Worship

Contemporary Worship

01-07-2018 - 09:30AM - 10:30AM
01-14-2018 - 09:30AM - 10:30AM
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Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service

11-22-2017 - 07:00PM - 08:00PM

Sunday School

09-10-2017 - 09:45AM - 10:45AM
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Contemporary Worship

09-10-2017 - 09:30AM - 10:30AM
09-17-2017 - 09:30AM - 10:30AM
09-24-2017 - 09:30AM - 10:30AM
10-01-2017 - 09:30AM - 10:30AM
10-08-2017 - 09:30AM - 10:30AM
10-15-2017 - 09:30AM - 10:30AM
10-22-2017 - 09:30AM - 10:30AM
10-29-2017 - 09:30AM - 10:30AM
11-05-2017 - 09:30AM - 10:30AM
11-12-2017 - 09:30AM - 10:30AM
11-19-2017 - 09:30AM - 10:30AM
11-26-2017 - 09:30AM - 10:30AM
12-03-2017 - 09:30AM - 10:30AM

Traditional Worship

09-10-2017 - 08:00AM - 09:00AM
09-17-2017 - 08:00AM - 09:00AM
09-24-2017 - 08:00AM - 09:00AM
10-01-2017 - 08:00AM - 09:00AM
10-08-2017 - 08:00AM - 09:00AM
10-15-2017 - 08:00AM - 09:00AM
10-22-2017 - 08:00AM - 09:00AM
10-29-2017 - 08:00AM - 09:00AM
11-05-2017 - 08:00AM - 09:00AM
11-12-2017 - 08:00AM - 09:00AM
11-19-2017 - 08:00AM - 09:00AM
11-26-2017 - 08:00AM - 09:00AM
12-03-2017 - 08:00AM - 09:00AM
12-10-2017 - 08:00AM - 09:00AM

Galatians 4:1-7

Full Text: 

I remember walking with a friend once, and she complained about how her feet hurt.  I asked her why she didn’t wear more comfortable shoes.  She said: “Because I’m a slave to fashion, that’s why.”  I had to admit, her shoes were stylish.  …but I’m unwilling to sacrifice the comfort of my feet to look good. 

We have another wordy Paul letter today.  This reading talks about heirs, and slaves, and trustees, and adoption—words none of us would put together in the same breath.  Not to mention for us the word slave is loaded and brings up one of our nation’s original sins.  So again, reading Paul can be tricky. 

But here we go anyway…

Heirs, until they come of age, don’t really have any say or freedom in what they do with their position or inheritance.  The first episode of Masterpiece’s “Victoria” comes to my mind.  All kinds of people with positions and names I can’t remember schemed to find a way to negate Queen Victoria’s power and be in a position of control since she was young and female.  Until an heir comes of age, it’s all controlled by an appointed guardian.  Paul goes so far as to say minors have the same amount of control as a slave.  Paul compares the time before Jesus to a period where everyone was like a not-yet-of-age heir.  Before Jesus, we were controlled by the “elemental spirits of the world.”  After Jesus, we were freed to fully enjoy all that being children of God offers. 

…Still tricky.  We struggle with metaphors like this today.  The examples and the language are so foreign to us nearly 2000 years later, but let’s persevere.  There is some profound truth buried in here. 

Let’s go back to my friend with the fashionable yet painful shoes.  Rather than literal slavery, Paul describes something more like my friend’s being a slave to fashion.  There are things, or forces that seem to control us and get us to do things that aren’t always in our best interest—like wearing painful shoes. 

So the question for us is, what are we slaves to, or what seems to control us?  And why does Jesus make a difference? 

On the surface, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with being “a slave to fashion” as the expression goes.  Some people are creative and artistic and like to express themselves through their clothing.  It’s part of their personality and who they are. 

But, I’m willing to bet for most of us, there are other forces that control our clothing more than we realize…

and the consequences may not always be as benign.  There’s advertising and peer-pressure no matter your age or group. 

The catalogues, the commercials, the adds that pop up on your computer based on your browsing history….

There’s pressure to keep up with trends. 

There’s pressure to look a certain way. 

