Saturday, July 25, 2009

B, Pentecost 8 Proper 12 - John 6:5b, 10a, 12b, 20b "Seated and Fed"

When Christians from other denominations enter most Lutheran church gatherings, confusion abounds at the point when the hymns or songs are sung. Lutherans sit whereas others usually stand. It often makes regulars and visitors alike ask, "What's going on?"

To sit or to stand! Is it just tradition that determines why we do one or the other, or are there other reasons? Have you ever asked yourself, "why we sit to sing and why some stand"?

For most it's a tradition that's been handed down from generation to generation amongst different denominations. In fact, the tradition often varies amongst congregations in the one denomination. For example in Lutheran churches some stand for the last hymn and some sit as they do for all the other hymns or songs.

However, generally speaking, the LCA (Lutheran Church of Australia) sit to sing hymns. And for us in its congregations most have carried on this tradition as our parents did.

The reason for asking this question leads us into the gospel reading today and invites us to examine one of the postures we take in worship. Namely sitting!

Jesus wanted to feed the crowd which had gathered with him and the disciples on the shore of Lake Galilee. So he said to the disciples have the people sit down on the grass. We know from the text it was near the Passover feast, so it was springtime in Galilee, about March or April, so there was plenty of grass for the five thousand on which to sit.

Two pictures always come flooding to mind when we hear of people sitting on the grass to receive the bread and fish Jesus miraculously distributes amongst the crowd.

The first in John's Gospel account is the picture of manna from heaven in the wilderness. Here Jesus can be seen feeding the followers in the same way the Father did when Moses lead Israel in the Sinai wilderness for forty years.

The second is a parallel to Psalm 23. In Mark's account Jesus sees the people like sheep without a shepherd and mercifully feeds them, but this is not mentioned here in John's account. Nevertheless, Jesus sitting the people down in the green grass conjures up a warm picture drawing us to remember the great "Shepherd Psalm" where we hear, He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. (Psalm 23:2-3a)

Here Jesus sits the crowd of five thousand down and feeds them from the seemingly impossible five loaves and two measly fish. They are seated on a grassy position by the quiet waters of Lake Galilee.

Even more so, after the people are fed there are twelve baskets of leftovers. Just like Psalm 23 God the Son had prepared a table for the crowd, fed them, and their cup overflows with what is left over. Jesus asked these leftovers be gathered which also reminds us of the Israelites in the wilderness where Moses tells the Israelites to gather enough manna to eat. (Exodus 16:16)

But before this miraculous event happened Jesus sits on a mountain with the disciples. This is another picture of seated resting just as the crowded rested and were restored by Jesus' miracle and also the serenity painted in Psalm 23. Here in John, Jesus and the disciples retreat after being overwhelmed by those who witnessed his healings.

Jesus has led his twelve learners to rest, but rest soon turns to test. The crowds find Jesus and converge. Knowing what he was going to do, Jesus puts a question before one of the disciples, Philip, asking, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" (John 6:5)

"BREAD! Who said anything about bread?" Jesus' words seem to have come from out of left field. The disciples weren't thinking about food up until this point! And the emerging five thousand were chasing Jesus because of his healing not for a free feed. It seems the only person who had any forethought was a lad with five barley loaves and two fish. Have you ever wondered how that boy must have felt when Andrew first suggested that his five loaves and two fish might be used as food for all?

So having sat with Jesus, resting with Jesus, and seeing the crowd gather around Jesus, the disciples failed dismally in the test Jesus had set before them. We all now know from where the bread came for the crowd to eat; it came from Jesus — the Bread of Life! The five thousand were also seated and once they're sitting they're fed.

After the feeding of the five thousand yet again we find people seated. This time it's in a boat on the lake. The disciples have set sail, without Jesus, bound for Capernaum. A storm blows up, and Jesus approaches the seated sailors, who respond in fear. This is not the reverent fear of a faithful worshipper, but rather the fear of those who hand over their faith and themselves to futility, fruitlessness, and self-centred failure.

