Sermon: A New Think

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Matthew 20:1-16

My sermon from the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost (September 24, 2023) on Matthew 20:1-16.

A couple weeks ago, a trend on TikTok had people asking their husbands and boyfriends how often they think about the Roman Empire. On one level, it’s sort of a weird question since the Roman Empire, especially the part centered on the city of Rome itself, collapsed over 1500 years ago. Yet what was striking was how often, without hesitation, people admitted they thought about the Roman Empire every day. That doesn’t, necessarily, mean they’re obsessed with it since most of us probably think about the things we’re interested in quite often. But it does mean that among the people around you, at least one would love it if you asked them what SPQR actually means. This fascination with the Roman Empire tends to skew male since so much of the Roman story was shaped by a male lens. This allows, in the words of Mike Duncan, a man who turned his thinking about Rome into a successful podcast – men to do a lot of historical fantasizing since “we can see men who were poor, men who were middle-aged, men who were smart, men who were dumb, men who were emperors. Every available option is” open to them. The Roman story, though, is much bigger since it shaped our culture and our practice as the church in very tangible ways. Taking the time to ponder, wonder, and sit with something we find really interesting is a very human thing to do. And today’s parable from the gospel according to Matthew is Jesus’ way, I think, of inviting us to purposefully spend a bit of every day thinking about a specific characteristic of our God. 

This parable, in some ways, is a continuation of what we heard last week. Jesus told a story about the kingdom of God being like a generous king who showcased what forgiveness is supposed to do. Today’s story, which Jesus shared immediately after, described the kingdom of God as if it included a generous employer whose hiring practices were a bit bizarre. The employer arrived at the local market at the break of day, looking for day laborers. He found some who, after agreeing to the typical daily wage, were then sent into the vineyard. A few hours later, he came back and, for some reason, hired a few more. It’s possible these new folks had been initially passed over because they were too small or too ill to properly tend to the vineyard. But it’s also possible they arrived late after dropping their kids off at the ancient Israeli equivalent of daycare. Either way, they were chosen while others were left to wait in the marketplace. Many, though, didn’t have to wait very long because at 12 noon, 3 pm, and 5 pm, he came back to hire even more. We find ourselves in a strange situation where people who did very little were promised to receive the same as everyone else. Now the employer could have hidden what he was doing, by paying those who started the day first and sending them out before he paid everyone else. But instead, he called everyone together and paid those who started late, first. Those who worked all day, when they saw what the others were paid, assumed they would receive more. Yet when they looked at the coins placed in their hands, they saw the equal wage they were paid. This was, without a doubt, completely unfair which is why they, rightfully, complained. It felt as if they were being pushed aside and undervalued. As they simmered in anger, frustration, and a bit of confusion, I get a sense that a rage against those who they imagined had done less began to grow. In protest, those who had worked since dawn, pointed to all the things they had done. They mentioned their hard work, the length of their service, and all their personal qualities related to their time in  the vineyard. They identified what they, and we, believe they deserved. And, in response, their employer looked at them and said “tough.” He doesn’t invalidate their feelings nor does he say that their complaints aren’t true. Rather, he invites them to think about things differently by noticing one of his inherent qualities. He was free to reward others as he saw fit. And so what they received was not based on their hard work, their abilities, or even in their sense of fairness or equality. What mattered most was that the employer had a holy generosity that shaped everything that the employer chose to do. 

Generosity is easy to talk about but difficult to put into practice because it has to be willing to risk, and trust that there is always enough. We know, from our own lives, how hard that can be since an illness, an injury, a loss of employment, or a lack of opportunities can wipe away what we can place on our table. And we also live in communities and in a world with social media, tv, radio, newspapers, books, and all kinds of tools that show, and tell us, all about those who we think don’t deserve what they receive. The reasons we have for these kinds of thoughts are, we imagine, are always truthful, honest, and incredibly fair. Yet I wonder if at the heart of all those thoughts is a deep rooted sense of scarcity that believes, more than anything, that there’s only so much that can go around. Any generosity we offer, then, must be small, self-contained, and limited by the qualities of those who receive whatever we choose to give. And while we should be the proper stewards of every gift God gives, we often pretend that this scarcity is really a wisdom that ends up limiting how free we choose to be. We let the voices around and in us act as if the voice of God proclaimed that there never is, nor ever will be, enough for our lives, our world, and our souls. Yet the God who, in baptism and in faith generosity claimed as God’s own, constantly shows us how this isn’t true. It isn’t our goodness, our faithfulness, our success, our good looks, or whatever our culture uses to define who is worthy and who isn’t – that brings us into the body of Christ. It is, instead, God’s free and generous gift that knew the church couldn’t be what it’s supposed to be with you as a part of it.  There’s something pretty awesome about knowing how far God will go, even to death on the Cross, to show much we belong. But if we’re not too careful, we can act as if this free gift is a limited gift that’s for us alone. It should, though, instill within us a sense of awe, responsibility, and even a little fear that the God who could include anyone decided that, in Christ, we – as we are – are part of what God is up to. This is one aspect of answering the call Jesus has already placed on our lives. And it in, and through him, we are invited to think differently about ourselves and our world. Rather than letting scarcity be what primarily defines us, we get to wonder what it would mean to let the generosity displayed in this parable be at the heart of who we are. What if, every day, instead of reflecting on the Roman Empire or whatever else we’re interested in – we chose to make God’s generosity one of our daily thoughts too? It would, I think, help us get better at recognizing our greatest needs while, at the same time, showing how generous we can be. By shifting our thinking towards God’s radical, inclusive, and over-the-top generosity, we might untangle that sense of the scarcity that has warped what generosity can be about.  And I can’t wait to see how our thoughts can, with Jesus’ help, make God’s free, holy, and unimaginable generosity become the primary characteristic of who we get to be. 


