and keeping the important rituals and practices, on one hand. 
But, when it becomes prohibitive -- who gets access to the goldmine, the Gospel of God through Christ -- then it’s time to flex and stretch and let go and open up.  And that requires prayer.  And I’d add, that requires our mothers’ leadership and strength and passion and activism.

Mother’s Day, I’m sure you’ll recall, has really been domesticated into a day of flowers and eating out, for those who can afford it, right?  But it started in the US in 1908 by Anna Jarvis who held a rally at her Methodist church in WV, to honor her own mother, a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War.  She also created service clubs to address public health issues...  
Talk about sitting on a goldmine!  
Mother’s Day is a goldmine in and for the Christian church!  

I remember our dearly departed sister Lois Hellberg on Mother’s Day in here a few years ago, standing up and reading what’s become known as the Mother’s Day proclamation of Julia Ward Howe, from 1870: “Arise, then, Christian women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Say firmly : We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: Disarm, disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence vindicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of council.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take council with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, man as the brother of man, each bearing after his own kind the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.”

Sitting on a goldmine. Mothers Day. The Jerusalem Council. Calling people together. Acting for peace. Sustained in prayer. Grounded in faith, faith in that one lord Jesus Christ, who opens the door for everyone, insiders and outsiders.  Who goes out and calls in the people.  Who gathers us for worship and musical praise, for hard conversations, for a baptism of grace, a holy meal of reconciliation and forgiveness.  

Sisters and brothers in Chirst, we’ve got good stuff here!  I almost want to go put this on our marquis, but it won’t make sense, I’m afraid.  What we’ve got here, everyone in the world needs: THE Word...of forgiveness and grace, a community of welcome and safety and love, a promise of hope, and a call to serve and take risks for global (and local) peace and justice.  Even as we disagree or struggle to let go of long-held practices or ideas, comforts and conveniences, even as we move into a new day of ministry, God stays with us.  God does not abandon us through our conflicts or as we turn the page and enter into a new day here in our ministry, as we open up new facilities, new classrooms, a new kitchen to our community.  We built all that so that we could be even more welcoming, so that we could feed even more hungry people, so that we could nurture and teach even more young children, so that we could look out for one another in even more healthy and wholesome ways.  

We are sitting on a goldmine: this new facility; and even more, this ever new and eternal Word of God’s love and Christ’s grace and peace.  That is for you, may it fall fresh again on your ears and hearts, on your taste buds, and seep down into your hearts and bones this day.  For you are a child of our Heavenly Mother.  You are loved, and forgiven and drawn together and sent out to share and advocate.  You are the church, held together by the life-giving Holy Spirit.
You are sitting on a goldmine.  Thanks be to God.  AMEN.


Blessing of Mothers

Gracious God,
in love you have given us the gift of mothers.
Grant to each of them your power and grace.
Strengthen them in their mothering
with tenderness and understanding,
with compassion and joy.
Endow them with wisdom and knowledge
so that they might teach their children
how to live and how to love;
how to seek and pursue that 
which is right and true;
how to turn away from 
all that is violent, oppressive,
cruel and wrong.
Deepen their own faith
so that they might instill 
in their children a love for you
that will sustain and keep them 
their whole life long.
We ask this in Jesus’ name.

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