Every generation must pass down the story and trust that the next generation will edit, add, and delete with great angst all with the goal of making the story, their story.
Love has to be particular. Universal love equates to apathy. The Church is the particular love of God expressed and born unto a world experiencing universal apathy. The church must be captivated by love, chained to freedom, fell in grace, and trapped in trust.
You are the Gardner who plants us.
You dug deep into the soil.
And brought a vine out of Egypt.
As a Master gardener, you cleared the ground,
planted us deep in faith and tradition.
Our roots nourished by your love and grace.
Mountains were covered by our shade.
We sent branches out to every nation.
Today, we stand weary.
Burned by fire. Flooded by tears. Devoured by despair.
Revive us, O Lord,
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts.
Let your face shine, that we may be saved.
(C)2017 Worship’s Wake, Nathan Decker
Love is the only Torch we carry
By Nathan Decker
O, Virginia… watching the events of this weekend in Charlottesville brought me pain. To see torches again used as beacons of hatred in my lifetime, Lord, have mercy on us. When a group of white nationalists with anti-immigrant beliefs rapes the torch of Lady Liberty, the irony should not be lost. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” has once again been trampled on by members of the Know-Nothing party of the 1800’s. We shouldn’t be afraid of the light. The flame of torches usually represents people coming together. In the past, I have proudly watched the torch represent efforts for peace at the Olympics, hope for new discovery in Education, and the eternal flame of Wisdom guiding us. Shame on us for making it symbol of division and fear!
Much of what transpired this weekend was based in fear and grief. The city of Chartlottesville’s decision to take down a statue ripped off the band-aid on the surgical wound our nation has been dealing with ever since the Constitution told African-Americans they were 3/5 human. Our nation’s history is complex and up for interpretation and retelling. Each generation takes up the momentous task of looking back with guilt and pride in an effort to plow a new path into the future. There are always attempts at shouting the loudest to diminish the voices of others.
As we stand up against the evil of white supremacy, we have to acknowledge the grief that is being expressed. The way history is told in this nation has mostly been from a white perspective as if whites were the only leaders and contributors. In recent years this wrong is being righted. Those who were silenced and oppressed have had the opportunity to add their story to the history of our nation. White nationalists and supremacists see this as diminishing white history. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Adding missing slices to the pie only makes the pie more full and does not require us to make other slices smaller. Yet, this is the fear I see in the eyes of those carrying torches of darkness and yelling hate. They believe they are losing their part of the story.
We can bravely shine brighter than the faces of fear. We can learn to build relationships with those carrying torches of hate so that we might show them light, love, and the Christ who welcomes all tribes and nations together. We can, as friends of mine did in Charlottesville, have peaceful conversations with those with whom we disagree. We can listen to their concerns as well as make our concerns heard. Through the conversations that lead to relationships, we can admit that all lives matter to Christ, we are one nation made up of many, and love shines brighter. Love is the only torch we are called to carry into the dark night of hatred and apathy. We shall overcome by letting peace on earth begin with each of us lifting up love. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.
“Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours through Him who loves us.”
-Bp. Desmond Tutu
From Matthew 13:1-9
Mrs. Smith was one helluva teacher sent from Heaven. I know because I had her for English. I know because I watched her put up with Ed. Ed didn’t want to be in school, Ed didn’t want to learn the puns of Shakespeare or the alliteration of Blake, and Ed didn’t want to be told what to do.
Through it all, Mrs. Smith never gave up. She’d offer extra time on tests he had no intention of completing. She’d push him to enter rap lyrics into a poetry contest, but Ed didn’t do extra work. She’d encourage him to redo the homework he turned in before she graded it, but all this was casting pearls before swine. Ed didn’t care. His apathy, a black hole, sucked the energy and impetus around him. Ed didn’t care. But Mrs. Smith cared, and she never gave up on him.
Today’s world has joined what some psychologists call the ‘cult of self.’ At the expense of self-awareness and self-limitations, we boost self-esteem eclipsing reality in exaggerated egocentric effigies of us. We know the education system is failing, yet more students get A’s and Honors than ever before. If a C is the average, how come so few kids get them? Ivy League Students were surveyed and 80% of them claimed to be in the top 5% of their class. And everyone gets a trophy.
But it’s not just kids… Social Media enables us to tell the world about us and to live in a world that revolves around us. We Instagram what we’re eating, tweet the songs we’re singing, and post “Best Vacation Ever” every time we slip away. Narcissism rises as we can literally count how many likes, shares, comments, friends, and followers we have. We create monsters who no longer can be told they are incorrect and will not admit that they made a mistake all in the name of the god called self-esteem.
In Matthew 13, Jesus tells us a parable about farming. We show up clutching to our report cards, trophies, awards and affirmations; Jesus ruins it. God loves us, but some of us just aren’t going to get it. The parable of the sower casting out his seeds is pretty familiar to all of us. We know about the different types of soils: the path, the rocks, the thorns, and of course the good soil. And each time we hear this parable, we tell ourselves the same things: “I’m so glad I’m the good soil,” or “I used to be like that soil, but now I’m the good soil,” or “here’s a list of things I have to do to make sure I’m the good soil.” We are so focused on ME! ME! ME! we’ve retitled this parable. No longer is it the parable of the sower but the parable of the soil.
