Saturday, March 18, 2017

Notes on the "The Strange Man at the Well and the Woman from Samaria" - John 4:5-42

A few notes on the text as I think through it this week. Sharing in case it might be of help! Peace. tom

Red text is my notes. Black text is the Bible! 

So Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. 
[Patrilineal inheritance of well—Jacob, Joseph, “son’s…”]
[Jesus was tired. And presumably thirsty as we will find. Jesus will also say “I thirst” on the cross.]
It was about noon. 
[Daylight, “out in the open,” and hot.]
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." 
[An “inappropriate/promiscuous” interaction - we do not interact, we do not “blend.”] 
(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 
[Need of John to “apologize.” : He was only alone because…]
The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 
[Not only do we not “mix,” but we do not share!—a long way from “holding all things in common” as in the community of Acts.] 
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, "Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." 
[“We don’t know each other. You don’t know me. We can quench the thirsts that belong to each of us.”]
[Jesus: “I will share with you. We actually have a lot in common. And when we share we will have more in common.”] 
The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 
[“Sir” is certainly not “brother,” it is a title of separation. “You are not me.” Also, “I do have a thirst for some kind of life.”] 
Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?" 
[The woman names one thing she holds in common with this strange man—an ancestor who gives water to each of them by way of having placed this well.]
Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." 
[This is sort of like “One does not live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”]
[“There is more that one kind of thirst, and I have another kind of water.”]
The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water." 
[“Give me some, please.” The man still remains “sir.” Also, Jesus is just “the strange man.” He never introduced himself.]
 Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, "I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 
[The strange man at the well somehow knows about this woman’s marital and presumably sexual history. He tells it to her. Does not judge. Just reflects her story to her, lets her hear it. She agrees. “This is my story.”]
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.  
[The woman names again a line of separation between her and the strange man. They are of different expressions of the faith “of Jacob.” They worship differently, name different pieces of land as “holy.” Jesus indulges this difference-naming. It is real. He names the rest of the distinction, names the condescending belief that “you don’t know but we know,” but then breaks out of that. Worshiping in “truth” turns out not to mean “believing the correct truth.” The Spirit and Truth seems to united across the named divides, not to make them more rigid.]
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."  
[The location of worship is no longer a mountain or a temple. The location becomes “inside of the Spirit” and inside of a truth.]
The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." 
[The messiah of the woman is a Christ who will “proclaim all things.” Perhaps her desire is someone who “tells it like it is.”]
Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you." 
[“I am not proclaiming to you. I am speaking with you. Also, that’s me!”]

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you want?" or, "Why are you speaking with her?" 
[Shame and judgement are absent from the conversation until Jesus’ followers show up. They seem to be more struck by the gender divide than they are by the Samaritan/Jewish divide. They say nothing.]
Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. 
[She does not engage the judgmental disciples. Presumably she can read the judgement on their faces.]
She said to the people, "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" 
[The strange messiah does not “proclaim all things,” but lets me see myself. He removes the veil of dishonesty and denial I have created—without shaming me.]
 They left the city and were on their way to him. 
[Sharing her story about the strange man made people want to uncover/recover their own stories.]

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, "Rabbi, eat something." 32 But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." 
[LOL. And he just sent them far away to get some?!]
 So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 
[I am fed by the mission.]
Do you not say, "Four months more, then comes the harvest'? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 
[The mission includes planing seeds for a harvest. I am anticipating a banquet, fed by the hope of the Feast to Come.]
The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 
[I am fed by the hunger of a place/event where everyone will eat.]
For here the saying holds true, "One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor." 
[We’re all in this together. It’s the work of all of us that results in the Banquet.]

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done." 
[Again this “revelation” is somehow the allowance of the woman to see herself in a new light—in the light of Love? In the light of the light of the world?? Why is some strange person telling her “facts” about her life such a big deal to her? Is it that they were free from judgement? They were secrets? Is it that they were told in the context of daylight, in what would be considered a shameful interaction? The intermingling here seemed not to produce shame in the noonday heat, but liberation, freedom—freedom to tell her story as the story of salvation and liberation, not as a story of shame and solitude.]
 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 
[Through what was once considered an “unholy mixture,” among people who “don’t mix,” we now find a mixture, a promiscuity, a profanation, a transgression, an interaction that leads to new life, to liberation, to salvation, to healing! In telling her story of God’s promiscuous act of revealing God’s love through the flesh of this strange man, in this strange encounter, others deemed “excluded” by pop religion become a new center, and create a new site of salvation in the ancient world.]
And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world." 
[The world is also us. The salve of salvation is one that has healed us.] 


