The Holy Trinity and Father's Day

The Holy Trinity and Fathers DayA message for Holy Trinity Sunday and Father's Day on Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Psalm 8, and Romans 5:1-5, given on June 16, 2019 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas.

When my husband, Dan was 10 years old, he was in New Mexico for the first time, spending a week at Ghost Ranch, a Presbyterian camp and conference center for families. One evening, he was babysitting a few small kids so the parents could visit with friends after dinner. There is not much electricity at the ranch—we have taken our children there many times—so you always bring your flashlight to guide your way to your room or your campsite after dark.

Ghost Ranch sits at about 6500 feet elevation, but it’s also high red rock desert, so there’s not a lot, other than cloud cover, to block your view of the night sky. The parents came back from their evening of socializing, so Dan pocketed his two bucks for babysitting and walked out onto the dirt path, flashlight in hand, to head back to his family’s lodging. He paused to look up at the cloudless sky and for the first time in his life, he saw billions of stars like a white band painted across the distant, black velvet canvass. Dan was filled with awe, his first awareness of a spiritual experience, and he whispered to himself, “that’s why they call it the Milky Way!”

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?... O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:3-4,9)

Connie had a hard life. She was a member of St. Mark’s, the church I served in Kansas City, Missouri in the 90’s. Her husband, Robert had a massive stroke in his late 40’s, just a couple of years after they had adopted a child. Right before Christmas, Connie had to make the painful decision to take him off life support. Her mother had died a few years earlier, and this grief was also intensified. Connie did not know how she would go on and raise a child alone.

But something happened the following Easter. St. Mark’s was an old gothic style church that would seat six hundred, although we were an inner-city church of about fifty. In the chancel, there were choir pews facing each other and a big, ornate wooden altar was built against the back wall that reached up at least two stories. The chancel was so covered with the Easter lilies, you could smell their fragrance down in the congregation. During the Easter Communion service Connie had her eyes on the altar, praying with the liturgy, grieving her losses, holding her child, and the Spirit gave her vision of her mother among the lilies. Connie told me after the service, “she was there, clear as day, as if to say, it will be alright; Easter is real, Robert is with her, and then she was gone. The Spirit sent her to comfort and strengthen me.”

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

Joe Yannnessa of Solutions Automotive is our amazing car mechanic in Frisco. His Christian faith means so much to him that the sign above his business has a big cross in the center of it. His father taught him the importance of paying forward the blessings of his life, and having survived a heart attack, this is one of the highest values Joe lives by with “pay-it-forward Friday.” Joe finds a way to help somebody every single Friday. Sometimes it’s a free repair at the car shop. Sometimes he picks up the tab for a single mom at a restaurant. Joe keeps his eyes open, listening to people and to God to discover where he can help someone in need.

Joe has another company called Cannons for a Cause. He supplies compressed air cannons that shoot golf balls 300 yards which companies use at fund-raisers. Joe donates all the money he raises with Cannons for Cause to Folds of Honor, providing college scholarships for the children of fallen or wounded soldiers. This past Friday (two days before Father's Day), Joe went to the shop where he always goes to get oxygen tanks for the canons. The man who exchanges the bottles has an intellectual disability; when they were done, he smiled at Joe and wished him a Happy Father’s Day. Joe had forgotten it was Father’s Day this weekend and his heart clutched. His father-in-law, with whom he was very close, died just last month; his own father, also one of Joe’s heroes, is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Joe wished the employee a nice Father’s Day, too, and the man said, “I am not a father; I never got married because of my disability.”

Joe got into his truck, and surprised by grief, and the prospect of Father’s Day, sat and cried his heart out. Then he looked at the bottle exchange man working away, and it was “Pay-it-forward-Friday,” and he thought: “He has been here for at least 16 years--rain or shine, boiling hot or freezing cold--he is always at work. Joe took all the cash he had out of his wallet, walked back over and handed it to him and said, “I would like you to take whoever you want, out to dinner on Sunday on us.” The man responded, “We are not allowed to take money.”Joe said, “I am going to leave this cash in the wedge of the fence over there, and you can walk away and come back and say that you found it. That way you can take whomever you want out to lunch or dinner on Sunday and know that we consider you a Dad. You are always here, working tirelessly, taking care of us, and I want to thank you.” The man started to cry.

Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; The Lord created me at the beginning of his work….I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race. (Proverbs 8:1-2, 22, 30b-31)

Maybe you hear a little piece of your own experience in these stories. Or maybe these stories prompt your mind to wander and remember all of the awe-filled moments you have had in nature. Or perhaps you recall a time when something unexpected happen at a moment when you felt so lost, discouraged, or racked with grief, you thought you could not go one more day–maybe not a vision, but you heard a piece of music, you saw someone who gave you new perspective, a bird landed on your window sill, you heard a baby cry, something shifted your attention toward life. Maybe these stories call to mind the moments you felt loved and encouraged by another person, had someone notice you, offered you a shoulder to cry on, given a hug or pat on the back at just the right moment, or had someone text you when you were feeling down.

Why does God come to us as the Creator of a incredible expanding universe and this earth that sustains us? Why does this vast God compress down into human DNA, confined in flesh and bone in Jesus the Christ, who lives and weeps, suffers and dies as we do, and then comes back to prove that not even death is our enemy? Why does God come as Wisdom, as Holy Spirit that dwells within, and around and through all of us and all of creation? Why does this one-in-three and three-in-one “doctrine” of God matter at all?  

It matters because this God will use any means necessary to reach your heart with love. It matters because this God will use any means necessary to reach the hearts of all people to have a relationship rooted and grounded in love!

  • Because only a God of love using any means necessary can create billions of galaxies and with trillions of stars only one of which is The Milky Way!
  • Because only a God of love using any means necessary can find a way for Spirit to dwell in every creature of every time and space, knock on the door of your soul, and wait patiently for an opening to give a new vision, to warm the heart, to give strength and peace beyond your capacity.
  • Because only a God of love using any means necessary, can use even a stranger to be Jesus for you, and show that we are Christ to each other, always reminding us that the marginalized, the unnoticed, and the beggar at the corner are also and always, Christ to us.
  • Because only a God of love using any means necessary can be so concerned about the minute details of the number of hairs on your head, and that bread broken and wine poured means forgiveness and freedom over and over and over again, every week of your life, and beyond your dying breath.

God has already used whatever means necessary to touch your heart, to bring you here, to this moment, and to invite you into love not just today, but forever and ever, amen.

And the real miracle is that when you leave here, YOU are one of the “any means necessary” God is using to reach someone else’s heart tomorrow, and the next day, and next week, and the week after that, and so on for the rest of your earthly life.

You may not even know when it happens and sometimes, like Joe, you will do on purpose out of gratitude and because you, too, have chosen to live out “pay-it-forward Friday.” Sometimes you will be Christ to your own family members, and sometimes you will be Christ to a stranger without knowing it.

Sometimes it will be obvious like a prayer or a gift, and sometimes you will have no idea how God has used you, but every day, remember that this Triune God—who comes as Creator, Christ and Spirit has made you, claims you, and flows through you in every second of the day, and calls you to help reach into the hearts of those who need a loving God, by any means necessary!


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The Indwelling Trinity

The Indwelling TrinityA Message for Easter 6 on John 14:23-29 and Acts 16:9-15 on Sunday, May 26, 2019 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas

Jesus sounds a little confused in our Gospel reading. He says, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” Then he says, “If you love me, you should rejoice that I am leaving you.”

If I were a disciple listening to this good-bye speech, I would be very confused, pressing him by asking,

“What’s up Jesus? Are you coming or are you going? And if you plan to leave, why should I be happy about it? Haven’t we stuck with you? Haven’t we traveled all over the area, healing people, feeding them, teaching, forgiving them, and changing people’s lives for the better? Why are you going to leave now? We are just getting the kingdom rolling. And since I left my livelihood for you, why am I going to do a happy dance now that you have decided to split?”

If you knew Jesus personally, walked this earth beside him, ate with him, got to be part of his A-team, would you not want him to stick around? Would you not be happier if he stayed and kept this good news-movement going?

Or put another way, if you had the chance, would you not choose to have Jesus physically next to you helping you with a problem at work, making hard choices as a parent, during a health crisis, helping you through grief, or accompanying you into old age? Then we could really trust we are not alone. It is hard as Christians not to feel cheated out of the chance to have walked this earth when Jesus did. Thirty-three years is a pretty narrow window—not that many people got the chance, and we are pretty far removed from those who did.

So why does Jesus ask the disciples to rejoice and be happy that he will be leaving soon to join the Creator? Jesus must know this causes heartbreak and fear in the disciples, in spite of the fact that he gives them peace and admonishes them not to be afraid.

