July 19th, 2015 Pentecost 8 – Stoic, Nordic, Boring, ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz

“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

That’s how the song goes. That’s what we believe.

At least, we hope that’s true, that they’ll know we are Christians, at all. They’ll know, we hope, except for the cute one in math class, he doesn’t have to know, it makes you a little weird in some circles, and perhaps you’ll be satisfied with them knowing we are Christians from afar, from the outside of the building, rather than getting all fussed over them knowing it up close, where they can tell “I am a Christian.” We don’t want it to be awkward.

We don’t want to kick up a fuss, that’s not Lutheran, traditionally speaking. In America the Lutheran’s have this stoic, northern European image, Minnesota Nice, they’ll call it because saying “Hugely Passive Aggressive” is impolite in polite company.

Our first Lutheran president has yet to be elected. There are Lutherans in congress but it’d be hard to tell unless you found out that they are from Minnesota or Wisconsin or Iowa. I Know, off the top of my head, more Mormon politicians than I do Lutheran politicians.

They’re out there, but they are usually not the ones kicking up a fuss and making you wonder what their faith truly is.

A Google search of the words, Lutheran, Television, and Minister will kick up no returns. There is the Lutheran Hour, but that’s radio and I don’t know why it came up on the search.

No characters in TV shows are ever Lutheran, when you see a collar on television it is around the neck of a Catholic Priest. There are no Lutheran televangelists, on air, kicking up a fuss.

“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

Really? How? How will they see Christ in us?

This morning’s scriptures are a delightful grab-bag of familiar, very familiar and almost unknown passages. Sure we’ve heard of people being healed by the hem of Jesus garment, but that was the woman with the hemorrhage, not this morning’s reading.

The twenty third Psalm is, as might be expected, a cry for peace and faith in troubling times and we read it a lot at funerals, a lot. Most of us can recite it without looking at it for reference. A lot of the people outside of this fellowship or indeed outside of any Christian fellowship can recite most or all of it or at least recognize it when they hear it. They may indeed ask who died when they hear it.

Almost everybody knows it. Is it a marker for the Christian community or is it too familiar to be exclusive? As a badge, has it lost some of its luster, its ability to transmit our elusive “love?”

Like the cross which has become little more that iconic Jewelry for mainstream culture, I’m not sure that the twenty third psalm will let people know that we are Christian because after all, everyone owns a piece of it.

The Jeremiah reading is less familiar though you might get a warm feeling when you hear the final words, “The Lord is our righteousness” and then think some very Lutheran thoughts about how nice it is that we do not rely on our own righteousness but rely on the good pleasure of the lord to send in Christ Jesus, God’s won righteousness to share with us. Those are good, solid Lutheran thoughts.

But on our trip to Montana recently we found that all of Debbie’s relatives, good solid Norwegian Lutheran stock, we no longer attending an ELCA church, the one the rest of the family prefers, but had joined a Lutheran Free Church congregation.

I wasn’t aware of the Lutheran Free Church but in Kalispell there are two congregations of this offshoot from the ELCA, and a congregation from the LCMC, which is another offshoot, the LCMS church has an outpost.

We don’t seem to be very good at heeding the warning from Jeremiah concerning the scattering of the sheep. Maybe it would be best if we backed slowly away from this particular piece of scripture and didn’t try and claim it as our own.

Because if you are looking for some way for people to know that you are Christian, I’m not sure that this is a particularly good one.

In fact, maybe Christians in general might want to slowly back away from this snippet of the word, seeing as how there are more different kinds of Christians than there are different kinds of soda, that there seems to be nothing we like doing more than splitting into two groups.

“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

Better run to the Gospel, that’s always a good bet when it comes to love, to the love of God given to us.

As it turns out, even Jesus could use a Sabbath from time to time.

In this morning’s Gospel He draws the disciples aside for a time of respite, for many were coming and going and they had no leisure even to eat.

