“Never give up!”

March 31, 2022

Luke 18:1-8

The parable Jesus tells today reminded me of the mantra, “Never give up!”  I googled it and found references to Tom Hanks in Castaways, “Never give up because you never know what the tide will bring in.”  Will Smith in Pursuit of Happiness encourages his son to not give up on his dreams.  Winston Churchill famously spoke to his alma mater, Harrow, during WW!! on Oct. 29, 1941 and gave a speech, “Never give in, never, never, never! Sia from Lion soundtrack sings a song popular now, “Never give up!”  All place the ability to never give up within our will power.  What drives us?

         Jesus tells the story of a political, secular unjust judge who is being harassed by a woman seeking justice.  She does not give up.  The judge agrees to hear her case just to silence her pestering.  Jesus asks, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?  Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you he will not…”  The kingdom of heaven and true justice is something we plead with God for because we know God is just and wants to hear the pleads of his people.  We are not to loose heart and assume he does not hear and that he does not care.  His court is always open.

         So what is the prayer you have been carrying to God for ohhh so long?  Perhaps it is for a wayward child or grandchild.  Perhaps it is for a spouse or a job.  Perhaps we all need to be on our knees for Ukraine.  Let us not be fatalistic and sing, “Que, Sera Sera.” (Whatever will be will be.)

May we be persistent like the woman and know that the judge we present our prayer to is listening and fair.  Let us never give up.  Blessings.


March 30, 2022

Luke 17: 20-37

         Jesus is headed to Jerusalem for Passover but we, who can look through the binoculars of history. know he is headed to crucifixion.  His death will open the relationship with God for those who believe.  Somehow the kingdom of heaven is beginning to be established on earth but we and theologians have noogled this for centuries.  The Pharisees ask Jesus, “When will the kingdom of God come.”  Perhaps it is something like trying to figure out if the person you are dating loves you and when, when will there be a proposal.  Perhaps it is the a “magical” moment but for many it is a growing realization. Jesus answers the Pharisees with the same generic answer.

         The kingdom is relational, not geographically defined like the United States.  It starts in our hearts with faith.  It is like lightning, shooting through the nights of our lives with moments of inspiration and enlightening.  Not all people are going to understand or believe even as the people at Noah’s time thought he was crazy.  Others like Lot’s wife will start embracing but then look back at the way of life left behind and become frozen.  It is not material.  Oh my, the answer to the question might be more confusing than clarifying. 

         Corrie Ten Boom tells this story in response to the question, “When?” She asks when a father gives his child the ticket for the train. The answer is, when the child needs it.  When we need to know, God will reveal to us.  Faith involves trust.  I suppose that is why reading the gospels sheds light on the character of our God who heals, who reaches out to us, who speaks words of wisdom and who was loyal to his followers, even to the point of death.  The kingdom of God is not forced on us but is something we embrace and it becomes more and more real as we grow in grace and faith.

         Some of our most precious pieces of our life are concepts that feel like something so hard to grasp – like lightning, not materially defined, and waiting to be fully expressed.   We use adjectives to describe concepts like love, freedom or even kingdom.  Today let’s try to write three adjectives to describe these concepts that are hard to grasp.

         Love is _________, ______________________ ,____________,

         Trust is,

         Fear is

         Kingdom of God is


“Ten Lepers, One Leaper”

March 29, 2022

Luke 17:11-19

Jesus is headed to Jerusalem but still in northern Israel on the border between Galilee and Samaria.  It’s kinda like that childhood joke, “Ten men died crossing the Rio Grande River between Mexico and the USA.  Where were the survivors buried?”  Ten lepers, or we might say ten Covid positive refugees, or we might say ten untouchables, or ten outcasts approach Jesus.  Their cry, “Master, have pity on us!”  Jesus healed them and told them to report to the authorities to get the “all clean” documentation.  They raced off but one person returned and fell at Jesus’ feet and said, “Thank you!”  He was a foreigner, a Samaritan, not even a Jew.  The non-believer, the outsider, realized that what had happened to him was by the power of God.  Jesus responds, “Your faith has made you well.”

