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Us & Them: Accumulation

Dear Friends,

I’m in my home sitting in my favorite spot, my sunroom, where I can see beyond the walls of the room and beyond my laptop. Tonight, I am watching the sunset as the geese land into the field in the back yard and migrating birds quiet down for the night.

For many years, the only time we used this room was to keep pets out of the rest of the house. But this year, I hauled in my outdoor picnic table and chairs so that I could work in this space, open up the windows, mask, and safely, socially distancing myself when necessary.

Tonight, I give thanks for this space.

I pause to pray for all of the families and friends who have lost someone they care for because of COVID-19. I acknowledge the gift of science and the many new solutions that continue to unfold daily, if not by the hour.

I invite you to remember where you were a year ago this past week? As a church staff, it was this week we made what we thought was a temporary decision to close the building. Where were you a year ago?

Here at the church, in the same hours we decided it was safer to follow guidelines and not meet in the building, we were crafting ways to meet in new and unfamiliar places, such as online worship, online classes, and online meetings. We were thinking it was all “temporary.”

We have entered into a new normal on our way to a new, new normal. We get to embrace that God has always been our God and our job continues to be to trust God. Together, we’ve got this!Yet, there continue to be challenges and challenging conversations ahead.

In our current study from the book, The 7th Story, by Gareth Higgins and Brian McLaren, our theme has challenged all of us to think hard about what is us and them and how we create a new story together, a 7th story, that is different from all the others.

I think we have an opportunity to dig deeper into this challenging question when we read from the Gospel of Luke 12:13-31 and the story of Rich Fool. Let’s put this in context.

Scholar, theologian, and missionary Pastor Ron Schardt has put together a wonderful explanation of this passage and put it into a broader context for us all.

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. Along the way he is sometimes alone and sometimes with the crowd. Along the way, he is constantly sharing parables or teachable moments. The teachable moments are meant to turn everything upside down from the typical, ordinary, and common responses to everyday life in general.

Jesus challenged people to think of their own identity. He challenged them to think, “How do I label my neighbor?”

In his explanation of the fourth petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “give us this day our daily bread,” Martin Luther asked, “What does this mean?

God gives daily bread without our prayer, even to all people, but we ask in this prayer that God stirs in us to recognize what our daily bread is and to receive with thanksgiving.”

What then does ‘daily bread’ mean?

Everything our bodies need such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, fields, livestock, money, property, spouse, children, co-workers, good government, weather, peacefulness, health, decency, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors…”

I would say that this petition is not about BREAD or even about asking for prosperity, us having more or less than others. It’s about God providing for us sometimes in unusual ways and our acknowledgement with thankfulness for all that God provides.

The rich fool in Jesus’ parable doesn’t get that abundance is indeed wonderful. Instead of looking 100% inward, Jesus invites us to look outward through the parable. The rich fool forgot that God’s declaration “know that you have worth.” Jesus again tells us boldly that the greatest commandment is to love God and to love one another. God knows our hearts, our strengths, and our weaknesses. God knows you and me, our full selves.

We are invited to look to this one-year anniversary and weep with those who weep. We hold one another’s stories of hardship, changes, online work, online school, life moments, and celebrations that were put on pause and scheduled for “some date” in the future.

If you knew a year ago today that you would be reading this message right now, what would you say to yourself? What do you need to hear to continue on this journey to a new, new normal? Spend some time with that question!

There are more adjustments, challenges, hurts, and joys ahead. We tell ourselves now: God is with us. That is the promise of life-everlasting grace.

Pastor Katie

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