Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sermon for July 28, 2013 Genesis 18:20-32

Rev. George Miller
Genesis 18:20-32
“What’s In Your House?”
July 28, 2013

A few weeks ago I made reference to the TV show “Bones” in which the main character was told by her mother that “It’s not about surviving anymore- it’s about flourishing.”

Since then I have referenced the concept of flourishing quite a bit, both at church and in my own personal life.

As an active pop culture consumer, there are other shows that have left a lasting mark.

One is an episode of “Cougar Town” in which a character realizes she has reached the age where going out to the clubs and dancing until dawn is no longer appealing. Instead she’d rather share a glass of wine with a good friend and be home by 10.

Another is an episode from “Designing Women” in which they are called to redecorate the home of a woman who has recently died.

They go in and are immediately taken aback by what they see: odd collectables and an over-abundance of tchotckes which make them question the sanity of their dearly departed client.

Then they began to realize what would happen if they were to suddenly die and someone went into their house and judged them strictly on what they saw.

Suzanne, the former beauty queen, admits that she has sheep placenta in her fridge; something she uses as part of her beauty regime.

Mary Jo admits that she put some text books in the freezer after spilling water on them. Anthony admits he’s using his bathtub to store his hockey equipment.

What would people say about them if they were to find sheep placenta in the fridge, books in the freezer and a hockey stick in the shower?

I think about this episode often. For those of you who are “Marys” you may not fully understand what I mean, but for those of you who are “Marthas”- you certainly do.

I’m a relatively clean person, but it’s not always easy to get all my tasks done. So when I leave my house less then perfect I think about this episode and what would happen if I was to die in some freakish accident and people had to come in to my home to clean it. What would they think?

Often times there are dirty dishes on my counter even though the dishwasher is empty. It’s not because I’m lazy- I just prefer to wash my dishes by hand and sometimes it’s a day or two before I can get to them.

Last week I had a disturbing horror film in my DVD player. It was a film a friend recommended and I enjoy a good scare.

And in my fridge there is a 16 oz bottle of chocolate milk, except it’s not really chocolate milk anymore. I had finished it most of it then thought “Wouldn’t it be cool to mix in some Bailey’s and Frangelico and shake it up?”

So I worry that if I was to die in a freakish accident and someone came to my house they’d think I was a sociopathic slob who has a secret drinking problem.

Of course, if I really was to die, I hope that people would not focus on the dishes but instead would say “Oh crap! He’s dead!”

For the past two months we’ve been talking a lot about the concepts of being justified, of forgiveness and grace. This is so important because it seems like our culture is so quick to judge others.

As people we are so quick to judge others.

But at what part of someone’s life can we judge them? When can we take a snapshot of someone and say “That’s it! That’s who they truly are! That’s all they will ever be!”

Is it in their teens when their brains have not caught up with their bodies? Is it in their 20’s when they’re struggling to figure out who they are and trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents?

Is it in their 30s when things are supposed to begin settling down? In their 40’s when things have settled, slowed and drooped down?

Is it when a person has reached the age when they no longer care what others think so they dress as they choose and say what they please?

Is there any age or part of our life’s journey in which we have it all together and our house is completely clean off all blemishes and idiosyncrasies?

I think that is part of what is going on in today’s reading as we find ourselves immersed in the Abraham and Sarah saga.

If you recall, though they are childless and far along in years, God has called Abraham and Sarah to journey forward, to bring forth new life and to be a blessing to all the families of the world.

While on their journey, God pays them a unique visit and while their time together winds down, the Lord says “I’ve heard about how sinful the people of Sodom and Gomorrah have been. I must go down there myself to find out.”

Abraham fully understands what God is implying, so he says “Do you mean to tell me you plan on punishing the righteous with the wicked? What if you find 50 honest, decent folk in the city? Will you still destroy it? That doesn’t sound like the God I know.”

Abraham has been called by God to be a blessing to all the families of the earth, and already he is acting the part.

The Lord says “Ok Abraham, if I find 50 I will forgive the whole city.”

What an amazing story we have. Boldly, Abraham has stepped out on faith, reminding God what it means to be God; that the very essence of God is to bring forth life not death; to bring forth grace, not devestation.

Here we encounter a man, a mere mortal, like you, like I, who dares to change God’s mind.

And Abraham does not stop there. He has journeyed too long and understands his calling too well. “Pardon me God, but what if there are 45 people deemed righteous?”