Even children’s fashion has disturbing ways of controlling our ideas of gender roles. 

There’s always something new and better out there.  There’s endless appeals to our desire to get a good deal, and sales that often just get us to buy more than we might otherwise. 

Many of us end up with over-stuffed closets and dressers, and we hardly know how we ended up with all of it. 

Plus, there’s the underside to the fashion forces

and the questionable labor and environmental practices employed to give us an endless supply of cheap clothing. Perhaps, one could say, it’s out of control…  

Being fashionable isn’t necessarily bad, but there are these other forces that try to control what we do…and it’s not all good. 

And that’s just one little example.  

We may enjoy a great deal of freedom in this country, but even here, we still find ways to let other things control us. 

There are things like technology, that are supposed to make our lives easier.  Email can be a great way to send information.  Facebook can be a fun way to keep in touch with friends or relatives who live far away.  And yet, I feel like many of us are at the point where we serve the demands of technology rather than the technology being there to help us.  The mindless Facebook scrolling, the endless inbox, the need to always have something to watch or read on a screen, our discomfort with no distractions. 

It can become life-draining instead of life giving.  I believe God wants something different for us…

 There’s the infinite quest for more—more money, more things, more titles, more activities, more space, more, more, more.  There’s an elusive and empty promise out there that if we have more of whatever, we will be happy.  And yet, studies have shown that after our basic needs are met, more money doesn’t equal more happiness.  We tend to chase after this empty promise of more anyway, and in the chase, we often miss out on the things that really give life meaning. 

And then there’s the domineering motivator—fear.  We often react out of fear—fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear for the future, fear of not having enough, fear of not being enough, fear of rejection, fear of retaliation, fear of what other people will say.  But do you know what the most often repeated command in the Bible is…?  Be not afraid!  Fear leads to all kinds of bad stuff.  Fear has its place if we’re being attacked by a bear or something, but other than that it just wreaks havoc on us.  God didn’t create us to cower to fear. 

There are all kinds of forces that find a way to control us.  Paul sometimes calls this sin.  We can try to limit these things.  God gave a whole set of commandments to help curb these forces.  A lot of good can come from seeking to love God and love our neighbor as our self.  But humanity is still stuck. 

God doesn’t want us to be stuck.  Jesus was born into our world so we could get un-stuck.  When we say Jesus died for our sins, it’s not so much that God has some divine chart that gives us another little tic mark every time we do something naughty and somehow Jesus dying erases them.  It’s not so much that God was angry and wrathful and demanded that someone had to die for all the things we’ve done wrong.  It’s more that humans have let these other life-squelching forces take control, and God let the unfortunate consequences follow. 

Jesus came to put things back into balance.  Jesus came not only to defeat death, but also to overcome all these forces that diminish life.  He came to give us a way that is different, a way of life that frees us from all the things that too easily control us.   

To be a child of God means that we are loved beyond measure just because, and we are freed from our need to prove ourselves. 

Jesus helps us let go of the fear

and the distractions

and the empty promises of more,

and helps us to live the way God created us to live. 

 

Jesus helps us to see the gift of enough

and learn how to love and accept ourselves

so we can better love our neighbor. 

 

Jesus faced all our fears—even death—so we don’t have to face any of them alone. 

 

In our baptisms, all that controlling stuff drowns and something new emerges. 

We are joined to Jesus and joined to one another as we learn and grow together. 

The Spirit sets us on a journey to be the children God created us to be. 

We can start to see ourselves with the grace and compassion God sees us through.   

We can start to experience the peace the world cannot give and live into the fullness of life God intended. 

We can start to live as children of God

who share this compassion and this peace,

who seek to heal divides and care for the wounds of the world,

who cast out fear and care for all creation. 

 

 

And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of Jesus into our hearts, crying, "Mother!  Father!" 7 So you are no longer controlled by these forces, but you are a beloved child of God.  

