Thursday, August 30, 2018

We Do This

One thing that people share regardless of political affiliation, religion, or age is the belief that world is not as it should be, or could be.
We all have some sense that things are not going well.
There is too much violence, hatred, vitriol, and poverty.
I hear it a lot from people in my congregation regardless of who they are.
They will say, " I can't believe that this thing is happening, or that things is going on in the world."

I want to tell you this morning that this is nothing new.
My mother reminds me all the time that we have always had a world not as it should be.
We might have thought that things used to be better, but they were never as good as we remember.
Our Gospel for this morning takes place as the disciples are returning from being sent out by Jesus into the world.
Right after that we are told the story of how Herod had John the Baptist killed by cutting off his head.
That is the world that we are asked to go out into.
A world where people have their heads cut off, merely for speaking the truth.
All of this begs the question what are we to do about such a world?
There are so many problems that seem so overwhelming.
They seem to close in on us all the time.
Jesus saw this need all the time in his ministry, and now the disciples see it too.
What are we to do?

Twenty years ago this summer I had the greatest job (besides being a pastor).
I was the CIT trainer here at Camp Calumet.
A couple of summers after that I was here visiting Calumet and I saw one of my CITs who was working on puddle that summer.
I asked her, "What are you doing to make the world a better place?"
She didn't miss a beat and replied, "This."
At first I was taken a back, I didn't think that was good enough.
She should be doing more.
Feeding the hungry, protesting war, teaching underprivileged kids.
but then I realized that it was the perfect answer.
This is what we do.
In this world that is never what it should be we should be doing exactly what we are doing this morning.
Gathering together with Jesus, praying, singing, and hearing that God loves us.
Because tomorrow we all have to get back into the world.
We will have to confront again the imperfections of ourselves and the world around us.

This is what the disciples did after they got done being sent out by Jesus.
They gathered again with Jesus.
They told their stories of God's work among them in the world.
This is what we have.
If you think it this not enough, that there is something more sensational that we should be doing, you might be right.

I want to share with you some stories of what I think  it looks like to gather around Jesus in the midst of the world we face.

Liam is the grandson of two of the most faithful members of Concordia Lutheran Church.
Bill and Gail Magan are the people in our congregation that make sure once a month our congregation serves at the soup kitchen, they have been doing it for over 25 years.
They are in worship every Sunday, even if they go somewhere esle.
Liam is a transgender man.
I will not tell you all of Liam's story, because he will be here on Tuesday morning to tell it to us over in the conference center.
But Liam came to our church to tell us his story.
Part of it is that Liam's parents were not supportive of him.
And part of that came from them telling him that God didn't want him to be a man.
Because of this Liam told us he had trouble going to Church.
Liam has a powerful story, and after he left I sent him a text.
"Thanks so much for being here on Sunday.
Your story is inspirational and important.
I don't know if this is helpful but I wanted you to know that God loves you for you."
Liam replied, "That actually means a lot to have you say that!
I was glad to share my story and it was one of the first times I've felt welcomed in a church in a long time."
What are we doing to make the world a better place?
This is what we are doing.
We are reminding people that regardless of who or what they are, God loves them.
This is what we do as Church.
This is what this is all about.
It is a powerful and transformative message.
It is not liberal or conservative it is Gospel.

A couple of times a month in front of the Federal Norris Cotton building in Manchester NH people of faith gather.
We gather there because that is where the office of ICE is.
We gather to support those people who are there to check in.
They might that very day be separated from their family.
They might be sent to Dover to live in a cell.
They might be sent on an airplane back to a country they haven't lived in for 20 years.
When we gather at the building we sing songs, pray, share stories.
And then we walk around the building seven times.
The walk is based upon the story in the Bible when the people of Israel walk around the walls of Jericho.
We have been told by more than one person that our being there for them is a great comfort.
We have been doing it for more than a year, in rain, snow, sun, heat, and cold.
We are not there to protest, we are there as a spiritual symbol to remind the people checking in that in God's eyes no person is illegal.
That God's love is for them in this difficult time.
This is what we do in these times.
We gather, we sing, we pray, we march.
And I will tell you that on more than one occasion I have thought this is silly.
This isn't doing anything.
But as people of faith this is what we have.
We have God's love and we have it to share with others.
It is not about conservative or liberal it is about God's love for all people.
It is for people that are hurting and need others to show up for them.

This is what we do in these times.
In all times this is what we do.
This is what we are doing this morning.
We are gathering together and singing songs about God's love, and reminding each other that we are not alone.
We are sharing our stories of what God has done for us, and for other people.
We are together around Jesus Christ.
It doesn't seem like much, it might not be enough to combat all the evil in the world.
It will not solve all the problems of the crowds that are coming at us with all their needs.
But this is what we have to offer.
This is different than anything else that the world can offer.
We are not giving some grand political solution, those are always dangerous.
We don't offer you utopia, or perfection.
We are giving the world only what we ourselves have been given.
God's love.
Unconditional not based on what country we are from, what language we speak, who we love, what our gender is, or who we vote for.
It often doesn't seem like much, but to people like Liam and the people who have to show up to ICE it changes everything.
So what are going to do to make the world a better place?
Hopefully you will do this.