We are back worshipping in person and online! It’s been a bit of a break from our normal kind of worship, but we are happy to be back and in the swing of things. This is our worship service for September 4th, 2022, the 13th Sunday after Pentecost.
The bulletin for this service can be found here and it will include the full order and words of worship, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon. The sermon is also included on this page below the video.
May God’s blessed love shine in and through you all, this day and always!
God of wisdom, speak to us through your Spirit a Word of life, that we might have planted in us the power of your righteous love by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Remember back in the spring before I left for sabbatical I mentioned how it’ll go really quickly and before we know it, I’ll be back? Yeah well, I called it. Here I am.
But don’t get me wrong, it is good to be back. Truly. Although I do admit that the last few weeks I’ve been dreading coming back to work because according to my generation not working will always be infinitely better than working. And truth be told I’m not sure if I ever got into that sabbatical mode, you know? Some of you know that I did a few weddings and other work related things during my time off, and I blame no one but myself and my inability to say no. So while I did have time off, it didn’t always feel that way. Or at least, I didn’t always feel all that rested.
But at the same time, I did. I know, weird logic. As tired and stressed as I was at times, imagine how it would have been if I still had to worry about services every week as well. So as I was trying to get back into the swing of things last week, and as people have been asking me how my time off was, I could more honestly say “not bad” instead of what I initially thought I would say, which was “horrible”.
Because really, it’s all relative. And depending on what we’re making it relative to, things can seem way worse than they are, or they can be seen as way better.
For example, you might know that near the beginning of my sabbatical I caught COVID as many of you had as well while I was gone. And it was the worst for me. While my symptoms weren’t that bad, it was like any other flu for me, it was the disruption to my life that got me. I had to cancel plans, move things around, and stay in a room by myself away from the rest of my family. I was thinking that there is no worse way to spend sabbatical than this. But then I caught hand, foot, and mouth disease. And let me tell you something, I don’t think I could have wished for COVID any more than I did than last week when I had HFM because really, it was that much worse.
I know, for some people COVID was the worst thing that could have happened to them, I’m just saying for me, I realised that it wasn’t as HFM (for me) was that much worse. And in fact, HFM probably won’t be the worst thing to happen to me either, I mean even though I was stuck in a room in a lot of pain from these sores in my throat and on my feet, I still was able to hang out with our son who had it too, we still were adequately fed in spite of the painful swallowing, and above all, we had a TV, our deviceds, and ample internet bandwidth so really it wasn’t all that bad. Sure, the pain was bad and it was all we could think about, but I’ve had worse, and I probably will have worse yet.
It’s all relative.
And that got me to thinking about this week’s gospel lesson. This week’s really easy to understand, feel good gospel lesson. Of course, I’m kidding. Could you imagine if this is your first time ever at church and you heard this read to you? That to follow Jesus you have to hate your parents, your family, and even yourself? Well maybe hating your parents and siblings and even spouse isn’t that hard for some people, but ourselves too? That could be where some of us draw the line. I mean, isn’t Jesus supposed to be about love?
For most people, if they only heard this read to them, they’d never come back to the church. If this is what Jesus is asking of us, well then thanks but no thanks. I mean, this would be enough to pull my own kids out of church… you know, if they ever came to church. But this isn’t the kind of message we want to hear, this isn’t the lesson that we want to be taught, this isn’t the kind of life that we want to live. Sure, we can love Jesus and all that, but at the expense of our family and friends? For most people that is just too much.
But that’s what I mean about it being all relative. I don’t know if Jesus is really asking us to hate our families. I don’t think Jesus is accusing us of being bad disciples if we continue to care for those who we care for. I’m pretty sure that Jesus isn’t demanding us to stop loving just so we can love him more.
Rather, again I think it’s all relative. Jesus is asking us to know a love that would blow all the other love we’re familiar with out of the water. Jesus is asking us to open our hearts and feel a love that fills us and motivates us to share it with others. Jesus is asking us to explore this love that is so rich and so full, one that brought him into being, one that he centered his life around, one that drove him to the cross. Compared to this love, everything else could only look like hate.
When I was a kid, I used to look up to my brother a lot. He was older than me, smarter, faster, better in almost every way imaginable. I loved that guy to bits. But then as I grew older I started making friends of my own. And while I still love my brother, given the chance to hang out with anyone other than him? You’d better believe I’d be hanging out with anyone else. And so my friends didn’t make me hate my brother per se, but my capacity for love grew. And it happened again when I met my wife. I mean I’d still die for my friends and all, but for my wife, I’d kill. Make no mistake. Dead. And then we had kids, and while I’d still kill for my wife, for my kids I’d kill you and your family and destroy all that you hold dear.
Of course, this is all metaphorical, please don’t use this is evidence against me. But the point is as I’ve said before, it’s all relative. We don’t hate those at the bottom of our love hierarchy, but we just love those at the top so much more.
Still, this sounds like a lot. Can we really love Jesus more than those we love the most? Can we really pick up our metaphorical crosses and lay our lives down for the God who calls us? Can we really have the capacity to be like Christ and love like Christ?
Honestly? Probably not. People in general aren’t all that loving and selfless and most of the time we’re much more hateful and selfish. But Jesus calls us anyway. Jesus knows we have our shortcomings in the love department but still considers us his friends. Jesus is fully aware that we’re going to fail at this, probably epically even, but gives us a provision to remain in his love, remain part of this community, and remain in his salvation.
That provision of course, is forgiveness. Forgiveness of our shortcomings. Forgiveness of our hate. Forgiveness of our sin and separation from God.
Yes, Jesus gives us a tall order of love, community, and discipleship. But by the grace of God we can catch a glimpse of this love, be strengthened by this community, and be driven to be faithful disciples of Christ, marked not by perfection, but by the salvific grace and forgiveness shown to us out of this very love that we are called to be a part of.
So while life will continue to give us ups and downs, relatively good and bad things, we can trust that the love of God remains sure, pure, and steadfast, and will bring us up out whatever it is that we face and lead us into the face of peace and joy by the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord. Thanks be to God. Amen.