We all belong (Galatians 1 & 2)

Full Text: 

Last week in Bishop Mary’s sermon, she told the story about preaching at a special service celebrating her father’s 50th anniversary of ordination.  She asked her dad to pick a favorite passage that had been meaningful for his ministry, and he picked something from one of Paul’s letters.  Bishop Mary immediately regretted asking him.  She said, give me a Jesus story over one of Paul’s wordy letters any day.  (though she eventually came to appreciate the passage.) 

I totally agree (and not just because she’s my bishop). 

Reading these letters feels like reading a foreign language that’s almost like ours, but not quite.  Paul is tricky. 

And yet, these letters are the earliest writings of the New Testament.  They offer us a window into the first churches.  These are actual letters, written by a church leader, advising churches on all kinds of matters.  And based on the fact that there are a couple of instances of follow up letters, I’m guessing at least sometimes, these letters were ignored.  Kind of like when our presiding Bishop writes letters for our churches today as we struggle with what it means to be the church.  Sometimes we take them seriously, and other times churches don’t even read them.  When we dig into the background of Paul’s day, we can see that the early churches struggled with conflict just like us. 

When I say struggled with conflict, I don’t mean a few fireworks over what color the new carpet should be.  The early church struggled with questions of identity and belonging.  What did it mean to follow Christ?  Who was in and who was out?  What were the requirements?  How does one prove one’s self?  How could other people tell they were Christians? 

Most of these struggles centered around the question of what to do with Judaism.  It’s hard for us to imagine, but just pause and think about it.  Jesus was Jewish.  His disciples and the first followers were Jewish.  Jesus taught using Jewish scriptures.  They thought Jesus was the long-promised Messiah—which was a Jewish tradition.  The first Christians viewed themselves an extension of Judaism. And yet, God was doing something new in Jesus.  This new Way of Jesus wasn’t exactly Judaism, and yet it was closely tied to Jewish traditions. 

Jesus has a way of crossing barriers. 

This confusion led to all kinds of conflict.  The specific conflict in the Galatian church centered around circumcision—an ancient Jewish practice usually performed on male babies when they were 8 days old.  As more and more non-Jewish people (also know as Gentiles) started joining the Jesus movement, some Christ-followers assumed that circumcision should be a requirement for the new converts.  Now, imagine imposing this on adult men in the age of no modern-day antiseptic.  Imagine what a barrier this would be.  And imagine just how committed these early converts where that they would even consider going through with this painful procedure. 

Paul strongly disagreed with this practice.  He off-the-charts disagreed.  He disagreed so much, he needed to write them a letter to set the record straight. 

It wasn’t that Paul wasn’t proud of his Jewish heritage.  Paul actually followed all the Jewish laws better than anyone.  “I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors.”  If following Jewish teachings was an Olympic sport, Paul would have won gold in every event.  Paul had those teachings down! 

But Paul knew better than anybody that zeal for traditions can lead to some fatal consequences.  Paul actually started out persecuting the Jesus followers.  He believed they were a threat to all those precious traditions, and he felt called to protect his religion and his heritage—even if it meant putting someone to death. 

But Jesus has a way of busting through barriers. 

Through some dramatic experiences, Paul transformed from persecutor to proclaimer of Jesus.  And it wasn’t because he followed the rules.  And it wasn’t because of his circumcision.  Paul belonged in the church by the grace of God.  Paul followed Jesus because Jesus called him to.  Paul must have experienced profound grace and exceptional welcome when he joined Jesus’ followers.  What other group would embrace someone who had persecuted them just days before?  Paul knew better than anybody that belonging to the church depended on God’s grace—not on rules or traditions or meeting certain criteria. 

Even though Paul was really good at being Jewish and all the traditions had been very meaningful for him, he knew that the grace he experienced through Jesus transcended his heritage, traditions, and rules.  Jesus’ followers weren’t marked by circumcision or the kosher food they ate.  Jesus’ followers were marked by Christ’s ever expanding love, and they were to be known by the love they showed toward others.  Circumcision was a cultural thing, not a Jesus thing, and it wasn’t very loving to require grown men to have it done. 

