Children’s Sermon: Forgive 77 times

Bring 52 marbles in a bag.
This is just from Dollar Store Children’s Sermons. Click that link and watch it!

I’m so happy you’re here today!

So I want to talk today a little about the story we’re going to hear about Jesus today and we’re going to use this: a bag of marbles. There’s a lot of marbles in here and we’re going to pretend that each marble counts as one time when we forgive someone. So this is a bag full of forgiveness marbles.

Now Peter, one of Jesus’ friends, asks Jesus “how many times am I supposed to forgive someone? If Someone breaks a promise to me or my trust, and it hurts, as long as I’m safe – should I forgive the other person more than once? Should I forgive them like…7 times?” So we have this bag of forgiveness – so let’s count out 7 marbles. Have the kids count out with you seven marbles. Phew! We did it. 7 is something we can do.

But Jesus doesn’t tell Peter to forgive someone 7 times. He says forgive them 77 times. 77! That’s a big number! So okay….let’s see if we can use this bag of marbles to count out 77 times forgiving someone. Count the marbles. As you go higher, get tired and talk about it being hard. And then…run out. Oh my gosh. We’re out of forgiveness. And we didn’t make it to 77! So what can we do? What can we do when we run out of forgiveness? Ask kids. Accept answers. What we need is God’s help. God invites us to forgive and love like Jesus does and that’s usually more than we can do. So we ask God to help us love and love and love. Because God and Jesus forgives us all the time. That isn’t hard for God. But it’s sometimes hard for us. When a friend breaks a promise, that’s hard. There are sometimes things that happen to us that we might not be able to forgive right away or for awhile. So we ask God to help us forgive like God does. To help us be safe so we can forgive those who might hurt us and also ask God to help those we might have hurt. And we ask by saying our prayers and praying – something I do all the time and something we’ll do later in this worship service. We ask help God always to help us love like God loves – so that this world can be a kinder, gentler, and more forgiving place.

Thank you for being up here and I hope you have a blessed week!

Each week, I share a reflection for all children of God. The written manuscript serves as a springboard for what I do. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship on the 15th Sunday After Pentecost, 9/17/2017.

Conflict in the Community Part 2

Today’s reading from the gospel according to Matthew 18:21-35 continues last week’s reading and is about conflict. My reflection last week showed how the bible knew conflicts within churches would happen. Communities are made of people and people will disagree with each other. But conflict isn’t a sign of the community being broken. As long as we commit ourselves to love and serve each other with grace, we will be strong. And we can serve each other with love and grace because our community includes someone important. Jesus is here and Jesus inspires us to serve one another.

Peter asked Jesus how many times we should forgive each other. Jesus’ answer is surprising because he says to forgive an unlimited amount of times. Jesus focused on what we can do. We cannot control other people but we can control our own response. When we are safe, we can forgive. When we are loved and allowed a life to live, forgiveness helps us break the bonds holding us back. Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is ending the hurt inflicted on us to continue to limit who we are. When we forgive, we are loving ourselves by not letting hurt hold us back.

So how can we forgive like Jesus says we should? We start by first knowing who we are. In May, the Church Council voted to start a process to figure out who we are as a community. The process we are using is called Appreciative Inquiry. Appreciative Inquiry focuses on what we do well as a community. It identifies our gifts. When we focus on our strengths, we discover who we are and where we come from. When we know who we are, our disagreements stay rooted in our shared identity as a community. As a community of faith, Jesus invites us to have difficult conversations. He wants us to ask how we can serve our neighbors in new ways and what that might mean for our identity as a community. We need to ask difficult questions. We need to see how our faith and shared identity as followers of Jesus address issues like same-gender weddings, gender identity, racism, politics, and more. These conversations are hard but they can go well when we know ourselves.

The council is putting together a team who will start this process within the next few months. You will be invited to meet with a fellow church member for a one-on-one conversation. You’ll be invited to share your story. Once everyone in the church is interviewed, we will move into developing a shared vision of who we are and where we believe God is taking us. This process will take time and you’ll hear more about it in our next issue of the Messenger. I’m excited about what this process will uncover and look forward to seeing how the Spirit inspires us in new and exciting ways. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 15th Sunday After Pentecost, 9/17/2017.