They quickly reverted to being believers of death and destruction; which was exactly the opposite of what Jesus came to teach and do. And so Jesus says just a few words, revealing himself to them and the disciples willingly took him into the vessel which immediately got to its destination.

What also stands out in the Gospel reading today is how little John reports Jesus speaking throughout the course of the events! Jesus says four short things (they are underlined in your bulletins). (a) Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat? (John 6:5) (b) Have the people sit down. (John 6:10) (c) Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted. (John 6:12) And, (d) It is I; don't be afraid. (John 6:20)

It appears that we are sitting in the vessel having invited the Father of Peace, the Son of Righteousness, and the Spirit of Holiness into our presence. We sit here and are served by God himself who distributes his holy and powerful word through the meagre human words of this fish and bread servant.

After we have been seated here by God and had our souls restored, we will go out into our crowded daily lives where Jesus will allow us to be tested, "Where shall we buy food for these people to eat?"

But we can learn from the disciples' mistakes and also from our own previous failures knowing it's not about what we do or buy which feeds the lost. Rather, it's he in whom we rest; who feeds us, will also feed them. Are we not carrying the leftovers of Christ with us? In fact they are not left over; they are given to feed whoever we're led to by the Holy Spirit. Christ is with you, he is your Bread of Life in abundance, so others too might be seated and share in the Bread of Life.

This might all seem distant from where we started but it's not. In fact, our tradition determines that we usually sit for our songs, some of the readings from Scripture, and the sermon. But regardless of our standing or sitting, we need to allow ourselves to be willing recipients and carriers of Christ's holy food of faith, and also the physical food we need from day to day.

So, since we sit for songs and hymns, we might as well see we are seated by Christ in pastures of green, forgiven and feed on his word, so our cup overflows. Why? Because this is what our loving Heavenly Shepherd is doing!

We have nothing to fear while we dwell in the house of the Lord — each day as we allow our old sinful nature to be drowned, and forever as we're eternally resurrected to new life seated in eternal fellowship with God. Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives!

And because goodness and mercy overflows in us and in our lives there are also plenty out there who don't need to pay for this graciousness of God either. So let's not waste the overabundance with short-sighted negativity, and become fearful of destruction as Jesus faithfully and continually draws near us.

Let's take the opportunities we have to stand, sit, and kneel before the Father from whom this whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name, prayerfully seeking salvation for others through his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Let us pray. Heavenly Father, daily deliver us into your holiness from all evil. Continually lead us from fear and temptation that you and your kingdom are not for us, into the assurance of your salvation. Make us willing to forgive those who sin against us in the way your Son Jesus Christ was willing to wear the cross for us. Reveal to us that you are giving the Bread of Heaven to us today. Nourish our bodies with physical food and the food of faith, so we may abundantly share with others what you have give to us — forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Work these things in us with your Holy Spirit, to the glory of your Son, Jesus Christ, and your holy name, in your holy presence forever, Amen.

Friday, July 17, 2009

B, Pentecost 7 Proper 11 - 2 Samuel 7:10a, 11b-13, 16; Mark 6:31 "Peace in the Shed"


Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." (Mark 6:31)
Come with me to a quiet place and get some rest!
When you've had enough and you need some time out, you just need to step out, lest you do your block and completely lose it. So let's go to a quiet place and get some rest! It's time to go to the shed.
This is the place where boys can be boys, men can be men, and the Aussie bloke can be the Aussie bloke. Where primeval man can do and be what he likes with no recompense from the boss who runs the show inside. These mostly dirty or dusty dwellings are the man caves where a basic bloke with his most basic of instincts can at least pretend to be the master of his domain. A place to be; a place to rest; a place of peace.
Then again the shed is not everyone's cup of tea either! I'd imagine there are plenty of people who don't find this environment very inviting. Some women love the shed as much as the man, but then again there are many who don't.
And I know it's hard to believe, but there are blokes out there who don't like the solidarity of shed life either. I guess it's where one's interests lie! However, regardless of whether you like the shed or not, everyone has a place of rest and a place of peace.
Like the shed though, these places are not always peaceful and a place of rest. Sometimes the peacefulness is pierced with pain and the rest is lost in testing. Where a bloke can celebrate and practise his most basic of instincts can be where he can also inflict injury on himself. In the shed lurk all types of danger which threatens to destroy or harm one's humanity.
But there's a place that's better than the shed, or any other location we might seek for earthly enlightenment. It's the one true place of peace and rest; it's in God's rest, where we receive the peace that passes all human understanding. And in this peace we are refreshed so we can go back into the busyness of our lives bearing the peace of God before others.
In Old Testament times, David wrestled with the fact that having moved into Jerusalem making it the City of David, and building for himself a palace in which to live, God still resided in a tent, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. And so he enquires of God through the prophet Nathan, and the word of the Lord came to him, saying…
I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. "The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever." (2 Samuel 7:10a,11b-13, 16)
So God gave Israel a home, a place of rest and peace. And David's house was established and sustained by God himself. But God promises to David that it is not David himself who was to build a temple for God, rather God would raise up a son to build a holy resting place for the King of Heaven and Earth, in Jerusalem.
In doing this God was reinforcing that he would sustain the house of David; not his palace, but rather a family line of kingship over God's people. This son was Solomon. But after Solomon's reign and death, the kingdom of Israel split into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Then after continual defiance by most of the kings of the Israelites and the Judeans, the kingdoms were sacked by their enemies.
So what became of God's promise to sustain the house of David? After all the Babylonians marched into Jerusalem and set fire to every important building – including the temple of the Lord, the king's palace, and the homes of the people! (2 Kings 25:9) Had God failed in his promise in which he stated, "Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever"?
Two things need to be noted. Firstly, God promises that David's house and kingdom will endure before me. Yet the Israelites and the Judeans and their kings had long turned their backs on God and so they like King Saul dissected themselves from the presence of the Lord.
But more importantly, the line of David became hidden from humanity and is revealed in Jesus Christ, the Son of David. In him, his house, kingdom, and throne was established forever when Jesus was enthroned on the cross, and lifted up from the grave to life eternal in victory over sin and death.
We hear from Ephesians chapter two: But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace. (Eph 2:13-14a)
So the place of peace and rest was restored by God's own Son, Jesus Christ. The promise made to David and continued in Solomon's reign as king, once again because of Christ allowed people a place of peace in which to rest. But the place is now different. It's not necessarily a building like the temple in Jerusalem where one might go to Sabbath in God to receive the blessings of his grace. Christ now functions as the temple. He is the gate, the filter, the curtain, through whom we pass into the peaceful presence of God, saved from God's wrath we're due because of our sinful natures.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
But now there's a strange irony since Christ has abolished the necessity of the Old Testament temple in Jerusalem. The temple is now wherever people are gathered together by the Holy Spirit around the Word of God to receive the benefits God promises in it.
Then the temple is also the gathering of people who believe and look to Jesus Christ, the Son of David. These are those hidden within the denominations on earth, and those already hidden in the timeless realm of eternity. But although they and we are hidden, we all stand in the face of God enduring before him – that is, we stand before him revealed in his Written Word here on earth, and they stand before him face to face with the Word made flesh in heaven.
The third strand of reality to this irony is we're temples of Christ. We find peace and rest because Christ temples in us. We are filled with grace and truth, since we've been baptised into the kingdom of heaven, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (John 1:14)
God has chosen you as his shed, despite your person being like a man cave, a cavity of the dirt, dust, and danger of sin. God sends the Holy Spirit to bring us together in fellowship so Jesus Christ might continue to build us into his Father's kingdom. So we might demonstrate our love towards him, giving glory to him and proclaiming Christ and the cross to the ends of the earth.
When you need to "be", when you need "rest", and when you need "peace", Jesus says to you, "Come with me to a quiet place and get some rest." But amazingly as we rest in him, he rests in us and gives us eternal peace. Amen.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

B, Pentecost 6 Proper 10 - Ephesians 1:4-8, 13-14 "God's Glorious Grace"

God's glorious grace is gold. It's a gift that's received at no cost! But at great cost it was given!

