Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Many of us have heard the Easter story many times which sometimes makes it difficult to hear it with new ears.
What struck me this year about the Easter Story from Matthew was that Jesus rising was accompanied by an Earthquake.
Both at his crucifixion and now God creates an earthquake.
In the last couple of years we have become accustomed to earthquakes.
It seems that we move from one earthquake to another Indonesia, Haiti, and most recently Japan.
They can be destructive.
They rip through countries causing lots of damage, and destruction.
And we all have things in our lives that are damaging and destructive.
But this morning’s earthquake is there to open the grave and announce the resurrection.
Just as the earthquake on Good Friday announced Jesus’ death today’s earthquake announces Jesus life.
That is thing about earthquakes is that even though they destroy they also bring new things as the earth moves and shifts, so too God moves and shifts even in death bringing hope and life.

Consider the case of Dina.
On a normal day she awoke and drove 20 miles to her brothers wedding.
She left behind her three sons who were 2, 3, and 5 years old because they were too young to be at a wedding.
That was the day that the earth shook and disrupted her life forever.
It was the day in Indonesia of the tsunami.
Her three sons died in that earthquake.
How does one go on after such a thing happens?
How does one find life again?
Today Dina runs post traumatic groups for people that have lost loved ones.
She has become a surrogate parent to children who have lost their parents.
In the midst of the earthquake she found new life.
Dina says that she lives knowing that one she will meet her boys again.
“Life and death are too close.” She says.
That is the Easter story out of death comes life.
Out of the earthquake that destroys and disrupts hope comes.

In Matthew’s Gospel it does not tell us why the women are coming to the tomb that morning.
In the other Gospels it is to anoint Jesus body, but in Matthew’s Gospel the woman sit and watch Joseph of Arimathea put Jesus body in the tomb, and then come back on Sunday morning.
I like to believe it was because they knew something was going to happen.
They knew that this was not the end of the story.
It is the same reason we go and visit the graves of those that we love, because we know in faith that they are not gone just temporarily away from us.
Death is the ultimate earthquake it is the most disruptive part of our lives and yet because of faith even that is not the end for us.
Even in death we still have hope.
We still believe in life eternal.
That is the Easter story out of death comes life.
Out of the earthquake that destroys and disrupts hope comes.

That is what the resurrection does for us it tells us that no situation is hopeless.
Consider the story of Molly Macdonald.
She was diagnosed with Breast cancer.
She was a single mother and a lawyer.
Because she couldn’t work during her treatment she lost her job.
She had to make a $1,200 cobra insurance bill every month.
She lost her house to foreclosure.
Her and her kids were homeless and would get food at the local food pantry.
She said that she felt like a “total loser”.
Then she got better, she got a job, and began to put her life back together.
Because of the generosity of the people who kept her going during that time she was able to change.
She knows now that anyone’s life can change in a heartbeat.
She knows that earthquakes happen at any minute.
Now she gives back by volunteering at the food bank so others can get the help that was given her.
From out of the rubble of her life came something new and better.
Earthquakes can help us to re-orientate and gives us new life.
That is the Easter story out of death comes life.
Out of the earthquake that destroys and disrupts hope comes.

This week I had to go to Manchester and I was in a Starbucks in Manchester, and right after I got my drink order the power went out.
It was totally dark in Starbucks.
At first we all thought that the electricity would come back on in a few minutes.
Then a fireman at one of the tables showed us the fire on the poll down the street.
It was then we all realized that the power was not coming back on any time soon.
The workers were telling us that they were going to lock the doors so that no other customers would think they were open.
One of the other people in line yelled, “All right a party.”
In the midst of darkness and disruption a party broke out on a Wednesday afternoon at Starbucks.
That is the Easter story out of death comes life.
Out of the earthquake that destroys and disrupts hope comes.