 Unfortunately this wasn’t the last time followers of Jesus put up unnecessary barriers for others.  Throughout the centuries, Christians have had the bad habit of assuming their own cultural customs and values automatically were Jesus’ customs and values.  At the heart of our faith is the transformative power of Jesus’ love.  Jesus’ compassion towards us in turn opens our hearts to grow in compassion towards others—especially others who are different from us…even our enemies.  This is the litmus test for our traditions and practices. 

We need to ask ourselves:  What unintentional barriers do we put up?  What unnecessary hoops to we make people jump through to get to Jesus?  What demands do we place on others that are more cultural than Christ-driven?  As a church, what are we doing to open our hearts to God’s compassion and grow in compassion to others? 

What are we known for?  Our building?  Our worship styles?  Our potluck dishes?  Our rules and judgements?  Or could we become known for the compassion we live out in the community? 

 

And most of all, do you trust that you belong here?  Not because of some German ancestry or because you were born Lutheran or married a Lutheran or became a Lutheran later in life.  Not because you took the right class or said the right things.  Not because you passed some test or follow all the unwritten codes of conduct.  Not because you dress a certain way or talk the right way or look like you have it all together.  You don’t belong here because of anything you did.  We each belong hear simply because God loves us. 

Circumcised or not—you belong here.  Young or old, confident or doubtful, traditional or unconventional—you belong here.  Vegetarian, Paleo, casserole, or hot-dish—you belong here.  Whatever language you speak—you belong here.  Black, white, Latino, bi-racial, muti-racial—you belong here.  Democrat, Republican, or somewhere in between—you belong here.  Hetero, Cis, LGBTQ+, or confused by change—you belong here.  Autistic, ADD, on the spectrum—you belong here.  Country or city, house or apartment, clean or cluttered—you belong here.  Grumpy, cheerful, or depressed—you belong here. The only thing that doesn’t belong here is hate.  You each belong here because God loves you unconditionally.  Jesus died on the cross speaking words of mercy and reached out his arms to embrace all of God’s creation.  We each belong here because nothing falls outside Jesus’ ever-widening embrace.  Jesus came so that all could belong. 

 

Wherever anyone is putting up barriers, Jesus is busy knocking them down, so that one day all will know the depths of God’s grace and compassion.  

"Now the Feast & Celebration" Worship

05-21-2017 - 09:00AM - 10:00AM
05-28-2017 - 09:00AM - 10:00AM
06-04-2017 - 09:00AM - 10:00AM
06-11-2017 - 09:00AM - 10:00AM
06-18-2017 - 09:00AM - 10:00AM
06-25-2017 - 09:00AM - 10:00AM
07-02-2017 - 09:00AM - 10:00AM
07-09-2017 - 09:00AM - 10:00AM
07-16-2017 - 09:00AM - 10:00AM
07-23-2017 - 09:00AM - 10:00AM
07-30-2017 - 09:00AM - 10:00AM
08-06-2017 - 09:00AM - 10:00AM
08-13-2017 - 09:00AM - 10:00AM
08-20-2017 - 09:00AM - 10:00AM
08-27-2017 - 09:00AM - 10:00AM
09-03-2017 - 09:00AM - 10:00AM

April 23, 2017

Full Text: 

My poor PKs (pastor kids) finally got to color Easter eggs the evening of Easter.  I shared it with the Facebook universe, and defended myself by saying there were still a couple hours of Easter left.  My favorite reply was from another pastor who reminded me that at that point, I had another 49 days.  In the church world, we prolong our important holidays.  We celebrate Christmas for 12 days, and we celebrate Easter for a full 7 weeks. 

Easter is an important thing for the church to celebrate.  While we can’t celebrate with an Easter breakfast every week, we do continue to celebrate all the ways Jesus shows up in the world. 

This Sunday we get another Easter story.  It takes place Easter evening, about the same time my family was coloring eggs. 

In our story this morning, we meet two disciples.  We don’t really know much about them since this is the only place they’re mentioned.  They could have been just about anyone. 

All we know is that they were people who followed Jesus, and that they were trying to make sense of things that didn’t make sense. 

And that’s all we need to know because it makes it easier for their story to be our story too.  We’ve all had those times of feeling lost and disappointed and unsure of what to do next. 

