September 10, 2023
READINGS AND PSALM
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Welcome to everyone and thank you for being here today. Thanks to everyone who helped out with Old Settlers’ Day last weekend. It’s a wonderful thing to be living in a community where neighbors help neighbors, where everyone looks out for each other, and where we can gather together to worship our Lord.
In our lessons and readings for the last several Sundays, we’ve been seeing examples of great faith and discussing how such faith applies to our lives today. In the story of Jesus beckoning Peter to walk on water, we learned that great faith involves getting out of the boat. Last week we read what Jesus taught his followers concerning discipleship. Jesus calls his disciples to live in faith by denying themselves, taking up their crosses, and following him—even if we do this in a far from perfect manner. The gospel lesson for this Sunday reveals to us another element of living faithfully—the nurture and maintenance of relationships. It shouldn’t be a big surprise to us that God is a God of relationships. Humankind was created in God’s image and our likeness to God allows us to be in relationship with Him. Even when we broke our relationship with God through sin, God moved to restore that relationship. The gospel of John proclaims that God so loved the world that he gave his only son.
Our journey is imperfect as we walk with God. We’re still sinful creatures; at our core we seek to be lord of our own lives and we rebel against God. Our sinfulness is exhibited by our sins against God in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. But the Holy Spirit moves in our lives to convict us of our sin and to move us to change our behavior. The Spirit may speak to us through our conscience, through Scripture, or through the voice of a friend. We frequently confess our sinfulness and our sins either in the privacy of our homes, or right here in our community worship. We seek God’s forgiveness. God’s forgiveness is always freely given, and we look to the Spirit’s power to turn from our sin and walk along Jesus’ path rather than trail blaze our own path through the wilderness of life. God’s movement in our lives is never vengeful or meant to cause us harm. God’s purpose is to move in our lives and restore our relationship with him. God created us for a relationship with him and he knows that we won’t experience either peace or the abundant life until we have that relationship with him.
The gospel lesson for today invites us to be mirror images of God in our relationships with others—especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. Of course that’s easier said than done. When we’re offended and hurt, it’s our natural, human response to take revenge against the one who offended us. We may do this in a variety of ways, of which the most destructive is gossip. So…seeking to get sympathy, amass allies, and at the same time cause harm to the individual, we gossip. A follower of St. Francis had a problem with the sin of gossip, so as punishment for his gossiping behavior, St. Francis had him lay a feather on the doorstep of every household in the town of Assisi. When the man returned and reported that he had accomplished his penance, St. Francis then directed him to go and pick up all of the feathers. The man objected, “I can’t do that,” he said, “the feathers have been blown all around town by the wind.” St. Francis slowly nodded his head and said, “So it is with gossip, the words you say can never be picked up again.” Living as Christians, when we’ve been offended and when our relationship with another is strained, bruised or broken, our goal is to heal, restore, and renew that relationship. We are called by God not to hurt, not to insist on our own way or the correctness of our position, and not to get even. Relationships are too important to suffer the attacks of bruised egos. So, as Jesus said in our Gospel lesson, the first thing we should do when offended or hurt is to communicate with the one who hurt us. We don’t confront them and tell them that they are wrong. Instead we simply share how we were hurt by what they said or did. Forgiveness is a constant. Whether the individual asks for our forgiveness or remains unremorseful, we forgive. This is not only for the sake of the relationship, but also for our own physical, spiritual and emotional health. We live with the hope and prayer that the relationship will be restored, even if it takes some time for that to happen. We’re challenged by Christ’s example never to close the door on a relationship.
Relationships are important and at times, we tend to downplay the importance of relationships. We take for granted that we live in a community that values relationships with one another. Unfortunately, assets, prestige, careers, and egos are sometimes considered more important. Relationships are broken because of what people have done or said. We sever relationships with people who don’t do what we want them to do, or don’t believe as we do. But relationships are one of the most important parts of our lives. We are social beings who were created for relationships with our creator and with our fellow creatures. Healthy, vibrant relationships between brothers and sisters in Christ are essential for a bold and loving witness to those around us. Many of us have experienced how the fighting and bickering of congregations have soured those outside the church on the Christian faith and have darkened the congregation’s witness. Strong, dynamic relationships are necessary for Christian service. We have to be able to work together if we are to be about the tasks that Christ calls us to. Hard feelings, bruised egos, the unwillingness to forgive…they all hinder our ability to meet the needs of others and share with them the gospel of Jesus Christ through our deeds.
We are a people of faith, a community of faithful, who seek to live out our faith in our daily lives. Faithfulness to Jesus Christ is more than simply knowing the right things and believing certain truths. Faithful living is allowing our faith to motivate and drive our words and our actions.
Faithfulness impels us to live in relationship with others as friends rather than enemies, because while we were enemies of God, Christ died for us. Christ died so that we might call God our father and God might call us his sons and daughters.
And All of God’s People Say…Amen
GRACE: Lyn Wilds
GLORIA DEI: Lloyd Frerichs, Pat Rufenacht, , Richard Bruns, Norma Michelman, Donna Bruns, Lezlee Anderson, Deb Johnson, Trish Johnson, Pam Kepler, Wayne Fraass
BLESSING: And may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and + give you peace. Amen.
Sunday, September 17th: Baptism of Gordon Geoffrey Kleist at Gloria Dei. No church Sunday, September 24th.
Sunday, October 1st Gloria Dei will return to the regular schedule service time of 10:30 a.m.