Sara is from Sweden and in 1994 she was on a cruise when her boat sank in the Baltic Sea.
She managed to get into a raft with 16 other people.
In the morning when they were rescued on 6 people were still alive on that raft.
When she heard about the earthquake in Indonesia she volunteered to help.
She organized groups of people who met to comfort and console one another.
She said she knew, “how important it was to meet others who had lived through disaster. The aim is to go on with life”
Out of a tragedy God was making something new happen.
God was bringing and showing life even in the midst of death.
That is the Easter story out of death comes life.
Out of the earthquake that destroys and disrupts hope comes.

John Lennon on the night before he was shot gave an interview and famously said, “Where there is life there is hope”
The message of the Gospel is even more dramatic because it says where there is death there is life and hope.
Earthquakes will come and disrupt and damage, but Jesus Christ is risen so we live and have hope.
The Easter story is not the end of the Gospel it is only the beginning because all the time we experience the life coming out of death.
All the time we experience the hope we have through knowing Jesus Christ who this day has risen.
He is risen!
He is risen indeed Alleluia!

Friday, April 22, 2011


Reflection for Good Friday based on the song, "Why?", by Michael Card.

It was suppose to be different.
It was not suppose to end this way.
Where are the Trumpets?
Where is the joy?
Where are your friends?
Where was the crowd cheering and praising you?
Kings were supposes to bow before you?

Now there is just you alone, derided, and dying.
No friends.
No crowds shouting your name.
Now there are nails and thorns.
Now there is a cross and darkness.

The Earth shakes at this death.
Why is this story?
My God, my God!
In the darkness as the earth shakes I wonder why?
Why am I so scared?
Why am I so worried?
Why do I deny and desert you?
Why do I give thorns and nails to the one I am supposed to love?

Because instead of love I want power.
Instead of suffering I want comfort.
Instead of your will I desire my own.
The story must end this way because we reject, deny, and betray you.
We offer thorns and Nails instead of love, peace, and hope.
Now on this cross we see clearly the way it is suppose to be.

Love given.
Forgiveness offered.
Sacrifice made.
God’s love poured out.
“This is why---for you my deserter, my betrayer, my denier, my executioner I give love, peace, and hope.”

The World Is Being Turned Upside Down!

What was this thing that was happening?
What was Jesus doing?
The world was being turned upside down.
The one whom the disciples called “Lord” and “Teacher” was washing their feet, a job usually reserved for a servant.
It was inconceivable that Jesus would do this.
Something was happening, but they were not exactly sure what it was.
It is no wonder that Peter does not want Jesus to touch his feet he is confused.
The world was being turned upside down.

Tonight is the beginning of the drama that leads us to Easter.
Tonight is the start of something big.
Something earth shattering.
I wonder if we can feel it too?
Are we ready to have God move us?
Are we ready to have Jesus touch our feet?
Those of us who have heard this story many times can we hear it for the earth shaking story that it is.
Nothing after this night would be the same.
Nothing after what was going to happen in the next three days would be the same.
Those with authority would be the ones who would serve.
Death would mean life, up would be down, sin would mean forgiveness.
Even God’s Son was going to be a servant.

Tonight is not only about the institution of the last supper.
It is not only about Jesus redefining the meaning of Passover.
Tonight is about the world turning upside down as Jesus does something new.
Tonight is about a new commandment.
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another.”
This is a real radical commandment of Jesus.
It is more than merely, “love your neighbor as yourself.”
In this new commandment we are to love as Jesus loves.
Jesus loves us to the end.
Through our sin, our imperfections, our deep down failures Jesus loves us.
He loves the disciples even though they betray, deny, and flee from him.
He loves his accusers and crucifiers.
He loves the world that rejects and hates him.

To love as Jesus loves is a radical proposition.
It means to love even when someone else does not return that love in kind.
I have given up all too often on people because I felt that they were not putting in the same kind of effort I was.
It means to love someone even when they do something that hurts us.
I have lost friends because they hurt me in some way and I found it hard to keep that friendship going.
What is amazing about Jesus is that he loves us through all these things.
Despite the ways we fail God Jesus still calls us his friends.
Even though we don’t always do what we are supposed to or act the way we should.
Jesus gives everything for us.

