Worship for Sunday, August 8, 2021

1 Kings 19:4-8

[Elijah] went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the LORD came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 34:1-8

I will bless the LORD at all times;
the praise of God shall ever be in my mouth.
I will glory in the LORD;
let the lowly hear and rejoice.
Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD;
let us exalt God’s name together.
I sought the LORD, who answered me
and delivered me from all my terrors.
Look upon the LORD and be radiant,
and let not your faces be ashamed.
I called in my affliction, and the LORD heard me
and saved me from all my troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear the LORD
and delivers them.
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
happy are they who take refuge in God! Amen.

Ephesians 4:25–5:2

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 6:35, 41-51

Jesus said to [the crowd,] “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It is that time of year. The school supplies are on sale.

And it seems like everywhere I drive – there is a school bus driver practicing her route making sure she knows where all of her students will be waiting for her each day.

My in-box is full of important emails from the McFarland sons’ schools. We had senior registration on Thursday. And we have Will’s teacher meet and greet on Tuesday.

Whether we are ready or not it is almost here . . . The brand-new school year is starting.

And with the start of the new school year come a whole slew – a veritable avalanche – a tsunami of EXPECTATIONS. My – oh – my are there a whole lot of expectations and thou shalls and thou shall nots for our beloved children. There are entire books of expectations and codes of conduct that must be read – agreed to – and signed.

Will goes to a school that requires uniforms. And the uniform thou shalls and thou shall nots list takes up two entire pages of single spaced typing. Seriously – these rather small humans are 8. I agree schools should be places of learning. And I fully support keeping the distractions to a minimum. But 2 pages of rules to dress a bunch of 8 year olds?!?

One of my favorite parts of NTI was NO uniforms!!!  No uniforms = less laundry for me!

Every year when it comes time to shop for Will’s school clothes – all of the uniform expectations – rules and regulations make me nervous. I am terrified I will get something wrong. I fear I will miss some obscure uniform rule and send Will to school in a non-regulation something or other and we will get called to the principal’s office!

Jack’s 1st day of 5th grade. His school didn’t have uniforms. Apparently thanks to uniforms William is going to be much smarter than his brother?!?

Life is full of expectations. And dress codes aren’t just for school. Many of us who grew up in church going families know all about expectations and dress codes. Almost every adult Lutheran I know has a tale or two hundred to share about what going to church was like back in the “olden days.”

And everyone tells me their parents had very – very – very high expectations.

Children who wiggled or talked or napped or dared to swing their legs – could expect very firm reminders to behave in church.

Sometimes the reminder was “the look.” We have all gotten “the look.” In fact – I am pretty sure Marilyn Mills gave me “the look” for talking to the deacon during worship just a couple of weeks ago . . .

Other people with especially “old school” parents got flicked on the ear or the more subtle “knee squeeze” for their misdeeds during worship.
Cheerios were for the breakfast table. NOT for worship! And gummies – in church – yeah right!?!?

Most families enforced strict dress codes. Dress codes – these fine folks still adhere to- to this day even though their parents are worshipping in other states or in heaven.

For others it is gum. No gum can be chewed in the sanctuary. They are pretty sure gum in worship is a sign of the end times along with the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse. And if you were to combine gum chewing with an unnecessary trip to the restroom – well – who knows what might happen!?! Probably the rapture! And the gum-chewer would most definitely be left behind!

But seriously – it seems like every single family had a code of conduct. And we know these high expectations came from a place of love. They were testimonies of how much our families cared for us.

Our families weren’t alone in having high expectations for us. Our God also has high expectations of us. God has very high standards. God sets the bar high. Our Lord asks us to strive to be better people. Because he loves and cares for us.

Just look at our reading from Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians for this week. There we encounter some seriously high expectations.

Saint Paul tells us God expects a lot from us. Actually God expects a TON from us!

Saint Paul declares we shouldn’t just refrain from gossip – but we should strive to say nice things about others. We should always use gracious and loving words when speaking about other people.

Think about that. In a world full of snotty tweets and cruel anonymous comments and hurtful words. And folks who feel “called” to say whatever is on their minds with NO forethought or concern for other people – we are called to speak words of love and kindness and grace. Even about people with whom we passionately disagree. Even about people we think are just plain WRONG!

And honestly in deeply divisive times like these – this can be incredibly hard. Tempers aren’t just simmering these days. Tempers are flaring and flashing. Folks are furiously angry and are throwing barbs at one another all over the place!

Saint Paul boldly declares to us that we aren’t just supposed to be civil – we are supposed to be KIND. Being civil is hard enough – but our God calls us to be KIND! Really and truly kind . . .

Again – this is so very – very hard.

Saint Paul declares to us that we aren’t supposed just to refrain from revenge – we are supposed to forgive one another generously.

We are called to be as forgiving as Jesus Christ himself is forgiving. Think about. Really and truly think about the way Jesus forgives each of us . . . For Jesus forgiveness meant making huge sacrifices. Think of the humility and sacrifice it took for Jesus to die on a Roman cross for the forgiveness of our sins. NOT – his sins . . . OUR SINS!

And the Bible tells us when Jesus forgives us – our sins are erased – forgotten. Gone forever.

I love the way Isaiah (1:18) describes God’s forgiveness – “Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

God does not hold our sins against us. When God forgives us – he really and truly washes our sins away. That is the kind of forgiveness Saint Paul calls us to have for one another!

Ultimately – we are supposed be imitators of our Lord and to live as Jesus lived.

God’s expectations are high. God loves us enough to call us to strive toward being better people.

But God also promises to keep right on loving us even when we mess up. God won’t wash his hands of us when we fall short. God doesn’t stop loving us when we get it wrong.

Yes – God has great expectations – but thankfully – God’s love – grace – and mercy are even greater. And truly that is Good News. Amen.

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