Sermon for Sunday, March 17, 2019 – “Praying with our Fear”

Second Sunday in Lent
March 17, 2019
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Decorah, Iowa|
Rev. Amy Zalk Larson

Preaching Psalm: Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
2When evildoers close in against me to devour my flesh,
they, my foes and my enemies, will stumble and fall.
3Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not fear.
Though war rise up against me, my trust will not be shaken.
4One thing I ask of the Lord; one thing I seek;
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek God in the temple. 
5For in the day of trouble God will give me shelter,
hide me in the hidden places of the sanctuary, and raise me high upon a rock.
6Even now my head is lifted up above my enemies who surround me.
Therefore I will offer sacrifice in the sanctuary, sacrifices of rejoicing; I will sing and make music to the Lord.
7Hear my voice, O Lord, when I call;
have mercy on me and answer me.
8My heart speaks your message—“Seek my face.”
Your face, O Lord, I will seek. 
9Hide not your face from me, turn not away from your servant in anger.
Cast me not away—you have been my helper; forsake me not, O God of my salvation.
10Though my father and my mother forsake me,
the Lord will take me in.
11Teach me your way, O Lord;
lead me on a level path, because of my oppressors.
12Subject me not to the will of my foes,
for they rise up against me, false witnesses breathing violence.
13This I believe—that I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14Wait for the Lord and be strong.
Take heart and wait for the Lord! 

Beloved of God, grace to you and peace in the name of Jesus.

Dear ones, we need help. We need help in dealing with fear. Fear of the other is leading to so much violence in our world as we saw on display this past week in New Zealand. Acts like that also make us more fearful and worried for ourselves, for loved ones and neighbors, for Muslim neighbors, for our own country and our world. What do we do with this fear? What do we do with the fear that is a regular part of any life?

I have one friend from seminary who approaches any fear or challenge by saying, “It’s going to be fine.” I’ll call him Joe. No matter what issues arise, Joe says, “Ahh, no need to worry. It will be fine.”

He is always confident and sometimes correct. There are times I really want to be that unflappable. Yet, I’ve learned that his confidence, while encouraging, isn’t always grounded in reality.

Then there’s another friend who often thinks about the worst-case scenarios and tries to be ready for them. I’ll call him Paul. He is thorough and prepared and really, really extra vigilant. He also seems really anxious and tired a lot of the time.

Our Psalm today shows us a middle way between these two extremes, a way that acknowledges that there are real concerns and yet remains grounded in trust and hope, grounded in God.

Certainly, we each have our own personalities that wire us to respond to challenges and fear differently. I value both Joe and Paul and learn a lot from them. I also don’t know much about how they pray. Maybe their prayers are very different from their public personas.

As I’ve lived with Psalm 27 this week, I’m persuaded that all of us – Joe, Paul, you and I – would be wise to approach our fears and challenges the way the Psalmist does. In the Psalms, God has given us a different way to be with fear, a way that allows us to be a hopeful, peaceful presence in this anxious world.

As the Psalmist starts to pray, he sounds an awful lot like Joe – “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

No worries, it’s all good. I’ve got nothing to fear.

But then the Psalmist answers his own question – of whom shall I be afraid? Well, there are evil-doers, foes, enemies, an army encamped against him, oppressors, and false witnesses breathing violence – to name just a few.

The Psalmist just stuck his head in the sand, pretending to not see the very real issues in his life. He is aware of them. He names and acknowledges them and brings them to God in prayer. Then he grounds himself in something greater than his fears, in God, and that allows him to rejoice and sing despite the threats all around him.

There is so much faithful wisdom here. Sometimes we get the message that Christians are sup- posed to just push down any fear, that fear is a sign we don’t have enough faith. The witness of scripture contradicts that message over and over. People of faith have all sorts of fear. God doesn’t ask us to just pretend it’s all good. Nor does God expect us to muscle through on our own by being extra prepared for every situation or other strategy to combat fear.

Instead, God gives us the Psalms that offer a different way of being with fear.

