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To Love As Jesus Love Us

larger Jesus washing largeMessage for Palm Sunday on John 13:1-17,35 given on March 28, 2021 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas. This sermon and other worship services can be seen on YouTube. A congregational reading of the Passion did not work outdoors nor on video, so we made a transition to Holy Week by reading the footwashing story for the Gospel after the Palm Sunday procession.

I remember when I was in middle school and I first heard the popular saying, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.”

It was the first time I began to understand that real love was not about possession, but rather about freedom. But if there was ever a night for Jesus to give up on “love as freedom” and engage in a little “love as possession,” I think the night before he died would have been a good choice. It would have been understandable if Jesus would have put the screws down on the disciples a little harder and said,

“Look, I’m going to die tomorrow, and I need you to show up. I have given you my heart and soul, my prayers, my healing, my time, everything I’ve got. Now it’s all coming to a head tomorrow and the political and religious leaders are going to have my head. I need to know that you are with me. Peter, are you in? Matthew are you with me? James and John, can I count on you? Philip and Andrew, will you be there for me? Bartholomew and Thaddeus, will you stand with me? Thomas and James, Simon and Judas, are you in?”

But he does not do it, does he? Instead, he instructs them to love one another as he has loved them, and he demonstrates what this love looks like as he wraps a towel around his waist, gets on his knees, and washes their feet.

Their feet were already clean, actually—they were washed before they came into the house for supper. The roads were dusty, and their sandals were open, and nobody wanted all that dirt tracked into the house, so feet were washed upon entering, much like taking off our shoes at the door. Foot washing was usually done by a servant and if there was not a servant in the household, it was done, of course, by the woman of the household. In addition to an act of cleanliness, it was also an act of hospitality, warmth, welcome, and humble service, especially after a hard day’s work or a long journey.

Because their feet had most likely already been cleaned, Jesus washed their feet, not to get the dust off, but as an act of love, an act of humility, an act of service. He got down on his knees, taking the form of a slave or serving them a like woman—talk about bending gender roles! Jesus offers hospitality, warmth, and welcome, love, and relationship as their time together comes to a close, shifting social and gender roles to demonstrate that true love is a life of service. Imagine the discomfort this might have caused these tough, hard-working, weather-worn men, especially James and John, the “sons of thunder”—to watch Jesus behave like female. Maybe they teased him, accusing him of “throwing like a girl,” or acting like a sissy. Certainly, Peter’s discomfort led him to argue with Jesus.

But Jesus let them live with their discomfort of his gender-bending, socially upending role reversals and he persisted. On his knees, like slave, washing and rinsing, welcoming and cleaning, drying and loving, behaving like a subservient female.

Judas sits down and Jesus washes the feet that will betray him. Peter sits down and Jesus washes the feet that will deny him. James and John, Andrew, Philip, and Matthew and all the rest, sit down and Jesus washes the feet that will run away and leave him to be scourged and nailed and killed alone. What is even more surprising than Jesus demonstrating true, deep, liberating love by behaving like a slave or a woman, is that Jesus washes all the feet that he will betray, deny and abandon him. Jesus knows they will all fail him, and he washes and loves them anyway.

The night before death in our culture—if you know it is coming on death row—it’s all about the food, the last meal. Jesus does have a Last Supper with his disciples, but he spends so much time rinsing and rubbing 24 feet, 120 toes—all feet that will flee and leave him to journey to the cross alone.

“If you love something, set it free…” Jesus loves them enough to wash their dirty souls and let them go… We all have the freedom to walk away.

Judas does this first—he allows Jesus to wash his feet, and then he leaves and goes into the night—which is to say that he has turned toward evil. That is the worst betrayal of all—it was not turning Jesus over to the chief priests, but the worst betrayal is abandoning the relationship with Jesus. Judas is struggling with all kinds of things—fear, turmoil, greed—and in that suffering he turns away from Jesus instead of moving toward Jesus.

The other disciples will walk away from the relationship with Jesus in one way or another, but Jesus will not walk away from them. That is why he gets on his knees and washes their feet. He will love and serve them like a slave, like a tireless woman to the end. When they are ready to return to him, he will be there. It may not be until Easter morn, but Jesus will always show up.

