Mistakes, I’ve Made A Few

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The email said it in clear words. I had made a mistake.  And people weren’t too happy about it.

Making a mistake in my world can be a big deal, at least in my mind.  It brings up fears and shame.  I start to worry that I will lose my job (something that has happened) and I feel incredibly stupid.  No one else makes mistakes, I say to myself.  You 47 years old and you make mistakes like a 12 year old. Get it together! Says another voice.

It has always been funny to me how we talk about mistakes and how we actually feel about them.  People talk about mistakes as the thing that makes us human and helps us to be better people.  But when mistakes actually happen, they are treated as serious breaches of protocol.  Because I see this disconnect in how people handle mistakes, it makes me even more rigid and hyper-sensitive in trying to not make a mistake, because when that happens, people don’t take it lightly.  They get angry and at times look for ways to get rid of you.

I’ve been thinking about this in the context of being autistic.  It’s easy for someone with autism to view a mistake as a world-shattering event. A lot of writers try write advice on how to calm people down and see that mistakes happen. While that’s true I’d love if there were a blog post on how to deal with mistakes as an autistic when your neurotypical boss gets angry because you included the wrong information in an email or when you forget to check the voicemail message that day.

I’ve always been someone that hated mistakes.  If I had a low grade on a quiz, I would turn it over because I didn’t want to see it.  I would spend hours on a journalism story in college making sure every fact was correct.  I don’t like mistakes, and it’s hard to calm down and accept that I do make mistakes (sometimes because of being autistic), because sometimes there are severe consequences for making a mistake.

Sometimes what I wish is that someone come and tell me things will be okay and that I can learn from this.  Sometimes I want to be told that I am still worthy and loved even when I mess up, especailly when I mess up big time.

I’m going to have to find a way to accept that mistakes will happen and learn to live with the mistake and how to correct it.  And to let go of a certain amount of perfectionism.  But I think it will take a while to deal with the ongoing fear, because the worst did happen.

Sometimes life for someone with autism is not just difficult, but downright scary.

Preach the Gospel. Use Words.

When I was in seminary, I learned one of those ten dollar words that mean something to the art of being a pastor.  That word is proclamation or its even more fancy Greek version,κήρυγμα or kerygma. Kerygma means preaching.  When a pastor gives a sermon, he or she should be participating in proclaiming or kerygma.

But while preaching is kerygma, it isn’t everything.  Kerygma has a larger meaning; it’s about telling a story, telling a specific story.  The ethical teachings of Jesus had to be placed in a context.  The early Christians found a way to tell the story of Jesus and they called it, the proclamation or kerygma. This is how theologian C.H. Dodd described it:

According to the evidence of the New Testament, the earliest exponents of the Christian religion worked out a distinctive way of presenting the fundamental convictions of their faith, in a formula which they called “the proclamation. The Greek word here is kerygma. Our translators of the Bible commonly render it “preaching” but in its current implications at the present day the word is misleading. Kerygma properly means a public announcement or declaration, whether by a town crier, or by an auctioneer commending his goods to the public, or by the herald of a sovereign state dispatched on a solemn mission, to present an ultimatum, it may be, or to announce terms of peace.

The Christian “preacher” thought of himself as an announcer of very important news. He called it quite simply “the good news,” or in our traditional translation, “the gospel. ” It was this “good news” that was embedded in the “proclamation”, the kerygma. It was essentially a public announcement of events of public importance.

Dodd goes on to say that the proclamation could be recovered from the New Testament and the proclaimation had a purpose; to be confronted by the living God:

The form and content of the proclamation, the kerygma, can be recovered from the New Testament with reasonable accuracy. It recounted in brief the life, and work of Jesus Christ, His conflicts. sufferings. and death. and His resurrection from the dead; and it went on to declare that in these events the divinely guided history of Israel through long centuries had reached its climax. God Himself , had acted decisively in this way to inaugurate His kingdom upon earth. This was the core of all early Christian preaching, however it might be elaborated, illustrated, and explained.

