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June 18, 2023

3rd Sunday after Pentecost

Exodus 19:2-8a

Psalm 100

Romans 5:1-8

Matthew 9:35-10:8

Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,

grace and peace to you from the one who dared to die for us. Amen

We are in the time after Pentecost,

often called ordinary time,

symbolized by the color green.

In this green season

our scriptures and prayers

point us in the direction of growth,

growth in faith, in discipleship, in understanding,

in what it takes to build the kingdom of God.

this season seems to stretch on and on,

it will be fall before we see a color on the altar

other than green

this holds true to the theme of the season

because growth takes time.

And growth is difficult at times,

do you remember growing up,

when you hit a growth spurt

and literally felt growing pains,

aches in your bones as they stretched toward your full height?

In his letters

Paul writes to a church experiencing growing pains,

to many he writes of specific difficulties,

the Thessalonians were afraid of church members dying

before the return of Christ,

the Corinthians had all sorts of conflict

and it seems like he just missed the Philippians,

in his letter to the Romans,

Paul is writing to a church

that he has never met

but whom he wishes to visit,

and because he’s never met them,

and realizes that he might never meet them

he presents his rationale for the gospel in a more measured tone,

Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham

and his main point

is that God does the work,

all Abraham did was trust in the promise, had faith.

For us, Jesus does all the work

and our role is to trust the promise, have faith.

That’s what is leading up to our reading for today

where Paul concludes: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.”

We have peace with God! Paul proclaims,

given our sinful and broken relationship with God

it would be reasonable (using human logic)

for God to want to even the score,

punish us, make us hurt in the same way we hurt God

“But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

God settled the score or however you want to put it,

and the end result

is that God has promised that through Christ

we will share in the glory of God.

We have been set free in our relationship with God

but that freedom does not absolve us of responsibilities,

rather it allows us to turn our attention

to the broken relationships of the world,

which is why Paul says

that even as we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God

“we also boast in our sufferings”

To be clear this is suffering for the sake of the gospel

Suffering that comes when we disrupt the status quo

When we stop to examine through the lens of the gospel

relationships that insist that they are fine the way they are,

relationships that will resent and push back

against even the suggestion that they need to be examined,

but this is the responsibility that comes with the freedom of the gospel

the responsibility to examine the broken relationships in this world,

to acknowledge them, understand them

and work toward healing them.

Sadly there are many candidates for this work,

But of particular historical significance right now

is the relationship between the white community

and the black community within this country.

It is a relationship that is broken

and has been broken for hundreds of years,

tomorrow is Juneteenth

the date when victorious union troops

brought news of the emancipation proclamation

over two years after it was issued

to the people of Galveston, Texas

Juneteenth celebrates the general emancipation of enslaved African Americans

even as our country is still dealing with the societal after affects of slavery

including the pernicious lie that color of skin has anything to do with human worth

yesterday was the commemoration of the Emmanuel Nine,

the nine people killed during Bible Study

at Mother Emmanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015

by a self-avowed white supremacist,

this event particularly struck the ELCA

because two of the pastors killed

had attended the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary,

and the shooter had been raised in an ELCA congregation,

all the more reason to remember, repent and work towards healing.

this is exactly what Jesus has set us free to do,

to do the hard work of repentance

to seek healing and hope

even if the face of opposition

this is what Jesus did,

We heard in our gospel

that as Jesus went around all the cities and villages

proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God

he encountered whole crowds of people that needed healing and hope

and “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few”

One person teaching and healing is not enough,

so Jesus sends the disciples out to do the same things

that he has just been doing,

and he knows it’s not going to be easy

or that everyone will receive their message

but that it is important work to be done

and he promises that whatever happens

they are loved and cared for by God,

they are free to take risks because God is their safety net.

We are free to take risks

since we are justified by faith,

we have peace with God,

which means that nothing can separate us from the love of God,

even if the work we do

in working on human relationships is difficult

and produces suffering,

but we know that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Hope does not disappoint us.

It may be hard to look around the world right now and have hope.

But that’s only if we confuse hope with optimism.

Optimism looks at all the hard and difficult things of the world

and says, ‘I don’t know how but it will all turn out okay.’

Hope takes a hard look at the realities,

the seemingly insurmountable obstacles,

and says ‘nevertheless I trust that there will be new life.’

Hope is the belief

that the future will triumph over

the often seemingly insurmountable hardships of the present.

Jesus is our source of hope.

He had compassion on the crowds,

he pointed out and preached against a broken system

and for his trouble he was crucified on a cross

and nevertheless

he rose from the dead on the third day,

he is new life in spite of death.

And he did it all for us,

his life and death and life again,

so that we too could have new life,

peace with God.

As we look around our world

and see the brokenness and suffering,

Jesus, who has set us free,

calls out to us, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few”

and sends us out to work for new life

grounded in the hope of the resurrection,

the hope of Jesus.

Hope that does not disappoint. Amen

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