Nearer: Distracted From God

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Romans 13:8-14

My sermon from the 14th Sunday after Pentecost (September 10, 2017) on Romans 13:8-1. Listen to the recording at the bottom of the page or read my manuscript below.

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What made it hard for you to come to church today?

Now, if it was easy to get to church this morning – awesome. That’s great. I hope whatever is working for you today stays that way for as many Sundays as possible. But I know not every Sunday is easy. Sometimes, your car doesn’t start or you might wake up feeling sick or maybe, just maybe, today is the day when the Run the Reservoir half-marathon, starting at the Oradell Reservoir and going through Emerson, is literally running outside your house at the moment you need to leave to make it to church on time. Sometimes the road to church on Sunday is literally blocked off. But sometimes that road is mentally, emotionally, and spiritually blocked off too. Even when we make it into this building, we’re still not really here. Our thoughts, maybe even our soul, is somewhere else. And if I’m honest, my mind right now is where it was last week, with my in-laws and extended family in Tampa and the rest of Florida. I was blessed and honored to officiate the wedding of my sister-in-law and the amazing person she’s going to spend her life with. The night before the wedding, we drove to the rehearsal in a downpour that flooded the streets, made the trees bend sideways, and reduced visibility to almost nothing. That storm didn’t last long but Hurricane Irma will. Maybe a pastor shouldn’t admit when they’re distracted on a Sunday morning but today, I am. So what can we do with scripture, with faith, and with Jesus, when we’re not as present as we want to be?

In Paul’s Letter to the Romans, a letter we’ve been walking through over the last several months, we’re now in the middle of what some scholars see as Paul’s vision of the activated Christian life. I like to call this the “now what?” of the gospel – the how-does-this-Jesus-thing-matter-for-our-lives right now. For the first 2/3rds of this letter, Paul laid out his argument about why Jesus, why his death and crucifixion, mattered to these Romans who lived hundreds of miles away from where Jesus grew up. Unlike Paul, we have no record of Jesus taking a cruise around the Mediterranean Sea. Egypt and some parts of modern Syria was about as far as Jesus got and he wasn’t there for very long. Jesus was just this young guy who grew up in a province that was considered a backwater part of the Roman Empire. And after stirring up things by eating meals with people he shouldn’t, the Roman Empire killed Jesus in the most scandalous way possible. As a modern day faith community preaching and teaching about how awesome Jesus is and how a relationship with Jesus matters – it’s sometimes hard for us to remember that, in Paul’s day, Jesus’ story wasn’t really an asset. Jesus never raised an army, he never defeated a foe, he never secured some great victlory, he never won – and most of the people who followed him were the least of the least: women, slaves, Gentiles, tax collectors, and fishermen. From a Roman perspective, Jesus’ whole story was a distraction from who God truly is. The creator of everything couldn’t be defeated so there’s no way God and Jesus could be the same. Jesus’s story, Jesus’s cross, is a distraction from what we want God to be. We don’t want a God who dies; we want a God who can’t lose. We want a God who can turn away the storms – rather than a God who lives with us through them. The Romans wanted a god who overcomes – who displays power in ways that we can copy and helps us overcome our own faults, fears, and problems, forming us into who we think we want to be. That kind of god is a god who wins but the god we get is the God who loves.