         Relationship is not like citizenship that does not demand respect or loyalty.  Relationship is not like a contract that can be broken and abused.  Relationship is something that speaks in faith, trust, love, and appreciation.  When relationships are broken or violated, there is personal pain.  Something that was one, becomes two.  The nine by not having an attitude of gratitude, objectified Jesus and diminished the gift.  No relationship grew from the exchange.  The men appealed to the heart of God for pity and received healing but did not seize the moment to grow friendship.

         Perhaps there are people in your life that you take for granted.  Perhaps you were not raised to be the mushy, gushy type.  It is never too late to learn to smile or to say thank you.  It is possible to be healed but it requires gratitude to be made whole.  Thank someone today for his or her role in your life to make you a better person and thank God for giving you life abundant.  Blessings.

“I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

March 28, 2022

Luke 17:1-10

Our journey of Lent, the journey to the cross as reported by the apostle Luke, ended last week with Jesus talking about choices we all make.  A rich man who is who seemingly made good choices and seemed blessed ends dies and goes to Hades!  He must have been wrong, right!  He begs for comfort for himself or his family, from the poor man who surprisingly ends up in the bosom of Abraham, paradise.  Abraham explains.  So as we struggle to reach the good life that doesn’t evaporate like mist, we are surprised who is in the kingdom and who isn’t.  It is not about wealth or deeds but about relationship.  Today Jesus continues the discussion warning that we all are bound to stumble and make mistakes.  We all sin.  It is when we cause another to stumble and that we need to beware.  It would be better to be drown than to hurt a child who believes!  Heavy stuff.

      The solution Jesus says is forgiveness.  Even if someone says, “I’m sorry.  Please forgive me,” seven times in a day, we need to forgive.  Ouch. That is hard.  Forgiveness is not easy.  We can look at our world today, at the wars over old grievances that have been tracked through history and we realize that war is no solution.  But we also realize forgiveness is almost impossible.

         The disciples respond, “Increase our faith!”  Deep wounds need the touch of God to be healed.  It is not just denial.  It is not kiss and make up.  It is not forgive and forget.  Forgiveness requires faith in a God we cannot see who promises a resolution and justice we have not yet received.  The journey of Lent is a journey into a new way of dealing with evil that is not based on revenge and retribution.  It is based on the cross and forgiveness.  Lent is a journey of changing how we relate to our God and to life.

         During your quiet moments now, ponder if there are any broken relationships in your life that need to be healed, old wounds that are still festering.  Ask God to help you forgive and do whatever restitution is possible or necessary.  Lighten your load by dealing with any load of guilt you might be carrying.  Blessings.

4th Sunday in Lent

March 27, 2022

First Reading: Joshua 5:9-12

9The 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.
  10While 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. 11On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12The 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.

Psalm: Psalm 32

1Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven,
  and whose sin is put away!
2Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt,
  and in whose spirit there is no guile!
3While I held my tongue, my bones withered away,
  because of my groaning all day long.
4For your hand was heavy upon me day and night;
  my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.
5Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and did not conceal my guilt.
  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” Then you forgave  me the guilt of my sin.
6Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble; when the great waters overflow, they | shall not reach them. 
7You are my hiding-place; you preserve me from trouble;
  you surround me with shouts of deliverance.
8“I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go;
  I will guide you with my eye.
9Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding;
  who must be fitted with bit and bridle, or else they will not stay near you.”
10Great are the tribulations of the wicked;
  but mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord.
11Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord;
  shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Gospel: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

1Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to [Jesus.] 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
  3So he told them this parable: 11b“There was a man who had two sons. 12The 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. 13A 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. 14When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17But 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! 18I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20So 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. 21Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22But 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. 23And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
  25“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29But 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. 30But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32But 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.’ ”

CHILDREN’S SERMON:  I think we all know the story of the hare and the tortoise by Aesop.  They race and surprisingly the tortoise wins.  Why do you think we expect the hare to win?  What slowed the hare down?  Why was the tortoise slow?  Share a few thoughts with your neighbor.

