Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sermon for 8/25/2013 No Swimming and Other Stupid Rules

Sermon for 8/25/2013 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA.

Gospel: Luke 13:10–17
10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.  11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.  12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment."  13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.  14But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day."  15But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?  16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?"  17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,

When people pine for the “Good Old Days”, it’s good to remember that not everything about them was so good. For example, we had to live by the rule that when swimming, we couldn’t go back in the water for an hour after eating. Today’s children, have it much better, as the medical field has pretty much decided that this rule is a myth. So, they can eat up and get right back to splashing and playing.

There’s a lot of rules we live by like that, and just like everything else, they change over time. Yet, when they do change, even if it’s for the better, we humans have real trouble dealing with this blow to our ego. You see, we like our word to be the final answer, because if it’s not, we can all of a sudden feel pretty stupid. Or, even worse, we can be petty or jealous, about what we missed out on because of whatever rule we were following. I’m sure there are a few of us who are still a little bitter over the time spent not swimming while waiting for food to digest. We can’t get those hours back. And so, whenever our preconceptions are challenged, we as humans usually react disdainfully, rather than admit we were wrong, or that we don’t have the absolute best way of doing something. 

This human inability to come to grips with being wrong is why the leader of the Synagogue, who stands-up and challenges Jesus because he heals this woman on the Sabbath, is one of those at the end of the text who is feeling shame.

It’s a hard feeling, feeling shame, especially when it’s so public. It’s hard on the leader of the synagogue, and it’s hard on all of us today, when our ways of doing things, the things that we’ve depended on for structure, maybe even built our lives upon, are challenged. It’s why we have a saying, “Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good argument.” And so in a sense, there’s a part of me that feels badly for this leader, who has been the foil to Jesus’ wisdom for 2000 years now. 

But as I feel sorry for this leader, I also see that his shame, and the shame, humiliation, and loss of control that the other religious leaders of the time felt because of Jesus, the feelings that led to fear and hatred and eventually Jesus’ crucifixion, were not Jesus’ issue.  Jesus wasn’t trying to humiliate anyone. Rather, Jesus was simply bringing about healing and new life in someone, healing and new life that also lead to new perspective.

For the woman who was healed, her perspective, her view of the world was forever changed because of the healing she received from Jesus. She stood and praised God, and became a living witness to God’s healing power.  The perspective of the onlookers was changed as well, as they saw in this woman, how God looks upon all of us. The onlookers saw that she wasn’t damaged goods, but a person that Jesus loved so much, the rule of the Sabbath was suspended to make room for grace. 

And, the perspective of the leader was changed. He saw what everyone else saw, yet for him, this healing meant that he didn’t have it all as figured out as he thought he had.  But, rather than take part in the joyous occasion, sin hardened this man’s heart, and caused him to see Jesus, the miraculous healer, as a threat. In a sense, this leader is basically refusing the chance to get back in the water, because it’s breaking that old rule. 
We at times, share the perspective of all three of these parties. We have times when Jesus comes, and touches us, through the kindness of friends, family members, or even strangers in unexpected moments. And through them, we receive healing. We have times when we see Jesus heal others, and through their witness, are given hope and joy. And, at times, we get caught up in our own egos, and ways of doing things, and are blinded by our own shame to the joy and life that surrounds us. 

What’s important for us, human as we are, is not necessarily to try and be any of these people. What’s important is to let Jesus be Jesus, and continue to expand our perceptions, to give us healing, to show us life, and always be present.

For this purpose, to help us see Jesus, to help us see God, we are given the gift of the Sabbath, and the leader was absolutely correct, in concept, of lifting up its importance. The Sabbath, a day of rest, given to a people, and their animals, given to a Jewish people freed from a life of slavery was not a suggestion but a commandment. This gift helped not only Jesus’ Jewish sisters and brothers to experience and rejoice in God’s abundant life, it is given to us today for the same purpose. This commandment, is given to us so that we may set aside time in our lives for renewal, and it is given to us so that through our lives all of creation may know that we are not given life to work, but that we do work in service to life.