The preacher’s aim was to convince his hearers that they were. indeed confronted by the eternal God in His kingdom, power, and glory; that they, like all men. stood under His judgment upon what they had done and upon what they were, and that this judgment was now immediate and inescapable; further. that those who would put themselves under God’s judgment would, through His mercy. find an opportunity open to them to enter upon a new life; that actually, as a result of these facts which they proclaimed, a new era in the relations between God and man had begun.

Those who responded to this appeal and placed themselves under the judgment and mercy of God as declared in Jesus Christ, became members of the community, the Church, within which the new life could be lived. These members were then instructed in the ethical principles and obligations of the Christian life. This course of instruction in morals, as distinct from the proclamation of the gospel, is covered by the term “‘teaching,” which in Greek is didaché.

This order of approach, first the proclamation, then the beginning of instruction in morals, first kerygma, then didaché, seems to have been thoroughly characteristic of the Christian mission; it is precisely this order, first kerygma. then didaché, which we have seen to be general in the New Testament writings.

So proclamation wasn’t just saying something to say something. It was about telling a story, THE story and connecting it to the lives of those around them.

So proclamation is about speaking something. It isn’t something that can be achieved without words. Which means that the old saying attributed to St. Francis (but really isn’t his words), ““Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary,” might not actually make sense.

Now, most mainline Christians love this passage for one simple reason: you don’t have to talk about Jesus to people. You don’t have to look weird or like those evangelicals down the street. But as evangelical theologian Ed Stetzer said in a 2015 article, preaching the gospel is about preaching about the saving work of Jesus. Since Jesus is the gospel, we can’t really “live out the gospel,” but instead have to announce the gospel:

The gospel is not habit, but history. The gospel is the declaration of something that actually happened. And since the gospel is the saving work of Jesus, it isn’t something we can do, but it is something we must announce. We do live out its implications, but if we are to make the gospel known, we will do so through words.

He goes on to say that proclamation is the central task of the church (which means it isn’t just the job of the pastor):

It appears that the emphasis on proclamation is waning even in many churches that identify themselves as evangelical. Yet proclamation is the central task of the church. No, it is not the only task God has given us, but it is central. While the process of making disciples involves more than verbal communication, and obviously the life of a disciple is proved counterfeit when it amounts to words alone, the most critical work God has given the church is to “proclaim the excellencies” of our Savior.

So, why am I talk about proclamation at this moment?

Because it has implications for some of my work outside the pulpit and because this is a major weakpoint of mainline churches.

Communication, about who we are and what we do is not a very prominent mission within mainline churches.  There are some bright spots among the Lutherans and Episcopalians, but for the most part the task of communication is not considered very important.

About 10 years ago, things were different.  The birth of social media breathed new life into the task of communicating. Positions were created that were communications-focused. Conferences were held to help churches become more tech savvy.  But then, all of this stopped.  It might have been the Great Recession, but all of the sudden, it wasn’t so important to have a good website or effective social media presence.  Positions created a few years prior were cut with churches and middle judicatories putting the task of communications on already burdened administrative assistants or volunteers.

The thing is, mainline churches have long thought what was important is what we do, not what we say.  Except, if we don’t tell people why we are feeding the homeless or why we are taking part in this protest, then people don’t know we are doing this because we follow Jesus.  They will assume you are just nice people.

The fact of the matter is that we are called to preach the gospel. NOT be the gospel; that’s something onlyJesus can do. NOT live out the gospel, because again, Jesus.  We are called to preach the gospel and since we don’t possess the power to speak telepathically to people, we have to say something.

In a sermon I preached at a Presbyterian Communicators Network meeting in North Carolina in 2008, I said that being church communicators mean looking out to see what God is doing in the world:

Whether we are communicators at the church, presbytery, synod or General Assembly level, this is our charge: to find out what God is up to in the world, to be empowered by the Spirit to tell the story of healing and love to a world that desparately needs to hear it.

