Saturday, September 19, 2015

Funeral Sermon for The Rev. Robert J. Wennerstrom

Funeral Sermon for The Rev. Robert J. Wennerstrom
The Lutheran Church of the Incarnate Word
Rochester, NY
September 19, 2015
John 10:11

The Rev. Douglas L. Stewart

Care for God’s people, bear their burdens…Witness faithfully in word and deed to all people.  Be of good courage, for God has called you, and your labor in the Lord is not in vain”. 

Words spoken to the newly ordained as they rise from their knees to their feet for the very first time with this newly placed stole draped around the shoulders…

Words spoken to those who have answered the call to care for God’s people; To Shepherd God’s flock…

Words spoken on that “hot and steamy” night at St.  Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Orleans – July 11th, 1954…

That night when the Church of Jesus Christ became abundantly richer and immensely blessed with the ordination to Word and Sacrament of Robert Joseph Wennerstrom…

“Care for God’s people, bear their burdens… Witness faithfully in word and deed to all people.”  
Not simply words for Bob, but a way of life.  One need not look far to see that.  Japan, the Philippines, New Orleans, Rome (NY), Pittsburgh, and Rochester:  All places where this faithful pastor, patient teacher, and wise counselor with the heart of a shepherd, embodied the Truth he proclaimed:  That God’s Word has become flesh and dwells among us.

After 18 years of parish ministry…

18 years of preaching, teaching, baptizing, marrying, burying, visiting the sick, praying for God’s people, nourishing them with the Word and Holy Sacraments, and leading by his own example in faithful service and holy living, I suppose Bob could have begun to coast his way toward an easier, more prestigious position in the church –  But not Bob.

After 18 years of parish ministry, Bob felt the call to expand the role of parish pastor to encompass life beyond the boundaries of a building or a single congregation. 

After just 5 years at St. Matthew’s Church in Rochester, Bob’s proclamation of the gospel extended into the surrounding city neighborhood – a neighborhood still bearing the wounds of poverty, racism, and violence inflicted by race riots just a few years earlier. 

Whether it be the formation of Group 14621, a grassroots community association dedicated to revitalizing one of the poorest neighborhoods in Rochester, or

His helping organize volunteers to go door to door in the community to speak with the elderly about medical issues, landlord problems, lack of funds for heat, electricity, or food or

His initiating JET Enterprises to help the poorest of the poor to develop basic job skills necessary to succeed in the workplace, with the heart of a shepherd, Bob embodied the Truth he proclaimed, That God’s Word has become flesh and dwells among us.

As if that were not enough, Bob found an abandoned bakery on Joseph Avenue where he started Community Lutheran Ministry:  A Christ-centered community offering after-school programs, tutoring, summer day camps, breakfast and lunch programs, emergency food, clothing and furniture for those in need, as well as offering programs of job preparation for neighborhood teens.
There he stayed for another 18 years with the heart of a shepherd, embodying the truth he proclaimed, that God’s Word has become flesh and dwells among us.

Surely after 36 years of ordained ministry, one might imagine counting down the days until retirement.  But not Bob. 

Not only did Bob take on the role of Visitation Pastor here at Incarnate Word,
but he fostered a relationship between this congregation and Joanne Peterson, in which we became partners in providing much needed health care workers to the most impoverished communities in the Dominican Republic…  

A relationship that thrives to this day as evidenced by our youth group who travelled there just a couple of years ago.

Surely this would be enough to do, but not for Bob.

Recognizing the pastoral care needs of an aging congregation, Bob helped train and support a cadre of Christian Caregivers here at Incarnate Word while at the same time providing weekly pastoral care to the seniors of our Wellness Center.  And in all of this, with the heart of a shepherd, Bob embodied the truth he proclaimed:  That God’s Word has become flesh and dwells among us.

My first encounter with Bob took place just over a decade ago, not long after Pastor Joanne and I began our ministry here.   When I first met Bob he was getting together every week with a couple who wanted to learn more about Jesus.  And so week after week, Bob took the time to read and study the gospel of Mark with them, fashioning good and faithful disciples.

There are folks in our pews today who are actively involved in the outreach missions of our congregation because Bob invited them to join him on an incredible journey of faith and discipleship.  With the heart of a shepherd, Bob embodied the truth he proclaimed:  That God’s Word has become flesh and dwells among us.