Let us pray.  Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.


Today’s text is very familiar but it is not being read during Epiphany when we are discovering who our God is and what his character is like. We are reading the Parable of the Prodigal Son two weeks before Palm Sunday, winding down the Lenten Season.  Some of the questions we bring to the text today are about how this text sheds light on our Lenten journey to the cross.  I see three crosses in the text that we all carry: the cross of the younger son, the cross of the older son, and the cross of the father.  In full disclosure I realized as I write this sermon that I am not looking at the text through the eyes of a young adult or young married or even as a middle aged parent seeking to know God but I am looking at the text as an elder looking back on a life blessed by children, some who grew up making choices I didn’t agree with and some who seem to be doing ok.  I am also that kid who had my wayward days and my conforming days.  Oh my, so much to unpack.  As we listen to the news about a world at war arguing about how to be a good leader, be more like the father figure, I pray that looking at the parable of the Prodigal Son through the lens of crosses blesses us all.

         So perhaps I best define how I understand “cross.”  Jesus is headed to Jerusalem, to headquarters, where criminals were killed by crucifixion.  At this point in the Gospel no one is expecting the crucifixion of Jesus but rather expecting the unveiling of a triumphant messiah.  We look for happy endings.  Normally when a baby is born, it is born surrounded by the dreams of parents and prayers for its future.  When we stand and say “I do” we have no idea what the future holds.  In fact, none of us know what news tomorrow will bring.  Jesus presents a parable of a father who has two sons.  I think it could have just as easily been two daughters or two siblings. Perhaps “crosses” are the things we carry that define us and how we live.  For Jesus it was the cross of dealing with our sins and brokenness but let’s see how it plays out here.  Like the tortoise and the hare we are running the race of life.


12The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’

         The younger son was carrying a burden.  He would never, under Jewish tradition, inherit the same as his older brother. His older brother was number one and he was number two through no fault of his own.  Life was and is unfair.  It was not his fault he was the younger.  It was not his fault that he was Jewish.  Perhaps I should write in capital letters, LIFE IS UNFAIR!  We know this so very well.  It is not my fault I am a woman or I am black or I am Ukrainian or challenged in some way.  It may not even be my fault that I am poor or that my spouse left me or that the drunk driver hit my car.  Life happens. We are broken people in a broken world that needs a savior.  The journey through life often involves carrying that cross of unfairness.

         The younger brother breaks with cultural norms and demands his fair share of the inheritance early.  In the face of the unfairness of life, we make decisions on how to move forward.  He says, “Give me.”   This sounds to my ears like a demand.  When we first went to the mission field we worked in a former famine relief camp where people, wiped out by drought and famine, would line up at our door and say, “give me.”  One of their favorite jokes was to take my infant into their hands, in-front of the older brother who was three, and say very clearly, “Give me your brother.”  Then they would laugh as my oldest son cried.  I never understood.  Their language had no words for “please” and “thank you.” One solution to unfairness is to demand what life has to offer now.  The younger brother asks for his share and departs to “live the dream.”

         In the face of the unfairness of life, the younger brother takes his future into his own hands and seeks the “goodies” this world has to offer.  The text says “he squandered his property in dissolute living.”  He chased his dream but then the cross of unfairness reared its ugly head yet again.  With his money spent, life happened.  Perhaps rents went up.  Perhaps that beautiful young thing drifted to another guy.  Perhaps the company went belly up.  Perhaps Putin decided that Ukraine belonged to him.  Life happens and innocent people are crushed in the process.  Life is unfair.