Tonight is about a new commandment to love as Jesus loves.
It might appear on the surface that this is just another commandment that we will break.
It is more than that it is the flowing of God’s grace from us.
It is what happens to us when we allow Jesus to wash our feet and touch the unclean places of our lives.
If we know that God loves us to the end through all things and in all things it becomes who we are to extend that same grace to others in our lives.

This is what Jesus is talking about with his disciples.
That they are not merely to be good people, but that they are to people of grace.
As Christians, we are who we are not because we are following some law, but because we can recognize our own need for grace.
This is what happens when Jesus turns our world upside down.
This is what happens when we allow Jesus to touch the unclean parts of our life God’s love overflows in us.

That is what Holy week can do for us help us recognize our need for grace.
It is life shattering and moving.
It turns our world upside down and helps us to see again with new eyes.
Instead of seeing our lives a series of has to and demands, Jesus helps us to see the world filled with grace.
When Jesus washes our feet we see our lives so filled with grace that our cup runs over and pours out into those around us.

That is what this meal is about.
This meal that Jesus gives to us is about Jesus touching the sinful part of our lives.
Paul retells what was given to him, not a ritual per se, but a new way of being.
One of the reasons Paul is writing to the Church in Corinth is because people were practicing the ritual of communion but not extending God’s love to each other.
Paul is upset with the church because when they would come together to eat some would eat more than others, and some people would even go home hungry and this was causing division.
Paul wants the meal to be about the love we share with one another in God, not about who has more status or who has more than someone else.
When we eat this meal we all receive the same thing.
Everyone receives the same amount of bread and wine, because it is about our love and concern for each.
We celebrate this meal together because in it we all come to know our need for God’s forgiveness.
It is a meal where we realize our need for grace.

That is what this act of the foot washing is really about.
It is about Jesus washing the dirty places of our lives with love.
I know that I am always a little embarrassed to have my feet washed because I have some really nasty disgusting feet.
Usually I can hide them in shoes and socks, but not tonight.
Tonight I hope we allow Jesus to wash your feet.
When allow Jesus to touch the parts of our lives that are not clean we can better live in God’s grace and know God’s love.
Tonight will you let Jesus into the places in your lives that you hide that you don’t want anyone else to know about because then you will be a bad Christian?
Will we let Jesus into our pain and heartache?
Will we let Jesus touch us with his love?
These are the places that Jesus comes to wash.
Jesus knows that none of us are clean that we all need washing.
The amazing thing is that he loves us anyway.
That Jesus loves us to the end.

Tonight the world is being turned upside down the one we call Lord is coming to touch our lives and wash away the dirty parts of our lives.
Are we ready for the world to move?
Are we ready for Jesus to change us and overflow our lives with love and grace?

Get ready because God is moving and changing the world, and changing our lives every day with the love and grace offered in Jesus Christ.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Who Is This?

“Who is this?” the crowds ask this morning in our Gospel reading.
This seems like a good question for us to wrestle with this morning.
Since Holy Week is coming it is good for us to consider who Jesus is for us.
I would assume this morning that if I took a survey I would get a variety of answers.
Just like the crowd in Jerusalem when Jesus rides into the city on a donkey we all have different answers to this question.
How we answer it depends on how we grew up, what we were taught, what types of sermons we have heard.
More than this we also have all been influenced by popular culture and what they have told us about Jesus.
But this morning I want you all too really think about this for yourself.
Who is Jesus?

