Monthly Archives: March 2014

“Do We Even Know We Are Thirsty?” 03.23.2014 Sermon

John 4:(1-4) 5-42• March 23, 2014

Click here to view a video of this sermon.

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.

In his book, Living Faith, former President Jimmy Carter talks about the barriers that divide people and give them a false sense of identity. Having grown up in the south during the time of racial segregation, he had many African-American friends. When his parents were away, he would stay with his black neighbors, Jack and Rachel Clark. He played with black friends, went fishing with them, plowed with mules side by side, and played on the same baseball team. But when he carried water to people working in the field, it was unthinkable that black workers and white workers would drink from the same dipper. (p. 188-189)

In spite of all the barriers being broken in Jimmy Carter’s numerous intimate moments shared as a child with his African-American brothers and sisters in Christ, close neighbors and family friends, a barrier still remained. Blacks and whites could not share from the same cup for a simple cool drink of water.

I’m a bit of an icon hunter. I enjoy searching for icons of the faith that speak in profound ways to our relationship with God and with each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. As I prayed through and reflected upon the fourth chapter of the gospel of Saint John this week, I couldn’t help but think about the icon that’s on the screen today.

christ-of-maryknoll

This is a modern icon created in 2002 by Brother Robert Lentz. It is called Christ of Maryknoll. The artist’s vision in the icon is to lift up the ministry of the Maryknoll priests, brothers, sisters, and lay people who have been imprisoned in China and elsewhere for their work among the poor, the broken, the oppressed.

One thing that I want you to see is that the icon doesn’t make it clear which side of the fence the figure of Jesus is on. Is he imprisoned behind the barbed-wire fence or are we? About the icon, Brother Lentz writes, “Through our cultural institutions and personal lives we all place barriers between ourselves and true happiness. We and our institutions also try to imprison Christ in various ways, to tame him and the dangerous memories he would bring us of our goals and ideals.”

In our worship together today, there is a daring and dangerous conversation taking place at a well. And this isn’t just any old well, this is Jacob’s well. A significant location in the history of God’s people and God’s story. And this isn’t just any old conversation either. This is a conversation between a woman and a man. And to make it even more complicated, it’s a Samaritan woman and a Jewish man. Both are crossing barriers.

And I argue that both are seeking to quench thirst. Thirst is quenched as a result of their conversation, a conversation which happens to be one of the longest conversations between two people in any of the four Gospels. A thirst quenched as the result of a barrier that stood between Jews and Samaritans for centuries. A barbed-wire fence that’s being torn down in a most unlikely encounter between Jesus and a loved child of God who everyone thinks is on the wrong side of the fence. And for two more days, Jesus stayed with them. Jews and Samaritans, drinking from the same cup.

There is a Mercedes-Benz television commercial from 1991 that shows several Mercedes colliding into concrete walls during safety tests. An interviewer is asking one of Mercedes’ engineers about their energy-absorbing car body and the technology that they have recently patented in this area. The Mercedes’ design is one of the most sophisticated designs in the history of automobile manufacturing. It is also one that has been copied by almost every other car manufacturer since. Take a look at the commercial and note what the engineer says about why they have never enforced the patent they hold on this technology.

Did you catch that? The engineer said, “There are some things in life that are too important not to share.”? Isn’t that a great statement for who we are, or are supposed to live as people who follow Jesus? The living water that we receive in the life, death, and resurrection of our savior Jesus is just too important not to share, isn’t it? Too important to not invite others to join us in this journey. Too important to not reach out to another person on the other side of the fence with a life giving drink from the well of living water. Too important. But too often, I’m not sure we even know or are willing to admit that we’re thirsty?

In your life in Christ, what are some things that clutter your mind or rest heavy on your heart? What is causing your thirst? For the Samaritan woman at the well, it was everything she had ever done. And by sharing with others the conversation she had with Jesus, her life and the community in which she lived was changed forever. It was just too significant and important of an experience not to share with someone.

In another book by President Carter called, Sources of Strength. Actually, you can find that book in our library at Good Shepherd, the former president concludes a brief devotion on this gospel reading from John by saying, “She [the Samaritan woman] may have lost her bucket, but she gained instead the living water of God’s love.” (p.38)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, every one of us here today is thirsty. In this holy season of Lent, you and I are being invited to stop for a few minutes at the well and drink deeply from the living water of God’s love. Drink deeply children of God, you are loved. And in our life together in Christ, that’s something too important not to share. Amen.

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“Underneath the Rug of Temptation” 03.09.2014 Sermon

Genesis 2:15–17; 3:1–7 &  Matthew 4:1-11 • March 9, 2014 •

To view a video of this sermon, click here.

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.

As we gather to worship on this first weekend in lent, a very specific issue is confronted head on in our readings and our liturgy. It is something that everyone who has ever lived has faced at one time or another, yes, I’m even talking about those of us who think we don’t ever face it – temptation. I really struggle with that word – temptation. It’s such a loaded word in so many ways. So often we think of it when we do something that we know we shouldn’t be doing, like breaking the rules of our diet or looking at a suggestive banner ad on a website. 

