Our theme for Lent is Traveling Light. Today we are talking about Letting go of Anxiety. I wonder if advertisers would have any success at all at selling us stuff we don’t need if we did not all have anxiety?
Anxiety about having enough, earning enough, knowing enough, looking good enough, appearing young enough, being comfortable enough, feeling safe enough, being fun enough, living long enough, being fit enough, exercising power enough…and we could go on….
What gets your anxiety churning and feeling that who you are is not enough? I have a Bag of Anxiety products here (didn’t the Apostle Paul say something about being a fool for Christ?).
• Here’s a “one-drop re-wind”- I bought this at the beginning of the pandemic when I thought, “I am on video all the time now, I have got to do something about this neck! Doesn’t work.
• This cream wasn’t any better the anti-wrinkle cream I already use—and neither was this one, or this one, this one!
• This hair oil I used to regrow bald spots from chemo and prevent thinning hair-it stunk to high heaven and gave me a migraine.
• These contour pads have been in my drawer since we lived in St. Louis—I think they were for these mud flaps growing under my arms—now I just say, “God is getting a head start on my angel wings.”
• This book, “Lagom” is about the Swedish way of living with relaxed joy—I’ve read one page.
• My oncologist told me I had to keep my weight low, so I couldn’t just do that with healthy diet and exercise, so I took these Burn pills, and they made me jitter like crazy.
Whatever it is, this kind of anxiety weighs us down, causes self-doubt and inner turmoil. Anxiety can cause us to scramble after things that do not give meaning while closing us off to opportunities that do.
Anxiety produces a never-ending upward spiral, but there’s never an arrival platform, a ta-dah where our everyone says, “well you’ve got it, you’ve arrived!”
There’s always a “you need this fitness shake (skinny greens, anyone?), these 5 steps to write your book and make a million dollars life hack.”
It’s an illusion that we can do it all ourselves if we just have the right stuff. It’s hard to travel light through life and believe we are enough, with all this going around us and in our head.
The devil shows up in the wilderness as a salesman par excellence where Jesus, having fasted for 40 days, does not have enough of anything. Jesus has reason to be rife with anxiety.
• Jesus is famished—he does not have enough or ANY comfort or food or sustenance.
• Jesus is alone—he does not have enough or ANY companionship, support, help or influence.
• Jesus is depleted—he does not exercise any power that he does have to relieve his earthly circumstances.
Such an opportune time for the devil to swoop in and say, “have I got a deal for you! You can solve all your problems—You’ve got the power, Jesus! You can do this yourself! You don’t need God."
#1 “Turn these stones to bread—you’ve gone 40 days without food, and I can see your ribs, Jesus! Have a little bread—You’re never going to have a comfortable life…do more with your power…take the bread and run…”
Jesus doesn’t bite.
#2 “Hey Jesus, God promised to take care of you, so let’s have a show—you throw yourself of the pinnacle of the temple, the angels will rescue you—then you can get a book deal! My Brush with Death and the Angels Who Rescued Me. I could get you on all the major news outlets (GNN Galilee News Network!) You didn’t get any followers or Likes with that Jordan river baptism stunt; you need more influence to succeed, …
But, Jesus does not want to take on the devil’s role and test God, so again he takes a pass.
#3 “Hey Jesus, maybe you would use your power if you just had more of it? Imagine all the kingdoms of the world –all belonging to you –just worship me instead of God! Talk about power and status—look at the Romans—you need to achieve more power if you’re going to succeed against them!”
Jesus has all the reasons in the world to be filled with anxiety, to feel like who he is and what he has is truly not enough, and to give in to all three of these temptations to take more, be more, to use his power more, yet he does not do it.
Was it because unlike us, he was free from worry and anxiety? I doubt it—other Bible stories show Jesus sharing our human experience—weeping at the tomb of Lazarus, distraught over Jerusalem like a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wing, praying for the cup of crucifixion to be passed from him in the Garden of Gethsemane. I imagine Jesus was plenty anxious, exhausted, starving and depleted when those temptations came.