And that love…can be weird. We sometimes take the words Paul uses here, words that come from the Old Testament and that Jesus himself uses, as some version of the golden rule: if we want other people to treat us well, then we should treat them well to. But that rule depends on what it means to be treated well and who gets to decide what that looks like. Every culture and society has rules about who gets treated in what way; which kind of people are owed certain honors and privileges and respect and which ones aren’t. A janitor doesn’t have the status a CEO has which means culturally, that janitor is lower on the being treated well ladder. We can say that the janitor deserves respect. We don’t give the janitor a red carpet arrival. We save that for the CEO who makes 4000 times that janitor’s salary. We carry this culturally defined list of who is owed what – inside of us. It’s something we are given because we live here. And the Romans had their version of this list too. So when Paul talked about love, the Romans thought they knew what he meant. The Emperor, the rich, the person who wasn’t a slave, is owed a different kind of love because their status is different from the poor, and the slave, and the sick. But the “now what?” of the gospel, of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection means, that the rules of what we think others are owed is undone. Everyone is worthy of love. Everyone is owed love. And every other rule that causes us to treat others differently in ways that are not life giving – those rules are a distraction from what being with Jesus is all about. Love is love is love which is given to us by a God who knows that the walls we build between each other can only come down if the grace of God comes straight into us. And that grace changes us into living, and breathing, and being who God wants us to be rather than into who we think we ought to be.

That grace knows that, sometimes, we’re going to be distracted. Some Sundays, it’s going to be hard to get to church. It’s going to be hard to hear and sing and pray because our soul feels like it’s a million miles away. Yet even when we are distracted from Jesus, Jesus isn’t distracted from us. He’s still in the words, even when we can’t hear them. He’s still in the bread, still in the drink, still in the prayers we might need the people around us to speak on our behalf. He’s here because he promises to be. And there’s nothing we can do to break the promises Jesus makes. Because the Jesus who lived like us, who loved all of us, and who died for us is the same Jesus showing us how we can live for everyone else. In the words of a colleague of mine who is working in Texas and whose church spent all this week clearing out homes damaged and flooded by Hurricane Harvey, “a loved people serve people.” And there is nothing that can distract Jesus from loving us.

Amen.

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Children’s Sermon: Look For the Helpers

Bring a cardigan.

I’m so happy you’re here today!

I hope you all had a good week last week. How many started school? What grades did you start? Accept answers. Mention we’ll bless bags, students, and teachers at the end of worship. A new school, new grades, new friends – that’s a lot of change!

And I noticed there’s something else that’s changing: the weather! It’s cooler outside, especially at night. I sometimes wake up cold because I haven’t put my fall blankets on my bed yet. I have to wear different things to stay warm when the weather gets colder. What’s something you wear? Jacket. Hoodie. Sweater. Another thing we can wear is this – a cardigan!

Now there’s someone famous who loves to wear cardigans and his name was Mr. Rodgers. You might have seen him on tv – or hear about his neighborhood or maybe where Daniel Tiger lives. Now Mr. Rodgers told me something that I would like to tell you. And it’s something important and helpful when we see something that might confuse, scare, or worry us. Right now, there’s a hurricane about to hit Florida. There was a big flood in Texas. And tomorrow, people will remember something awful that happened on September 11th. When someing big and scary happens, it can make us scared. It can cause us to worry. And it can sometimes make us wonder where God is when bad things happen.

But Mr. Rodgers says, and it’s something he learned from his mom, when we see something scary and awful. Look for the helpers. Look for the people trying to help. Look for the people rescuing people in boats, making sure popped are safe, giving people shelter and making sure people are fed. Look for the helpers because they helpers are there. And the helpers show us how God is there and how God is loving us. Always look for the helpers – and, when we are scared or put in a scary situation, know that God is helping us be the helper God calls us to be.

So keep Texas, Florida, and all places that are scared and worried, keep those people and places in your prayers today and this week. And look for the helpers – you’ll see them.

Thank you for being up here and I hope you have a blessed week!

Each week, I share a reflection for all children of God. The written manuscript serves as a springboard for what I do. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship on the 14th Sunday After Pentecost, 9/10/2017.

Conflict in Community Part 1

Did you know today’s reading from the gospel according to Matthew 18:15-21 is in our church constitution? Every congregation in our denomination has a constitution, a document that outlines how we live our life together as a community. Each congregation’s constitution is unique but they follow the model established by our denomination. Today’s gospel passage is how we resolve conflict between members in our community. This method is not the only method available to resolve conflict inside the church but it shows us that conflict inside the church is normal. As a community of faith, we sometimes mess up and hurt other people. As a community filled with people, each one of us sometimes hurt each other or the community itself. We are not perfect. Conflict has, does, and will happen in this church. But conflict does not mean we are an unhealthy community. Conflict can be healthy and help us discover how the Spirit is leading us in exciting, effective, and life-giving ways.

