Luke 13:22-30

The Narrow Door

22 Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. 25 Once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. 29 Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and take their places at the banquet in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

In our passage this morning, we find the journey motif again with Jesus.  He’s on his way to Jerusalem and there are several discourses, conversations, teachings along the way.  These teachings actually pretty countercultural, against the stream.  Jesus is asking folks to open up to who they are, who they really are…to let go of whatever is holding them back from becoming their truest selves.  

Which is so hard to let emerge.  Our true selves.  Why because we have so many layers of ideologies, belief systems, and other things that prevent us from seeing ourselves.  

Friends of ours, the Kenny’s, many of you know their daughter, Georgia, who lived with us for about a year, bought an old castle last year.  I believe I’ve mentioned that before.  But, their castle, or more accurately, a tower, had, over the years, some new additions as well as lots of decay.  They have been busy restoring it to it’s original glory, but it’s taking so much time effort to peal back the layers.

Christianity is the same.  Jesus never intended to even start something called Christianity.  He was calling us, all of us, back to our true essence, which is being made in the image of God.  Which is good, beautiful, and full of love, presence, and wholeness.  

Yet, over the past 2,000 years, we have had so many layers put on our understanding of what it means to live in Christ, to live the abundant lives that Jesus came to call us in to being.  

Even being made in the image of God was diminished when St. Augustine ponied up with Roman imperial authority with the concept of “original sin”, that we were born sinners.  Later, the concept of “substitutionary atonement”, that we are originally sinners in the hands of an angry god that had to appeased by a blood offering.  Which is a concept found in other religions in antiquity, human sacrifice to satisfy the gods…which was also a way for the powers that be to control the population through a certain ideology.

Friends, you were born to be human, human as Jesus is human.  And, you are divine.  You are not God, but you are divine.  You have God’s DNA and are made of God from the very beginning, and even now…yet, there are so many layers in our lives that we need to shed to know our true selves.  

In this passage today, someone asks Jesus if only a few will be saved.  Jesus, as he does, does not answer the question directly, but is trying to get the questioner to get to what the questioner really wants.  Strive to enter through the narrow door.  In other words, be open, allow yourself to let go of certain ideologies or ways that you’ve been brought up.

This narrow door concept is not new in Jesus teachings.  It’s similar to the “eye of the needle” story, where Jesus says it’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of the needle than a rich man (or woman) into heaven.  Jesus isn’t saying it’s bad to be rich, he’s saying let go of whatever you are clinging to in this world that you think will bring you wholeness or whatever.  The eye of the needle is a narrow door on a city gate that would be closed at night.   Traders with camels or donkeys could not get into the city unless they went through the narrow door.  That meant taking off all of their possessions from their animals in order to get the animals through.  That meant being vulnerable also, because you would have to leave stuff outside until you could go back and get it.  

I used to go cave exploring or spelunking.  Similar concept, if you wanted to get into the vastness of an underground cave, sometimes you’d have to go through a narrow opening.  That meant only taking with you things you would need (like a flashlight!).  

Jesus is preparing this wild and beautiful feast for us.  He is the host of the banquet, and he wants all of us to fully live into this banquet!  So often we think that church membership, or showing up on Sunday, or doing this or that is what it means to live in Christ.  Actually, it’s so much more!  Jesus is saying to folks that it’s not just showing up in attendance or hearing nice things…it’s leaning into who we are, it’s being connected, truly connected to all things.  It’s being alive and real, and vulnerable…like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and so many others who came before us.  

It’s not some narrow reading of scripture or living into some belief that was placed upon us for control by the authorities and rulers of this age.  For instance, when I was growing up, my tradition took on this one conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus where Jesus says you must be born again, actually, Jesus said you must be born from above.  We took one conversation between two people and turned into a universal truth, but we didn’t take another conversation between Jesus and the rich young ruler when he said to sell all that you have to enter the Kingdom of God.  I wonder why?  

Throughout history, there has been a cozy relationship between religion and the powerful, if you can get the masses to think that somehow they are not good enough in simply being themselves rather than to have love, peace, or to see themselves as divine, then you can put out the terms of what it takes to get to God or wholeness.  Religion becomes like a business, a transaction.