Can we bear to receive that much love? Jesus kneels before you to wash your feet, all the while knowing we have failed Jesus, and will fail him again—not because we are bad people, but because we are human. And still, Jesus shows up and loves us, and kneels again at our feet, with warmth and love and welcome. With towel and water in hand, he announces, “I love you. I am here, and I will always be here—even when you walk away, I will be here when you come back.”

Jesus will never betray his relationship with you,
• no matter who you are,
• no matter what you have done,
• no matter what you have thought,
• no matter how weak your faith feels
• no matter whether or not you deserve it.

Jesus gets on his knees as a servant and says, “I will not betray you. I will not deny you. I will not abandon you.”

We can always come back. No matter what, we belong to Jesus.

As we freely offer ourselves in relationship to Jesus, he fills us with the ability to love others as he loves us. This is what his commandment really means. To love others the way Jesus loves is to love those who betray, deny, and abandon us. On our own, such love is impossible. But through our relationship with Jesus, who will never betray, deny, or abandon us, we can love anyone and everyone through the power of Jesus’ love in us.

"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Reflection Questions

• How do gender and class roles today still define or limit ways of showing love or serving others? Are their ways to let go of these limiting definitions to enter lives of service that express the fullness of love that Jesus expresses in this passage?

• When have you experienced love and forgiveness from someone after really screwing up? How did it feel? When have you loved and forgiven someone after they have really hurt you? What enabled the relationship to heal…or not?

• What does it mean to you that Jesus always gives you the freedom to walk away, and the love to always to return to a relationship with him? How does this change your faith or how deep you are willing to go with him?

• Is there someone you are struggling to love, forgive, or even tolerate right now? Can you bring this struggle to Jesus and ask for help—if not in loving them as he does yet, but in taking a first step, such as praying for them?

• What is it you need from Jesus or from your faith the most this Holy Week? Ask boldly.

Image: Paynter, David, 1900-1975. Jesus washing the disciples' feet, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57351 [retrieved March 31, 2021https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Trinity_College_Chapel_Mural_(2).jpg. 

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Bearing the Fruit of Love

field 5297329 1920Message for Lent 5 on John 12:20-33 given on March 21, 2021 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, TX. This sermon and all worship videos can be seen on YouTube.

The Greeks are in Jerusalem for the Passover festival and they have heard about a new teacher named Jesus. They find one of Jesus’ disciples, Philip, and say to him, “Sir we wish to see Jesus.” What a great request – who wouldn’t want to see Jesus? After all, he has declared that he is not just a wise teacher, but he is the very embodiment of God. If I had never met Jesus, I would want to see that as well!

Philip, thinking that this is a great way to expand the circle of disciples, goes to Andrew and tells him that a group of potential followers are wanting to see Jesus. Andrew takes up the mission and finds Jesus and tells him. At this point, we would expect Jesus to welcome these worldly disciples to his movement and describe the rights and responsibilities of being his follower. But that is not what Jesus does. Instead he tells a very strange parable about a grain of wheat that must die.

What an odd response to such a straightforward request! But Jesus never wants us to simply see him; he wants us to know him. When we truly know Jesus, we not only recognize him for who he is, we also take on his mission that he summed up so eloquently back in Chapter 3: For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, his unique and only begotten Son, his one and only Son, so that all those who believe in him may not perish, but may have eternal life.

When we behold God’s very self, the great “I AM,” Yahweh, in the person of Jesus, we are joined his mission to save the world. For he came not to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him.

Jesus tells his parable to let us know that he did not come to save the world through conquest and earthly methods; rather, the Son of Man comes to save the world like a single grain of wheat. “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

A grain of wheat. How on earth is Jesus going to save the whole world like a tiny grain of wheat? Those of you have lived on a farm or are avid gardeners will understand this more readily. You cannot feed anyone with one grain, or even a whole head of wheat. If we save that one grain of wheat and do nothing with it, it is useless. But when that one grain falls to the ground and dies, it springs back to life as a new plant, producing up to 110 new grains! Plant those 110 grains, and you are up to 12,000; by the third harvest of replanted seeds you are up to 1.3 million grains of wheat. Very quickly you are talking about enough wheat to feed the whole world! All because one seed fell to the ground and died in order to bear much fruit.