         Hard times strip us to a version of ourselves we do not recognize.  We work feeding pigs and long to eat their food.  We are humiliated and feel dehumanized.  The dreams of this world are “fools gold” and often leave us empty. The younger son comes to a point where life forces him to pivot.  Like the tortoise, he carries a heavy shell, a heavy burden, so how to go forward. After the temper tantrum of demanding comes the moment of truth.  In the Disney movie, Lion King, I love the scene where the father, Mufasa, speaks from a cloud to his son Simba, “Remember who you are.  You are more than you have become!”

         The text says the younger brother came to himself and realized he could humble himself before his father.  Unfairness can drive us to demanding, to tantrums and bitterness, but it can also clarify for us our options.  The world offers us the cross of unfairness.  The kingdom of God offers us the journey of Lent to the cross of Christ.  We cannot imagine death and resurrection when weighed down with unfairness but we do have options.  We do have resources.  We do have a God who cares.


‘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 goatso that I might celebrate with my friends.”

         The older brother is carrying a burden too.  He is the first-born son.  He has worked hard.  He has been faithful.  He has honored his father.  He has carried the responsibility of the family business.  He has executed his responsibilities but he feels unrecognized, invisible, unappreciated perhaps even taken for granted.  I suspect some of us know the burden of carrying responsibility because of our position as eldest child, as spouse, as corporate employee, or as faithful worker in some business.  We have tried our best to do our best but somehow we don’t feel we have received an attitude of gratitude from our “boss.”  We have run hard like the hare but we are tired.

         When appreciation is not expressed, it is so easy to feel sorry for ourselves. The parable has the older son outside, not going in to the party for his wayward brother’s return home.  Perhaps he was busy burning the midnight oil.  Perhaps he was waiting to be explicitly included, invited, or seen.  It does not seem he was included in the planning of the party and he is …. You name the adjective, forgotten, overlooked, excluded or bitter.  A root of bitterness is growing in his heart.  Bitterness, resentment, and grudges are hard crosses to carry.  They destroy our enthusiasm for life. Perhaps the hare began to feel the insult of being raced against a tortoise and knowing he could win he took a nap.

         We are back to Cain and Abel in Genesis 4, the beginning.  Cain the eldest of the first two sons, becomes angry when his younger brother Abel offers a sacrifice pleasing to God.  He too became angry.  In fact he killed his brother.  OK, perhaps we have not killed anyone but we do know anger or hate that kills in our hearts and which Jesus calls murder in the Sermon on the Mount.  God says to Cain,

         “Why are you angry?  Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right sin is      crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over        it.”

          Not only is the older brother carrying a cross with anger in his heart but the burden blurts out of his mouth.  He speaks sharply with his father. The younger brother spiraled down from squandering his wealth and life into servitude and despair.  The older brother spirals down through works that are not rewarded into bitterness and harshness. The journey of Lent is not the journey of “ah ha moments,” epiphanies of insights into the wonderfulness of our God who incarnates and comes in search of us.  The journey of Lent is the journey to the cross and death for we cannot save ourselves either as the younger brother tries by embracing life or as the older brother tries by embracing good works.  Both end in a dark place.


The Father’s Love

         So… The third person in this parable often equated with God is the father figure.  I think we would be wrong to jump over the cross that the father figure pays for his children and that we pay for those we love.  The father carries a burden in this parable.  He loves the younger son who insults him by asking for his inheritance, not trusting him, not willing to wait and not willing to live with him.  Some of us know that rejection, that insult of the kid who does not understand our parenting, that kid that wanders into places we would never have chosen for them.  Love cries and carries the brokenness of our own humiliation and rejection.  The father knows those feelings and I suspect Jesus is telling us that God understands that burden also and carries it with us.

         The father allows the child free-will to choose to leave.  Love cannot demand to be reciprocal and must wait for the other to come to himself.  Sometimes that happens for us and sometimes it doesn’t.  But the father does not stop being alert, looking for the wayward child to return.  Those prayers are hard.  The father picks up his robes and runs to meet the wayward.  Elders do not run.  Elders are not particularly known for being partiers.  The father is willing to incur the ridicule or gossip of the community by associating with the lost come home.  That is not easy.  Likewise, it is not easy to forgive insults and rejection.  We do not know how this all played out over time but the point seems to be that the burden that love carries is the challenge to pride and the challenge to forgive.