When, in essence, Jesus is saying that YOU already have everything you need, and want…in abundance even!  

It’s simply not about your status or lack of status in what the world says.  You are enough.   And God wants you to be YOU and that’s a cause for celebration.  

This world tells us that winning at all costs is what is important.  But, Jesus says, nope…as a matter of faith, the first will be last and the last will be first.  

People will come from all over…this narrow door is actually an ever expanding door…it’s big enough for all of us, all of humanity and creation.  And, it’s right in front of us.  Jesus says that he’s knocking on the doors of our lives, lives filled with layer upon layer of religion, beliefs, and expectations…meanwhile, the God of the Universe, inside of us and outside of us, all around us, is calling us towards something so much more.  That knocking is loving and open and graceful…look into your hearts, look into the hearts of others.  Look around in this room and in everyone and everything you encounter…and see God in all things and all people.  As you continue on this journey and allow your eyes to see God in you and around you…know that you are walking through the narrow door and into a great banquet prepared for you!  


Mark 6:30-44; John 6:35

Feeding the Five Thousand

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things. 35 When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and blessed and broke the loaves and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And all ate and were filled, 43 and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

John 6:35

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

When I was a kid, I was worried about being homeless, of not having enough.  Our family was not super wealthy, but we always had enough.  But, I still worried.  I remember talking to mom as an 8 or 9 yer old about this…her response, you will never be homeless unless you decide to be.  You have resources in abundance, not just monetary, but relational connections that will find you throughout your life.  Lots of wisdom that that’s been proven for almost 55 years.

In today’s Gospel lesson, the focus is on abundance…especially when it seems like everyone is exhausted and can’t see the abundance.  Jesus performing a miracle it seems where he fed the 5,000 from a few loaves of bread and fishes.  There was so much food that they had leftovers.  The Gospel narrative implies that folks had their fill, they were well fed.  

At the beginning of this gospel narrative, we have the disciples coming to Jesus and sharing all that they had seen, heard, and done.  They were exhausted, tired, in need of some sabbath and time away.  We can relate can’t we?  I know I can.  These disciples were dealing with their issues, as well as the issues of those around them.  24/7.  It was good work, sometimes energizing and amazing I’d imagine.  So, Jesus says lets get out of here, head to a deserted place.  Yet, so many folks followed them.  They were tired, hungry…maybe even a bit “hangry”, cranky and complaining on empty stomachs.  Jesus says to his disciples, send the folks away, they need to find food.  He had compassion on them.  In this context, the Greek translation for compassion is often one of deep feeling.  Jesus felt their anguish in his bowels, it bodily moved him with love.  There’s a mystery there.  Jesus didn’t know all of them, yet, being both very human and very divine, incarnate, he felt for them.  

I think we can relate to that.  When we are doing the work of living in Christ, of being the body of Christ, we have compassion on others, as well as ourselves, don’t we?  We see others suffering, and before we let fear or divisive voices take over, we “feel” for their plight.  I know I do, and I know it takes work to not let my ego or the voices of others to drown out that compassion.  

Jesus groans with compassion from his very bowels for the folks in this story.   

That compassion moved Jesus to look for the positive.  He did not look at the outward issues and throw his hangs up, he simply adapted and moved forward.  What do we have?  What can we provide?  We don’t have much the disciples tell him, a few loaves and fishes.  

Jesus then goes on to tell the disciples to organize folks, and then Jesus blesses the bread and the fishes and there’s more than enough for everyone.  When they collect what’s left over, they have more than what they started with.

Friends, we know the parallel to where we are as a congregation.  There is much to tell us today of where we are…we are tired, we look at our church and wonder how we can do anything, we are too old, we are too little, we do not have much, we need this or that before we can do anything, we need more young families, our congregation is going to close in 2 or 3 years, or 5…we need more of this, less of that, whatever the argument or the issue of the day is, we often go to a place of scarcity.  And, that’s understandable.  That’s our cultural default.  And it leads us to be dependent on looking for a savior, a messiah, someone outside of ourselves to save us…we do that in our politics, in our religion, our business, and even in our families.  

We so often forget, I know I do, that Jesus reminds us that we are the body of Christ.  That God RESIDES in us, we are made of God DNA.  Bread for the world.  We have enough, and if we look closer, we see that we live in abundance and have gifts that we can offer the world around us.   