- John 4:5-42

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Before His Temptation, Jesus Had A Story - Sermon Lent 1a, 2017

Then Jesus was led up 
by the Spirit 
into the wilderness 

to be 

tempted 

by the devil. 

He fasted forty days and forty nights, 
and afterwards 

he was famished. 

The tempter came and said to him, 

"If you are the Son of God, 
command these stones 
to become 

loaves of bread." 

But Jesus answered:

"It is written, 

‘One does not live by bread alone, 
but by every word 
that comes 
from the mouth 

of God.’ " 

+++

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 
saying to him, 

"If you are the Son of God, 
throw yourself down; 
for it is written, 
"He will command his angels concerning you,' 
and "On their hands they will bear you up, 
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.' " 

Jesus said to him, 
"Again it is written, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' " 

+++

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain 
and showed him all the kingdoms of the world 
and their splendor;  

and he said to him, 

"All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." 

Jesus said to him:

“Away with you, Satan! 
for it is written, 

‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only God.’”

Then the devil left him, 

and suddenly angels came 

and waited on him.

-Matthew 4:1-11

Before his “Temptation,” Jesus already had a story. 

+++

Matthew’ Gospel tells us that though his family tree contains some… “sketchy” or “questionable” characters, 

(whose doesn’t?), 

that Jesus’ actual birth was really pretty miraculous.

A star shone overhead. 

Angels spoke and sang of God’s glory. 

Little baby Jesus was payed tribute to and honored by great sages, and by gritty shepherds, alike,

and according to some paintings, 

even by the animals, 

gathered all around him, in his holy glow, right?  

It was awesome!

It 

was awesome. 

+++

(pause). 

Glorious… miraculous, mysterious… These are some of the other words that come to mind when we think of Christmas, of Christ’s birth: 

of the Little Town of Bethlehem 
on that O Holy Night. 

Of course as Lutheran followers of Jesus, 

we also acknowledge the scandal of it all. 

Or maybe, rather, the “surprise,” right?

(We’re to “real” to leave it all-sappy, all-the-time). 

It is commonly remembered here always, also, that the scene 
wasn’t all halos and holy glows (right?): 

We remember  
that the Son of God, 

that God the Son was not beheld 
in the beauty of the city center, 

he was not worshipped by kings or queens, 
(though they feared him).

We remember that 
there was no baby-shower live tweeted or televised. 
There was no announcement the next week 
in the Bridgeport News. 

We remember that no celebrities 
or people of import came to his crib. 

None of them! 

But that: 

It was only the wise 

and the poor. 

(pause). 

It was only the wise and the poor.

+++

Glorious, miraculous, mysterious…

Draped in heavenly song… 

+++

When it all came down, though, by the time Jesus was a young adult, 

all of that stuff had been forgotten. 

And a lot of stuff had happened. 

Soon after the visit from the magi, the ruler of the land, Herod, ordered that all children under two years of age be killed by his soldiers and his security forces. 

They obeyed Herod. 

Jesus’ family did not. 

They fled to Egypt—
the land that had once enslaved their ancestors. 

There,

Egypt welcomed Mary and Joseph across the border because they were under threat. 

They were refugees. Seeking refuge. Egypt received them. 

And so Jesus’ family made a home in Egypt for years.

Perhaps Joseph continued to work as a carpenter. 

Perhaps it was hard for him to find work. 

Perhaps he learned the language. 

Perhaps he didn’t. 

Maybe Jesus had to translate for his parents. 

Maybe not.

But they got by. As best they could. 

+++

They got by 
until they got news 
that it was safe for them to return home,

and so they decided that they would.

They’d go home
to set up shop in the old neighborhood once again. 

When they got near to home, however,  
they found out that their news was a little… “off.”

They had been just slightly misinformed.

Herod was gone.

This was true. 

But it turned out that Herod’s son now ruled in their hometown. 