But none of that changed or overpowered his true identity and connection with God. Just before the Spirit led him into the wilderness, he was Baptized, and the heavens opened up and the Holy Spirit landed on him and God said. “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” God said, “you are mine, I love you. Your identity is in being my child. I am with you. I will not forsake you.”
No amount of bread, power, angels, attention, influence, or glory could be more meaningful, more deeply satisfying, or longer lasting than being Beloved in the eyes of God, his father. In knowing his identity. In being clear on who he is. In being intimately connected to the Creator.
The devil failed because he tempted Jesus to achieve and to strive for what he already had—his identity and relationship with God already provides all the sustenance, all the love, all the power, identity, and relationship that mattered.
Jesus already has everything he needed—he has nothing to prove, nothing more to gain, nothing more he truly craved, nothing to accomplish or achieve apart from his relationship with God. He knows Who he was and Whose he was, so in that sense, what the devil offers aren’t really temptations at all.
So, with each of the devil’s enticements, Jesus comes back to his relationship with God—and he does that by quoting Scripture passages that keep him grounded in his identity as a beloved child of God. And as he does this, the anxiety, the lure of the temptations fade into the background and the devil disappeared. The temptations cannot offer him anything he does not already have from God.
The most amazing thing is, Jesus was baptized at the beginning of his ministry before he has healed anyone and or done anything big for God. He is not loved by God as a reward, after resisting the temptations of the devil—he is loved before ever going into the wilderness. Jesus does not do anything to deserve God’s love. He is beloved first—a priori love! Jesus received this pure, beloved, embrace of God unconditionally, and he believes it, he soaks it up, he survives the wilderness wrapped in love and identity as God’s child, and so can we.
You are God’s Beloved Son. You are God’s Beloved Daughter.
You are beloved by God who made you—pure and simple—loved from the beginning—a priori love and grace. You are loved not as a reward or because you have earned it or deserve it, but simply because God made you and says, “you are mine, Child of God.”
This is your identity. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else is needed. We too, have everything we need—God’s absolute love for us—so we have nothing to prove to God or anyone else. When we are grounded in Who we and Whose we are, we can let go of this anxiety about not being enough, having enough, doing enough, achieving enough, and with Jesus, we accept God’s complete and absolute love for us.
It does not matter our size or shape our bank account or status. To God and to us, you are enough. You are a Beloved Child, and God cherishes a relationship with you.
Our children who sang for us are the best example of how to live our identity as a child of God. They are content to simply be the child of their parent—this is who they are and whose they are. The only reference point of their identity.
While in seminary, before I had kids, I went to the park with my friend John and his daughter 4 year old daughter, Mara. She was standing on the platform of the jungle gym and we stood their talking. Without saying a word, she just leaned forward in a trust fall toward her dad, John noticed and caught her in her arms, and he looked at me and said, “that’s trust.”
That’s the image for us of falling into complete trust in our identity as a child—a child of God, whom we trust to catch us as we let go of our anxieties, and the temptation to achieve what we already have in God—acceptance, peace, provision, love. I invite your daily mantra this week to be “I am beloved child of God.” Say it with me. “I am beloved child of God.” How does it feel to breathe this in and let it be enough in your life, that you are beloved child of God? Practice letting it be enough this week.
This is why God sent Jesus, after all, so we can trust-fall into his arms—so we would know that faith is about relationship with a God who loves us.
Every week, God’s love for us comes in the shape of bread and wine, forgiveness and community in Jesus Christ, who defeated the devil and temptation FOR us and rose victorious, so we can let go of our anxiety and live out of our identity in God.
And when we come to this table God says, ta-dah! Beloved child, I am so glad you came to feast on love and forgiveness! Go from here traveling light, trust-falling into my love knowing who you are and whose you are.