It reminds me of how we, in the church, and in the non-profit world in general, often ask, what are our needs or even the needs of those around us?  Sometimes those are good to identify, but there is a deeper question to ask, what are we aiming for?  Who are we?  What do we have already?  I think those questions are exemplified in the feeding of the 5000.  Jesus knows that folks need to be fed, but instead of asking how do we get to a place, he simply says, what do we have?  What’s abundant?  What are our assets, then he uses those assets to bless the people gathered.

Jesus goes on to say in our other passage this morning from the book of John, which took place right after the feeding of the 5000, that we should not work for food that spoils.  Again, he’s saying that we can provide for needs of the moment, but we should look for something deeper, something more meaningful or even empowering.  We should look for food that doesn’t spoil, that lasts forever and is eternal.  And, remember, as we’ve mentioned before, the word eternal in the gospels has much more to do with quality than quantity.  Jesus wants us to have big, meaningful, and full lives together with each other and with God.  

Which, is what Jesus is driving his listeners towards.  They keep on asking questions and go to the place of trying to connect Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 to Moses providing Manna from heaven.  Moses’ Manna lasted for 40 years and helped the Jewish population stay alive physically, but the point of that is that it came from heaven.  God provided through Moses.  Jesus says this, says this is truth telling, God has given them, and us, the true bread from heaven, that gives life to the world, everyone.

They clamored for that kind of bread and asked where they could get it.  Jesus then declares with a double imperative, which translates from the Greek “I am, I am the bread of life.”  Whoever is willing to believe and to dare to grow and become the person that God created them to be, to receive the gift of relationship from God will never be thirsty.  

Friends, this world needs this kind of bread.  I used tell my cross country runners all of the time that there are good carbs and bad carbs.  Bad carbs can fill you up but have no nutritional value other than making you a larger person, but good carbs give you energy and are building blocks for getting stronger, healthier.  

Jesus is coming to us with the promise of Presence, of relationship.  A promise that he will be with us, even in the darkness of our lives.  He doesn’t promise some self-help technique, he simply gives us relationship.  

Jesus is the bread of life, and that bread starts with yeast rising.  That yeast has been planted in this world through Jesus’ coming to us, entering humanity, being one with us, while also being one with the Father and with the Spirit.  

God’s Spirit is also moving in and through us like yeast in dough.  We’re being molded and moved around, it’s sometimes a bit awkward, but that yeast is working its way through the dough and Christ is rising up within us and around us.

Friends, as we move forward in this stewardship season, into 2023 and the YEARS that follow, let’s remember the seed that God has planted in us, God’s very self, God’s Presence, that is growing, that is giving us ideas and new life, and is moving us towards being the body of Christ to the world around us and to each other.

Eat, Drink, Be.

Matthew 26:26–29 (NRSV)

26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”     

As we kick off Stewardship season, we start with this passage.  It’s about the Lord’s Supper.  Side note:  I’m pretty excited about this series the next few Sundays.  Are stewardship theme has lots of food imagery…our church loves food…and it’s appropriate the stewardship season also has the Mett Sausage dinner happening!  

Food is meant to be a sign of nourishment…as well as a token of friendship, of hospitality.  In Antiquity, when you offer food to someone, or invite them over for dinner, it’s a huge deal.  You are extending friendship to them.  And, receiving the invitation is just as important as giving it.  It signifies that you are open to the friendship.  

Today’s passage is specifically about the last supper.  The meal that Jesus invited his disciples, his friends to come to…

As I’ve been reading about this passage this week, and pondering about.  I looked at the book of John, the gospel written by the “disciple that Jesus loved”.  As many of you know, I’ve been spending a lot of time reconnecting with my Celtic heritage.  Celtic spirituality has a lot to say to us these days.  It gives us the picture of a loving and expansive God that is connected to us, to all things and all people.  In Celtic tradition, John the disciple is called “John the Beloved”.  He is one of the favorite disciples in Celtic tradition because of his sense of relational connectedness to Jesus, to the Divine, to others.  And, he was one of only two disciples to stay at the cross while Jesus was having violence and humiliation inflicted upon him, the other disciple being Mary Magdalene.  

