Monday, September 30, 2013

Sermon for 9/29/2013: Stewards and Chasm Fillers

Sermon for 9/29/2013 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA.
Gospel: Luke 16:19–31
 19There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.  20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,  21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores.  22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.  23In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.  24He called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.'  25But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.  26Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.'  27He said, 'Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house —  28for I have five brothers — that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.'  29Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.'  30He said, 'No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'  31He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,

Stewardship. A word that you may have heard spoken in these parts over the past few months, perhaps years, maybe even decades. It’s a word that’s been getting a lot of buzz in the church world recently, but it’s not simply a buzzword. Stewardship is not just a creative term for fundraising, a way to get you to part with your cash and sustain the church.

Stewardship, is much more important than that. Stewardship, when it comes down to it, is what we are called to do as Christians, so that we don’t end up like the rich man, in Jesus’ parable from the Gospel of Luke.

In saying this, I want to make it clear that this parable isn’t about heaven and hell, or the afterlife at all. I have full faith that whatever happens to us when we die, happens just the same to all people. No, this parable and our faith isn’t about what happens to us when we die. Rather, this word is given to us so that we may experience God’s eternal and renewing life right here, right now. And being stewards is God’s tool to help us do just that.

Picture for a moment, the great chasm which exists between the Rich Man, who is in torment; and Abraham and Lazarus. Because of our human sin, this chasm exists today, a great expanse between the rich and poor, between those who are seemingly self-sufficient, and those who are vulnerable. As you’re picturing this chasm, try to imagine a very wealthy person, interacting with the very poor, it is tough to imagine. As I picture this interaction, the image that comes to my mind is of a big, black, limousine that splashes a poor person on the sidewalk, the wealthy person then getting out of the limo, and acting indignant, as if the poor person got in the way of his splash.

There is truly a chasm between these groups that’s pretty easy for us to imagine when we think about the extremes, the caricatures of what it means to be rich and poor. But where did this chasm come from? Was it always such? I would guess that if these imaginary people had children and you put them in a room together, they’d pretty quickly learn how to play together, so I don’t think this divide is something we are born with.

So how did it come about? Picture another scenario for a moment, picture if you will something different. Picture two seemingly “middle class” type folks, at least from outward appearances. Maybe they are at their church, and one of these people makes an off-handed comment, denigrating those “lazy people” who are on welfare. Maybe, the other person, the person whose been struggling with finances because of this, that, or whatever reason, overhears. And then, you have one person, seemingly proud of her self-sufficiency, the other embarrassed, ashamed, and certainly not about to seek help from anyone, for fear of being thought of in such a negative way. And now between them, we have a little trench. A trench that grows deeper and deeper, with every missed payment, or unlucky break. A trench that could have easily been filled with a helping hand, a kind word, and some empathy, but which has now become something deeper. It has becomes a chasm, that separates people, until one disappears from the community, from the church, from the public view even, becoming one of those people who we know are there, but pretend we don’t see. Kind of like how the Rich Man was seemingly blind to the existence of Lazarus.

It is into this sinful world, full of chasms between broken, and imperfect people, that our God, Jesus Christ has come, to restore with grace and justice what sin has tried to destroy. And, in order to do restore us, Jesus doesn’t just say nice things, Jesus actually does something. Jesus, the Holy One, the Prince of Peace, Almighty, Immortal, all those things, goes, with his abundant life, to the Lazarus side of the chasm. And when he is there, when Jesus is touching lepers, dining with prostitutes, feeding the thousands, and all those things Jesus does, he is lifting them up, not as a charity case, but as friends, neighbors, sisters, and brothers, and as a result, all are enriched in love.

Yet, the chasm remains. If we remember right, the leaders, didn’t exactly want this chasm filled in, and eventually, the rest of the people, joined with them, rebelling against Jesus, and crucifying him. But it was this death, this ultimate act of stewardship, this ultimate act of Jesus giving the life which had been given to him to us; that turned everything upside down. It was this death that showed us that God does not create life by taking, but by giving. It was this death that ultimately filled that great chasm, between each of us, and us and God. It was this death that freed us from our own, sinful, selfishness, our own navel gazing, and lifted our heads, and opened our eyes, to see the great value in the life surrounds us, and the joy found in loving and caring for all people.  