But most churches and middle judicatories don’t act as if this is such an important task. Most churches ask an admin to do it, if they have the skills. The same might go for middle judicatories.

Evangelical churches have tended to be light years away from mainline churches when it comes to communications. But they also tend to be better at proclaiming the gospel. I might not agree with how it is done at times, but they do show they have the skills to make sure their social media sites, webpage and newsletters are proclaiming the gospel message.

Historically, mainline churches weren’t very strong with communicating the gospel, because culture was soaked enough with the faith that we didn’t have to. But those days are gone and it’s time to focus on how to learn to preach the good news through communication as well as other methods.

Because we have to preach the gospel and we need to use words.

Should We 86 2016?


I wrote the following for the church website and I’m cross-posting it here.
“Let’s 86 this year.”

That’s something I heard a lot about 30 years ago in 1986, especially in the days following the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger some 73 seconds after liftoff.  A number of events took place early in the year that made people want to just get the year over with.

Three decades later, I’m hearing a 21st Century version of 86-ing.  Go on Facebook and you will see a number of people saying that 2016 was the worst.  The reasons we see this passing year as a dumpster fire ( a very 2016 phrase) is because of the election and the deaths of several well-known celebrities, including David Bowie, Prince and most recently, Carrie Fisher.  We want 2016 to be over and done moving on to the next big thing in 2017.

But was 2016 really the worst?  Well, it really was the worse for those living through the Syrian Civil War.  It was the worst for people in Venezuela who see their economy melt down and find it hard to purchase food.  It was the worst for people living in parts of Chicago who are dealing with a rising number of homicides.

2016 did see an unusual number of high-profile deaths and for the fans of musicians and actors it can be a little heartbroken.  I for one will be watching Episode VIII of Star Wars with a hint of sadness, seeing Leia and knowing Carrie Fisher is no longer with us.

But 2016 doesn’t have to be the worst.  Whenever I couldn’t sleep, my mother would tell me to read Psalm 121.  This psalm is one that could be used as a blessing before car trips to Louisiana to see relatives.  In fact it was used many times before we pulled out of the driveway. “I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?”  We know the answer.  The psalmist tells us that no mater what we do, God is there with us.  None of this means bad things will never happen, but it does mean that we never face them alone. God was with us through the election.  God was with us as some of our favorite artists passed from the scene.  God was with us when a parent or grandparent died.  No matter what, our help comes from God above, meaning that the world can throw its worst, because we know God is there to help us face down the powers that seek to oppress us.

Was 2016 the worst? Before I answer that, let me tell you a story of a death that many of you might have forgotten.  The death of Bob Ebeling.  Most people wouldn’t know Ebeling.  He wasn’t a singer or actor, but an engineer who worked on the Space Shuttle program.  On January 27, 1986, Ebeling and four other engineers made a plea for the shuttle launch scheduled for the next day be cancelled.  The knew it was going to be very cold the next morning and they were worried that the O-rings on the fuel tank would fail causing an explosion.  NASA didn’t listen to the engineers and on January 28, the Shuttle exploded.

Ebeling blamed himself for the disaster and carried that shame for the next 30 years.  As he neared the end of his life, he shared this pain with the listening audience. Because of this people from around the nation wrote in to give Ebeling encouragement.  But what really lifted his spirits was when officials from his old company and NASA absolving him of any blame.  He died a few days later, but without the burden of shame.

Was 2016 the worst?  I don’t know. It didn’t seem that way to Ebeling. Yes, he died, but he did without the guilt he carried for decades.

But I do know that God was there even during the “worst times.” I do know that no matter what might be thrown our way God will not leave us abandoned.

I hope 2017 is a better year.  But everything is good when God is the author of our faith.

My help comes from God, Maker of Heaven and Earth.

Dennis Sanders
Pastor

Progressive Christian and Trump Voters

donald-trump-votersThe first day or two after the election I decided to contact friends and acquaintences of mine  who had voted for Donald Trump.  I wanted to apologize if I said anything off-putting to them.  To a person, all of them were gracious and even told me why they considered voting for Trump.  I took their responses to heart.  I didn’t always agree with their reasons, but I was glad to hear them and to give Trump voters are more humane face.