Sermon: Spiritual Baseball Cards

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Matthew 18:21-35

My sermon from the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (September 17, 2023) on Matthew 18:21-35.

So something I don’t know much about is whether professional athletes – or their agents – get to choose the picture used on their trading card? I would think, on some level, that they’d want the chance to select a photo showcasing their strength, confidence, and athleticism. An action shot showing a diving catch, an incredible dunk, or an unbelievable kick, combined with an intense emotional stare, would be the shot every athlete would pick. But if they don’t choose, then their card might look like it belongs in the 1973 edition of Topps baseball cards. Most of those cards are pretty basic, with the ballplayer either holding a bat, fielding a ball, or posing as if they’re taking a photo for their driver’s license. Yet there are other cards which are a little different. Steve Garvey, 3rd baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers, was photographed strolling down the baseline towards home plate. However, standing in front of him was another Dodgers player whose backside practically hid Steve Garvey from view. Willie Davis, who also played for the Dodgers, was immortalized for all time on his card with a photo of him in shock after nearing being hit by the ball. Ellie Rodriguez, catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers, wasn’t even on his card, replaced by the butt of an umpire and the catcher for the Minnesota Twins. All of these athletes probably had a million other athletic snapshots they wish were highlighted on their baseball cards instead. But what they got was that one moment when they were anything but their best. 

Today’s parable – the short story we just heard Jesus tell – pictures someone who also wasn’t at their best. It began in a very Jesus-y way by telling us what the parable is about. It’s not merely meant to be a description of God’s reign in heaven. Instead, it’s about what life is supposed to be like when God shows up. We meet a king – a ruler with incredible power – who enslaved a number of people. At some point in the past, he gave a few of them an unknown task that involved the handing, or creation, of a lot of money. The king brought the entire community together and decided, in a very public way, to go over everyone’s books. The first enslaved person we hear about is one who managed to create a financial obligation of almost unimaginable size. We don’t need to know how much a talent was actually worth since Jesus simply took the largest named numerical value in his world, aka 10,000, and attached to it the largest monetary value as well. If Jesus was telling this story today, he’d probably use a similar number in the range of $10 trillion dollars – or higher. The king chose to empower someone with no social power – to generate a debt that, in reality, could never be paid back. Even though the king knew this, he ordered the slave to be imprisoned and his family sold. Desperate, the enslaved person made a promise – saying they would find some way to pay it back. The king, after listening to this promise they also knew would never be fulfilled, then did something that none of the people listening to Jesus’ story – the enslaved, the tenant farmers, those who lived with immense debt, and those who could make other indebted to them – something none of them had ever experienced. The king forgave it and canceled the entire debt. 

Now if Jesus’ story had ended there, we’d have a short parable that could easily fit on anyone’s spiritual baseball card. The picture on the front for the king would be filled with grace and the newly forgiven slave would be shown having this immense emotional, spiritual, and financial weight lifted from their shoulders. Jesus’ parable could then be defined as a feel-good story about paying attention to the kind of forgiveness we receive from God. The story, though, continued and we saw the one who was forgiven refuse to offer that same forgiveness to others. Before the gathered community, he grabbed the debtor by the neck and threw him into prison. That behavior is pretty shocking though we, in our own ways, have experienced that or done the same thing to others. It’s not difficult for us to blame the newly forgiven for their behavior yet those who heard Jesus tell this story also recognized within it the environment that shaped that enslaved person’s action. In the greco-roman-near-eastern culture that surrounded them, creating specific obligations between people was how relationships were defined. Those with power – and those who society said had none – were constantly negotiating with each other the opportunities and privileges that would enable them to survive. Being in-debt and or having the options to make folks indebted to them was often how people formed the kinds of social bonds keeping their community together. It was more than simply scratching the back that scratches yours since it determined who you talked to, hung out with, where you worked, and who you married. When the newly forgiven had their debt wiped away, they probably felt as if they had now had a new obligation to fulfill with their king. He, after all, still owned him and had the power to upend his life. Everyone, including those listening to the story, assumed that the normal social contract was still intact even though the irony of the forgiven not forgiving was obvious to see. When the king learned what happened, he was furious and invited everyone to discover just how unbelievable the forgiveness he offered truly was. The king didn’t just simply cancel their debt; he also shifted the obligation that defined their relationship. The practice of forgiveness didn’t just change the enslaved person’s life; it was also meant to change the community’s life too. In the words of Richard Lischer, this parable “is not merely a story of God’s forgiveness wasted, or a tale of human fallibility, but” an illustration of what happens within communities where forgiveness isn’t found. “When we refuse, [within the Christian community], to forgive we cancel the [very] identity of God.” Forgiveness isn’t merely something we do; forgiveness is what happens when God’s kingdom comes near. 

