Monday, July 27, 2009

Crumbly Bread

The barley bread came out just as I wanted it to - crumbly, dense and hard to eat.

While I was writing my last non-sermon post, I had the barley bread rising. Well it didn't really rise. I have had this problem before with bread not rising, but normally in the winter when the air temperature in the kitchen is too cold for the yeast to really activate, not in the middle of a muggy summer day. Since the recipe only calls for a baking time of 15-20 minutes I thought I would let the bread continue to rise while Bob and I went to a friends house for the evening.

When we got back a few hours later, the bread still hadn't risen much so I went ahead and baked the sucker. And this is how it turned out looking

And a close up of the top so you can see how it didn't rise..

During the sermon I used it to show what a loaf of barley bread looks like and then knocked on it so we would hear how dense it sounds (like a board) and then broke it so show the crumbliness. After worship we had it out at coffee hour so people could try some (most went to the birds). Some comments included: "I wouldn't want to go swimming after eating that" "That would be great to soak up some water with...I think I have some water in the basement that I could use that with."

So overall while it was a pain in the butt to make, it was a great sermon illustration. But I think next time I make barley bread I will mix the barley flour with white or wheat flour in order for it to be a little more edible.

White Bread and Fish Sticks

This sermon is on the gospel text for Sunday John 6:1-21

My dad is a wonderful baker. Growing up we would often have fresh baked bread with our dinner and I can remember more than once when my family was going out to dinner but we devoured a loaf of bread just out of the oven before we even left the house. I grew up eating whole wheat, Challah, rye, and birdseed bread, just to name a few. The remarkable thing about my dad’s baking is that he gives away most of the bread that he makes. Starting in early November he starts making double batches of his German Christmas stolen and by the time the New Year has arrived, he has given away close to 100 loaves to his friends, co-workers, neighbors and family. And for the last few years he has volunteered two loaves of bread a month for an auction item at a fundraiser at his church and has made a probably close to a thousand cinnamon roles to raise funds in order to send bicycles to doctors in rural areas of Africa.

And as wonderful as my dad’s bread is, being a busy father, he would only have a chance to bake every few weeks. And growing up in a family of five, often our sandwiches were made with store bought white and wheat sliced bread. Now I’m not knocking store bought bread, but nothing really compares to fresh out of the oven bread made in small batches in your own kitchen so the entire home smells of that wonderful aroma.

So whenever I have heard this story about the feeding of the 5,000 I have always imagined a loaf of my dad’s fresh baked bread, whether in the form of a baguette, free formed artesian loaf or from a bread pan with the nice crusty sides. And in each mental picture I have of Jesus feeding the 5000, the bread always has the cuts in the top of the loaves which show just how much they have risen.

The bread Jesus used, these five small loaves of barley bread from the young boy, probably did look something like a handmade loaf of bread today, but they were actually the equivalent of generic store bought 99 cent loaves sliced white bread today. Barley was the cheap bread of the times, the hard to eat, tough, crusty, chew and chew and chew and chew bread of Jesus’ day. Most people, even the working class would be able to afford wheat flour which made a slightly lighter loaf of bread and had a nice nutty flavor. Barley was what the poorest of the poor could afford. Barley bread was dense, un-flavorful and tough to chew.

Boy, have things changed in 2000 years. Now a nice loaf of barley bread (which is often made with white and wheat flour mixed in) sells for at least $6 to $8 a loaf at an artisan bread shop. And the bread of the poor is the massed produced pre-sliced white bread, that to me at least does not have much flavor, and without the many unpronounceable ingredients, quickly becomes stale.

And what about the fish? Well I can tell you for sure it was not two large salmon filets grilled over a wood fire. No the fish were probably small, maybe the cast aways caught in a fishers net. Too small to be sold at the market, they were probably dried and without much meat on the bones. So if I were to pick a modern food to represent these fish today, I would not go to the seafood section of the local grocery store, no I would head straight to the frozen food section and grab box fish sticks.