It is then, Good News that we are given the call to be Stewards, because it is in even naming this calling that we can perceive that our lives are from God, and belong to God. And it is through this perception, this vision, that we can see the abundant value and life in the world around us. This is Good News, because it’s not at all obvious, in fact, it is an upside down, reversal of fortunes type scenario that is Jesus’ life and salvation for us. And if it weren’t for God’s grace, if it weren’t for God opening our eyes, we would be stuck in the sin that causes us to see the world in the way of the Rich Man. But God has opened our eyes, God has shown us what life is all about, and God feeds us with that life today, the life of Jesus Christ. May this life empower us to go and be stewards of that life, to be chasm fillers, uniting ourselves and the world in Christ’s unending love.

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

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sermon for 9/22/2013: Making Friends

Sermon for 9/22/2013 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA.

Gospel: Luke 16:1–13 
Then Jesus said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property.  2So he summoned him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.'  3Then the manager said to himself, 'What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.  4I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.'  5So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'  6He answered, 'A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.'  7Then he asked another, 'And how much do you owe?' He replied, 'A hundred containers of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill and make it eighty.'  8And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.  9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
             10Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.  11If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?  12And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?  13No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
When you go through the seminary, and then call processes on your way to becoming a pastor, you have to share your call story a lot, you have to share how God brought you to this point in your life. After sharing this many times, you can sort of condense and simplify things, and now, as I think about my life, and how I got to this point, I realize that my calling as a pastor comes mostly from my own parents’ dedication to keeping the vows they took over me when I was baptized, just as we all try to do with our children.
Most importantly, in keeping these vows, my parents emphasized that we are loved by God, and gave that love to me through their love. They also brought me to worship, taught me to pray, taught me about the Bible, creeds, and commandments and many other things that we are faith related. And, they also taught these lessons to me, what it means to serve God, and not money or things.
Let me take you way back for a moment, to the 1980s. It was then, that I a young child in a small town, in an even smaller elementary school, had just laid the start to what could have been a promising business career. You see, I had a package of some really cool mechanical pencils that I’d purchased for a dollar at the local Target, and sold the whole lot of them to a friend the next day for the low, low price of only five dollars. A 500% mark-up. Let me clarify, that I didn’t misrepresent the product in anyway, and the transaction, in most legal senses was completely on the up and up.

But, much to my chagrin, when I shared with my parents that I had pulled off such a sale, they didn’t share in my enthusiasm. In fact, they called the parents of the other child, and made me return the cash. Not only that, but they wouldn’t let me take the pencils back either.

I bet Donald Trump’s parents would have let him keep the money, but apparently making a profit was illegal in my home. Well, maybe not illegal, but my parents, raising me not only as their child, but as a Child of God, weren’t real proud of my abilities to take advantage of someone else. Even though I hadn’t lied, or scammed my friend, my parents made it clear that living according to God’s will, meant looking out for him as well, even at the expense of making money.

This lesson, taught to me in this case and many other times, wasn’t something my parents came up with out of the blue. This lesson, this life was God’s Word, the Word that was given to them in each of their baptisms, just as it had been given to generations before them. This Word, given to us so gracefully by God, and nourished in us by the power of the Holy Spirit is what we are called to depend on, to trust in, and to grow in, as in this end, this Word is what gives us life.

It is this Word of God that is the basis of Jesus’ seemingly confusing teaching about making friends with dishonest, or unrighteous wealth. Much time and effort has been put into trying to figure out, what does this parable means? It’s almost as if Jesus is telling us that the ends justify the means. If I had been more well versed in the Gospel of Luke as a child, maybe I could have convinced my parents that I could have given half the money to the church, and then kept the other half. Then there’d be a lot of happy parties, the church, myself, even my friend with his new pencils. But I don’t think that would have passed muster with my parents, nor with Jesus.
But, if we remember God’s Word, given to us in our Baptism, if we remember that it calls upon us to love each other, even our enemies, with the same grace and mercy that God has loved each of us with, we are given some clarity into this confusing parable. Instead of encouraging us to act like one of the characters in his parable, Jesus is warning us against them, or at least their motives, reminding us that the money that so guides their lives breeds dishonesty, and division. Jesus is reminding us that we as Children of God are called to a different life, a life lived in the light, where we do not take advantage of people, but serve them. Jesus reminds us that mammon and God cannot be served at the same time, and he does so, because one leads to division, distrust, and death; while the other creates life, and community.

Today, Jesus is telling us that we can’t serve God and wealth; as we see signs dotting the area, most of them saying keep Milford, casino free; with others saying the opposite. Now, I’m not a crusader against gambling, and what people want to do in terms of this, or any casino is their perogative. What I will say is that building a community around the prospect of money, and especially money gained by taking advantage of people is not a fruitful or faithful way to build community. As we think about it, what’s the best case scenario? A casino that is a great success, that pumps a great deal of money into the community, and then becomes the lifeblood which the community depends on. The casino will become the lord of the town, which then influences all decisions.