Now forgiveness, itself, is complicated since the forgiveness we need and the forgiveness we offer is always going to be very specific. Yet within Jesus’ story we glimpse a vision of what this forgiveness is supposed to do. Forgiveness isn’t forgetting nor is forgiveness primarily the responsibility of the victim rather than the one who did harm. Forgiveness isn’t about returning to how things were but, instead, makes us free by breaking what binds us and others. Forgiveness is gracious, transforming and making holy the ways we relate, listen, and live with each other. Forgiveness empowers us to take full responsibility, in a very public way, of the harm we cause others. And forgiveness refuses to keep score because, through Christ, it knows we’ve already won. If what we’re asking for or offering to others doesn’t free them or help them or repair the harm that’s impacted their lives, then what we’re giving isn’t forgiveness at all. Forgiveness helps us – and others – thrive – and is supposed to be front and center on our spiritual baseball card. If we could choose the picture on the front of that card, we’d probably pick something showing us offering forgiveness, love, or grace. But what we’d actually get would probably be a picture of when our choices, behaviors, points of view, actions, and inactions – showed how we needed forgiveness in the first place. It wouldn’t be the kind of set we’d spend money to collect but it would be one that’s truly honest because it would reveal why we’d need Jesus on the front of that card too. We often struggle practicing forgiveness since we refuse to truly admit the harm we cause, often acting as if our intentions matter more than the impact of our actions. We, like the enslaved man, quickly forget what forgiveness feels like. Yet we, through baptism and faith, have already been wrapped up in a forgiveness that doesn’t end. It’s through God and in Christ where we discover a grace that is not defined by our obligations but by an abundance that focuses us on our Lord and on our neighbors. It’s never too late for us to own the harm we cause, repair the relationships we’ve shattered, and lean into the limitless love that has a hold on us. We can, when it’s safe and holy and sure, learn how to forgive because our God is already head. 


Children’s Message: Debt and Credits

Delivered on September 17, 2023.

bring coins

So it’s my tradition after the prayer of the day to bring a message to all of God’s children. And today I have with me a few coins. I have a quarter, a dime, a nickel, and some pennies. We use money – usually plastic money rather than physical money – to pay for things and the work people do. For example, if I wanted to buy a pack of pokemon cards in person, I’d need to go to the store – pick a pack – have the store tell me how much that costs – and give them the amount of coins or dollar bills for me to walk out the door with it. We’ve decided that money has value – and we can exchange that value for something else of value too. But what happens if we don’t have enough money for what we want?

We don’t get it. Or we borrow money to buy it.

Right. We can borrow money – telling a company or a bank or a friend or our parents that, we promise, to pay back, eventually, what we owe. If I’m explaining this correctly, when we borrow money – we take on what is called a “debt.” We’ll get the pokemon cards but we’ll owe money to someone else. And that other person or bank or whatever will often charge us “interest.” They want to make a little money from us by giving the money first hand. So sometimes we take on debts – believing and trusting or knowing we can pay that debt off in the future. Every person and family has different debts they can safely hold and, sometimes, debt becomes a problem based on things we can and can’t control. Knowing our debts – and how having a debt impacts our thoughts, feelings, and life – are important. And the language of debts – and situations about debts – show up in our Bible all the time.

Jesus will, in a few minutes, share a story about debts. He’ll talk about the story of someone who owed someone else 10,000 talents which is a lot of money. But this person couldn’t pay it back. They were going to be punished for it – but begged for another chance. Instead of being given more time to pay it back – or lessening the amount or anything of the sort – Jesus talks about this person having their debt forgiven. What do you think it means for a debt to be forgiven? Accept.

In this story, the debt is wiped away. It’s now 0 and the person no longer has to pay it back. Imagine having a debt for the pokemon cards and always just having to worry about it. But now…you wouldn’t. The debt is gone so you can live and act as if it no longer exists. That kind of forgiveness is freeing. It enables us to do things we might not be able to do. And Jesus, in the story, invites us to practice that kind of forgiveness. Part of what we do as followers of Jesus is to live as if forgiveness is real. It’s something we experience and something we offer to others. Forgiveness, though, is really difficult because it can involve more than just money. Our feelings or our bodies or our emotional health might have been impacted by the behaviors of others or we might have done something, said something, that hurt someone else too. Forgiving someone in those cases might not be something we can, or want, or should do since it might ask us to forget or act as if something that harmed us never did. Forgiveness is hard and complicated work – but if we pay attention to what forgiveness does in the story Jesus shared – we can see what forgiveness should do. It should be difficult, costly, but also freeing – something that, if we can, we offer to others. It’s about letting ourselves and others live freely – but not to simply just do or get what we want. But rather, a forgiveness that recognizes how we all need forgiveness because we are not perfect yet we receive that forgiveness from our God who wants to free us from our hurts and how we hurt each other so we can love, care, and support one another just like God does with us – everyday.

Sermon: Live Out the Meal

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

Exodus 12:1-14

My sermon from the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (September 10, 2023) on Exodus 12:1-14.

A couple of weeks ago, after I put my kids to bed, I took a seat in my gray easy chair, opened up my laptop, and got ready to learn about Bloodborne Pathogens. The Fall sports season was about to begin and my town’s rec leagues, like every other volunteer based organizations, needed a little help. I know that most of us are too busy, too stretched, and too tired to do all the things that need to be done. And while we do our best to set our priorities, it doesn’t take much for everything to fall apart. It’s tricky to know how, and in what way, we can contribute in the communities we are called to live in. But I figured taking a few required training courses, including one about blood, is how I can contribute on the Cross Country field this year. And I noticed, while reflecting on our first reading from the book of Exodus, how contributing and participating in the community is within God’s words about a sacred meal.