This is how the Son of Man loves and saves the world. Not through domination, but by letting go, by dying, sacrificing. He will fall to the ground and sink below, so that his death will bear much fruit. And where is this fruit? We are the fruit. Bringing a few Greeks along builds the kingdom by addition; Jesus builds His kingdom by exponential growth. And like Jesus we produce a million-fold when we are willing to be planted and bear fruit as well. Jesus calls us to follow him to bear more fruit so the world can experience God’s love through us. Jesus’ death is a transfer of power—like a seed into a new plant—a transfer of the Spirit’s power from him to his followers, so that we can be filled with the power of his life, his love, his forgiveness, so that the whole world can be loved and fed and freed for an eternal relationship with God. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

That is the mission that God calls each of us to—deeply rooted in our relationship to Jesus, for us in order to share God’s salvation with the world. Jesus clearly states, “those who love their life lose it”—if we love only ourselves to the exclusion of bearing the fruit of God’s love in the world—we become a single grain that is not planted. We are of no use to God’s mission and thus we have lost our purpose. But, “those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” This does not mean we hate ourselves or the life God has given us so we can go to heaven—it means we are wheat, willing to be planted, and bear fruit for God’s Kingdom. We participate with Christ in loving the world, not with conquest, but by letting go, by dying to ourselves, by sacrificing earthly desires and values in order to bear the fruit of service in the world God so loves. We can live out this mission by:

  • Dying to our ego and starting a relationship with someone with whom we have absolutely nothing in common to bear the fruit of love and understanding.
  • Dying to our need to be right and humbly look for Christ in the person we can’t stand, asking God to help us find a way to work them or forgive them to bear the fruit of love.
  • Dying to our self-importance or busy-ness, and as soon as we are vaccinated, visit someone who cannot get out and does not have many visitors—someone who is sick, homebound, in a nursing home, or jail, to bear the fruit of love.

The Greeks wanted to see Jesus. And like them, so do we. But Jesus sees so much more in us. He sees not only those who will look at and know him, but who will take up his mission to share his love and mercy with the world. Jesus wants us to move from seeing him as God, the great, “I AM” in the flesh to being him and embodying his love in our own flesh. Jesus sees us as disciples who can go from seeing to being; to being the bearers of John 3:16—through Jesus, we become participants with the great “I AM” in the world! God wants to love the entire world through us, each just a single grain of wheat, but through Christ’s power, able to produce 100 and 1,000 and even a million-fold of love for the kingdom. This is the vision we embrace, when we not only see who Jesus is, but join his mission to save the world that God so loves.

Reflection Questions:

• The disciples bring the Greeks to see Jesus which is adding believers; Jesus’ response is to talk about planting seeds, which is to build disciples by multiplication. One seed brings in or produces 114 new ones. How does this change how we think about evangelism?

• As a Christian community, how do we make disciples who make disciples?

• What is it about your relationship with Jesus that has made a difference in your life? When have you experienced God in your life? Being able to briefly share those experiences with someone who is struggling is part of being an evangelist in daily life. Have you had this kind of opportunity to share your faith? What holds you back from trying if the opportunity presents itself with someone who is struggling? Can you ask God for an opportunity to help bear this kind of love in the world?

• Dying to ourselves can include letting go of our ego, our sense of superiority, being right, and a sense of our separateness from the well-being of others. What part of dying to self is hardest for you or what does it mean for you to die to yourself?

• What does it mean for you to bear Christ’s love in the world? Who or what in the world is it most challenging for you to love? How might you ask God to help you in loving that situation or “those people?”

• Have you thought of yourself as going from seeing Christ to being Christ? Who has been Christ for you? Has anyone told you that you have been Christ or a sign of God’s love for them? Pray about what it means to be in the ELCA, whose motto is: “God’s work Our hands” and what this means for you to be filled with the power of Christ in your daily life, in everything you do.

Image by RENE RAUSCHENBERGER from Pixabay 

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Lifted Up

Mercy Labyrinth by Amber DjpgMessage for Lent 4 on John 3:12-21 given on March 14, 2021 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, TX. This sermon and all worship videos can be seen on YouTube.

About seven years ago I was in a time of transition. I had resigned from the church I was serving and was not sure yet what my next ministry would be. Five years post cancer treatment, I was still battling fatigue and other issues that were not going away. Dan was also in pastoral transition. Our oldest child was in college and the next two were not far behind. I was perplexed, frustrated and ready for answers about my health and our future. On a fall day in September, I felt a strong inner urging to go up to a retreat house and walk their outdoor prayer labyrinth. It is a great way for me to pray when I have a hard time sitting still for long. Maybe God would finally give me some answers—as you can imagine, I was ready for a plan—chop, chop!