Later in this same speech, Jesus tells them they will be better off if he leaves: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)

“Rejoice, be happy, it’s to your advantage that I go away.” It’s so counter-intuitive, so against what the disciples and we, naturally believe, it’s almost impossible to comprehend that life would be better with Jesus gone—but that is what he says. “I am going away SO THAT the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, the Helper, will come and fill you, teach you, bless you, and help you remember everything I have taught you.”

Unless Jesus leaves his earthly flesh, his disciples cannot experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit. While bound by the limits of a human body, Jesus is contained, as we are, to a single time and space. But when he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, the Advocate, the Helper, the Spirit, could be present in all disciples, at all times and in all places, empowering all followers of Jesus with his love, with his presence and with his comfort.

Jesus said, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them." “WE will come to make our home with them.” The Advocate, the Holy Spirit enables us to have communion with the Father and the Son—the Creator and the Christ—who comes to make a home in the disciples—in YOU—in me—in all believers who love the Lord and seek to keep his Word. The whole Trinitarian God is making our own hearts a dwelling place!

That is pretty awesome! It turns out Jesus is not confused at all. He is going and he is coming. He leaves through the door of death and comes back through the gateway of resurrection. He leaves as he ascends to the Creator and he comes back through the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who dwells inside the disciples of all times and all places SO THAT he can multiply the kingdom with much greater love, through a greater number of people, in a greater number of places, through greater means!

The disciples were much better off with Jesus’ Spirit living inside them than they were with Jesus’ body walking beside them. When Jesus was with them, they could heal some people and bring peace, but they did not really understand nor grasp the power of God that was among them. It was hard for them to believe that THEY were able to do in Jesus’ name what Jesus himself could do. With Jesus there, they stayed on the side-lines and said, “don’t look at me, he’s the man.”

But once the Holy Spirit, the Advocate came, the kingdom broke loose in the world. In Acts, we hear what becomes possible when Jesus physically leaves SO THAT he and the Father can commune with the Spirit and take up residence inside each, and every one of the believers!

Nine times Acts refers to the “many signs and wonders,” “miracles,” and “healings” that were done at the hands of the apostles like Peter, Stephen, Philip, Paul and Barnabas and others. The disciples, who had trouble casting out demons when Jesus was beside them, were casting out demons, making the crippled walk, and raising people from the dead when Jesus was inside them. People heard them preach, and they were converted, they received the gift of the Holy Spirit, joined the community of believers, and held all their possessions in common—that’s a miracle in itself! Jesus had to leave, SO THAT he could come back in Spirit-form and give them some real-Jesus-power to get the kingdom of God really moving. With the Holy Spirit inside, Jesus is looking at them and saying, “now, you the man!”

It makes me wonder if Jesus would go so far as to say that we are better off today never having met him in his earthly form. We have never lived in the shadow of Jesus beside us—so we are free to embrace the fullness of the Spirit inside us. There’s nothing to hold us back from believing that the Creator of the Universe and Jesus Christ himself having come to make their home within us, so that we might know that we are never alone. The Spirit of Jesus is with you, to help you with a problem at work, when you make hard choices as a parent, during a health crisis, when you suffer through death and grief, and the Spirit does accompany you into old age.

And even more than that, the Holy Spirit abides in us with the Creator and the Christ, so that through God's endless power and love, we can bring such love to others who hurting. Jesus works through us to bring healing to those who need new life and hope, community and purpose. With the Spirit, Jesus dwells inside each one of us and he’s looking at us saying, “you the man” “you the woman” “you the teen” “you the kid” “you are the church where Spirits come alive!” (we do have a pretty awesome tag-line because we are church Where Spirits Come Alive!)

Embrace the fullness of who you are as the very dwelling place of God’s Creative, Redeeming, Holy Spirit and fulfill your part in the good-news-movement of God’s unfathomable love, freedom and healing for all. Miracles still happen today. God calls us to be vehicles of the miracle of love, acceptance and grace for all people.

Maybe like Lydia, your gift is to provide hospitality and support. Maybe your gift is to pray. Maybe your gift is music or teaching or working with children or youth. Maybe it is art, or landscaping, or financial management, or playing with grandchildren. Maybe it is retail or computer programming or cooking—whatever your gifts and talents, the Holy Spirit works through you, where you are, to be a vehicle of help or healing or hope to those around you.

Jesus says, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23) “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor. 6:19) So, “do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27b) Jesus is in you, loving you, and loving others through you, now and always. That’s a miracle!