This is the equivalent of the bread and fish that Jesus used in order to feed 5000. Jesus did not take the food from the upper-crust of society but the food from the bottom crust (pun intended). Jesus used the bread and fish that many would have turned their nose up at or have eaten only when there was nothing else to eat. Jesus used the bread and fish of the poor who often did not have enough to eat and feed 5000 people in abundance. These people did not take just a nibble in order satisfy their hunger, but they ate as much as they wanted. Imagine 5000 people today dining on one small box of fish sticks and a loaf or two of white bread. This is the miracle that occurred. And once everyone who ate was satisfied, they collected the leftovers and had enough to feed many more people.

Jesus made the ordinary extraordinary!

Even when the disciples thought feeding all those people were impossible, Jesus feed them. Even when it seemed like there would not be enough for a five people to eat, Jesus feed 5000. For Jesus made the ordinary extraordinary!

And Jesus still makes the ordinary extraordinary. In the simple meal of bread and wine we will share together in a few minutes, we are reminded of Jesus’ death and resurrection and we received tangible symbols of God’s forgiveness towards us. In that ordinary bread, baked by Jennifer and that ordinary wine, that comes from a bottle just like the wine you serve at home, we received God’s extraordinary forgiveness.

And in the ordinary water of the baptismal font, water that came from the tap just a few feet away, we are given a symbol of God’s grace that has been poured out upon us. In that ordinary water we have been made children of God marked with the cross of Christ forever and that is something extraordinary.

And Jesus takes us, ordinary individuals, just regular people, who have come together to worship, an extraordinary little church. We, and really I should say you since I have not been here that long, have feed the hungry through donations of money and gifts to the food pantry which may I say always impresses Gail from Redding Social Services because we do more than some of the larger churches in the area. You have given medical care and basic health care to those in need with health kits and cleaning supplies, and you have given many children an opportunity to learn though the gifts of school supplies. And through these gifts and through our work together, people have grown in their faith and have come to understand the Bible and what God is doing in their lives even more. Jesus has taken us, this ordinary group of individuals and made us into an extraordinary church that has defied many odds and I am so looking forward to seeing how else God continues to make the ordinary extraordinary.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Grind and Grind and Grind Some More

The Gospel lesson for this Sunday isJohn's version of Jesus feeding the 5000. While this story appears in all four Gospel accounts, only in John does it mention that the five loaves of bread were made from barley. And this got me thinking.

My dad is a wonderful bread baker. He won a blue ribbon at the MN State Fair a few years ago when he submitted his honey whole wheat bread, and he has a few recipes published in a cookbook written by one of his bread club buddies. Therefore growing up we had all sorts of bread; whole wheat, challah, rye, pumpernickel. But I don't think I have ever had barley bread.

Now being that I am my father's daughter, I have taken up my father's joy in bread baking and I thought I would try my hand at making some barely bread for a sermon illustration. So I went to my three trustiest bread cookbooks. Total I think there were five recipes for barley bread and every one was mixed with fruits or nuts. So and internet search found me a few options and I went with this recipe. So off to the store I went to get barley flour.

And there was no barley flour, even at the healthy/whole food store. But there was pearled barley sold in bulk. So I bought some and came home ready to workout my food processor to get some barley flour.

And what a workout my food processor got. To make 2 cups of barley flour it took me over an hour and a half (granted I stopped for a half hour at one point in order not to burn out the motor)!

I can't imagine how long it would have taken by hand or with a stone mill to get enough flour to make five small loaves of bread. My guess is that it would take most of the day by hand.

No wonder why barely was the grain of the poor, it is so hard that it takes forever to do something with. Granted it was a really good grain to grow. According to my husband the near-eastern historian, barley does well in drought, flood, salty soil, and is overall a sturdier plant than wheat.

The barely dough is currently rising so we will see how it rises and taste. And while I have learned a little bit more about barely through this experiment I have also learned that I should by a coffee grinder or flour mill.

I'll post some pictures of the final loaf and a critic of the recipe after I have some tomorrow.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Bob!