I invite you to imagine yourselves into their story this morning. 

The disciples’ journey begins long before that Easter evening.  Before that fateful Good Friday, they were traveling in a good direction.  Jesus talked to them about a Way, a way of life that seemed so hopeful and promising.  They followed Jesus in this way of compassion and healing.   They thought Jesus would protect them.  They thought Jesus would change the world.  They thought they knew what Jesus was all about

…But then everything came to a screeching halt.  Jesus died, and all their hopes and dreams seemed to die with him.  Who were they supposed to follow now that Jesus was gone?  What were they supposed to do?  Were they fools for believing? 

These disciples were in shock.  They were lost, confused, disoriented.  I imagine some of them grew quiet, too sad to say a word.  Some probably got angry and wanted to find people to blame for what had happened.  Some seemed to be in denial that any of it had happened.  Others kept going over and over the events trying to figure out where things went wrong, what they could have done differently.  “why”  kept echoing around the room. 

Maybe Cleopas and this other disciple just had to get away from it all.  Maybe they needed some fresh air and a good long walk to clear their heads.  Maybe there was someone in that little town of Emmaus that they needed to see. 

Whatever their reason for making that journey to Emmaus, I believe the Spirit was nudging them, helping them, guiding them—though they had no idea at the time. 

They didn’t talk much.  There really wasn’t much to say.  Sometimes a shared silence comforts more than words. 

But the silence could only last for so long.  These two had too much on their minds, too much pent up.  Finally, one of them just burst out, and suddenly everything came gushing out. They started to ponder things, and try to make sense of them—though their conversation just seemed to go in circles. 

And then a stranger happened upon them wondering what they were talking about. 

At first they were frightened.  They couldn’t quite place his accent or where he was from.  What if this was someone sent by the temple to look for Jesus’ followers and arrest them too? 

But this man seemed utterly clueless.  How could he have not heard about what happened?  Jesus’ crucifixion was big news around here.  Whether people liked him or hated him, everyone was talking about him.  Did they really have to go over all the details again?  They could hardly tell the story without breaking down. 

Yet this man also seemed genuinely interested, so they told him their story… 

How there was this amazing guy named Jesus who did all kinds of amazing things. 

How he healed people and taught people and changed people’s lives. 

How he stood up to people and challenged people. 

How he spoke about God and interpreted scripture in new ways. 

How they were convinced he was the Messiah, the one who was going to save Israel, the one who was going to finally free them from Rome and all other oppressive Empires. 

He was going to rule the world, or so they thought. 

 

…And then Jesus was executed, put to death as a threat to Rome. 

All their hopes were lost. 

Some of the women had the nerve to say that Jesus was alive, that his body wasn’t in the tomb.  But that couldn’t be true.  There must have been some other explanation. 

They told their story, and tried to sort it all out with this stranger. 

Then this stranger started to sort everything out with them.  He opened the scriptures, and started talking about them in ways they had never thought of before.  They started to see things they never realized were in there.  They had grown up with these stories all their lives.  They knew the rules, knew the prophets, knew everything about their religion—or so they thought. 

But this stranger got them thinking in a whole new way.  How could they have missed all of this before? 

All of a sudden their walk came to a surprising end, and they didn’t want this stranger to leave them.   He was the first one who took the time to listen and seemed to have just the right things to say.   He was the first person to make any sense at all.  It was the first time they felt alive since all this began. 

They invited this stranger to stay with them, and they ate together.  In the middle of their meal, the stranger paused to give thanks and bless some of their bread and break it and hand it to them. 

In that instant they knew.  They recognized Jesus.  They had seen him break bread like that when he feed thousands of people.  They had seen him break bread like that when he shared that meal with them the night he was arrested.  They knew it was Jesus.  …And as soon as they recognized him, …he was gone. 

They had no proof.  They couldn’t really explain what had happened.  And yet they knew they had just experienced Jesus’ presence with them.  As they looked back on their journey, they realized he was with them all along, helping them to make sense of things, helping them to see everything in a whole new way.  They just knew. 

Suddenly all their questions, all their grief, all their fear didn’t matter as much anymore. 