First, become aware of fear, notice and name what is making you afraid. I suppose that was a pretty simple step when there were “evildoers closing in to devour your flesh” or “armies encamped” in front of you. Some days it is easy for us to identify what is making us anxious. Yet, in our day we also live with a kind of low-grade fear all the time. We’re barraged with so many fear-inducing messages. But, we’re also told to just keep on keeping on, to just keep pushing through which means we’re not even always aware of the fear we’re carrying.

So sometimes we need to pause and get curious about the worries and racing thoughts in our heads. We need to ask, “What’s troubling me, what’s keeping me up at night, what keeps nagging away in the back of my mind?” Any psychologist will tell us that when we get in touch with what’s eating at us, when we name it, then it has less power over us. Then we can see that anxious thoughts aren’t who we truly are, they are just thoughts.

But the Psalmist goes further than that. He also brings his fears to God and remembers that he is grounded in God – God who is greater than his fears.

He says, “For in the day of trouble God will give me shelter, hide me in the hidden places of the sanctuary, and raise me high upon a rock.”

We, too, need to be reminded that our fears don’t define us and don’t have to control us because our true identity is beloved child of God. Our peace comes not because we can manage our thoughts well or keep calm and carry on. Our peace comes because our life is held in God, now and always. No matter what happens to us, we belong to God. No matter where we are, God is present.

God’s presence gives us the hope, the peace, the courage we need. We can ground ourselves in God’s presence at any moment of the day using a simple breath prayer. Let’s try it now for a moment: Close your eyes or lower your gaze to the floor, bring your attention to your breath, and I’ll lead us through a simple prayer.

As you breathe in and out,
imagine that you are breathing in peace and letting go of fear,
breathing in hope and letting go of worry,
breathing in rest and letting go of weariness.
Take a few moments to breathe and pray.
Now return your attention to a few final words.

This grounding in God’s presence helps us to rejoice and sing – another helpful response to fear. It sounds crazy when the Psalmist says he will do that in the face of his enemies. Yet to rejoice and sing is a way to experience some freedom from fear, a way to say, “Fear, you do not control me, I will not be defined by you. I will trust and hope even when things are hard because I know my life is held in God.”

Beloved of God, you belong to God. In Jesus, who stretched out his arms in love on the cross, God has gathered us together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.

Nothing – not sin, not death, not powers nor principalities – nothing can separate us from the love of God.

You can trust and hope.

You can be a calm and hopeful presence in this fearful world because your life is held in God.

Let’s take a moment for silent prayer.

Sermon for Sunday, March 10, 2019 – “Dwelling in God”

First Sunday in Lent
March 10, 2019
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Decorah, Iowa
Rev. Amy Zalk Larson

Preaching text: Psalm 91

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty—

2you will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my stronghold, my God in whom I put my trust.”

9Because you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your habitation,

10no evil will befall you, nor shall affliction come near your dwelling.

11For God will give the angels charge over you, to guard you in all your ways.

12Upon their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.

13You will tread upon the lion cub and viper; you will trample down the lion and the serpent.

14I will deliver those who cling to me; I will uphold them, because they know my name.

15They will call me, and I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble; I will rescue and honor them.

16With long life will I satisfy them, and show them my salvation.

Beloved of God, grace to you and peace in the name of Jesus.

Our Psalm today asks us to reflect on where we find our home. With the poetic words like “dwell, abide, make our habitation, take refuge,” we are called to find our home in God.

That can sound pretty abstract; besides God is a being, not a place. Yet we do experience a sense of home with other beings, quite often in human relationships. There are some people – when we’re with them, it just feels like home. We can let down and breathe more easily. The masks can come off. There are some people – when we’re with them we feel safer, stronger, more able to face what- ever life throws at us. There are some people who help us know that we belong, no matter what – that we have a place in this world.

I remember when this began to happen for me in the early days of my marriage. My husband Matt and I had just arrived in Tanzania for a preaching fellowship and nothing was working. We got locked into our student housing unit where there was no running water and no way to cook. There were all sorts of communication issues and we felt very unwelcome at the seminary where we’d planned to do our work. We couldn’t easily access food or what we needed for research. After an- other hungry, sleepless night watching giant cockroaches race around the crumbling walls of our house, I thought maybe we should catch the next plane home – if we could get the door unlocked, that is. “I just want to go home,” I kept saying. Matt reached out his hand, looked me straight in the eyes and responded, “We have to be home for each other now.”