Now a lot has happened since last week when we heard about Moses meeting God on a mountain top. After fleeing the land of Egypt after spilling the blood of an Egyptian who had brutalized an enslaved Israelite, Moses built a new life for himself in the land of Midian. He married into the family of a local religious leader, started a family, and took on the task of managing his father-in-law’s sheep. One day, nearly a generation after he left Egypt, he led the sheep to the base of Mt. Sinai. While there, his curiosity drew him to notice a burning bush that didn’t burn up. God, who was in the bush, told Moses it was time for him to return to Egypt and let Moses’ kin know God had heard their cries. The attempt by the Egyptians to distort their own history and exploit the lives of others was coming to an end. Moses went back to Egypt, bringing a word of promise to the Israelites and a word of warning to the Pharaoh. But the Pharaoh refused to listen so God created the first plague, transforming the water in the Nile River to blood. That, though, merely made the Pharaoh more stubborn so God sent 9 more plagues into the land. In quick succession, frogs, gnats, and flies covered the land. All the livestock was struck by a deadly disease and boils appeared on everyone’s skin. A massive storm pummeled every city while locusts devoured every green thing to its root. God then covered the land with a deep darkness that, on-top of everything else, should have convinced the Pharaoh to simply give up. Yet the king of the Egyptians refused to be moved so God promised that a final plague was on its way. Every one of the plagues was, in its own way, a response to what the Isrealites had experienced. The Pharaoh had used them to build the Egyptians economy so God took all of that away. The last plague, though, would mimic the original command that caused Moses to be placed floating in a basket after he was born. The Egyptians used violence and death as a way to tear apart the Israelite’s community. God in response, was going to do the same to them. Now we’d expect after all this excitement and tension and drama within the story, that the words immediately following God’s promise would show exactly what God was doing to do. But before the one final plagues comes, everything is interrupted by God’s description of a meal.

The meal, appearing at this moment in the story, feels a bit out of place since it doesn’t feel big enough to commemorate what’s about to take place. The food God told them to eat is pretty simple and everyone must dress as if they’re about to rush out the front door. The main course, the lamb or goat, is singled out for a ritual where its blood is brushed onto the outside of the door frame so that anyone coming by would notice who is gathered there. The blood acts as a kind of marker even though I’d expect the creator of the universe to know who’s already inside the home. Up to this point in the story, none of the plagues required the Israelites to do anything to make them happen. Yet here, before this climactic moment, God gives the community something to do. It’s almost, I think, as if God told the people that in the midst of everything – they could still contribute something to their world too. Much of what the Pharaoh and Egyptians had tried to do was to isolate, oppress, and diminish who the Isrealites got to be. And so, in response, God gave them a meal which could show who they would be instead. The meal, like all meals, begins with the people around the table. God wanted these tablemates to be connected but still diverse, welcoming, and suppurative. Their connection to each other invited them into the difficult work of truly knowing who their neighbors were. And, in that process, being very honest about their own abundance or lack there-of. Everyone had a place at the table and God wanted them to participate in making it happen. And it’s only after the table is set when food is finally served. The meal is simple yet points to the complexities and variety of life. The blood on the door mimics the blood in our bodies, an animating force that doesn’t serve as some kind of insurance against the wrath that’s about to come. It is, instead, a proclamation that the community gathered around God’s table will be defined, shaped, and rooted in something other than all the blood the Pharaoh tried to spill. They will have a future, a new life, shaped, formed, and nurtured by the One who had already claimed them as God’s own.

And one way this shaping takes place is through a meal. It’s there where God’s passover took shape, showing what life with God might look like. It’s around a table where God passed over and upended the contributions we make to the world that take life rather than animates it. It’s while wearing garments rooted in our complicated story where God passed over our attempts to forget or distort our history by choosing to highlight a few privileged voices at the expense of others. It’s over a few simple foods where God passed over our lack of curiosity to invite us deeper into God’s vision for our world. And it’s through God’s ongoing work that our love of power, control, and violence was passed over for something more. As Christians, engaging with the story of Passover isn’t easy since it’s not as foundational to our own story as it is to our Jewish friends and neighbors. Yet within our faith is another powerful simple meal that shapes us too. In that meal, the promises declared to us in baptism and faith are lived out in the ways we love and mutually support one another. In the meal of Holy Communion, we discover who God knows we can be. God’s vision and Jesus’ presence among us is what, as disciples, animates what we say, think, and do. And when we eat around the Lord’s table, we become something more too. It’s these sacred meals that show us who we can be and how, through simple acts, we can contribute to the vision God is making real all around us. And while that’s often hard to see, it’s through our honesty, empathy, and doing what we can to prioritize God’s way rather than our own, that we discover how different things can be.


Children’s Message: God is present in the frustrations. Blessing of Backpacks.

Delivered on September 10, 2023.

*bring lots of copies of the same coloring sheet*

So it’s my tradition after the prayer of the day to bring a message to all of God’s children. And today I have a stack of coloring sheets. They’re kind of neat – and something you can color during the sermon. So if we got a copy of this – we might feel it’s pretty neat, especially if we like the characters on it. So getting one copy of it is cool. But what if, after you finish coloring that sheet, I gave you another one? Still neat – but maybe not as fun. And then – after you finished that one, I gave you another one – the exact same thing. How many coloring sheets would I need to give you before you started to feel a bit bored or tired or wondering why you’re doing it? 2 or 3 or 5. At some point, even this fun thing can feel very routine or not exciting.

