Sermon Reflections and More!
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The Second Sunday in Lent                                            February 21, 2016

This Weekend's Readings (click each reading to view the passage)

Genesis 15:1-2,17-18Psalm 27Philppians 3:17-4:1;  Luke 13:31-35
Chris Schaefer's Sermon - Foxes and Hens
Chris Schaefer's Sermon - Foxes and Hens

Children's Sermon - What Does God Look Like?
Children's Sermon - What Does God Look Like?

Choir Anthem - Lenten Sanctus
Choir Anthem - Lenten Sanctus

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Sermon Notes from Chris Schaefer...

Let me start by saying that I am absolutely thrilled to be home again with my family, I have missed you all immensely. My field work foster home church is treating me well and making sure I eat, though, and I have grown in strength and courage since venturing out into the cold, dark world. It is good to be home because there is great comfort and familiarity here. You all have encouraged me and supported me on my path in ministry, and for that I am forever grateful. In many ways you have acted as a mother hen to me and have protected me under your wings, much like Jesus professes as his desire for Jerusalem in today's gospel reading.
This is one of my favorite passages in scripture because Sassy Jesus shows up again. I love Sassy Jesus. He demonstrates great wit and wisdom, and particularly in this instance, great confidence in the face of danger. As Jesus states, prophets in Israel have not really had the best track record in staying alive long enough to carry out their mission. Throughout his ministry, Jesus faced constant threats from both religious and civic authorities. He had a strong message advocating a radical shift in the way things had generally been done. Right before this passage, Jesus told his disciples about how the first will be last and the last will be first when it comes to the dominion of God, and rather than an expansive and powerful empire, he compared the dominion of God to a tiny mustard seed. This is not really what people were used to hearing at the time. Previously in his teaching, Jesus commanded his disciples to not only love, serve, and protect each other in their own community, but those outside of their community as well, even those they had traditionally seen as their enemies. He consistently sought out the marginalized of his time and showed them respect and care, going so far as to center their voices and needs above those in positions of power and control. This challenge to the power structure comes out clear as day in this passage as he confronted both the Pharisees and Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, who previously tried to have Jesus killed in his infancy. Even as a baby, Jesus was already perceived as a threat to earthly power structures. Those that followed his teachings and actions subsequently came under great threats as well.
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Central America with a group from my seminary. This was not a traditional mission trip format, so to speak, as we did not attempt to go down and fix all of their problems for them, but rather we went as students seeking to learn about the immigration crisis and why so many are abandoning their homes and families to attempt the incredibly dangerous, and often fatal, journey to another land. I'll be speaking more in depth about what we learned in the educational hour and I'd love for you to come back and discuss the nuances and entangled web of issues that make up this crisis, but one of the most poignant moments for me came when we had the chance to worship and eat lunch with a small Lutheran community set in the middle of one of the worst gang violent prone sections of the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras. Our group came in by van and had to be met at the outskirts of town with our windows down and lights flashing by the associate minister of the congregation so that we could pass safely through. We were followed and closely monitored throughout our visit by several trucks of heavily armed men with black hoods over their heads. After the service, members shared stories of family and friends being shot and killed simply while standing in their front yard and how the Sunday School teachers now had to pick up the students from their houses and escort them to church for safety. One of the members of the seminary group asked them if they had ever tried to leave, and some of them had, but the majority responded, "Where would we go? There is nowhere completely safe in this world." The seminarian followed up, "Aren't you afraid of dying?", to which one man replied, "Of course. Every day. And God is with us."
There is great danger in being a disciple of Jesus. Or at least, there should be. I wondered at that moment whether I would be willing to do the same thing. Is this faith, is our God, are my beliefs something worth risking my life for? Is this really MY life, though? Do I own it? Have I earned it somehow? To what degree do we really have power or control over how our lives will play out? Although I would certainly never wish for the horrible circumstances facing those in Central America on anyone, especially as a matter of somehow proving their level of faith, their response in the face of fear showed me a great deal about how we in the States could benefit from a little risk. We largely live in a community of relative comfort and privilege here. We generally do not face risk of death by walking out of our houses. How we respond to those who ARE living in those circumstances, though, shows how we as Christians are responding to our call to love our neighbors and siblings in Christ. When we encounter someone of another ethnicity or who speaks a different language, what do we think about them and how do we engage with them? When we vote in local and national government elections, do we think not only of how that person will help lead your community, but also how they will represent you in interacting with those outside your community and your country? Do we support civic and social organizations with time or money, or advocate for others who do not look or act like us? Are we able to stand up to those that would put others down and build themselves up, even though it might mean risking our social standing or our reputation in a given community?
Are we more fox or are we more mother hen?
Jesus as God's self-revelation shows us in this Gospel reading today that, yes, there is always a risk in life, and, yes, it's worth it. And we're not always going to have all the answers and we're certainly not always going to make the best choices in life. God calls us to stand up to the voices in this world that try to dominate and control at the expense of others because ALL are given the gift of life and should have the opportunity to live it abundantly. We have the capacity to live life abundantly in this country and in this community, and not just financially, but in the true sense of God's desire of a full life without sin and separation from the divine or from each other. And don't get me wrong, I'd be incredibly hypocritical if I stood up here and told you that you had to give everything away and live a life of poverty while I return home to a very nice apartment with lots of possessions and access to a wealth of goods and resources. I'm not saying we need to be ashamed of our lifestyles, necessarily, but rather we need to examine our systems of privilege and how we might be called to work and serve in order that others are able to have the same opportunities and access to the same resources that we do.
This. Is. Scary. Work.
And God knows that. Jesus proclaims after his sassy retort to the corrupt, earthly power structure that he has long desired to gather God's people under his wings like a mother hen. In this moment, God reveals God's tender love and compassion for us and God's deep awareness that how we are called to live as beloved children of God, in abiding presence and connection with all of our sisters and brothers, and that the work involved in this type of love is not easy or comfortable. God knows this, and God knows us, and is with us.
We were all nervous, to be sure, as we entered that part of the city where the Lutheran church is in Honduras, but the moment we set foot in that church there was a sense of great comfort and security, like we had known these folks for lifetimes. During our discussion over lunch we heard many stories of danger and fear in the way those who live in Central America have to endure on a daily basis. We also heard great stories of hope, and compassion, and we laughed A LOT. We met a young woman who survived a gang attack and is now teaching English to other young woman so that they might have better opportunities available. We met a man in his mid 50s who is a woodworking artist and just opened up an online store. We met a man who was in the midst of his immigration journey who was headed to Mexico so that he could pursue his dream of being a singer with his sister who plays guitar in a band, and who hopes to visit Las Vegas again because the last time he was there he experienced all-you-can-eat buffets for the first time, and who believes that God is bigger than the Bible and that we are all connected through energy and space and time. We met dreamers, and chefs, and idealists, and social justice advocates, and historians, and really, really awesome Mennonites. All striving to live their lives abundantly in the midst of the fear and danger that comes with proclaiming a peace that passes all understanding and a love that surpasses language and borders and political powers. May the same be so for you, today and every day, under the wing of the Savior who is with us every scary step of the way.