Surely since Jesus ascended into heaven people have been struggling with this question.
The early church was filled with people with different answers.
In our own day there are thousands of different denominations of Christians each having a different answer to who Jesus is?
Some Christians see Jesus as a prophet who brought a message of repentance.
Some Christians see Jesus as a teacher of the law.
Some Christians see Jesus as bringing a spiritual revolution.
Some Christians see Jesus as bringing order to our lives.
Some Christians see Jesus as bringing us a choice between God and the devil.
Still others see Jesus as starting the church and the institutions we have come to rely on for spiritual direction.

Certainly in the crowd on that first Palm Sunday there were a number of people who probably had different answers.
This morning we see that Jesus brought with him the expectation of being a great prophet and a king.
“Hosanna to the Son of David!” they shout.
“This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Jesus was expected to bring in a new rule, to save the people from the rule of Rome and synagogue.
But Jesus was different from any of those expectations.
Jesus was more than a prophet or King.
I understand the desire to have Jesus be a social revolutionary.
I too see the world and how messed up and backwards everything is.
I see that baseball players get paid 154 million dollars over 7 years to play a game, and school teachers are derided because they make $40,000 a year for teaching our children.
I see that millionaires get bonuses when they tank the stock market, and a janitor is fired for messing up.
These are the times I wish Jesus was more of a revolutionary.
Just the other day I had a young man who I help out sometimes show up at my door on Friday night looking for help.
He was homeless and he was only wearing a t-shirt on a night when the temperature was about to go down to 15 degrees.
If you knew this young man’s story you would know that it was filled with heartache and pain.
Most of what happened to him is not his fault.
I don’t know if he found a warm place to sleep that night.
It is time like those that I want so desperately for things to be different.
I want Jesus to fix it and make it all better.

But the truth is that wouldn’t be Jesus.
That would be Superman.
Superman is the one who takes away all the bad and at the end of the movie restores order and justice.
So if Jesus is not a revolutionary set out to fix all the problems of the world who is he?
Who is this Jesus of Nazareth that we all came here this morning to worship?
Who is this Jesus who we sing hymns of praises about?

I was thinking about who Jesus is for me these days.
For me Jesus is not about being Superman in my life.
I don’t believe that Jesus can magically make all the problems of the world go away.
I also don’t believe that having faith in Jesus somehow makes me superman.
That because I am a Christian or because I go to worship that it means that I have somehow reached some level of perfection.
Instead, for me Jesus is my companion, my comforter, my friend.
This has its own theological flaws, but I have learned in my faith journey that trying to be better never works out for me.
Instead, I just want everyday to be human, to live in the grace of God.
This comes from the way I was raised.
I grew up in a house that was more religious than most.
Our week revolved around church activities.
My parents every Wednesday night would go to choir and my friend Kevin from church would come over and hang out.
On other nights of the week one of my parents would be out at some church function.
And then Sunday was an all day event.
We would be there early for Sunday school and be the one of the last to leave.
After church we would often get together with church friends for a meal or we would have family time.
Here is the thing it never felt weird to me.
My parents were normal people.
They did normal things.
My dad loved to watch sports and drink beer.
On many occasions I heard him tell an inappropriate joke.
My mom kept the house, loved to watch soap operas, and movies.
My dad was a Reagan Republican, my mom a born and raised FDR democrat.
My parents like to have people over and play cards and laugh.
We were taught right from wrong but it was never put to us that this really had much to do with God.
We treated people with respect because that is what people should do.
God was about grace.
God was about giving us strength to meet the challenges ahead.
God was never presented as the one to solve problems, never the big man in the sky who was looking down and taking notes on all the bad things we were doing.
Christianity has morphed into something that at times I can’t identify.
It has become this thing that tells us that the world is a big bad scary place, and we better run from it or we will be crossed off the good list.
I am not interested in that Jesus.
I am not interested in the Jesus who makes everything better.
I am not interested in the Jesus who is anointed king.