“What if there’s 40? What if there’s 30? What if there’s 20?”

“What if there’s just 10 righteous people? Will you still find the whole city unworthy and destroy it? Huh? Huh?”

And God says “For the sake of 10 I will not destroy it.”

What if…what if we are not just talking about a city here? What if this story is a metaphor, talking about us, as people, as individuals?

What if this story is saying, in a symbolic way, that we are not to be seen as the world sees us: either all good or all bad, as either on the pedestal or in the curb?

What if this story dares to make the claim that we should be seen in a complete, realistic way?

Meaning we are to be viewed from where we have come from, what we have experienced, what we’ve needed to do to survive and what we’ve done in a moment of non-clarity.

Are we to be deemed completely as unworthy; wiped out because of a transgression or impurity?

Is God to judge and treat us as the world would care to have us judged and treated?

Abraham doesn’t view God this way. He grasps the idea that God is one who forgives; that God is not one who goes into our homes and immediately judges us based on sheep placenta or bottles of Bailey’s.

Today’s story of city-wide grace is one that can also speak to us as individuals.

Because the truth of the matter is that none of us are perfect. We have all done foolish things, sinful things, things that have deserved to be punished.

Some of us have closets full of skeletons; some of us have whole houses full; just rattling away.

It would be so easy to be judged by others; it would be so easy for others to come into our “home” and say we are unworthy to live.

So I ask: at what point of someone’s journey do we judge them? At what part of their journey do we condemn?

And what about ourselves?

Are we forever to be found guilty for our own past transgressions?

Or are we allowed another chance to flourish and do what’s right; to do the best that we can?

What percentage of sin makes us candidates for annihilation?

What percentage of righteousness makes us worthy of grace?

I can’t answer that, because I do not know.

But here is the thing that I do know; that which gives us hope: it is not the job of others to judge nor the role of others to condemn.

It is God’s. And in this book, in the Bible which we hold dear, there is an overarching story it tells, an overarching story I believe.

A story that says God came to us in the form of a child called Emmanuel, and that Emmanuel grew to become our Savior.

A Savior who came across an angry crowd ready to stone a woman for committing a crime, and drew a line in the sand saying “Let those who have not sinned cast the first stone.”

A Savior who heard a despised tax collector call his name from atop a tree and said to him “Let’s have supper together.”

A Savior who allowed a woman with a questionable reputation to wash his feet with her own tears and hair and said to her “Your sins are forgiven.”

A Savior who said to a convicted thief hanging beside him on a cross “Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus Christ, our Savior, who though deserted by his followers and left alone to die, was resurrected and came to them saying “Peace be with you” and “I will be with you always until the end of time.”

None of them had clean or tidy homes but they were all deemed worthy and deserving of God’s abundant love…

…We have trials-sometimes we fail.

We have temptations-sometimes we give in.

We become discouraged, we become weary.

But Jesus is our refuge. He knows how far we have wandered. He knows our burdens;

Like the woman at his feet, like the thief on the cross, we take them to Jesus, to release them, to let go, to find the assurance that we are justified and we are worthy of grace.

We are all worthy of flourishing...

…No one’s home is perfect. We all have our own sheep placenta in the fridge, books in the freezer and hockey equipment in the bathtub.

But we are also descendants of Abraham, on our very own journey, called to bring forth blessings to all the families of the world.

We were created to flourish and part of that is reminding God of just what it means to be God and to do what we can to bring forth life, not to celebrate the ways of death.

May God not only continue to hear our voices, but may Jesus continue to lead us forward and the Holy Spirit continue to use us as needed.

Amen and amen.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sermon for July 21, 2013 Luke 10:38-42

Rev. George Miller
Luke 10:38-42
“Saved From Distractions”
July 21, 2013

(Sermon is given in character as a young boy. He enters in singing)

“We are marching in the light of God; we are marching in the light of God.

We are marching in the light of God; we are marching in the light of God.

Siyahamba, siyahamba OO! We are marching in the light of God!

Siyahamba, siyahamba OO! We are marching in the light of God!”

Hello! My name is Marty. I’m named after my father. Guess what his name is? He’s called Marty too!

My momma’s name is Martina, my brother’s name is Michael and my uncle’s name is Mark. That’s a whole lot of Ms in my family!