One of the fun parts of this passage is the assumption inside it that we, as disciples of Jesus, and the church itself are always right. But if we’re honest, there are times when the issue we have with another person is our issue and not theirs. How many times have you heard someone talk about someone else but know, deep down, that the talker is at fault? How many times, after reflection or confrontation, have you realized you were the one with the problem and not the other way around? Conflict isn’t the sign of a broken community. The community is broken when we refuse to talk to each other. When we, as a church, avoid difficult conversations, we’re avoiding the possibilities healthy conflict can bring. I honestly believe that the Holy Spirit brings us specifically together not because we are all alike but because the Holy Spirit knows we need each other. When we talk together, we can see more clearly what the Spirit is doing.

So how can we disagree with each, talk to each other, and experience conflict while still being the community the Spirit wants us to be? One way, I think, is by first knowing who we are. We are beloved children of God. We are, through our baptism, united with Christ. When two of us are together, Jesus is right there. Jesus is there in our committee meetings, congregational meetings, and when we meet one-on-one. We are a community that gathers together not because we are all friends and we never disagree with each other. We are a church because we belong to Jesus and Jesus calls us to be right here.

Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 14th Sunday After Pentecost, 9/10/2017.

Bless even when you don’t want to

What are the things in life you wish you liked? What do you keep trying, hoping that this will be the time when you finally enjoy it? There are two of these things on my list. One is bleu cheese. I try it every time I see it. I want to like it. I pray that I will like it. I know I should like it. But when I take a bite of it, I can’t take another. Next to bleu cheese is running. Growing up, I tried soccer, lacrosse, and basketball. I picked sports knowing I would need to run up and down a field. I even tried jogging for fun once. But running is something I’ve never been into. One of the issues I have with running is the pain. Once I start running, sharp pain radiates from my shins. I’ve learned different stretches and coping mechanisms over the years to deal with the pain but that pain is always there. I wish I liked running. I wish I enjoyed running races because I would like a cool medal. Nothing so far has made running “fun” for me. But I keep trying. God willing, this will be the weekend I complete my first 5K and come bak to New Jersey with a medal in the shape of a bowl of Kraft Mac & Cheese.

Today’s reading from Romans 12:9-21 continues what we heard last week. The Romans are trying to embody a life that follows Jesus and Paul is laying out what that life looks likes. Paul starts with love, honor, and service. He advocates taking strong stances against everything that keeps people from God. He explains that a life lived in harmony with others means showing hospitality to strangers and being generous to the people sitting next to you. We’re called to know people, crying when they cry and laughing when they life. We live to be with people and to bless them, focusing on the needs of our neighbors instead of ourselves. Paul is advocating a way of life that is difficult to understand and even harder to live out. Yet it’s a way of life rooted in Jesus Christ. Jesus had the power to seek vengeance, to raise an army, to establish a political kingdom on Earth that could push the Roman Empire into the Sea. As the Son of God, he could use his power like we do. He could have been violent, destructive, and focused on only his own immediate needs and wants. But he didn’t. He went to the Cross because God’s number one desire is to love, save, and redeem all of us. A Jesus-like life is hard. A Jesus-like life involves sacrifices. A Jesus-like life means always loving even in the face of evil. We keep loving because Jesus keeps loving us. And it’s that kind of love, service, and honoring of others that can truly change the world.

Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 13th Sunday After Pentecost, 9/3/2017.

My Mini-van is famous

Wegmans, the grocery store I fell in love with while living in Ithaca, is coming to the neighborhood. As a way of showing good will to the local community, they actively support local non-profits and food banks. I serve as the treasure of the Tri-Boro Food Pantry which services 100 families in Northern New Jersey. The store opens at the end of September but they have already sent us several donations. On August 24, Wegmans threw what they call a rodeo. As the first trucks arrive to stock a store, non-profits get to pick what they need from a truck. Five different non-profits converged on the new store. A photographer from The Record was there and got a picture of me smiling. We sent four mini-vans and SUVs to our small food pantry. Thank you Wegmans!

