June 24, 2019- Jesus Loves You, MYOB (sometimes), Follow Me (always)… John 21:20-25, 1 Corinthians 10:31-33

 

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Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”  When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”  So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.
Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. John 21:20-25 (ESV)

The disciples, like us, were human beings subject to sin (also like us.)  There had to be a moderate degree of tension between Peter and John upon Jesus’ return, especially because John had to know not just that Judas betrayed Jesus unto death, but also Peter denied Jesus three times.

Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:34 (ESV)

And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” Luke 22:61 (ESV)

Peter was wondering about John’s position with Jesus.  Rumor had had it that John was going to be around until the Second Coming.  There had to be a small bit of jealousy going on there, otherwise Jesus probably wouldn’t have been as quick to tell Peter to mind his own business, at least as far as what happens to John.

John did outlive the other disciples, and was the only one of the Twelve to die of natural causes, at the age of 90+, but John did, in fact die.

It’s easy to look around and wonder about “What is going to happen to so-and-so?,” or “Why doesn’t God use me for _____?” or even to speculate on the worthiness or unworthiness of another person.

Jesus told Peter to MYOB when it comes to John and what John will do and where John will go.

It can be hard to mind our own business when we should be minding our own business. As the apostle Paul taught regarding the body of Christ- if everyone were an eye, where would the hearing be? God puts each of us in the places we are with different vocations.  Paul talks about the diversity of the body of Christ at length in 1 Corinthians 12.

It truly isn’t our business to wonder why this person ended up in a place that seems “cushy” or “privileged” to us.  We don’t know the back story.  We don’t know why God chooses one person to live 100 years and another to live two.  We don’t know why we fit in the tapestry of God’s kingdom in the place we are assigned.

Minding our own business is not about ignoring the needs of others, but about not being jealous of others, about not coveting others’ positions and stations in life.  It is about being content with our vocation and concentrating on the mission we have right in front of us.

Most of us are not called to be missionaries or millionaires, but all of us are called to live out our daily vocations with the knowledge that serving our neighbors is really serving God.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.  1 Corinthians 10:31-33 (ESV)

January 23, 2019- Sacrifice, Vocation, All Parts of One Body- Romans 12:1-8

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I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:1-8 (ESV)

It has been said that the problem with living sacrifices is that they are always wriggling themselves off of the altar. We do not live the Christian life perfectly. Thankfully in Christ, because we are baptized, and made children of God by faith, we can start each day knowing that He is renewing our minds and giving us hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26) in exchange for our hearts of stone.  We can trust that he forgives our sins and He gives us the strength to face a new day every day.  God works this transformation in us through the Holy Spirit.

We walk a balancing act between being sinner and saint. As Paul said in Romans 8, we do the things we know we shouldn’t do, and we don’t do the things we should do.  Even so, God has created each of us as an individual with a set of strengths and a set of weaknesses.  Everyone has been given a vocation- a reason for being and a reason for doing- which should complement the vocations of others. A farmer grows grain for the baker to bake bread.  Drivers transport raw materials so that factory workers can fabricate and assemble machines and cars and other things.  Police and firefighters keep order and respond to emergencies.  We have vocations in both the earthly kingdom and God’s kingdom.  Sometimes they intersect, but we are made to embrace and pursue our vocations to the glory of God.

Paul has a complementary view of how we are to work together at being the Body of Christ. Some of us are positively not suited for doing certain things.   Not everyone is in the position to volunteer to go do missions in Africa for a year, or to do plumbing and carpentry work, or to bake cookies.  Some people have the gift of hospitality, or the ability to go abroad do missions work, but others may be more able to give financially, or teach, or encourage.  Everyone has equally valid – though necessarily different and varied- vocations that we have been gifted with to serve God.

We have every reason as God’s people to appreciate and thank God for the gifts we have been given. We are also called to appreciate and thank God for the gifts God has given others, especially the gifts they share that with us we do not possess.  We serve others out of a joyful response to God’s goodness, no matter what our gifts may be.

May 22, 2018 Synergy in the Body of Christ- 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

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For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?  But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty,  which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (ESV)

When the members of a body function as they are intended they work in synergy:

synergy: a mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or elements such as resources or efforts – (as defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary)

It’s very clear even on casual observation that God has created us all with different gifts and placed us in different roles. Not everyone is an eloquent speaker or a talented dancer.  Some of us are gifted with the ability to encourage others and to anticipate others’ needs.  Others of us can sing or write or have a love for mentoring children.  Still others are gifted in carpentry or plumbing or in repairing mechanical things.

There is a reason why the Body of Christ has so much diversity in its members- because no one person can do everything, or wants to do everything! Some are physically stronger than others, while others have different gifts to bring to the table. The idea is that we work together as one to serve God and each other.  It is easier said than done.

Vocation is more than simply what one does for a living. It is operating as part of the greater body of Christ for everyone’s good, while still retaining the unique separate humanity that God created us with.

It’s been said that marriage relationships should be “fifty-fifty,” but that’s almost never how relationships work. There are times when it’s more like twenty-eighty or sixty-forty- or even ninety-ten.  Sometimes one must have compassion and completely carry the other in his or her weakness.  It is also true in any community or relationship that sometimes the stronger members need to carry the weaker- and over time the roles change.  The helpless infant  who is carried to the baptismal font- where he or she is named and claimed by God and welcomed into the faith- becomes the toddler in the nursery. Soon enough that toddler is the teen who helps watch the toddlers.  The teen then becomes a young adult, and then he or she becomes a parent. Then parents become grandparents, and grandparents, become the elderly who are again in need of special care.  Yet we are all brought into one body, named, claimed and loved by God, through our baptism.

