Monthly Archives: July 2019

Setting the Table: Who is Welcome?

We continued in worship today with Genesis 18 and Luke 5. Last week we had Abraham offering hospitality to his three visitors, this week Abraham continues his hospitality as he walks with them a bit to bless them on their way. In Luke, Jesus calls Levi a tax collector and is immediately criticized for eating with sinners.

The problem with reading Genesis 18 is that is the the setup for the horrible events that happen with the messengers outside of Sodom at Lot’s home. I could have avoided even mentioning Genesis 19, but somehow that seems wrong. Genesis 19 is used again and again to “clobber” the LGBTQ community.  This passage is not about “sex” but about violence and assault.

Trigger warning….in today’s sermon I use the word rape and note that in just one line that we tend to focus on the sex in a woman’s rape, rather than focus on the power and the violence. I also note in our history as a country, men, white men in particular, have used power and violence against African American men to keep them in their place through beatings and lynchings.

This sermon is as long a sermon as I have preached, but I wanted to do justice to the Genesis passage and focus on the real sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. Because of that, I went over the “allotted” TV time, but you get most of the sermon. You can find both the sermon and the whole worship service here.

For those watching live or online I will add what the “manuscript” said, plus the parts I cut out at the end to try and finish up. So, I am sharing the end of the sermon as I wished it had been….

I think it is somewhat easy to look at the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and make very general statements because we think that is not our sin…we have used this story to condemn and make outcast so many people, because it isn’t our sin…the Pharisees or religious leaders found it easy to condemn Levi and the others, because it wasn’t their sin….but when we get right down to the heart of it all….the sin is arrogance, the sin is pride, the sin is the unwillingness to truly do what we need to do for the most vulnerable in our midst. We distance ourselves because “those” people deserve their lot in the life. It is easy to call names, to label, to justify and minimize those who are not like us, those who seem strange and different. So Jesus, when confronted with why he was hanging out with the most unacceptable in society basically says, “you want to know who is welcome at the table, I tell you everyone is. Everyone is worthy of God’s love and grace and I intend to share it with everyone I meet.” Abraham certainly worked to make the stranger welcome and to bless a whole group of people he didn’t even know…Abraham wasn’t perfect, he had deep grief and sorrow, but he followed the call God and even in the darkness of the unfulfilled promise of a child, he brought blessing and hope and faith and love. We are called to do the same.

In the words of John Wesley: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Neither is love content with barely working no evil to our neighbor. Love continually incites us to good: as we have the time and the opportunity in every possible kind and in every possible degree to all….”

It’s time friends, to welcome and accept all people. It’s time to quit building fences to keep people out and time to open wide the doors for the newness of life in Christ to be filling new people with love, with grace, with purpose and with a reminder that each one of us is unique and unrepeatable, we are God’s Beloved children. It is time to lay down the hurled insults, the constant bickering and unbendable positions and begin to find a way to welcome one another and make plans to work toward a community of faith and a world where the love and grace of Jesus is made real not just in the church, but in you and me and in the everyone. This week my friends, We are blessed to be a blessing, to offer new life and hope and love to new people.

 

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Setting the Table: Hospitality

We started a new sermon series today “Setting the Table.” For those who know me, I love to cook and share dinner with others. This sermon series is drawn loosely from Margaret Feinberg’s book Taste and See, Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers. We will focus later in the sermon series on 4 of the biblical foods she uses in her book.

While they may not “abound” there are many books on food and spirituality. After all the “table” is central to the Christian faith. Before his arrest and crucifixion, the last act of Jesus is ask his disciples to “remember me” every time they eat and drink. In many many Christian traditions the meal of Jesus is shared every week.

In her book, Margaret Feinberg writes,” When we gather to eat, God want to nourish more than our bodies: he want to nourish our souls with transcendent joy and supernatural community and divine presence. When we feed our physical appetites in community, we open our hearts for God to feed something deeper as well.”