Jesus sends the 72 disciples out on a journey. He gives them very strange and uncomfortable instructions: Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals. My husband Dan is good at traveling light, me, not so much! Dan went to Mexico for two weeks, to study Spanish and all he brought was a carry-on suitcase and a small backpack! But Jesus isn’t telling his disciples just to travel light — he is instructing them to travel without necessities.
Can you imagine if I told our Global Mission when they went to El Paso, to give me their wallet, their suitcase, and…their cellphone?
So, why does Jesus tell his disciples to travel light? There are several reasons. When we hold onto too many things, we cannot watch for how Holy Spirit is leading us. Some pathways are not possible because we are too weighed down with what we are carrying. When we hold onto too much stuff, we cannot receive the blessings that others have for us — outreach, evangelism and sharing good news is not just about welcoming others and offering hospitality, but it is also receiving the hospitality and gifts that others give to us. When we hold onto to too many things, we lose sight of what is truly important — trusting God to provide for us and seeing God’s blessings for us.
Today we enter into this journey of Lent where Jesus invites us to travel light. What do we need to let go of to journey with Jesus this Lent? Often, we think of letting go of small pleasures —like chocolate or meat on Fridays or spending time on Facebook. There may be good reasons for these practices, but in this passage, Jesus invites us to let go of things that are essential: money, a change of clothes, and a spare pair of shoes. In our Lenten journey, we are invited to let go of things that can feel essential to us. What might those things be for you?
It may be a feeling of control. Maybe it is a feeling of comfort or security. Maybe it is expectations of others or yourself—these things can also feel essential to our identity. Or it may be material possessions Jesus refers to, that we need to loosen our hold on in order to trust God to provide for us. What is weighing you down, that if you released it or let go of it, you would feel lighter?
I had to ask myself this question as I prepared for today and as you might guess, self-examination is never fun or comfortable. Neither is admitting it publicly and on video, but I try hard not to ask anyone to engage in a practice I have not done or am not doing myself. What I need to let go of this Lent centers around expectations of myself—it’s nothing new, and often, I think I’ve gotten better and then I default back into the same patterns again.
I was talking with friends this week about my worries about my family—my dad who has had chronic health problems since October, other family members with health issues I am concerned about, one of my cousins died in Dec, and I am a family support for his sister who is left with a colossal mess, and so on. One friend said, “you sound like you are the mother of your family.” I laughed and smiled and went on with my day.
But later I talked with Dan and had to admit to this overwhelming feeling of hyper-responsibility for everyone’s well-being—that somehow it was my job to make everyone’s life better. This, of course, is impossible.
But this hyper-responsibility has been a part of my identity my whole life (I learned it from my who learned it from her mom, her learned it from her mom and so on). I feel it as a woman in our society, as a daughter, as a Christian (not necessarily a healthy one), as a pastor in some of my training (again not necessarily a healthy one), and letting it go creates anxiety. Will my family still know how much I love them if I am not hyper responsible for everything? What if they need something and I don’t show up?
Of course the problems are obvious when I say all of this outloud—my family already knows that I love them, over-functioning does not allow others to show up and contribute, or for me to receive their gifts, and it also means I do not think nor behave as if I trust God to take care of my family or me. All of this is all sin.
But once I said it out loud—again—since I have been here before—I felt my whole spirit lighten and this cloud I have felt in my brain cleared up. I started traveling lighter right away. Once we identify what we need to let go of, what it is Jesus is inviting us to release this Lent to travel light—then we can look at what spiritual practices will help us continue traveling light and not pick up anymore extra baggage.
For me, I have added a prayer in the morning where I picture God taking care of each of my family members, and then saying, “I trust you, God to take care of my family.” Also, when I get into hyper-responsibility patterns, I neglect my own self-care, so my practices in Lent will focus on better exercise and eating habits.
If what you need to release to travel light involves material possessions, then maybe making donations of stuff and almsgiving or offerings will be a good practice. If social media is your area, then maybe fasting from those practices and spending that time in prayer, in nature or in meaningful conversation are practices to do instead.