Now I know school started – and school can be fun and exciting and terrifying. What kind of feelings did you have on your first day? Accept answers. I remember feeling excited because I’d get to meet new teachers, see my friends, make new ones, and get excited about learning. But then the homework would start. And the lessons that, while exciting, started to feel routine. Sometimes knowing that we’re going to do similar kinds of things at similar parts of the day is pretty helpful – especially if we need that kind of structure to do our best. But at some point – the excitement starts to fade. It might take a day or a week or a month but there are times when school feels like a bit of a drudge. And it’s totally okay if, at some points in the school year, it starts to feel like that. It’s completely normal and natural for that to happen. In fact – and here’s a secret – even parents and teachers and aids and administrators feel like that sometimes to. The teachers have to plan and prep for all the lessons they’re going to be teaching you. The aids have to help too. The administrators have lots of paperwork to do and happen to deal with teachers, parents, and all the not-fun part of education that is necessary to make things run as smoothly as possible. And then parents have lots of schedules to keep track of, lunches to pack, school supplies to buy, and more. Some days are exciting and energetic and we can’t wait for what the day might bring. But other days aren’t as exciting. We just feel we’ve got to get through them.

And on days like those, I like to remember that we’re not going through those days alone. Jesus is with us on exciting days and scary days and on those boring days too. Jesus knows what it’s like to have all those kinds of days and I’m pretty sure Jesus felt a lot of the same emotions you feel too. Jesus got scared and nervous. He laughed and cried. And I’m pretty sure there were a lot of times when, especially when his friends didn’t seem to understand the lesson he was trying to teach, I’m pretty sure Jesus got a little frustrated that he needed to come up with a new lesson plan to try and make it stick. Jesus knows that life isn’t always exciting and new. In fact, most of life doesn’t feel like that. Instead – there are things we get to do and Jesus makes sure we have the grace, the energy, and the community – the church – to help carry us through. That means, when you wake up and you can’t wait to go to school, Jesus is with you – cheering you on. And when you wake up and don’t want to go to school, Jesus is still with you – totally feeling what you feel – but also gently getting you out the door to embrace your vocation as a student or a teacher or an aide or an administrator. Your feelings are totally valid and you get to feel all you feel. Yet you’ve also been given an opportunity to learn, to grow, to teach, to lead, to support, and to love. Being in school right now is hard. Jesus gets that, Jesus sees that, and Jesus will help you through it all.

So I’ve given these before but I figured they might be helpful now too. During the routine of the school year, I hope you remember that you are not alone. I pray that you realize you are a gift to the world and that we, together, can help each other thrive. So we get to be loved cuz you are loved. We get to be kind – to support each other. And you get to be you because the world, and Jesus’s body and the church can’t be what it’s supposed to be without you. The days might not always be exciting, especially when the work just seems like it’s just one thing after the other, but you have all the skills you need be the student God knows you can be.

So let’s bless one another for this upcoming school year.

Let us pray. O God, today we gather to celebrate the beginning of a new school year. It is a time filled with joy and excitement as well as uncertainty and wonder. You are the giver of all knowledge and wisdom and ask for all centers of learning be safe, lively, and fully of the joy, peace, and welcome so all can focus on the pursuit of education and the betterment of ourselves.

Bless students as they enter new settings, meet new people, and learn new ideas. Give them open minds and open hearts to learn and to experience more fully the majesty of the world You have created. Strengthen them as they learn and grow this year. Show them how to serve you best by studying hard, and by discovering and using the gifts you have given them. Fill them with the joy of learning and uplift each of them with your grace and love. Enable them to grow in knowledge and wisdom during this school year and all the days of their lives.

Bless teachers, aides, and all those who stand alongside our students as they work diligently using the skills and abilities you have given them. Whatever their task or duty, guide them to do it in love and faithfulness to you, knowing that even the most ordinary task becomes extraordinary when done in your name. Give them calm strength and patient wisdom as they help, teach, support, protect, guide and encourage all through this road of education. Grant them joy as they lay the foundation of hope for all learners.

Bless support staff, administrators, and all whose work often goes unseen. Remind them that Your work also often goes unseen and yet serves as the foundation that the rest of life is built on. Give them calm strength, patient wisdom, and boundless grace as they hold together every center of living through their dedication and work.

May this year be safe, full of promise, work, and fun. We ask all this in the name of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Hand out tags.

Sermon: Be Curious

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.” But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.

Exodus 3:1-15

My sermon from the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (September 3, 2023) on Exodus 3:1:15


