Untied

Scripture: Mark 11: 1-11

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and BethanyD)” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-24642D” style=””> Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden.3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway.5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

Scripture: Mark 11: 15-19

15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?B)” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-24658B” style=””>

18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him,D)” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-24659D” style=””>

19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

Sermon by Lacey Hunter

Unlike the runway likely being made for Pilate as he entered, Jesus’ runway was made from the everyday clothing and cloaks of the people gathered around him. Unlike the powerful horses that Pilate and his soldiers were riding in on, Jesus was riding in on a humble colt.

For those who were unable to attend worship on Palm Sunday, March 29, Lacey has provided the text of her sermon below. (Mobile users, scroll down and switch to Web. Alternatively, view this sermon on your laptop or desktop.)

Attachment

Scripture: Genesis 12:1-10

The Call of Abram
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.


“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.


I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.

Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.

Abram in Egypt
10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.


The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Sermon: Attachment

Question for community:
Since the beginning of time, we have been attached to land. Why? Why are we attached to land?
  • we depend on it to live. It gives us sustenance (food, minerals, water, etc).
  • it’s a basic need. A place to lay our head. Feel safe. 
  • borders on land make us feel more safe/protected.
  • gives us our identity. Citizens of the United States of America. It gives us our “people” – where we are from.
  • we learn from scripture that land is a blessing – promised to us by God.
  • gravity.
  • we take power in owning land and being attached to it.
  • our loved ones are buried in the ground. It is holy to us. 
Attachment is a powerful thing.

I spent the last two weeks in my childhood home going through closets and storage spaces – helping to clear out and reorganize spaces for my parents.

It was a delicate task, I’ll tell you. Going through old linens and books helped me learn a lot about my parents. It made me learn that they didn’t really want to throw much away. I would move as much as I could into the give away pile…but I knew I needed to let them look over it before I took it away….because without fail there would be some worn, well loved object that meant nothing to me, but meant a whole lot to them.

For my parents, a worn quilt reminded them of the sweet woman who made it for them. They can see her face. They can tell her story. They remember wrapping us kids in it as they tucked us into bed. They can feel our small bodies within it. 

These possessions help them stop time. Rewind it. Relive it. 

Attachment to items like a worn blanket and to land are important because they holds our memories. They hold life’s meaning. 

I realized as I was in running in my hometown that I am also attached to land.

As I passed particular trees, I remembered waiting there each day to be picked up from school. The high school yard reminds me of the millions of times I must have run laps around it in soccer practice.  

* * *

In our scripture passage today, God calls Abram and Sarai to LEAVE their country, to leave their land. Their people. And to follow God to another land. 

The story starts with a great upset.

Abram is seventy-five when he hears this call. I imagine that like my parents, he has accumulated some stuff….and that stuff and land hold precious memories for him. 

And yet, Abram hears God’s call and he follows. 

I want to point out that he disobeys a little …. 

I like when biblical characters disobey…it makes them feel more human. 

God calls him to leave his land, his father’s household…and yet, Abram sure takes a lot with him! He packs up a lot of his possessions and takes a whole lot of people with him…but, hey…attachment is important. 

Scripture says, “He went.” He travels with this entourage to Canaan and through Canaan until he came to a particular tree – the great tree of Moreh at Shechem.

When he gets to Canaan, God speaks:

“To your offspring I will give this land.” 

The Hebrew word “offspring” means both his descendants and also seed. This land will receive his seed and bear great fruit.

What a great promise! What a blessing! Having traveled so far, through the unknown…it must be a great relief to know that your children will have a place to call home.

And yet, the land God promised wasn’t empty. Canaanites lived there. 

I wonder…why would God promise something that belongs to someone else?

(long pause) 

Well, perhaps that is the whole point. 

The land doesn’t belong to the Canaanites…

Nor will it every really belong to Abram’s descendants.

The land belongs to God.

* * *

We forget sometimes…but we belong first to God.

We belong FIRST to God.

Then to God’s creation – to God’s land and God’s people.

This gets tricky fast.  Because someone has to make decisions. Someone has to hold power. 

And so we humans take on the power to decide how to care for the land – or not care for the land. 

We, humans, decide how to care for God’s traveling people – or not care for God’s people. 

Attachment is powerful. And it is important.

But, we have to pause and check what we are attached to —

Is it God? Or is it something else? Is it someone else?

As many of you know my mom is sick. That’s why I was back in NC. And I am very attached to her.

And yet, I am convicted by this passage that she exists to point me to God. Her love points me to God’s love. Her struggle points me to trust deeper in God’s strength.

My mom preached this particular text at my ordination service at her church in Burlington, NC. It held great significance for us because Tim and I, like Abram and Sarai, were being called by God to leave our land, our people, to leave quite a few of our possessions and go to a distant land. 

God promised us a blessing – that we would find a safe home here….and we have.

God promised us that we would find a family here…and we have. 

God promised us that regardless of who or what we cling to…. God will be with us. We are not alone.

* * *

The truth is… God is calling lots of people to this land. To the Bay Area. To the United States of America.

God is calling people to seek refuge in a safe place. 

To a place where there is food and shelter for them.

And God is calling us to welcome them.

To pull our chairs to the side and make room at the table.

To show our attachment to God FIRST, by creating room for our blessing to become a blessing for others. 

As Leslie said last week in her sermon, God is calling us to be hospitable. And hospitality is a core spiritual gift of this community.

I’m going to share a story with you of a young man named Jose. (name changed for confidentiality) 

Continue to listen for God’s word for you….