The son of the guy who had wanted to kill Jesus when Jesus was a baby!

This, of course, made Joseph a little nervous. 

So although he and his family returned to their country, and to their region, 

they decided it was best to move to a new neighborhood, 
just to be safer.

Just to be away from potential persecution. 

So they moved
to a town 
called Nazareth, 

with the hope that there they could begin again. 

Amen? Amen. 

And there, again, they were welcomed by strangers. 

+++

Jesus had been praised in his youth. 

In him, 
in this “miracle baby” 
all the adults had put all their hope, 
onto him they had projected all of their desires. 


But he also had been born displaced, 
in poverty, 
and lived his first years as a refugee under the threat of Herod and Caesar, 
rulers of Rome and its territories, 
who in the Spirit of Extreme Vetting had labeled him as a “threat” because wise sages 
from Iraq and Iran had gone to visit him in his infancy. 

+++

Before his “Temptation,” before his wilderness, Jesus had a story. 

Amen? Amen. 

And it was far from being full of happy endings. 

+++

In the story before the Temptation, 

we read about Jesus’ baptism. 

What a thing it must have been for Jesus to be baptized. 

To come up out of the water, to feel the Spirt and her warm embrace. 

To hear the Voice of God, say after decades of pain 
“You are my Son.” 
“You are my Child.” 
“You are Beloved.”

What an experience. 

What an experience to feel that we are called, 
that we are loved, 
and that we belong. 

+++

Before his “Temptation,” in the wilderness, Jesus had a story. 

+++

Jesus story was a story of danger, of miracles, of refuge. 

It was a story of Jesus being loved by his perceived “enemies.” 
(Welcomed, even as his government literally tried to kill him). 

It was a story of neighbors of other-faiths welcoming him in as if he was one of their own, and giving him sanctuary in which to grow up and to grow. 

Greek, Jew, Samaritan… in times of persecution, they put those divisions away. 

In shared times of pain, they sought healing together… 

+++

Before he preached, Jesus had a message. 

Because before he was tempted, 

Jesus had a story. 

He had received his message, his story, through the acts of Love given to him by those who cared for him when life was at its lowest: 

When he was hungry, and sick, when he was hiding, and forsaken, he was cared for, he was literally saved by strangers. 

No wonder he would come to preach

“Love your enemy,” “Welcome the stranger,” “Feed the hungry,” and give to anyone in need. 

No wonder he would come to preach “God’s Reign is near,” “The last shall be first,” and God lifts up those who are pressed down. 

No wonder he told stories of Good Samaritans who helped beaten men and women lying on the side of the road, saying that they were the spitting image of God’s love.  

This is what he believed. This is what he had felt. 

And this is also what he deeply desired for himself and for all people. 

More than bread, more than glory, more than “the kingdoms of the world,” with which Satan would tempt him… 

More than all of that,  Jesus desired the promise of deliverance proclaimed by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, the deliverer, the redeemer. Jesus desired that the story of God’s liberation and renewal, that story of God’s salvation, the word from the mouth of God, be the story of all people, everywhere, in every time. 

+++

He desired this, because before his “Temptation,” 
in the wilderness, 

Jesus had a story.

And because of his story, 
when the Spirt came, 
when the Voice spoke, 
Jesus knew the mission to which he was called. 

To teach, to heal, to preach,

to love. 

To take his scars, and to turn them into empty tombs. 

Amen?

Amen. 

What’s your story? 

To what are you called?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Confession and Call in a Time of Nationalism: For the Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany

Friends, I've been writing some liturgical things, and editing others the last few weeks. Thought I'd share this week's (again) in case you'd like to use. This is not the whole service, but pieces that "fit in" to the movements of Gathering, Word, Meal, Sending. Use freely. Please just write in a footnote: From a liturgy created for the community of First Lutheran Church of the Trinity in Chicago by Rev. Tom Gaulke. Thanks, all! Peace. -tom

For the Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany, 2017
Written to be said with the Gospel According to Matthew, 5:38-48.

