Monthly Archives: August 2018

“Jesus is Here” 08.12.2018 Sermon

John 6:35, 41-51 * August 12, 2018

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

I was blessed to spend this past week in Darien, Illinois outside of Chicago at the Carmelite Spiritual Center with some of the most amazing pastors in our church. I’m always thankful for these opportunities of continuing education that you give to your pastors and staff. And I’m even more thankful for your support of our shared ministry with other congregations in the ELCA that allows for opportunities like this to happen within our church in the first place.

Anyway – I was completing a 3-part continuing education series for Senior Pastors in their first 5 years of call sponsored by the Lily Foundation and United Lutheran Seminary out of Pennsylvania.Image result for stewardship and mission

The focus of this past week was stewardship and mission.

Which places us directly into the 6th chapter of the gospel of Saint John.

“Jesus comes to us whether we like it or not, whether we’re hungry or not, whether we see it or not. According to John, Jesus has always been here.” That’s the truth Pastor Bob reminded us of in the sermon last week. It was toward the end if you want to watch the video on our YouTube page if you missed it. Regardless of where you were that day, from an AirBnB in Wrigleyville, Illinois last week,  I shouted “Yes! Thanks be to God!” as I watched that sermon.

And here’s why…if there is anything that the 6th chapter of John might be saying to the community John is speaking to or the community I’m speaking to right now it’s this…Jesus is here. Jesus has always been here. Jesus will always be here.

And regardless of how good you’ve been in the past, how good you are today, or how good you will be tomorrow…Jesus is here. And regardless of whether you believed that truth last week when you heard Pastor Bob’s sermon, believe that truth today as you sit in worship with the worries, anxiety, and pain that you are carrying, or will ever believe that truth because of what may happen to you or someone you love, Jesus is here.

That’s stewardship. That’s the mission to which we are called.

Theologian Jean Vanier in a reflection called Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus Through the Gospel of John puts it this way, “Jesus is offering to us a personal, intimate relationship with him that will lead us into the very life of God and nourish this life. It will bring us to dwell in Jesus and to have Jesus dwell in us.”

Image result for jesus is hereWhen Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” That’s what he’s talking about. When he says, “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” That’s what he’s talking about. That he is with us and will always be with us.

As I’ve read and re-read and read again the 6th chapter of John during these many summer weeks in which we are spending time in this chapter, I’ve asked myself, ‘I wonder what the people who first heard these words from Jesus some 2,000 years ago must have been thinking.’

To this point in time, all they really know about Jesus is that he’s a pretty good teacher. And he’s kind of becoming a bit of a celebrity.

And now you just heard him tell you that he’s the bread that has come down from heaven and that you should eat his flesh. If you were among the first to hear Jesus speak these words, you might have turned to someone and asked if they heard the same thing. Because you thought you just heard someone say something that would certainly sound like they have lost their mind. Say something that might end up on the front page of the daily newspaper or be a breaking news story on CNN or FOX.

C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity – which if you’ve never read, I highly recommend you take the time to read– makes the following statement about Jesus: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice.” Lewis goes on to say, “Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”

For the people who first heard Jesus say “I am the bread of life come down from heaven.”, Jesus is no longer just a great human teacher. He is the messiah. The one sent to save. And as we see throughout the four gospels of Holy Scripture, this was hard for people to believe in Jesus’ day.

I think it’s often hard for us to believe today too. Especially as we live in a time and a place when Christian community and relationship with God through Jesus is becoming less and less important in the lives of God’s children.

My time in Chicago this past week was spent with about 50 of the ELCA’s best and brightest leaders. I was reminded again and again during the week that Jesus is still here. And that God still wants to be in relationship with us through Jesus. And that as hard that may be to believe from time to time, it remains true. It always will remain true.

One of the coaches that I was blessed to work with this week shared a poem with us that is often attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero – although many have argued whether it is actually Romero’s words or just words written in the spirit of Romero.

Romero was bishop in El Salvador during their darkest days of civil war. He was assassinated while presiding over Holy Communion in 1990 for speaking the truth of Jesus’ presence for all of God’s children. Since El Salvador is an important part of Good Shepherd’s mission and ministry in this world, I want to share this poem with you as well.

In many ways, it helped me believe again that Jesus is here as I am fed each day by this Jesus, “the bread of life.” Who feeds every hunger I will ever have and quenches anything that may cause thirst. In the spirit of Romero…

It helps, now and then, to step back

And take the long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,

It is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of

The magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete,

Which is another way of saying

That the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:

We plant seeds that one day grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future profits.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything

And there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something

And do it really well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way

An opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,

But that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders,

Ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus is here. As you hear Jesus say to you again today “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”, my hope and prayer is that you are fed. Fed so you can gather with fellow brothers and sisters in worship, prayer, conversation, and community as followers of this Jesus, who is the Christ, the savior of the world. Fed…to be prophets of a future not our own. Amen.