But Pastor Bob was not just ‘pastor’.  Pastor Bob was also “devoted husband”, “loving father”, “doting grandfather”, and “faithful friend” impacting lives in profound ways.  We already heard a bit of that this morning from two of his grandchildren, Catherine and Matthew, as well as from his long-time friend, Joanne Peterson, as they shared with us the depth of his inspiration in their lives.

Right about now, having reflected upon so many of Bob’s accomplishments, it would be easy to wrap up this sermon with the words “well done, good and faithful servant”;  Words that I am certain God has spoken and continues to speak to Bob now. 

But we all know that if Bob was sitting in a pew right here, right now, he would be waiting with bated breath to hear something more from this pulpit:

He would be anxiously waiting to hear about the Cross of Christ:  That place where Christ took on our death in exchange for His life: 

That grace event, described by Dietrich Bonhoeffer as the time in which “God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.”

Or as Jesus himself once put it, “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”.

“Care for God’s people, bear their burdens… Witness faithfully in word and deed to all people.”  
Bob did not need a bishop’s admonition to do this.  This was Bob’s life.  A life lived in response to an event that happened to him on April 13th, 1930 at Faith Lutheran Church in Los Angeles, California. 

On that day the God of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Word made flesh, named and claimed Bob as His own in the waters of Baptism.

There in the splashing wetness of that day, promises came cascading down upon a 3 year old boy that he would always live in the light of God’s forgiveness equipped with the promise of eternal life.
There in those swirling waters of baptismal grace came God’s first directive for Bob:  “Because I have delivered you through the cross and empty tomb of my son, Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven”.  And Bob did.  He let that baptismal light shine.  From Japan to the Dominican Republic and all points in-between.

For the past couple of years, we have seen Bob’s health steadily decline: Slowly at first, and more rapidly toward the end.  In that time we experienced great sadness as his recognition of us continued to diminish.  But at his bedside right up until the very last moment of his life, hung that beautiful banner reminding all who would see it of God’s great news:  Of God’s final sentence in the book of Bob’s life and ours:  “I have called you by name – you are mine”.

These were not simply words on a banner to Bob.  They were his life. 
In these words, Bob knew a God whose love for him was poured out on a cross.
In these words, Bob knew a God, who in the best and the worst of times, would always be with him.
So I guess I should not be terribly surprised that at the conclusion of our playing a recording for Bob in which a dear organist friend of his was playing the hymn, “Abide With Me”; Bob breathed his lastas the final chord of the hymn was played, 

In the final moments of Bob’s life on earth here are the words he heard: The words that, given the timing of things, clearly became his prayer.  His prayer to the God who loved him – His prayer to the God he loved.

 “Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes, shine through the gloom and point me to the skies; heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee; in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”

I close this morning with one more prayer:  Not just any prayer, but a prayer, a gift offered by Bob for his family, (Always the pastor).  A prayer he shared with Joel 6 years ago in an e-mail:
“God, I thank you for Doris, for her faith, her love, her wisdom.  I pray for Ann, Catherine, Matthew, Elizabeth, Carol, Curt, Sarah, Adam, Joel.  Ground them in faith that they are redeemed, not with silver or gold, but with your holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death, that they may be your own, live under you in your kingdom and serve you in righteousness and blessedness and resurrection certainty.  Sustain their health, guide them in their work, and bless their friendships.
With many, many prayers and much love, Dad”.

Robert Joseph Wennerstrom, child of God – I have called you by name – you are mine: well done good and faithful servant.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Even the Crumbs of Faith...

“Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7:28).

Words spoken by a mom whose daughter is sick and who has just been told by Jesus to go away.  Yeah that’s right, to go away.  No sugar coating here.  In fact, Jesus calls both she and her daughter “dogs”; a cultural slur on a par with the “n-word” today.