No, there is a better way to build community. There is the way that comes from discerning what type of values we hold with our neighbors, committing to them, sharing them, and even sacrificing for them. And as I say this, I don’t mean to just try and pick on a casino. In all areas of our life, whether it is worrying more about how much something costs than how humanely it was made, or sacrificing the environment solely for the sake of economic gain; we are all caught in a sinful system that causes us to think and live by the rule that selfishness, is not only acceptable, but in our own self-interest and good for the world. And this, is a system that we are all guilty of participating in, even young boys who would go on to be pastors, even pastors who were taught lessons and should know better.

But even as we chase after wealth, God chases after us. God continues to call us together, and join us in a community of faith created out of an unending, unselfish, undivided love for each of us. This is the love that we dine on in our Lord’s Supper; the love that is not sold to us, but given; the love that is never in short supply, but in everlasting abundance; the love that empowers us not to ask what can we get? But what can we give? This love, is the living Word of God in Jesus Christ, given to us in the midst of our sin, in the midst of our dishonesty, making us friends with God. May we go and make friends, in the same manner.

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

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sermon for 9/15/2013 Solving the Church's problems.

Sermon for 9/15/2013 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA.
Luke 15:1-10
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.  2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."
             3So he told them this parable:  4Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?  5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.  6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.'  7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
             8Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?  9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.'  10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
If you look around at the state of the church world today, there’s a great deal of concern about thing. We’re worried, people aren’t coming to church like they used to, giving is down, and many more problems give great fuel to this tale of woe.

Ok, so maybe this thought process isn’t new, and you’ve been hearing this type of thing for years, but the reality of the situation is that now, the fear has started to manifest itself in some congregations, Lutheran and otherwise, across the nation. Congregations that used to worry about less kids in Sunday School are now having serious discussions about keeping the doors open another week. In this light, we give thanks for this congregation, it’s solid foundation, and may resources to build upon that foundation, and the great opportunity to use these gifts to serve Christ.

Yet, as we look at Christianity today, knowing we are all in this together, the question many ask is, “How did we get here?”

And, though they may not have been asking me, I have some answers; stories, anecdotes, etcetera, things I’ve heard, read, and seen that span decades and geography. We got here, for example, by opposing racial integration. We got here by telling parents not to bring a developmentally challenged child to Sunday School. We got here by keeping leadership positions closed to women. We got here by telling young men that long hair and faith weren’t compatible. We got here by making people pay the price of shame for every act of charity they receive. We got here, to this point, for a lot of reasons, and I think it is a true testament to God’s grace and the abiding presence in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, that there are still communities of faith, such as ours, gathering today.

So, here we are this morning, as we hear Luke’s Gospel. Here we are as we hear Jesus respond to the Pharisees, and the scribes as they groan about the tax collectors and sinners who have been hanging out with Jesus lately. And, as the Pharisees and scribes grumble, Jesus tells the parable of the Lost Sheep, and the Shepherd who leaves the 99 other sheep, to go and bring the lost one back to the safety of the fold.

As we hear this parable, I tend to think we often hear it focusing on the one sheep that was lost, and how great it is that God’s love goes out and finds the lost, even by leaving the other 99 behind. But this parable isn’t just about that one sheep, that one person, and God’s redeeming love. This parable is also about restoring the flock, and making it whole. You see, this parable isn’t just Good News for the lost sheep, but for the flock as well.

Today, as we hear grumblings about the state of the Church in the world. I hear Jesus tell us this parable again, and I hear it thinking that maybe our problem, is that we Christians, consider the 99 to be good enough. We look around at our flocks and think we’re doing ok, as we are, not really wanting anyone else to join us. And on a tragic level, we as a religion have even actively excluded people, thinking they would bring us down, instead of bringing more joy through their presence in our community. On a more passive level, we may long for people to come back to our flock, especially the so many young people out there who now identify as having no religion, the so-called “nones”, but we don’t dare risk the effort to go find them, put them on our shoulders, and bring them into the fold. We, as Christians throughout all time and places, just like the Pharisees and the scribes, don’t see, don’t hear, and don’t embrace the logic, the love, the calling of the Shepherd in making our communities a place for all people.

Earlier, I mentioned that it is a testament to the grace of God, that we even have faith communities today, and I really believe that. Somehow, despite ourselves, despite our human penchant for being tragically exclusive and then wondering where all the people have went, our God has continued to shepherd us, continued to seek us out and carry us back to our communities of faith to feed us with the Bread of Life which does not run out. Despite our human penchant to create schism after schism in the Church over some really stupid stuff, our God continues to pour water over us and baptize us with new life, generation after generation. Despite how much we really brood and get annoyed over someone who might be in the pew behind us, our God continues to rejoice over each and every one of us in each moment of our lives.