Sometimes we find it difficult to accept the role that we are currently occupy- sometimes we hold the role of being the one being able to offer help, and other times we are the one in need. Yet the apostle Paul reminds us that each of us are essential to the greater Body, that the eye is as honored as the hand or the ear or the mouth.  The greater Body needs each specific and individual part.  The weaker among us are to be held especially carefully and honorably as- “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”

Our society isn’t very good at valuing the weak or the seemingly insignificant, such as the very young, the physically or mentally ill, the disabled and the elderly. Yet even in their weakness, or precisely because of it, they are precious members of the Body of Christ and need to be treated with special care.

We look to Jesus to help us live and work and love in synergy and right relationship within our families, communities and in the greater Body of Christ. We ask Jesus to forgive us when we don’t love our neighbor as ourselves and when we want to be something that we are not. We pray for Jesus to give us the courage and strength to live out our various vocations together with others, in our family, workplaces and church to the glory of God.

December 27, 2017 What’s It to Ya?, MYOB… John 21:20-25, 1 Corinthians 12:14-21

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Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” John 21:20-25 (NRSV)

“What’s it to ya?”

“MYOB!”

Anyone who has been around groups of children has heard both of these phrases. When giving gifts to children (or even to dogs…) it can be difficult to do so in a manner that is perceived as being fair to everyone.  Children- and dogs- seem to have radar for someone else getting something they didn’t.  This disparity is always noticed, often complained about, and sometimes fought over.

Our discontent over someone else getting what we thought we deserved can lead to tragic consequences. Cain killed Abel because he was angry that God was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice but not with his.  Wars and conflicts over the centuries have been ignited and sustained over one group of people believing that they deserved something that belonged to another group.  Jealousy and envy are deadly to a harmonious society.  We want what we don’t have, and we envy the other guy who does have it.

The Kingdom of God is not a democracy, and there is not perfect equality. We may wonder at times why God gives what we consider to be greater gifts to others, or even if God loves us as much as He loves so and so.  Yet sometimes we need to step back and MYOB (Mind Your Own Business) and pay attention to our own role and purpose in God’s kingdom without worrying about what the other guy has or doesn’t have.  It is good to thank God for His blessings and know that He is our provision. He is always right on time.  He knows our needs and heart’s desires better than we know ourselves.  As the great theologian Mick Jagger once noted– “You can’t always get what you want/ you can try sometimes/ you just might find/ you get what you need.” God doesn’t always provide what we think we want, but in the end, and in the context of eternity, He gives us what we need.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?  But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 1 Corinthians 12:14-21 (NRSV)

Everyone is given a unique purpose and mission by God. The apostle Paul compares these unique roles to the specific parts of the body.  Not everyone can be an eye or a hand.  Someone has to be an ear or a foot.

One thing we can be sure of is that God equips us for the mission He gives us. Sometimes our roles change.  Sometimes what we think is God abandoning us or failing to love us is really our inability to see the whole picture, or that at times we are blinded by our own suffering and pain. We don’t see what God sees. We don’t always know what God is preparing us for in trials, or whose lives we were sent to influence and bless. We may not understand why some people go through great hardships and suffering, while others seem to dance through life with every possible blessing.  What other people have or don’t have is between them and God. We are called to focus on God’s will for us and how we are to let Him work in and through us- including through our trials and hardships and suffering- for the sake of others.

The Babe in the manger came to earth for the salvation of humanity and the redemption of all creation. Every role in His story is important and every child of God is named, claimed, wanted and has a purpose in God’s kingdom.  Our business is very much God’s business!

October 13, 2017 -Surrender Our Burdens, His Yoke is Easy, Come to the Table- Matthew 11:27-29

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(Jesus said): “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:27-29 (NRSV)

The Sacrament gives us life-giving healing, comfort and rest. Like manna given from heaven to the Israelites in the desert, Jesus gives us sustenance and life and renewal for this journey on earth when we come together as a community to share His Body and Blood.

We all carry the burden of our sins, our sorrows, our trials and the weariness of living life on this earth. When we come to the table we are given a precious gift- Jesus in the flesh- taking our burdens and carrying them along with us.  The illustration of taking on a yoke implies that it is far easier to pull a load with two or more oxen rather than by only one.  When Jesus is walking with us, and we are (figuratively) yoked to Him, our burdens may not disappear, but they will be lighter and more bearable.  He gets us through our struggles and delivers us from the ones that would destroy us.  In the Sacrament of the Altar He comes to us in the most intimate way- His Body and Blood literally become part of us, body and soul.

While we should examine our hearts and minds before we come to the table and we should acknowledge and confess our sins, we need to come to the table to be nourished- and often, precisely because we cannot live up to God’s perfect standards.

We also come to the table in faith. Even though we really don’t understand the whole mystery of how Jesus comes to us in the Sacrament, we take him at His word. When He says, “this IS My Body, given for you,” and “this IS My Blood, shed for you,” Jesus means what He says.

For here He offers to us the entire treasure which He has brought for us from heaven, and to which He invites us also in other places with the greatest kindness, as when He says in St. Matthew 11, 28: Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…– from the explanation of the Sacrament of the Altar, Luther’s Large Catechism

For if you would wait until you are rid of such burdens, that you might come to the Sacrament pure and worthy, you must forever stay away. For in that case He pronounces sentence and says: If you are pure and godly, you have no need of Me, and I, in turn, none of thee. Therefore those alone are called unworthy who neither feel their infirmities nor wish to be considered sinners. – from the explanation of the Sacrament of the Altar, Luther’s Large Catechism