Year A: The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (August 24, 2014) and The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (August 31, 2014)

Our apologies here at the Lectionary Lab; we slipped in getting our summer assignments done and missed this post in time for those may have actually been preaching. Excusze-nous!

We’ll be getting back on track and back in form just as soon as possible. So that you’ll know we didn’t completely let down our defenses, here are Dr. Chilton’s contributions for last Sunday and this Sunday. Dr. Fairless has been recovering from a little medical treatment, and will return with fresh commentary next week.

Also, The Lectionary Lab Live podcast will be on the air again for the first Sunday in September…so stay tuned!

Pentecost 11                                                Proper 16: August 24, 2014

Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 138; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20

About a hundred years ago, over in east Tennessee, a Church of Christ congregation was given a piece of property upon which to build a church.  When the elders went to see a lawyer about drawing up a deed, they were able to persuade him to list the owner as “The Lord God Almighty.”  This was fine until a few years ago when the congregation decided to sell the building and lands and relocate to a larger site in order to have a wider witness for Christ.  Then the legal system went to work.

Because the property was listed as being owned by one “Lord God Almighty” and not “The Carter County Church of Christ,” they had to get a deed before they could sell it.  And to get a deed, they had to show that the previous owner did not exist or could not be found.  So the county sheriff was issued a warrant to locate Lord God Almighty.  He went over to the coffee shop on the square across from the courthouse, had his coffee and read the paper and then came back and signed the papers attesting that Lord God Almighty could not be found.

Whilst he was having his coffee and crumb-cake, the sheriff happened to mention this little legal maneuver to the editor of the local paper, the next day the headline read “Lord God Almighty not to be found in Carter County, Tennessee.”  I’m pretty sure that’s not the sort of “wider witness” the church had in mind.

In our Gospel lesson, Jesus says to Peter, “And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.”(Matthew 16:18)  Though we know him as Peter, the man to whom Jesus was speaking’s real name was Simon, Simon bar Jonah – which means Simon son of Jonah.  In today’s story, Jesus has changed Simon’s name as a symbol of an important change that is beginning to take place in Simon, a change our lesson from Romans calls “being transformed” (Romans 12:2)

Names and name changes are important in the bible.  Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, Jacob becomes Israel, and later, Saul becomes Paul.  All these name changes mark personal transformations, show that the old has passed away and the new is being born. Jesus calls Simon by a new name to signal to Simon that a change is taking place, but it is not a change that takes place quickly, or suddenly, or all at once. It is a gradual transformation.  At the time it was almost a joke.  Peter means “Rocky.”  Who in the Bible is less rock solid and steady than Simon?  His changes of emotion and action are almost comically rash and totally unpredictable.  And yet, Jesus calls him Peter, the Rock.

And eventually, he becomes a rock, a rock of faith and devotion.  It is a name that he lives into gradually and slowly, but after a while, he becomes the person Jesus saw him to be many years before.

When God calls us “Church,” it is not a name we have earned by any extraordinary saintliness.  In the same manner that he called the perpetually iffy Simon a rock, Jesus sees us becoming a holy people, names us that even though we’re not there yet.

When Jesus called Simon bar Jonah a new name, it was the beginning of the church.  This was a signal that God was doing a new thing.  God was taking people who were willing to risk everything on faith and using those people to create, to build a new community, a community of love, a kingdom of heaven.

God has called us church, and God is using us to build the church in this place and this time.  Funny thing is, when God builds a church, God does not use materials and methods which would pass inspection in the real world.  Anne Lamott, in her book “Traveling Mercies” says –

“I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience.  But when I grew up, I found that life handed you rusty, bent tools – friendship, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said, “Do the best you can with these.  They’ll have to do.”  Mostly, against all odds, they’re enough.”

As Lamott says, God hands us strange tools with which to build a life and a church, but it is God who is building the church, not us.  We are merely workers and tools.  We are being built up each day into the holy people God has already declared us to be. Just as Jesus called Simon bar Jonah by the name of Peter long before Simon became a rock of faith; God has called us church and is continually leading us forward in becoming what Gad has already declared us to be.