Pencil Pusher. From Pastor Marc – My Message for the Messenger, September 2017 Edition

When was the last time you used 60 #2 pencils? When was the last time you saw that many pencils in one place? Growing up, I longed to be the kid with the fancy mechanical pencil with the right kind of lead for the scantron tests. I didn’t want to use those yellow pencils ever again. And now that I’m older, I rarely write. Instead, I give my fingers a workout on a keyboard, and I keep my thumbs busy on the screen of my smartphone. I didn’t expect to spend a day this summer surrounded by those yellow pencils. But on the last day of Vacation Bible School the kids, volunteers and I were elbow-deep in those pencils I avoided. We were also knee-deep in glue sticks, crayons and two pocket folders. We spent the day packing 20 backpacks full of school supplies for students in need. The supplies we packed were graciously donated by the kids at VBS themselves and members of CLC. The 3 through 11 year olds that made up our VBS classes were packing backpacks for kids their age to actually use. The week the kids spent wasn’t only about trying to have fun with God. It wasn’t just an excuse to dress up as superheroes every day. They were there to learn how God makes them heroes, and they spent a day being the heroes God calls them to be. Being a hero isn’t only for those with super strength. Sometimes a hero means finding 60 #2 pencils and giving them to a kid who needs them.

This September is the start of a busy programming year at CLC. Our 2 worship Sundays kick-off is on September 17th. Confirmation classes, Sunday School and Youth Group will start up right after. Our committees and ministry teams are gearing up for an exciting year. And our interfaith and community partnerships are hitting the ground running. We’re going to spend the year finding new and exciting ways to be the body of Christ in Northern New Jersey. One of the gifts God gives us every day is the very faith that drives us to know that God’s love, mercy and hope are not abstract. These attributes of God are part of who we are. As we start a busy September, let’s see the different and unexpected ways God is calling us to make a difference in our church and in our community. Because being engaged with our neighbors is how we can be like Jesus who never stopped engaging with a world who desperately needs him.

See you in church!

Pastor Marc

A Living Sacrifice

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Romans 12:1-8

My sermon from the 12th Sunday after Pentecost (August 27, 2017) on Romans 12:1-8. Listen to the recording at the bottom of the page or read my manuscript below.

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I can’t imagine 46” of rain in just a few days. When it rains an inch here in New Jersey, my backyard starts to look like a pool. So if we had 46”, I’m sure my house would just float away. It’s hard to imagine that much rain falling from the sky but that was the forecast I saw yesterday morning as Hurricane Harvey stalled over the southeastern coast of Texas. When the Hurricane made landfall on Friday night, I watched online as a hurricane-chaser was broadcasting the storm coming ashore. I couldn’t actually see anything. It was too dark and too stormy. I could only see these white pixelated blobs, being blown around violently. The stormchaser narrated what he was experiencing which, as the hurricane eye came ashore, was only fear and terror. Even though they were surrounded by thick concrete blocks while taking shelter in the stall of an automated car wash, their car shook back and forth. Once the storm passed, these broadcasters posted pictures of the damage. Houses were blown apart, lakes now exist in what used to be farmer fields, and boats are inland, far from shore. Harvey has weakened into a tropical storm but its threat has skyrocketed. Cities and towns, including Houston, are flooding. They will receive as much rain in a few days as they get in a year. This morning, I saw reports that Houston received 20” of rain overnight and in only 3 hours, broke all their projected once-in-500 years rainfall amounts. People are in danger because not everyone evacuated. Some stayed because that’s what they were going to do. But others were stuck because of health issues, age, or immigration status. The storm is still there. The rain is still falling and falling and falling. It’s hard to even imagine what will happen next.

