Here is our worship service for June 13, 2021, the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost! The worship bulletin can be found here, which will have the order of worship, the words of the liturgy, the page and hymn numbers for the music out of the ELW, and the sermon in full. The sermon is also included in this post under the video.
If you want a more full at home worship service, you can have a bowl of water to interact with for the Thanksgiving for Baptism, something small to eat and drink for communion, and a candle that can be lit at the beginning of the service and extinguished during the sending hymn. These are all option, but the hope is that they would help you in your worship.
May you see and feel God’s blessing upon you this day and always!
Holy God, you lead us not by sight but by our faith through your Word and truth. Guide us by your Spirit, that we might walk upright in your love and peace, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
One of the things about me that I’m kind of proud of is that I’m relatively drama-free. I don’t get offended easily and even if I am, it usually isn’t enough for me to do anything about it. And I think most of the time, I’m a bit too dull to even get that something offensive happened anyway. So because of this blissful ignorance, I’m able to live my life relatively free from conflict, controversy, and confrontation.
On the one hand, this pretty awesome trait of mine allows me to go about life with pretty little stress and a somewhat carefree attitude. But on the flip side, on those off chances that some stress does enter my life, goodness gracious am I ever ill-prepared to handle it. And as you might have guessed, I’m going through one of those times, like right now.
Actually, I’ve been going through it for the past, say, 15 months. This pandemic, while offering me a unique opportunity to get myself on YouTube on a weekly basis, has also dug up a lot of wounds that quite honestly I didn’t even know was there. Wounds around inequality, around racism, and perhaps most painful, around identity.
You see throughout this pandemic, a lot of my colleagues and I have been pushed online, meaning we can now see each other and converse a lot more often than before. Which is great, because I do truly love and respect them (most of them), but I’d be darned if I can’t help but compare myself to them. I mean, in terms of affinity for pop culture, sheer wit, and stunning good looks, I know I rank pretty high among them. But when it comes to skill in ministry, in caring for the poor and needy, and in just doing God’s work in the world? I’ll admit that I often feel like running home with my tail between my legs when compared to most of them.
It got so bad, in fact, that I began to wonder, why on earth am I even a pastor?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to quit or anything, I still have a family to feed (not to mention myself), but I couldn’t help but feel really inadequate when compared to my colleagues. I feel so ineffective and untalented when I hear about all things they do and accomplish. I feel small and insignificant, sort of like a mustard seed.
We know these parables that Jesus gives in today’s gospel reading, or at least the second parable around the mustard seed. And you’d think that such a parable should give me a good deal of encouragement that if even the small insignificant mustard seed can grow into the greatest of shrubs, then I should be able to see that I can grow and flourish to be something great as well, right? The thing is about that analogy is that a shrub is still just a shrub. I mean Jesus totally exaggerates here when he talks about it being great and puts forth large branches, as it actually isn’t all that great nor are its branches all that large. In fact, I can’t see how any bird could make a nest in one of these plants, unless the bird itself is super small and insignificant. Look it up, mustard plants are actually annoying invasive weeds that you don’t plant on your own, but what you’d pull out of your gardens and yards and throw on a healthy dose of weed killer so they don’t come back.
So yeah, by itself this parable doesn’t seem to be all that helpful.
But this parable as we get it today isn’t by itself, is it? The parable preceding it about some dude scattering seed without much worry and just goes to sleep, actually reframes its more famous and popular counterpart in reminding me that the mustard seed doesn’t choose what it grows into. God does. The guy who plants the seeds in the ground in the first parable doesn’t control how the seeds work and what they do. God does. And what I am called to do and become isn’t a matter of what I can do and what my perceived skills and talents are, but of what God can do with what and who I am.
Maybe you know what I’m talking about. Maybe you’ve felt like I have, at times insignificant in what we do and who we are. Maybe you’ve felt like you can’t compare to your own colleagues and peers. Maybe you’ve felt like you’re just not good enough because we haven’t and don’t look like we will live up to the expectations that we put on ourselves, whether it be our own or what we think others expect us to be. But God is telling us that our own expectations aren’t an actual measure of our worth. Our goals whether they are met or not aren’t the litmus test of our belonging. Our own image of what should be doesn’t change who we are in God’s eyes. And who we are, are beloved children full of potential and promise as faithful witnesses of God’s grace and truth.
I know, this might still sound a bit belittling in that we’re just “good enough,” but I think there is more to it than that. See, I don’t think God as concerned with our “finished product” as we might be. I don’t think we’re here to compete with others and whoever has the most in the end wins. I don’t think God puts us in this endless rat race that we often choose to be in ourselves, where we continually perpetrate a dog-eat-dog world. Rather, I think God calls us into a journey. God invites us into growth in relationship and community. God liberates us from our feelings of inadequacy in comparing ourselves to others and reveals to us the blessing in change, the confidence in our faith, and the joy in being a new creation.
So those of us who might be feeling that insignificance, be it in our vocation, in our relationships, or in our faith, don’t you think that God knows who you are and what you’re like? Those of us who can’t help but compare ourselves to others, don’t forget that the body has many parts, and the parts all have a different function or perhaps just a different timing. Those of us who might be feeling that we’re just “good enough” or are only eking by on the skin of our teeth, remember that even in whoever you might see yourself as right now, God sees you, God values you, and God calls you to things that might not even know are possible.
For myself, I know I might not be the greatest pastor in the world or even in our Synod, in that I’m not a super charismatic preacher who attracts millions of views. I mean see for yourself, the views for this service can be seen right now down in this corner. I know that as a pastor, I might not be the best at finding what social justice issues need our attention right now and lead the charge to support it or protest for it or do whatever might be the case to do. I know I might not actually be the best looking pastor although I try really really hard to be. But I also know that God calls me preach however best I can, to proclaim what little knowledge I have, and to love and serve people with whatever little energy or ability I can muster.
The point is, while we might think ourselves as not enough when compared to others who are just better by whatever standard we hold, God can take the small tiny seeds of good that we scatter among people and grow them in ways we never could have dreamed or imagined. God can flourish in the insignificance and failed expectations that we think we have and turn them into something great for the kingdom and for the service of others. God can look at all the ways that we feel like we fall short and in God’s unending and steadfast compassion and grace, call us into something new, something full of meaning and purpose, something that screams the worth and value God blesses us with.
In this season after Pentecost, may we find confidence in our identity as God’s people and draw strength from God’s faithfulness, that we might see ourselves not as insignificant or just good enough, but as God’s dearly beloved children full of promise and hope, called to do great things in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour, Redeemer, and Lord. Thanks be to God. Amen.