Today is my husband's birthday and I can't help but look back on how much our lives have changed over the last year. I don't remember exactly what we did last year to celebrate Bob's birthday but I'm pretty sure we spent at least part of the day packing. Since then we have moved, Bob started grad school, I started a temp position, we dealt with assignment issues, Bob was offered a book editing offer, I was hired full time, we dealt with more assignment issues, Bob finished his first year in grad school, I was called as Bethlehem's pastor and now we are preparing to move again (but not quiet to the packing stage yet).

I feel so blessed to have Bob in my life. He has been such a support for me over the last 7 plus years we have been together and I only hope that I have been as much of a support to him as he has been to me. I hope and pray that Bob has another blessed year ahead, full of learning, laughter, and fun and I can't wait to see how much will change within the next year.

Happy Birthday Bob! I love you!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lots of Work and Food

So one of my good friends, Becca (yes my friend is also named Becca - I'm not talking about myself in the 3rd person)from seminary came to visit this last week sort of last minute. So as a result I ended up taking my day off on Wednesday instead of my typical Friday.

On Tuesday I still went into the office with her but did not get much done - just a few phone calls basically. But we did explore the neighborhood a bit including going to MacDaddy's for lunch...ohh so good! I had a lovely vegetarian mac & cheese that had asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes in it and Becca had mac & cheese with stewed tomatoes. Wednesday we explored a bit of Connecticut, including going to New London and Niantic.

But because I didn't do much work on Tuesday and Wednesday I felt quiet rushed the rest of the week, but still had tons of time for visits. I ended up visiting three families on Thursday and Friday and boy did I get fed. Rolls and cake at one place, brownies at another and a full lunch with ice cream for dessert at the third.

On Saturday I helped a family say their final goodbyes to one of the patriarchs. He died in December, shortly before Christmas, so I never did meet him, but his wife, daughter and sister-in-law are members of Bethlehem and I have had a few conversations with them. After a brief service of prayer at the cemetery where his ashes were finally laid to rest, we returned to the house for a feast. The table was covered with food, and that was before they put out the desserts. Around a table talking to some of the grandkids I realized yet again how much of an honor it is to be invited into someone's family, especially when mourning a loved one. The laughter and stories reminded me so much of my family's holiday dinners growing up, which I haven't had in quite due to family moves and distances.

After the lunch, my husband and I explored Westport where there was both an art fair (every thing was too expensive for me to afford) and a used book sale at the library (SCORE!). I got a few travel books for places we hope to visit next summer and some audio books to listen to on our road trip to the Upper Midwest later this summer and my husband got multiple old history books include a three volume set published in 1911.

On Sunday was the church picnic to celebrate the 101st anniversary of the congregation. After a worship that went off with a few minor hitches (the wrong prayer/readings bulletins were passed out to some people) we made our way outside for some social gathering and a good old fashion pot luck. Ancona's Market provided the hot dogs, hamburgers (which I was told were delicious) and buns and everyone brought a salad or dessert. And yes we were Lutheran - there was Jello salad and there was enough desserts to feed 5000 (or close enough). The weather was gorgeous and our dog, Daisy, was able to play and gets lots of attention, including crumbs, from everyone gathered.

I'm going to try to post more often so I don't run into these super long catch up post, but for now Monday is my "office" day when I do a lot of reading preparing for next week's sermon, emails, and phone calls.

Interrupting Interruptions

The Gospel text for this week was Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Have you ever just wanted to get away? To get away from the stress of your daily life, or an awkward moment you are caught in the middle of or maybe you want to get out of a boring family reunion, lecture or possibly even a sermon? Have you ever just wanted to find a quiet place, a place of solitude to spend time either by yourself or with a few close friends? A place were you could relax, let the stress melt off of you, regroup and possibly reconnect with some close friends that you haven’t been able to spend much time with lately.