Just before our Gospel reading today, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, also came to Jesus for answers. Jesus had turned his world of religious rules and customs upside down—cleansing the Temple and doing signs of healing such as Nicodemus had never seen. He recognized God’s power at work in Jesus, but Nicodemus wanted to understand what Jesus’s message really was. What was the true point of his mission? What was his purpose and where did Nicodemus and we fit into it? Nicodemus was ready for Jesus’ plan—chop, chop!

Jesus does give Nicodemus what has become the most famous passage of the bible, seen on bumper stickers, placard signs at football games, t-shirts, and ball caps: John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” It’s a darn good mission statement, but not really a plan.

Our passage does, however, give us much more than just this one verse. We hear what comes before and after John 3:16 so with Nicodemus we can discover what this really means for him and for us. First Jesus makes a somewhat odd reference to a passage in Numbers when the Israelites complained against God’s provision in the wilderness. God did not like their grumbling and punished them with poisonous serpents; the people who were bitten, were dying. The Israelites repented of their grumbling and asked Moses to intercede with God on their behalf. God instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent and lift it up above the people. When they looked at the bronze serpent they were healed of their bites, and spared from death. Notice that God did not take away the source of their pain. Instead, when looking to the bronze serpent, the Israelites would see both the consequence of their sin, and their need for God. This one image symbolized their brokenness and their dependence on God’s provision, their need for God’s forgiveness, and the pure grace of God’s gift of life—none of which would have happened if God just took away the serpents that tore at their ankles. As Jesus says later in the passage, their deeds had to be brought into the light, and once acknowledged, they are forgiven and given life.

Jesus explains to Nicodemus: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

We may wonder why God did not just take away sin without the cross, but Jesus’ image of the Son being lifted up like Moses’ serpent gives us an idea. When Jesus is lifted up on the cross of crucifixion, we are reminded of our own sin while, at the same time, acknowledging our need for God. In looking up at our suffering Lord, we must see the violence we inflict on others, on ourselves, on this planet, we must see our own suffering, and the suffering of this world; and we also see our need for God’s forgiveness, and the pure grace of God’s love given in Jesus, and the gift of eternal life—none of which we would grasp if God just eliminated sin for us. Our darkness had to be brought into the light and then we are given life. Those who looked up at the bronze serpent were given life; those who look up at the cross and believe in Jesus are given eternal life.

But Jesus does not only speak of his crucifixion when he talks about being “lifted up—for Jesus will be lifted up two more times. He will be lifted up in the resurrection with power over death, so that we can see this promise of eternal fulfilled here and now on earth. Jesus will be exalted over the power of sin! The truth can come into the light because Jesus conquers the power of all that separates us from God.

And then, even more so, Jesus will be lifted up in the Ascension when he returns to the Father so he can prepare for us, the abiding places and the many mansions in his Father’s house. The One who has descended will also ascend to make the abiding relationship he has with the Father available to each of us—that we may be one with Father as he is one with the Father.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus is trying to tell Nicodemus that God did not send him into the world for us to remain separated from God, but that through him we may have an abiding, eternal, on-going, relationship with God, the Creator that begins right now. That is Jesus’ mission and plan according to John’s Gospel—as he is lifted up, he will draw all people to himself, so that they will abide in God as Jesus abides in God.

Abiding with God is to abide in the light, always recognizing our need for forgiveness and love in our sin and wrongdoing. God’s love and grace and life are always offered alongside our failures. The serpent and the gift of life are lifted up together. The suffering of the cross and the gift of grace are lifted up together. The reality of living in a fallen world and abiding in an eternal relationship with the Father through Jesus exist right now together. It is not a plan—chop, chop—it is a lived reality; it is being willing to dwell in the light every day; it is accepting that life is both deeply painful and full of immense love at the same time. It is being willing to let go of duality, either/or, and black/white thinking, and instead dwell in God’s “now” where God abides with us and we know fully even as we are fully known. Right this minute, we abide in God as we accept that we are a sinner and a saint, broken by sin and full of grace, a clay pot and a temple of the Spirit, in need of forgiveness and a gift to the kingdom always at the same time. Right this minute, we are broken by sin and abiding in God and God is abiding in us, all at once and the same is true for our neighbor, and the people we love, and the people we hate.