But when this gift, or any of the other gifts of God’s commandments, are turned into tools to control, to oppress, or to punish, when we use God’s guidance in our lives not to expand our perceptions, but to close our minds, we then need Jesus too.  We need Jesus to come and change our perspective, even if it hurts our egos, so that we can serve God, and praise God for the life we have been given, and the life that surrounds us in abundance. 

This morning, again, we are given that Jesus in such simple form, bread and wine, and we are given it through the biggest rule break there ever was, the Resurrection, when Jesus’ dead body was brought to new and everlasting life. This is a gift, One Body, broken again and again, that does not run out, but is given to all of us. May we give this perspective, this new, abundant life, to a world in need not of God’s rules, but God’s gifts of grace, peace, justice, and especially love. 

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sermon for 8/18/2013: Our Intolerant God.

Sermon for 8/18/2013 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA.

Luke 12:49–56
49I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!  51Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!  52From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three;  53they will be divided:
            father against son
            and son against father,
            mother against daughter
            and daughter against mother,
            mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
            and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."
  54He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, 'It is going to rain'; and so it happens.  55And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, 'There will be scorching heat'; and it happens.  56You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
When I was in high school, I spent a Saturday along with another student from my school, at this event in Rochester, Minnesota. It was some sort of visioning thing, where people from the city and surrounding communities were invited to come and share. I think our principal had asked myself and the other student if we wanted to attend, and so I was there. 

Now, I don’t remember much about our purpose, or what we were doing, other than there was a lot of those big easel sized legal pads and markers, with people spewing thoughts and other people, writing them down. 

But, what does stand-out, is a woman in our little group saying that she hated the word “tolerance”, especially in regards to the people we live with.  At first, I was a little shocked, but then she went on to explain.  Tolerate she said, means that we are in essence putting up with each other, allowing others into our space, but not necessarily being real happy about it. Her point was, that rather then just tolerating people, we should instead, be moving towards acceptance, and community.

I think about this comment quite often, and it has taken on meaning for me in my journey of faith as well. You see, many people, at first thought anyway, like to think that we have a “tolerant” God. But, that’s just not true, and we hear about our intolerant God, as we hear Jesus’ words in our Gospel today, “ 51Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!

This intolerant, divisive Jesus sure doesn’t sound like the same person who “loves me for the Bible tells me so”. As Jesus goes on to talk about turning family members against each other, we might have a hard time with some pretty harsh sounding words.  At the very least, I don’t think we’re going to use these words as a means of inviting people to join us. “Come and experience Jesus, who will turn father against son….”

Yet, in the end, the Jesus who gives us these troubling words, is giving us Good News, and is doing so through his intolerance, through God’s intolerance.  You see, Jesus doesn’t just tolerate us, and Jesus didn’t come to simply let us remain the people who we were before he got here.  People who are mired in sin, constantly destroying ourselves and each other, living lives devoted to looking out for ourselves.  No, Jesus didn’t come to this earth to give us the peace that is defined from merely tolerating one another. Instead, Jesus came to bring division to that type of peace, because that isn’t peace at all, that’s simply isolation. That type of peace would be like sending two squabbling siblings to their separate rooms forever, and really meaning it. 

Ultimately, our God, Jesus Christ, isn’t tolerant. He isn’t tolerant of the sin that we are all captive to, because he loves each and every one of us too much. And, it is out of this, unending, intolerant love that we are not divided, but brought together. Jesus doesn’t come to us a person, a family, or a pew at a time, leaving us all the same as we were when we got here. Jesus comes to all of us at the same time, and makes us a body transformed in love, forgiving of each other, even offering gestures of peace with each other, so that we make experience his love through our love together, so that we may dine on his loving meal as a family.  And Jesus us sends us out as that one body, to be as intolerant as he is, and bring the dividing fire of his baptism to all the world.

This is a fire that burns against the sin that so divides us. It is the fire that burns against the uneasy “tolerance” that we humans use not to bring peace and community, but instead use to divide ourselves over things like race, class, religion, and gender. This is the fire that finally overcomes our sin, overcomes our divisions, and makes all things new. 