At great cost Jesus saved and redeemed you, when you were lost and condemned. He has freed you from sin, death, and the power of the devil. As we grow in him we're led into a deeper understanding just what a wonderful gift this is! Jesus gives this gift, not with earthly silver or gold, but with his holy and precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. This is God's grace! This is God's gospel love! This is God's generosity! This is the true gold of grace! And it's given to you! A free gift!
Have you ever given a gift, after struggling to decide what to get, or after toiling at great lengths to find the perfect present, to see the receiver treat it as nothing? It makes you feel sad, or perhaps even a little disgusted that they've treated the perfect present as paltry. It makes you feel as if you've had the core of your being ripped out – completely gutted!
Now you know how God feels when you treat his gift of grace as a second-rate gift of garbage! And we've all done that. Every time we elevate something or someone as more worthy than Jesus' death on the cross and resurrection from the grave!
Then there's the child that on opening the gift is genuinely in raptures over the present. Yes! The child's probably not putting God first as the eyes glisten over just the thing they've always wanted. But this is how God glorious grace should glisten in the eyes of his children.
Have you ever wondered why atheists are often angry with God and the church? They act like kids who get the wrong gift! But a true atheist shouldn't expect to get a gift, because an atheist supposedly believes there's no one there to give the gift anyway! Are they mad because there's no one to give them something, or are they beside themselves because there is someone there trying to give them the glorious gift of grace?
Surely atheists shouldn't be angry since they believe there is nothing to be angry at! But perhaps they're angry because there is! Perhaps they're angry because God pursues them with grace. Having been included in Christ when they heard the word of truth, the gospel of their salvation. And having received the mark of the promised Holy Spirit which Paul speaks of to the Ephesians in chapter one verse thirteen onwards! Maybe they're angry because they want to be god's of their own domain, but in their hearts can't escape the truth of an almighty God who loves them.
You know God is real. You know about his gift. Hopefully like an atheist you don't deny its reality! That your familiarity does not breed contempt like that of the atheist!
More likely though, your struggle and my struggle is apathy. With so many other things to occupy our interests today, we loose sight of the hidden glow of the One gift that should outshine all other gifts – God's glorious grace.
Does God's personal gift grace to you seem tarnished because of ignorance and lack of understanding? Maybe it's time to return to the place where in baptism we're told by Christ to be taught in his Word and to uphold why it is we need this gift of grace so much!
Does God's personal gift of grace to you seem cheap or nothing? Then now is the time to see how cheap your reality is. Will the stuff you value be enough to pay the price for your sin? This sin is the stuff God detests and won't allow in his holy presence! You know in your heart a cheap human reality just won't cut it!
Does your entry into church stir you conscience? Make you feel a little uneasy? Then perhaps there's something hidden in this building that seems as hot as hell in summer and as cold as ice in winter! That something golden and glorious dwells amongst these people whom so often seem to radiate these same temperatures as the church building!
It's right to think before God, we're not worth much. Because left to ourselves, our own will, our own understanding, our own efforts, and our own feelings, we are dust and to dust we shall return. Why? Because like the atheist we are sinful! Even before we did our first act of disobedience we were doomed to destruction and death.
It's not what we do as sinners. The fact of the matter is that we are sinners! Our being is sinful, and so we're bound to do sinful things sooner or later. If you think you haven't yet really sinned, good luck to you, mate, you will! In fact thinking this way is a sin, if we took the time to examine the reality of why we would think we haven't sinned!
One might think it's not all that good to come to church to hear this doom and gloom, since we live with so much of it in our day to day reality. But unless we see the reality of all the rubbish we gather around us that hinder and hides God's glorious gift of grace. We will never allow God to toss it out so we can experience the brilliance of his glorious gift of grace.
It's not so much about forgetting about our sinful nature and the sin that evolves from it. Nor is it about pushing sin aside as if it doesn't really matter. And it's definitely not about justifying sin copping out that God is a God of love, he won't hurt me. To a certain degree you're right. God won't hurt you! But what it's about is all of us need our sin dealt with!
However, if you forget, push aside, or justify your sinful nature, you will hurt yourself. Like the angry atheist who wishes for nothing, God's glorious grace will be gone, there will be nothing for you in death. You will suffer in yourself in the wrathful vacuum of hell. This is the realm where those exist tormented in eternity because God and his grace will be eternally absent forever.
So in knowing we are nothing, dust we are to dust we shall return, we are also called to know this: We are recipients of faith when we hear the truth – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been predestined, chosen before the creation of the world according to God's pleasure and will, despite our not being worthy or worth anything in ourselves.
It's at about this time the gift of God's glorious grace begins to show off its hidden lustre. When you begin to realise how low you should be in God's sight but instead are seen as the most prized of God's possessions that God's glorious grace stands out a pack ahead of the rest ­— without a doubt it's the gift that's second to none!
Wow! You and I are the angry child. So often unappreciative of this wonderful gift! Ready to be rejected because of your attitude! Yet God picks you up as his child and forgives you, because he loves you, as if you were his one and only child. He holds you; you are his gift, because of God's glorious grace, having sacrificed Christ on the cross, his one and only Son, for you!
You and I are the baptismal praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. This One he loves is God the Son, Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the grave in all power over sin and death. This is God's glorious grace, this is gold!
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:4-8)
These riches lavished on you are gold. These riches are God's glorious grace! Remain in them, return to revere his redemption; flourish in his forgiveness! Because…
You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
You are God's golden possession, through the gift of God's glorious grace, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Friday, July 03, 2009

