Fruit

As I have done in previous Lents I am sharing a daily reflection as part of my Lenten discipline. This year I am using the “Wilderness Wanderings” theme compiled by the “Lent Photo a Day” group. The word appointed for February 26th was  “Fruit.”

Sorting Food on the Fourth at Messiah Lutheran Church
Sorting Food on the Fourth at Messiah Lutheran Church

Messiah Lutheran Church passed a remarkable milestone this weekend. For the past six years, the congregation and volunteers have brought bags full of food (and other essential supplies) to worship every fourth weekend of the month. This has come to be called “Food on the Fourth.”

This weekend, the fourth weekend of February, the congregation passed the 100,000 lb. mark. That’s 50 tons worth of food since the program began, and there is no stop in sight.

I share that story because in thinking about fruit, both in light of the idea of “fruits of the spirit,” and this weekend’s gospel passage from Luke 13:1-9, this is the kind of fruit is possible when a tree is planted. Two congregational members had an idea, and what it has grown into and sparked is a ministry that has filled the shelves of food pantries, and met the needs of many neighbors in the community.

What kind of fruit might your idea bear? What kind of fruit have your ideas already bore? 

 

Clean

As I have done in previous Lents I am sharing a daily reflection as part of my Lenten discipline. This year I am using the “Wilderness Wanderings” theme compiled by the “Lent Photo a Day” group. The word appointed for February 25th was  “Clean.”

Growing up at my home congregation we used to sing a version of “Create in Me a Clean Heart O God,” after offering on non-communion Sundays. The majority of the time it was the version found in setting two of The Lutheran Book of Worship. As many Lutheran congregations have moved to having communion weekly now, this arrangement and response is sung far less frequently in worship. But the words of the text that form the basis of the message are singing my ear today.

From Psalm 51:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:10-12, NRSV).

What does it mean to have a clean heart? It’s certainly not something we can make on our own. It’s something that only God can do in and through us. What that might look like I am sure would vary, but I suspect a clean heart would drive us out to serve in the promise of God’s presence with us.

From my work as a worship leader and music and worship director, I grew into loving one arrangement of this text more than others because of its flow, jazzy and gospel feel, and ease of incorporating rhythm. James Capers and Dennis Friesen-Carper’s work in the Liturgy of Joy is something that really makes worship meaningful and fun to me. Their version of the text goes like this:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with your free Spirit. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

It’s not a hard translation but the melody that it is put to just draws you in. A quick search of YouTube and I found this nice video version of the arrangement from Christ Mertz Lutheran Church in Dryville, Pennsylvania to help give you a listen to the melody I am talking about.

When thinking about being clean in daily life, you might think of starting your day with a shower. I also think we are made clean through baptism, confession, reminders of baptism, in prayer, and in conversation and community. Though we might be able to physically clean ourselves in the shower, I doubt we can always clean ourselves in other ways. That’s where God comes in, and also we see the importance of relationships and community.

What do you think? How are you made clean? 

Source: “Create in Me a Clean Heart,” James M. Capers, arr. Dennis Friesen-Carpter, Liturgy of Joy, found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 185.

Tree

As I have done in previous Lents I am sharing a daily reflection as part of my Lenten discipline. This year I am using the “Wilderness Wanderings” theme compiled by the “Lent Photo a Day” group. The word appointed for February 24th was  “Tree.”

Out admiring fall in the trees in my parents' backyard with Allison.
Out admiring fall in the trees in my parents’ backyard with Allison.

I grew up Washington, also known as “The Evergreen State.” It’s a state with beautiful trees, woodlands, and forests. In my backyard growing up it would not be uncommon to spend long periods of time playing in the woods, climbing the trees, and looking for lost baseballs in amid the ferns and undergrowth.

I am particularly thinking about the large maple in the backyard. When covered in leaves it provides such amazing amounts of shade. Of course, in the fall, it also helps makes the biggest leaf pile you can play in that you could imagine.

Thinking about trees, trees that last have a strong foundation with an impressive root system. Trees that grow, grow up and out, as the roots continue to take hold. In some ways trees are a good metaphor for life and faith. They grow over time and are effected by things outside of their control- the weather, other creatures (or people), insects or diseases, etc. Trees have also long been a source of wood for heat, for paper, and wood for building and construction.