And job today is to take the tools God has given us, tools like the friendship and prayer and conscience and honesty that Lamott mentioned, and tools like serving and teaching and giving and encouraging and leading and caring that Paul lists in Romans.  We are to take those tools and build a community wherein the Lord God Almighty can surely be found.

It is our calling to live up to ur name of Christian church, it is our calling to make this place a place where everyone is welcome and everyone can find compassion and forgiveness and community and faith, and joy and peace and hope and most of all love.

We hold the keys, God has placed them in our shaky hands, God has named us church, God has put us in community and has called upon us to open the doors of the kingdom of heaven and bring the world inside.  God has called upon us to make sure the Lord God Almighty can be found in this place.

 

Pentecost 12                                      Proper 17, August 31, 2014

Jeremiah 15:15-21; Psalm 26:1-8; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

I heard a story recently about a five year old boy and his Grandfather.  Carmen was a notoriously picky eater.  Grandpa’s dinnertime rule was that you don’t have to eat everything on your plate, but you do have to taste it.

On this occasion, Grandpa dished up a full plate of everything for all the kids.  Looking at his food Carmen asked, “Grandpa, would it be okay if I asked God to help me eat my dinner tonight?”  Gramps smiled at this and said “Sure, go ahead.”  Carmen bowed his head and said a silent prayer and then he divided up the food on his plate into two piles: a large pile of food he didn’t like and a small pile of food he did like.  Then, he ate the small pile and asked to be excused from the table. Grandpa eyed the plate and said, “What about the rest of the food on your plate? You haven’t tasted it.”  Carmen said, “That’s okay.  That’s God’s part.”

Sometimes I wonder, “Is that the way I divide things up with God?”  Do I indulge myself in the parts of Christianity that I like; and push off to the edges the parts I don’t like, assuming God will take care of that stuff? Does my idea of working with God mainly consist of picking and choosing among the pleasant and enjoyable aspects of being a person of faith; all the while leaving the messy, grunt work for God?  Those are the questions that lurk underneath our Gospel Lesson.

Today’s gospel follows directly on the heels of last week’s story about Simon proclaiming Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God; and Jesus responding by renaming Simon – calling him Peter, the rock.

This week, Jesus lays out for the disciples what it really means for him to be the Messiah, the Son of God.  It means rejection, abuse, suffering, and death.  Peter is not ready to hear this.  He takes Jesus aside, and the text says, “rebuked him.”  That’s very strong language.  He didn’t just disagree, he didn’t just have questions; he called Jesus out, he told him he was wrong, he said, “God forbid it Lord, this must never happen to you.”

And Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

In what amounts to one conversation, Peter and Jesus have gone from praising one another; “You are the Messiah.”  “You are the Rock;” to rebuking and condemning one another.

Peter goes from being told he is directly inspired by God, to being told he has his mind on human, not holy things.  Instead of being praised as the rock upon which the church will be built, he is called a stumbling block, an obstacle to the Son of God.

Why?  Because Peter was not ready to hear the difficult truth that is part of the Good News, he was not ready to think about the downside of the building up of the kingdom of heaven.

Peter is ready to do the part he likes; preaching, teaching, healing, receiving the appreciation of the masses.  He is not ready to do the part he doesn’t like; the rejection, the fear, the abuse, the sheer terror and loneliness, death. Even though he was willing to profess that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of the Living God, he is not ready to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow wherever that messiah might lead him.

Retired Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz tells a story of a conversation he had with the team Chaplain Walt Wiley.  Smoltz said, “What prevents me from living life the way I want to until I’m in my mid-40s and then settling down and living for Christ?”  Chaplain Wiley replied, “Nothing, except for one thing.  You don’t control your next breath.  But you can take that chance if you want to.”

Christ calls us to commitment now, not next week, not next year, or after the kids are grown, of when I retire, or whenever it’s more convenient.  Christ calls us to commitment now, today, this minute. And the thing that stops us is the same thing that stopped Peter that day long ago; it’s the same thing that stopped Carmen from eating all his veggies, the same thing that tempted John Smoltz away from the gospel.  We are addicted to our own enjoyment and pleasure and are unwilling to give it up, either for the sake of Christ or for the benefit of others.