Traveling light with Jesus this Lent is not about giving up something just for the sake of it—
• it is to be unburdened,
• to have our spirit lightened,
• to open ourselves to God’s blessings and provisions,
• to trust God more deeply with whatever gives us worry and anxiety,
• it is to encounter God’s hospitality for us in the world, as we receive all we need.
So I invite you to lay your burden down and join me this Lent in traveling light.
Dan and I used to go to the movies a lot on our day off. One of Dan’s funny antics walking out of the theater used to be imitating the movie trailers we saw, most of which began with the same exact phrase in the 90’s and early 2000’s. I could count on hearing his imitations as we walked to the car:
In a world…where nothing is at is seems…
In a world… where violence rules the streets…
In a world… fraught with corruption…
He can do the deep, scary voice much better than I can. But this phrase draws us in by touching our anxiety and fear that we no longer live in a world we are used to and can navigate with ease and a sense of control.
Indeed, our world is not what it once was. If you were to write the movie trailer for life today—what would you say?
• In a world—where war rages and more international conflict looms
• In a world—where the economy is uncertain, and finances are squeezed
• In a world—where loneliness is its own pandemic and disease continues to threaten
It is different of course whether we are raising children, dealing with the shifts of middle age, or praying our senior benefits last as long as we do. The future has an awful habit of being unpredictable, uncontrollable and unknowable, all of which leave us feeling anxious and afraid.
I imagine the disciples feel the very same way as they follow Jesus. They left everything familiar when they walked away from their fishing nets, their tax accounts, and even their family to live a new way of life with Jesus. They too, live in a world whose future was as unpredictable, uncontrollable, and unknowable as it is today.
• One day Jesus is preaching and being well-received, and the next, the Synagogue leaders are in a fury.
• One day people are amazed at Jesus’ healing and the next, they’re full of derision at them for eating with sinners and prostitutes.
• One day, Jesus feeds 5,000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish, and the next minute, he starts going on about how he must undergo great suffering and death, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised."
Nothing was making sense or felt at ease. “Why is Jesus talking about suffering and death right after this miraculous picnic?” They wonder. “I signed up to fish for people, not for suffering, rejection and death – what is he up to…really??? What does the future hold?”
The disciples live in a world that leaves them feeling anxious and afraid. It is right at this moment when Jesus is about to head to Jerusalem, and the future he predicts of death and resurrection is about to unfold, that he takes Peter, James and John with him up the mountain. And Jesus was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.
There on the mountaintop, suddenly God’s luminescence fills Jesus. He is aglow with light and shimmering glory pours from him – radiating like the sun. Jesus’ presence becomes both transcendent and immanent all at the same time—both other-worldly and startlingly real in front of their very eyes.
In this one surpassing and sacred moment, Jesus answers the disciples’ questions, doubts and fears about the future – The veil of heaven draws back as God transforms Jesus into his resurrected form; and not only him, but, Moses and Elijah appear in their resurrected bodies as well. Peter, James and John behold them in the fullness of their heavenly being. What was an unknowable, unpredictable future is laid out before them in all its fullness and truth and predictability. The mountaintop experience of Transfiguration reveals the resurrection to the disciples. It turns a crucifixion prediction into a resurrection prediction.
When Jesus says, “and on the 3rd day he will be raised” he means it! The resurrection is real and they are seeing it with their own eyes and experiencing it with all of their senses.
This is the end of the story. This is the future toward which they are moving, toward which all of us are moving. There is no unknowable future. We know the end. It’s like reading the last paragraph of the Book of Life before you begin. It’s not death—war, disease, loneliness—it is life! Life with God, that begins, here and now through Jesus!