That sounded crazy at the time. Yet it has become a guiding image for me in marriage. Our commitment to each other provides some refuge amidst all that life throws at us. It has helped us to face the challenges of that time in Tanzania, a miscarriage, tragic deaths, moves, floods, family mental health issues and the daily grind of life. I am so grateful for this, especially as I’m very aware that isn’t the case in all marriages.

Yet, so many relationships can provide a sense of home for us. A friend who knows so many of your faults and delights in you because of them, a family member who reminds you of the wisdom your family has given you, the church congregation that is a refuge for you through all the trials of life – we can experience safety, peace and belonging in relationship with others.

And those are just glimpses of what it is to find a home in God. In God, the masks can come off for good, for we are fully known and fully loved. We don’t have to do anything to earn God’s love. God knows everything about us and delights in us always. God has claimed us as beloved children, we belong to God. In God, we can breathe easily knowing that God’s breath, the Holy Spirit, breathes in us.

This home in God is secure now and always. All of our human relationships will end – and too quickly. That’s part of what’s so devastating about the death of a loved one – a sense of refuge and belonging dies with them. And, even the most beautiful human relationships are marred by sin and brokenness.

Yet, when we dwell in God, as the Psalm says, no evil will befall us, nor shall affliction come near our dwelling. Many have interpreted this to mean that if we trust in God, then we will be completely safe and free from harm always. Sometimes people even tell us that if we are suffering, we must not have enough faith. That is just not true. The witness of scripture contradicts that claim, again and again. Our lived experience as people of faith contradicts that again and again.

God’s people are not spared from harm. Rather, God is our refuge in the midst of trouble. The promise of this Psalm is not so much that our earthly home will be protected, but that our dwelling in God will not be harmed by evil or affliction because God is faithful. We belong to God always.

God has gone to great lengths to help us know that we have this home – even coming to dwell with us here in Jesus who shared all that we face – temptations, wilderness times, even death. Yet in the resurrection we see that nothing, not even death, can stop God from dwelling with us and calling us home.

This home in God provides comfort and refuge but it isn’t intended to let us escape. We don’t get to just put our feet up on the couch in this home and ignore the rest of the world. Instead, the experience of home that God gives us is intended to send us out into this hurting world that God so loves.

We are sent to be a refuge, amparo in Spanish, for others – sent to join God in the work of assuring that all people have shelter, food, water, safety and belonging.

In this season of Lent, we hear God’s invitation to return home, to find security, not in what is fleeting but in what is eternal—God’s abiding love.

As we make our home in God, may the love of God dwelling in us become a place of security and refuge for all those we encounter.

Amen. 

Sermon for Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019 – “God’s Womb Love”

Ash Wednesday
March 6, 2019
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Decorah, Iowa
Rev. Amy Zalk Larson

Preaching text: Psalm 51, Evangelical Lutheran Worship translation

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

Wash me through and through from my wickedness,
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my offenses, and my sin is ever before me.

Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are justified when you speak and right in your judgment.

Indeed, I was born steeped in wickedness, a sinner from my mother’s womb.

Indeed, you delight in truth deep within me, and would have me know wisdom deep within.

Remove my sins with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be purer than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness; that the body you have broken may rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my wickedness.

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 sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

Let me teach your ways to offenders, and sinners shall be restored to you.

Rescue me from bloodshed, O God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

For you take no delight in sacrifice, or I would give it. You are not pleased with burnt offering.

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a troubled and broken heart, O God, you will not despise.

Favor Zion with your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem.

Then you will delight in the appointed sacrifices, in burnt and whole offerings; then young bulls shall be offered upon your altar.

 

Beloved of God, grace to you and peace in the name of Jesus.

As we begin Lent, Psalm 51 invites us to reflect upon our own beginnings. How did your life begin?