At the last supper, John is depicted at one point as leaning his head upon Jesus’ shoulder or breast.  He knew Jesus loved him, he received it, and he gave it back to Jesus.  

I think that this picture of John and Jesus at the last supper gives us a picture of surrendering to growth of a deeper kind.  

You see, John, like the rest of the apostles, disciples, and followers of Jesus had spent a lifetime hoping for something grand to happen, to be a part of something that would change their world.  For three years they had followed Jesus, putting on him their hopes and dreams.  They had an agenda.  Or so they thought.

But, Jesus is telling them something more.  That they are his body, a universal body.  They are to be fed by being connected to all things and all people.  That their lives are also in a flow of God’s self giving of God’s self into them.  The bread, giving sustenance, and showing that as God is broken, we, the body of Christ, are also broken.  We have to lean into the sadness, the shadow of our own lives…as well as the world’s.  The blood, Jesus pouring out his life by the violence of this world, being broken and bleeding…naked, exposed to the world…yet, in that symbol, finding life.

John is not only hearing this, but experiencing this.  And, in so doing, he is finding that He, John, is the body, and is also life of God within and without.  John knows that he is loved in spite of everything that he had been through…he knew he was loved.

This image reminds me of a time that I had with my spiritual director, Fr. Bollman, a few months ago…actually, maybe even a year or so ago.  It was a pretty emotional session.  I had expressed this deep sense of love and being loved…even in the midst of so much change in my life.  It was a very different time in my life, yet I was experience a sense of surrender.  Of being in complete freedom and not in control at all.  I was entering a sense of universal Presence…of deepening love.  At the end of the session, as I was saying goodbye, Fr. Bollman, this great Catholic leader in Cincinnati, leaned over and put his head on chest and gave me a blessing.  Reminding me that I was the image of God to him.  I felt the same way.  In that moment, it was Jesus’ head on my chest.  

Friends, YOU are the body of Christ.  You are the image of God.  You are made OF God, not just created!  God’s lifeblood flows through you!  

It’s a mystery how all of this works in our lives.  And we are called to be “mystics”.  Faith is not real if we strive to be certain or live for certainty.  Faith is alive when we have lost everything.  Fr. Bollman asked me this week if “my congregation was ready to be a people of mystics”?  Are we?  Only you can answer that.  I think there are many of us that are…we are asking questions and desiring a differing way to live…and allowing our “true selves” to emerge. 

We can not understand the ways or wisdom of God.  Nor could John, but we can live in love and grow into deeper places as we surrender to the moment.  But, we have to be willing to be disappointed, and to lean into that disappointment, to embrace it even.  To let go of our agendas.  To think and act out of a deep love for self and others.  To allow the flow of God to do just that…flow through our lives and lead us towards deeper places of being.   

Friends, we, the church, the body are having to redefine ourselves.  We are tired.  Our agenda and our visions may have to be let go of…the world is looking for something more than what we have offered out of a sense of ego.  The world is asking for us to show our true selves.  And, to do that, we have to simply rest in God’s belovedness and let something new emerge.  The church needs to be rebirth-ed in this new day.  We need a rebirthing in our own lives.  This takes risk.  But, God is inviting us to come to the table, to come together in unity, not for some program or event, but all that we can of our very lives to this table.  To offer friendship to one another and to receive it.  Not only in this congregation, but the community around us.  

May it be so.  


New Testament Reading 

Luke 17:11-19

Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers

11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers[b] approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’[c] feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

As I was preparing this week, the theme of gratitude was in my thoughts…it made me think of my grandpa, or PePa.

PePa was someone that really believed in me.  I always felt loved and respected by him.  No matter what I was going through, or when I was acting out or having major growing pains…even as a teenager, he always had the effect of seeing something worthwhile in me.  He was a huge encourager, I loved being around him.

