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Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service.
June 26 2022
Galatians 5: 1, 13-25
Pastor Lara’s sermon refers to the ELCA Social Statement on abortion. That statement can be found at: https://www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Abortion
We also invite you to read ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s pastoral message in response to the June 24, 2022 U.S. Supreme court decision on Roe v Wade: https://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/8158
Grace to you and peace from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
If you’ve ever taken a road trip with your family or another group of people, you know how chaotic it can be, especially when you’re just setting out. In any kind of large group, it’s rare for everyone to be ready on time so that you can just leave and then arrive at your destination.
There are usually multiple starts and stops for last-minute items and bathroom breaks. And sometimes even turning around to go back home for something that someone forgot. The person in charge of making it all happen is usually wound up pretty tight, wanting to keep to the timeline. Sound familiar?
In a group setting like that, it’s sometimes hard to keep everyone focused because there can be a lot of distractions. And distractions can be fun, but they can also keep us from doing what needs to be done.
Last Sunday, I mentioned that in this church season we take the teachings of the Easter season and learn more deeply what they mean in our ordinary lives. And today is where the rubber starts to hit the road with that.
The gospel reading is tough. There’s no sugar-coating it. Jesus is at the beginning of his journey to Jerusalem and, ultimately, to the cross.
He sets the bar high and it’s all-or-nothing; people either follow him or they don’t. Because who he was and what he was doing was different than what they expected of him.
The Samaritans’ refusal to offer him and his followers even the most basic hospitality wasn’t personal. It had everything to do with the longstanding hatred between Jews and Samaritans. Which gives us gives us an idea as to why James and John wanted to rain fire on them. But their desire for vengeance goes against everything that Jesus had been teaching. So he rebuked them for even thinking about it, because violence and retribution are never the appropriate response to insult and rejection.
But what else is going on here is that, in what James and John said, Jesus recognized that the disciples were still learning about his message of love, grace, and forgiveness. So Jesus stopped talking, set his face to Jerusalem, and didn’t let anyone or anything slow him down along the way.
His sense of urgency in this journey was partly because he needed to make sure that everyone knew God’s favor before he was silenced by those who rejected it. But more importantly, it was because he knew how fragile human life is.
By this point in his ministry, he had already cast out demons, healed an ailing woman, restored a girl to life, fed a multitude of people, and taught the disciples what it really meant that he was the Messiah.
In other words, since his public ministry started, Jesus had been overturning the powers that oppress humanity in all forms. And even though he knew what was waiting for him in Jerusalem when he got there, Jesus still went.
As he encountered people on his journey, whether they said they would follow him or whether he called them to follow, everyone saw his unwavering commitment. And it was clear that that’s what he expected of anyone who followed him because he knew that lives were hanging in the balance.
And that hasn’t changed. Jesus calls us to follow him, and he expects every bit as much from us as he did from his original disciples. But his call to follow isn’t a demand to just abandon the people or issues that are important to us or make a difference for us.
His call is a promise that God becoming human means that moments matter, that every second matters to God not only for the sake of our service as Jesus’ disciples, but also for the sake of our being in the kingdom or realm that God imagines and wants for us here and now.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve talked a lot about what God’s realm on earth looks like and what it means for us today. We know that the people in it live in a way that’s rooted in God’s love, and that if it were a physical place, it would be one in which everyone was safe and had enough food, clean drinking water, and secure housing.
We’ve got our work cut out for us. But Jesus showed us what it looks like and taught us how to work toward making it a reality. The sense of urgency around making that happen seems to be growing each day.
The US Supreme Court decision last Friday has upset a lot of people – understandably so. Even though it had been leaked last month so we kind of knew it was coming, it’s still shocking. In response, ELCA Presiding Bishop Eaton issued a pastoral message reminding us that, as a church body, the ELCA Social Statement on Abortion – which was approved in 1991 – is what we use for guidance concerning abortion.
If you have not read that statement, or if you haven’t read it recently, I strongly encourage you to do so. From the front page to the back cover, it’s 12 pages long and it’s available on the ELCA’s website. It thoughtfully discusses the complexities of pregnancy and abortion, and gives care to the decisions made in those circumstances.
In her message, Presiding Bishop Eaton also reminds us that we have both the freedom and the obligation to serve neighbors in complex situations. And that as a church, we are called at this moment to recognize and spiritually support people who are struggling with decisions around pregnancy.
She also includes concrete ideas for the ways we can respond to the current situation and minister in it. These ways include ministering to individuals who seek abortions; advocating for laws that provide free or affordable healthcare, child care and education;
providing and promoting sex education; continuing to be a community of discernment where thoughtful and diverse perspectives can be shared and heard; and advocating for state laws that provide legal, safe and affordable abortions, and against legislation that would outlaw abortion in all circumstances.
Abortion is something that has touched each one of us in some way. And if you have had an abortion, you are loved by God. Without question.
The realm, the world, that God desires for us is very much a work in progress. Our society is deeply fractured – for many reasons. And the only way the fractures will begin to heal, and God’s realm will come into being, is if we step up.
The work we are called to is not easy. Jesus never promised it would be. But it’s work that needs to be done now, and we cannot let ourselves be distracted from doing it.
It’s work that acknowledges the reality of our society, our world, and tells the truth about it. It’s work that digs in and demands the answers to the hard questions. It’s work that disrupts, that makes us and others uncomfortable.
It’s work that pushes back against oppression in all its forms. And ultimately it’s work that transforms us and our world because it seeks the well-being of all people, because it’s work that’s rooted in God’s love for all of humanity. That’s what we proclaim, and that’s what makes it possible.
Jesus’ call to follow him is a promise that God becoming human means that moments matter, that every second matters to God not only for the sake of what we do as Jesus’ disciples but for the sake of the world God imagines and wants for us here and now. And for that promise, we say, “Thanks be to God!” Amen.
 Inspiration and basis for this sermon taken from: https://www.workingpreacher.org/dear-working-preacher/every-moment-counts