If you were in church this past Sunday you may recall that in my sermon I made mention of Jesus’ racial slur, but I also spoke of Jesus’ mind being changed by a mom who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer; by a mom whose tenacious love for her daughter would stop at nothing for healing.  Like the prodigal dad who sells the farm to throw a feast for his wayward son’s homecoming, this mom refuses to give up on grace.  And so Jesus’ mind is changed. God’s mind has been changed before; just look at Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, and Jonah to see that.  In fact, Jesus’ mind is SO changed by this woman that from that point on in Mark’s gospel, Jesus goes to the most “gentil-ist” places ever:  To Sidon and the Decapolis – you know, those mini Roman cities.  It doesn’t get any more outsider than that.  Clearly this story is illustrative of our call to radical inclusivity.  But as I reflect further on this story, it seems I missed a point on Sunday.

Not only is this a narrative about breaking down barriers that divide, but it is also a story of abundance and this outsider’s recognition of it.  It appears that this desperate mom who is at the end of her rope recognizes a certain abundance in the things that Jesus is up to.  It’s almost as if she’s saying to the “insiders” who get to eat at the table, “Go ahead eat all you want.  But what if your table cannot contain all the food that Jesus brings?  What if there are leftovers like the time he fed 5,000?  What if there are so many leftovers that the excess food just starts spilling to the floor?  If so, I’ll be there on my hands and knees gathering up the crumbs because even the crumbs will do the job”.

Sometimes it takes an outsider, someone with “fresh” eyes to see the most obvious things we miss.  Here, a desperate mom not only recognizes, but bears witness to the abundance of Jesus.  No proper doctrine articulated just a mom, her tenacious love for her daughter, and some crazy-ass trust that Jesus is all about healing and abundance.  Is there a lesson here for us?  Sitting in a sanctuary which is emptier today than 20 years ago, is it possible that all we see are crumbs of scarcity when in reality there is abundance in our midst?  Maybe we need this desperate mom to show us what it means to cling to Jesus trusting that he will do what he says he came to do. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to look for her this Sunday, in fact I’m going to look for her every Sunday.  I’m sure she’s been here before and I know she’ll be here again clinging to each and every crumb of good news that she hears; fiercely convinced that even a crumb will heal.

Peace and Love,

Pastor Doug

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Pharisees and Green Monsters, Oh My...

Let me begin with this disclaimer; I’m a huge Boston Red Sox fan and have been my entire life, even following their Triple A farm team, the Pawtucket Red Sox, since I was seven.  (Sorry Rochester friends, when the PawSox come to town, they’re still my team).  My being a fan may have something to do with my New England origins.  Or it may be due in part to the fact that when my dad’s brother was dying from Leukemia in the 1950s, the great Ted Williams made regular trips to Mass General just to visit him.  Then again there’s the iconic Citgo sign parked out beyond left centerfield which has been a Boston landmark longer than I’ve been alive.

But as I think about it, my love for the Sox is probably due more than anything else to the great Fenway Park with its 37’ 2” high left field wall, affectionately known as the “Green Monster”; the highest wall of any major league baseball stadium; towering over left fielders since 1912. 

So imagine my surprise and subsequent outrage when in the 2002-03 off-season, the Green Monster was renovated with the installation of 274 seats, with even more added in 2005.  I realize Fenway Park has one of the smallest seating capacities and with players’ salaries skyrocketing, it takes more fans to generate more revenue, but really guys, the Green Monster?  You had to desecrate the holiest ground at Fenway Park by installing seats on her?  Have you no decency?  Is nothing sacred?

I wonder if these were the questions on the minds and hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees in Sunday morning’s gospel reading from Mark.  Is nothing sacred?  Jesus’ followers have not only been associating with all kinds of unclean people, but they don’t even wash their hands before eating as the religious tradition dictates.  How can they call themselves followers of God and not abide by God’s traditions?  From the Pharisees’ perspective, Jesus’ followers are not simply neglecting God’s statutes, they are spitting on the holiness of God.  They are threatening the very fabric of Israelite existence with their cavalier ways.  So yeah, the good religious folks are a bit upset.  They’ve drawn their line in the sand.

Before we launch off on some tirade against the Pharisees and their apparent close-mindedness, maybe we should look at the lines we draw in the sand.  Make no mistake about it, when it comes to life in the church, we all have them; we all have those lines you better not cross.
What if we cut the Congregation Council in half while at the same time eliminating Core Groups and their subcommittees in favor of a more agile congregation?  What if we were to move the altar table around the sanctuary on a seasonal basis?  What if we removed all the pews in order to make our worship space more flexible on Sunday, while creating a daily dining space for the homeless?  Do you see where I’m going here?  We all have buttons to be pushed.  We all have traditions we are unable or unwilling to forsake.