– Jose is 15 years old 

– His father left Honduras to work in the US when Jose was 6 mos old

– Jose’s mother left Honduras to join his father when Jose was about 3 yrs old

– Jose was sent around to live with various family members over the years 

– When he turned older, Jose started receiving threats by the gangs 

– He was beaten up many times 

– His family was threatened and forced to pay a war tax 

– His father sent for him after he received very serious threats 

– Jose took a very long journey through El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico to reach the United States

– Jose was caught at the border and processed through the Office of Refugee Resettlement 

– Jose was reunited with his mom and dad after more than 10 years of not seeing them, only speaking by phone

– Now Jose feels safer, but he misses his friends in Honduras 

– Jose cannot go back to Honduras because he would be harmed

– 4 of his friends have been killed by gangs since Jose came to the United States 

As God’s children travel to be near us, we are called to respond. We are called to be hospitable. 
To make room at our tables,
 in our land,
 and in our hearts.

We are called to be a blessing for God’s people coming to us. 

Amen. 

Welcoming the Stranger

Scripture: Matthew 25:34-36

NIV

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Sermon

This week, our Parish Associate, Leslie Veen, uses the reading from Matthew to talk about how basic acts of hospitality are ways of serving God.

For those who could not attend worship, Leslie has provided an outline of her sermon below. (Mobile users, scroll down and switch to Web. Alternatively, view this sermon on your laptop or desktop.)

Feed my sheep

Scripture: John 21:15-19

Jesus Reinstates Peter
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Sermon

Here’s an excerpt of my journal Monday… day 1 of my Food Stamp Challenge. 4:41 PM.

“I am hungry. I can’t focus on my work.  I’m trying to remember the last time I actually felt my tummy grumble out of hunger. It’s not in my memory. Wow, what a gift, that I don’t remember the last time I was hungry.

Any other day I would take a break from my work, walk to the corner store and buy something – anything – to satisfy my need.

But not this week. This week, I try my best to eat off of $1.25/meal. Breakfast and lunch weren’t too hard. But now, I’m drinking water hoping it will fill me and counting down them minutes until I go home and can eat the pre-rationed dinner.”

For me, this week was an eye-opening experience to the challenges 1 in 4 San Franciscans face. Food insecurity. Not knowing how I’ll get all the healthy calories I need on my very limited income.

For those of you who participated this week or have had the experience of living off of food stamps in the past: How did it go? What was it like?

* * *

Food is such a basic human need. As Terri, our speaker from the SF/Marin Food Bank, reminded us last week, hunger  affects more than just the individual. It affects the whole community.

When someone is hungry, they can’t focus on school or work, they are less productive. Malnutrition leads to all sorts of health risks that drain our healthcare system.

Teri convicted us last week that we all have a shared responsibility to provide for those who are hungry. If, for no other reason, than our own self interest. When some of our community is hungry, that will ultimately affect us.

* * *

Today, I want to push us a little further into our holy text. Our scripture reading today comes after the resurrection. Jesus has died, he has been resurrected and he now appears to the disciples for a second time to remind them of who he is and who he calls them to be.

The disciples are out fishing and they come back with nothing. They see Jesus on the beach with a campfire and he is cooking fish to share. 

Food to feed them.

And as Jesus feeds them, meets their human need, he asks them this question:

“Do you love me?”

“Edie, do you love me?
“Chris, do you love me?”
“Darlene, do you love me?” Jesus says…

Feed my sheep.

* * *

Now, I don’t want to take for granted that we all love Jesus. Some of us hear this question. Our name, and Jesus asking…and our heart melts. 

Yes, Jesus, I love you.

But for some of us, we may not be sure. It may not feel as convicting. We are grappling with who Jesus is. And how or why this divine being loves us.

And yet —

— regardless of whether or not we hear and  receive Jesus’ love for us in the question

— Jesus still calls your name. Once, Twice, Three times.

Newton, do you love me?
Keith, do you love me?
Eden, do you love me?

And it’s personal. Even if we don’t understand it. Even when we don’t want to hear it. Jesus is asking you and me:

“Do you love me?”

Feed my sheep.

* * *

Love requires something of us. It is an emotion of our heart. One we cannot control.

Love can also be cultivated. As we see each other, learn about each other, find compassion for each other, love grows. In places we wouldn’t always expect.

Just over six years ago, a group from this congregation called the “Not So Serious Bible Study” decided to study hunger in scripture.

They read what our scriptures say about hunger and realized it is pretty straight forward. Jesus says, “Feed the hungry.”

They studied the food scarcity in this neighborhood, the Excelsior, and recognizing the deep need for food, they decided to start the Excelsior Community Food Pantry.

Six years ago, God spoke to a small community and invited them into faith of action.

Jesus asked, “Do you love me?” And they responded, “YES! Lord, we will feed your sheep.”

* * *

As Christian communities we have a tendency to complicate our faith with beliefs and doctrine. You have to believe this or that in order to belong…in order to be a “real Christian.”

When in actuality, Jesus’ call is simple:

Do you love me?

Feed my sheep.

* * *

What I’ve learned in ministry about faith is that is that most of the work is to show up —

— show up to a small group and hear how God is real and at work in someone’s life.
— show up at worship and open our ears and hearts to God’s word for us.
— show up at the food pantry. See the faces of those receiving food, see their smile as their need is met, and  build a new friendship.

I’m not saying that the experience will bring you to your knees before Christ…though it might…

I’m saying that God works in mysterious ways and sometimes by taking the first step to feed each other…we may learn a bit about what it means to be loved by Jesus…and to step out in his love to care for others.

I’m going to share a video with you of a member of this community, Joe, and his experience living on food stamps.

The food pantry was JUST what Joe needed. Not only the food,  but also his friendship with Kristin, his connection to our community and to Christ was… just what he needed,

Our faith can be complex. Who is Jesus? And why does he love me?

But the response to his love is always simple.

Do you love me? Jesus says.

Feed my sheep.

Amen.

Say Hello!