What’s been sad is that most progressive Christians haven’t been willing to sit and talk to Trump voters.  Like their secular counterparts, there is more interest in talking about Trump voters instead of talking with them.

Most of the criticism against Trump voters have come in the form of saying that they know that Person A who voted for Trump is a racist, but that they knew who they were voting for.  An example of this is a post by John Pavlovitz in mid-November.  He starts by saying that he understands the reason people decided to vote for the Donald, but they were aware of the dark sides as well:

I know you had legitimate reasons for voting for him; things that either real or imagined, genuinely moved you to your decision and that you wrestled with these reasons greatly. But I don’t care about those reasons; not because I don’t care about you or value you or want to understand you or because I don’t respect your road, but because those reasons can’t help those who are hurting right now—only your response can.

You see, regardless of why you voted for him, you did vote for him. Your affirmation of him and your elevation of him to this position, came with what you knew about him:

It came after hearing the horrible, degrading, vile things he said about women.
It came after hearing him encourage his supporters to be violent with protestors.
It came after he advocated for Muslims to be expelled and profiled.
It came after he made fun of a man with physical disability.
It came after he framed the BlackLivesMatter movement as criminal and subversive.
It came after he personally criticized the appearance and weight and sexual activity of women opponents.
It came after he chose a Vice President who believes gay people can pray away their gayness.
It came after the KKK and the neo-Nazis endorsed him.

These were all things you had to weigh to cast your vote, and by whatever method you used, you declared theses things within your morally acceptable parameters. You deemed these part of the “lesser of two evils”. In voting your conscience—these things made the cut.

This is kinda a passive-agressive way of saying these folks are wrong and maybe morally suspect. People make decisions when they vote and sometimes things are ignored because of higher concerns. It’s not something I like or would do, but people don’t vote for saints. There is the same kind of backhanded contempt in this video by Sojourner’s:

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The problem with these responses is that they treat the people who voted for Trump as either racist or indifferent to persons of color. It’s less about reconcilation than it is about shaming.

The thing is for those of who are Christians and didn’t vote for Trump, we need to be able to listen to Trump voters. Why did they vote the way they did? How can the church respond? How can we show voters there is an alternative?

Sometimes the people who voted for Trump did so for economic reasons. That’s been considered false by opponents, but I think there is a lot of truth to the claim. Writer Morgan Pheme says we should try to understand those voters and listen with some empathy:

Over the last week I have heard far too many of my fellow progressives dismiss Trump’s voters as racists, misogynists and fascists. While there are certainly a depressing number of them that deserve these characterizations, to brush aside the more than 61 million Americans who cast their ballots for Trump as mere hateful idiots is to perpetuate the liberal elitism that helped fuel Trump’s success and to disregard the economic and social problems plaguing our country.
There was a reason that Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’s cries for economic populism intermingled to a discomfiting degree during the campaign season: America is in thrall to corporate interests at the expense of blue-collar and low-wage workers; both parties were complicit in giving Wall Street a pass in the wake of the 2008 fiscal crisis; Democratic and Republican administrations have both driven disastrous deregulation in service of the donor class.

But we must also acknowledge that when hard-working people cannot support their families, when they suffer the loss of their dignity, when they can’t see a path for their children to have a better life than their own—the very crux of the American dream—these are conditions that can both unleash the ugliest elements of human nature—and propel people to throw caution and reason to the wind for the simple promise of hope and change.

There are Trump voters in our congregation. Instead of shaming them, maybe we need to seek them out and listen. We don’t have to agree with them, but we need to take the time to listen. If Christianity is about reconcililation, then this is a good opportunity live that out.

Who’s In Charge?

“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

-Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address 1861.

So, Tuesday night happened.  Donald Trump will be our nation’s 45th president.