It’s taken all these years for me to finally accept what the Red Sox owners did to my beloved “Green Monster”.  I see now that their motives were not malevolent. As much as I may hate to admit it, they may have had the well-being of both the team and the park in mind.   And if I’m honest with myself, I have to acknowledge that my precious Green Monster wasn’t always green.

Once again this week, I’m not entirely sure where my sermon will end up on Sunday.  But my guess is that it’s going to have something to do with being open to the Spirit; being open to God working in new ways; trusting that God’s not going to lead us into bad places.
Join me on Sunday and let’s see where God takes us.

Peace and Love,

Pastor Doug

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another Shooting in Rochester

There’s been another shooting in Rochester.  Though every shooting and every death is tragic and there have been way too many of them this year, this particular event last night seemed even more cruel than usual.  In front of the Boys and Girls Club on Genesee Street, a place of refuge and empowerment, seven people were shot resulting in three deaths.  At this point two of the three have been identified; Raekwon, 19 years old and Jonah 17.  I know neither their stories, nor the circumstances that led to the violence perpetrated against them, but I do know that they were too young to die.

I cannot begin to imagine the devastating heart break overwhelming Raekwon’s and Jonah’s parents right now.  As a parent who has children of similar ages, my heart aches for their families.  Children aren’t supposed to die before their parents; especially children so young.  Sure, our kids get older and with every passing day they seem more and more adult-like, but they never stop being our kids.  We never stop worrying about them.  We never forget the days of diapers and bottles; cut knees, scraped elbows and the occasional bruised feelings.   We never forget the super-hero promises we made of keeping them out of harm's way.

The streets of our city have become a killing field.  The cemeteries of our city are swallowing up our children.  Rochester’s reality reflects the reality of the larger culture in which we live: A culture addicted to gun violence.  Add to that the systemic cycle of poverty and a powder keg emerges. 

At every homicide location, we’ve been gathering in prayer and sadly our prayer vigils have been occurring almost weekly.  At these vigils we pray for peace, understanding, and healing.  We pray that God will hallow the ground desecrated by the spilling of blood.  And yet the violence continues.  Shootings remain at epidemic levels.  As people of faith we can’t help but ask the questions, “Where is God in all of this?”  “Does God hear our prayers and laments?”  “Does God even care?”  These questions are not only fair, but they are faithful.  I ask these questions myself. Come on God, can’t you stop this insanity?  You could part the Red Sea, can’t you part the violence?  If only we had magic wands to make the violence disappear.

We don’t have wands, but here’s who we do have.  We have Jesus.  I’m not talking about Jesus walking and talking with me alone in some remote garden.  (Sorry, that old hymn gets it wrong.)  No, the Jesus we have is the one who knows about systemic poverty, because he was born and lived his entire life in it.  The Jesus we have is the one who himself was an innocent victim of violence as his tortured body hung dying on a cross.  The Jesus we have is the one who cried out in anguish on the cross to a God whom he thought had abandoned him.  The Jesus we have is the one who didn’t stay dead; who was raised by God thereby putting death itself to death.

And yet our children still die.  With blood stains fresh on our streets, Good Friday death still casts its ominous shadow.  Oh sure, we know that Sunday’s coming; that an empty Easter tomb awaits us; that God promises a future of healing, reconciliation, and life, but we can’t entirely dismiss the fear and discouragement of the present.  That Holy Saturday tomb looks so huge. 

Here’s the deal: In the midst of my doubts and fears; in the midst of tears that come way too easily; I will continue to keep Easter vigils on street corners and I invite you to join me.  Who knows?  Maybe our presence on street corners is the presence of God for which we’ve been praying.  Maybe our tears of Good Friday anguish are God’s tears.  Maybe our vigils, in which prayers for shattered tombs are offered, will give Easter hope to one sibling, one parent, one child.

Peace and Love,

Pastor Doug

Saturday, August 15, 2015

God's Scandalous Church

“’I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh’” (John 6:51).