Now, those of us who lived in this area when Sandy hit, know what storms can do. It’s been years but youth groups from Lutheran churches across the country still come to New Jersey to rebuild and repair homes. These once-in-a-lifetime kind of storms now seem to happen every few years. And the damage they cause can’t be fixed overnight. Once the homes are repaired, the rebuilding of people’s lives begins. And many will never have the kind of life they used to because these kinds of moments, these kinds of storms, change everything. Storms like Harvey, where forecasters don’t even have enough colors in their map legends to show just how much rain will actually fall, disrupt lives, change the physical landscape, and leave lasting wounds on the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of everyone who lives through it. The damage from storms like Harvey lingers. Time can’t make this new reality fade away. Instead, the world and our lives become different when we experience a storm like Harvey, or Sandy, or experience a personal hardship that we know we will never get over. Instead, we keep on living because that’s all we can do.

But what does living look like? Paul, in our reading from Romans today, calls us to be a living sacrifice which is a weird phrase to begin with. We mostly think of sacrifices as something we give up or it’s some kind of mental exercise that stays in our head and remains abstract. But in Paul’s day, sacrifices were an everyday reality. Rome was a city full of temples dedicated to various gods who needed real sacrifices. Cows, goats, birds, vegetables, and all sorts of living, breathing, things were regularly killed, burnt up, and sprinkled on altars everywhere. Sacrifices were not abstract to Paul, because he could walk out his front door and see an animal being offered to a god. A sacrifice in Paul’s day meant that a very real thing had to die. This kind of sacrifice asked a god to do something for you or for the nation. Some gods demanded a regular sacrifice as a way of maintaining this human and divine relationship while other sacrifices were one time deals, like buying a lotto ticket and hoping for the best. Sacrifices were also something even God accepted and encouraged at the temple in Jerusalem. People in Paul’s day knew what sacrifices were and what they meant. Something had to die so that others could live. The thing be sacrificed didn’t actually benefit from what happened because it didn’t keep on living. But it was hoped this sacrifice would make a difference for others.
So Paul, writing to these Romans who understood sacrifices and who, as I shared at the start of this journey through Romans weeks ago, were trying to figure out what they needed to do to master their passions and feelings and become the best Romans they could possibly be, Paul knows that these Romans want to know what a Christian life looks like. And he tells them to live a life for others and be that living sacrifice that makes a difference for others instead of themselves. “A living sacrifice” is a ridiculous phrase that doesn’t make any sense but it’s a phrase that shows us what living with Jesus actually looks like. This is Paul taking Jesus’ “love your neighbor as yourself” and fleshing it out. Our relationship with God isn’t just about the big G and me. It’s about you and I and the person sitting next to us being for everyone else. Love, as Paul and Jesus both knew, isn’t just an emotion. Love is a life lived for others.

And that kind of love is…hard. It isn’t easy. And it’s the kind of love that doesn’t always know what to do when we see our friends, neighbors, or even strangers suffering. When we watch as storms uproot and change people’s lives forever, it’s easy to be overwhelmed because we don’t always know exactly what others need. When we ourselves are undergoing our own storms, this call to live for others becomes almost impossible because we are barely keeping our own heads above water. When we can’t help, we need others to step in and when they need help, we need to take a hard step, a difficult step, a step that might cost us something very real and get involved. It’s not easy, as an individual, to be a living sacrifice but Jesus doesn’t ask us to live this Christian life alone because being a Christian isn’t something we can do alone. Storms happen. Floods come. And even if we discover how to turn back climate change, there is still going to be some natural or man-made disaster or war or personal tragedy that is going to make this life hard. We need each other and Paul knows we do because the “you” in this passage isn’t singular. It’s plural. It’s about…all of us…right now. When we were baptized, we were drafted onto Jesus’ team. We were connected with a savior who knew what humans can do, who faced the evil we do to each other, and still went straight to the cross for all of us. We are united with those followers of Jesus in all times and in all places who just lived…and loved..and made a difference even when their hope was just a flicker that only a few people could see. We get to be a living sacrifice because Jesus was, and is, a living sacrifice for us. And we are connected to a community of individuals called to live for each other, no matter what. Our Christian life needs others and is lived most fully when we are in a community because it’s by being in a community that we can get through the storm.

Amen.

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