Tag Archives: Psalm 145

God’s Kingdom and Will? No sweat. (OR The Lord’s Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done On Earth As It Is In Heaven) John 18:33-38 Romans 5:1-10 Jeremiah 29:11-13a Psalm 145:8-17

 

Caitlin Trussell with Augustana Lutheran Church on July 30, 2017

[sermon begins after two Bible readings; the two other readings may be found at the end of the sermon]

Romans 5:1-10   Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.

John 18:33-38  Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

[sermon begins]

There’s a kind of conversation that happens when two people think they’re clear as a bell and really there are two different conversations happening at the same time.  My husband and I had one of those just the other day.  Rob had to leave the house early to meet clients in Cheyenne.  Before he hopped in the shower, he said to me, “Don’t turn off the coffee pot, okay?”  My clear-as-a-bell reply was, “How many cups of coffee have I had?”  He tipped his head a bit at me with that classic expression that silently asks, “Whaaat?!”  I made perfect sense to myself because I was wondering how likely it would be that I would even think about turning off the coffee at that early hour.  Meanwhile, Rob just needed quick reassurance that the coffee pot would remain on while he rallied to leave.  Twenty-seven years into our relationship and there are still moments of confusion in the small and big conversations.

The dialogue between Jesus and Pontius Pilate falls into the big conversation category.  Any prior relationship or benefit of the doubt or warm laughter between them is unlikely.  This is serious business. Jesus is on trial.  Pilate summons him to a private conversation after questioning the people who brought him in.  Jesus is brought to Pilate for a legal verdict.  Honestly?  He’s brought to Pilate for a guilty verdict. Pilate is caught between the crowd, Roman law, job security, and Jesus’ innocence. Whatever you may think of his actions, Pontius Pilate is a compelling character. His question about truth is compelling.  And it’s a very old question.  “What is truth?”  Great question all on its own.  Philosophers and neuroscientists have a field day talking about the origins of reality and truth.

“What is truth?” is also a great question when it comes to God’s kingdom and will.  There are lots of people who invoke God’s will for all kinds of things. The good that happens?  God’s will. The bad that happens?  God’s will. I’m more cautious when it comes to claiming God’s will.  This caution is due to something called bondage of the will.  Bondage of the will means that the human inclination is to think about the self first and think about everything else second. Including God.  Not only are we anthropocentric thinking that humans are the center of all reality; I am self-centered thinking that I am origin of truth.  There’s a Latin expression for this self-centeredness. Incurvatus in se. The expression means that we are curved in on ourselves.  In Christianity, we could say that the cross pulls our noses out of our belly buttons aligning us with God and God’s kingship.

God’s kingship brings us to the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer.  “Thy kingdom come.”  Martin Luther writes, “In fact, God’s kingdom comes on its own without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may also come to us.”[1]  To think about the kingdom, we look at the king.  Pilate asks Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus deflects the question by answering with a question.  Pilate then asks Jesus, “What have you done?”  Jesus responds, “My kingdom is not from this world…”  Ah, Pilate thinks he has Jesus now.  “So you ARE a king?”  Again, Jesus hedges his answer by saying that he “came into this world to testify to the truth.”  Once again, two people having two different conversations at the same time.  Although, for our purposes today, Jesus does point us toward his kingdom.

Jesus’ kingdom talk is interesting.  Pilate isn’t off-base asking about a king when Jesus testifies that his kingdom is not from this world.  Asking for the identity of the king makes sense.  The problem is that this king is unlike other kings.  This king is standing trial in front of an insignificant governor of an obscure Roman outpost.  This king isn’t rallying power to fight and win.  This king is surrendering.  He is preparing for the ultimate self-sacrifice on behalf of friends and enemies alike.  This king reveals the breadth of divine power poured out in the depth of divine love.[2]  Jesus testifies to his kingdom with unexpected behaviors for a king. Unexpected behaviors for a king but perhaps not unexpected behaviors for THIS king.  Remember that this king spent his time on earth meeting with outcasts and strangers, healing the untouchables, feeding the hungry, and offending the powers that be by calling for love of God, neighbor, and enemy.  Remember that he ends up offending almost everyone.  Remember that he gets killed for his kingdom’s work, proclamation, and ministry.