Robert Altar is a professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley and he published a complete translation of the Hebrew Bible in 2018. Translations made by one person can be a bit problematic since their conscious and unconscious biases often show up in the work. Yet they also have the opportunity to notice how different themes and ideas are engaged with by the different books within the Bible. Professor Altar, after translating the sections devoted to Moses’s story, noticed something specific that the Biblical authors were paying attention to. He wrote: “the general rule in Exodus, and again in Numbers when the story continues, is that what is of interest about the character of Moses is what bears on his qualities as a leader – his impassioned sense of justice, his easily ignited temper, his selfless compassion, his feelings of personal inadequacy. Alone among biblical characters, he is assigned an oddly generic epithet – the man Moses. There may be some theological motivate for this designation, in order to remind us of his plainly human status, to ward off any inclination to deify the founding leader of the Israelite people, but it also suggests more concretely that Moses as forger of the nation and prince of prophets is, after all, not an absolutely unique figure but a [person]… bringing to the soul-trying tasks of leadership both the moral and temperamental resources and the all-too-human weaknesses that many … may possess.” Moses was more than an almost superhuman figure living through a biblical story full of blockbuster special effects. Moses was also a person with gifts, abilities, and experiences that shaped who he was. After being rescued from genocide by the midwives Shiphrah and Puah, Moses was raised as an Egyptian in the home of the the Pharoah’s daughter. He grew up, fully aware of his background and his current privilege. When he came upon an Egyptian brutalizing an Isrealite, Moses killed the Egyptian and then fled into the land of Midian located in the north-west corner of the Arabian Peninsula. While there, he made a new life for himself by marrying into the family of a local religious leader and took on the job of managing his father-in-law’s sheep. He lived there for the next forty years, never forgetting the complex identities that made up his story. One day, when the old grazing spots weren’t quite what they used to be, he led the sheep into someplace new where, on a mountain, a bush on fire refused to be burned up.

Now this moment in Moses’s story has, for centuries, sparked out imagination. Art depicting this scene usually has a large bush surrounded by different shadows, light, and color meant to inspire in us an overwhelming sense of God’s power and might. This is one of the many blockbuster special effects moments within Moses’s story so we imagined it had to be a bit over-the-top. Yet the details within this story invite us to imagine it in a slightly different way. The word we translate as bush is an ancient Hebrew word that is rarely used anywhere else in the text. In fact, it’s a word often applied to the plants that sort of fade into the background that we tend to not notice at all. God, the creator of the universe who will part the Red Sea, fill the Nile with blood, and cover Egypt with a bazillion frogs, chose to show up in a plant most of us wouldn’t even notice. Even a little fire wouldn’t get us to raise an eyebrow since we expect, and hope, for a God who does big things. And yet God appearing in the thing we often overlook also feels like the most God-like thing God can do. God’s work in this world can sometimes be over-the-top, making a splash that changes all our lives. But God is also deeply invested in the little things we do with each other that end up being the most important things after all. Forgiveness, mercy, an act of patience, a listening ear, and a little thing that says we care might not seem important on the outside but is vital for us to truly know we’re not alone. God, then, showing up in what we would first overlook feels a bit too on-the-nose when it comes to pointing out one of our very human character flaws. But if “not noticing” is part of who we are – what character trait did Moses have that made him do something different?

Long ago, a few rabbis noticed that our Bible doesn’t actually tell us when the bush started burning. It could have been lit up right as Moses looked at it or maybe it burned in the days, weeks, or months before he came near. We could, I think, stretch our spiritual imagination to wonder if this bush had been burning since the earth was made – a visible manifestation of the presence of God that everyone had the opportunity to see. Yet it took generations before someone walking by finally noticed it. That is, I think, one of the character traits that helped Moses be who God wanted him to be. Moses was deeply curious, able to notice what others didn’t. This curiosity was more than simply a willingness to ask questions; it enabled Moses to live in a state of constant wonder. The curiosity he held – a curiosity we all can truly have – is simply a trust that this moment isn’t the limit of what all our moments might be. Curiosity never forgets its history nor does it assume our story is the default story meant for all. Curiosity takes seriously our faults, our failures, and our relationships while embracing every single one of our joys. Curiosity knows we are not meant to be experts about everything, nor do we need to always have everything figured out. Instead, curiosity is a gift that opens us to the fullness of God. When we’re curious, words and phrases like “tell me more?” and “what do you mean?” and “your story is important for me to hear” fill the dozens of small interactions we have everyday with a sense of love and hope. Curiosity is always supposed to be a verb that shows how we, and others, are never alone. Being curious, asking questions, and knowing there’s always an opportunity for more is one of the most courageous things we can embrace since it trusts we aren’t finished growing into who God knows we can be.

I wonder, then, if noticing Moses’ curiosity can invite us to grow our own. When we take the entirety of his story seriously, we notice how Moses’ curiosity never let the status quo be the limit of what his story might be. His history, his experiences, and his journey with God helped open him to the God who was already around him. Moses was very aware of how his own struggles, character flaws, and imperfections might get in the way of all that God wanted him to do. Yet God knows that a life of faith is less about knowing everything and is all about trusting how we are already fully known. In our quest to be curious, the questions we ask shouldn’t be about trying to get the other person to agree with what we’ve already come up with. Rather they expand who we – and they – get to be. The gift of curiosity never lets us limit who God might be since God lived curiosity out loud by doing the very curious thing of living a very human story. It was this God of Moses who chose to grow, to experience change, to live, to die, and to rise while helping all of us notice what’s already around us. God embraced curiosity since curiosity trusts that there’s always more to come. And if God can be curious, then the least we can do is be as curious with ourselves, our families, our neighbors, and our world, too.


Children’s Message: Different Images from the Bible for God (i.e. God as a pronoun)

So it’s my tradition, after the prayer of the day, to bring a message to all God’s children and I have a hymnal supplement. In 2006, our denomination came out with a new hymnal to replace the one that came out in the late 1970s. Stuff from this hymnal is what we reprint in our bulletin every Sunday – but that hymnal, the ELW, is 17 years old at this point. So last year, our denomination put out a supplement – named All Creation Sings – with new songs, new resources, and new orders for worship that we can try. Sometimes we use these new songs in our liturgy during communion and I’ll explore using them more in the coming months. Yet one thing I find really neat about these hymnals – and the supplement – is the special resources at the end of the book. For example, there’s a list in the ELW where a lot of our language for worship comes from and in All Creation Sings is a list of all different images for God. When the Bible talks about God – describes God – imagines God – compares God to things in the world – there’s a list of all that God is described as. 