Thinking theologically, trees not only provided the wood that became the manger that held the baby Jesus, they also provided the wood that would become a cross on which he would die in the crucifixion. Sadly, trees did not stop being used as a means of death with the end of crucifixions. In the United States, racism, hate, evil, and bigotry led to trees being used as “lynching trees.”

Trees, symbols of life that grow as part of God’s good creation, throughout history have been horribly misused as means and tools of public death and shame. If you have never read James Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree, I highly encourage you to read this powerful, painful, and important book which digs into this further.

As we journey through Lent to the painful reminder of the tree(s) that became the cross, I am also reminded of this weekend’s appointed gospel passage which includes the parable of the man with the fig tree (Luke 13:1-9). In the parable the gardener says,

“Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” (Luke 13:8-9).

Healthy trees bear fruit, much like healthy lives. Some times it just takes a little time to see what shape they might be, or what kind of fruit they might bear.

How in your life are you bearing fruit? In what ways might the way you are living, serving, learning, and/or doing, be having an impact on your communities in the world? What fruit or seeds might you be planting or bearing? 

 

Heart

As I have done in previous Lents I am sharing a daily reflection as part of my Lenten discipline. This year I am using the “Wilderness Wanderings” theme compiled by the “Lent Photo a Day” group. The word appointed for February 23rd, was  “Heart.”

“Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.” – 2 Corinthians 4:1, NRSV.

Sometimes it takes heart just to keep going, like to keep going on the ferry on Puget Sound.
Sometimes it takes heart just to keep going, like to keep going on the ferry on Puget Sound.

This is the start of the chapter that was by and large the favorite grounding passage for the Congregational Mission and Leadership program I studied in at Luther Seminary. It’s a rich passage of wonder, affirmation, collaboration, as well as a reminder of what truly matters.

In verse 5 we are reminded that “we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as slaves for Jesus’ sake.” In verse 8 we hear what has more recently been used as the verse lyrics for the song, “Trading My Sorrows,” as the text reads, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” I encourage you to read the whole chapter.

What strikes me is that this is such a missional and sending thing? It’s a reminder of the kind of work we are called into in our lives, service, vocations, ministry, leadership, etc. It also reminds us that we are part of something way bigger than ourselves. And in that reminder, we can find heart.

Love, passion, courage, these are all things that are part of what having heart means to mean. For me it also means pouring yourself into something. Sometimes this can be a life giving thing, other times, it can hurt, especially when things may not work out quite the way you might have been hoping or expecting.

I mention this chapter, 2 Corinthians 4, because I have been living in this passage this week. It’s been a great week of conversations, hopeful discernment, a smashing success of the inaugural “Theology Uncorked,” great affirmation and more. It’s also been a week of wrestling with the hard parts related to these, relationships, and more. In the midst of this, the words of 2 Corinthians 4:16, “So we do not lose heart,” gives me great peace and assurance.

What does heart mean to you? What does having heart look and feel like to you?

This Week’s Links

Internet1Happy Tuesday! Each week on the blog I get to share some of what I have seen, read, and found interesting and thought provoking over the past week. To help make sense of all of these links, I have grouped them by the following categories: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; Vocation; and Miscellaneous. I hope that you enjoy these links!

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

For those of you preparing for worship this weekend, or writing a sermon, I have some helpful links. If you are following the revised common lectionary, check out this look at “Lent 3C” from Bishop Michael Rinehart. Also spend some time with this reflection about “Longing for More,” by friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis. You should also give a listen to the “Sermon Brainwave” for this week which features Karoline, as well as friends and professors Rev. Dr. Matt Skinner and Rev. Dr. Rolf Jacobson. Also on this weekend’s themes and texts, Rev. Dr. David Lose wrote and shared about “Lent 3C: Suffering, the Cross, and the Promise of Love.”

If you are following the narrative lectionary, consider this “Commentary on Mark 12:1-12 or Mark 12:13-17,” from N. Clayton Croy.

My home congregation, First Lutheran Church in Poulsbo, Washington celebrated its 130th Anniversary this past weekend. To help celebrate I shared some thoughts on this blog about those “130 Years of Ministry.”

Brady Slater shared news from Duluth, Minnesota where a fire caused “major damage to historic Gloria Dei Lutheran Church” there.