CALL TO WORSHIP

God of Love, we need you now.
Teach us to love those we have learned to hate.
Teach us to pray for our enemies
To love you even in those we despise.
God of Peace, we need you now.
Teach us how to reconcile.
Teach us to speak when we are silenced.
Teach us to give up power when our power renders others powerless, or mute.
God of Joy, we need you now!
Receive our burdens, they are many.
Lift our spirits, they are weighed down.
God of life, we need you now,
Grant us grace where shame restricts us,
Grant us life where pain takes hold,
Grant us wisdom where we would settle for easy answers,
Grant us love, rooted in the eternal, the living, in you!

God bless us as we gather, in the name of the Creator, the Christ, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

CONFESSION AND ABSOLUTION
God of Love, on occasions, we have desired revenge. We have rejoiced in the punishment and pain of those we have seen as enemies. We have resisted not with the nonviolence of a turning of the cheek, but instead, with a twisted pleasure found in causing your children injury and harm. Loving enemies seems an impossibility to us, especially when they speak and spit criticisms and insults and shame, especially when they have hurt us or our families. We take the easy way out. In our pain and fear, we come to believe that your Love is a myth, an impossibility, an unreachable pie in the sky. “They are bad,” we say. But you say, “they are you.” This is confusing. How can we love our enemies? How can we be “One?” How can we bless those who would do us harm? We confess our bondage to fear. We need your wisdom in the depths of our hearts. We need your freedom in our bones. Forgive our fear. Free us to Love. Teach us to walk with you on the path to reunion, reconciliation, and Resurrection. AMEN.

+++

In Christ, we find God dwelling among us, walking with us on our way. In flesh, Christ knows our struggles. On the cross, God knows our pain. Christ is within you and among you. “Greater is the one who dwells in you than the one who dwells in the world (1 John 4:4).” “Cast your burdens unto Jesus (1 Peter 5:7).” May your shame be removed. For your guilt is replaced. Receive in its stead God’s grace and love, and a desire for God’s call to the Reign of Love. In the name of Christ, all your sins are forgiven. In the name of the Creator, the Christ, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.  

+++

PRAYER OF THE DAY
God of deliverance,
We pray for our enemies. We bless those who persecute us. Give the whole human family, the whole of creation, your peace. Lift up the lowly. Feed the hungry. Give us hearts that overflow with your love, beyond boundaries and bloodlines. Teach us to look, communally, toward your vision of a restored Creation where lions and lambs nap together, and humans learn not simply to coexist, but to love in word, in deed, and in truth. AMEN.

Cheek Turning for Justice, also: Grace, and Love - A Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany

[ source ]
"You have heard that it was said, 
"An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' 
But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. 

But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 
and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, 

give your cloak as well; 

and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 

Give to everyone who begs from you, 
and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. 

"You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 

Be perfect [τέλειος], therefore, 

as your heavenly Father is perfect [τέλειος]

-Matthew 5:38-48

+++

This church season, the season we call 
“the time after the epiphany,” 

started with the celebration of “The Epiphany.”

The Epiphany commemorated that night when the magi showed up at the manger in the Bethlehem,
bringing their gold and frankincense 
and myrrh, 
and presenting it to the newborn child-in-the-hay.

They did this, following a star, traveling from afar, 
because they had received from the angels 
a secret key, 
a key which would open to them a new truth,
a new truth which they had never felt before. 

That key was this:  
The key was that:

 There, in the hay, was God.
God the Son, 
God the Body.

There in the hay was “God-with-us…”

This is the key: 

There: is God. 

There is God. 

This is a Truth which one can only see with the eyes of faith, which one can only see with the heart, when the heart is unlocked, when its eyes are opened (Ephesians 1:18). 

But it is a Truth which, when grasped, 
becomes a valuable key for our understanding, 
for us, 
for people of faith. 

“There is God.” “Right there.” 

What a thing to say, right? 

+++

Since that Epiphany, here in this “time after the Epiphany,” 

we have been spending our time together wanting more. 

And so, for the last several weeks, we have been digging through scripture, 

seeking out for ourselves other epiphanies, 
other illuminations,

and insights, 

seeking out what we have been calling,  
other “secret keys,”
secret keys, 
buried in the texts, 

which  might unlock for us 
something of the Gospel of Jesus’ love, 
that God’s love might move more deeply through us, 
and that our hearts, 

our minds, 

and our worlds 

might be expanded as a result. 

Amen? Amen. 

That’s what we’ve been trying to do!