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Tabitha: A Model of Discipleship

Tabitha A Model of DiscipleshipMessage for Easter 4, Mother's Day on Acts 9:36-43 and John 10:22-30 on May 12, 2019 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas

Over many years of ministry, I have learned that most people live with pain. Some of it is physical of course, as health issues or aging take their toll. But I have learned that even people who appear to have it all together on the outside, who look like everything is hunky dory, usually have a story of suffering to tell.

This is one of the reasons I love to visit people, and why I am still working on getting together with all the members as well as visitors. I like to listen to the stories behind the story—what you have really been through—the courage you live with just get through the day, the grief you have endured, the losses, the family issues or trauma that were out of your control, the struggles that don’t show, all that we don’t commonly share over the everyday “how-are-you’s?” and “I’m fine’s.”

Life can be difficult. None of us gets through without some of kind suffering in ourselves or those we love—mental, physical, emotional, spiritual. Support and care in the real stuff of life, is part of the true meaning and purpose of Christian community and spiritual friendship—to be with people where we do not have to pretend who we are, and that we need help and healing, hope and wholeness which we cannot muster on our own.

This is the significance of the ministry of Tabitha in our Acts reading—a great story for Mother’s Day, which lifts up the ministry and work of women.

Tabitha was one of those members of the early Christian community who recognized other people’s pain and needs and did something to serve them, to heal them, to give them hope and wholeness, and spiritual friendship so they would not suffer alone.

The fact that Luke—the writer of Luke’s Gospel is also the writer of Acts—includes both of her names, Tabitha in Aramaic and Dorcas in Greek, indicates that she had a role bridging differences in the diverse cultural communities that made up this early congregation.
Specifically, Tabitha served the widows of this young Christian community—women whose husbands had died, who did not have a son to take them in, or whose son was unable to provide for them. Widows with no male family to bring them into their household were poorest of the poor. No property, no business, and no way to create income, the widows were destitute and consigned to a life of begging. They were suffering grief to be sure, and on top of that, the complete loss of home and livelihood.

But as part of this Christian community, here was Tabitha, who devoted herself to good deeds and works of charity to care for the widows in their suffering, loss, and displacement.

In their sorrow at her untimely death, the community called for Peter to come from Lydda. Instead of showing Peter Tabitha’s body as one would expect, he found a roomful of weeping widows showing him tunics and clothing that Tabitha had made for them. This sounds like a strange detail to our ears when we live in disposable culture. We get a hole in our shirt or we become tired of our clothes, and we can toss it and get a new one—stores are counting on the fact that we are going to add to wardrobe four times a year with the seasonal changes.

But in the first century, making clothes was the most labor intensive, time-consuming job of every household. Sheep had to be sheered, the wool cleaned and spun into yarn and thread. Then the yarn was woven to produce cloth, then the cloth was cut and stitched together with the hand-made thread to complete a garment. For the more well-to-do who could make linen, they had to cultivate flax plants and harvest the fiber. Then they had to clean and align the fibers to spin the yarn and thread and then continue the same steps mentioned with wool, weaving the cloth and stitching.

In this context, it makes sense why Jesus would say, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none.” (Luke 3:11). Many could not afford the luxury of the time and resources it took to make a coat, or a new set of clothes.
So weeping, the widows showed Peter the tunics and clothes Tabitha had made. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.”

Tabitha heard Jesus voice and she followed him in the way she lived. In all of the New Testament, this is the only time the feminine form of the word, “disciple” is used—she was the only woman who was called a disciple in the Bible, even though many other women exhibited these gifts, including those who shared the good news of Jesus’ resurrection in all four Gospels. Even the men recognized her discipleship and wrote it down—that was very unusual for that era and culture—and what a gift for us to receive her story today.

Tabitha’s faithfulness as a disciple led Peter to pray for her resurrection and the living Christ who called Peter to tend his sheep, heard Peter’s prayer and Tabitha arose.

Tabitha’s ministry changed the story for the widows who moved from suffering alone in silence, to women who are part of a diverse, meaningful community where their stories were heard, their needs were met, and their burdens were shared. As women who were clothed in hope and recognized by love, their own gifts could then flourish—they were empowered to share their own good deeds and acts of charity for the healing and wholeness of others. Suffering did not have the final word for the widows, and it does not have the final word for us.