So you go. You go to a spa to be pampered, or watch a movie or read a book in order to live someone else’s life for awhile. Others may pack up the car head out to the wilderness and go camping to be alone, just you and nature, or you nature and a few friends. Maybe for some of you, you go to a bustling city were you can wander shops and museums anonymously. Or maybe you, especially when pressed for time, you just go and draw yourself a nice bath so you can sit and soak alone. And you begin to feel the stress starting to melt off of your shoulders; you start to feel normal again, like you aren’t going to explode at the next person who asks you a stupid question or demands your time because they cannot find their shoe, send an email or make dinner on their own.

And just when you are about to let your guard down and truly relax and give in to that reoccurring dream you have with you and the movie star being alone on an island, or your swimming in a pool of money, the cell phone rings, or your child screams from across the field or a knock comes to the door and immediately you are back in real life. And all the stress that has just melted off has come right back on and you are back to being mom or dad or grandma or grandpa, a home-owner, a person with bills to pay and a to-do list a mile long.

Oh those interruptions how I hate thee. What a way to ruin a perfectly good day is to have a hundred interruptions. Nothing goes as planned and everything needs to be taken care of NOW! And it is so hard to love the interrupter. Sure there are times when you are procrastinating on a work project, a home repair or writing a sermon and the interruption, and therefore the interrupter, is welcomed. You go out of your way to find such interruptions, checking your email every few minutes, making sure the house or your desk is spotless before you begin your task, but on a relaxing day, a vacation day or a day off those interruptions are completely unwelcome and therefore so is the interrupter.

GO AWAY!! You want to bellow out. LEAVE ME ALONE! You scream silently to yourself. But yet you put down your book, slosh out of the tub and stop what you are doing in order to attend to your interrupter. It takes all your willpower to put on a smile and help the co-worker, neighbor or your own child who needs your help. And there is no way on God’s green earth that you are going to spend more of your time, your well deserved time for relaxation, actually helping the individual anymore than minimally needed.

So you can only imagine how Jesus and the disciples felt in our gospel text today. There they were trying to go out to a deserted quiet place – a short camping trip with the boys. The disciples had just come back from being sent out in groups of two to preach Jesus’ message. They wanted time to reconnect with each other, to regroup, to tell stories, to recollect how their time apart went. They wanted to hear who had a great experience and to lift up the ones who had a difficult missionary experience. That wanted this time but yet did not get it. For the crowds, the town’s people had heard that Jesus and his disciples were going and they followed them. 5000 people showed up and invaded the camping trip, their personal time. 5000 uninvited guest to a campsite meant only for 13.

Any of us probably would have been more than frustrated; we would have been crazed to not have had this time with our friends and brothers that we were so looking forward to. We would have go into a panic trying to either hid or make accommodation for these unexpected visitors.

But Jesus is not upset, he does not shoo the crowd away, or put a blanket over his head like modern day celebrities hiding from the media. He does not run and try to hid. No Jesus welcomes the interruption and the many, many interrupters. He begins to teach them, and next week we will hear how he feeds them. Jesus has compassion for these people, for those who came and followed him. He takes joy in those people who interrupted him for they are like sheep without a shepherd.

And Jesus takes joy in us. Jesus does not turn us away. He does not wish to only hear the prayers of his closest confidants and followers. Jesus took time to listen to, heal and teach all people and he still does. Jesus’ body and blood of communion is not offered only to the very pious, the ones who have been gold stars by the religious authority.
No Jesus’ body and blood, the bread and wine is offered to all people, whether you are completely confident in your faith or if your faith feels like you have more questions than answers.

And believe it or not but Jesus takes time to listen to each and every one of our prayers. Jesus listens whether we offer a silent prayers of thank you, a mournful lament at the death bed of a loved one or a communal prayer of contrition, of confession, like we did at the beginning of today’s service. Jesus takes the time to listen to us personally. He is not distracted by the interruption, for our prayers are not interruptions. Our prayers, in the form of worship, thanksgiving, pleas, requests, petition, or even begging are all listened to by God. And yes not all of our prayers are answered, at least not in the ways we would like but Jesus is listening. Prayer is how we communicate with God, it is how we are able to reconnect and regroup with Jesus. We do not need to get away, to find a quiet place, to be alone in order to talk with God, in order to pray. No Jesus is there in the midst of our lives regardless of how chaotic they may seem at times. Jesus is there, ready for us to interrupt our lives and reconnect with him.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Where is the Gospel?