What is most true about you from the very foundation of your being?

The author of the Psalm does that reflection and he expresses a sense of his sinfulness from the very beginning, from his mother’s womb. He prays, “Indeed, I was born steeped in wickedness, a sinner from my mother’s womb.”

It’s important to note that the Psalmist isn’t making some abstract claim here about the doctrine of original sin. Rather, he’s coming to God in prayer confessing that sin and guilt have permeated his relationship with God, his whole body, his whole life, from the very beginning of his life. Sin and guilt feel to him like they are the truest, most foundational things about him.

Yet that sentiment, “I was a sinner from my mother’s womb,” is not how the Psalm begins. And, it turns out, it also isn’t the true beginning of the Psalmist’s life or ours. The Psalm begins with the words, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; in your great compassion, blot out my offenses.” The Psalm begins with God’s steadfast love and compassion. And, in the original Hebrew, that word translated as “compassion” is rooted in the Hebrew word for womb. The Psalmist is calling on what Hebrew scholars refer to as God’s “womb love,” the love a mother feels for her yet-to-be-born child.

This is our true beginning. We begin in the womb of God’s compassion. Even if we do feel we have been sinful from our earthly mother’s womb, what is most true, most primal and primary for us is the “womb love” of God. God’s compassion is our beginning and our foundation. God’s deep compassion can permeate our bodies and our whole lives. The Psalmist prays that this would happen for him.

He feels his sin in a deeply physical, visceral way as a stained and broken body, a troubled and broken heart. He longs to experience joy and forgiveness in that same physical, visceral way. He prays to be washed, purged, cleansed; begs God to create a new and clean heart in him so that his tongue would sing of God’s righteousness. He pleads for God to open his lips so his mouth can declare God’s praise; longs to experience truth and wisdom deep within, joy and gladness in his body.

This is what our mothering God desires us all of us to experience, deep within.

On this Ash Wednesday we, too, experience our sinfulness, guilt and brokenness in a very physical, visceral way as we are marked with ashes and reminded that we are dust. The point of this is not to make us all feel terrible about ourselves or to indoctrinate us in the concept of original sin. All of this is intended to open up our bodies to God in repentance and prayer and help us to see how much we need God – God who is our beginning and foundation. It is intended to draw us into physical experiences of God’s mercy, steadfast love and compassion.

Ash Wednesday is to help us know, deep in our bones, that we begin in God and return to God. We are dependent upon God who breathes life into dust, who makes beautiful things out of dust, who gives us new life and new beginnings, creates new hearts in us and then receives us again when we return to dust.

The disciplines of Lent – fasting, prayer and giving – are all intended to help us know this in physical and visceral ways. They are intended to draw us into God’s “womb love” compassion and to shape us into people who bring that “womb love” compassion to bear in the world. Lent is an invitation to make each day a new beginning in which we are washed in God’s mercy and forgive- ness.

This Lent, during midweek worship we will be reflecting on how we all thirst for physical, visceral experiences of God’s compassion in the form of water, wells, conversation, prayer, love, attention, and surrender.

On Sundays, we will drink deeply of the Psalms that draw our bodies into prayer.

This Lent, may you know, deep in your bones, that you are born of compassion, that God’s steadfast love for you is the most true thing about you. May you begin from that place each new day.

Sermon for Sunday, March 3, 2019 – “Listen! Listen Continually”

Transfiguration of Our Lord – Last Sunday after Epiphany
Sunday, March 3, 2019
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Decorah, Iowa
Seminarian Amalia Vagts, Preacher

First Reading:  Exodus 34: 29-35; Psalm 99; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians
3:12–4:2; Gospel: Luke 9:28-43

I will get to the the demons, but first … talk about a mountaintop experience! Sounds amazing, right?

But sometimes I don’t like hearing about other people’s great experiences – like when your friends go to a party you weren’t invited to and then post a bunch of great pictures on Instagram.

I would guess that even the other disciples, the ones Jesus didn’t take up the mountain, might think the same thing. Maybe that’s why Peter and James and John didn’t say anything right away about it – because it would have been one of the most aggravating “you should have been there” stories ever.