As I have heard your stories, I have also learned how being a part of this community of faith as brought you healing and hope in the midst of grief, illness, pain, trauma, and difficulty. All of you have received prayers; some, a prayer shawl; others, a shoulder to cry on; some, a hot meal; others someone to listen; others a walking companion; some a circle of women who study Scripture and pray; others, healing prayer; some, a men’s breakfast; others, flowers from the altar; and all of us, someone who notices and greets us each week. If you are hurting and you have not received the help or prayers or healing you need, please call me—my cell and office phones are on the bottom, back of the bulletin.

Being embraced and ministered to in our suffering the by the good deeds and acts of charity in this community, enable and empower each of us to grow in our gifts and ability to serve as well. And that’s the real mission of the church—to care for the body of Christ so that we can activate the gifts for ministry God has given to each and every one of us, that we might bring that healing to Richardson and beyond.

In the Strategic Planning and goals that the Council prayed about and put together which resulted in this list of priorities, it made Growing Community and Congregation one of them so that as the body of Christ, we can become Tabitha and Dorcas to one another.

As we each experience the help and healing, hope and wholeness that this diverse, richly woven Christian community provides, God blesses and empowers us to share our own good deeds and acts of charity as we hear the voice of Jesus, our Lord and Shepherd, who calls us to follow him.


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Fables and Faithfulness: Jesus' Breakfast on the Beach

Discipleship Lessons During Breakfast on the BeachMessage for Easter 3 on John 21:1-19 on May 5, 2019 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas

In the early tech era of the 90’s, our favorite computer activity with our kids was playing a Living Book CD based on Aesop’s Fable, "The Tortoise and the Hare." We could click on a picture and the birds would sing, the Hare would run out of his house and brush his teeth, or a frog would play the drums. 

You know the fable; the Tortoise and the Hare engage in a race. The Hare is over-confident in his speed and he gets distracted during the race. He forgets to eat, so he stops to eat breakfast, he takes a nap, and he stops to tell on-lookers how great he is. He becomes so distracted and full of himself that the Tortoise crosses the finish line while the Hare is racing to catch up. At the end, the narrator asks the crowd at the finish line, “What is the moral of the story?” The animal members of the crowd pipe up with suggestions that clearly show they missed the point: “The journey is the reward?” “Don’t act like such a big shot?” “Always eat a good breakfast?” “No, No!” says the narrator, “It’s ‘slow and steady wins the race!’” “Ohhhhhh!” The crowd realizes how they have missed the point.

In our Gospel reading the disciples are learning lessons of their own. Peter and the disciples have received their marching orders from Jesus, but they are not sure they have what it takes to follow in his footsteps. Earlier, the resurrected Lord appeared to them two times, showed them his hands and side, and offered them his peace; Jesus breathed on them the Holy Spirit and sent them out with these words, “As the Father sends me, so I send you. If you forgive the sins any, they are forgiven, if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

There’s the call. The disciples are sent out with a Gospel to proclaim, sins to forgive, peace to offer, and a church to build—the only problem is, they do not believe they can do it. They may know what to do, but they are not sure they have what it takes. Following Peter’s lead, the disciples go fishing.

Ironic, isn’t it? It was not long ago that Jesus called them away from their boats to fish for people. But now, despite the miraculous resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the disciples have returned to their old way of life. After three years with Jesus, they are still not sure they have what it takes, so they return to what’s familiar. Like the Hare in the fable—the disciples are easily distracted from the path that Jesus has set them on, and they hang up a sign that says, “Gone Fishing.”

Sound familiar? In your bulletin, we have a whole list of strategic plans and priorities that the Council has come up with after a full day of prayer and conversation at a retreat. I am sure you could add more ideas as well. We know what to do—in fact there are probably too many directions we can go, with too many opportunities in a growing community like northern Texas.
Like the disciples, the question for us may be, “Do we have what it takes? What is it going to require on my part and, do I have that to give? How do I know if I am ready or even called to participate in any of our congregation’s mission?” Maybe like Peter or Paul, you feel haunted by a past you fear disqualifies you from you serving. How do you move forward? This may be true in our personal life as well. The future is uncertain. Do we have what it takes?

Our temptation in these situations of self-doubt and uncertainty is to join the disciples in going backwards rather pay attention to what new thing God might be doing. You will notice that this did not work for the disciples. They are experts at fishing, and they fished all night and caught nothing! They are totally flunking. Going backward rarely moves us forward. We can learn lessons from our past, but our future is not there.

What lessons do the followers of Jesus need to learn to fulfill our calling and move forward? The answers just may be found in that old Living Book of "The Tortoise and the Hare"—not only the main moral of the story, but even the ones we thought missed the point.