This is the fire, the fire of Jesus’ Baptism, that didn’t not leave three Lutheran denominations wallowing in their divisions 25 years ago, and instead, brought them together, to form something new, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. This is indeed the same fire that was present this last week in Pittsburgh, as representatives from ELCA congregations all over the country met at the Churchwide Assembly.  This is the same fire that stirred up a seemingly boring, slam dunk to re-elect our exceptional Presiding Bishop, into a calling for a changing of the guard, and the election of our first, female Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton.  This is the same fire that gave this particular assembly the theme of “Making all things new” and the same fire, the fire of the Holy Spirit, the fire given to us as we are washed in the waters of Jesus’ Baptism that is “Making all things new” right before our very eyes.

The fact that our God is so intolerant, is truly a blessing. Instead of leaving us be, our God has come and loved us with a love that is so powerful, it divides us from our sin, and in doing so transforms us into one people of God. This God, Jesus Christ is here with us today, and as we dine on his body and blood, may we be made new again, a rekindled people of God, burning for all people, and all of creation.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sermon for 8/11/2013 Our greatest treasure is us.

Sermon for 8/11/2013 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA.

Luke 12:32-40
32 ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35 ‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.37Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
39 ‘But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
This last week, I was all set to go. I got off the Logan Express, golf clubs in hand, ready to go see my friends in Buffalo, New York and defend our Lutheran Charities of Western New York Golf Classic title. 

There was only one problem, as I started to make my way to the baggage claim.  I didn’t have my wallet.  I frantically checked my pockets, my bags, and anywhere I could possibly think of, about 85 times, and I had nothing. 

My mind was racing, where was the last place I had my wallet.  I deduced that I had bought my ticket in Framingham, so I must have had it there.  Then, I figured that it must have fallen out of my pocket, as I put my car keys in my bag so I wouldn’t have to worry about them in the security line.  And, as I wondered how I could check to see if my wallet was indeed on the bus, it hit me that said bus would be coming around to pick-up people, before it headed off to Framingham.

The moments of waiting were anxious, but finally the bus arrived, my relief was overwhelming when the driver handed me my wallet. 

The funny thing about this whole scenario, is that while my wallet was missing, I wasn’t concerned about losing money, because I didn’t have any in there.  What I was most concerned about, the thing that I most treasured in my wallet, was my driver’s license.  If I didn’t have this little card with my picture on it, I wouldn’t have been going anywhere. 

And, when it comes down to it, this small scene, is analogous to our life.  Ultimately, it is not losing simple things that worries us.  What worries us as human beings is losing the things that serve in helping identify us to others.  It is these things, that are our greatest treasures. 

Think of it this way, when we are born, we don’t really know much about the world around us. Someone dresses us up, and as long as we don’t get too hot or cold, we don’t care what we’re wearing.  As we get older, and start going to school, and become aware of those sorts of things, we start to become much more concerned, because what we are wearing doesn’t just keep us comfortable, what we wear serves as a way for the world around us to identify us, and we try very hard to achieve or control that image.  We try very hard, as we grow-up, each of us in our own way, to be cool to all those around us, usually by trying to wear, or put in our backpacks the same things that everyone else has. 

Now, this struggle, to make a good identity for ourselves with the world, usually begins with clothes, or shoes, or folders, but grows as we do.  Before long in our lives, we start worrying about having the right video games, and phones, and cars; only to move on to the right colleges and careers, and on and on and on.  All of this being done, so that the world around us will identify us by certain indicators as being great people. We as human beings, treasure, very, very greatly, our identity, and we spend great effort to build and preserve this identity. 

In fact, we as human beings sometimes treasure this identity so greatly, that it leads our hearts, and our lives to tragic places.  For instance, many of us may be wondering about baseball player, Alex Rodriguez, and what would have driven him to, allegedly anyway, use performance enhancing drugs, and now in the aftermath of getting caught, for the second time, what would make him seem to be such a delusional creep about the whole situation.  But I don’t think that A-Rod is all that different from any of us.  I think that he simply treasured his identity as a great baseball player so much, that he would do anything to keep it; even letting go of things he probably at one time valued.  In order to keep up appearances, he let go of the same things that actually made his treasure worth something. 