So let’s try that. Let’s imagine God. God is…God and our words can’t fully describe who God is. We have to use metaphors or descriptions to say who God is like. So who do you think God is like?

Go through the list. Examples include as a mother, as a man, as feet, as a bear, as a hen, and more. So many images!

You might notice that I tend to say “God” all the time – rather than use pronouns like he or she or they. And that’s because of a list like this. God is described in a lot of different ways that transfers what our words can do. Even the words in the Bible, while sacred, are still our words – so they are a little limited. So I just use God – and imagine that God represents all the things listed in scripture. God invites us to imagine God in all different kinds of ways – and when we want to know who and what God is like – we pay attention to Jesus because he shows us who God is, what love looks like, and how we have the power and responsibility to love like he does too. 

Children’s Message: The Responsibility of the Keys

*Bring your car keys

So it’s my tradition, after the prayer of the day, to bring a message to all God’s children and I have something with me that I carry often in my pocket. It’s my keys. Let’s go through what is on my keys. I have a bunch of little pieces of plastic for the various reward programs that stores I attend have. They give me a special coupon if I give them permission to track everything that I buy. I have a library card, ikea card, shop rite, stop shop, and even a card for A&P grocery store which closed in 2015. I probably should throw that card out. 

I also have keys for my home and keys for here at the church – like my office, the altar guild room, and the front doors in the sanctuary. And then I have these two keys – keys for my cars. Keys, for cars, are changing so these are a bit old skool. They have little buttons that will unlock doors but also this key that you insert into a door or into the engine to turn it on. You might see different kinds of keys, called FOBs, that allow you to turn your car on as long as you have it on you or in your car. So that shows you what a key does: it helps us enter the car, turn it on, and go. 

Now we live in an area where having a car is sort of essential. It’s very difficult to walk to places since we don’t have sidewalks, homes are far apart, and we sometimes need to travel miles to go to school, to fields for sports, to work, and more. Not everyone lives like we do so not everyone needs, wants, or even uses a car. But thinking about what car keys do helps us lean into the story about Jesus we’re going to hear in our second reading from the Bible. Jesus and his friends are traveling around, preaching, teaching, and healing when they near the city of “Caesarea Philippi.” Caesarea Philippi was a newish city that was a very important city – and was named after the Roman Emperor whose title was “Caesar.” The city was full of soldiers, a market place, important government officials, and a lot of different religious buildings that were designed for people who didn’t believe in God. And among those buildings and statues that people thought described the different beings who controlled the universe, influenced lives, etc – was a statue dedicated to an old Roman emperor. Folks were acting and believing and treating as if even the Roman Emperor was someone with power like God or Jesus. It’s there, in sight of those buildings and the Roman military and all these things that said something other than God was in charge of it all – that Jesus asked his friends a question: who do people think I am? The disciples shared what people thought Jesus was. And then Jesus asked “who do you think I am?” and Peter said the Messiah which is a word we don’t use too often but is all about the One who makes God’s love real in our world. Jesus agrees with Peter and promises that his confession – his proclamation about who Jesus is – will be the strong foundation that the church is built on. We continue to think about, proclaim, reflect on who we say Jesus is – and Jesus keeps coming to us to remind us that Jesus is God’s love made real and how that changes the church, our lives, and the world. 

Jesus then talks about keys. And the saying is a bit confusing which is why car keys might help us understand what Jesus is saying. Like how a key enables us to decide, with a car, where to go and to go there – Jesus is saying that because we know him, because of our baptism, because of our faith – we are going to jump into the driver’s seat of, like Jesus, helping make God’s love real in the world. That’s going to mean making decisions, making choices, and doing our best to know Jesus, spend time with Jesus, to pray, and to love like Jesus. And while this is a very powerful thing we get to do – it’s also a great responsibility. Jesus is trusting us – in all that we do, even if we don’t drive or don’t have car keys – to make loving decisions. That’s the freedom our faith gives us – the chance to make love, kindness, patience, hope, and mercy at the heart of everything we do because Jesus chooses each of us to, like him, make God’s love real in our world. 

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 Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 8/27/2023.

Sermon: Don’t Forget Your History

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

Exodus 1:8-2:10

My sermon from the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (August 27, 2023) on Exodus 1:8-2:10.


So there’s an entire genre of movies, shows, books, and comics devoted to “coming of age” stories. Typically within these stories a young person goes through a series of canon events that matures them into adulthood. Often these tales are funny, tragic, light hearted, or deeply emotional. And we can easily relate to them, even if they’re centered in a culture that isn’t our own, because we have either gone through our “coming of age” stories or hope to have one very soon. These stories remind us of who we are and how we, mostly, consider ourselves to be the mature people God calls us to be. We see ourselves through the eyes of the hero even if they’re going through something we never want to go through ourselves. I wonder, though, what would happen if instead of focusing on the hero, we saw ourselves as part of the wider story. Today’s words from the opening chapters of the book of Exodus are, on some level, the opening lines to a coming of age story that eventually raises Moses up as the person who will lead the Isralites out of slavery and into freedom. But it’s also a story centered on two women who refused to let the wider community rewrite its own history to the detriment of all.