This sermon is based on Mark 6:14-29 - the beheading of John the Baptist.

Now isn’t that a great bedtime story! Herod marries his sister-in-law, has his step daughter dance for him at his birthday party in a way that there is debate over whether the dance was sexual in nature or just a simple tap-dance routine. Then Herod makes a big declaration of how wonderful she is and ends up promising John the Baptist head on a platter, and then the beheading occurs.

This gospel narrative is reason alone not to have Sunday School lessons be based on that day’s gospel reading. And I’m sure for many churches that do have such a Sunday school curriculum they are probably thankful that this lesson has occurred during the summer when there is either no Sunday School or very few children in attendance.

Quite honestly I struggled a bit with this text, as I’m sure many of my fellow preachers have this week. In seminary I was trained to break up my sermon into four portions – law in the text, law in the world, gospel in the text, gospel in the world, and I’m sure if you listen to a normal sermon of mine you will be able to tell when I transition from one section to another. But this text was difficult. It is easy to see all the many moments of law in this text. Law is the parts of a text or lesson that are about how we as humans are sinful creatures. How we as humans do not always do what is right or what is the will of God.

So the law portions of this text are so easy. Herod knew John was righteous but when he heard him he was perplexed. He vowed to himself to protect John but did not. Herod had problems balancing John’s preaching to the real world. Herod swore an oath in front of many people without first knowing to what the consequences were. He then allowed his pride to get in the way of his faith, in the way of doing what was right. Plus there is all the law in this story about marrying your sister-in-law, having a young girl maybe dance for you sexually, having an extravagant party when others do not have food to eat, and ordering the death of someone. Oh this lesson is full of law, full of the parts about the sinful–self, the one who does not believe, who does not put God and others first.

And in many ways we are probably alike; yes maybe we have not married a sister-in-law or ordered someone to be beheaded. But like Herod we often know that Jesus is righteous but when we hear his teachings or the teachings of his church we become perplexed and confused. We have a hard time balancing Jesus’ good news, his gospel and preaching, with the real world. We have at times sworn an oath that we cannot fulfill. “I swear on my mother’s grave” or “I swear to God” How often have those words come out of your mouth? We also let our pride get in the way of our faith or get the better of our faith. We have let our pride get in the way of our faith when we gone to church wearing a new outfit hoping we will get complimented on it instead of coming because we want to worship God, or buy a bigger, nicer, faster, latest gadget instead of contributing that money towards God’s work (granted I just bought a new laptop this week so I have no right to nor will I look down at any of you for doing the same thing).

We have also allowed our pride to get in the way of doing God’s work. We have not gotten involved with a dispute between friends, neighbors or strangers, whether a simple bickering argument or a physical fight, for fear of picking sides, getting sued or physical harm to ourselves or property. We have turned our heads and averted our eyes to the poverty we see on the streets or on the news; we don’t want to get involved, to get our hands dirty, and to part with our money and time. So the law is easy. Herod was in many, many ways a sinful creature, out for his own betterment and not the good of God’s people. And we in many ways are just like him.

But what about the gospel? This is the part that I have struggled with this week.
Where is the good news? The part when Jesus heals, forgiveness is granted, or God’s grace is poured out to upon the sinful creature? Where is the good news in this story? Are we to commend Herod for keeping his word? Or are we to commend him for taking the easy way out? Neither of which seems like much good news to me. And this story has a lot of foreshadowing to Jesus’ death. He too is arrested and put to death because people did not agree with what he had to say. Pilate will end up ordering Jesus death in order to appease others in order to keep his word – Mark’s says Pilate wanted to “satisfy the crowd.” So where is the gospel in this text?