B, Pentecost 5 Proper 9 - Mark 6:1-6 "Jesus at Home: The same and different"

Text: Mark 6:1-6
1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. "Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! 3 Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offence at him. 4 Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honour." 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their lack of faith.
Sermon
Do you want to be different or do you want to be the same?
When someone the same as you, claims to be different, do you feel offended? Or, on the other hand, what about when someone is different and they claim to be the same as you, aren't you tempted to treat them with contempt? To be different, or to be the same?
We all seek to be different and we all seek to be the same, such is the complexity of the human being. These opposites hit head-on in a crash of confusion mostly during the teenage years of our lives. We struggle for independence—we struggle to be different—cutting off our parents, authority, and our brothers and sisters. But the minute we are left out as different—treated differently—we grieve that we're not the same. How much time did we waste as teenagers trying to play keep-up with our peers, so that we looked the same? Those of you who are teenagers and young adults need know that your parents did the same thing too! We need to be the same as our friends, and if we're honest we need to be the same as our parents, even if it is a bit tacky and uncool! While we are different we strive to be the same; while we are the same we struggle to be different.
With the confusion of being different, but also the same, comes contempt and condemnation. After being so familiar with our surroundings on a day-to-day basis we get sick of normality and hate it, and are tempted to lust after what is different. Isn't it true that the closest people to us are those whom we hurt the most? We bite the hands that feed us, we scorn those who love us, and we reject the very things that are good for us. And when, or if, we wake up to ourselves after we've got what we've wished for, then we desire to be fed, to be loved, and to have the healthy things we fought so hard to rid from ourselves earlier. Such is the confusing quest to be different and to be the same!
Jesus certainly brought contempt and condemnation on himself when he came home during the course of his ministry. As he stood in the synagogue and spoke with authority, the locals were blown away by his wisdom. But hang on! He's only a carpenter, he's the same as us, yet he speaks as though he is different. So they rejected him and Jesus left the place amazed at their lack of faith.
But it wasn't just his fellow hometown citizens who took offence at him. Humanity was insulted at his coming. The authority of the Romans, the priesthood of the Sanhedrin, and the piety of the Pharisees, was thrown into confusion by the coming of God's own Son. Not only is he the same, he is a man and he is a Jew; but he is also different. He is different to us because he is God the Son, whom God the Father has sent to us to be the same. God the Son came to humanity, and made his home in the same flesh as us, amongst fellow human beings. Jesus Christ, the same but different.
So Jesus was different and he was the same. Sent to be the same as us, to know what it is like to suffer, to share the struggles of life with us, but ultimately to bear our life sentence of sin on the cross. He was the same as us, but different enough too! Different enough that he could "be" the same as us, but not "do" the same as us and sin. So in the sameness of the flesh he came to differentiate the sin from our sameness. And in doing so, he paid the price for being the same, he paid the price for being different, so we might be different, so we might be the same as him.