Jesus tells us about God. Jesus lets us know God doesn’t give up on us. Jesus is tells us about God’s wasteful generosity. A farmer goes out to plant. How many farmers do you know cast seed out on Highway 58? How many farmers do you know throw seed on rocks or among thorns on purpose? How many farmers do you know who are tighter than spandex on an 800 lbs gorilla? Farmers I know count their fingers after they shake your hand.
God is not your average farmer. Our Lord is so generous every soil gets seed. God loves the road. God loves us when we are hard and mean as asphalt. God loves the rocky soil. God loves us when we are shallow, undisciplined, and unwilling to let his love affect us deeply. God loves the soil with thorns and thistles. God loves us when we let money, worry, friends, and family come before what really matters. God loves the good soil. God loves us when we are ready to receive his Word, take it into our lives, and bear fruit.
This is not a story about us. This is a story about God’s wasteful generosity. God is willing to love even when there is little chance the love will be returned. Our part in the story is to love like God loves.
Jesus sat down by the sea and told us a story about God: the most generous, loving, wasteful farmer the world has ever known. Let’s be honest, some folks are just not going to get it, but that doesn’t stop God from loving them. It shouldn’t stop us from loving as well. God gives so much grace in the world that some of the grace is going to waste. Some folks just aren’t going to follow Jesus. Yet, God doesn’t give up on them… and neither should we. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.
Lord who holds every place within you:
You are in this place and we did not know it.
We came with hurting hearts and anguish
from the journey in the past.
We came with shaky thoughts and anxiousness
for the journey ahead.
Come, whisper your words of forgiveness
to us and through us.
Come, loosen the stress in our minds and muscles.
Come, give us rest and dreams to inspire.
Listen! A farmer went out to plant his seed!
God’s a farmer? I’m sure he’s cautious about where the seed will go.
He scattered it on the road.
No! Not there, the birds will eat it, what a waste!
He scattered it on the rocks.
No! Not there, the sun will scorch it. What a waste!
He scattered it among the weeds and thorns.
No! You’re wasting seed! It will never grow there!
He scattered it on the earth.
This farmer is far too liberal in his planting!
Had he been more picky with where he cast his seed,
He wouldn’t have wasted so much.
Let those who have ears, hear the Good News.
-©2017 Worship’s Wake, Nathan Decker.
Dramatic Reading for Matthew 28
Needs four readers, one off-stage, three on. One has luggage, one has a hammer, and one has a camera.
Voice off stage: As you Go-
Reader 1: “Yes! We’re going on a trip! I wonder where God is sending us. I can’t wait!”
Reader 2: “I hope it’s exotic! I’ve always wanted to travel overseas!”
Reader 3: “I’ll bring my camera and some dough, you know souvenirs will be so cheap there!”
Voice: <Clears throat until they listen> As you are going, Make-
R2: “YES! It’s a construction trip! I wonder what God will have us build!
R1: “I bet it’s a church or a school or maybe even a hospital!”
R3: “I’ll bring my old shirts from college! We can hand them out to the poor children! We can even get the kids in church to collect happy meal toys to hand out! Those kids will be so blessed by our presence!”
Voice: <Clears throat again> As you are going, make Disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow everything I’ve taught you.
R3: “What’s that mean?”
R2: “Disciples? How do you build those?”
R1: “All nations… including this one? Does that mean we’re not going anywhere?”
Voice: As you go about your life where ever you happen to be, share what you have been given. Invite people to see my love in you. Bring them to me to experience my love in the baptismal waters. Teach them to follow the my path of peace.
R1: “This isn’t going to be easy.”
R2: “Yeah, I mean, folks around here already know me.”
R3: “But they don’t all know Jesus.”
R1: “Do you think we can share Christ here, in our homes and at our jobs?
R2: “Do you think they will see Jesus in me?”
R3: “Do you think I can still get a souvenir?”
Voice: You don’t have to go anywhere to share the Gospel. God has already placed you where you are an expert on the culture, language, and people.
Make disciples, immerse them in Christ’s love, and teach them the way of peace. Amen.
Great and Holy Auditor of the Way we spend our time and gift:
We have been selfish in our generosity
and break the budget of 24 hours daily
cramming fruitless and self-serving endeavors.
We borrow from Peter to pay Paul, Mary, Josephine, and more…
We have no intention of settling debts.
We rob you of time with us.
We ignore your advice and whispers of love.
We owe love.
We owe humanity more respect.
We owe each other a second chance.
Our line of credit is bankrupt, our love has filed chapter 11.
Our lack of love embarrasses you, your church, your message.
Our apathy grows in our portfolio of abuse ensuring our own safety and self-preservation at other’s expense.
Forgive our interest and lack of faith principle.
Free us from greed and complacency.
Elevate us beyond market values into Kingdom values through your deposit on the Cross of Christ Jesus.
Hear the Good News! Christ collected our debt and paid it all. God’s love loosens the belt and gives us grace. We are free. We are loved. We are forgiven. Share peace and forgiveness as you have received in the name of Jesus. Amen.
People of God, are you sure you want to do this?
We’ve come to follow the Resurrected One.
You know he welcomes you just as you are.
Christ welcomes us, all of us, just as we are.
You know he welcomes, and he transforms.
You won’t be the same if you follow this Christ.
We’ve come to follow the Resurrected One.
You sure you want to do this?
Are you ready to experience the Resurrection?
Rise, Christ, within us.
Transform our hearts until we love like you.
Renew our minds so we may see the Kingdom.
Heal our souls and make us whole.
Alright! You can’t say I didn’t warn you.
Let’s follow the Resurrected One!
Let’s worship Jesus Christ!