I’m excited about tomorrow. You wanna know why? It’s the first day of Vacation Bible School at Emmanuel United Church of Christ!

I can’t wait because I went last year and had the bestest time ever! Especially with my friends Noah and Abigail.

I’ve heard good things about this year. That Miss Joanne has put together a fun week of school. Miss Roxie has made another delicious menu. That Miss Millie has some great lessons planned. That Miss Shirley is going to have us make cool things like pine cones and tie-dye shirts.

We will have games and sit outside by the bonfire and even sing songs with instruments, like the one I just sanged.

I like church! I like school! I like going to Vacation Bible School because everyone is so nice and we do lots of fun stuff.

I like going to church and learning about Jesus how he loves me.

But you know what I don’t like? I don’t like going to church when it feels like a chore, like having to wash dishes or having to make my bed.

That’s how my Dad Marty can be at times. My Dad seems to get easily distracted by his many tasks. He’s the head of Diaconate. That’s a funny word. Daddy says it means “to serve.”

My Dad gets distracted by Diaconate work: getting stuff ready for worship, setting things up, calling people, making schedules, serving grape juice and crackers, going to meetings.

My Dad Marty is always busy. Going here, going there, doing this, doing that. He’s says it’s for the good of the church, but often times it seems to make him like one of the 7 Dwarves: either Sleepy or Grumpy.

Daddy often says he is pooped out by all his church tasks. But not my Uncle. Uncle Mark is my Daddy’s brother and he is soooo different.

Uncle Mark is coooool; chill. He also goes to church but unlike Daddy, he likes to take time before worship to sit and be still. He likes to listen to the organist play the prelude and take time to be quiet and to pray.

Uncle Mark doesn’t do nearly as much as Daddy does, but if someone asks him for help, he will. He says he likes to be “guided by the Spirit” when it comes to volunteering and offering to do diakonia.

My Daddy and uncle are very different, much like the sisters in today’s story. Their names are Martha and Mary. I like to call them the “M&M Sisters”!

Martha is said to be distracted by her many tasks. She’s like Daddy.

Mary is chill and likes to sit at the feet of Jesus, listening to what Jesus has to say. She’s like Uncle Mark.

Martha does not like this at all because she is so, so busy. I can understand because it’s not fair when one person does all the work and the other person does not help.

But do you know what I noticed in today’s story? Verse 20. It says “Martha was distracted by her many tasks.”

Her many tasks.

Did you see that nowhere is there any idea that Jesus or someone else told her what she had to do? Did you see any place where Jesus asked for something special to be done?

Martha is like my Daddy, running around, trying to do so many things to make so many people happy that she is making herself very unhappy and very mad.

Did she think she had to do soooo many things to make Jesus like her? Did she think that doing everything would make Jesus give her a gold star, like the kind we get at school?

Want to know what I believe? I believe what they teach us in Sunday School.

Want to hear it?

(Sings) “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.”

Know what that means to me?

It means I don’t have to do tons and tons of things to make Jesus love me!

It means regardless if I clean up my room or not-Jesus loves me!

It means regardless if I get an A or a B on my homework-Jesus loves me!

It means regardless if I remember to wash behind my ears or not- Jesus loves me!

Jesus is my friend. He loves me no matter what.

And friends do like to help one another.

So I try to do what I can for Jesus, not because I want to earn extra gold stars or because I’m afraid he won’t love me, but because that’s what good friends do.

They help one another.

So maybe today’s story is a way to remind people like Martha and people like my Daddy that it is cool to do things for Jesus, but that we should do them because they make us happy, not because they are a chore to do or no one else will.

And maybe today’s story is reminding people like Martha and my Daddy that sometimes it is cool not to worry so much about committees or council meetings or chores.

That from time to time it is Ok to be like Mary and Uncle Mark and to sit, and be still, and listen and be quiet.

I think we can all learn, children and adults alike, that sometimes we got to relax and to trust that God will do what God says will be done, that when Jesus is present it is OK to stop and enjoy the moment, and that the Holy Spirit will lead us in what the tasks are that need to be done.

There are the tasks we do for God and there are tasks we are actually doing for ourselves. Can we tell the difference?

Like I said earlier, I cannot wait for Vacation Bible School to begin tomorrow. I know everyone has donated a lot of time and a lot of money to making it possible.

I hope that all of you have lots of fun and enjoy yourself knowing that what you are doing, you are doing for the Lord.