Carroll Howard Merritt wrote and pondered, “Why can’t we be friends?” Within this Carol highlights two particularly disturbing but not all that surprising statistics, “70% of pastors are depressed and burnt out. 70% of pastors say they don’t have a close friend.” Give this post a read and see what you think.

I came across this post from 2014 by Courtney Ball highlighting “Five Lessons Pastors Should Learn from Community Organizers.”

Back in November, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Church Council adopted this “Social Message on Gender-Based Violence.” The final version has not been realized, but the text has been adopted by the church council as presented here. I think this is an important and needed document.

Thom Rainer unpacked, “9 Traits of Church Bullies.”

What are you doing June 20-24 this summer? If you don’t know, I have a good answer for you, attending Disciple Project 2016 at Texas Lutheran University and sponsored by my friends at LEAD. The Disciple Project is one of the best leadership ministry weeks that I know of in the church, especially for youth and youth leaders in congregations and faith communities.

For congregations and faith communities preparing to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, Augsburg Fortress CEO Beth Lewis shared about these “new resources” which are available.

If you are looking for some good congregational resources from a variety of friends and professors, check out these from Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.

Dr. Philip Clayton shared about the importance of “Rebooting Theological Education.”

Friend, blogger, and communications strategist Carrie Gubsch shared this important and helpful post by pastor and blogger Clint Schnekloth who argues that, “This one thing will strengthen the church more than anything else… and it may surprise you.” This one thing Clint writes would be that, “Every Christian, every church member, schedules an individual meeting with their pastor.” I think it’s a great idea, and these one-on-ones should be annual conversations. What do you think?

Clint Schnekloth also shared some thoughts about the “Church for Introverts.”

Brian Dodd wrote an interesting piece about 5 lessons he “Learned about Unchurched People from a College Basketball Game.” The lessons were: I am glad I attended with a friend; they were not expecting visitors; they were having fun; does your music connect with unchurched people?; and are our customs turning off the unchurched? What do you think.

Messy news broke last week from Seattle, where as Nina Shapiro writes the Seattle Presbytery has ordered “pastors to vacate” First Presbyterian Church in Downtown Seattle.

In the appalling story of the week Connie Thompson reports about how an “Online church offers prayers — for a price.”

Blogger and pastor Jason Chesnut moderated last week’s Church and Social Media (#ChSocM) chat which focused on the question, “Why Church?

With innovation in ministry in mind, Patty Hastings wrote about how “Churches’ declining numbers inspire creative approach: Reinventing religiosity in Clark County, U.S. comes amid drop in participation.” Give this a read and see what you think.

That article is of particular interest in the community and context I am serving this year as mission developer at Messiah Lutheran Church. From that role, my latest blog post is all about “Listening Out.”

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Lisa Nikolau wrote in The Humanospherethat at the “U.S.-Mexico border, Pope Francis calls migrant crisis a ‘human tragedy.'”

Michael Barrick shared this look at “15 Reasons Why Nonprofit Employees Quit.”

Nicole Webb shared some “Key Advice for Overqualified Job Applicants.”

Julian Stodd, social leadership theorist, wrote and reflected about: “The Smell of Knowledge“; Julian shared some “Words about Learning: Dreams“; as well as some thoughts about “An Imperfect Humanity: Pity and Grace.”

Leadership Thought & Practice

Julian Stodd pondered, “Led or Leader?” Julian also unpacked, “10 Things a Social Leader Does.”

Brian Dodd shared a look at his “Top 10 Leadership Posts” that he read over the past week, a good list of leadership links and articles, as well as “10 Things Leaders Should Be Thinking.”

Achim Nowak asked, “How Do You Avoid the ‘Same Old, Same Old’ Mentality?

Tanveer Naseer wrote about, “The One Thing Today’s Leaders Need to Do.”

Dan Rockwell shared a number of great leadership reflections and tips, including: “Five Things That Go Up when Leaders Listen“; “Seven Ways to Not-Know Like a Leader“; and perspective on how and why “Brainstorming that Works Requires Two Sessions.” Check out these posts and see what you think.

Steve Dunlap pondered, “What if Every Employee You Had Were an Entrepreneur?

Marcella Bremer shared some, “Reflection Questions for leaders, consultants, and other professionals.”