AMAZING – Moses and Elijah were there! Epic! Jesus’ face like TOTALLY changed and his clothes became completely white. SRSLY: God actually spoke to us. We almost had a camp-out with those guys!

And we’re like, “Oh, that’s awesome, super happy for you”, but inside we’re really sad we weren’t there. Deep down, we do care because it sounds amazing. Something incredible happened. But we weren’t up on the mountain having a mystical experience with Jesus. We’re the ones standing around on the ground, wrestling with demons.

By demons, I mean loneliness, a fight in our family, a lost job, church denominations that chose human fear over God’s love, illness, or a terrible thing someone wrote about us in Snapchat. We have to deal with all of this.

We’re not on the mountain. We didn’t see God. So what does any of this have to do with us at all?

Peter and James and John were weighed down with sleep, but stayed awake. This makes me think of those late night conversations around a campfire when you are getting so groggy and you are barely tracking the conversation, fighting to stay awake.

In his own language Luke uses a word that appears nowhere else in the New Testament.[1] It doesn’t mean fighting to stay awake. It means fully awake – fully, completely, thoroughly awake, fully present.

God does change me. And when I’m fully awake and fully present, I see this. This happens even when I’m not on the mountain.

It happens in relationship with others – like at the Bible reflection time I’ve been leading at Arlin Falck Assisted Living this year. We read and studied and prayed over this text together. And, through the radio we are worshipping together this morning.

It happens with a note – like the one Good Shepherd kids wrote in Sunday School to one of our older members: “Dear whoever you are, whatever you are going through, God loves you”, said the note. And she LOVED that. “That is exactly what a kid would write!”, she said.

It happens here – I’m thinking of the fact that we’ve added herbal tea to our Sunday morning banquet to make people feel welcome. I’m thinking of you guys – Sunday School & Youth Forum – and the fact that you have your own tables in the Fellowship Hall. I’m thinking of anyone who is here for the first time, maybe in a church for the first time ever, and who hears you are invited to join in bread and wine we share at the communion table.

You don’t have to be on the mountain. We all have the chance every day to be astounded at the greatness of God. God changes us in Christ Jesus and through the Spirit of God. God says, “This is my Chosen – listen.” This is a command. Listen. This is not a one-time command – it’s ongoing, keep listening.[2] The meaning of this word in its original language is a forever command: “Listen everyone, listen continually – keep listening!”

The pastor and author Frederick Buechner writes beautifully about what we can hear when we keep listening. We might think that person on the street is talking to us about the weather. But if we wake up, if we listen, they are saying: I’m lonely; or I want to connect with you; or I forgive you.[3]

Be fully awake. Listen continuously – to your own heart, to those around you, to the earth. God is speaking. God changes you – gives you life, wholeness, freedom.

Scripture tells us that Christ Jesus is the Word of God – that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1) and the Word became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14a).

Today, God says to us: Continue listening to Christ Jesus – to this Word of God. What is this message? What is this Word of God?

No one is outside the love and grace of God (Gal 3:28, Rom 10:12, ). Nothing can separate you from the love of God (Rom 8:38-39). Love God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love others. Love yourself (Luke 10:27).

God came into this world in the person of Jesus to become one of us; divine, speaking to us and changing us; human, wrestling with the demons of daily life. Human enough to have questions, doubts, fears. Human enough to want to have a dinner with his friends and be remembered by them. Human enough to be betrayed by friends. Human enough to face the only thing in life that every single one of us will face.

Christ Jesus lives in this world now on the mountains, on the plain and all places in between – fully divine, fully human saying over and over and over again, God changes you. Be fully awake and in the face of another you will see God.

God says – Listen to my Chosen One. Listen! Listen Continuously!

God’s Chosen One, Jesus, says this to you:

You are enough.

You are beloved.

You are free.

[1] Diagrēgorēsantes.

[2] Akouete is a present imperative active verb in the second person plural.

[3] Frederick Buechner, “The Hungering Dark,” (70-71).