May Miss Joanne, Miss Roxie, Miss Millie, Miss Shirley, Miss Cindy, Miss Dee, Miss Nancy, Miss Judy, Mr. Jim and Pastor George have the bestest time evah!

And may everything you do for the church flourish and bring you joy.

Now, maybe you can help me sing as I say goodbye:

“We are marching in the light of God; we are marching in the light of God.

We are marching in the light of God; we are marching in the light of God.

Siyahamba, siyahamba OO! We are marching in the light of God!

Siyahamba, siyahamba OO! We are marching in the light of God!”

Amen and amen!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sermon for Sunday; July 14, 2013; 2 Kings 6:24-7:2

Rev. George Miller
2 Kings 6:24-7:2
“Though Hope Is Frail”
July 14, 2013

There are key moments in my life in which God broke into my reality and revealed something new. The most memorable was in 1987 when I felt the call to ministry, and promptly ran away from it.

Another time was in 2000. With my life broken into many pieces, I finally stopped running and was taking steps to enter seminary. For the time being, I worked at a residential facility for youth living with developmental disabilities.

One night we got to watch the movie “Prince of Egypt” which is a cartoon version of the Moses narrative. Although the facility was usually chaotic and full of unexpected intrusions, we were able to view the film uninterrupted.

The movie got to the part where the last of the plagues take place and the slaves are set free. Since the movie is a musical, they begin to sing a song.

The lyrics go “Many nights we prayed with no proof anyone could hear; in our hearts a hopeful song we barely understood. We are not afraid although we know there’s much to fear…we were moving mountains way before we knew we could.”

The chorus chimes in “There can be miracles when you believe; though hope is frail it’s hard to kill.”

The song continues, they get to the Red Sea, the water parts, and…something happened within me. I felt a whoosh!!! in my soul, a stirring deep within my chest, like the Holy Spirit had descended down like a dove and flew right into my heart.

That moment was so powerful it has forever shaped my theology, preaching, images and understanding of the Exodus story.

That song won an Oscar. Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey performed it as a duet.

Over the years, it has reappeared in my life, with its key phrase speaking volumes: “Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill.”

-During seminary when living under the constant stress of studies, tests and papers.

-Last year when Whitney Houston died of a drug overdose, reminding us that even those who sing about hope can fall victim to moments of hopelessness.

-This week while preparing for today’s message.

Last week we introduced a new theme: moving from surviving to flourishing. But as we just heard in this morning’s scripture, there are times when surviving seems to be the only thing we can do.

Could you imagine a bleaker scripture then todays? It’s baffling to think of a famine so great that people would pay high prices just to eat things like the head of a donkey.

It’s horrifying to imagine what the two mothers decide to do.

Where are the green pastures and a shepherd who will feed and supply our need?

As the story goes, the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel are under siege. The enemy has surrounded them; there is no getting in or out without being attacked.

This means you can’t go down to the river to fish or out to the field to forage; it means no food and water can get in.

Supplies run low, prices get high; the citizens begin to starve. Not starve as in “Oh, I missed breakfast today” but starve as in “willing to do whatever it takes to survive.”

As Americans in the land of plenty in which even our poor have access to food stamps and soup kitchens with second helpings, it can be hard for us to fully understand what we mean by starving.

The longest I’ve ever gone without food was 3 days and that was for an intentional fast. Even at my poorest moment, not once did I ever go a day without food, even if all I had was some lettuce leaves and a bite of bread.

How long do you think these two women went without food? 3 hours? 3 days? A week?

How long do sensible, faithful people have to go before they turn to something as desperate as eating their own young?

When people are hungry and starving, hope is very frail indeed.

From what I read, no one can say positively that this story is based on historical fact. We know events like these have taken place. We know wars have been waged, famines have set in, and people have been forced into unpleasant decisions.

But did this story happen exactly as told? I don’t know. But I do know that this story has what’s called truth.

Truth as in what is the scripture trying to tell us; what are the instances that we can apply to our own lives?

I’d wager that we have all gone through these things symbolically.

If we break this story down bit by bit, we find a multitude of truths we can ask ourselves.

Truths such as “What has been holding you under siege?”

Truths such as “What in your life have you been starving for and where are you barely surviving?”

Truths such as “Who have you been angry at and wanted to point the blame: the rulers of your life; the religious leaders; God?”