+++

Since the Epiphany, we have discovered six keys, 

and today will we dig up our last for this season. 

It has been a good excavation. 

But next week is the celebration of the Transfiguration! 

And, of course, it deserves our full attention.  

Also, Samantha will be preaching next week! 

So that’s awesome, right? 

And after that, we will move into the season of Lent. 

+++

But before we close this series, and attempt to dig up one last key today, 

here’s a reminder of the secret keys we’ve dug up thus far in our journey: 

our keys sounded like this: 

To love, serve, and honor God, is to love, to serve, and to honor the Other, our neighbor. 

Amen? Amen! 

This was our first key.

God does not discriminate. 

Amen? Amen! 

This was our second key. 

God calls us together. It’s hard to go it alone. 

Amen? Amen!  

This was our third key.

To follow Jesus and the Gospel of Jesus’ Love, 
sometimes we are called to leave everything behind. 

Amen? Amen! 

This was our fourth key.

To walk with and (even) side with Jesus, to walk with and side with the God of the Cross, 
is to walk with and side with the ones that Power crucifies today. 

Amen? Amen! 

This was our fifth key.

We alone possess nothing eternally. But when we together are possessed by God’s love, (when we live in God and God lives in us), our words, our actions, our love, too, makes ripples into forever, and our Love, with God’s Love has no end. 

 Amen? Amen! This was our sixth key.

These, were our first six keys. 

I hope you have been handling them, carrying them with you. 

I hope, if even only tucked away in your back pocket, 
or clipped to the belt loop of your mind, 

that they have unlocked something of your heart, 
and that perhaps you have found your mind, 
your world, expanding,

as a result. 

+++

Today, we dig one more time. 

We gather with the crowds on the Mountain with Jesus, 

and we hear again his difficult words.

About slaps. About rain. About begging. 

And even about Love. 

And, I don’t know about you, 

but I desperately need some secret keys 

to help me to understand these words. 

Because at first listen, 

they don’t necessarily sit well with my heart. 

And my heart needs God to speak its language. 

Amen? Amen.  

+++

For example, 

I know that Jesus walks with the oppressed. I’ve been convinced of that. Jesus stands with the crucified. I know therefore, that Jesus wants absolutely no one to be slapped, ever. 

I know that Jesus wants no one to be forced by another person into anything. I know this, in my heart. For me this is an obvious spiritual truth. 

When I read this then, our Gospel for today, I have to remember, to think back.

I remember the interpretation I have heard before, that I’ve preached before (I think Walter Wink was the first to write about it?): 

I remember that here in his sermon on the mountain (according to this interpretation) it seems that Jesus is teaching the crowds nonviolent resistance.

“Resist by not resisting he says.” 


He is teaching the crowds, those gathered in hope on the mountain, that when they receive violence, when they are oppressed, when their bodies are devalued and manipulated, and unfree…

that they need not hide that, (and perhaps we could add: that they need not be ashamed!) but, that, rather, they might, if they could, even though it is painful… make it public. 

Go tell it on the mountain. 

They might expose the oppression, in hopes that those who love Jesus’ vision of the Reign of God, might be outraged, and stop the abuse. In hopes that those who do the abusing might feel ashamed, convicted, even changed

That they might be made to stop the abuse for good, forever. 

Here is an example:   



And here is another one:  



These images are from Birmingham in 1963. 

Peaceful protestors, demonstrating against segregation, 

were attacked by dogs and firehoses. 

Do you remember these images? 

These women and men, our sisters and brothers in Christ, “turned the other cheek,” they resisted “without resisting” and in so doing exposed the violence of the system 

that they were protesting. 

“Our bodies are controlled and abused—they are not free, even in public. We are not free.” We are told to “keep out.” “You’re not allowed.” “You’re illegal.” “You don’t matter.” 

“We are slapped on the cheek.” Struck down, killed, segregated…

Strategically, these women and men took the slap of the fire hoses. They “turned the other cheek” in public. 

And soon the whole world was watching. 

By exposing the violence done to them, they finally outraged folks who only liked violence in subtler forms. 

+++
Perhaps this is what Jesus was preaching about on the mountain. 

After all, to side with Jesus, to walk with Jesus, 
is to walk with and to side with those who are abused, and oppressed, and those who suffer pain,

to side with Jesus is to side with those who are Crucified today. 