Sermon for Sunday, February 24, 2019 – “Set Free”

Seventh Sunday after Epiphany
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
February 24, 2019
Decorah, Iowa
Rev. Amy Zalk Larson

Note: Good Shepherd’s service and activities were cancelled today due to severe weather conditions. Pastor Amy provided her sermon text for posting on our web and social media sites.

First Reading:  Genesis 45:3-11, 15; Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50; Gospel Luke 6:27-38

Beloved of God, grace to you and peace in the name of Jesus.

Shame on you! What’s the matter with you? Why do you think you’re better than you are? You’re going to get it and you better just take it, better just turn the other cheek to be struck again and accept your lot in life. If someone hurts you don’t make a fuss about it, forgive and get over it.

Tragically, our Gospel reading has often been misused to send these types of messages. It’s been weaponized to silence abuse victims, to prevent slaves from rebelling, to keep people in line. These messages are totally contrary to the message of scripture. It’s hard to even speak them from the pulpit, but we need to name the ways this passage has been misinterpreted and used to shame and enslave so that we can recognize what it is really trying to do.

Throughout the Gospel of Luke, we see that Jesus has come to bring good news to the poor and re- lease to the captives. Jesus has come to set people free. That is what Jesus is seeking to do with these words as well. Jesus wants to free us all from the ways of the world that ensnare and enslave us. Jesus works to break the system of tit for tat, an eye for an eye, keeping score.

Our world traps us in cycles of retribution. When someone hurts you, you get angry, you seek to hurt them somehow- even if just in your heads. You are trapped by thoughts of them and what they’ve done, and what you wish would happen to them. You replay the hurt, relive the pain, rumi- nate about it all.

When someone is good to you – well then you better be good to them so you can keep the good thing going. Gotta work the system to your advantage. Do unto to others what they have done to you; that’s the way the world works. No, Jesus says, that traps you into just reacting to what others do. You’re bound to them as you react, reciprocate, keep score. If you live like that then you aren’t free, and other people have too much power over you.

No, Jesus says be shaped by what God does to you. God shows you kindness and mercy always. Let your actions be shaped by that kindness and mercy, not by what other people do. Be merciful and you will experience the great reward of freedom and well-being that is not dependent on your external circumstances.

Don’t resist with hatred or you will start to become like your enemy.

Or, as preacher Nadia Bolz-Weber powerfully proclaims, “Maybe retaliation or holding onto anger about the harm done to me doesn’t actually combat evil. Maybe it feeds it. Because in the end, if we’re not careful, we can actually absorb the worst of our enemy, and at some level, start to become them. So, what if forgiveness, rather than being a pansy way to say, ‘It’s okay,’ is actually a way of wielding bolt-cutters, and snapping the chains that link us? What if it’s saying, ‘What you did was so not okay, I refuse to be connected to it anymore?’ Forgiveness is about being a freedom fighter. And free people are dangerous people.  

Free people aren’t controlled by the past.   Free people laugh more than others.   Free people see beauty where others do not.  Free people are not easily offended.  Free people are unafraid to speak truth to stupid.  Free people are not chained to resentments.  And that’s worth fighting for.”

Jesus wants us to know this freedom, so he gives us the words and the teaching we hear today.

But so often we don’t hear these words as freeing – we hear them as things that bring us more shame. Shame on you that you struggle to love, that you struggle to forgive. Shame on you when you feel angry. Shame on you that you’re still ruminating about that person and unable to cut the ties to them. We get right back into traps of shame because that’s the way our world works. Shame is such a powerful force in our world. Yet, no life-giving change ever comes from a place of shame.

That’s why we need more than Jesus’ teachings to set us free – why he gives us more than teaching.

Jesus comes among us to give us an experience of the freedom and abundance God longs for us to know, to help us taste and experience God’s love and mercy.

Jesus comes to live among us so that we might know, deep in our bones, that we are loved and for- given and honored by God. That there is more than enough love and food and time and honor and well-being to go around. We don’t have to live in the ways of the world.

We can be shaped by God and God’s ways. We can treat others the way we want to be treated. We can live in the ways of love because we are so loved. We can forgive because we have been forgiven.

Amen.