And in regards to our identity, Sin doesn’t just pick on the rich, and famous, and talented. Sin ensnares us all, and it tricks us into believing that the identity we create for ourselves, the identity that we let the world see is so valuable, that we human beings time and time again risk losing, and do lose, what’s really important in our lives for the sake of it. 

Now, back to the airport for a moment. As I handed my driver’s license over to the person checking my bag, they checked to see that my name and picture matched the information that I had, and the person did that for everyone getting on the plane, because in the end, that’s all that’s needed; a person who matches. If I didn’t have that ID, I would not have gotten on the plane, even if I told them things like “I’m a pastor”, “I’m from Minnesota”, “I have both the smartest child and dog in the world”, or anything else I could think of to impress them. Nothing about me, even the things that are great treasures to me, could have mattered. 

The Good News, is that as we hear Jesus say today, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” we remember that we are God’s treasure, and because we are so loved by this God, wherever we go, God will be there.  And, we are God’s treasure not because of all the wonderful things we have done, or because God thinks we’re really cool.  We’re God’s treasure because God has made us that way.

It is this fact, that we are God’s treasure that Jesus is warning us to stay alert for, to stay on guard for.  You see, because of sin, we need to constantly be reminded of just how valuable a treasure we are to God, no matter what.  We need to be constantly reminded that what is valuable to God is simply our lives, our bodies, our names, the same things that are valuable when trying to get on an airplane.  We need to be constantly reminded of this fact, because we can very easily become lost as we treasure our own perceived identity, like a baseball player chasing after more years and numbers without regard for his own health, character, and the game which gave him so much in the first place.  We need to be constantly reminded of how God values each of us, because sin will sneak up upon us, no matter who we are, to try and make us forget whose we are. 

And we are reminded of whose we are  We are reminded that we are God’s when we see God use simple water and loving words, the gift of Baptism, to declare us loved for all the world to see for all time. We are reminded that we are God’s when we hear God invite us to the table, to taste and see that we are so valued that God in the person of Jesus Christ will pay the ultimate price for each and every one of us.  We are reminded of that we belong to God, when God tells us to do likewise for not just each other, but for all people that belong to God, like our enemies, and even Alex Rodriguez, so that our treasure, our hearts, our whole lives may constantly abide in the eternal life of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sermon 8/24/2013 "You're going to die."

Sermon for 8/4/2013 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA.

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23
Chapter 1
2Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
12I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem, 13applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. 14I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.

Chapter 2
18I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me 19— and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? 23For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
This morning, we celebrate with our young people.  Some of whom are entering college, and with others who are stepping up to high school. For these times, for the growth and transformation in our young people, we give thanks. 

Now, for those who have recently graduated, and for their family members, I’m sure that you have recently sat through some sort of commencement address, or maybe multiple speeches at a graduation ceremony. 

Whatever you heard, whether good, bad, or somewhere in between; I’d be very surprised if the theme of the speech, the life advice given, was anything like what the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes is telling us today.

For anyone who can remember a speech in a graduation setting, did you hear the speaker tell you that your future, the work you are about to undertake, the life you will try to build, that it’s all vanity, or more appropriately futile?

Did any of you hear someone say, Go out, do what you want, but no matter what you achieve and accomplish; years from now, it won’t really matter much??

I would guess not.

But that’s what we hear today.  Not only in our reading from Ecclesiastes, but also from our Gospel reading, where the man who has made sure to secure a good future, forgets that life is fleeting, and the future isn’t guaranteed. 

All this leads me to give my own little advisory speech this morning to those who are going on to new things, and here it is:
            “You’re going to die.”

That’s it. You’re going to die, we all are.  But I say this not to point out the obvious, because this is the most assured fact of our lives, and yet, none of us do very well at dealing with this truth. 

And I give this speech not to be morbid or depressing.

Rather, when I say that “You’re going to die.” It is a speech filled with grace and hope. 