Lesson #1: Jesus gets the disciples back on the right path by appearing on the beach that morning. He invites them to cast their net on the right side of the boat, and they caught 153 fish!
It’s an odd number—153. This is the only place it appears in the Bible, so why 153? One hundred fifty-three is the known number of species of fish during the first century! Jesus did call them to fish for people, so this shows that the good news of Jesus is to be proclaimed to all “species” of people, to the ends of the earth. Everybody’s in! The net won’t break because God can hold us all!  Every language, race, ethnicity, orientation, gender is in! Our job is not to judge, so enjoy the journey—The journey is the reward! Being part of God’s great plan to love and redeem the world is blessing enough! What does it take to move forward in mission? Share God’s forgiveness and embrace with everyone for The journey is the reward!

Lesson #2: The funniest part of the story comes next—Peter is fishing naked, and when he sees Jesus, he puts on his clothes to jump in the lake and swim ashore. We usually work while clothed and strip down to jump in the lake, but in the first century the one who saw someone naked was dishonored; Peter is honoring Jesus by putting on his clothes, but it all seems backward to us! The point is that Peter is naked. We see Peter in all his vulnerability. He denied Jesus three times, he fears his past disqualifies him, and that he does not have what it takes, and so he went back to fishing. But, Jesus sees right through Peter—he can put his clothes back on, but none of us can hide ourselves from God. Jesus sees us and knows us in all of our failings, fears and going backward. So, stop trying to hide. Don’t act like such a big shot.

You are not so bad God cannot love you and you are not so good you do not need Jesus! Peter gets to Jesus as fast as he can—he got this part right! Come to God in prayer, talk with Jesus throughout your day—rant and rave if you need to, cry if you feel it, dance when you’re moved—just do not run the other way, because he already knows all of who you are. What does it take to move forward in mission? Don’t act like such a big shot—get to Jesus as fast as you can, and take it all to the Lord in prayer.

Lesson #3: In the midst of this complete, stark-naked-knowing, Jesus invites Peter and the disciples to join him for breakfast on the beach. Jesus feeds them, body and soul with the physical food and the spiritual relationship they need to run with perseverance the race he has set before them—to carry the good news of God’s love throughout the world. Always eat a good breakfast. We can’t survive on this journey of faith, this mission of good news without proper nourishment. We need to be fed and loved at this table, where Jesus appears to us in the Lord’s Supper—our breakfast on the beach—to be loved, forgiven and strengthened for the day, especially when we don’t know what is coming next. And feed yourself physically as well with good nutrition, exercise and proper rest. We cannot carry out the mission of peace and love when we do violence to ourselves by neglecting self-care! This has been the hardest lesson for me to learn. What does it take to move forward in mission? Always eat a good breakfast, spiritually and physically.

Lesson #4: Finally, Jesus re-establishes a relationship with Peter and all the disciples based not on their good behavior, not on getting everything right, but rather, based on love. Peter’s three-fold denial is redeemed when he affirms that he loves Jesus three times—which he can do only because Jesus has already loved, nourished, and forgiven him. It is not just about how much Jesus loves us, it is about how much we love Jesus! Slow and steady wins the race. Take time to experience Jesus’ love and let Jesus know you love him! Three times! You do not have to rush to prove yourself. We do not have to rush to complete every goal this summer. Our mission is about love; it is about being as much as doing. “Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep” because we spend time loving Jesus first. What does it take to move forward in mission? Take time to experience Jesus’ love and let Jesus know you love him because Slow and steady wins the race.

God loves you, St. Luke’s, and every one of you as an important and valuable part of God’s mission in this world. The repetition of these faith practices will serve us well as we use them to discern how we participate in God’s unfolding mission here, and how we manage uncertainty in our personal lives. We all have what it takes as we make the next right step forward trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ whom we follow.

Remember that you are part of the 153 species that God loves, so, the journey is the reward! God knows you fully and completely, so bring it all to Jesus in prayer and don’t act like such a big shot! Nourish yourself spiritually and physically and always eat a good breakfast! And remember that our mission is all about love—taking time to experience how much God loves you, and how much you love God, how much God loves the world, and how Jesus equips us in love with what it takes to share this message, so slow and steady wins the race!

Image: Art by Peter Koenig


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linda anderson little
Linda Anderson-Little

Quotation of the Week

The church does not have a mission in the world, God's mission has a church in the world.