Ted Coine wrote about “The Power of Why.” Within this Ted notes that, “The most important story you can tell and be connected to is the story of why you do the work that you do.” In some ways, Ted is taking up one of my favorite questions for leaders and organizations, “Why do you do what you do?”

Yekemi Otaru asked, “Can Your Organization Have a Social CEO? And does it matter?” What do you think?

In a related post, Andrea Edwards wrote and asked, “Wait, Where Are All the Social CEOs?

Bill and Melinda Gates
Bill and Melinda Gates

Richard Branson shared this good leadership and life piece on “Melinda Gates and the power of giving.”

Daniel Stephens wrote about “The 4 Essential Tasks” of Effective Leadership which were: to equip; to educate; to empower; and to encourage.

Steve Keating reflected about “Trusted Leadership.”

Anne Loehr shared this spotlight on “Sara Sutton Fell, Flex Jobs.”

My wife Allison shared this piece by Deborah Tannen contemplating about women in leadership, writing about, “Our impossible expectations of Hillary Clinton and all women in authority.”

My friend and mentor Rodney Brown wrote, reflected, and pondered in, “The New Super Power: ‘We the People’?

Thin Difference shared a number of great posts about leadership, community, and collaboration. These included Heidi Oran‘s look at “Community and Collaboration,” as well as Jon Mertz‘s consideration of “How Mindfulness Shapes Effective Strategic Leadership,” as well as how “Community Creates the Music of Life.”

Millennials

Jeremy Chandler at Thin Difference shared “4 Questions to Help Millennials Grow into Leadership.” The questions are: How am I wired? How do I influence others? How do I learn best? And, what do I truly value? Give those questions some thought. They are good ones for leadership and purpose.

Amy Friedrich shared, “Three Reasons to Work for a Millennial.” The reasons Amy points to are: their businesses are growing the fastest; they’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse; and they “get” work-life balance.

Tracy Benson writes that “Motivating Millennials takes more than Flexible Work Policies.”

Erica Perry shared, “3 Things about Marketing to Millennials that Might Surprise You.” The things that Erica highlights about Millennials are that: they are more open to branded content, as long as it’s relevant; their TV habits have changed, but they have not abandoned it altogether; and they live their lives online, but they still live offline experiences.

Kristi at Young Adult Money pondered, “Should Millennials Focus on Income or Net Worth?

Neighbor Love

My wife Allison has been doing a fair bit of preaching lately. During the first weekend in Lent, she preached on Luke 4:1-13 and “Isolation and Toughen Up: What Jesus’ Temptation Isn’t About,” with important words and a response to the misuse of the text shaped with some feminist and liberation theologian perspectives. Allison also preached at a mid-week service as part of Lenten series on water sharing her message about, “The Gift of Water: Yes I Preached on Genesis 24.”

Allison also shared a couple interesting posts including this look at “The Fixer Upper” Couple; and this sermon by Sara Wolbrecht entitled, “Consider the Birds,” based on Luke 4:1-13.

James Martin shared a very important look at “What the pope did, and didn’t, mean when he said Trump was not a Christian.”

Liam Stack relatedly wrote, “In Defense of Trump, Some Point (Wrongly) to Vatican Walls.”

"Under Her Wings" by Vonda Drees, based on this past weekend's appointed gospel text from Luke 13:31-35.
“Under Her Wings” by Vonda Drees, based on this past weekend’s appointed gospel text from Luke 13:31-35.

Friend, blogger, and artist Vonda Drees shared a number of beautiful posts over the past week. These posts included: “reflections of God’s love“; “just how wide?“; “good food“; “enough for everyone“; “under her wings“; “to be hungry“; and “creating connected, whole and holy.”

If you have been tired of hearing people say that a “free education is lazy,” check out this response and see what you think.

Ali Owens unpacked, “4 Problematic Statements White People make about Race – and what to say instead.” The problematic statements are: “I Don’t See Color”; “All Lives Matter”; “If racism is still a problem, how come we have a black president?”; and “Reverse racism is real.” See what Ali suggests you say instead of these problematic statements.

Friend Lynn Willis at LEAD reflected about “Breaking Patterns.

This past weekend I preached about, “The Fox, Hen, and Vulnerability,” based on Luke 13:31-35, the gospel passage appointed for the second weekend in Lent.

Also, based on the Luke 13:31-35 passage, Nancy shared her sermon entitled, “A Mother Hen’s Lament.” Rev. Erik Parker also shared his entitled, “Being Threatened by Jesus.”