I didn’t vote for either Trump or Clinton, but I was as shocked as anyone else. Sleep was not easy to come by Tuesday night. Part of the tension is the how President-elect stirred up both racial and ethnic resentment. Does that make me, an African American-Puerto Rican, less safe in America? Will racism or xenophobia affect me in someway?

 

While I’m concerned, I’m not freaking out.  I’m not in mourning.  I’m not breaking relationships with those that I know who voted for Trump.  I’m not freaking out because I truly believe that my ultimate allegiance is in Christ and not who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.   I believe God is in control.

Now, I know that phrase is sending a lot of my progressive Christian friends into orbit. Their response is similar to what Progressive Christian blogger John Pavlovitz said in his most recent blog entry regarding the election:

At times like these, Christians like to smile sweetly and say, “God is in control.”
No. God is not in control.
God didn’t vote for Donald Trump, you did.
Stop passing the buck to God.
God isn’t defacing prayer rooms.
God isn’t taunting gay teenagers.
God is not bullying kids on buses.
God isn’t threatening Muslim families.
White Christians are.
You are in control of this. You have pulpits and pews and a voice and influence and social media, so get to work. 

Saying God is in control doesn’t mean everything is okay. It doesn’t mean we ignore real problems. It doesn’t mean that God is controlling our every move. But I can say God is in control because God is the person I give ultimately allegiance to. To put it in more political wording, “Jesus is Lord and Ceasar is not.”

This evening I went to see Doctor Strange.  For those who don’t know the origin story, Steven Strange was a famous and vain neurosugeon who is severely injured in a car crash.  His hands, the one that made his living possible suffer extensive nerve damage and he is no longer able to do the one thing he excelled at.  This is where Strange makes the journey from normal man to socerer supreme, but together he has to be willing to believe that there is more than what he sees.  He has to be able to see into various dimensions to go beyond what he knows to be true and what is beyond reason.

Long story short, he had to have faith.

In reading and listen to the anger and grief coming from some progressive Christians I have to wonder at times if they have lost their faith.  We scoff at the notion of God being in control and instead believe it is all on us, or at least on having the right ideology.  During this election season white evangelicals were rightly criticized for placing so much on the notion of politics to trade in the faith for a few pieces of silver that they thought Trump would give them.  But Progressive Christians are no better.  We know longer believe that God is the ultimate and so we make leftist ideology our god.  We trade in the belief that there is a God that rules all of creation and is greater than any king, prime minister or president for the world of politics.  We wrap our politicians in a religious blanket, giving their words a tinge of God even though God seems to be somewhat diminished.  After a while, we become no better than religious conservatives in trading the politics of Jesus for the politics of Washington.

 

…to give you a future filled with hope

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 (Common English Bible)

Looking for employment is not an easy endeavor. In fact it can be soul-crushing. But then, so can having a job. Or losing a job.

As some of you who follow this blog may know, I have a part-time call at a church in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota. The reason I could do this part-time call was because I had a pretty good fulltime job. That is until two days before Christmas 2014 where I was let go from my position.

Let’s just say Christmas was hell that year.

shattered-dreamsI was hoping that I would find another good job soon. After all, I had experience and I was able to learn how to be sociable and keep my Asperger quirks to a minimum. But nearly two years later, I still haven’t found anything. I am thankful that I have found some part time jobs and have been able to stitch together a living, but it’s not even close to what I was making before.

Since early this year, there have been a few opportunities that presented themselves. I thought I did my best on the interviews sent some of my best examples…and the job went to someone else. I could say race was a factor, and there is some truth to that, but I can’t just rest and make excuses. I have to keep getting out there, but it gets hard to pick yourself up and try again, especially when you think you have the skills needed to do the job.

One of the things I’m learning is that all the job hunting trips people tell you to try to get a job don’t seem to work…at least not for me. I haven’t found that “hidden job market.” All the people I know haven’t really led me to a job. I’ve tried meeting with a few people just to get ideas and a number of them never bothered to respond.