I would like to share a story of a time when the resurrection became real for another group of Christians. This story comes from an ELCA congregation in a rough inner-city neighborhood of the Bronx in New York:
One Easter morning, the Pastor and the worship team designed a drama that would help make the resurrection more real for worshipers. The drama started in the Sanctuary of the church and then moved out into the neighborhood. They acted out the crucifixion and resurrection story. When the congregation returned to the Sanctuary, the drama shifted to a courtroom scene in which the resurrection itself was put on trial.
When it came time for the witnesses to speak, the actor playing Mary Magdalene stood up from in the congregation and said, "I know the resurrection is real because Jesus said my name in the garden." Another actor playing Peter stood up from the pews and said, "I know the resurrection is real because Jesus cooked fish for me on the beach." At that point, the play was supposed to move to the attorneys' closing arguments. But something remarkable happened.
A woman, who was not part of the play, stood up and said, "Well I know the resurrection is real because my son was in a gang, but Jesus led him out of that life." And then another worshiper stood up and gave his testimony: "Well I know the resurrection is real because I was a drug addict and Jesus helped me get clean." And still another stood up: "I know the resurrection is real because I am an alcoholic and now, I have given my life to Jesus, my higher power, and I am getting help in a 12-step program."
And what about you? When have you experienced renewed life, a second chance, the washing of forgiveness, help you never imagined or expected, a sign of hope in the midst of suffering, uncertainty, or adversity? (You can watch the video here and see/hear 6 church members offer their testimony!).
In all of these stories, the resurrection is so real it overpowers and transfigures adversity. That’s why we have this story here. Peter, James and John need to experience that the resurrection is real, before they can head down the mountain toward the cross with Jesus. So even before the morning of that 3rd day after Jesus’ death, even before the morning of the empty tomb, and even before the angels and the women announcing that Jesus is risen, James could have stood up and said - I know the resurrection is real because I saw Moses and Elijah with Jesus on the mountaintop! And Peter - I know the resurrection is real, because Jesus calmed the storm, healed lepers and cast out demons! And John - And I know the resurrection is real because I saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead!
Like the disciples, we not only know the end of the story—we have already experienced the new life of the resurrection here and now! Our mission is to help others experiencing adversity, know that the resurrection is real. That new life, and forgiveness and joy and hope are available today through the power of Jesus Christ.
This happened numerous times yesterday at our free community breakfast—it was a great time with new people cooking and serving, and new people coming to eat.
We had one new family come—they arrived here 2 weeks ago from Odessa, Ukraine. They were so grateful for a free breakfast, and food from the food pantry. I showed their son our Luke’s Learners room and invited them to church. He played in the sand cross, and I prayed for them and for peace in their country, and tears were shed. For them, the resurrection was real in a warm welcome at St. Luke’s.
Another Mom came, originally from Nigeria, whom I know pretty well. She said she almost forgot about the breakfast today, but her 7-year old remembered and they got here just before 10 to get burritos for this Mom and 5 daughters! For those girls, the resurrection is real is in reliable food on the weekend!
Another new family came—it took me a minute to figure out they did not speak English. With my limited Spanish and Google translate, I told them we would be starting an ESL class soon and asked if they were interested? They said “yes!” The young man put his information in my phone so I can contact him when the classes start. The resurrection is real when help comes in adversity.
These are just 3 stories from 1 morning at St. Luke’s. Where might the resurrection become real anew for you this week? In your family? Through your friends? In your workplace or somewhere unexpected? Be a detective of divinity and look for places where the resurrection of Jesus is made real in moments of love and new life and grace and deep acceptance for YOU.
But do not stop there. Remember that God uses your resurrection experiences, your hope during adversity to help make God’s love real for the person near you who is struggling. How might God use you this week to help make the resurrection real for someone else? Ask God to guide you in this mission.
We do not know the details of everything that will happen in the future. But that does not matter. We can move into tomorrow, next week and next year with confidence, excitement, and hope, because we know all that we need to know: We live In a world where the resurrection is real and will always be our future! Amen.
“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” What a great line. Of all the recruiting lines there have ever been—this has got to be one of the best.