Melissa Binder wrote about, “What an evangelical theologian and his gay son can teach us all about respect and reconciliation.”

Friend, blogger, and stewardship director Adam Copeland shared a recent sermon based on Philippians 3:17-4:1 entitled, “True Citizenship.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Aaron Fuller shared his sermon for this past weekend which was based on Mark 10:32-52 in which he asked, “What can Jesus do for you?” Also based on this passage, friend, pastor, and blogger Frank Johnson shared his sermon entitled, “The blind who see, but do not see.”

Bishop Michael Rinehart shared some thoughts about “How to be charitable without doing more harm than good.”

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) CEO Linda Hartke explained why she is “Wearing a GPS Tracking Monitor for Lent: Part 1.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Diane Roth reflected about the beauty of community and worship in writing about “Sunday Morning.” Give this post a read, I think it might warm your heart a little.

For some perspective on society in the United States check out this cartoon from Pat Bagley entitled, “A Christian Nation.”

Sarah Pulliam Bailey shared this article by Sarah Posner looking at “Why Donald Trump’s glitzy style is attracting evangelical voters.”

On this blog I continued with the Lent Photo a Day journey through Lent with daily devotional reflections. These posts included” some thoughts on “Law“; reflections on listening and the importance of being able to “tell” the story; a brief reflection on “evil“; wondering about what it means to have a “rock” you can rely on; thoughts about our “hands” and all that they do and enable us to do; as well as some thoughts on “mock” and “glory.”

Social Media & Blogging

Friend and blogger J.W. Wartick shared his version of the links with his “Really Recommended Posts.”

Stewardship

COMPASS continued its “Faithful Fun with Finances in February” series with this look at “Mint.com- a possible tool for budgeting, saving, giving & more,” from Jessica Zackavec.

Stefanie O’Connell shared some thoughts on “How to Save Money with Irregular Income.”

Friend and stewardship director Adam Copeland shared this reflection about “Embracing Stewardship” written by friend and mentor Rev. Chick Lane.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner shared a list of “8 Things to Sell Around Your Home for Extra Money.” The things that Michelle points to are: clothing; electronics and appliances; furniture; cardboard tubes; books; movies; gift cards; and sporting goods.

Vocation

Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared some vocational and life updates with her “Tuesday Tea Time” from last week, as well as her “Tuesday Tea Time” for this week, which reveals exciting news about baby Nelson.

Miscellaneous

If you like planes like I do, you might appreciate this tribute as “Air France gives final salute to the Boeing 747.”

——————————————————————————

That concludes this edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them. As always, if you have particular questions or topics for me to think about on the blog, please share them. Also, if there are things you would like to see included in the links, please let me know that too. Thank you for reading and being a part of the conversation! Blessings on your week-TS

Image Credits:  The Links; Bill and Melinda Gates; and “under her wings.”

Glory

As I have done in previous Lents I am sharing a daily reflection as part of my Lenten discipline. This year I am using the “Wilderness Wanderings” theme compiled by the “Lent Photo a Day” group. The word appointed for today is “Glory.”

"Glory!" by Vonda Drees
“Glory!” by Vonda Drees

Glory isn’t always the word that comes to mind during Lent. But there is one Lenten hymn in particular that paints a picture. John Bowring wrote the text for the hymn, “In the Cross of Christ I Glory.” The text sings as follows:

“In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o’er the wrecks of time. All the light of sacred story gathers round its head sublime. When the woes of life o’er take me, hopes deceive, and fears annoy, never shall the cross forsake me; lo, it glows with peace and joy. When the sun of bliss is beaming light and love upon my way, from the cross the radiance streaming adds more luster to the day. Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure, by the cross are sanctified; peace is there that knows no measure, joys that through all time abide.”

During this season we particularly focus on the heinous symbol of death and crucifixion, the cross. A symbol so terrible, that during its usage, it was meant to be a sign of mockery and disgrace. Yet, that symbol has become the symbol of life, hope, and love through God in Christ. That is something to take glory in, and has been for Christians ever since the beginning of Christianity.

For Lutherans, it’s common to hear a focus on a “Theology of the Cross.” This is kind of ironic though, because a “Theology of the Cross” really is the opposite of a theology of glory. Rather than affirm a theology built on power and prestige, our faith and understanding is built on a God who joins humanity, confronts the sin of the world, and has mercy.