I am interested in the Jesus who died on a cross.
I am interested in the Jesus who knew that entering Jerusalem with a big crowd was going to cause a stir.
I am interested in the Jesus who kicks over the tables of the money changers because religion was ruining people’s relationship with God.
I am interested in the Jesus who does not run from the world, but who is willing to fight in it for all that is good.
I am interested in the Jesus who gets his hands dirty and eats with sinners.
I am interested in the Jesus who people called a “gluten and a drunkard” because he spent most of his time eating and drinking with the undesirable people of the world.
You can have Superman and I will take Jesus.

This week as we hear the story again of Jesus death and resurrection let us remember that it was all done for us.
It was done for a greater purpose then merely some religious piety.
It was done so that we could be normal, fully human, and live in this world.
Jesus is not merely our prophet reminding us of the ways God will punish us.
Jesus is not merely our king who brings revolutionary utopia.
Jesus is our savior, who takes away sin and death so that we might live.

Who is this Jesus?
This morning I have shared some of who Jesus is for me.
But every one of you has your own relationship with Jesus and all of us in our faith have to wrestle with this question.
Every one of you has to come to terms with who Jesus is for you.
And the thing is that at any given time that answer might be different for you.
It is not my job to tell you who Jesus is for you.
It is not my job to tell you what is right and wrong.
Those are things that you have to discover on your faith journey.
It is my job to remind you every week that God is there with you on that journey.
It is my job to remind you that while you struggle to fight for what is good and do what is right that God’s grace is sufficient for this day.
As we enter this Holy Week and the drama of the last days of Jesus’ life let us see in the story the God of grace who came not to make everything fine, but so that we might know the depths of God’s love for us.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What I Have Learned About Bible Study.

I have been reading lately other blogs debating the need to haveprofessional clergy who are trained at seminary. The argument being that seminary teaches people to hold positions of authority over others. I loved my seminary education. I found it to be extremely helpful in making me an effective (at least most of the time) leader in the church. My seminary education did not make me feel like the expert instead it helped me to ask questions and seek answers. This is what I would say about our seminary education it is limited. Seminary cannot teach people how to interact. It cannot teach social skills or social intelligence. These things are inherit in who we are. This is not about being extroverted or introverted it is about being able to connect with people. It is about taking what you learn in seminary and then making it connect with people and their lives. It is about being open to the idea that we are all learning all the time. The best pastors are able to do this, and the worst pastors simply take what they learned in seminary and try and impart it on “their flock”.
I have learned this lesson many times in ministry. I have learned that what people want is not information so much as connection. In our Bible studies at Concordia we have a very open style. Here are some things that we have learned worked in our Bible studies.

Off topic subjects are the topic: We start with the text but we often end up way off in some other place. When someone realizes this they say, “But we are off topic”. My response is always to say this is what is on our hearts so this is the topic. As the pastor I don’t try and control where the conversation goes. I let people ask the questions that are on their minds and see where the spirit leads us.

Learning comes from confusion: The enemy of learning and growing in faith is certainty. I see my job as the pastor is to ask tough questions and challenge people’s preconceived notions of God. This includes my own. Often in Bible study someone will say something about the text that I had never thought of and I will say, “I never thought of it that way”. It opens my eyes and mind to all sorts of new possibility. As the pastor I don’t have something I want to teach people. My job is to be a guide. I study the text myself before our Bible study and then I bring up points, provide historical information, and offer a wide range of interpretive possibilities. My goal is for us to struggle with our faith and life together not to impart wisdom.

Read the Bible carefully: We take one book at a time and study it one piece at a time. Often this means we will spend a long time on one book of the Bible. Currently we are studying Isaiah we have been studying it for a whole year, and we will probably not finish for another year. This allows us to read carefully and to really understand what Isaiah is trying to tell us about God and God’s people. It also means we can’t skip pieces of the text we don’t like. We have to deal with them and struggle with what it means. I think sometimes we take the wrong path when we take a modern day issue and then try and decide what the Bible has to say. Working on one book at a time and going slowly allows us to deal with all the different ways that God is talking to us.