         The father also goes after the elder son and does not allow the son to wallow in self-pity.  The father braves the anger of his son to restore relationship and to affirm his love.  I believe the father in our parable understood the cry of Christ from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”  That’s not the end of the story but it is part of the story of Lent, of the journey of the cross.

         Some of us today are lost in a foreign country, trying to correct the unfairness of life, trying to find in worldly pleasures the happiness we feel we have been denied due to no fault of our own.  Lent calls us to come to ourselves and return to God.  In his house, even servants live like kings.  Some of us today are lost in bitterness and grudges against this person or that who has hurt us perhaps with intention and perhaps accidentally, but we got hurt.  Those memories of how hard we tried to do everything right and then life went bottom up, haunts us, and we must come to a point of confessing our bitterness this Lent.  We have been invited to a party and all God’s resources are ours, not just a goat!  And then there are those of us who carry the cross of love, love rejected, love unappreciated.  Like the father we wait, watch and pray and we do not know how the story is going to play out.  Grief and sorrow are part of love.  God waits to embrace us and celebrate with you and me!

         The truth is that we probably have a bit of each character within ourselves.  We carry burdens.  We carry burdens of unfairness, of responsibility unappreciated, and of love waiting.  As we bow our heads in prayer these remaining weeks of Lent, may we sense the always-present God who like the father, runs to meet us and embrace us and also invites us to join the party.  Thank you, Lord.

The people of God said, “AMEN!”

“Be Still My Soul”

March 26, 2022

As we come to the end of the fourth week in Lent I’ve pondered what hymn we might listen to for comfort. The parables we looked at this week dealt with a lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost son and a shrewd manager accused of mismanagement.  We ended with a rich man in hades pleading for relief and help for his family on earth.  How might that lost coin or sheep or son comforted itself?  What hymn might a refugee turn to?  What hymn comforts us when we feel lost or misunderstood?  That’s a heavy week of thinking.  Our news on the TV was very heavy also with the continuing war in Ukraine.     So what comforts my soul when I am feeling defeated and discouraged?  I love the hymn “Be Still My Soul” that encourages me not to look at my plight but to remember that God is still in control, working for my best, and forming his kingdom.  It was written by Katharina von Schlegel, 1752 during the German pietistic movement, translated by Jane Borthwick into English 100 years later and set to the tune of Filandia.

         Be still, my soul, The Lord is on thy side.  Bear patiently, the cross of grief or pain.  Leave to thy God, to order and provide.  In every change, He faithful will remain.  Be still, my soul, thy best thy heavenly friend.  Through thorny ways, leads to a joyful end

         Be still, my soul, thy God doth undertake .To guide the future as He has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake. All now mysterious shall be bright at last.  Be still, my soul, the waves and wind still know.  His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

         In You I rest, in You I found my hope.  In You I trust, You never let me go.  I place my life within Your hands alone,  Be still, my soul.  Be still, my soul, the hour is hastening on.  When we shall be forever with the Lord

         When disappointment, grief and fear are gone.  Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.  Be still, my soul, when change and tears are past.  All safe and blessed, we shall meet at last.  In You I rest, in You I found my hope.  In You I trust, You never let me go.  I place my life within Your hands alone’

         Be still, my soul.  In You I rest, in You I found my hope.  In You I trust, You never let me go.  I place my life within Your hands alone.  Be still, my soul.  Be still, my soul.  Be still, my soul.