Or how about these questions: “What door is being kept closed against you?” and “Who is speaking ill against you and unfairly passing the blame?”

Anyone ever ask any of those questions? Anyone live with those truths on a daily basis?

Anyone ever feel like sometimes all they have had to get them through the day is hope?

“Though hope is frail, it is hard to kill.”

Then there are times when it seems as if hope isn’t enough, as if perhaps God has been asleep or not paying attention.

We come to church on Sunday and we get to say all these wonderful things about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our Call to Worship and Unison Prayer of Praise.

And they are nice things. The remind us of just how awesome God can be…but if we are to be honest today, I mean truly honest, doesn’t it sometimes seem like we have to say these things to remind God that we are here and to remind God how to be God?

-“God, you are our Source of Hope-so act like it!”

-“God, you are the Creator of Tomorrows- so get creating!”

-“God, you are our Shepherd- so feed us, guide us and protect us!”

-“God, the windows to heaven feel closed-so open them!”

-“God, lately it seems like all you’ve been saying is ‘no!’ – it’s time you say ‘yes!’!”

How about this one: “God, if you are Still Speaking then why do you seem so silent- say something!”

Anyone ever feel the need to say such things and hold God accountable?

Today’s scripture does not shy away from such thoughts and though it leaves us with many questions (which we went over in Tuesday’s Bible Study), there does come that spark of hope.

If you were to read on, we would discover that God does indeed act and that hope and help comes in the most unexpected of ways.

In the remainder of chapter 7 we are introduced to four men living with leprosy; outcasts of society sitting outside the city’s gate.

They say to one another “If we go inside the city we will die of hunger. If we stay here we will die. But there is the slight chance that if we go to the enemy camp they will welcome us and we will live. And if they do happen to kill us, well we would have died anyway!”

Talk about hope being frail.

Through a series of rather comical events, the lepers visit the enemy camp, the enemy is defeated, the lepers make out like bandits, the windows of heaven are opened and the people of Samaria are saved from the famine…just as Elisha has said.

Though it cannot undo what has happened between the women and their children, hope does come in the most unexpected of ways.

Unnamed and unknown, the four lowly lepers become the vehicle of hope through which God’s mercy and miracles take place; allowing the people to go from barely surviving to finally flourishing.

Much like how hope comes to the family of Jacob through Joseph, the son he long thought was dead.

Same way in which hope for a village in a similar situation came through the actions of an older widow and her maid in the apocryphal book of Judith.

Same way that hope for the world came through a peasant boy names Jesus, a newborn baby so frail he had to be placed in swaddling clothes…

…Hope is frail. That’s part of what makes it hope.

Sometimes when all else is taken away and stripped from us, hope is all we have left; like an ember; like a seed.

But as long as an ember of hope still exists, a fire can be created to illuminate the night and warm our hearts.

As long as a seed of hope still exists, a flourishing field of flowers and produce can be grown, harvested and shared…

…By and by, I believe that God wants us to flourish. Times get hard, difficult decisions have to be made and sometimes I think God does need a nudge or two to awake.

But I also believe that God is able to perform wonder-working miracles and that though hope is frail, it is indeed very, very hard to kill.

They could not kill it when the freed slaves came across the Red Sea; it could not be completely killed when the Samaritans were under siege; and it certainly was not killed when they nailed our Savior to the Cross.

Let us thank God and let us continue welcoming the in-breaking of the Holy Spirit into our hearts and our lives.

Amen and amen.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sermon for July 7, 2013; 2 Kings 5:1-14

Rev. George Miller
2 Kings 5:1-14
“Freedom Comes In All Forms”
July 7, 2013

Summer time brings with it a variety of gifts: street fairs, fireworks and uncongested roads. Another gift for people like me is the chance to catch up on our TV viewing.

Thanks to DVRs, one can record an entire season of a show and then watch the episodes at your leisure.

One program I’m watching is “Bones”, a procedural about a forensic anthropologist.

In one episode, Bones has a near death experience in which she has visions of her long-dead mother and they have various conversations.

In one conversation, her mother notes that Bones has done a good job using her brain to be successful, but she has forgotten her childlike joy. Her mother wishes that Bones learns how to reclaim that part of her.

Your brain helped you to survive, her mother notes, but “It’s not about surviving anymore- it’s about flourishing.” (Bones, episode 202, aired 02-11-13)

I thought about that quote during my vacation to Morro Bay, CA in which I visited my sister and her family.