Everyone’s faith journey is different: Respect for others is big in Bible study. You have to allow people to be where they are at in their relationship with God. One of the examples I would use is the question of who wrote the Bible. I always tell people in Bible study that if it helps your faith to believe that the Bible is literal then who I am to mess with your faith. My job is to guide people by telling them some of the latest Biblical scholarship and then let them process that information for themselves. My job is not to convince them that what scholar X thinks is the right way. This is hard for pastors who have been to seminary and think they know everything. My job is not to disprove all of the things you learned in Sunday school, but to help you grow in your faith.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I Am Real Life, Messy, Complicated Life!

Recently I read a book someone in the congregation lent to me called “90 minutes in heaven.”
It is a book about a man named Don Piper who dies for 90 minutes and miraculously comes back to life.
He describes what it was like to go to heaven.
His description of heaven is of a wonderfully joyful and comforting place.
However, most of the book is about his struggle to live after this experience.
He becomes very upset with God that he is not allowed to stay in heaven.
Don becomes upset with God now that he has to struggle through recovering from the injuries he sustained.
It is some of the most excruciating pain he has ever experienced.
It got me thinking about our Gospel story this morning about Lazarus.
Is he mad at Jesus for bringing him back to life?
What was life like for Lazarus after he is raised from the dead?
After going to heaven and seeing the joy and comfort that waited him was he upset that he had to come back to life and suffer more.
After all he is going to have to eventually go through the whole thing again.
Lazarus will grow old and die.
It brings up another question is it easier to be dead then to live?

There is a joke about a rabbi, a priest, and a Lutheran pastor.
One day they were having a discussion about death.
The rabbi asked what you would want people to say at your funeral.
The priest said, “I would like everyone to remember how I preached the word of God and tried to do God’s will.”
The Rabbi said, “I would like to be remembered as a man of peace, and goodwill.”
The Lutheran Pastor said, “I would like everyone to say look he’s moving!”
Often times we think of our faith as a way to get us to do all the good things that we want people to say about us at our funeral.
But really life is more than this it is about the journey; it is about the way that we experience God now today.

Much of Christianity has been presented to us as a way to have the assurance of eternal life.
And I have heard sermons on this very text that makes it sound like the whole reason for being a Christian is to receive the reward of heaven after we die.
I think this is a very narrow and not helpful view of Christianity.
For following Jesus is not just about the reward of heaven.
It is about the comfort, strength, and life we receive from knowing Jesus now.
Following Jesus is about living a full life now.

We don’t merely follow Jesus to receive rewards that await us.
But we follow Jesus because when we do we receive those rewards today.
For example, anyone who has ever given of their time for a greater cause knows this to be true.
If you ever volunteered to help someone in need you know that a real life is found in helping in giving of ourselves for someone else.
The rewards of giving are greater than we can imagine.

This is what Jesus says to Martha.
She knows about the resurrection in the last days.
But Jesus adds that he is not only the resurrection he is also life.
Life is now!
Life is today!
Don’t merely live for some future time when you get the rewards but celebrate it today.
Life for today.

We all know that life is not always easy.
Sometimes it feels like living is harder than dying.
When we die we receive eternal joy, there is no more suffering, no more wondering what it all means.

I had a friend who was always searching for her calling in life.
She had lots of gifts but could never figure out where to apply those gifts.
She wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, maybe a preacher.
Everything was about what she would be some day.
Eventually she figured out that it wasn’t about that.
It was about what God had made her today.
What was the life that she was meant to live now?
She learned not to look over the horizon but to take every day as it came.

We can get so wrapped up in what we will be, or what we wished we would be we forget that God has given us a life today.
There are things today that God has called us all to.
We only can live out those things now.

We can get so worried about the heavenly home that God has prepared that we forget there is work to be done now.
There are people to love, joy to spread, and grace to receive.