For us, it’s a lovely picture— even poetic and pastoral—evoking images of Psalm 23 and being led by still waters, a fly-fishing-River-Runs-Through-It sort of "call" story to join Jesus in catching souls for the kingdom. We think of this as the great call to evangelism—to grow the church—to pass out invitations to worship and to our free breakfast, to start a bring-a-friend Sunday, and maybe a fish fry for Lent.
But Matthew hints that something more is going on—the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.
Just what is this darkness and shadow, and why does he bring it up right after mentioning that Jesus had made his home in Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee? Perhaps we have completely misunderstood Jesus’ call to “fish for people,” and we need both a little history, and then a little Bible to bust open this passage beyond our bucolic expectations.
First, a little history—when Jesus was a teenager in the year 14 CE, Caesar August died and Tiberius became the Emperor of Rome. Herod Antipas, the local ruler of Galilee, hoping to curry favor with the new Emperor, built a royal palace and military center in the city, called of course, Tiberias, south of Capernaum. From there he began controlling the fishing industry in the Sea of Galilee. Locals could not fish without a lease, which cost money; leases were only given to family groups, like Peter and Andrew or James and John with their father; fish was processed for export to feed the elite class, and everything was now taxed, including tolls for transport. This economic hierarchy pushed local people to the margins, impoverished them and made it difficult, if not impossible to remain self-sufficient eating a dietary staple that was now being regulated and exported right out from under them. As a carpenter, Jesus may have left Nazareth, come down for the building work, moving up the coast, harbor to harbor, an eyewitness to the economic exploitation and effect of Roman oppression on the people.
Now for a little Bible background on images related to fishing—all of which Peter and Andrew, James and John would be familiar:
1. Jeremiah 16:16 the prophet proclaims judgment upon the people of Israel who are not faithful to God:
• They worshipped idols and other gods
• Jeremiah says God will send fishermen to catch these evil people –to hook them and cast them out
2. Ezekiel 29:4 is another passage of God’s judgment
• This time against the Pharaoh of Egypt for his oppression of the people of Israel.
• Through Ezekiel, God says to Pharaoh, I will put hooks in your jaws and I will fling you into the wilderness
3. Amos 4:2 Third time the image of the fisherman is used for catching, hooking and dispensing with evil:
• This time it is against the wealthy who oppress the poor and crush the needy.
• The time is surely coming, says Amos, When they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks… and you shall be flung out.
Far from saving souls and bringing people INTO the kingdom, the biblical image of fishing is one of getting evil and oppression OUT of the kingdom.
A final passage from Habakkuk 1:14, 17 voices the lament of those oppressed by those who exploit them:
You have made people like the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler...The enemy* brings all of them up with a hook; he drags them out with his net…17Is the enemy then to keep on emptying his net, and destroying nations without mercy?”
NOW stand with Peter and Andrew, James and John in their fishing boats, and understand that their families are barely making it, that some of their friends are probably not, that their whole way of life has been changed, exploited and shifted away from what was at least a sustainable if already difficult life by the sea. And they remember in the back of their minds, when God calls for justice to root out evil, God uses fish hooks to do it, and sometimes they feel like the fish squirming in the bottom of the net, as if their way of life is ruined: How will it change, and when will it change, and what can they do against Herod Antipas and the Roman soldiers?
And then that preacher comes by the shore—the one they had heard about—the one who was at the Jordan River with everyone being baptized, the one with a fire in his belly and hope in his eyes, who talks about the kingdom of heaven coming near. And this Jesus says to them, Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.
This is a call for the transformation of society—it was time, in the words of theologian, Ched Myers “to catch some big fish and restore God’s justice for the poor.”
This is the work of uplifting those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death and bringing them the light—the light of hope, healing, and unmerited love.
Simon and Andrew, James and John heard Jesus’ call to change the world. They drop their nets and follow Jesus—not because their families do not matter, but because they do—it is the only way they have any hope of doing anything for them! The kingdom of God is at hand—if their situation is going to change or to have any hope—it was through this Messiah.