Even though it was now dark, even though they had just spent the entire afternoon walking to Emmaus, even though these two disciples had no way to prove what just happened to them, they immediately got up and started back toward Jerusalem to tell the other disciples.  They needed to tell someone about it, and the other disciples needed to hear this.  They needed to share these stories, these experiences with each other.  They needed to help each other believe the unbelievable, and see the Bible in a whole new way.  They needed to help each other make sense of life.  They needed each other. 

This is what following Jesus is all about.  This is what being church is all about.  It’s about supporting each other.  It’s about sharing stories of Christ’s presence in our lives.  It’s about helping each other believe the unbelievable.  It’s about coming together to break bread and expecting Jesus to show up. 

 

As we go down the road of this renewal process, we’re going to spend time breaking bread together.  We’ll strive to support one another.  We’ll tell our stories and share our experiences.  We’ll help each other believe the unbelievable and make sense of our life together.  We’ll sharpen the prescription of our Easter glasses so we can see Jesus more clearly when he shows up.  And while we’re at it, we’ll get some Easter hearing aids so we can hear the winds of the Holy Spirit and follow her lead.  This Easter season is a good time for us to be on the lookout for what God is up to in the world.  

Easter

Full Text: 

It’s my first Sunday here at Hope.  What a Sunday for a new beginning, huh?  I’m excited to get to know you and learn more about the congregation.  I warn you that I’m a little slow at learning names.  It seemed so much easier when I was a kid, and we’d play getting to know you name games. How many of you ever played the, I’m-going-on-a-trip game where you say your name and then an item that you plan to bring along on the trip that begins with the first letter of your name…?  “Hi, my name is Pastor Beth, we’re going on a trip, and I’m going to bring…”  Let’s give it a try with a few people here this morning…

 

The women in our story this morning were going on a trip… a different kind of trip.  Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women were going on a trip to the tomb, and they brought spices…

 

This wasn’t exactly the trip they expected to make.  For most of them, this trip started way back in Galilee.  They answered an unconventional call to follow a religious teacher named Jesus.  They embraced this trip whole-heartedly…  They watched Jesus heal and heard him teach, and they believed in what he was doing. 

And what's more, Jesus believed in them

He changed their lives and gave them hope. 

They had become more than just wives or mothers or daughters or property judged by the size of their dowries. 

They became part of this Jesus movement, and they really dared to dream that the world could change. 

 

These women were prepared for just about anything, but I doubt they were prepared for their beloved teacher to be sentenced to death as a criminal.  And yet, they faithfully followed Jesus all the way to the cross, even after all the other disciples had scattered. 

 

These women were prepared.  Even when the unthinkable and unexpected happened, these women knew how to prepare for what happened next.  They waited for the Sabbath day of rest to be over, and then marched straight for the tomb at sunrise. 

 

When the women took that trip to the tomb, of course they expected to use the spices they brought.  But when they got there, the tomb was open and empty.  There was no dead body to anoint with spices.  In an instant, their well-prepared spices became superfluous.  They were prepared for death.  They weren’t prepared for this empty tomb and a couple of terrifying angels.  It’s hard to be prepared for what God is up to. 

 

These dazzlingly dressed beings asked the poor women the silliest question ever:  “why do you look for the living among the dead?”  They saw Jesus die and watched carefully as he was laid in the tomb—why wouldn’t Jesus be there?  Thankfully the angels gave some much needed further explanation: “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 

Slowly the women remembered, and suddenly they had a completely different job to do.  A job they weren’t prepared for.  A job no one had ever done.  Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women had the job to proclaim resurrection to the rest of the disciples.  They took a trip to the tomb prepared for one thing and left the tomb with a whole new direction—no spices necessary.  God has a way of changing our plans in surprising ways. 

 

When I graduated high school, I was prepared to go to college and major in music.  I had plans to be a music teacher.  I loved singing in choir.  I had years of piano lessons, plus I spent my high school years accompanying our children’s Christmas program and church musicals.  I loved kids, and my first summer job was with my local rec department as a playground instructor working with school-aged kids.  My first semester I got started right away taking lessons and music theory I.  I had a plan. 