“The Rich and the Poor”

March 25, 2022

Luke 16: 19-31

Between yesterday’s story about the shrewd manager and today’s story about a rich man and a poor man, Luke whispers an aside to let us know he is shifting direction.  He reminds us that the kingdom of heaven, God’s way, has been preached by the law and the prophets from the very beginning.  Lent is not a new message that suddenly appeared as a spiritual challenge.  In the law, Ten Commandments, God tells us how life works best … but we don’t follow them.  We don’t love God with our whole heart, mind and strength and we do not love our neighbor as our self.  Prophets have spoken through out history calling people back to God.  We cannot claim, “We did not know the gun was loaded.”  Ignorance is not an excuse.  Luke then relates a story Jesus told.

         A rich man lived in luxury and ignored the poor man living at his gate.  They both die.  Here the story twists.  The poor man is in paradise, in “the bosom of Abraham,” where we expect to find good people, surely the rich man.  The rich man however dies and goes to Hades, where we think bad people go.  We know of no crime the rich man did in his lifetime and we are surprised this man who seemed so blessed is now suffering.  The man calls out to Abraham and begins to bargain for help.  Even as he was seemingly insensitive to the poor man, Abraham is insensitive to this man. What’s the deal?  First, Abraham cannot send the poor man with water to ease suffering for there is a chasm between them.  The door has been closed.  Nor will Abraham send the poor man back to life to warn the rich man’s brothers.  The rich man reasoned that someone from the dead will convince them.  Abraham gives the chilling response.  If we cannot listen to the testimonies of Moses and the prophets, we will not listen to someone raised from the dead.  The coming resurrection of Jesus who will walk through death is foreshadowed.  Will we believe him. The rich man is not condemned for not sharing his wealth but for not listening.  The kingdom of God will belong to people who are in relationship to God.

         So what touches my heart today and can cause me to repent and turn to the cross?  Who do I allow to speak into my life?  Is there someone I can turn to for spiritual direction?  God’s kingdom will not be forced on us.  God’s kingdom is not the reward for a life lived making smart financial decisions but is a place where relationships developed in life are lived to complete fulfillment.  Perhaps write down the names of three people who have helped you spiritually and perhaps write a letter or text or call one of them to say, thank you!  Blessings.

“A Sly Guy” : “The Shrewd Manager”

March 24, 2022

Luke 16:1-14

Luke moves on to another day on the journey to the cross. Jesus is talking about a “shrewd manager.” My teenagers would have said, “That was a sly guy.”  It means being deceitful but not in a bad way.  A manager was accused of mismanaging possessions and told he was going to have to give an account.  He was going to loose his job so with his remaining time he created begging rights with the people whose accounts he managed by cutting their debts in half.  Jesus rather than condemning the man for his dishonesty, surprises us by commending the man’s use of money to solidify relationship rather than taking advantage of people to insure his future.  Jesus commends him!  Very interesting.  Jesus does not create a right-wrong line of definition about stealing but rather looks at the heart, the intent of the manager. 

         We like the manager are entrusted with resources.  We are given gifts.  We call it talents or that which makes us unique.  Maybe we are not operatic or Olympic but we each have a purpose and a life to live here.  I would wager to say that none of us live up to our potential.  We all fall short.  In fact, that is the definition of sin.  Sin with a capital “S” is being separated from God because of our sins, small “s.”  The things we do wrong whether intended or whether by default, separate us from God and each other.  There are things I have done wrong and things I have left undone.  We all fall short and like the manager deserve to be fired.  Lent challenges us to look at that manager and realize that it could be me.

         Grace is not having our debt cut in half as the manager did but it is the owner looking at our heart and our intentions.  Are we living with integrity and being trustworthy with the gifts God has given us?  God does not ask if we are the best but looks at us through eyes of understanding and love.  The shrewd manager knows he cannot work and do it by himself and throws himself on the mercy of the community.  We throw ourselves on the mercy of God.  We hold on to Jesus who goes to Jerusalem to represent us.

         The beautiful verse in this story is verse13, “No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other.”  During Lent we take our time to examine our hearts and honestly ask ourselves who we love and who we serve.  But never forget it is not our evaluation or our friend’s evaluation that counts but the evaluation of a God who knows us through and through and surprises us with grace.  Blessings as you draw close to him and trust him!