Though I’m not preaching on Sunday, this verse from the gospel reading has been haunting me all week.  On the surface Jesus’ words seem fairly harmless.  “I am the bread of life”.  I can preach that and maybe even do a fairly adequate job of it.  I mean how hard is it to talk about getting nourishment from Jesus?  I could stand up in the pulpit and point out the differences between God’s nourishment and the hollow nourishment of the world.  I could point to the times in Scripture when God has miraculously fed God’s people on their long and arduous journeys of faith.  Or I could use this text as an opportunity to talk about the importance of being fed weekly at the altar table of God’s love with a piece of bread and a sip of wine.  I could go to all these places and probably offend no one; At least no one who has made the “journey” to church on Sunday morning.   But I can’t go there.  Not this week.

For some reason the radicalness of Jesus’ words won’t let me go.  They won’t let me tame Jesus and his scandalous call to follow.  These words won’t even let me preach a sermon on the “whys” of Eucharist.  Sure I could preach a barn burner of a sermon about our need to be fed daily with the body and blood of Christ.  But I can’t go there. Not this week.

“The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh”.  How in the world can the religious folks of Jesus’ day even stomach such a shock jock phrase?  A good religious person of Jesus’ day knows that any talk of flesh is unclean.  It is not kosher.  So, who does this Jesus think he is claiming that it is his flesh and blood that truly nourishes?  Jesus’ declaration turns everything upside down.  Every faith truth ever told; every faith assumption ever held is undone by this one sentence.  In Jesus’ day, flesh and blood are ritually unclean.  If contact is made with either, folks are cast out of community.  Without community survival is almost impossible.

Can we even begin to grasp the radical nature of Jesus’ words?  Surely these ancient kosher laws don’t apply to our lives, but in what scandalous ways does Jesus call us to follow?  In what scandalous ways does Jesus call us out of our safety zones?  In what scandalous ways does Jesus call us to abandon our theological certitudes?  In this post-modern world in which the church no longer finds itself at the center of society’s norms and mores, what is Jesus calling us to do and to be?  How open are we to God acting in new and creative ways?   How open are we to God’s reforming word re-defining all that we have taken for granted in the last 500 years?  How open are we to God changing the very definition of church?  The scriptural canon is certainly closed, but is it possible that God is still speaking?

Jesus’ words are radical both for his day and for ours.  But they are also filled with good news.  In keeping with the Hebrew notion of flesh and blood containing one’s total being, when Jesus talks about giving his flesh and blood, he is promising nothing less than the giving of his entire self.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t begin to get my head around that kind of love; that kind of love that holds nothing back.  And yet it is precisely that abiding love which not only nourishes and sustains us, but sends us back out into the world to feed God’s sheep.   How will we feed God’s sheep in the weeks, months, and years to come holding nothing back?  Join me in worship; in that place where the crucified and risen Christ has promised to be.  And let us discern together where God is calling us to travel and who God is calling us to be; no matter how radical and scandalous the call.

Peace and Love,

Pastor Doug

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Incarnate Word - Come Out!

“They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (John 6:42).

Surely by now, you grumbling religious leaders know who Jesus is.  He’s the Son of God.  Haven’t you been listening?  Haven’t you seen what he’s done?  Surely that wedding at Cana where he turned 180 gallons of water into the finest wine must have convinced someone.  Missed the Cana gig? Well, certainly you religious experts saw how Jesus healed the paralytic on the steps of the Temple in Jerusalem.  You groused enough about it; Something about it being unlawful to heal on the Sabbath.  Really guys? What about the stilling of the storm?  Or the feeding of the 5,000?  Haven’t you figured out who Jesus is yet?  Maybe you should have been with me back in second grade when the most incredible Sunday School teacher ever, Mrs. Barnes, told us what it meant that God put on our flesh in Jesus; That God took his love for us to a whole new level in becoming one of us.  You quote chapter and verse of scripture looking for God and can’t see that God is already here and has found you.  Jesus is God’s Word spoken at Creation made flesh; God’s Word of prophetic faithfulness made flesh; God’s Word of healing made flesh.  And still you can’t see beyond appearances? 

