“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It’s a saying we learn as children, but we also quickly learn that it’s not true. We all know what it’s like to be condemned by the words and actions of others. We also feel condemned by the things we’ve done. Today the Pharisees bring to Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery. They want to shame her and trap Jesus by seeing how he deals with her. Jesus shocks them by addressing them first, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” They know they stand condemned, and so do we. We have all failed to live as God calls us to. What will Jesus do with us? Exactly what he did for the woman. “Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.” Jesus backed up his words by taking on himself the condemnation that we deserve for our sin. That’s the heart of the good news. We’ve been set free from guilt and fear; now we know life and peace with God.
The modern idea of freedom is to remove any restraints that bind us to someone or something else. Could there be anything more repressive of our personal freedom, then, than being bound to God? Yet, Jesus knows that a life lived apart from him ends up with us being bound to something or someone else – things, people, goals or relationships that simply cannot deliver what we need, and leave us feeling burdened and burnt out. Instead, Jesus calls us to take his yoke upon him and learn from him about how we are to live – in our relationships, in our work, with our health, and in our homes. He doesn’t promise a trouble-free life, but he does teach us how to carry our burdens and find rest for our souls by walking beside us and showing us the way.
As a Christian community, we are conscious of warmly welcoming those who join us in worship. We welcome others in the name of loving Saviour, whose arms are stretched out in welcoming love for all people. Today Jesus takes the concept of welcome further. After teaching his disciples about the challenges they will face in following him, he also promises that people will welcome them, and the message they bring of God’s welcome. God is at work before, during and after the interactions we have with others. Jesus calls us to be good hosts and good guests, welcoming others in his name, and welcomed by others as we share the good news.
Many of us have a passport. It’s an important document. It opens up new places and new experiences. It doesn’t, however change who we are, just where we are. Our baptism is the spiritual passport toward a new, fulfilling, and eternal life. In baptism we share in the death and resurrection of Jesus. God transforms us to be more and more like his Son Jesus. We travel day and by in his steps.
Hope is in short supply these days. We are weighed down by a world facing so many big challenges: climate change, war, political scandals. And then there’s what each of us are dealing personally. We can’t live well without a sense of hope. Hope is a precious gift of God, made possible through the fact that we have been justified by faith and have peace with God through his Son Jesus Christ. Knowing this, we can face the suffering that invariably comes our way in the hope that Jesus gives, through patient trust in God, with a character formed by faith that has been tested, and joyful in hope because of the love of God poured into our hearts.
Some people think that the church is a place where spiritually fit people gather to spiritually exercise. But many people feel that because they don’t have their act together, they can’t be part of the church. A better image is that that the church is like a hospital- a place where people who are spiritually sick receive care and healing. This is what we see in Jesus’ life, in the way he healed the sick, forgave people’s sins and showed compassion for all people, no matter their background.The church is a grace place for all people. We all need the constant healing that God gives through his word and through the body and blood of Jesus, and the forgiveness of sins.
There are times when the future seems foggy. Jesus’ disciples would have felt that way as they meet him in Galilee. They didn’t know what came next after his resurrection. Jesus tells them their mission-to make disciples of all nations through baptism and teaching his words. This was no easy job. But with his command comes the promise of his power and his presence. This is the work of the Triune God: Jesus’ grace, God the Father’s love, the community created by the Holy Spirit. This is our hope and strength as God grows his kingdom in and through us.
Extraordinary. This is the tagline Concordia College uses in promoting the school in the community. This word sums up the aspirations that all parents have for their children, and perhaps we have for ourselves. But of course, our lives are more defined by ordinary routines, tasks and events. And that’s OK, because that’s we find God in our lives and world. On Pentecost Day, we thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who does extraordinary things in the lives of ordinary people like us-giving us a relationship with him through baptism, connecting us with the saving work of his Son through his word and Jesus’ holy meal, and granting his grace gifts. We believe in an extraordinary God changing ordinary people with his love, power and grace-real grace, real life, real community through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is the victor "Jesus left them and was taken up." "He is exalted, the king is exalted on high", we sing 'Crown him with many crowns." For everyone who has gone away there are always those left behind looking at an empty sky - abandoned - deserted. The unbelievable thing is that the disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy. For it is not that Christ was deserting them; Christ was inserting them into the world as his ongoing presence. They are to be the presence of Christ, his body, his ears and hands, heart and mouth and feet. And the story continues for all those left behind - you and me being lively expressions of all that Jesus was about. So the last words are "Come on, guys, Jesus is gone now - time to get to work!" We have a mission to fulfill, and we can't let our heads get stuck in the clouds. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.