So the word for “left”—as in they “left” their nets is “to be released from debt, to be set free from bondage.” It’s a Jubilee word, when the debts of the poor are forgiven!
These first disciples want to participate in a movement that will bring their community back to mutual aid and cooperation. It is no surprise then, that in Acts 2, we read that the Christian community held everything in common. Social and economic redistribution was a form of healing in the early Christian community after the abuse of poverty, and economic exploitation.
“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” It’s a call to justice that does save souls for the kingdom of God—it saves them by naming sin, and what is contrary to God’s love, with the courage to work for people. I will make you fish FOR people—not for systems that oppress, not for governments that invade and exploit, not for the powers that pillage. Perhaps FOR is the most important word in this phrase!
“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Jesus invited the disciples to join him in changing the world—and they did!
We are here today, 2000 years later, because they had the courage to live in a way that was different from the dominant culture and in a community that lived FOR people.
• They shared Jesus love and healing and power—eventually Rome fell, but there are 2.2 billion Christians in the world today! It’s not always a popular to be Christian in our culture—I had somebody get mad at me recently because I said I would pray for them—me a minister! It's my job and I have dedicated my whole life to this--not to mention it's one of the most powerful things to do for someone. But don’t let anyone take away your faith in Jesus because it’s the most powerful thing you have. Look at the history books. Governments and nations rise and fall, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever! Jesus saved us for this work of love and justice. His light is in us for this ministry. Jesus power never fails us for the kingdom!
• And the first disciples knew it—because they dropped everything immediately to follow him to change the world.
• In the face of oppression and opposition, they preached and healed and offered forgiveness and built community and reached out to the poor and oppressed, offering wholeness and dignity and a new way of life to those who were in need.
Today, Jesus calls us fish for people—to follow him in changing the world. To be FOR people—for life, for hope, for opportunity, for freedom from systems that oppress.
We may not be Desmond Tutu, Dorothy Day, or Cezar Chavez, but all of us can advocate for justice in our circles of influence, and we can be FOR people, paying attention to those at the margins. Does our workplace have just parental leave for all genders, the most equitable reproductive health care legally possible, and sexual harassment policies in place?
Is there an active diversity and inclusion office that promotes anti-racism and gender inclusivity training? Is there a vulnerable person who needs someone with more power than they do to help advocate for them?
Faith in Texas is working on reducing mass incarceration of black, brown and impoverished people in Dallas. Our member, Emily Hoffman is involved in these efforts. If you are interested in getting involved with this justice issue, you can talk with Emily.
Our Global Mission Team is advocating for refugees—you can talk with Caitlin Curry about joining our team. If you like hands-on service, you can join our Free Community Breakfast Team—talk to me to get on the volunteer email list. Find one justice issue to advocate FOR People.
Our denomination has an Advocacy office in Washington DC and a very active website—you can google ELCA Advocacy to find all the links to our Action Center to find policies and ways to use your influence to communicate with representatives to help enact just legislation here and abroad. The research is done for you, you can if fill out a form letter—advocacy made easy! If we cannot physically do advocacy we can write letters and make phone calls.
Finally, we can all be FOR people in our daily life. The happiness study by Harvard University that came out at the beginning of the year talked about the importance of talking with strangers with an openness to learning something new. How often do we strike up a conversation with someone who is really different from us—a different race, class or religion—or even all 3? How can we pay attention to those who are living closer to the margin than we are and learn from their experience? If we have the means, can we tip 22 or 25% to our barista or waiter? How can we be as generous as possible to those working for minimum wage, just spread light and joy and let them know that as a follower of Jesus, we are FOR people, whoever they are.
To follow Jesus in fishing for people in daily life is to do as John Wesley said:
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
For when people encounter the Jesus in us; when people experience the Jesus at St. Luke’s, they too, can know that good does overcome evil, and that in Jesus Christ, the light has dawned.