When I graduated from UK, I wanted to change the world, so I went to work for a non-profit youth ministry.  I didn’t make hardly any money, but my PePa still supported me and was proud of me.  When I graduated from UK, I didn’t have any debt because of the generosity of my parents.  After about 3-4 years or so of being on staff with this non-profit, I had accumulated quite a bit of debt.  I had made a decision at that point to move to Atlanta to work in partnership with the PCUSA and another non-profit.  My PePa had me over for dinner, and asked me to write down all of my debts.  I was so embarrassed giving him that sheet of paper.  But, when I did, he sat down, didn’t question anything, and wrote a check out to me for the full amount of my debts.  He then said, “you need to start in Atlanta a new page and not have any financial debt to worry about.  I believe in you and what you are about.”

My debt was gone financially, but I also felt something more, a deeper healing knowing that my PePa believed in me.  

Jesus, in our passage, is on a journey towards Jerusalem still…he passes through a region and there are some men who meet him.  They have leprosy, which could be interpreted not only as leprosy, but some other skin disease.  Because of their ailment, they could not be a full part of the community, they were outside the village, marginalized.  So, from a distance, they call out to Jesus.  They recognize that Jesus is someone who has a standing in society, they call him Master.  They ask him for pity…they could be asking for a handout, a healing, or simply some kind of connection.  

Jesus replies, from a distance, go and show yourselves to the priests…this was customary…priests didn’t have healing power, but if someone is healed, they have to prove it to the priests, and the priests go through a process of purification and then declare folks to be able to be in community again, restored.  

As the ten are going, they are healed along the way.  One, only one, praised God and went back to find Jesus.  When he found him, he recognized that Jesus had healed him, and fell at this knees, bestowing honor and deep gratitude towards Jesus.  

And, the kicker, for the first time in this story, the healed man who returns is identified as a foreigner, and, even more, a Samaritan.  Jesus had crossed cultural boundaries, had healed and restored a foreigner to community…showing immense compassion and love for this person.  

Jesus goes on to ask, “where are the other 9”…they are assumed to be jewish folk, part of Jesus’ tribe, folks that should have known better and were shown the same affection as the Samaritan by Jesus, but they didn’t return…maybe they got distracted, or didn’t want to travel back, or wanted to get on with the process of being restored…they were, after all, doing what Jesus had asked them to do.  Not bad folks…but, the Samaritan responded to the healing with gratitude.

So, Jesus then heals him even more, not just the physical healing, but uses a different word for healing in the last verse from verse 15…in the last verse Jesus uses “sozo”.  Which means wellness or well being.  Jesus not only takes away the physical disease, but gives this man peace, wholeness, or wellness.  He cleanses him on the outside and the inside..the whole person.

In other words, this man’s gratitude opens him up the fullness of God’s Presence, the fullness of the good news of the Kingdom of God, release from what is keeping him back on the inside, what voices or fears or anxieties that have prevented him from living, from having you, from knowing that someone truly believes in him.

On a run a few years ago, I came across a good friend that I have not talked with in a while.  He was walking his dog and had a protective collar around his neck.  I stopped to talked to him and find out how he was doing.  He had major neck/back surgery, his work had changed dramatically and he was forced out as a partner, and he had to miss a major mountaineering trip that he had been planning for months…yet, he made a great statement:  I’m alive and grateful for the life I live.  He was experiencing wellness in the midst of hard things.  He knew that Jesus believed in him and he had gratitude, which can lead to the deeper healing.

Friends, we have done an amazing job of welcoming the community this year in so many ways!  Now, we have the awesome privilege of continuing to welcome our community, but also going to them and showing them that they can be well also, that they can be loved…and it starts with us knowing that God believes in us, which enables us to be believe in others and to demonstrate to them God’s love as Jesus did…and in so doing, bringing wellness to our lives through gratitude, and bring wellness in the lives of others.  That’s good news.


Luke 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

When you think of the word “faith”, what thoughts or images come to mine? How does one “increase” faith? 

A simple definition of faith is as follows:  

strong belief or trust in someone or something
belief in the existence of God : strong religious feelings or beliefs a system of religious beliefs 

The apostles are asking Jesus to give them faith, but Jesus is turning it around, as he often does, saying essentially that they have faith already…but, that it’s not rooted in a belief system, but in something much more. It’s rooted in trust and commitment. In other words, we don’t have proof that Jesus is the son of God, or that Jesus is represents all of humanity. Yet, we commit to God that we don’t have all of the answers, that God is a mystery, and that this God indwelled in Jesus and this Jesus embodied what it means to be human, and was human…and, somehow, this Jesus, after being killed and rising from the dead, encompasses all of humanity. This commitment leads to trust in the flow of God’s presence in and around us, and in others…causing our faith to increase. 

