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Love and Loss: Last Sunday's Sermon

The Reading

The Gospel
John 12:1-8

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?" (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."

The Sermon

Love and Loss

Jesus knows! Mary feels. This is truly a heartwarming story of Jesus and his last days. Jesus has come to visit his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. We do not know how they became friends. That information is lost in history. They are three siblings about the same age as Jesus and as is often the case with family, each has a unique personality. We know the most about Martha and Mary. Martha is the kind of person who busies herself making sure everything is going smoothly. She cleans, she cooks, she makes sure everyone is being taken care of. And, she sometimes gets her knickers in a twist when her sister doesn't carry what she perceives as her share of the responsibilities.

Mary is the emotional one. She just wants to spend time with Jesus. She hangs on his every word. Mary expresses her love for Jesus by anointing him with costly oil and using her hair to wipe his feet. She loves her master and she really does not care what others think or say about her. She is totally focused on him. I get the sense that Mary also has a strong perception that the end is near for Jesus.

When Judas complains of Mary's wasteful ways, Jesus reprimands him and tells Judas that she is anointing him for his impending death. He, with a sadness in his voice reminds everyone that sometimes it is OK to use your time and treasure on things that some might consider frivolous.

We all value different things in our lives. At the end of April I am flying to Salt Lake City to visit my son and his family. It will cost several hundred dollars and that is money I could spend in other ways. Every Friday I counsel people who are living in poverty and some might say that my trip money would be better spent if I gave it to them instead.

I love my son and our grandchildren and even though it is an expense to visit them, my heart tells me that I should never lose that family connection. Someday I will be gone and I want them to remember me as the father and grandpa who was an important part of their lives.

Jesus was right. When he left this earth, poverty was still very present in the lives of many. The poor are still with us. Poverty has not and will probably never go away. We must never forget that caring for our brothers and sisters is important. Our relationships and our bonds with each other are important as well.


Reconciliation: Last Sunday's Sermon

The Readings

Joshua 5:9-12

The Lord said to Joshua, "Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt." And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.

While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."

So Jesus told them this parable:

"There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.' So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands."' So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly, bring out a robe--the best one--and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!' And they began to celebrate.

"Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.' Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, 'Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!' Then the father said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'"

The Sermon


This story from Joshua is really a story about reconciliation. When Moses died, Joshua took over as the leader of the Hebrews. Joshua's task was to lead the people on the final part of the journey to the promised land. It had been a very long journey. The people had not been loyal to God and they had been forced to wander the desert for forty years.

In this passage the punishment is over and they are now reconciled to God. They are crossing the Jordan river and about to march on Jericho. The promise has been kept.

In this passage from Luke, the pharisees and scribes are grumbling again about the company Jesus is keeping. He is once again hanging out with people of questionable nature. Known sinners!

So, Jesus tells them a story. It is the story of the prodigal son. This wasteful son takes his portion of his inheritance and squanders it on wicked things. When he is eventually broke, he takes the only job he can find is feeding pigs in the countryside. The young man is hungry. He is desperate. He is broken.

With his tail between his legs he returns to his father. He is ready to face the consequences, whatever they are. To his surprise his father welcomes him with open arms. The good brother, the one who had always towed the line is bitter. Where is the party for him. He had been good and faithful all along.

The father says to the faithful son, “You are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life. He was lost and now he has been found.

Through this story Jesus was telling the pharisees what they needed to hear. God is here for all of us. God is always waiting for us to come home and when we do come home God rejoices. We are the ones who wander away from God and when we come to our senses and come home with our tail between our legs we are embraced by God's love.

What about those of us who aren't much for wandering. Should we resent those who did stray and distanced themselves from God. No, we have been rewarded all along. Whenever you feel you are in God's presence you are rewarded. Rejoice in Him and be glad in it.


When Bad Things Happen to Good People: Last Sunday's Sermon

Image result for Worse sinners

The Reading

Luke 13:1-9

At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them--do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did."

Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, 'See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?' He replied, 'Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'"

The Sermon

People suffer. The Jews living in Egypt during the time of Exodus suffered. Jesus is reminded by his followers of an incident where a group of Galileans suffered and died at the hands of Pilate. When he was asked if their suffering was the result of them being especially big sinners. He says no. However Jesus qualifies this by saying that there are consequences for the things we do.

Consequences are often thought of in a negative sense as Jesus does here. But I have to say that the consequence door swings both ways. Yes, if we do bad things they could have a negative effect. If we do good things, those things could have a positive effect. The bottom line is that whatever we do has an effect on other things.

When Jesus mentions the Tower of Siloam falling on a group of people he tells them that these people were no worse than the rest of us. So, how do we explain these things that happen to people? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do bad things happen to innocent people? Is there a theological answer? If there is one, I have not heard it.

What I do believe is that God is involved in our lives and there is a divine dance that is happening in this universe. I believe that God has promised us an eternal life and maybe, just maybe we will understand the divine dance someday.

Jesus continues to teach his followers with a parable about a fig tree that was not producing fruit. The owner wanted to cut it down but the gardener says no. He tells the owner to give the tree some time and he will give it extra care by tilling around it and fertilizing and thereby giving this bothersome tree a chance to become healthy again and bear much fruit.

Jesus was talking about us, God's people. Jesus was telling us that if we are nurtured our chances of becoming Godly people are enhanced dramatically. We are here to care for each other and as we are nurtured we are likely to bear much fruit. This nurturing is all about love and compassion for our fellow human and trusting that God is with us.