The Gospel this day calls us to turn our backs on the tempting allure of the pursuit of happiness and to place our lives and our fortunes at the service of the pursuit of holiness.  Jesus has laid before us a simple and clear choice in his words to Peter.  No, I don’t mean the famous triad of deny self, take up cross, and follow. They are merely commentary on the really important thing Jesus said earlier.

“Get behind me Satan!”  Jesus didn’t say, “Get out of my way.”  He didn’t say, “Stop bothering me.”  He didn’t say, “You’re evil and I cast you into the outer darkness.”  No, Jesus said to Satan the same thing he says to all of us, “Get behind me.”

There’s only one right place in this world to be, and that’s behind Jesus.

There’s only one truly satisfying place in this world to be, and that’s behind Jesus.

There’s only one completely fulfilling place in this world to be, and that’s behind Jesus.

Everyone, including Satan, is invited to fall in line.  We are called upon to get behind Jesus as he leads us into the world to spread the kingdom of heaven, the unfailing and inescapable love of God. It is not an easy calling, it is not always pleasant, it often seems unrewarding and unreasonable, but it is where Christ has called us to be.  Will we get behind Jesus and follow him into the midst of the world’s suffering peoples; abandoning our lives into the grip of God’s love?

Amen and amen.

 

Amen and amen.

Year A: The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (August 17, 2014)

Click here for today’s texts
The Lectionary Lab Live podcast will return in September!

Teaching the Text
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless

Genesis 45:1-15
It’s an ongoing theological dilemma, of sorts; just how much “blame” or “credit” should we assign to God for the stuff that happens in our lives?

 In a strictly predestinarian manner of speaking, there are some who say that “everything that happens is for a purpose — it’s the will of God.” This leads to some pretty twisty interpretations of God and God’s will in the case of, say, a baby born addicted to crack thanks to her mother’s poor choices.

On the other hand, there are some who say that “God gives us free choice and has nothing to do with the consequences we bring on ourselves.” This makes God the ultimate absentee landlord, with very little influence over the created order.

Joseph certainly makes an intriguing case for some level of involvement by God in the affairs of his life; he maintains that God was at work in the long-ago choice by his brothers to rid themselves of the pesky, arrogant dreamer by selling him into slavery. “God sent me before you to preserve life.” Not only his own life, we might add, nor simply the lives of his family members…but the lives of countless thousands (or perhaps millions) by his influence over Pharaoh and the affairs of Egyptian government.

So, exactly where does the providence of God lie in the affairs of humanity — those who are people of faith and those who are not?

Psalm 133
This psalm supports the theme of “family reunion” in the Genesis reading; “how pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity.” The two main images are of profusion and abundance — it’s a BIG blessing when barriers to relationship are removed and unity is restored.

The image of anointing with so much oil that it would run all the way down the beard and flow onto Aaron’s robe is something like a baptism. This is no mere dabbling of sweetly-scented oil. It is poured out and flowing! 

Similarly, the “dew of Hermon” was supposedly legendary for its ability to water the earth. Mt. Hermon is the highest point in eastern Palestine; according to Henry Maundrell, Anglican clergyman and Oxford academic who wrote a series of travel diaries in the 18th century, “with this dew, even in dry weather, our tents were as wet as if it had rained all night.” (Read more about Rev. Maundrell here)

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
Just who, exactly, is welcome in God’s family? According to the prophet, the list includes “foreigners…outcasts of Israel…and all peoples” (goyim, Gentiles.) A thought worth remembering as many of our churches continue to struggle with who is welcome. And who is not.

Psalm 67
The repeated chorus, “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you,” is not only a beautiful piece of worship liturgy, it is a fitting reinforcement of the theme that God’s work in the world is for all the people of the world — not just God’s chosen people.

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
We’re all in the same boat, so to speak: “For God has imprisoned us all in disobedience so that God may be merciful to all.” 

Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28
Boy, oh, boy…talk about who’s in and who’s out! After discussing the original case of “trash talking” with his disciples, Jesus apparently demeans a double-outsider — a WOMAN from SIDONIA. She is the wrong gender to receive the respectful attention of the rabbi, and she is definitely from the wrong side of the tracks. Who exactly did she think she was that Jesus should grant her request?

She was a lot like us, actually.  Certainly, she was a “hard case.” Perhaps it was she who needed conversion on this day…or, perhaps, it was the crowd watching and listening that needed to be converted from their prejudice and tiny belief system. Whichever the case, by the end of the story we all come to understand that what God is up to in redeeming the world is always bigger, broader and deeper than we can imagine.

Imagine that!

Sermon
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

A minister friend of mine grew up in a small town in Georgia.  His grandfather lived nearby and owned a chicken farm.  In the mid-1960s, industry started moving into the area and the small farms were turned into subdivisions.  The American Can Company built a factory nearby and soon a lot of people from the Midwest were transferred down to Georgia to run the factory.  Suddenly, for the first time, my friend had a lot of neighbors from Wisconsin.

They were not entirely like the people my friend and his family were used to.  For example, they called a “cookout” a barbecue and they drank beer right outside in their yards in front of God and everybody.  They walked up and down the road for exercise.  And, they talked funny.

One day one of the new couples came to grandpa’s barn to buy eggs, just like almost everybody else in town.  But this couple walked over instead of driving and they exchanged only a few brief words of pleasantry instead of chatting for half an hour like locals would have. As they walked away hand-in-hand with their eggs, Grandpa looked after them and then shook his head and said to his grandson, “They’re nice enough folks, I guess, but they’re not our kind of people.”

Have you ever heard birds the Peterson Field Guide calls a “confusing” warblers because some of them are so similar that only the size of the white stripe above their tiny eyes differentiates one species from another? Yet, they are completely different species.

We humans, on the other hand, are all the same species.  African, Asian, European, Native American – Short, tall, thin, heavy, blue-eyes or brown, black hair or blond, dark skin or pink or something in between, we all possess almost identical genetic material.  None of it matters – we are all the same kind of people.

And we are alike in ways that have little to do with our DNA.  The people of China, or Somalia, or Haiti or Iraq of North Korea of New York or North Carolina all love our families, all are concerned with the price of food and the cost of housing, we all ponder the meaning of life and the future of our children.  Yes, we are all very much alike and yet we so often live in fear of each other, keeping ourselves separate from others, not just others from across the world – but others from across town or across the street.

Not too long ago I read a piece in the “sound off” section of a southern newspaper identifying their state as a “red” state and advising that people moving from Minnesota or Wisconsin of one of the other “blue” states should just keep their mouths shut.  Meanwhile I heard a radio talk show program in New England where callers were talking about the people in the “red” states should just stay away from the area.  And so it goes.

And as the world becomes more and more fragmented, the church finds itself more and more divided between Protestants and Catholics and the orthodox, between liberals and conservatives, between those who ordain women and gays and those who don’t, those who baptize babies and those who don’t, those who have THE TRUTH, and those who apparently don’t, etc. etc. Currently there are 20,000 different Christian denominations in the world.  And all of this not only saddens God’s heart, it is also, quite literally, against the will and plan of God for the world.

In Isaiah 56: 7 we read – “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Our Romans text is a bit of Paul’s complex reasoning about how the Jewish people have not been rejected by God.  In the midst of it, he says, “. . . that (God) might have mercy on all.”

In our gospel lesson, Jesus finds himself on the receiving end of instruction about the wideness of God’s mercy. After Jesus makes remarks about being sent only to the children of Israel, dismissively topping it off with a proverb about how it’s not right to give the children’s food to the dogs, the foreign woman turns the insult around and gently reminds him that even the dogs get to eat the crumbs from the children’s table.  All three texts are a proclamation of the radical inclusiveness of the kingdom of heaven. Inclusivity is not a minor theme in the scriptures; it is at the heart of the story of God’s love for all God’s people.

German theologian Jurgen Moltmann once wrote, “The nearer we come to Christ, the nearer we come together.” In a world anxiously searching for peace, in a world where people desperately need to learn how to trust and help each other; God is still calling the church to be an example of what God wants the world to be – a community where all people are our kind of people.