Well maybe that is what we need, a Bible lesson, a Gospel lesson with no gospel apparent. Often in our lives when we are in the midst of trial, in the midst of having life bombard us with all the bad things that happen to us, death of a loved one, being laid-off, having housing issues, fights with friends and family, sickness and illness. Sometimes it is so hard to step back and see the gospel, to see the good news in our lives. We can be so overwhelmed by all the bad things in our lives, it is hard to see the good. We want to so desperately see Jesus’ walking on water in front of us, the spirit of the dove descending upon us or a burning bush speaking to us that we do not see all Christ is always there.

It is hard to see in our lives, especially in the midst of trial, that Jesus is right beside us, leading us, guiding us, and sometimes even carrying us through those tough moments. It is hard to see that Jesus knows that no one can go through life and not be confused by doing what is right verses doing what we want and that Jesus forgives us even when we put ourselves first. When we take the easy way out instead of doing what is right, Jesus forgives us. It is hard to see, hard to hear that the waters of baptism are still poured out upon us, regardless of how bad we have been or how alone we feel. That the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper is given to all of us regardless of how worthy we feel in receiving Christ’s body and blood. So maybe that is the gospel lesson in today text, that sometimes the gospel is hard to see, hard to find in the midst of the chaos of life, but yet the good news is still there. That Christ still died for us, God still loves us and the Holy Spirit still lives in us regardless if we see it our not.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

New Routines

So for the last few weeks I have been trying to adjust to new routines, somewhat successfully. Before starting at the church I was working at a warehouse and my work hours were 7:30am to 3:30pm Monday to Friday. While the 7:30 am portion was way early and hard to get used to, I loved being done by 3:30 every day. The other good thing about it, was even though I would press snooze multiple times each morning, eventually I would get myself out of bed knowing that I had to be at work by 7:30.

Well now my schedule is a little more flexible which is both good and bad. I refuse to set my alarm on a daily basis for 6am but due to my husband needing/wanting to go to the school library to work on his thesis project we have been setting it for around 7am. But without the need to be somewhere by a specific time, the snooze button is winning many mornings - we are pressing it now more each morning than we did at 6am. But once we finally get out of bed the new routines have been nice.

Because I know have time in the mornings, which is my preferred exercise time, I have been running with the dog on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. I don't run far, long or that fast, but I have been running. And Monday, Wednesday and Fridays when my husband is running the dog I have been doing some abdominal work outs.

After working out I have found taking some time for a devotional is also a great way to cool down. I have tried many different personal bible study routines over the years and lately have found what used to work for me to be extremely difficult to follow. As a teenager and in college I would just read a few chapters of the Bible every night. A few years ago I started reading either Word in Season or Upper Room each evening. At first I found these reflections very nice. However over the course of seminary I started to have issues with them. The one page reflections were just too surface level for me. I wanted to dive deeper into the text, to learn some background to the culture that the gospel/letter/prophet was writing to or learn why certain words are used and not others. So as a result, sticking to a devotional (they are excellent for many people, I am in no way knocking them) I had a hard time sticking to reading them.

So now I have invested into the Interpretation series by John Knox press. I'm currently working my way through Matthew. Each day I have been reading a small portion of the gospel, normally just a few verses, and then reading the commentary. I have enjoyed it thus far, to dive each day into some gospel text that is especially not the text I'm preaching on that week. My only complaint is that I'm so used to wanting to finish books in a short period of time, that I have to stop myself from moving on to more sections, so that it is a time for reflection and not work.

Also on the top of routine is getting used to the drive to Georgetown. My drive is about 45 minutes without traffic and fairly easy. But my previous commute was less than 15 minutes. This change has lead to so lull time in the car. But thank God for Audio books. I'm currently listening to Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Stout. I'm not sure if I would listen/read it otherwise, but it was on of the few books on CD that the library had in stock that I have not already read that seemed interesting.