We can get wrapped up wondering where God is for us.
We become like Martha and Mary, “Lord if only you had been here.”
We often feel this way.
That God is silent or absence from us.
Really what is going on is that we are stubborn.
We don’t like the answer God is giving.
We would rather have our own way instead of following the way of Jesus.
We want everything to go smooth.
We want life to be easy and have easy answers.

It becomes too easy to give the easy answer instead of living with the hard truth.
This for me is the constant challenge of my faith.
I want to always skip to the easy answer.
So and so is dying, “Don’t worry they will be in heaven soon.”
I am really struggling with my health, “Just have faith and everything will work out.”
I don’t know what God wants me to do, “There is a plan just hang in there.”
This stops us from having to live right now.
It stops us from asking some real hard questions about God and our lives.
It stops us from having to deal with the struggles of life.
And I believe it stops us from living in the moment of grace.
Because we can shuffle off all real emotion and real life to some future time or into a quick easy sound bite.
What I have discovered is that faith is harder than that it is more complex then easy answers.

When we go through hard times and experience the struggles of life we do learn from them.
We grow from those struggles.
Most of the time we also grow in our faith as our relationship with God changes and becomes stronger.
This is the problem with the easy answer is that it stops us from struggling with some of the more difficult parts of life that really do lead to deeper meaning and value.
Saying that we follow Jesus so we can go to heaven is too easy.
Struggling to know Jesus in all the things we go through in life gives us real life and a real relationship with Jesus.

I want to leave you with the thought today that “Everyone dies but not everyone lives.”
To know Jesus as your Lord and savior is to have life.
To know Jesus is to have real life, messy life, with all of its struggles, questions, and complications.
We can’t have this life when we skip over the harder parts of our life with slogans and easy answers.
To know Jesus is to have life in abundance.
To have the dry bones of this life have spirit blown into them.
So today let us leave this worship serves and go out and live.
Live in grace, love, and joy.
Love everyone, cry often, give of yourself for others, pray unceasingly, struggle with the hard questions, embrace today, and know that your work is a calling from God.
In short, know that Jesus is the resurrection and the Life, real life, messy complicated life!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Grace or Karma?

I recently read an interview with Bono the lead singer from the Rock group U2.
He basically said that most religions, including lots of things we hear in Christianity, work on the premise of Karma.
We believe in a system where we get what we deserve.
We believe in the system that tells us that bad things happen to bad people, and good people who follow the rules and do the right thing get rewarded.
It is clear from this morning’s Gospel that the disciples also believe in Karma.
They see a man blind and assume that it is because of something he did.
“Who sinned this man or his parents?” they ask Jesus.
Jesus once again surprises with his answer.
Jesus does not worry about who is to blame only what needs to be done now.
Jesus only wants to show God’s glory.
Jesus is not worried about Karma he is about grace.
God is about grace and that is so hard for us to accept.
We like Karma better it is easier.
We come up with a system of laws, of good things and bad things.
Anyone on the good side wins.
Anyone on the bad side looses.
The problem is that life does not work that way.
Life is more about grace, because we are often given a second chance.
Often times we are given something when we really have not earned it.
For us as people of faith this is not merely life it is God showing us his love in unexpected places.
As Bono went on to say, “Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.”

Grace is hard to deal with.
It is hard to believe that God loves some of the people in the world.
That God would forgive some of the horrible things that people do.
Or that life is not as cut and dry as we would like to make it.
That the things we believe to be sin are not really sin.

We all have things that we believe to be true.
We all have theories, philosophies, and things that we believe to absolutely true about God.
We have all have a certain moral compass that guides and helps us order the world.
All of that is good.
But what happens when God shows up and upends those things that we think or even know to be true.
What happens when grace appears and it does not fit into the boxes we have constructed.

