Here is the worship service for June 28, 2020, the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, which will go live at 10am. The worship bulletin is found here and it now includes the sermon, so you can save it for your own time of reflection at a later time. Otherwise, the manuscript is below the video as well.
We will be celebrating communion as usual, so if you wish to partake please have some food and drink ready nearby.
Have a wonderful week!
Loving God, as we hear your Word, may your Spirit equip and inspire us to see your grace-filled hospitality in the center of our lives, through Jesus Christ, who is your very Word. Amen.
So as I was writing this sermon I was feeling extremely frustrated. I know, you’d think I should be on top of the world now that I got my haircut, but truthfully I was ready to pull my hair out, I was so frustrated. And it isn’t what you think, it has nothing to do with the current health and/or political climate of the world, it has nothing to do with the kids finishing school so that 1-2 hours a day of them doing schoolwork has been translated to 1-2 hours a day that they’re distracting me, and it doesn’t even have anything to do with the fact that I’m totally reaching for a new and original sermon topic.
It’s just that… this drawer in my home office won’t stay closed.
I have this desk in my new pandemic home office which came with a bunch of drawers which I have yet to install properly, actually right now this unit is just sitting on top of the desk. Don’t judge me. Anyway, one of the middle drawers just WON’T CLOSE. It’s not too full or anything, it closes fine but it just doesn’t stay that way. No matter what I do, it just keeps slowly opening on its own. Here, I’ll show a video of what I mean…
SEE?!? So annoying. It wasn’t always like this, though. When I first set it up, it opened and closed like a normal drawer. And it was really handy because I could keep stuff in there and grab what I needed, which is what drawers are for. It was a great set up. But as time went on and I worked in this home office more and more, more and more stuff got piled onto the thing and I guess the weight shifted a bit. And so the extra weight combined with the probably slightly off level desktop and the protective cardboard shield I put under it to prevent scratches, all contributed to turning this very useful tool into the bane of my existence.
Funny how just a small shift can change the trajectory of something so much, huh?
But I figured the reason it keeps opening is because it isn’t on a level surface. And I guess I could mount it properly, but that sounds like a lot of work. I’m a pastor, not a desk-builder. So the really easy fix that I found (after about a half hour of shutting the drawer using different shutting methods), I just shifted the whole unit just a bit to the right. I just twisted it so it is leaning slightly in a different direction. And you know what? It did the trick.
I know, I’m just talking about a dumb desk drawer, but I share this because it applies to many areas of life. How a small change in environment, a small tweak in context, a small shift in paradigm can change things drastically down the road.
Take today’s gospel reading for example. Growing up, I’ve always understood this as a command for us to be welcoming. I read it as Jesus saying “when you welcome others, you welcome me, so if you love me, you better we welcoming”. And I understood it this way because in my upbringing, I’ve been taught that the bible is God’s rule book and we use it to direct our moral compass. So we need to follow these rules because, you know, they’re rules.
And even after all my years of studying Lutheran theology and working as a Lutheran pastor, I admit that I still read it that way this week as I was preparing for this service. So my tendency to interpret scripture as law runs deep, and maybe it does for you too. I mean, how many of us heard Jesus’ words today and thought about how we should be more welcoming? Or how many of us maybe patted ourselves on the back because we feel like we’ve already been the good and faithful servant in the welcoming department? How many of us heard this and automatically internalized it, and in this current climate of racism and all, thought that Jesus was talking specifically of how well we welcome others, especially those who typically don’t fit in our circles?
Don’t feel bad if you fell into any of those categories, like I said I totally went there myself and I studied this stuff for a really long time. Studied by definition, that is. Not sure if I studied it well, apparently.
But if we look closely at the words, that isn’t what Jesus is talking about at all. If we look at the context, we can see that he isn’t giving a rule. If we take a step back and shift our perspective just a little, we’d see it isn’t even about us doing the welcoming at all. But Jesus says “whoever welcomes you”. See in our perspective, in our own interpretation, perhaps in our arrogance, we might have thought that Jesus was saying “go and welcome whoever”, putting us in the driver’s seat. But no, Jesus is talking about those who are welcoming us. Jesus isn’t giving a command, but he is giving us a promise. A promise of welcome. He continues with whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet, a righteous person in the name of a righteous person, by offering a cup of cold water, these are the blessed ones. You know what Jesus is saying here? If we take ourselves and our actions and our own preconceived value and worth, we see that Jesus is exalting those who even bother to welcome us, because welcome is the great equaliser between us all. When someone welcomes us, that is because they see us as worthy and valued. It is because they see us as deserving of what they have themselves. It’s because they see us as they see themselves. Equal. That is why they welcome. That is why we are welcomed. That is why God is present in the midst of it.
This comes during that story of Jesus sending out his disciples. Go from town to town, minister to people as they need, but above all, accept the welcome that you get. If you don’t get any, then ok, move on. But if you do… if you are welcomed, then notice those who welcome you, because they are the ones who see you, who value you, who also recognise your position as God’s people. It takes one to know one, they say. It takes one of God’s children to see one of God’s children. It takes a saint to value another saint. It takes a sinner saved by grace to recognise other sinners saved by grace.
And so Jesus is saying be blessed by the welcome of others. Be strengthened by your recognised identity as prophets and people of righteousness. Be encouraged that even in your sin, in your misinterpretations of life, in your shifted worldviews that have drastically changed your trajectory, that God loves you, God forgives you, and God saves you into eternal life.
There is a reason why we have “all are welcome” on our church sign outside the building at all times. Because we mean that stuff. Or at least we try to. But as we say that, we remember that “all are welcome” applies to us as well. That it isn’t us who belong to this church that are welcoming others, but we are also accepting that welcome that is being offered to us. We don’t own it, but we give and receive that equalising welcome that reminds us that we are all in the same sinful boat but forgiven to be saints and empowered to be prophets proclaiming God’s grace, love, and mercy to all the world through our words, through our actions, and through our welcome and being welcomed in community and God’s kingdom.
So yes, all are welcome. Just as we are welcomed. And as our welcome reminds us of our value and worth in God’s love, so does it remind us of the value and worth of our brothers and sisters around the world, also deserving of that welcome. Let’s allow then, our paradigms and worldviews to be shifted that they could align with God’s idea of love, community, and welcome, empowering us to be God’s people and prophets in the world.
Then in this season after Pentecost, in this Ordinary Time, that is “time of good order,” may we recognise our position in God’s kingdom and family as forgiven sinners, and that welcome is as much ours to extend as it has been extended to us, that we can regard all people, of whatever race, whatever heritage, whatever sexual orientation, whatever level of ability or level of faith, equal as God’s children: redeemed, saved, and loved into eternal life with God, Sovereign, Saviour, and Spirit. Thanks be to God. Amen.