But when they went, people followed, recognizing Jesus and the disciples and knowing that where they went, blessing followed on their heels and they wanted in on that because, let’s face it, life expectancies were short, times were rough, foreign invaders ruled the land, and medical science hadn’t gotten too much farther than crutches and bandages.

The people were hungry to feel the touch of God’s love in their lives and they recognized the disciples as representatives of that love.

They knew they were disciples by their . . . what? By their . . . What?

They followed them to where they were going, even though the disciples went off in a boat which kind of means that the people ran along the coast keeping ahead, leaving farms and fields and homes in order to get in on the presence of God’s love, in the presence of the representatives of that love.

They went and they fetched those in their families and their communities most in need of healing, the ones laid low by something as simple nowadays as a nasty fracture of the leg. They went and without wondering if they might offend the disabled person, they whisked them away to the marketplace hoping that even the fringe of his cloak might brush them as He went past and they might be healed.

They knew he was special, that they were special ambassadors of the love of the almighty and they wanted to draw closer and no other concern seemed to matter, they were broken and needed healing, they were desperate and needed to know that someone loved them, they were empty and only the love of God would fill them.

The signal line in this morning’s Gospel for me is the one that reads, “For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” The disciples were in the streets and in the marketplaces, teaching and preaching and living as disciples of Christ in the midst of the world without worrying quite so much about causing a ruckus or kicking up a fuss.

Many were coming and going, much was being done, not a lot of resting was going on and they needed a reminder to take a break.

Considering that our tradition started with a grumpy disaffected guy nailing his complaints to a church door, heck we don’t even like it when we tape things to the church door, kicking up a fuss that swept across Europe and changed the face of humanity forever; considering that was our genesis, we seem to have done a bit of resting since then.

Word spreads when you spread the word, you upset a few apple carts and folks will take notice, you heal and bless and give of yourself and people will spot, especially in the world of secular self-centeredness we live in today, people will spot that there is something different about you.

As the disciples moved through the land the story of them grew, the story of Jesus grew so that when they were spotted on the horizon, folks knew that something was happening. They knew they were disciples by their activity, their stories, and their desire to share and to heal.

By way of analysis we had a little gathering at my house last night where a friend of mine sang some songs and we all ate a bunch of barbeque and roasted corn and drank a bit of wine and had a pretty terrific time.

But I noticed something as I stood on my deck watching the event unfold in the back yard.

All the Political Activists sat at one table. All the people with less attachment to my house, like colleagues of Debbie, a neighbor down the street and the man they invited, they all sat together at one table. And in the middle, all the church folks sat together at one table.

When I mentioned it, Cherie called it “Tribing up” because people always find their own tribes to hang with, a place where it is comfortable.

I only wished that Tara, the vet tech from Rusty’s clinic, had found a tribe. She and her boyfriend sat apart the whole evening, which was discomfiting for their host.

But hanging out with your tribe is being at rest. Coming to church and embracing the blessings of grace but leaving it here when you go out there, is being at rest. Not coming and going, as the disciples were in this morning’s Gospel, is being at rest.

I suspect that if the disciples had set up shop in some place and offered the very same things they offered to the world on their travels, that the closest neighbors might have been healed, and saved, and blessed, but that the word would not have traveled far and the church might never have been.

“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

Love in this case is not just a noun, passive and serene, the love shown by a mother to a child in a painting hung on a wall. It is the love shown, the love brought, the love in action.

The people knew the disciples because the disciples came out, in the name of Christ for sure, to show forth the love of God, not just describe it, not just to build to it a monument and give that monument honor.

They will know we are Christians, that we are not like other people, that we are not afraid, to go and to dare and to do, to kick up the occasional ruckus, turning over tables in the marketplace like Jesus, nailing our complaint to the church door like Luther, they will know we are Christians by our love, if we conspire to go out and love a little.

Not a parade, nor a program, nor a deliberate effort; just one brave tribesman or woman breaking out from time to time, and visiting the tribe of another in Jesus name, crossing the unfathomable distance in my back yard, to another table.

They will know we are Christians by our love, if we commit to loving in Jesus name.


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