What do you take glory in? How do you take glory? 

Source: John Bowring & Ithamar Conkey,”In the Cross of Christ I Glory,” found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 324.

Image Credit: Glory!

The Fox, Hen, and Vulnerability- a sermon for Lent 2C

The following is the majority of the text that I preached from at Messiah Lutheran Church in Hazel Dell and North County this past weekend, based on the revised common lectionary passages appointed for the Second Sunday in Lent (Lent 2C). The primary text was the Gospel of Luke 13:31-35, with some references to Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18, and Psalm 27

“Go and tell that fox for me, listen I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow and on the third day I finish my work.”

What a Tweet that would make. That’s 139 characters, a perfect tweet. For those of you who think I might be speaking a foreign language here, I am referring to the social media of Twitter, where people and groups can share pictures, stories, questions, and updates in posts limited to 140 total characters- you know spaces, punctuation, letters, etc.

Could you imagine if social media existed during Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem? What would the powers and politicians of today say about Jesus? What would they call him? I have to ask, given how some politicians have called other faith leaders, pastors, and the Pope, “disgraceful,” recently.

I suspect Jesus wouldn’t really care about the way he would be profiled on social media, much like the way he doesn’t let the speculation of the masses and those out to discredit him, get to him. Even when faced with the   message that his life is in danger, he basically says, “guess what, I know. But you know what, I have work to do.  So, until that time, if you would please excuse me…”

Jesus did as much when escaping the angry masses in his hometown of Nazareth. He’ll do so likewise, until he feels it’s time for his passion and entry into Jerusalem to proclamation of Hosannas, and decrees and songs of, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”

In spite of all the fear, the concerns and emotions of the earthly authorities, Jesus knows what matters- Casting out demons, performing cures,” and doing the work of the Kingdom of God; Work that is ultimately fulfilled in and through the cross and finished on the third day with his resurrection.  That’s the good news we know and remember through this Lenten journey towards Easter.

Mother hen...
A hen gathering her brood under her wings.

But perhaps the most intriguing thing in today’s passage is actually the longing that Jesus himself has, and is vulnerable enough to admit?  Jesus admits his longing and desire. He remarks, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…”

It’s an interesting image, for Jesus to compare himself, God’s self really, to a hen, a mother. In Jesus’ heart and mind, he wants to bring all the people of Jerusalem, of God’s creation together. He wants so much that all the descendants of Abraham, as numerous as the stars, to be brought into the fold and brood of God. But he knows how hard that is, admitting that we weren’t willing. He knows how hard it is for us to show love to one another, and to embrace one another.

Elsewhere Jesus talks clearly about healing, serving, and being in relationship. But in this strange little passage today Jesus allows himself to be vulnerable and to admit his longing for a community only made possible through God’s love, yet promised to Abraham. It’s something that, even though the hard work of the resurrection is already done, we have quite a long way to go to be that community all safely nestled as one brood under God’s wings.

Perhaps, the gift in today’s passage for us is that Jesus himself can be vulnerable, and vulnerability is a gift. It’s not something easy to be or to do. It’s certainly not something that is often modeled in our society. Often time leaders are afraid to admit their fears, or admit they may not have all the answers. We have seen this modeled by leaders in society, perhaps in our own homes and families, maybe even in our own faith communities.

We are afraid to admit our own fears and feelings of inadequacy, thoughts that we aren’t good enough, or aren’t who we should be…because we fear that to do so is to show weakness. We try to be someone who we aren’t, ignoring our identities as beautiful Children of God, just as we are. We try to hide emotions and feeling. Because we believe that showing any means we’re weak.

For a long time even, leaders, teachers, and pastors were taught in school to not show these moments of humanity. This has been a long mistake, which the church today is finally beginning to understand.

brene brown daring greatlyJesus gives us a gift of being vulnerable. He helps us see that sharing hopes, feelings, and longing is not a point of weakness. Rather, it’s an expression of our humanity, and our identity as children of God. Jesus of course makes himself vulnerable to the point of the cross, and we know the rest of the story.