And that is what happened to me in labyrinth on that fall September day. I wanted an answer, and like Nicodemus, I wanted a plan—chop, chop. As I walked through the labyrinth, winding my way through the long circular paths—which was supposed to be meditative—my mind raced, filled with a jumble of issues and questions, and mostly, my desire for a plan, for a future, for, a little clarity. I arrived at the center and sat on one of the tree stumps to listen to for God to give me my answer. But that is not what God gave me. Instead, I got a picture, an image of God’s movement through time—eternal life is abiding with God now. Abide with me and I will abide with you. Live with the unfolding, engage in the journey, abide in the relationship. And finally, that is the only plan there is—I am with you until the end of the age.

There are parts of me that still do not like this answer. I still crave concrete direction—chop, chop. But so often, the response is not an answer, but an invitation: abide with me. This is the purpose of any of our spiritual practices, whether a walk or a table prayer, it is to listen, to be aware, notice, and pay attention to the presence of God who is abiding with us and in us. Jesus, who descended into the world has been lifted up on the cross, lifted up in the resurrection and lifted up in the ascension, so we might look to him and know that he prepares a place for us here and now that we might abide with God, and know that eternity begins right now.

Reflection Questions:

  • Read the first part chapter 3 to put the conversation Jesus has with “Nic at night” into context. When have you wanted clarity and plan from God? What kind of answers did you receive?
  • What are your experiences with John 3:16? Have you stopped to think about what it really means? How would you express this verse in your own words?
  • Ultimately, God’s greatest power is to love us through suffering rather than take it away. Is there a time of suffering in your own life that deepened your faith because you had to rely solely on God?
  • For the Gospel of John, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension are one event—salvation is not complete without Jesus returning to prepare “abiding places” or “many mansions” in the Father’s house (see John 14). This makes the ultimate act of salvation, not forgiveness from sin or damnation, but an eternal relationship with God that is real and begins here and now. How does this change or impact how you think about and experience your own faith?
  • Martin Luther taught that we are at the same time sinner and saint—like the Israelites looking at the serpent and us looking at the cross—we see our sin and God’s love simultaneously. How does this help you balance pride and humility, ego and shame, healthy self-esteem and unhealthy self-negation? What are creative ways you deal with this inner duality?

Photo: Amber D., 2020 on Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/mercy-conference-and-retreat-center-st-louis?select=j2LBfwTcP-wFFRf9nyL9Ag

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Focus on Jesus

Mafa006 mediumMessage for Lent 3 on John 2:13-22 given on March 7, 2021 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, TX

This sermon and all worship videos can be seen on YouTube.

In making plans to worship outside this Sunday, I have been powerfully reminded of an extraordinary worship experience I had when I was a seminary student and spent a semester in the southern African country of Zimbabwe. I traveled for a long weekend visit to the Zion Christian Church, a rural, indigenous independent Christian church. Much of the church’s membership lived on a cooperative farm. They greeted us with biblical hospitality—arriving as strangers unannounced at their door, we were welcomed with open arms, given food and drink, a place to stay in someone’s hut, and time to visit with the Bishop. We worked in the fields during the day, breaking for a lunch of stewed greens and tea. On Sunday morning, as we gathered for worship, we look for the church building. Instead of an edifice we were led to long wooden benches under a huge tree. The women led the singing, clapping, dancing, and ululating while drums played, full of joy at God’s blessings and Jesus’ forgiveness. The bishop read a passage from the Bible and preached, followed by more singing and dancing. Their sanctuary was creation, God’s first and best cathedral, and their focus was on Jesus.

My experience in Zimbabwe resonates with our passage from John. Jesus, through his words and actions, asks the question: Where is the focus of your worship? By overturning the tables of the money changers and the sellers of animals, Jesus leads our worship in a new direction.

It is important to note that there was nothing wrong or immoral about selling animals for sacrifice in the Temple Courtyard. Indeed, the book of Deuteronomy, as it instructs everyone to bring their tithe to the Lord, says if the distance is too great to bring their goat or a tenth of their grain to the Temple, they can turn their first fruits into money for ease of transport, and then purchase animals for sacrifice once they arrive in Jerusalem. So, the moneychangers and animal-sellers have set up tables in the Temple courtyard to accommodate the faithful traveling in from out of town to make their sacrifices for Passover.