The story begins in the years after Joseph and his family were reconciled. As you might recall from a few weeks ago, Joseph had a pretty traumatic life. Their father, Jacob, had continued the family tradition of naming one child as their favorite at the expense of everyone else. Joseph, instead of trying to keep the peace, wasn’t shy about rubbing this fact in the face of his 11 brothers. In response, the brothers did something horrific: they faked his death and sold him into slavery. Joseph quickly ended up in Egypt where he had no control over the violence done to his body nor the freedom to go wherever he wanted to go. After a series of dramatic events, he ended up as part of the Pharoah’s inner circle and, in the process, gained a lot of political power. But that didn’t really mean much since he was still enslaved. Eventually a famine spread through the entire area and Joseph’s skills enabled Egypt to thrive while everyone suffered. His father and brothers became refugees, coming to Egypt to find food. After a rather dramatic and tearful reunion, Joseph’s brothers were encouraged to settle the entire household inside Egypt itself. Their history up to this moment was pretty complicated but the brothers, Joseph, and the Egyptians, had worked together to build a new community that was more than what they were before. But as the years passed, this story was forgotten. The Egyptians grew suspicious of these people who didn’t look or talk or believe like they did. Their fear enabled the Egyptians to become resentful of these folks who had lived there for generations but were now labeled as foreigners. As the Israelites grew in size, the Egyptians became paranoid. They started to narrow their own history to the point where the Israelites could no longer be a part of it. They enslaved them, forcing them to build the cities that symbolized the might of their kingdom. And when this incredible violence failed to satisfy their xenophobia, they moved into the next stage of what this fear often brings. 

Now the next part of the story started with an upside-down request. The Pharaoh ordered midwives to kill all the sons born to Israelite women. He told Shiphrah and Puah, whose vocation was all about bringing life into the world to, instead, do the opposite. Rather than remembering their shared humanity, the Pharaoh chose to let fear consume him, his community, and his people. This was an extreme attempt to end the Israelites’ story and we get the sense that all Egyptians either supported this endeavor or didn’t think that they could, or should, speak up. In light of his power, authority, and a history that pretended to be something other than it was, he assumed this request would be answered and supported. And yet, in the heat of this overwhelming moment, these two midwives said “no.” 

One of the interesting things about this story is that we don’t really know who these women were. We never hear their internal thoughts nor discover a coming of age story that describes how they could, in the future, defy the supreme leader in the land. The only thing we’re told is that Shiphrah and Puah feared God. That was all they were equipped with to do the opposite of what the Pharaoh ordered them to do. The word “fear” is a bit confusing in English since we define it as an extremely unpleasant emotion caused by a belief that someone or something is dangerous. We either try to avoid fear at all times or limit it to something manageable like riding a roller coaster or watching a horror movie. Yet the fear Shiphrah and Puah held wasn’t something designed to be overcome nor was it the opposite of faith. It was, instead, rooted in a faith that trusted that their God was always near. Fear is more than a feeling; it’s a signal that we need to slow down and pay attention. Rather than assuming everything is fine with our status quo, fear invites us to notice that something more is around us. Fear can be helpful, keeping us safe during difficult situations. But fear can also consume us, changing how we live our lives today by warping and forgetting the fullness of our story. The fear that grounded Shiphrah and Puah wasn’t the fear that fed the actions of the Egyptians. It was, instead, a reverence that kept them focused on the God who was active in, around, and through them. This fear didn’t consume them; it, instead, helped them to remember who they were and whose they were while being surrounded by another’s unjustified worry and fear. This doesn’t mean they weren’t fearful of the Pharaoh, the Egyptians, and what could happen if they were caught; nor does it mean that they, as human beings, didn’t have their own biases and prejudices that shaped their relationships with others. But rather than letting their fear or the fear around them limit who they could be, the fear of God enabled them to say “no” in spite of everything else that was going around them. 

Now when we look at the wider Christian story, we have plenty of examples of Christians using their faith to commit the same kinds of genocidal acts the Egyptians are described as doing within the book of Exodus. And while it would be easy for us to ignore that part of our own history by focusing solely on the heroes of our faith, I’m not sure if that’s the most faithful response. We don’t need to rewrite our story; instead, we need to own it – to point to all the complications and joys and sorrow and evil and good that has shaped us into who we are today. God believes that we, though sinners, have the capacity to grasp the fullness of our history since God, in Jesus, chose to enter that same history and let it grow in the nearly 2000 years since he rose from the dead. Jesus didn’t ignore our complicated story; instead, he faced it head on and, through the Cross, showed us how it can become something more. Our urge to celebrate the Shiphrahs and Puahs of the faith is one that we should embrace as part of our collective coming of age story that shows what the kingdom of God is all about. And yet we also need to remember that we’re not always the heroes we want to be because fear can warp who we truly are. There are times when we will feel as if we’re not equipped to do what needs to be done to share and hold and learn and grow from the complicated history that define our lives and our world. But if a little fear is all that was needed for Shiphrah and Puah to make a difference in their world, your baptism and your faith is all you need to do the same. God knows that your story – your full story – should be known and that it will never limit who, in Christ, you get to be. Rather, you and I and the entire church will continue to grow through our own coming of age story that leads into the age of Christ – where God’s mercy, God’s love, and God’s peace is given to all.