What might this vulnerability look like today? What, if instead of acting like we had all the answers to all the questions in our communities and the world, we instead decided to listen more and walk humbly? What if we heeded Jesus’ call, who even when reminded of what is to come in Jerusalem, continues “to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God?” What if we did as Micah writes?- what if we strove to always “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God?” That would be a bold but vulnerable move. It would be something that I don’t think we see much of in this political season of campaigns and primaries. It would force us to move past all the noise, and rather meet people where they are at. Such a move would take courage. It would require us to take a step back and “Wait for the Lord,” to “be strong and let our hearts take courage.”

This past week was the unofficial start of more intentional outward listening in my role as a mission developer. I visited with the director of development, and mayor of the city of Ridgefield. I listened as I heard their hopes, dreams, and visions for Ridgefield, as well as their hopes for places of partnership and continued community building. Though they were civic leaders, what I heard was also hope for the building of meaningful and lasting communities of purpose. I heard visions for me, of what might be small reflections of the brood that Jesus describes and longs for.

As I have processed these conversations, and plan and prepare for more with other leaders in the communities of North Clark County, I wonder what else I will hear? I am only beginning to witness what God might be up to, but I do believe that God has called this congregation to be a part of this community and present with it, just as God is present with God’s brood of children.

Jesus tells the Pharisees who come and tell him about Herod to “listen.” In other translations, he calls them to behold, or pay attention. Whatever the word, Jesus is calling people to pause, slow down, and take notice. The work of God is happening- maybe not quite as visibly as it was with Jesus casting out demons and performing cures, but that work continues today. We just have to take the time to slow down, listen, wonder, and watch.

I wonder what Jesus might have done if there was social media while he was doing his earthly ministry? I don’t think he would be fazed by the negativity, but I just wonder, maybe he would see it as a gift to convey the gospel. Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus tells the disciples and people around him to not speak and tell others about him until after the right time. Well, now is the time to share the story and social media at its best is a way to convey and share meaning. I believe wholeheartedly it’s also a way to share and wonder about the gospel together, and to remind everyone that they are loved and have meaning.

Like all forms of community and technology, it can be misused, however. Social Media can more quickly spread name calling, othering, bullying, and other terrible sins which divide community. But it also has the potential to not only allow us all to be more vulnerable with others if we choose, to be in relationship with each other, lifting up prayer concerns in real time, and being engaged in our communities.

Mayor Ron Onslow
Mayor Ron Onslow, the mayor of Ridgefield

When talking with the mayor of Ridgefield this past week, he mentioned how the different neighborhoods of the city have their own blogs that are limited and private for the neighborhoods and their residents themselves. He told of a recent experience where a relatively new resident had written asking for a recommendation of someone to come and repair their broken garage door one evening. The next morning, the resident was greeted by their neighbor from three doors down the street who came with their tools and fixed their garage door at no cost, just because that’s what neighbors do.

You don’t often hear these sorts of stories anymore because as people we struggle to admit when we need help. It takes a great deal of vulnerability to ask for help, just as it does to admit our longing and deepest hopes.

Maybe, that’s a gift of today’s gospel. That it’s okay to not always have all the answers. It’s okay to long and work for a better world and to ask for help in doing that. It’s okay to admit when we feel inadequate, or are afraid. It’s okay to admit we goofed up, and it’s important to confess our sin- In these moments of realization and vulnerability, just as in moments of joy, success, and triumph… God is there with us.

Jesus proclaims his love for us, God’s love for us, by comparing that to the love of a hen to her brood. A hen will protect her brood from a fox or any other type of predator, just as God does for you. God not only wants to draw you into God’s community, God brings you into the brood which God calls and creates us all to be a part of through the promising waters of baptism, through the sharing of bread and wine, through the acts of the cross and the empty tomb.

Jesus brings us under his wing, as a mother hen. Our lives aren’t always easy. Being vulnerable is not always easy, and can lead to times of being scarred or scorned. In the moments of rejection and pain, we are held safe from the harm and ridicule under the wings of Jesus. When we hear ideas that we aren’t good enough, or need to be someone or something else, Jesus brings us close and reminds us what it means to be the beautiful and vulnerable children of God, whom God created each child to be.

What I hear in the gospel today is this reminder that you are loved and you belong to God’s brood.  And that’s a beautiful reminder, calling, and promise, isn’t it? Amen.

Image Credits: A hen with her brood; Brene Brown quote; and Ron Onslow.