     Lenten charity challenge: “To earn money to feed their children, women in Zimbabwe started raising chickens.  The ELCA Hunger Appeal helped provide a loan to start this project.  Give 15 cents for each time you ate chicken or eggs this week.”

“The Tortoise and the Hare”: “The Parable of the Lost Son”

March 23, 2022

    As we travel through Lent, I find it interesting that Luke shares three parables about lostness that Jesus gave responding to the tax collectors and teachers of the law who were muttering about who Jesus associated with.  All point us to the cross.  Monday we looked at a lost sheep sought out by the shepherd. Tuesday we looked at a lost coin sought for by a distraught woman.  Today the parable ramps up the intensity to make a point about the kingdom of God.  A father has two sons.  The younger claims his inheritance early and the elder stays and dutifully serves his father.  In the parable, both sons are having trouble with their “father figure.” 

         In fact, this is the text for Sunday worship so I do not want to give away too much but just enough to wet your appetite for Sunday.  We would think that the older, obedient son is the model and the frivolous younger son is the delinquent.  We would think that God cherishes his existing church more than spending time with sinners.  In fact though, both sons are struggling with burdens that bring them to the cross and the need to seek forgiveness.

         To wet our appetites I am going to offer Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare.  We know it well.  The two animals race and we would think the hare should win but he doesn’t.  Both the hare and the tortoise are slowed down in the race.  The outcome is a surprise even as Luke tells us that we will be surprised whom we will meet in heaven.

         So let us ponder what weighed down the younger son, the older son and what weighs us down and slows down our relationship with God.  So many excuses we know and hear all the time.  I’m tired on Sunday morning from working so hard and need to take a nap like the hare.  Or perhaps we have too many things to do and just cannot get them done fast enough to have time to meet with God.  We are slow like the tortoise.  What slows down your roll with God?  Be honest!  The father cares about and reaches out to both sons.  God wants all to come to salvation.  Lent challenges us to refresh, renew, and revive our relationship with a God who journeys to the cross for us.  Blessings.

         Lenten Challenge for your charity jar for after Easter: “A woman in the Philippines began her own sewing business thanks to a small loan from Lutheran World Relief.  Give 5 cents for every shirt your family owns.”

“The Lost Coin”

March 22, 2022

         Luke goes on to share another parable about a woman who had ten silver coins and loses one.  She turns on the lights, sweeps the house, and searches carefully.  When she finds the coin, she calls neighbors to celebrate with her. I lost my remote control to the DVD player last week.  I know it could not walk away.  For a week I pulled the living room apart.  I called a friend to help me look cause my eyes are getting old.  She got on her knees.  She turned on the flashlight on her cell phone.  Perhaps I carried the remote with me for a potty stop and checked all unlikely places.  I did not find it!  It still niggles at my mind.  Where is it?

         Lostness left me feeling out of control, something was missing.  I had to experiment to figure out which button on the machine controls on and off and I could not control fast forward or rewind.  The machine and I were having trouble communicating properly.

         I suspect when I am off balance spiritually it is similar.  When I have to start the day on the run because I have overslept, my day is off.  I’m not in sync with God.  Interestingly the focus of the parable is not on the feelings of the coin but on the emotions of the owner and the extent the owner becomes frustrated and activated to find that coin.  The coin may not even realize it is lost.  It may think it is suppose to sit in a pocket of the coat to be spent at the store.  The coin does not know but the owner does.

         Lent tells us the danger the owner is willing engage to return communication with the coin.  The journey to Jerusalem and the cross is a journey to bring us light and understanding.  It is a journey that cleans house and limits the power of evil.  It is a journey to rescue us, not just enlighten us, not just to make life easy.  The result will be joy but we have not reached that part of the journey yet.

         Let’s ponder today our communication system with God.  Are we in sync or are we busy thinking we know where that coin is?  Perhaps we don’t even know if we are lost.  May we realize we are valued and God know wants us!  Blessings.