And one of my favorite stories about temptation, actually comes from a family at Good Shepherd. A mother once shared with me the story of her daughter who was in the process of learning The Lord’s Prayer. She was about 3 or 4 at the time and they had been learning the Lord’s Prayer as their bedtime prayer each night. Finally the time came, when the little girl thought she knew the prayer and was ready to try it by herself. So, on this particular night, the Lord’s Prayer was offered flawlessly by the young lady, until right at the end. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us some email.”

I believe temptation is one of the most difficult parts of being a follower of Jesus. And I believe more and more each day that if we want to live our lives in Christ fully and put ourselves in a position to grow in our faith, we must face the fact that there are times when we fall prey to the hands of temptation. Ignoring the reality of temptation while we live in this world is like, in my theological view, it’s like sweeping dust under the rug hoping no one will ever see it.

In our Lenten devotional, “Let Us Hold Fast”, Professor Rollie Martinson wrote, “Recognizing and resisting temptation is neither simple nor easy.”

So brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s just face it – temptation is challenging to say the least. For many of us, in the season of Lent, temptation is something that we try to work on in our faith life. We give up something in order to fast from it during this season – like chocolate or social media or television. Or we add something to our life during this season – like trying to be nice to a neighbor that we really can’t stand or spending five minutes a day in intentional, quiet prayer time with God. But often, temptation takes over and we check Facebook or eat desert just once or we let a day slip by because we think we really didn’t have an extra five minutes to devote to prayer that day.

Our scripture today, especially in Genesis and the gospel of Saint Matthew, provides insight into temptation and uncovers something that you and I need to take note of. Temptation can occur at any time. It can appear out of nowhere when things are going great and life seems to be moving along perfectly. In the Garden of Eden when life and everything about it seemed to be perfect, temptation showed up for Adam and Eve.

Temptation can also appear when things are not going well and every effort to get out of bed in the morning to face another day is a challenge that seems as great as trying to actually move a mountain. In the wilderness, temptation showed up for Jesus after forty days of fasting and deprivation.

In the season of Lent, we are given opportunities to think about things like this. To reflect upon temptation and all that this loaded and often confusing word means to us and our behaviors as we live out our life in Christ. So, I can’t stand before you today and yell at you for being tempted – and most of you hopefully know by now that I’ll never “yell” at you.

And I’m not going to tell you to stop being so weak, start acting more like Jesus and resist temptation when it arises. Stand firm. Be strong. Quit being such a Christian wimp.

Instead, I want to offer two things today. First, in these holy days of Lent I want to invite you to ground yourself in the holy moments of each day and be aware of God’s presence in your life. Temptation won’t stand a chance.

Take time each day to pause. To stop what you are doing for a few minutes and simply breathe in the presence of God in your life.

Take time to notice. To notice how you are acting or the words that you are using. Are they reflections of God’s love for you?

Take time to be open. To be open to the moment that you find yourself in without judgment, without precondition, without blame.

Take time to stretch and to yield. To allow yourself to grow in this moment and all that God’s vision for this moment might be revealing to you about your life in Christ.

And finally take time to respond. Where is God leading you today? How will you live as a child of God in this day?

In Lent, don’t sweep your temptation under the rug. Make time in your busy life each day to pause, to notice, to be open, to stretch and to yield, to respond.

And secondly, I want us to remember a regular and significant part of our worship life together in the body of Christ. Confession and forgiveness. It’s a time when we face our temptations directly and hear words of God’s unconditional love and never-ending forgiveness that we receive as a gift through our savior Jesus.

I’m always amazed with myself during times of confession and forgiveness when, we haven’t finished hearing the words of forgiveness and another temptation already enters my mind or heart. I think we often fail to recognize the powerful words of confession and the amazing gift of forgiveness. We say the words, but don’t really hear them. We receive the promise of forgiveness as a gift, but don’t really believe that it’s for us.

So, the last thing I want us to do during this time in our worship, is to join in a time of confession and forgiveness. [NOTE: This Brief Order for Confession & Forgiveness is written by Rev. Dr. David Lose]

As children of God, loved by God, we confess –

God in who alone we find rest, we confess that we often turn from the gifts of identity, purpose, and meaning that you would give us.

Instead of serving others, we serve ourselves.

Instead of being motivated by love, we are motivated by fear.

Instead of seeking wisdom, we seek possessions.

Instead of working for peace, we work for security.

Instead of seeking our good in you, we look to so many other places, trading your abundant and enduring love for the shiny things of this world.

Draw us back to you, O God, and remind us that all that we have and need we find in relationship with you and with each other. This we pray in the name of Jesus, who came as one of us, tempted as we are, yet without forsaking trust in you.

In the name of Jesus, who suffered temptation and prevailed, who was crucified on the cross and raised on the third day, hear the word of the Gospel: you are a beloved child of God, forgiven, redeemed, renewed, and called to lives of wholeness and life. Therefore, depart this place in peace to serve your neighbor in love.

And all God’s children say, “Amen.”