Jesus’s disciples simply need to start with a small kernel of faith, a mustard seed, an inkling of an idea of God’s experience with us. I’m not a gardener, but I know quite a few of them…they will tell you that even the tiniest seeds can grow into something huge. 

Jesus is telling his disciples that if you can start with even a small amount of faith, you can see amazing things happen, things that we could hardly imagine happening in our lives. 

Allowing that faith to grow, nurturing it with encouragement, grace, humility, love, and even obedience and accountability in community with others are the gardeners tools to cultivate a mature faith over time. 

But, again, that seed needs to be planted with commitment, curiosity, and knowing that God believes in us…if God believes in us, then we can begin to believe in this God I’d imagine. 

The second part of our story talks about a slave and their master. This is not a commen- tary on slavery, nor is it accepting it. It’s just using something that was common in the 1st century as an illustration. And, it wasn’t the type of slavery that we had in America, this was more of a relationship type of thing. It was still wrong, any time you feel like you can own someone is wrong, or put a barrier to equitable relationship. The writer of this passage is saying that masters and slaves have a type of relationship that is respon- sive…and that we should be responsive to God. 

We also have to remember, especially in this day and time, that scripture is on a trajectory towards equality and inclusion. The writers 2000 years ago are attempting to articulate a beauty of relationship, of awareness, and even progressive cultural attitudes using the context that they live. 

In our time and day, we have to follow that trajectory of scripture towards radically inclu- sive relational love bound in community with one another. We also have to be willing to speak out against racism, sexism…and sorts of “isms” as we work towards be reconciling and prophetic voices…not only within our communities, which is where it starts, but to those who want to be in leadership roles in our country and world. 

God wants us to live in deep faith, the deep faith that God demonstrates to us and shows us. Fear and anxiety can be detriments to that faith. 

Henri Nouwen says this: 

Once there was a group of people who surveyed the resources of the world and said to each other: “How can we be sure that we have enough in hard times? We want to survive whatever happens. Let us start collecting food and knowledge so that we are safe and secure when a crisis occurs.” So they started hoarding, so much and so eagerly that oth- er people protested and said: “You have much more than you need, while we don’t have enough to survive. Give us part of your wealth!” But the fearful hoarders said: “No, no, we need to keep this in case of an emergency, in case things go bad for us too, in case our lives are threatened.” But the others said: “We are dying now; please give us food and materials and knowledge to survive. We can’t wait, we need it now!” Then the fearful hoarders became even more fearful, since they became afraid that the poor and hungry would attack them. So they said to one another: “Let us build walls around our wealth so that no stranger can take it from us.” They started erecting walls so high that they could not even see anymore whether there were enemies outside the walls or not! As their fear increased they told each other: “Our enemies have become so numerous that they may be able to tear down our walls. Our walls are not strong enough to keep them away. We need to put explosives and barbed wire on top of the walls so that nobody will dare to even come close to us.” But instead of feeling safe and secure behind their armed walls they found themselves trapped in the prison they had built with their own fear. 

Faith allows us to overcome fear…even a small amount of faith, but as we take risks be- cause of God’s faith in us and our faith in God, we will find that we can overcome fear, have imagination, and change the world as we build bridges with one another, not walls. 

Friends, I’m not sure where you are today, and I’m not sure what the future holds for our church…but, I do know that it is a great future if we want to work towards it. And I know from working with churches and faith communities across the world, and even in our own church, that we often live in a place of anxiety over what we don’t have. We live in scarcity. Yet, faith with imagination can move us towards a place of abundance. When we look around, we can see the richness of friendship, of relationship, we can see that we live in a place filled with potential for listening and deepening a sense of community. We can have faith that is mysterious and keeps us curious and moves us towards the blessing of connecting with others in a nonjudgmental, non transactional way…a way of true love the is transformational…that can cause us to see church in a new way…not in who’s not here or here on a Sunday morning, but in ways that we can bless our neighborhood…and in so doing, change the world! God’s faith in us gives us courage to do just that…may it be so!