So, in John’s Gospel, Jesus’ concern is not criminality or the illegitimacy of buying and selling animals, but instead the authentic worship of God. Arriving in the Temple, Jesus observes people going about business as usual—purchasing sacrifices, preparing tithes, and getting ready for Passover as if nothing has changed. But everything has changed. God has become embodied in a human person is present with and for them at this very moment. The Word has become flesh! God’s presence and God’s name is no longer confined to the building in one location, but is now extended and present in the person and power of Jesus himself. The focus has shifted from the Temple to Jesus. In other words, God has left the building.

One’s worship and devotion is no longer lodged in a monetary exchange to make an offering or in animal sacrifice, but in an on-going relationship with the God who has invested in creation and within humanity and in all the details and fullness of life. The Word became flesh who dwells among us is the fullness of God who is present in everything and in our every day—not in one exchange, in one market, in one location, at three festivals a year.

In order to shake things up and in order to get people’s attention, Jesus goes for the grand gesture –he turns over tables, dumps out coins, and scatters animals. The new focus of worship is Jesus—and the relationship with the God you can now have with the One who came to walk among you.

The Jewish leaders ask for a sign—Jesus tells them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up…But he was speaking of the temple of his body.” Jesus is saying, Do you not get it? God is not simply “in there.” I am God. I am the Temple! Yes, God has left the building. Focus on Jesus.

If we have learned anything during the pandemic, it is that God has left the building! We may prefer worship in the sanctuary, we may like the altar, the pulpit, the pews, and all that goes with it, but we have learned through both difficult and I hope beautiful and meaningful ways, that God shows up everywhere, because Jesus is everywhere.

• At home on video—Jesus is with us.
• In the parking lot outside—Jesus is with us.
• In our car or sharing a video on Zoom—Jesus is with us.

We have all discovered that we worship Jesus wherever we are. What matters to us is the same thing that mattered to Jesus when he cleansed the Temple, and what mattered to the rural indigenous church worshiping under tree: the main thing is that we keep the main thing, the main thing.

The main thing is not the building or the sanctuary—nice though they are. The main thing is not the flowers, or the paraments, or pipe organ, or the coffee—lovely as they can be. The main thing is not the pastor, or the style of music. The main thing is Jesus. Focus on Jesus, the Word made flesh who lives among us. He is the Temple, he is the presence of God everywhere for us now. The Temple is everywhere, because Jesus is everywhere.

As more people become vaccinated and the pandemic winds down, Council hopes that we can return to worship in the sanctuary this summer. As we spend the next few months preparing for this transition, Jesus reminds us that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing—and that is him.

• How will we use our building so that more people have a chance to experience of God’s grace in Jesus?
• How can we use technology to expand the number of people who experience God’s forgiveness in Jesus?
• How can make sure our ministry leaves the building so people are fed, and visited, and forgiven and given hope in the name of Jesus?

That is the main thing. “The Word became flesh and lived among us and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” We can keep the main thing, the main thing because we know in our own hearts and lives the fullness of the risen Jesus dwelling in and with us—wherever we are because we, too, have left the building.

We have witnessed the presence of God in new ways in our own home, at our dinner table, worshiping at our home altar, through the miracle of technology, in our new connections with old friends, in discovering new ways to pray, to serve, and to be Christ to each other while we are apart. God will continue to expand our experiences of God at home, in the cathedral worshiping outdoors, and in the world, because Jesus Christ is in all, through all, and with all and within each of us.

Yes, God has left the building and dwells in Jesus Christ, the Word become flesh and living among us, and through us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a Father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Reflection Questions:

• Have you worshiped outside before and what was it like (perhaps at camp as child? In college?)

• If you have worshiped outside during this pandemic, what has been your experience of it?

• What is the most powerful part of worship for you or where you feel the presence of Jesus Christ most intimately? Has this changed over the course of the pandemic and the changing styles or methods of worship?

• How has your relationship with Jesus changed over this last year of the pandemic?

• Have you thought of the significance of Jesus’ body as the new Temple, and later in the New Testament, Paul calling all our bodies the “temple of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Cor. 6:19). What does this mean to you?

• What do you think is important for your congregation moving forward to help keep Jesus, the main thing, as the main thing?

• In what new or surprising ways have you experienced Jesus in the world, in your daily life, or in video/Zoom/Outdoor worship? 

Image: Jesus Mafa, Camerooon, http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr (contact page: https://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr/contact)

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