The only problem was we can never really be prepared for what God is up to. 

 

Back when I was still trying to figure out which college to go to, my pastor was busy trying to get me to pick which seminary to go to.  I was a big church nerd and did just about everything I could do at church:  Sunday school teacher, lector, choir, council, Luther league president.  I was genuinely interested in faith questions and read through the Bible I got at a Youth Gathering.  My pastor saw a call that I couldn’t.  But of course, I wasn’t going to be a pastor.  I was going to be a music teacher. 

 

I had thought about being a pastor once, back in 8th grade when we had a career fair at school.  To me, it was a passing thought.  Little did I know God was actually planting a seed. 

 

My first year of college, I kept trying to push away that thought about being a pastor.  I thought of every reason not to be a pastor.  I was shy, and a little awkward, and often didn’t know what to say when people asked me tough questions.  I’d have to go to school until I was almost 30, which seemed so old to start a job.  Plus, those strange shirts with the collar thing would be annoying to wear all the time. 

 

And yet, I found myself walking a mile every Sunday to the local Lutheran church…and usually convinced a friend or 5 to join me.  I became active in a student-run Christian Fellowship group on campus, and by the end of the year I was asked to be a leader of that.  I even took a class on Christian Scriptures, and loved it more than any other class I had taken.  That seed God planted took root--in spite of my attempts to dig it out.  I reluctantly changed my plans—though I was stubborn and held on to my music major even though I didn’t need it any more. 

 

But I was still unsure of one thing.  Even though the ELCA had been ordaining women my entire life, I didn’t know any female pastors.  In my home town we had 4 ELCA churches, and not one of them had called a woman to be their pastor.  To this day, only one of them has dared to do so.  The only female clergy I had even heard of were either single or married to another pastor…and I wasn’t so sure I wanted either of those things.  I had no mentors or role models.  I feared I wouldn’t be fully accepted as a pastor. 

 

I asked my pastor about this, and he took me back to the Easter story.  He pointed out that women were actually the first preachers.  They were the first ones to proclaim the gospel.  Resurrection means so many things like the promise of life after death, …and that day I learned that resurrection also means that Jesus makes new realities possible.  His rising made a way for women to have an equal voice to men…it just took nearly 2000 years to recognize that.  God making women the first bearers of the gospel message opened a new reality for me.  I could change my plans.  I could find my own way to share the good news about Jesus.  I could do things I was afraid to do.  You never know what the Holy Spirit is up to. 

 

This was an affirmation I needed to answer my call.  …but my pastor neglected to tell me that the even harder part of this call is the message we proclaim…

 

When the women went back to the share this good news, they were scoffed at.  These were people in the best position to receive this news about Jesus, and yet these men believed they were just silly women with an idle tale.  I’m sure that group of men doubted the women because they were women. I’m also sure that group of men doubted the message itself.  A dead person is supposed to stay dead. 

 

The women went to the tomb prepared with spices.  The men were prepared to hear the women tell about how they cared for Jesus’ dead body.  They had plans to grieve.  They were preparing to let go of all the hope Jesus had brought them.  Death had won.  The Empire had the final word.  Nothing would ever change.  Rulers would continue to rule ruthlessly.  Oppression would keep the poor in their place.  Fighting and wars would continue.  They would just have to come to terms with all the world’s injustices and get back to their daily grind. 

 

They weren’t prepared for Jesus to be alive again.  They weren’t expecting new reasons to hope.  They weren’t expecting the new reality God was creating. 

 

We can never be fully prepared for what God is up to. 

 

 

Two months ago, I had no idea that I would be here at Hope this Easter.  The Spirit continues to disrupt my plans and lead me on new adventures.  I’m excited to start this renewal journey with you today, and I fully expect God to surprise us in unbelievable ways.  I also fully expect times of just as much confusion and doubt as the first disciples experienced that first Easter morning.  We don’t know exactly where we are going, but we do have Jesus as our guide.  If he could make that trip from death to new life, then I’m confident Jesus can lead us on this trip of renewal.  

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