In his ministry, Jesus teaches us to pray the third petition, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Martin Luther writes, “In fact, God’s good and gracious will comes about without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may also come in and among us.”[3] Dr. Alicia Vargas writes that this in this prayer “we acknowledge our obedience to divine authority.”[4]  We pray that our own will yields to God’s will as sovereign, as king.

God’s kingdom and will seem to be revealed through Jesus’ kingdom ministry and inevitable execution which gives one possibility as we pray for God’s will. God’s will is for God to love us.  God’s will is first about God and what God is doing through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.  God creates, sustains, shows up, dies, and lives again in love for us.  In verse 5 of the Romans reading, the Apostle Paul says it this way, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”[5]  The love of God is revealed in and among us…the church…the body of Christ in the world. God commissions us through baptism to the ministry and proclamation of this good news.

So, God’s will is first for God to love us.  Not just some of us.  All of us.  I remember when this became shockingly clear to me. Six or seven years ago I was at a middle school volleyball tournament.  The seating for fans was in an oval one level above the game on the floor.  It was packed.  It was loud.  I remember looking around at everyone there – mixed in age, race, and class, faces scrunched up and lungs unleashed in competitive intensity.  And I remember thinking, God loves all you people.  I found this remarkable.  Stunning, really.  Feel free to try this yourselves at any sporting event.  Or at any time really. Look around school.  God loves all those people.  Look around work.  Look around government.  God loves all those people.  Look around the grocery store and the gym.  God loves all those people.  Look around your neighborhood and your home.  God loves all those people. You see them.  God loves them.

Look around these pews.  God loves all you people.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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[1] Martin Luther. Luther’s Small Catechism in Free Indeed: Devotions for Lent (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 2016), 44.

[2] Dr. Craig Koester said this repeatedly during in his class on The Gospel of John, Fall 2010.  Luther Seminary.

[3] Martin Luther, 46.

[4] Alicia Vargas, The Third Petition in Free Indeed: Devotions for Lent (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 2016), 46.

[5] Romans 5:5

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Jeremiah 29:11-13a  For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me.

Psalm 145:8-17   The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  9 The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. 10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you. 11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power, 12 to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds. 14 The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. 16 You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing. 17 The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.

Luke 17:11-19 Through Difference to a Common Humanity

Luke 17:11-19 Through Difference to a Common Humanity

Caitlin Trussell on Thanksgiving Eve, November 26, 2014, with Augustana Lutheran Church in Denver

 

Luke 17:11-19 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

 

There is a lot of talk about distance in this story about the lepers.  Jesus is cutting through the region of Samaria and Galilee on his way to Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is code language in Luke for his death on the cross.  But he’s not there yet.  He makes a detour on the way to the cross.  The ten people with leprosy, the Bible’s catch-all label for a range of skin diseases, are also distant.  They are “keeping their distance” as they call out to Jesus.  The story is silent about whether or not Jesus moves toward the lepers.  He simply tells them what to do and the lepers go away to do what he tells them to do, putting even more distance between the Jesus and the lepers.

We are left with the impression that this initial encounter between Jesus and the lepers happens pretty quickly.  Jesus walking along, lepers yell, Jesus yells back, lepers gone.  All the while there is no contact, no laying on of hands mentioned as the lepers are made clean.  Another way to translate being “made clean” out of the Greek is to be “made whole”.[1]

There is no physical contact until after the man is made clean, made whole.  Noticing his cleanness, his wholeness, the leper turns back and drops at Jesus’ feet.  Picture this, the man lays flat on his belly on the ground. The now former-leper is also a Samaritan which is a double-whammy.  Samaritans, being the outcasts of the day, had no business being near any Jewish man.  This was not their place in the social network.  But there he is, flat out, collapsing at Jesus’ feet, collapsing the distance between them.