All and all I'm enjoying my new routines, but it is also hard trying to get used to them knowing that in a little over a month when we move to the parsonage, many of these routines will change.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Something New for Mission

So I did something a little nontraditional for a sermon on Sunday. I knew writing my sermon that it would be a low attendance Sunday since it was the 5th of July and multiple people told me they would not be there due to trips to visit family in other states or things of that nature. So with that in mind, I decided to start with a very traditional sermon but then lead the group into a breakout session to discuss where they see mission in our community, and what are some missions, or at least some problems that they see everyday, and would possibly like to address. Three out of the four groups discussed various issues due to housing being ridiculously expensive. Below is the traditional part of the sermon. I didn't write out the discussion leading portion since that would vary depending on who showed up and what those discussions were. I'll let you know what feedback I get from that style of sermon, good or bad - either way it was something different.

We are a mission congregation! We are a mission congregation! Our congregation, all of us, are called to mission. As Christians each and every one of us is called to mission, just like those disciples.

Jesus called them, the disciples, sent them out in sets of two to preach his message, proclaim repentance, cast out demons, and heal the sick. But just like us at Bethlehem or any small church, the mission is not easy. There is not enough money, not enough people, not enough resources. The disciples were told not to bring money, food, or extra clothing with them along their journey. They had what they had on them, which I’m sure many of the disciples did not think was enough. If they had more money they could stay at an inn and shower and at least look presentable to the people they were preaching to. Or with more money they could build fancy displays or buildings to attract people. If they went in larger groups they could gather larger crowds. With extra clothes they could have both traveling clothes and preaching clothes so that they can look the part.

Does any of this sound familiar? With more money we could fix up the church (even though a new roof was just put up this week), get a better Sunday school curriculum, afford more staffing, the list goes on and on. With more people we could attract more visitors and grow, or have an actual property, education or service committee and those responsibilities would not fall to just one or two people.

But regardless of how much money is in the bank or how many people are in the pews to some there will never be enough money or enough people to do all that their hearts desires. The disciple thought they did not have enough time, money, people or resources to preach Christ’s message but yet large crowds gathered with them to see Jesus. And as we have celebrated our nation’s birth this weekend, it is easy to forget that many of this country’s founding leaders thought they did not have enough time, money, people or resources to fight the British, to fight for democracy and freedom that we hold so dear today.

But to God with the __ of us gathered here today and with what ever resources we have, whether they you consider us under funded, over funded or adequate, to God we are perfectly suited and capable to do God’s mission in this world. We are called to love, serve and care for our neighbors. We are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and support the orphaned and widowed. We are called just like those disciples to go out and preach Christ’s message to all the world. We called to do these things not because we want to win souls for heaven, or so that we can gain brownie points with God to make sure we are able to go to heaven. No we are called to do these things, we want to care love and serve our neighbors, because Christ’s message of love and grace is so overwhelming that it becomes abnormal not to share Christ’s love and grace with others through our actions.

We are part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Evangelical means to preach, to share, to spread the good news. It is the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection that we are called to share. It is the good news about God’s unending and undeserved grace and mercy that has been poured out upon us through the waters of baptism and delivered to us through the bread and wine of communion. It is the good news about the Holy Spirit who lives inside all of our hearts and minds and is with us every day, every hour, every minute, every second of our lives.

We all are called to share this message with our community, with our neighbors, both in our backyard in Georgetown and throughout the world. We are called to share this message though caring, loving and serving those in need. And Bethlehem does just that, through the various collections for Redding Social services or backpack and health care kits sent to Lutheran World Relief. Through sending money to the synod and churchwide offices, we have helped people in need through the world, that money has gone towards feeding people in Africa and South America, childcare for family in need, seminary, college and elementary educations, and the list of how that money has helped people goes on and one.

But we can do more, we are called to do more. So I have a challenge for you. I know there are needs that many of us see each and everyday of our lives. We see people who are sick, hungry, dying, homeless, uneducated, or otherwise in need. People who are on the margins of society, who have been left behind or held back by society while the rest of the world has gone on around them. There are members of the congregation who have seen those needs yet are reluctant to speak up for fear. Fear that there is not enough money, people or resources in order to meet the needs of others. So here is my challenge, right now in worship, let us take some time to address those missions. What are we being called to do? How do you hope that we can love, care for and serve our neighbor?