In today’s worship service we focused on Abraham feeding the divine messengers and on the call of Simon Peter and James and John. A traditional grace in many homes states: Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blest. In Abraham’s case, The Divine shows up and is literally his guest. The same is true for Simon.

And Sarah and Simon are afraid. They have offered what they have and it is received with grace. The call for Sarah to trust the promise of God and for Simon to follow comes out of blessing. They are blessed to be a blessing and we are too. We are called to set the Table of Grace and Love.

Incorporating the theme of Vacation Bible School: “God is able to do far more than we can ask or imagine by the power of his work within us” was a perfect frame for what God CAN and WILL do in God’s people. You can find the whole worship service here.

If you want to experience some of the VBS music you can find the theme song here. And the kids favorite song “Even When the Lions Roar” here.

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Year of Gratitude: July

The month got away from me, particularly because I was on vacation from July 2-13. Yes, I could have blogged, but I didn’t. I am grateful for the “vacation/sabbath” with my husband and then having time with children and grandchildren.

July’s focus for our year of gratitude is:

July 2019

Service Personnel: This month begins with a celebration of the United States. It is a good month to be thankful for all those “service” people who are part of our lives. That would include military personnel, police officers, fire fighters, government officials and those we often overlook: postal carriers, trash collectors and others in “service” industries. This month we will give thanks for those who serve.

Service people are all around us and often unseen and unappreciated. Those who service in military or those who serve overnight as EMT’s, fire fighters and police officers work diligently to provide security and safety. In the next couple of weeks I will focus on other service workers, but this week I do want to ponder what I experience because of the people who offer themselves in this line of duty.

This was particularly brought home to me as I read my friend Jeanne Wood’s post about being a 9/11 survivor and hero. She didn’t use the word hero, but that is what I would call her. I have known Jeanne online since 1999 and had an opportunity to meet her in person as well as continue to be friends over all these years. If you are on Facebook, you can see her post on my page. 

Sometimes it is easy to point out all of the flaws for those who serve. Yes, we hold them to a higher standard (as we do preachers, teachers and others) and that is not a bad thing. There are flaws in every system and sometimes people make terrible mistakes. Day in and day out, however, these people who serve do so because they feel called to do something that matters to others.

At Vacation Bible School this week we have been been focusing on “Going Beyond With….Faith….Boldness….Kindness.” We have had some off duty Wichita Police Officers assisting us in the evenings. The last two nights we have had Officer Shannon Meyer. The children have adored her and I have enjoyed getting better acquainted.

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I am grateful for her choice to serve the city of Wichita and serve us downtown. Todays theme for VBS is “Going Beyond with Gratitude!” I am grateful on many levels for the Wichita Police Department, our Wichita HOT team, our Firefighters and EMT’s and all who serve and put their lives on the line day in and day out.

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My challenge for us this week to write a thank you note to someone you know, or a note of appreciation to a group of service personnel. Or stop by your local police or fire department and take them a plate of cookies or a pan of brownies. Thank them for serving.

 

 

 

 

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Draw the Circle Wide: Ripples of Hospitality

Today was the final Sunday of our sermon series “Draw the Circle Wide.” Pastor Rebecca preached the last two Sundays as I have been on vacation. It was good to be in worship today and bless and commission our VBS volunteers and students and to assist Pastor Rebecca.

This sermon series has been a blessing to my soul both as a preacher and as someone who listened to others preach. In a time that is difficult and the circle seems to be getting smaller it is good to be challenged that our faith requires something different. Our faith is one that asks that we look past a persons skin color, ethnic background, country of origin or any number of ways we try and keep people out.

The parable of the Good Samaritan always challenges our perception of neighbor, of who is acceptable to receive mercy, grace and love. Pastor Rebecca did a wonderful job of drawing in the current crisis at our southern border as an example of how persons are being vilified rather than being seen as neighbor.

To experience the whole service or just the sermon click on this link.

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