Also collapsing as the man drops to the ground are the distinctions between faith, gratitude, and wholeness.  It’s difficult to tease apart the mash-up as the man lays there in the dirt at Jesus’ feet.

A few weeks ago, knowing I was going to be preaching on Thanksgiving Eve, I e-mailed the Prayer Chain of people who pray over the weekly prayer requests.[2]  In that e-mail I told the people on the Prayer Chain that I’d love to hear from them about a practice or behavior of gratitude that works for them or something for which they are grateful.  People e-mailed back specifics but one common theme seems to be something about acknowledging God in the mix of life’s ups and downs regardless of outcome.

More specifically, I have permission to share with you this story from last week’s Congregation’s Council meeting.  Council members take turns each month talking about something related to their experience of faith.  This time at the beginning of each meeting is called “the devotion.”   Our Council Treasurer volunteered to open this latest meeting.  He talked about Thanksgiving coming up and the topic of gratitude.  And then he told us that in the middle of thinking about his gratitude for certain things in his life, it occurred to him that he had not been directly thanking God.  He talked about his awareness without judging it and then read Psalm 145 to us.  When he was done, I suggested that perhaps he could the preacher on Thanksgiving Eve.  Clearly that suggestion didn’t pan out.

The point is that Psalm 145 is a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God for who God is and what God has done.  Prayers such as this Psalm drop us at the feet of God.  Prayer such as this Psalm collapse the imaginary distance we put between us and God.  Jesus on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus’ death on a cross, collapses this imaginary distance for us.  It is already done whether we take notice of it or not.  The question is, “What happens when we notice that there is not distance between ourselves and God?”  What happens is that we get to see things differently, we get to participate in this life differently.

Notice that man who is made whole isn’t made whole by erasing his Samaritan-ness.  The distinction of his ethnicity remains a part of him in his wholeness.  Differences remain.  This is an important part of the good news in this story for us here today.  Across the differences we set up as barriers, Jesus acts to make us whole.  Making us whole individually.  Making us whole collectively.  Seeing our differences within the container of our common humanity.  Celebrating our differences across infinite shades of brown even as we all bleed red.

We live in a world that would have us believe that we need to choose one over the other.  Either I choose to see only that you are different and need to keep you at a distance or I choose to negate our difference by wondering why you can just be more like me because clearly that’s the best way to go.  Jesus making the Samaritan man whole reveals this as a false choice.  These days we face hard questions about the flaws and strengths of our country’s slow crawl out of historical, yet still devastating, racism and classism.

I was sitting with some friends recently, all four of us in our various shades of skin from the palest tan to warm chocolate.  The subject of race came up and one friend said to the other, “When I look at you I don’t see your color.”  After a long pause, my other friend said, “When I hear you say that, I hear that you don’t see me.”  Both of my friends are sincere, earnest people who care deeply about each other and who have been friends long enough to say what’s on their minds.  It is a tough conversation that isn’t over.  This kind conversation is where we can take the wholeness of Christ out for a spin.  Where we encounter each other as foreigners, different from each other.  And as humans, the same as each other.  Both are true.

Like the 10 lepers, we too are made whole by Jesus.  We are given this wholeness regardless of whether we turn back and thank Jesus for it.  This Thanksgiving Eve, may I humbly suggest that we turn first to God and give thanks and praise to God for all that God is doing through Jesus.  And second, may we say a prayer or two this week thanking God for our differences and ask for the humility to offer ourselves in real relationship across those differences to share in our common humanity.

Jesus makes us whole.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit may we be given eyes that see, ears that listen, minds that think, hearts that connect, and hands that give as well as receive.  And may we at all times and in all places say, “Thanks be to God!”



[1] David Lose, Commentary: Luke 17:11-19 https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=783

[2] Prayer requests may be made online on the AugustanaDenver.org homepage, right-hand column, second option.