All the while I remain somewhat jealous at my husband, Daniel. He doesn’t have a background in communications that I have, but he has been able to get two jobs as managers. I have some more skills than he does. He gets noticed and I don’t. (That could be that he’s white and I’m black.)

Maybe I have to considered that I’m not going to have a job where I can use my communication skills. It just seems that I’m not wanted, no matter how much I’ve improved my skills, no matter what I do to add value to an organization. For whatever reason, I’m not what people want in a prospective employee.

I started this post with a familiar, at least to me, passage. Too often, Jeremiah 29:11 is seen as a route to success. But I don’t think this is what this verse is about, especially since what I’ve learned about Jeremiah is that his life wasn’t that awesome.

I tend to think that it means that no matter how bad life gets for people, no matter how things don’t go according to plan, God is there to give us hope, to give us peace, to give us a future. It may not be the future we wanted, but it is a future with God, and I’d rather have that than nothing at all.

I will continue working with the jobs I have now and being a pastor to the little flock God has left me with. And I will try to keep looking for work. I have hope, not that things will work the way I want it to be, but that wherever I land, I will have God’s hope. It’s all I got.

Sermon: Create Joy

“Create Joy” | Genesis 2:4b-7, 15-17; 3:1-8 | Mission First: Called Series |Seventeenth  Sunday After Pentecost | September 11, 2016 | First Christian Church of St. Paul | Dennis Sanders, preaching

Listen to the sermon by using the player below.

grand_canyon_posterBefore I get into today’s sermon, I wanted to share a little bit about what we are planning to do for the next few months. We are starting a new worship theme this Sunday that will go from now until next May.  We will be talking about mission and the future of our church by using the Mission First emphasis that is being used by the wider denomination of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  For our purposes, the year long theme is broken down into three parts: from now until Advent, we will focus on what it means to be a church that is called.  During the winter until Easter, we will talk about the church gathering and during Eastertide we will talk about the church being sent into the world.  So, let’s begin.

The Grand Canyon is not just a place in Arizona; it also is a 1991 movie.  The movie, starred Kevin Kline, Steve Martin and Danny Glover and while it didn’t make a whole lot of money when it came out in late 1991, it was a movie that seem to fit the time.  One of the issues the movie takes on is race, and it seemed to speak to the 1992 LA riots which would ocurr a few months later in the spring of 1992.

If there is a theme in the movie, it has to be trying to bridge the gaps that are found in human relationships.  Divisions of race and class were exposed and there were attempts to try to heal those divisions.  The Los Angeles of 1991 was a somewhat grim place, a place full of crime and isolation, but the connections that are made help make the world around these people a better place.  Not a perfect place, mind you, but a place where connection and reconciliation could happen.

That reminder that the LA of 25 years ago was not a sunny place.  Crime was rampant and the movie picks this up.  The movie opens with Kevin Kline’s character, Mac watching an LA Lakers game during the Magic Johnson era.  When the game ends, Mac leaves the arena and take a wrong turn that puts him in the wrong side of town.  Of course this is where the car decides to break down.  Mac gets out and calls for a tow truck and waits.  Well, being a white guy in a well to do car in a sketchy neighbood, basically means you are probably going to meet some people who are not so nice.  Pretty soon, Mac is surrounded by a group of young men who are looking ready to jump him.

In the nick of time, the tow truck arrives.  An African American man gets out to do his job.  Simon, who is played by Danny Glover interrupts what might have been a robbery or worse.  In the midst of this one of the muggers, Rocstar, who happens to be holding a gun enters into a conversation with Simon, all the while with the gun pointed at Simon.  Rocstar is willing to let him go and do his work if he can answer this question: was Simon pleading because he respected Rocstar or was it because of the gun?  This is how Simon answers:

Man, the world ain’t supposed to work like this. I mean, maybe you don’t know that yet. I’m supposed to be able to do my job without having to ask you if I can. That dude is supposed to be able to wait with his car without you ripping him off. Everything is supposed to be different than it is.

The world aint suppose to work like this.