You see, no matter how lost we think we might be, God knows where we are, and God comes to us, picks us up, and carries us on the shoulders of love, and mercy to gather as one flock, made whole not by our numbers, but by Christ.

And then, a funny thing happens. As we are brought back together, as the flock is made whole in our Shepherd, we are transformed. We become the Shepherd, the living God, Jesus Christ, for each other and for the world. And, as we are transformed, the work of God becomes our work, and we go out as shepherds to all of creation. We seek out those who are cold and hungry, and carry them to shelter and food. We seek out those who are hurt and frightened, and carry them to healing and safety. We go out, of our way, to make our gatherings, our community of faith, inviting and welcoming not to 99, but to ALL people.

This morning, as we prepare to dine on his meal, may Christ continue to transform us into his one Body, making us shepherds, tending, caring, and loving, for all of creation, and making it whole in his abundant life.

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

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Our Calling to Forgive, and what it means on 9/11.

The following is an excerpt from a sermon given at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brockton, MA on 9/11/11 the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The text for the sermon was based on the story of Joseph, and specifically Genesis 50:15-21.

Our God, the same God of Joseph and his brothers, is one who answers hate with love, and evil with mercy.  The Good, and sometimes upsetting, News, is that this love and mercy is far greater than our capacity to hate, and is eternally stitched into every thread of creation, and calcified in the bones of every being. 

Knowing that God’s mercy and forgiveness are much greater than our own human capacity to understand such things, what then is our calling as followers of such a compassionate God?  Is it God’s will that we are to extend this same mercy to those who commit evil against us?  In a word, yes.  Yet our calling to be forgiving, just as God is, is a much more tangible and participatory event than we often consider or practice.  The call to forgive, and our own desire to be forgiven, is truly about God’s mercy and love, but it is not about God, or us, being accepting of sin and evil. 

If we read the story closely, we never hear Joseph say, “I forgive you” to his brothers, nor do we ever see them truly asking for forgiveness.  It is apparent in his actions, that Joseph has shown mercy to his brothers, and that by the goodness of God their family has been sustained, yet Joseph does not say to them, “that time you sold me into slavery, don’t worry about it, it’s water under the bridge.”  The brother’s act of wickedness had real and lasting effects on Joseph and nothing will ever give him the chance to regain the time he lost with his family.  In fact, there is still great pain on all sides as evidenced by the weeping of Joseph and his brothers.  Joseph has forgiven his brothers, at least as his relationship with God and with his father Jacob is concerned.  Yet, if his brothers would like to hear Joseph say he forgives them, a long and painful conversation in which they share with him the pain of the moment when everything changed would seem to be in order.

     Paul Simon's 10th Anniversary Tribute.

Our calling to forgive, especially on a day such as this, is just as complex as Joseph’s story.  It is above all, a calling to act out of love and mercy towards all who have done us harm and also all who may want to do us harm.  On the other hand, our calling to forgive is not a calling to give permission to others to do us harm, nor is it a calling to “wipe the slate clean” and start over.  Rather, it is a calling to destroy the evilness of this world through the righteousness of our own lives, not for our own sake, but for the sake of those who would do us harm.  Our calling to forgive is to forgive in the same way that the God of Joseph forgives, a calling that we see and have seen manifested in the person of Jesus Christ.  Our calling to forgive is a calling to faith in Christ and a calling to trust that Christ’s death on the cross is the image of strength and love that has the power to, and in fact has, destroyed evil.  Our calling to forgive, is a calling to go and do likewise.  

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sermon for 9/1/2013 I have a dream, not delusions.

Sermon for 9/1/2013 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA.
Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7–14
 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.  7When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.  8When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host;  9and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.  10But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.  11For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

             12He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid.  13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.  14And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
50 years ago, the words, “I have a dream”, were immortalized in our country’s history, and so was the speaker of these words, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Now, half-a-century later, what do we think of, what do we collectively remember about Martin?

Mostly, we think of the speeches, the movement, the message of love that seems so obvious today. And, we have statues and the celebrations, to, above all else, remember a great man.

But when we think about it, would any of us want to be this “great man”? Would any of us want to be this man we so honor today?  