Truth be told, I too have a hard time seeing beyond appearances. I’m ordained.  I’ve been to seminary, studied Greek, learned how to dissect Scripture and put it back together again, all the while learning how to teach and preach this stuff.  But when push comes to shove I have doubts.  I have times when my holy imagination has run dry.  We clergy stake our entire lives on gospel proclamation and still we see churches dying before our very eyes; haunted hulks of once vibrant church buildings, now shabby specters of bygone glory.  We see dwindling numbers of people in church and the fear that evokes, experiencing that fear first hand in personal attacks and in some instances firings.   We see what the church could be and still feel the shackles of congregational anxiety holding us back from adapting to the culture’s needs around us.  We see budgets shrink and programs go unfunded and still have to explain why folks aren’t beating down the doors of our churches on a Sunday morning.   By all appearances, God at times seems absent.  Little wonder that so many clergy are lonesome, weary, depressed, and end up leaving the ministry after just a few short years.

But here’s the deal, God has never been stopped by appearances.  Our white mainline Protestant churches may, like Lazarus, have the stench of death in their garments, appearing to be dead, but when the Word made flesh utters the words “come out”, death’s defeat has begun.  Old ways of being the church may be dead or dying and our congregations may seem lifeless, but when Jesus issues that same “Lazarus call” to us, new life has begun and the church is literally pregnant with possibility.
“Come out!”  Jesus’ words to Lazarus and to us.  Come out!  In the face of decline, come out!  Unwrap the grave clothes.  Breathe deep and step into the light.  Come out and be the church – be the Beloved Community God has called you to be; doing justice and loving mercy; not ecclesiastical entrepreneurs but God’s holy fools proclaiming life and hope in the midst of death and despair. Be the Beloved Community God has called you to be in the waters of Baptism; no longer fearing appearances of scarcity but trusting the promises of God’s abundance; trusting that God is not yet done with us and won’t be for a very long time.  Come out.  Dear friends in Christ, come out!

Peace and Love,

Pastor Doug

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Church of Action: Do we dare be that church?

“What must we do to perform the works of God?” (John 6:28).

Seems like a completely reasonable question given all that’s just happened.  Word of Jesus’ healings and feedings have gone viral.  The recently fed crowd of 5,000 wants more. So they begin looking furiously for Jesus and his disciples.  Much to everyone’s surprise Jesus is found hanging out on “the other side of the sea”; the other side of the tracks; the unclean side of the world; the neighborhood to which nice respectable church folk would never venture.  These folks are desperately hungry.  I mean come on, they’ve actually ventured into the 14621 zip code of their world.  Obviously they’ve been given a taste of something great and they want more.  And so comes the question, “How do we get more?”  Or put another way, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”   We’ve glimpsed what it means to be filled and we want more.

Hungering crowds are not just the stuff of bible stories.  The world in which we live is a perishable parched wilderness offering hollow nourishment.  Its inhabitants hunger and thirst for meaning; for value; for connectedness; for lives that are nourished and whole. Instead they find brokenness, poverty, and injustice.  They find profound loneliness in a world of social media that is anything but social.   

In our world, in our city, and in our lives storms rage.  So, where is the church in all of this?  Where are the followers of the Prince of Peace?  Where are those whose Lord sends them out to feed God’s sheep?  Do we, the church, have a voice in any of these storms and if so, where do we find that voice?  It is one thing to talk about feeding sheep, it is quite another to actually do so.

Don’t get me wrong, there is value in talking about feeding and healing.  We call that theology.  Theology is absolutely essential in informing us as to the “why” of mission.  Theology is how we talk about and live with God.  It grounds us in all that we do.  But if our theology is all talk and no action, then we are not the church sent out by the dancing flames of Pentecost.  And if we are not that church, then we are not the church at all; merely a dwindling social club of irrelevancy.  And why would we expect God to empower that? 

“What must we do to perform the works of God?”  Kind of a scary question if you ask a good Lutheran.  We abhor the word, “works”.  We despise it.  We run away from it.  Haven’t we been taught that “works” don’t get us into heaven?  Of course “works” don’t buy salvation, but they are absolutely essential to our relationship with God and each other.  Talk doesn’t feed my hungry neighbor.  Works of love do. 

I’m not quite sure where my sermon on this text will end up on Sunday morning, but of this I am certain.  God has fed us that we might feed others; and not just talk about it.  God doesn’t need another mouth house; another place where we’re all talk and no action.  In Sunday’s gospel story, Jesus is found on the other side of the sea; Feeding and healing in unclean, unsafe, scandalous places. Where will we be found?

Peace and Love,
Pastor Doug