Chapter 2 of Genesis presents us with a second story of creation.  Where Genesis 1 seems to look at things from 10,000 feet, this second story zeroes in and focuses on the relationship between the human and God.  This creation was formed from the earth, hence why some called this person, adam which is a play on the Hebrew word, adamah or the earth.  This human is given a task to do, a job  to take care of God’s creation.  Some has said that work was a result of sin, but here we see God ordained work.  When the human was lonely, God created a partner to work with him.  The man and woman had a tight relationship with God and as we see later, it is not unusual to see God walking in the garden.  God and creation were in relationship.

The church is a gathering of people called to be in relationship with each other and with God.  The church is a recreation, a taste of the coming kingdom of God when creation is restored.  Adam and Eve had a relationship that was not exploitative and they had a relationship with God, one that was close.  Things were good.

But that’s when things went South.  We are introduced to this serpent, a symbol of temptation.  The serpent asks questions and is able to tempt the man and the woman.  The woman tells the snake that they aren’t allowed to even touch the tree, because if they do, they die.  Now this is not what God said, but already they were making God into a harsh parent trying to take away fun.  The snake keeps tempting them telling them that they could be like God, heck they could be better than God!

So they eat the fruit and their eyes are opened. They see everything in a different way and it is not fun.  They realize they are naked and feel the need to hide.  They take some fig leaves and cover up and hide from God.  This call to relationship is shattered.  Humanity starts to hide from each other and from God.  Instead of thinking of others, humanity thinks only of itself.

The world aint suppose to work like this.

God’s plan for creation changes.  Humanity has fallen from God’s grace and is now separated from God and each other.  Sin enters creation.  We end up with a world where there is racism, domestic violence, lying, murder, genocide and others.  Humans can’t stop wanting to be godlike and falling short every time.

So what does this mean for the church?  We as humans are part of this fallen creation. We are tempted to be like God and sometime we fall for the lies.  But we are also redeemed through God’s backup plan, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  In Jesus, we are redeemed, even thought for now, we are still imperfect.  We are called to be a place where the world can witness what God intended for creation, to be a place where we are honest and live for others.

This past weekend, as I was moving my mother, I looked at my phone and noticed a news alert.  This was the alert which told us all that Jacob Wetterling’s body had been found.  Since 1989, his parents and the whole state were held in limbo wonder what happened to this young man.  The Wetterlings hoped that Jacob was still alive somewhere.  But that was not the case.  A grave in rural Minnesota gave witness to the horror, that Jacob was dead and had been dead for nearly 30 years.

It got even worse when a few days later, Jacob’s killer told everyone in chilling detail how he kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed Jacob.  It was disturbing.

In the midst of all of this we heard from Jacob’s mother, Patty Wetterling who has been the family spokesperson over the years.  In a time when she could have been bitter, and showed anger, she instead offered words of hope.  This is what she wrote on Facebook a few days after the news broke:

The Wetterlings are deeply grieving and are pulling our family together. We will be eager to talk to media as soon as we are able.
Everyone wants to know what they can do to help us.
Say a prayer.
Light a candle.
Be with friends.
Play with your children.
Giggle.
Hold hands.
Eat ice cream.
Create joy.
Help your neighbor.
That is what will bring me comfort today.

Create joy.  Create joy.  That was her answer.  In the midst of horror and hate, she told people to bring joy.

This is what the church must be called to be in the world.  This is what this church must be in the world.  We must be a community that is joyous, one that models a different way being in the world, one that gives people a glimpse of what it God intended for the world.

Simon tell us the present world isn’t supposed to be this way.  He’s right.  The world isn’t supposed to be a place where an 11 year old riding his bike with his brothers and friend is kidnapped and forced to spend the last few hours of his life in pain.

The killer of Jacob Wetterling proved Simon right, the world isn’t supposed to be this way.  But our response is to listen to Patty Wetterling and create joy.  Let us be a community that goes out from these walls and befirend the lonely, feed the hungry and tell everyone that God loves and so do we.

We are called to create joy, so let’s get to it. Thanks be to God. Amen.