Perhaps, as being remembered as “Great” would certainly seem to be a good thing. But there was more to Dr. King that we as a society don’t often remember, really remember. As we remember his greatness, we sort of minimize what it might be like to receive death threats. As we remember we gloss over what it must have been like to be called to a task that would bring danger to your children. And in our nostalgia we smooth out the politics of the situation and the frustration that came not only from the ranks of the opposition, but also from collaborating the agendas of those who were supportive of the Civil Rights Movement, to varying degrees.

In this day and age, as we hear the speech replayed and our brother, Martin, so eloquently declare “I have a dream”, do we remember that this dream was born from the real nightmare that was and is racial hatred, oppression, and even murder?

This week, as we have celebrated the 50th anniversary of such an iconic event as the March on Washington, as we look to our history to remember not just one man, but many courageous people and the movement they fueled; as we look to our history to remember true greatness, it is fitting that we have the readings that we do.

As we hear these texts, dealing with honor and greatness, I would imagine that if Dr. King were to join us today, would be given an honored place in our assembly. We’d make a big deal about him being here. We’d thank him for the work he did and maybe even ask him how we can help continue that work.  

But a place of honor, a place as celebrated guest at our table, or any table for that matter, is not what drove Dr. King to be the face, the voice, the leader of the Civil Rights Movement. If being admired, even loved  by so many of us today, if having monuments erected and vacation days granted were the goal of Dr. King’s calling, I’m guessing we wouldn’t even know who he was.

You see, as we remember Dr. King today, as we remember his work, his life, and participate in the national awakening he helped initiate, we think of greatness. Yet, greatness wasn’t what Martin was after. Greatness, honor, glory, even if they would have been tempting goals, could not have kept Martin going as he sought a way out of his leadership position in the early days of the movement. Visions of grandeur wouldn’t have been much comfort to Martin as he paced about sleepless and scared on a January night in 1958, in a house that would be bombed only days later. That evening, in the throes of doubt and fear, wasn’t greatness that spoke to Martin, it was Jesus.

And as Dr. King writes in his autobiography, he heard Jesus say to him,  "Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo, I will be with you. Even until the end of the world."
It was in that night, in that moment of crisis, that Dr. King resolved to continue on the path of leadership that he had suddenly been thrust into. And it wasn’t fame, or riches, or glory that inspired this resolve, it was the truth of God; the truth that was made manifest in Jesus Christ, and the truth that is given to all of us.

This morning, under less stressful circumstances, Jesus is speaking to us, giving us seemingly practical advice about where to sit at our next dinner party. But this dinner party wisdom isn’t just about dinner. This wisdom is about partaking in the values of God, and not the values of this world. This wisdom is telling us that the things we often spend so much time pursuing, the things of human greatness are in the end, not the things that will give us the strength to endure, the strength to carry out our calling as disciples of Christ, when the pain and stress of this calling become unimaginable.

Today, Jesus is not only speaking to us, but feeding us with his eternal life, and through these things he is saying, just as he said to Dr. King, “stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo, I will be with you. Even until the end of the world”.

And, as we prepare to dine on this life, we are reminded that this when Jesus speaks about dinner party etiquette, his advice isn’t just lip service. Instead, we remember the real story behind these wise words. We remember that Jesus dined with and held up not the elites of his culture, but the sinners, the tax collectors, the sick, the outcasts of society; and we remember that he did this not to prove a point, but to open our eyes to the justice, righteousness, and will of God that is for all people, not just a select few. We remember that Jesus ate with “these people” because they are really just people, and that our human boundaries based on class, race, gender, and self-righteousness are what Jesus came to tear-down, not uphold. We remember that Jesus ate with these people, because he loved them, because God loved them just as God loves each of us.

This message of love, of the equality of all people before God should be simple. But as we reflect on our past, as we reflect on how the people violently responded to Jesus, and again to his great servant Dr. King, we can see how radical this message of love is to a world mired in sin. This is the sinful world we live in, and as confess our own role in it, as we reflect on our own biases and shame, as we deal with our own fears and insecurity, as we come to grips with our own perpetuation not of a dream, but of a nightmare; it is then that we hear the Good News, just as Dr. King did, in his dark night of fear and trembling.

This morning, we again that Good News of Jesus’ presence with us. We hear the Good News that he did not come to this earth to take the head of the table, but to through his death on a cross broke down that sinful table, and in his resurrection remade a new table, for all people,  in the image of God. This morning, we hear the Good News that despite our own sin we are invited to the table, to feast upon the life of God, in the presence of such greatness not only with Martin Luther King Jr. but, also those who persecuted him.

May this Good News, this Savior, Jesus Christ, continue to transform us in the truth of his righteousness and justice, so that we may love as he loved, and bring to our family, our neighbors, and our enemies; the dream of a creation united in the abundant life that our Creator has given to us.

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