We become like the Pharisees in our Gospel story this morning.
We become blind to the wonder and amazing grace of God.
We begin to shout that we already know everything there is to know in this world.
“We have Moses!”
We have been taught by this authority or that authority.
Instead of letting God set the rules and move in the world, we come to believe that we do.
The religious people of Jesus day are so blind that they don’t even see the Son of God right there in front of them.
They don’t realize that God is moving and working in their midst.
They don’t see it because they are too busy defending what they know.
They like Karma much better then grace.
In the story the blind man sees because he sees grace.

I know that I have been surprised on many occasions by God.
That something has happened that made me rethink all of what I thought before.
Something that showed me how stubborn I was, or how uncompromising I can be.

In our current times I think that we do not allow enough for grace.
We are always predicting that whatever is happening will be the end of the world.
This week someone came to see me and said they were going to move to Sweden because there they could get the services they needed after all the budget cuts.
They went on to say that the budget about to be passed by our legislature was the end of the world.
(Just to be clear I don’t like the budget that passed the house, I don’t like Governor Lynch’s budget.
I was right there protesting the passage of the house budget.
I too think it will hurt the most vulnerable, I think it is irresponsible, and morally wrong.)
However, what do I know?
What do any of us really know?
Is it possible that this could lead to an economic recovery and the creation of lots and lots of jobs?
I have to leave room for grace.
I have to leave room for God to do God’s work.
Perhaps out of all of this mess, all of this tearing down God will find a way for people to grow and change.
I know this for sure it will mean more people will be coming to our church looking for help.
Last week I received 10 phone calls from people looking for help in some way shape or form.
Perhaps this is an opportunity for more outreach.
Perhaps God’s grace will move in a whole new way?

I have my boxes too.
This week I was working on letting in space for God to work in a different way.
We have been trying to start a worship service for the people experiencing homelessness.
And we have been doing it with other churches that have a different theological bent then we do.
It has been good for me to open up to another view, to see another side of God.
We can all get stuck in our ruts, become programmed into a certain way of thinking.
When this happens we become blind to what God is up to in our world.
We become blind to the ways that God is using other people to be a blessing.

I say that because my stubbornness and prejudice is not about seeing people who are poor in different light.
For me it is about seeing the rich, the religious, and the powerful in a different light.
All of us are subject to God’s grace.
That is my point that we can never rule out anything when it comes to God.
Because in ruling it out we try and confine God to our rules, or philosophies.
We simply have to live, to love, to share ourselves with others, and be on the look out to what God is up to in the world and in our lives.

For a short time in my life I worked as a waiter in a pizzeria.
It was a crazy place because it was filled with crazy people.
There was the owner’s daughter who was aspiring to be a writer.
She was educated, liberal, and always pushing buttons.
There was her boyfriend who was an aspiring camera man.
There was the guy who made the pizza who was really street wise, but never went to college.
There was the manager who was an atheist and a right wing conspiracy theorist.
He believed that the FBI was staked in the drive way next to his house because he owned a couple of guns.
No lie one day he asked me if I wanted to go to Pennsylvania with him to sell guns because they were legal in NH but illegal in Pennsylvania.
“It will only take us a day and we will make tons of money.”
There was the kid who dropped out of high school so he could travel the country with the band FISH selling sandwiches.
There was the high school kid who lived his whole life in North Conway but tried to act like he came from Brooklyn.
It was a very human place.
It was filled with grace.
At the end of the day, especially after a hard day, we would sit and drink beer together.
We would tell stories, argue about religion and politics, and laugh.
Each one of those people in some way taught me about God’s grace.
Each one of them was different and unique, and each one was loved by God.
I went back after I had been in Seminary for a while and I saw my old boss.
He told me that he had become a Christian, and he said that I had helped him see that Christ was just about being himself and accepting God’s grace.
It was a place that was not about Karma but Grace.

There is a great quote, "Love isn’t finding a perfect person. It’s seeing an imperfect person perfectly."
That is what Jesus does for all of us.
We are not perfect, but we are loved perfectly by Jesus.
That is the essence of grace.

This morning let us leave here believing in Grace instead of Karma, and being open to seeing it all around us.