Let me tell you, her children are certainly flourishing. Living in a small, coastal town they have the benefit of knowing who their neighbors and storeowners are. They have a yard filled with trees bearing berries, a swing set, bikes, and skateboards.

They spend their days climbing mountains and going down to the ocean where they can swim and boogie board, ride their father’s boat and play in the sand.

My niece Elly has this infectious laugh. When we were in the water she’d giggle and scream with delight; no wave was too tall or fast for her not to jump over or dive into.

Flourishing indeed.

Today’s story also features travel and water, a young girl and the notion of flourishing.

We are introduced to a man named Naaman. He seems to be flourishing: a successful army commander, a wife, servants, and a close connection with the king of Aram.

Life seems good, but as it can often be, it takes the honesty of a child to reveal what’s really happening. Naaman is surviving; he suffers from leprosy, a skin disease.

A young Israelite girl tells Naaman’s wife “If only he were with the prophet who is in Samaria he would be cured of his leprosy.”

As the story unfolds, we watch a series of events as Naaman first goes to the King of Aram, then to the king of Israel. Then he is called to the prophet Elisha who sends a servant with the message that his flesh will be restored if he washes in the Jordan River 7 times.

Naaman finds this hard to believe and has a hissy fit, wondering why he couldn’t have just stayed where he was. Eventually he follows the prophet’s commands and indeed he is restored, like a “young boy.”

Naaman has an experience of faith that transforms him from surviving to flourishing.

This is an intricate story with various layers. Note that Naaman is not an Israelite or a Jew. He is a Gentile who worships another god, if he worships one at all.

Yet it does not prevent the prophet or God from offering healing and restoration.

Note there is no fee requested. Not any special words he has to pledge or a requirement for congregational membership.

One even wonders if it’s the water that brought the cleansing or if it was Naaman’s eventual, humble obedience.

Naaman’s healing becomes a free gift, and it is the gift that leads to his faith…

…On one level, I can’t help but to feel that this story is a metaphor about the gift of grace and the freedom that comes with it.

Grace which we have talked about all last month; grace which we sing about as being amazing; grace which you heard Rev. Katsanis preach about last Sunday.

Grace which brings freedom of life and moves one from surviving to flourishing.

And this grace is one that is inclusive, one that reaches out far and wide to anyone willing to hear. Grace that requires no seminary level theology or the “right” notion of God’s presence or how things are.

But grace that is patient, grace that finds a way in even when our spirits seems closed, grace that grows the more we embrace and are willing to experience it.

It’s interesting that in today’s story, the introduction to this freedom, to this restoration, to this grace comes from the act of a child. Because this little girl in today’s story reminds me of another child.

Perhaps you have heard of him. Born to Joseph and Mary. Placed in a manger. Visited by wise men; baptized in the Jordan.

Grew to be a teacher, a healer, a Savior to all. Told stories about a father with two sons and a Samaritan who was good.

We know him as Jesus Christ.

Thanks to Jesus, we don’t have to be dunked in the Jordan 7 times nor do we have to travel far to experience freedom and flourishing.

In fact, we don’t have to travel at all, because through our experience with Christ we discover that no matter who we are, no matter how far or how little we have journeyed, God has loved us all along.

Through our experience of Christ we discover that God has always been alongside us, ready, willing and able to offer the gifts that bring about freedom and flourishing...

…Today’s story is about many things. For today, let is be a story about grace.

Grace that says God wants to grant us freedom even when we fail to acknowledge our own captivity.

Grace that says God wants us to be whole even if we are not yet aware of our own brokenness.

Grace that says God wants us to be fully realized human beings even if we are not yet ready to believe that such a thing is possible.

Grace that says it’s not who you are or what you’ve done, but that God loves you.

Grace that says it’s not where you succeeded in life or where you failed, but that you are worthy of God’s love because it is God’s to give and God’s love is beyond abundance.

Grace that says I want you free to flourish instead of just surviving.

It was grace that we were washed with when we were baptized, grace that we experience when we confess our sins, and grace that we taste when we gather at the table to share the bread of God and the cup of life.

For in Christ, we are justified; in Christ we have already won our freedom.

Grace is not just about surviving; it is about flourishing and living the fruitful lives we were always meant to enjoy.

Amen and amen.