wash handsFriday, August 28, 2015

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

“Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”

This election season, out of the mouths that are getting the most attention comes: the praise of greed, the deceit of spreading unfounded rumors, the slander of women, the poor, and the stranger.
And the crowds roar with approval.

Out of the radio, comes a voice asking “What’s wrong with slavery?”
And sponsors have not pulled the plug.

Out of the compromised internet comes proof of millions of married men desiring to commit adultery, evidence of their folly in paying for promises that would not be kept.
And many revel in their embarrassment.

Out of the news feed comes the toxic equation of envy and pride and weapons adding up to murder. It happens every single day in this country. But that day the footage was posted online.
And too many of us gawked and then hit “share.”

In our scripture this week Jesus is trying to reach the self-righteous, the pompous, the arrogant, the better-than-thou’s. He wants to point out the lie that some are better than others by what they do or don’t do, the traditions they keep, the laws they follow.

Jesus is not just speaking to the Pharisees and the Scribes.
He is speaking to the entire crowd.
This is a message for everyone.

Sin comes from within.
It is in all of us.
All people are in need of forgiveness.

And no amount of hand washing can change that.

Pastor Sarah Trone Garriott

You Have the Words…

mosaic webFriday, August 21, 2015

John 6:56-69

Many of the disciples found the teaching of Jesus difficult and “turned back and no longer went about with him.” We might wonder why it was so difficult for them. What made them give up on the words and go unto something else so quickly? After considering all that Jesus said in John 6 about being the bread of life, we too might find such teaching difficult to grasp. For five Sundays this summer we have been listening to the words of Jesus from this chapter. By doing so we recognize that we are asked to take our time with the words that speak to our lives of faith.

No wonder we read the scriptures aloud and amongst community, in worship and study. If we find something difficult to understand, it’s always empowering to know that the learning is a shared experience. No wonder we want to hear the word proclaimed within the gathering of people where songs are sung, and prayers are prayed and bread and wine are served. There is something made real in all of this. We are embraced by the Spirit creating room for our searching questions and stirring up faithful insights.

So it makes sense that Jesus called his disciples to abide – to remain, to dwell in the life of God in our very midst!

In John’s Gospel, from the very beginning and throughout, we are met with the promise that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth. It seems to me that so many things we do in the life of the church help us to keep embracing the mystery of the incarnation, again and again. What we do together week in and week out helps us to live more fully into the good news of God with us.

When Jesus asked the twelve if they wished to go away too, Simon Peter replied as we might today, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” For Peter the teaching might have been difficult but he was able to trust in that moment that the difficulty did not change the relationship. Peter’s response especially speaks to how discipleship is more of a journey than a quick fix.

While distractions to faith are plenty, the summons to remain steadfast still finds us and we grow deeper into the richness of a love that forever holds us!

Pastor Randy

(The stained glass window is in the sanctuary of Hope Lutheran Church, Eau Claire, WI. Photograph by Tim Abraham.)

Chew on This

eating webstie

Friday, August 14, 2015

John 6:51-56

For a brief time I shared a house with a woman who was very annoyed with the way I ate.
She complained that she could hear me.
And it bothered her. Big time.

No matter how quiet I tried to be…No matter how far apart we were in our shared abode…
No sooner than I had lifted the first forkful…
I would hear her cry out in complaint “I can hear you chewing!”

I’d like to think that she was just an exceptionally, um, sensitive person. And in many other ways that certainly seemed to be the case. Like I said, we were only roommates for a brief time.

But from that experience, I feel a certain affinity with a Greek word used repeatedly in this passage. “Trogo” meaning “to eat audibly.” Trogo. Just to say the word sounds like you are speaking with your mouth full. And for many, that noisy eating, that chomping and chewing, that lip smacking and slurping, is something beyond repulsive.

There are other Greek words meaning “to eat,” but it is this specific word that Jesus chooses to use repeatedly when describing what it is to take part in the life of faith through him, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood.”

This is not the polite noshing of a genteel dinner party. This is the voracious digging in of a famished teenager. Think wild dogs, not Downton Abby.

Jesus is speaking of the life of faith as eating his flesh and drinking his blood.
His word choice is meant to only heighten the repulsion of the crowd, and there is good reason for that.

Jesus is calling followers to a life of challenge and sacrifice. Jesus is commanding his disciples to stand out in the crowd, often to the revulsion of others. Jesus is promising the new life that comes only through death. Jesus is leading to the cross.

The life of faith is not for the squeamish—and now in John, Jesus is making that abundantly clear.

Pastor Sarah

It Takes Time

grapes webFriday, July 31, 2015

John 6:24-35

It takes time. Healthy relationships take time to cultivate, grow and mature. It takes time, commitment, understanding, patience and trust. We see this in the way Jesus took time with the crowds after the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 in the Gospel of John. The crowd had experienced the unexpected feast which led them to further seek out Jesus.

On the other side of the sea, Jesus engaged them in a dialogue that increased their understanding of his identity and work. The conversation invited them into the journey.

Jesus: Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life…

Crowd: What must we do to perform the works of God?

Jesus: This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.

The event of the feeding led to the dialogue and the dialogue held the promise of Jesus: I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

In the rush of things it’s easy to lose sight of how we are called to be in relationship. In John, the sense of believing goes beyond intellectual assent. It is to participate in the gift of God’s love for us and the world. It is an unfolding and dynamic thing. And so when we read these stories in John about bread we cannot help but think of the sacraments and all that we receive through them.

In the sacraments we are held in God’s mercy as we are fed by the simple gifts of bread and wine – nurtured in the promise of baptism that we are forever accompanied by God. And so we are enlivened in faith and live into the gift of abundant life.

Congregational life is most alive when we share in the rhythm of weekly worship and are fed by a holy meal. We find meaning in the opportunity to be in caring conversations, to ask our searching questions, to ponder and to wonder together – knowing that the Spirit is in all of this.

As God takes time for us so we take time for one another.

Pastor Randy

How Quickly We Forget


Friday, July 24, 2015

It seemed like we had just begun our journey, and now we were headed home.

After a week of dynamic speakers, powerful messages, electrifying (and loud!) music,
bright lights, colorful t-shirts,
manual labor in the hot sun, staying up late, getting up early, walking, walking, walking,
and more singing, more smiling, more high-fiving than you could even imagine,
everyone was exhausted.

The ELCA Youth Gathering had made its mark. I snapped a picture of the youth, collapsed and sleeping where ever they fell (see floor). And I wondered, what impact will this experience have on them in the days and weeks, even years to come? How much of it would stay with them?

This week in the lectionary the disciples will look on as Jesus turns 5 loaves and two fish into a feast for 5,000. After everyone had their fill, they themselves gathered up the leftovers—twelve baskets full! This miraculous feeding made such an impact on the authors of the gospels that we get 6 versions of this story in scripture. It was that amazing!

And yet,
just a few hours later, in the boat, on their way home, the disciples are terrified to see Jesus walking toward them on the water. You would think that by now, after all they have witnessed, the disciples would expect to see powerful and astonishing things from Jesus. You would think that by now, they would recognize the power of God at work. By now, the disciples should get it—the possibilities are without limit in Jesus.

How quickly they have forgotten.
How quickly we all forget.

But Jesus does not punish, he does not criticize, he does not skip a beat.
He simply shows up and says,
“It is I (literally ‘I am’). Do not be afraid.”

And it won’t be the last time.

Pastor Sarah