And to stop crucifixion. 

And to work for Resurrection. 

Amen?

+++

But I think we know this already. 

We’ve already discovered this key. 

So what else is there to dig up under these words? 

+++

“Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” 

These are the words with which our reading ends. 

Disturbing words, if we take them to mean what we often mean by the word 

perfect

My hunch is that the word translated “perfect” 
in this text doesn’t mean 
“without flaws,” 
or “without blemish,” 
or “always gets really good grades,” 
or “has a really good credit score.” 

Actually, I looked it up. 

And I know it doesn’t mean that. 

So what could it mean? 

The Greek word, in this verse is:
τέλειος

It might translate better here as “complete” or “whole” or even “finished.” 

Jesus uses a form of this word at the end of his life, when he’s on the cross, and he says “It is finished (Τετέλεσται - John 19:30).” 

That is: “All is complete.” 
+++

Be complete, be whole… as God is whole… 

be “all that (?)” as your parent, your mother, your father in Heaven is “all that.”  

+++

Where in this text is there buried a secret key

that might open to us the Gospel of Jesus’ Love, 

that God’s love might move more deeply through us, 
and that our hearts, 

our minds, 

and our worlds 

might expand as a result? 

I think it lies right here in the previous verses,

where Jesus says this: 

I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 

so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; 

for God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, 
and God sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

God rains on everyone. 

God loves people, God rains on people, 
whether, in that moment, I see them as good or bad, “righteous” or “wicked.”

Or not. 

Whether I think they are a “good guy” or a “bad guy.”

Or not. 

Whether I can see absolutely no good in them, no human in them, nothing redeemable in them, whatsoever, 

or not. 

Whether it think they are a “Piece of S….omething undesirable,” 

or not. 

Did you hear that? God’s love is bigger than my perception. 
My opinion. 

Me. 

And you. 

God’s love even loves “the bad guys,” the meanies, 

God’s love loves even the people that I secretly hate. 

God’s love sees more than I see. 

God’s love is bigger. 

God’s love is rain.

It gives life. 

To everyone. 

God’s love is rain. 

+++

This is a difficult key. 

+++

Many struggle with it. 

I do. 

So did the one son in the parable called “the prodigal son.” (Right?)

It’s disturbing. 

But (I think our keys reveal),
that this key, this epiphany,

it is an integral part of the gospel of Jesus’ love. 

It’s important. 

But How do we say it? How do we describe it? 

This key that calls God’s love “rain?” 

I think we say it like this: 

There’s nothing you can do to make God love you more, and nothing you can do to make God love you less. God loves you, period. God loves you, always and everywhere. And there’s nothing you can do to separate you from the Love of God. 

Some people also just call this key “Grace.” 

God’s love is “perfect.” It’s complete. It is finished!

It loves, it rains, it embraces everyone. Even those I wish it wouldn’t. 

And if I wish to be “complete” and “whole” as my heavenly parent is, 

then this is the goal for my love, too. 

To be unlimited, all-embracing. 

And so I pray for my heart and my world to expand, that my love to might be “made complete,” made whole. 

We pray that we might love as Christ first loved us. 

There’s nothing you can do to make God love you more, and nothing you can do to make God love you less. God loves you, period. God loves you, always. God loves you, everywhere. And there’s nothing you/we can do to separate you from the Love of God.

Amen? Amen. 

1) To love, serve, and honor God, is to love, to serve, and to honor the Other, our neighbor. 

2) God does not discriminate. 

3) God calls us together. It’s hard to go it alone. 

4) To follow Jesus and the Gospel of Jesus’ Love, 
sometimes we are called to leave everything behind. 

5) To walk with and side with Jesus, to walk with and side with the God of the Cross, 
is to walk with and side with the ones that Power crucifies today. 

6) We alone possess nothing eternally. But when we together are possessed by God’s love, (when we live in God and God lives in us), our words, our actions, our love, too, makes ripples into forever, and our Love, with God’s Love has no end.  

7) There’s nothing you can do to make God love you more, and nothing you can do to make God love you less. God loves you, period. God loves you, always. God loves you, everywhere. And there’s nothing you can do to separate you from the Love of God.

These are our keys. 


Amen.