You see, all the graduation speeches, or most of them at least, and all that society tells us is just the opposite. These commencement odes to our own potential often seem to spell out a future for us that is ultimately ours to control.  They spell out a future for us that is something we can grasp onto, achieve, preserve, and pass on. 

Oh, vanity. As the writer of Ecclesiastes points out, all of us are on this earth only for a short time.  And no matter what we do, no matter how we prepare, no matter how carefully we build, there is nothing that we can secure and pass on from generation to generation.

So, as I said before, “you’re going to die.” This is my speech.
You’re going to die.  The things that you hold dearest will die.

And in the midst of this certainty, this is the good news.   

You, don’t have to search for fame and fortune, to become important, because you have already been made the most important person in the world to God, along with everyone else.  You don’t’ have to build the tallest building, because it will pale in comparison to the tallest mountain.  You don’t have to reach for the stars, because the stars give you their light regardless.  You don’t have to do anything to make your life a success, because the success of life surrounds us and is in each and every one of us.

The good news in this mortal life, is that God has already created more magnificently than we could ever imagine and has given us this creation to enjoy, to live in, and to love, a life to be participants in.  And as many of you go onto new endeavors and new adventures in your education, remember to participate, and take advantage of whatever is your calling for the day.  Take advantage of the great gift that it is to learn new things, to grow in new ways, to be fed with the new fruit that comes from a source of life, from a God who is not vain, or futile, but loving, and creative, and who never runs out. 

When you hear that you’re going to die.  When you take into account all that this means, and even grieve over the limits that we have as humans, remember that our life comes from someone who has defeated death through unceasing love, not unceasing achievement, someone who didn’t seek permanence, but only faithfulness.  That someone is Jesus Christ, someone that isn’t going to be impressed by what you can store up, but by what you can give, and will love you the same regardless. For it will be only out of love that Jesus gives you his body and blood today, and it’s not for you to put away, to save, and to store up, but for you to use and give away again and again and again.

So, you are going to die. And let that be a reminder that this life, your education, our shared journeys are not about making something of yourself.  Our lives are about loving what God has already made, opening ourselves to experiencing more of what has been made, and loving it all, loving God, without end, as God has loved you. 

I will close, simply by using the words of the author of Ecclesiastes, who while speaking of life’s vanities, by seemingly lamenting that we will all die, goes on to give great wisdom, and a much better speech than, “you are going to die.”: (from the NET Bible)
2:24 There is nothing better for  people than to eat and drink,
and to find enjoyment in their  work.
I also perceived that this ability to find enjoyment comes from God. 
2:25 For no one can eat and drink  
or experience joy apart from him. 
2:26 For to the one who pleases him,  God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy,
but to the sinner, he gives the task of amassing   wealth  
only to give it to the one who pleases God.
This task of the wicked is futile – like chasing the wind!

May we all find the joy of our eternal God in all that we do. 

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,


Saturday, August 3, 2013

7/28/2013 Sermon - Our Daily Bread

Sermon for 7/28/2013 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA.

Gospel: Luke 11:1–13
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples."  2He said to them, "When you pray, say:
            Father, hallowed be your name.
            Your kingdom come.
  3Give us each day our daily bread.
  4And forgive us our sins,
            for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
            And do not bring us to the time of trial."
  5And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread;  6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.'  7And he answers from within, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.'  8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
             9So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.  11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish?  12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?  13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
Last Friday, Carrie and I drove up to our new house to get the keys.  As we approached 89 Winthrop St., Carrie said “Should I pull into the driveway?”
It was in that moment that the fact that we had become homeowners suddenly hit me, and I responded, “of course, it’s now our driveway.”

As we begin to work on settling into our home, and I reflect on how we got to this point, the process of purchasing it seems to have moved very fast.  I think a big reason for this is that our options which we’re available to us, we’re pretty limited.  In case you haven’t been following real estate news in the area, the inventory right now is pretty limited.  And so we went for this house and look forward to making it a home, even though it’s not “perfect”.