Jesus' rejection is similar to that of Dr Charles Richard Drew, a black doctor and scientist, who was killed in a car accident on April 1, 1950. Tragically his life might have been saved if the door hadn't been closed to him at the all-white hospital that had a blood bank. But he was denied help and died—at the age of 46.
The irony was that his research on "banked blood" had earlier contributed much to the plasma research and saved countless lives in that very hospital among others. But he was denied the benefits of his own discoveries—because he was "different" even though he was the "same".
Our Lord Jesus Christ was also engaged in "blood research". His life's blood has given new life to millions. Because of his donation, people will live forever. But he was rejected because he was "different" and because he was the "same".
Now that Jesus has perfected his "blood research" on the cross. He makes his home in you and me. The same Jesus that made you different in baptism and has been with you every day ever since, calls us to trust in him, and to allow ourselves to be transformed more and more to be like him, to be the same as him, and different from the world. Be careful not to treat Jesus' continual presence in you with contempt and condemnation, as he comes to the hometown of your heart! Don't lock him out and deny the benefits of his blood. It will eternally kill you if you do!
Jesus gives us himself in his word, and he gives us himself in familiar things so we might be continually made holy in him. These familiar things Jesus has put in place so we might be made the same as him. Rest in these familiar things; in the assurance of baptismal salvation, in the forgiving life-giving power of God's word — in the law and the gospel. Rest in peace as Christ enters you through ordinary bread and wine; his body and blood banked in you for forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
Rest in the sameness of Jesus; don't let your familiarity breed contempt and condemnation. Rest in Jesus; don't reject him in a bid to be the same as the world. Hold onto the things he has given you from the beginning, the things that make you the same, the things that call you to be different. Hold onto the same gospel of Jesus Christ, and the same means of receiving his gospel of grace. Pray that our pastors do the same too; that they preach the same gospel, and not one that is different. Receive only the gospel that makes us different through the sameness of Jesus; the gospel that makes us the same through the difference of our kinsman redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Jesus' family rejected him, and the people of his hometown took offence at his authority and presence. Don't grieve the Holy Spirit, don't allow Jesus to walk away from you amazed at your lack of faith. Don't deny the benefits of his blood; that's a hellish path to death! Rather believe Jesus is present in the familiar things that make us "truly" different, his Word and his forgiving presence in the mysteries of Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, and Holy Absolution.
Believe in the forgiveness of sins; the same forgiveness Jesus' own family found in Jesus' death. Let us also return to Jesus and honour him, as did Jesus' mother and family when they were turned from the faithless sameness of the world of flesh, back to the forgiving sameness of the Word made flesh, crucified on the cross, for them, for us, and for all people.
We are the same, we all struggle with faithlessness, with sinfulness, and this makes us different to Jesus. But we are the same, when we trust Jesus' forgiveness, despite our faithlessness and sinfulness, and this makes us very different to the world.
So now we might get treated as different; we might be treated with contempt and condemnation by the world. But we live in peace as we live in the familiarity of Jesus' forgiveness won on the cross, day in day out, unto eternity. Amen.