Take them where
you have been and lead them where you are going.
Take the journey with someone in
the congregation. What do you think of first? baptismal
font, lectern, pulpit, altar, Holy Communion.
But then he left me standing at
the end holding the cross after he had symbolically
baptized it. Holding it aloft. With the words, "Follow
Me." written on a piece of paper, whose ink was now
running, dripping red drops because the baptismal waters
were now running down.
some folks said afterwards that
it was a shame that that had happened, where you
couldn't read it, save it for a momento, but instead I
told them it was a powerful image, a powerful picture of
just what Pastor Steve was charging me to do. Eye to eye
for 15 - 20 minutes.
He said, take them where you
have been and lead them where you are going.
And I began to think. Where I
have been? No, no, they wouldn' want to go everywhere I
have been. Because when you dig back into my life, the
past has been far from exemplary. I was no saint. I was
a normal, curious, outspoken little kid, a typical
teenager growing and stretching to discover my own
identity and learn for myself the wisdom of my elders.
My early adult years were far from God's desires.
I wanted to say at the reception
that if my first pastor would reflect back, he would say
that I was the least likely kid that he would ever have
consider going into the ministry. Why? Because like most
people I was lost. Life's circumstances and my own
genetic make-up led me down paths that I would not
necessarily want you to follow.
Yet, that is what Christ did for
me. He accompanied me down every path that I ever went.
He would call to me, Joan - Follow Me. And, I didn't. He
called to me, Joan - Follow Me. And he picked up the
pieces of my life that were broken and carried them on
his shoulders until I was willing and able to turn
around and see him there bearing my mistakes, dripping
red from the disappointment, the hurt, the anger, the
sadness I had caused others.
And, I saw standing there with
him all the people who had listened to him and followed,
patiently echoing the words, Follow Jesus. When I
finally understood, I could remember all the times folks
had shared the gospel with me, the folks who had invited
me to see Jesus as they could see him. To walk his path
not my own. How many here were who had loved me, cared
for me, and then quietly watched me walk away knowing
they would never see the finished product.
And, isn't that the curious
thing. I was always in church busily doing the things
that church members do and yet totally missing the
message of the gospel…take up the cross and follow me.
The cross. Jesus carried
everyone's mistakes everyone's stupid decisions that
hurt and maimed everyone's painful words, everyone's
deceit… he walked with sinners and ate dinner with
sinners and invited sinners into his midst.
And we are called to do the
same…to bear one another's burdens, to be patient with
one another's sins. to invite them into this church, to
bring them into God's house. To enter into lives so
woven with sin and walk with them, and talk with them.
To patiently walk beside them sharing the Good news that
God love them, that Jesus died for them. and bear the
hurt and insult with absolute patience and love when
they continue unseeing and unknowing
Why? Because we too are sinners.
We confess it every time we say the words on page 56.
Or, …..do we say those words so many times that we
really don't understand what it means…we just say them.
In one of the churches in which I have served a woman
made the comment in a bible study that she couldn't see
where she had sinned that day. Afterall she had not
killed anyone, she had not stolen anything, she did not
swear, or lie. She had put her offering in the plate to
help feed the hungry
I told her that as long as she
did not have the mind of Christ, the mind of God she
would forever be "quote" a sinner. For the mind of Jesus
Christ is focused on those suffering from oppression,
violence and hunger. Those who are lonely and sick and
haunted by addictions and abuse. Those who suffer from
the ravages of war. Pray, I said, for the Holy Spirit to
give you the insight to find a cure for human desire for
destruction and war, for the desire to pile up false
security - amounting wealth and not using it to
eliminate starving people around the world. As long as
one person dies anywhere in this world from abuse,
neglect, or violence you and I have sinned.
For example….let me show you
just one example of a vast cavern of discrepancy over
how we view different sins. For those who consider
homosexuality a sin, there are programs that attempt
with varying degrees of success to help a person change
their orientation through intense Bible study,
mentoring, visual and physical stimuli both positive and
negative. YET, what do we have in place to change the
orientation of humans who find pleasure in violence.
Think about it....how many of you watch TV shows and
movies that make killing an exciting adventure. Oh, sure
it is couched in the guise of defense, protection, and
bringing the lawbreaker to justice. But nevertheless it
is presented as exciting, challenging, thrilling.
Videos, virtual reality games, war reenactments. WHERE
is the remorse of a life lost to sin. WHERE are your
tears for the mother who spent the long nights up
worrying over that baby she had brought into the world.
WHERE is your guilt over not having been able to save
that person from such a life. NO. Pastor Joan don't take
away our fun. Sorry - but we are deluded into thinking
that sin is okay.