Amen and amen.

Year A: The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (August 10, 2014)

Click here for today’s texts
The Lectionary Lab Live podcast will return in September!

Teaching the Text
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
“And they took Joseph to Egypt….”

As the children of Israel read and heard the tagline to this story told for generation after generation, they could look at one another with a knowing smile and nod of the head. The commonly spoken wisdom would have been something like,  “Don’t worry about Joseph, God has a plan for him in Egypt!”

Joseph, of course, gets more press than any of the other patriarchs in Genesis; he has “star power” and is put in place just in time for God to accomplish the salvation of Jacob-now-called-Israel and his extended family. But, it’s a rough ride along the way!

Like ancient Israel, we know that God has a plan for Joseph. Do we trust that God has a plan for us, as well?

Psalm 105: 1-6, 16-22, 45b
Psalm 105 affirms the events of the Joseph saga and offers a theology of providence concerning God’s presence in the midst of Joseph’s difficulties. God’s presence in and purpose for Joseph’s life ultimately are for the benefit of all God’s people. We may face our own “feet hurt with fetters” and “necks bound with iron,” but God’s testing brings blessing when we “seek God’s presence continually.”

1 Kings 19:9-18
Earth, Wind, and Fire. 

Quite a spectacular show that Elijah experiences after his little sulk in the cave. How many of us, preachers and pastors, have felt something akin to Elijah’s emotions after a “great victory” like the one at Mt. Carmel –only to come crashing down to the reality that not everybody is lining up to tell us we’re the greatest servant God has ever sent?

Elijah felt alone — and we serve in a lonely profession sometimes — but the truth was, he wasn’t alone. God was present most stunningly in the sound of sheer silence. Oh, and then there were the other 7,000 servants God had preserved for God’s self in Israel.

You and I may not be called to a cave to understand, but we are never, ever alone. Now move on along.

Psalm 85:8-13
A guest comment from The Rev. Dr. Ruth Hamilton, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastor and good friend, with gratitude from the Bubbas:

This afternoon I was looking over the texts for August 7, and encountered one of my favorite medieval motifs:  the four daughters of God.  You will find them in Psalm 85:10-11.  The old translation was “Mercy and Truth have met each other; Justice and Peace have kissed.”  The NRSV doesn’t do it justice.  It is a charming picture.

This motif appears in countless medieval works of art and literature (music, too, if I remember correctly).  It is a scene of reconciliation because the four daughters of God had quarreled after the fall about the fate of humankind.  Truth and Justice demanded punishment.  Mercy and Peace advocated forgiveness.  Through Jesus’ offering of himself on the cross on our behalf, everyone is satisfied.  The strife is ended, all is forgiven.  So they meet and embrace, and God’s household is at one.

It is an image of harmony that always makes me smile.  And I am intrigued with the idea that God has daughters in addition to all those sons.”

Romans 10:5-15
Sometimes, there’s just not much else to be said about a passage of scripture. I feel that way about this section of Romans. Beautiful, just beautiful. Preachers — and we are all called to be preacher, “tellers, of the gospel — your feet are beautiful!

Matthew 14:22-33
Even Jesus needed to pray — and, notably, sometimes he prayed all night! I am always reminded that I impoverish my prayer time at my peril when I read this line from the gospel. It is usually the other Dr. Bubba that quotes Martin Luther, but I like these words (feel free to provide a more accurate translation, if you can):

“If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.”

Sermon
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

Many years ago I stood in the hallway outside a college admissions office, sweating uncomfortably in my Sunday Suit and twisting the postcard with the time and place of my appointment in my hands. I pushed the door open slowly and looked around. I saw a man sitting at his desk, seemingly absorbed in his paperwork. I eased into the room, looking for a place to sit when suddenly he looked up and barked at me, “What are you doing here?” Startled, I stammered out that I was looking for the Admissions office. He said, “This is it. What are you doing here?” Again I attempted to answer. “I’m Delmer Chilton and I have an appointment.” He grunted and said, “I know that, but what are you doing here?”

Know that expression, “Look like a deer in the headlights?” That was me. I was completely bumfuzzled. Finally I shrugged my shoulders threw up my hands and said, “I don’t understand the question. You’ve got to help me out here?’ Again the man grunted and said, “What are you doing here? Not here in this room but here in this life? Why do you want to go to college? What is your calling, your purpose, your passion? What ARE YOU doing here?” I don’t know how good that man was at recruiting students; but he sure was good at asking the important questions.

Did you notice that his question was the same question that God asked Elijah on the mountain, “What are you doing here?” At one level it’s a question about why Elijah is hiding in a cave far from where he’s supposed to be. At another level it’s a question about Elijah’s calling in life. Without going too deeply into the history, Elijah had been called by God to oppose Ahab and Jezebel, the rulers of Israel. Ahab, under the influence of his wife had reintroduced Baal worship and many of the people were adopting it. There was a big confrontation between Elijah and the priests of Baal that involved the sacrifice of a bull and the calling down of fire from heaven. It’s a real interesting story. It’s in I Kings 18:20-40. You should read it some time. Anyway, The four hundred priests of Baal failed and Elijah succeeded in calling down fire from heaven and the 400 Baal priests were killed, but instead of proving anything to Jezebel and she got mad and decided to have Elijah killed. And here’s the interesting thing. Elijah had just successfully called down fire from heaven and now he turns tail and runs. After that gigantic demonstration of God’s power, at the first sign of trouble he gives up.

And God comes and finds him in the cave and asks him, “What are you doing here?” “Why did you run away?” Elijah’s answer says it all, because his answer is not about God, it’s all about him, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with a sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” Elijah’s fatal flaw at this moment is that he believes that he is the one who has done good things for God; when in reality it is God who has done good things for the world through Elijah.

This moves to the second meaning of the question, the meaning my College Admissions Officer was getting at. What is your calling, your purpose in life? Elijah had forgotten that his calling was to serve God and to allow God to work in and through him for the benefit of Israel and ultimately the world.
Moving for a moment to our Gospel story of Jesus walking on the water; we discover that Peter had a similar problem. When he looked at the storm that surrounded him, he forgot that it was God who was holding him up. He began to think, “I can’t do this, I can’t walk on water,” and then he began to sink.

Now, let’s be clear here. We’re not talking about some form of “positive thinking” of “look deep within yourself and believe!” pseudo-psycho-babble. No, this is about remembering that we don’t do great things for God. God does great things for us, and God does great things through us for the salvation of the world.

Remember when the little WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) bracelets were all the rage? I used to joke about needing a WWPD bracelet; “What Would Peter Do?”  Now there’s a standard I can live up to. But I was sort of serious about that. The trouble with WWJD is we are not Jesus, so we can’t do what Jesus would do. That is precisely the point of these stories; we are dependent upon God, and God is trustworthy.

Jesus could walk on water, Peter couldn’t except with God’s help. Elijah didn’t make God send fire from heaven, God sent Elijah to call for the fire. Way too often we in the church think it’s our job to do great things for God. We want to build big buildings, attract huge crowds, be a “significant” and “important” congregation in our community and Synod.

None of this is bad unless we think that we do those things on our own, as a service to God. We don’t. It is not our calling to be successful, as the world defines success. Rather it is our calling to be faithful, as God defines faith. It is our calling as the church to proclaim the Word and administer the Sacraments, to serve the world in the name of the one who came and served us.

It is our calling to be proclaimers, in words and deeds of the glorious Good News of the love and Grace of God. How are they to hear without someone to tell them? (Romans 10: 14) Our proclamation may result in size and significance in the eyes of the world, and it may not. But that is not the issue. The issue is remembering that to say “Jesus is LORD,” is also to say “And I am not.”

The issue is remembering the words of Martin Luther in the Small Catechism, “Not by my own reason and strength can I believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him,” and I would add “or serve him.” The issue is remembering what we’re doing here. The issue is remembering that our calling is to be a means of grace in the world, a place and a people through whom God will love and serve the world.

Amen and Amen.