“5 + 2 x 1 = 12” 07.29.2018 Sermon

John 6:1-21 • July 29, 2018

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

If you’re a liturgy geek like me, you have already read the introduction for today’s worship on the front page of your bulletin. And you already noticed that today is the first of five weeks in which we will spend time in the sixth chapter of the gospel of Saint John. And most of those weeks will have a bread theme.

Image result for bread of lifeToday’s gospel is about bread, Jesus feeding a few people in the middle of nowhere, and later in the story, Jesus walking on water. As I’ve studied these two stories and thought about how God is speaking through them today, I was struck by something new this time. Which is good, because to be honest, I grow weary of talking about bread every three years when these readings come around in our worship.

That something new is this time control. Or rather, who’s actually in control.

So often in my life, I’ve thought that I was in control.
Anyone else feel that way. Believe that you are in control??
How’d that turn out for you?Image result for in control

My social media feeds, email inbox, and countless other times each day are full of suggestions for how I can regain control of my life, my job, my rest, my marriage, my happiness. Take control of you the advertisements tell me.

If I’m experiencing success, it’s because I’ve controlled things in such a way as to bring about that success. I’m in charge of all that is mine. And…often times…to be honest…I think I’m pretty darn good at being in control of the greatness that I am. I don’t know, maybe some of you can relate to that. We think we have everything figured out and the things that are happening in our life are happening because we have controlled their happening in the first place.

And then all of a sudden, the winds of life start to blow a little harder and rock the boat a little more. In ways that we hadn’t anticipated or planned for or saved for. We begin to be overtaken by waves of an unexpected change or an unforeseen medical diagnosis. And in those times we question ourselves and wonder if we are still in control? Can I save myself when life seems to be spiraling out of control? Was I really ever in control of anything to begin with?

Image result for storms of lifeHere’s the reality of life in this world and in this body. It’s also why Jesus is so important along this journey. You and I can’t avoid storms. They come to every one of us – the good and the evil, the rich and the poor, the compassionate and the judgmental, even the republicans AND the democrats.

God doesn’t promise, and following Jesus doesn’t eliminate, challenging storms from happening in our life. What God does promise, and what following Jesus does give us, is someone to walk with us during all of life’s hills and valleys and storms. That’s the good news you and I are being invited to receive in our two stories from the gospel of John today. We are not the ones in control. Jesus is. Jesus has always been. And will always be the only one who actually is in control.

Maybe that’s why the miracle story of the feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle story found in all four gospels. It’s that important for us to receive. And maybe that’s why Jesus walking on the water and calming the storm is appropriately connected to the feeding of the 5,000. And maybe that’s why the math equation that is the title of today’s sermon makes sense.

5 + 2 x 1 = 12. That makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

5 loaves of bread, plus 2 fish, multiplied by Jesus – the one who is actually in control, equals 12 baskets of leftovers after everyone has had more than their fill.

Image result for feeding 5,000So let’s back up a little. In the first story of today’s gospel reading, Phillip is faced with an unsolvable problem that he can’t control, even though he thinks he can. Seeing the large crowd pressing in, Jesus asks him, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” Phillip, still wanting to control the situation, thinks Jesus may have finally lost his mind.

They are sitting on a hillside after all, far away from a town that can sell them bread, and are nearing the point of having a riot of hungry people on their hands. Phillip’s attempt to control the situation fails because he only thinks about what they don’t have – they don’t have enough money to buy enough bread; rather than what they do have – Jesus, the savior of the world standing right beside them. Giving thanks for what they do have.

Another disciple in this same story has another idea. His idea may possibly give him control of the situation. “There is a boy here” Andrew says, “who has 5 barley loaves and 2 fish.” To which everyone around him replies, “But what are they – 5 loaves of bread or 2 fish – among so many people?”

Throughout this story, who is actually in control here? Not Phillip. Not Andrew. Not the hungry crowd. Not the little boy with the lunch his mom had packed for him before he left home that day.

Jesus is in the middle of all of this. Jesus gives thanks for all that God has provided. All are fed.

And if we go back to the second story for a second. Jesus is there too. And tells the disciples in the boat, and you and me today, do not be afraid. All storms are calmed.

The key piece of the story the disciples find themselves in – whether it’s along a hillside or in a boat or any other location that we encounter them in the gospels…is Jesus. Jesus, who is always in control, even when the disciples least expect him to be. Even when they thought they had everything under control.

Image result for jesus is in controlWhen we finally begin to open ourselves to Jesus being in control, miracles and wonders and other things happen that are far greater than anything we can experience by ourselves or imagine on our own.

The words of our Benediction today will wash over us with blessing and send us into the world to live as followers of Jesus this week. Followers of Jesus who live believing that Jesus is with us always and has everything under control. And if you’re a liturgy geek like me, you’ll notice that the words of today’s Benediction echo the ancient words from the Apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus and the church in Bismarck today.

“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,” Paul proclaims, “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, for those of us who claim to follow this Christ Jesus, the equation 5 + 2 x 1 = 12 makes complete and perfect sense. And walking on water is just a simple part of the way our Savior calms life’s unforeseen storms. Jesus has got it covered. Jesus is in control. Thanks be to God that he is. Amen.