But even if I wanted to, how can
I - one person - solve all of that…..And that my friends
is the reality of sin. Its all pervasive nature. YOU
cannot free others - Neither YOU or I can even free
ourselves. ONLY GOD can working through me, working
through you. But we have to stop pointing the fingers at
others and lift up our own sin onto the altar. Our own
sin of self deception, our haughty attitudes, our
unwillingness to share our fears, our sadness, our
depression, our confusion, our unwillingness to walk
close to the fire of others who are lost.
Walk with me where I have been.
Those words can haunt. They can instill fear. I don't
necessarily want to go where you have been. Yet, Jesus
asks me to listen to the stories and hear the heart. I
refuse to participate in the hub bub of the civil war
reenactments where I live in Gettysburg. I lived in a
house in which hundreds upon hundreds died from wounds
to garrish to describe. The blood that spilled from
their wounds still stains the floorboards. I can
visualize the agony. I don't want to go there. But as
one claimed by Christ, as one who calls oneself a
Christian I - WE - go there.
We don't stand as the Pharisees
did and quote the law and just say, quit sinning. We
recognize sinful acts as symptoms of deeper, hidden pain
and confusion. Hidden sometimes even from the
participants. There are men and women who return from
combat whose lives are haunted by memories and guilt
that long for someone - someone to bear their cross with
them. And we go there with them and patiently wait for
the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and help us discover how
to minister to the deep wounds that have produced
whatever behavior it is that is offensive. We take them
gently to the cross, to the table, to the waters of
regeneration and redemption. The waters of new life.
WE take them where we have been
and where we are going. We have all been through hell in
some form in our lives. But somehow, someway, through
someone, we have been claimed and stamped by the Holy
Spirit. We were carried through those doors by our
parents as infants and had water splashed on our
foreheads. Words spoken and a community took us as their
own. Our parents believed in the unexplainable power of
he Spirit and we are still here. Some friend perhaps
invited us to come to worship and we are still here. It
is the power of the Spirit that calls us to remain.
And it is that power that is
seeking to be sent forth into all the world to shine
through us and bring glory to God - bring Glory to
Jesus. And to call others to come so they too may
experience the saving grace and forgiveness that we have
received. The story of Jesus' transfiguration has been
told every year at this time in our church calendar. We
recognize as the three disciples did that Jesus is
Lord…Jesus is favored by God…Jesus was joined by great
prophets of old…Moses and Elijah. But how does all of
that play itself out in our lives? What does this story
mean for us?
At baptism, we are given a
tremendous gift. We as Lutherans are different than the
rest of the Christian world. We not only look at baptism
as a statement of our repentance and sole reliance on
Jesus as our savior. We know it as more, so much more.
It is the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us and direct
us to enter into us and transform us even when we are
not conscious of it. And, as that spirit seeks to mature
us and make us holy, it seeks to shine forth from within
us. It motivates us to come to church. It motivates us
to seek guidance from the scriptures, to pray, to seek
the company of other Christians. To share. To draw
others to the light that we have. To glorify God in our
bodies, our speech, and our behavior. To take others
where we have been and lead them where we are going.
We know intellectually at least
that we have been reclaimed, that we have been forgiven
of our sins. But too often it stops there. Too often it
is for us personally that Christ died. Too often we are
afraid to tell others what it means to us. Too often we
are afraid for others to know our sinful past and our
sin-filled present and how God's power entered in to
change all that. too often we are afraid people will
laugh and call us holy rollers. Perhaps they will be
afraid to see the glory of God reflected in us because
it might change the way they are, the way they live, the
fun they are having.
And so we hide the light of
Christ. We keep it for ourselves. We put a wall between
God and them - and guess what that wall is made up of?
US. Because we don't share the good news with everyone
we meet - we actually become a road block a hindrance to
God's work and our sin-filled nature is thrown back into
When we hide God's glory from
shining through our eyes. When we veil the power of the
Holy Spirit it will consume us until we allow the gospel
to take the reins of our lives.
Observe those who live by law
alone. Look at the Israelites. When Moses veiled the
glory of God because they were afraid…they got so caught
up in obeying the law that they forgot it was meant to
show them how to be a unique people claimed by God to be
an example for the blessing not oppression of other
nations. Second, take a look at our own Martin Luther
was one of those in his early years as a priest. He
agonized about whether he had purged all his sinful ways
out of his life. Had he repented sufficiently. He could
tell you how everyone else had sinned as well. He combed
the scriptures for every law he could possibly break to
make sure he wouldn't break one of them. Until one day,
after years of counseling, mentoring, prayer,
meditation, he saw that the law pointed to its future
fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Humans cannot fulfill the
law - we cannot obey the Law completely….only
He recognized that all the sins
he had participated actually magnified God's glory for
the changes that had been wrought in Martin's life once
he was freed of the burden of his sin. WE cannot glorify
God until we know and truly believe what a great work
has been done FOR us.
And in so doing you shine with
the glory of Christ, the glory of God.
sermons by Pastor Joan