That being said, I’m grateful not only for the chance to buy this house, but for the process. I imagine that if we’d have had too many options to look at, we’d have become very good at picking out the negatives in each house, nitpicking over minor inconveniences or imperfections, and losing perspective over what it is we were trying to do.

Which is, when it comes down to it, finding a place that we can live in and share with each other.  A place where we can be a family. 

But the truth is, that our new house, which is 142 years old, though it doesn’t suit all our wants, is still, much more than we actually need.  Amazing as it is, people in the not too distant past got by not only without an extra-room, but also without plumbing, and electricity.

And, to keep things in perspective, there are many people today who get by without those things.  Indeed there are many people today, too many, whose concept of a “dream home” is somewhere other than a car, or shelter, or bridge. 

As I we’ve been settling in, and I’ve thought about what our house “needs”, I struggle to remind myself that it doesn’t “need” anything.  That it is already more than enough to shelter our family and be a place of love. 

You see, I need to remind myself that having a bathroom on the second floor is a want, not a need.  Walking down a flight of stairs to take a shower is a pretty minor inconvenience as I remember the people who are served by Family Promise MetroWest, and who stayed with us here at Christ the King just a few weeks ago.  I need to remind myself that those good people didn’t just go down a flight of stairs, they had to go all the way to Natick to take a shower before they go to work. 

It is in light of this reflection, that I find myself really needing to listen as Jesus teaches me how to pray. I, and all of us, need to listen to this, our Lord’s Prayer, and we need to listen to a line that I personally have taken for granted.  “Give us each day, our daily bread.”

For those of us, like myself, who’ve never known what it means to be hungry, this petition of the Lord ’s Prayer may not have a lot of meaning. Rightfully, this petition reminds us to give thanks for the fact that we have been fed throughout our lives.  But this petition also has meaning for us that we tend to overlook.  For those of us who have bread for not just a day, but for weeks, months, even years; for those of us who have so much bread that we can’t possibly eat it all before it rots, our Lord, Jesus Christ is really and surely teaching us to pray for less. 

Jesus is teaching us to pray for less not only in regards to food, but in the rest of our lives as well.  Jesus is teaching us to pray in this way, so that we can become more dependent and trusting in the goodness of God, than in things. 

And this is for good reason.  Because we like to worship, serve, and try to find life from things, but the reality is that these things take the life from us.  We pursue things, like houses, or cars, or the perfect lawn, only to find that when we get them, they often only cause us to desire and covet it the next best thing.  Or we really do fall in love with things, and we admire a car so much that we don’t use it, or put plastic over our furniture, too afraid of dings and dents to actually enjoy what these things are made for. We spend our lives pursuing more, and we get less. 

So Jesus teaches us to pray, “Give us each day, our daily bread.”

Though, before we feel too sorry for ourselves.  Jesus isn’t teaching us this so that we can somehow become these really whole, peaceful people.  Well, maybe a little bit.

Primarily, Jesus is teaching us to pray like this so that we will stop stealing the bread from our neighbors.  We are human beings, caught in a system of sin that has been around since Adam and Eve, and spends a great deal of time causing and excusing our greed.  This sinful system tells us that “we can have it all” and it convinces us that we get what we deserve, it convinces us that God helps those who help themselves, and conversely those who don’t have anything don’t deserve it.  This system of sin does a great job of convincing us that wants, desires, the things we indeed “covet” are needs.  This greedy system causes us to be blind, or uncaring of those to whom “daily bread” is not a sure thing, and ignorant of the way our hoarding and oppulance prevents them from getting it. 

So, what should we do? What can we do?  Even thinking about things we can give up, or do without is disconcerting to all of us. 

So what should we do?  We should pray.  Pray for our daily bread, pray that God will help us and transform us little by little, every day, to become less dependent on our things.  Pray that God will use our gifts to help our neighbors receive their daily bread.  Pray that God’s Kingdom of peace, justice, and love will come through us to this world. 

And we should trust.  Trust that our prayer for daily bread will be answered when Jesus says ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. 

Dear Lord, teach us to pray. 
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen