The River was Calling

Psalm 148

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
   praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
   praise him, all his host!

Praise him, sun and moon;
   praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
   and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
   for he commanded and they were created.
He established them for ever and ever;
   he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
   you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
   stormy wind fulfilling his command!

Mountains and all hills,
   fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle,
   creeping things and flying birds!

Kings of the earth and all peoples,
   princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike,
   old and young together!

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
   for his name alone is exalted;
   his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people,
   praise for all his faithful,
   for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!

The river was calling Will’s name last week.  Both Jack and Will love hanging out in and around creeks and rivers and lakes and streams.  And Jason and I love hanging out with them while they explore these truly fascinating parts of creation.  We have spent countless hours exploring various bodies of water over the years. 

We can outlast any family who might happen to come to enjoy the same bit of God’s creation.  The McFarlands have staying power when it comes to the great outdoors!

I often joke that we should give lessons to other parents on how to take children into nature – because I am repeatedly dumbfounded by the parents who bring children to rivers and then say things like – “Don’t get wet!”  Seriously – don’t get wet.  That is just plain mean spirited!  Or to by grandparents who take their grandchildren to a particularly appealing place to explore – only to declare – “Don’t get dirty.”  But – getting dirty is so much fun!  God made children to be curious creatures, and they love digging in and exploring nature when they are given the opportunity.   

I find this approach to being outside so very sad – because nature is so much more fun when you are fully immersed in it.  Nature needs to be explored using as many of your senses as possible.  Nature is intriguing when you can feel the water on your feet (or in my sons’ cases all over your entire body).  When you can hear the delightful plop of a rock hitting the water after you have thrown it as hard as you can.  When you have built a tower of sticks and have felt the texture of the bark.  When you have caught a frog or two or three.

Actually – I believe this is true for adults too.  I believe that we also need to immerse ourselves in God’s creation.  We too need to feel cool river water on our feet.  We also need to listen to that delightful plop of rocks hitting the water.  We need to feel the intriguing  texture of bark.  We need to take in all of the wild and wonderful colors of nature.  We all need to park our technology for a while and get out into God’s creation.  The world won’t end if we don’t have cell service for an hour or two!

Nature is really and truly good for us.  It is good for our souls.

If you don’t believe me – science backs me up on this – studies have shown “that when people walk in nature, they obsess over negative thoughts much less than when they walk in the city.” (The Nature Fix)  Think about that for a moment.  Just being in nature changes your attitude and the way you think.  Nature makes us more positive.  We can all certainly use some more positive right now!

The McFarland sons have a deep and abiding love for Floyds Fork River.  And frankly I don’t blame them.  Floyds Fork River is seriously cool.  And so – we spent Thursday evening delighting in God’s glorious creation.

It truly was a perfect summer evening.

We explored.

We saw beautiful wild flowers.

William played in the river with his boat.

We met an adorable frog/toad.

Jack and I looked for river glass which we found in abundance.

We chatted – and we were quiet together.

Jason kept an eye on everyone as he always seems to be doing (it is his superpower.)

Jack skipped stones.

Will got very – very wet.

Jack and Will turned looking for fossils and river glass into a contact sport!  (Something anyone who has raised sons will be able to relate to I am sure/I hope. . .)

We enjoyed the blessings of God’s creation.  We left wet and dirty and thankful for the opportunity to enjoy all of that wonderful nature.

These are not easy times we are all living through.  I encourage you to take some time this week to get out into God’s creation.  Spend some time in your yard.  Run your fingers through the grass.  Go for a drive to a park.  Roll down the windows and listen to the birds sing.  Read Psalm 148.  It is a beautiful reminder of all our God has done and is doing in our world.

You are all in my heart, thoughts, and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

Worship for Sunday, August 9, 2020

1 Kings 19:9-18

At that place [Elijah] came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’

He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’

The Word of the Lord.

This mountain always makes me think of the Lord. I know it probably looks nothing like Elijah’s mountain of the Lord.

Psalm 85:8-13

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
   for he will speak peace to his people,
   to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
   that his glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
   righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
   and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good,
   and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
   and will make a path for his steps. Amen.

Romans 10:5-15

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them.’ But the righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” ’ (that is, to bring Christ down) ‘or “Who will descend into the abyss?” ’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’

The Word of the Lord.

A stormy sunset in Fern Creek

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 14:22-33

Immediately [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’

Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

The Gospel of our Lord.

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

I absolutely – positively love exploring Mayan ruins.  I can’t even begin to explain the joy that fills my nerdy – history loving – tree hugging heart as I explore yet another ancient Mayan ruin.

Many of the really – really good sites are out in the middle of nowhere. 

Being located in more remote areas of Mexico means many of these sights are in the actual jungle!  We see absolutely spectacular plants and trees and animals.  We saw real – honest to goodness wild monkeys hanging out in the trees while eagles soared overhead.  (Yes – the mosquitoes are the size of buzzards – but hey nothing is perfect!)

That isn’t a picture from a zoo my friends! That is a wild monkey!

And I cannot describe how gorgeous and lush and green Mexico’s jungles are.  I have never – ever seen so many shades of green.  I was enchanted.  I was constantly declaring to anyone who would listen – (okay to Jason and Jack) – “Look at all of the GREEN!  Just look at the green!  I love all of the green!  Aren’t you dazzled?  Aren’t you amazed?  Isn’t it gorgeous?”

To which Jason would reply – “Yes Kerri.  It is beautiful – and it is going to rain today at 2:00 o’clock.”

The green just seems to go on forever and ever . . .

And it did.  Every single day of our sabbatical in Mexico.  Great big – scary – wild and crazy storms filled with flashing lightening and crashing – booming thunder and lashing rain that came down in sheets and torrents.  These were storms that made you wish for a basement and we never – ever had a basement.  Storms that left you soaked even if you were wearing your rain poncho!  Storms that caused flash floods.  Storms that turned city streets into rivers and turned trails into mud pits!  Storms that made parents pretend to be brave and act like everything is okay and like no one was about to die.

These storms were just plain awesome and wild and totally terrifying.  Trees would bend and dance in the daytime sky that had gone from a gorgeous blue to a furious black in what always felt like mere seconds.

Over and over and over again.  Day after day.  These wild – terrifying storms would descend on our lives seemingly out of the clear blue sky. 

Storms are part of life.  Even when we are incredibly careful – unexpected things happen.  Fierce storms pop up out of nowhere. 

Which is exactly what happened to the disciples in our Gospel reading for today as they sailed across the Sea of Galilee.  A severe storm popped up out of the middle of nowhere. 

Just a few hours before the disciples had been safe on the shore with Jesus.  Listening to Jesus teach about God’s grace, love, and mercy.  Watching with joy and excitement as Jesus had healed the sick.  And helping Jesus feed 1,000’s of people with 5 dinner rolls and two fish.

But then – just a few hours later – the disciples are in a wildly bobbing boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee – in the middle of a terrifying storm.  They fear they are about to die.  And they are terrified!

Their world was turned upside down and inside out.  One moment the disciples felt safe and secure and deeply content and the next they were being whipped around in a raging storm. 

Sunset on Lake Superior – after a storm

Does that sound familiar to any of you?  Has life ever hit you with a storm out of the clear blue sky?  Can you relate?  Have you felt that sort of fear? 

Maybe it was a phone call that came in the middle of the night.

Perhaps it was the day you lost your job.  Or the day you were asked to take a pay cut just to keep your job?        

Or when your spouse asked for a divorce.

Or when a doctor broke the bad news to you.

Or when a policeman knocked on your door.

Or when your child shocked you with news that broke your heart.

Or as you stood over the grave of a loved one.

Or when a treasured dream died.

Or maybe it was this horrible – frightening pandemic we are all living through right now!

So many of these storm leave us searching for the EXIT sign.

Certainly – everyone here can understand some of what the disciples are feeling as they were being tossed around by that terrifying storm.  Life has a way of bringing storms our way.  And the worst storms often seem to come out of the clear blue sky.

I wish I could be like one of those smooth talking TV preachers (with the really good hair) who promise if you love Jesus enough – bad things won’t happen to you and your loved ones.  But we all know that isn’t true.  I wish I could promise you that as Christians your lives won’t ever be rocked by the storms of this world – but I can’t.  Following Jesus doesn’t mean life will be smooth sailing.  Jesus doesn’t promise us that. 

But Jesus does make us other promises.  Life-giving – life-sustaining promises.  Our Lord gives us hope.  Incredibly awesome hope.

Let’s return to the disciples’ boat.  Yes – there is a raging storm.  Yes – the waves are tossing their boat around.  Yes – the disciples are afraid.  But there is something else happening too.  We see the disciples are not alone.  We see Jesus is with them.  Jesus walked through the raging storm to be with them.  Jesus doesn’t leave his disciples alone to fend for themselves.  Jesus was with his disciples when they needed him the most.

And the same is true for you.  Even when you are being tossed around by the storms of this life you are not alone.  Jesus is with you.  Jesus promises that you are never alone – not even for one single moment.  

Your Lord is with you always. 

The storms of this life will come.  Those storms may crash into your world making a great big mess of things – but even then you are not alone.  Jesus has promised to walk with you and to share in each and every moment of your lives.  You will never be forsaken by God.  God is with you each and every step of the way – even on the stormy seas of life.  Truly this is Good News.  AMEN.

Having an Important Conversation

When do you pray?

I have never been particularly gifted at stillness.  I often joke that I became a pastor simply because I could never sit still through an entire worship service!  Unless there is knitting involved.  If and when it is socially acceptable to knit I can and will gladly sit still for days!  If only my beloved children and husband would just allow it.  But the McFarland sons usually need or want something like food or attention and Jason is really big on exercise.  Jason claims science has proven that I will likely live longer and actually be able to knit more if I put down my knitting and exercise every once in a while. . .

Anyway – since I am not particularly gifted at prayer when I am still – I pray while I am on the move.  Somehow – moving my body allows me to focus my mind better.  Over the years – I have developed triggers and times that I use to remind me to pray for specific people and things.

Yesterday is a perfect example of how and when I pray.  Will and I were carrying out what has become an important ritual in our lives since we resumed worship at Saint Stephen in this COVID-19 world.  We were preparing the sanctuary for worship on Sunday morning. 

First I needed to run the vacuum in the sanctuary and then I needed to place all of the prayer lists and announcement sheets on the chairs.  As Will played with his trains and chattered away to me about what his trains were up to – I set about my tasks.  The sanctuary was beautiful and peaceful and filled with light.  As I ran the vacuum I prayed.  I gave God thanks for the feet that had walked on the carpet (and made it dirty).  I gave our Lord thanks for our wonderful Christian community.  I gave thanks for my sisters and brothers in Christ.  I gave thanks for Saint Stephen Lutheran Church and for the blessing of being your pastor.  I also gave thanks for the little Lutheran chatterbox who was keeping me company.

Then I moved on to placing the prayer lists on each chair in the sanctuary.  This is a ritual in my week that I have particularly come to love.  As I placed the prayer lists – I prayed for the people whose names are on our church prayer list.  I also prayed for the people who love and care for them. 

On Tuesday when I placed the Bible readings on the seats in the sanctuary – I spent some time praying for the people I am missing so very much right now.  I prayed for our sisters and brothers in Christ who can’t join us for worship in the sanctuary because of COVID-19.  I prayed and I lamented just a bit – because I am sad about the changes COVID-19 has brought to our Christian community.  I also gave thanks for the love I have for this wonderful Christian community that is Saint Stephen Lutheran Church.  I gave our Lord thanks for the opportunity to know and love such nifty people.

As Will and I were heading home on Wednesday afternoon – Will hurried into the sanctuary.   My sweet boy walked right down the center aisle.  He was a man on an important mission.  Will walked right up to the Jesus statue that we have hanging above the back altar and he waved to Jesus and apparently – Will told Jesus goodnight and that he would see him again tomorrow.  (This image is burned into my memory.  I am certain I will remember that sweet – still chubby 7-year old hand waving up at Jesus for the rest of my life.)

We really can just talk to our Lord.  We don’t have to use church-y words.  We don’t need to use thees and thous and haveths and doths like the King James Bible does (but if you want to that is great too).

Try having a conversation with your Lord like you would your best friend.  Tell him what is on your mind and in your heart.  You really can tell him everything.  He has heard it all and then some!  And then maybe at the end of your day – like Will – tell Jesus goodnight and that you will see him again tomorrow.  Because – as people of faith we believe (we know) no matter what happens – we will all see Jesus when we wake up tomorrow!

You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

Terrific Times on a Tuesday

Will and I had a terrifically fun morning on Tuesday.  With less than three weeks to go until NTI 2.0 launches, we decided it was time to brush up on our math skills.  We found the perfect way to practice our math as we prepare our hearts and minds for the adventures that await us in second grade this year!  Will and I counted all of your donations of cans and boxes and rolls and packages and bottles for the Fern Creek/Highview United Ministries food pantry. 

Wow – did we have a busy morning!  Our sisters and brothers in Christ have been very generous indeed!  Will and I counted and counted.  We organized and we organized.  We filled bag after bag after bag!  Will and I filled our car until there was only a boy-sized spot in the backseat and a Mommy-sized spot in the front.  It was such a blessing and an honor to be the folks who were able to deliver these extra special blessings!

We had the incredible joy of delivering:

4 jars of pasta sauce

43 boxes of pasta and macaroni and cheese

18 cans of pasta

2 jars of jelly and 8 jars of peanut butter

21 cans of tuna or chicken

30 cans of vegetables and beans

23 bottles of dish soap

72 bars of soap

14 bottles of shampoo

28 tooth brushes and 14 tubes of toothpaste

148 rolls of TP

We also dropped off our donations for the FCHUM online auction and Gala that starts on September 1st.

Renee and her faithful volunteers were thrilled to receive our donations.  All of the toiletries and TP and cleaning supplies are especially appreciated right now.  One of the volunteers exclaimed – “Oh look!  We are going to have the cleanest clients in the city!”

All three assured me that there were BIG smiles under their masks!

Thank you for your generosity.  Thank you for sharing your blessings with others.  Thank you for giving.

We are continuing to collect school supplies for the Fern Creek/Highview United Ministries until Sunday, August 16th. 

We can help.  Working together we can make a difference. 

In Christ and with Love –

Will and Pastor Kerri

Worshiping together on Sunday, August 2, 2020

I am so very sorry – but we will not be able to post a video of our worship service this week. There was a problem with the memory card . . . grr. Jason and Jack are on the tech issue and have already solved the problem. We are ready for next Sunday. Thank you for your patience with the Saint Stephen technology team (he is just 16 years old)!

Isaiah 55:1-5

 Ho, everyone who thirsts,
  come to the waters;
 and you that have no money,
  come, buy and eat!
 Come, buy wine and milk
  without money and without price.
 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
  and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
 Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
  and delight yourselves in rich food.
 Incline your ear, and come to me;
  listen, so that you may live.
 I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
  my steadfast, sure love for David.
 See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
  a leader and commander for the peoples.
 See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
  and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
 because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel,
  for he has glorified you.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21

 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,
  slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
 LORD, you are good to all,
  and your compassion is over all your works.
 The Lord upholds all those who fall
  and lifts up those who are bowed down.
 The eyes of all wait upon you, O LORD,
  and you give them their food in due season.
 You open wide your hand
  and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
 You are righteous in all your ways
  and loving in all your works.
 You are near to all who call upon you,
  to all who call upon you faithfully.
 You fulfill the desire of those who fear you;
  you hear their cry and save them.
 You watch over all | those who love you,
  but all the wicked you shall destroy.
 My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD;
  let all flesh bless God’s holy name forever and ever. Amen.

Romans 9:1-5

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 14:13-21

Now when Jesus heard [about the beheading of John the Baptist], he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

The Gospel of our Lord.

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

Just this week I read that 821 million people in our world suffer from the burden of not having enough to eat. Think about that for just a moment – 1 out of 9 people who share this planet with us will go to bed tonight hungry!

And there are serious problems right here in our own community too. 1 in 6 Kentuckians don’t always know where their next meal will come from. 25% of Kentucky’s children live in poverty.

And of course – the experts on these sorts of things tell us – all of this is being made so much worse by COVID-19.

These numbers and statistics are both staggering and heartbreaking. Because we all know these aren’t just numbers and statistics. These are our fellow human beings. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

With so many needs surrounding us – there are probably times when you feel overwhelmed and discouraged. After all – there are so many people who need so much. It would be easy to throw up our hands in surrender and do absolutely nothing.

But rather than surrendering – why don’t we turn to our Gospel reading for today? There we encounter our Lord and a huge crowd of people who have come to hear Jesus preach the Good News of God’s grace, love, and mercy and to be healed.

This crowd is so intrigued and inspired by Jesus and so desperate for the healing he offers – they don’t even notice how much time is passing. So as evening settles in – the disciples remind Jesus that everyone is tired and hungry and thirsty from a day spent out in the scorching – hot sun.

The disciples plan to send the crowd away so everyone can go find something to eat and drink. This seems like a perfectly logical response to the situation. After all – the disciples weren’t traveling around with a U-Haul truck full of groceries.

But – Jesus rarely does what seems logical to us. Instead – Jesus declares – “they don’t have to go away. You guys give them something to eat.” Imagine the looks the disciples must have exchanged after hearing this newest declaration from Jesus. (There may have even been an eye-roll or two.)

Can you imagine the resources it would take to feed 1,000’s of hungry people!?! Where would you even begin?

Think about the Thanksgiving dinner that we host here at Saint Stephen every year. (And yes – I do use the words “we host” very loosely since all I do is smile a lot and eat!)

I have witnessed first-hand the military precision the Zimmermans and Mills use to pull off our Thanksgiving dinner. Plans are executed. Trips to multiple grocery establishments are made on their assigned days. Strategies are used. Notes are taken. Grocery ads are read. Prices are checked. Clocks are watched and timers are set. Volunteers are recruited. Sign-up sheets are deployed. Extreme precision is required.

Frankly only a crazy person would come between Peggy Zimmerman and her special notebook of notes. And I wouldn’t get between Buddy and a can opener on that Sunday for $1,000. Barry takes his mashed potatoes very seriously and Marilyn – well let’s just say that she runs a tight ship. Feeding 150 hungry Lutherans is a serious undertaking.

It would be quite an amazing feat to feed 1,000’s of hungry people even with time to plan and a loan from the bank. And yet – that is exactly what Jesus asks his disciples to do. Jesus wants them to feed over 5,000 people – and he wants them to do it quickly.

With no markets in sight the disciples do the only thing they can do – they take an inventory of their resources. But they come up with some seriously discouraging news – they only have – 5 small loaves of bread and 2 fish. Matthew doesn’t tell us who the generous giver is – but other Gospel writers tell us the donor is a little boy. So this was a child’s sack lunch.

The disciples must have been feeling pretty discouraged as they reported their news to Jesus. One dinky, little lunch was nothing in the face of so much need! The disciples were probably thinking – “this is nuts. This is a hopeless dream.”

But what if that had been the boy’s attitude? What if he had said – “I will keep my lunch. After all – my lunch is so small and the need is so great. What I have to offer couldn’t possibly make any difference.” What if the boy had decided to keep his lunch because logic told him it could never feed 5,000 hungry people?

Thankfully the boy didn’t do those things. Instead he gave his lunch to the disciples who took it to Jesus. Then Jesus took that lunch and with God’s help – it fed everyone!

And these folks didn’t just have a light snack. That humble lunch became a feast. These folks went away full and deeply satisfied.

And when the disciples picked up the leftovers – there were twelve baskets full. What an amazing miracle! This story of giving is a powerful testimony to us.

The boy gave his lunch to Jesus in faith – hope – and trust. And in Jesus’ hands his lunch fed 1,000s of people. Think about what things that seem small to us can do in God’s hands. Think of the ministry that goes on in and through our church. Think of the lives that have been changed and blessed – because people gave their gifts to God – no matter how humble they seemed.

Since this spring we have collected bags and bags of food. Those boxes of mac and cheese and cans of pasta and soup – made lots of meals. Think of the difference those meals made.

Think of the school supplies we are gathering right now and the children who will be blessed by them.

And the families at the Ronald McDonald House. And all of those meals and all of those prayers and conversations. Think of the lives that have been blessed.

Think of all of the dresses that Deb and Cathy and the Creative Hands Sew Group have made for little girls in our community and beyond.

Think of our tower of TP for FCHUM last fall that got so tall it toppled over and became a wall!

Think of the blankets and shawls and hats and scarves that the Prayer Shawl group has sent to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Think of our offerings to Lutheran World Relief and all of the chicks and pigs we have adopted over the years.

Think of the blood drives. And the lives that have been saved!

Think of the lives that have been changed because of the ministry of Saint Stephen. When we give our humble gifts to God – God works miracles.

So the next time you feel overwhelmed by the needs that surround you – remember the faithful – hopeful boy and his humble lunch that fed 1,000s. Give what you can in faith and hope and know that even the humblest gift can change lives and work miracles once it is given over to God. We worship an awesome God. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.

Sharing Something Lovely

I have always been an observer.  By nature I am a curious person.  (Some might call me nosey – but I prefer to think of myself as deeply curious and inquiring.)  I am endlessly entertained by watching and listening and taking in the world around me.  I enjoy noticing things. 

I especially love nature.  I am an absolute nut about flowers and trees.  I am ever so slightly obsessed with the sky.  I love the way the sky changes throughout the day and over the course of the year.  A sunny day in July looks nothing like a sunny day in January.

I was into mindfulness before I knew what it was or that it was a thing.  I so love knowing that there are other people out there in the world staring at the sky along with me.  (There is a comfort in knowing that you aren’t actually the weirdest person on the planet!)

There is just so much to see and to notice and to take in.  I really do find this world in which we dwell intriguing. 

Something else that I find intriguing is other people. 

I know what I think is interesting and intriguing and awe inspiring.  I know what catches my attention.  I know what I love.  But what do other folks find intriguing and  interesting?  What catches someone else’s attention and why?  What does someone else think is lovely or beautiful?  What catches his eye and makes him stop in his tracks – if even for just a moment in time? 

What makes someone else think of our God who created us all?

I also love thinking about how other people see and perceive the world around us.  I love thinking about other folks’ perspectives on life. 

The way I perceive and see the world is likely not the same way that you see the world.  We are all just too different!

Last week – Jack took our camera outside at dusk and went for a walk around our yard.  This is something that I have done many – many times (usually without a camera – but sometimes with a camera).  I love puttering around our yard – looking at the flowers – pulling a few weeds here and there – admiring the garden – and generally enjoying our home’s outside spaces.

I loved seeing the world from our Jack’s perspective.

I know I thought what Jack saw was so interesting – because I have loved this human being since the moment his dad and I realized he would be joining our family. 

I know some of this is because I love this young man so very – very much. 

I am this young man’s annoying mom after all. 

Jack was drawn to the firefly. I was transfixed by the boy’s hand . . .

But you all have folks you love too.  You all have special friends in your lives and in your hearts. 

I encourage all of you to spend some time sharing what you think is interesting with one another.  Seriously – try having actual conversations with each other about what you value.  About what makes your hearts happy.  About what gives you joy.  Talk to someone you love about what she thinks is beautiful.  Ask someone you love about what inspires him or intrigues him. 

Ask someone you love to share pictures of where they see beauty in this world.  (Almost everyone I know has a phone in their pocket these days.  Therefore – we all have a camera in our pockets these days.) 

Take the time to have a meaningful conversation about what you value – about what is beautiful – about where you see God. 

These are strange times – but I have found that many people are much more open to having deeper conversations these days too.  Give it a try.  It won’t even hurt!

Invite a few friends or your immediate family to share 3 pictures of something they saw during their day that was beautiful or interesting or made them think of God.

Wouldn’t that be more interesting and far – far more inspiring than talking about the selfish dude at the grocery store who refused to wear a mask?!?

You are all in my heart, thoughts, and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

Worship for Sunday, July 26, 2020

1 Kings 3:5-12

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ‘Ask what I should give you.’ And Solomon said, ‘You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart towards you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?’

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 119:129-136

Your decrees are wonderful;
   therefore my soul keeps them.
The unfolding of your words gives light;
   it imparts understanding to the simple.
With open mouth I pant,
   because I long for your commandments.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
   as is your custom towards those who love your name.
Keep my steps steady according to your promise,
   and never let iniquity have dominion over me.
Redeem me from human oppression,
   that I may keep your precepts.
Make your face shine upon your servant,
   and teach me your statutes.
My eyes shed streams of tears
   because your law is not kept.  Amen.

Romans 8:26-39

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
   we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Word of our Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’

He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’

‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’

The Gospel of our Lord.

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

Life is complicated.  Actually – life can be very – very complicated sometimes!  Especially when it comes to our relationships with other people.  Navigating relationships is tricky even in the of best circumstances.  We all know that caring for and loving other people can be incredibly complicated.  

Yes – of course – some days are easy breezy – lemon squeezy.  Some days love just flows out of us like we are a river.  Some days our hearts overflow with love for our beloved family members!  And we give God thanks for the incredible blessing of family.

We find ourselves absolutely – positively shocked that we could be so incredibly and wonderfully blessed to have these spectacular blessings from God in our humble lives.

We look around at our families and think to ourselves – my heart is just so very full of love for these wonderful people!  My cup really and truly runneth over. 

I am pretty sure that I will remember this day for years to come.

Tears of joy and thanksgiving might even come to our eyes – because we have the truly incredible honor and privilege of knowing and loving such wonderful people.

We do have days like these.  (Okay – maybe not entire days.)  But we do have moments like these!  We do have times in our lives when our hearts are just so wonderfully full of love for the people in our lives.  When we give thanks for the people we love.

This was a very – very good day!

But – because we are all very human – human beings and the people we love are just as human we are – we also have days when it is a bit harder to find and feel the love.  We have days when the sound of our children’s voices doesn’t make our hearts sing for joy.  We have days when we look out our spouse and all we can think is – hmmm – she sure does talk A LOT and what’s up with all of the yarn?!?  (I couldn’t pick on Jason here – because he doesn’t have any annoying habits . . .)  And the sight of those dirty socks in the middle of dining room floor or better yet in the middle of the dining room table turns you into “the scary lady AGAIN!”  (Or maybe that just happens at our house!?!)

Will has had just about enough of his crazy, hippy-dippy hiking parents. The poor guy just wants a decent WiFi signal and his I-pad!

It isn’t that we have stopped loving these people – it’s just that we find them to be incredibly ANNOYING.  And I would guess that the feelings are mutual.  Relationships are complicated.

COVID-19 has added a whole new level of interest and complexity and in many cases intensity to our family relationships hasn’t it? 

For those of us who share our homes with other human beings – we are seeing a whole lot of each other these days.  In most circumstances we are seeing way – way more of some people than we have ever seen before.  For example – the last time I spent this much time with Will McFarland was 8 years ago – when we were still sharing a body!  It has been interesting and lovely and great and hard and exhausting and stressful and a blessing and hard.  Did I mention that it has been hard? 

These last few months have been a lot of things at our house.  And I am guessing that we are not alone.

More than once over the past few months – I have declared that “I am going to church to WORK all by MYSELF.  I do NOT know when I will be home.  And absolutely NO one is coming with me!  NO ONE!”

Certainly I am not alone in finding loving people to be complicated.  I know that my family finds loving me to be a complicated endeavor.  Actually they would say that loving me is very – very complicated!

But in the end- I love my family no matter what.  Really – I do.  I love them dirty socks and annoying habits and messy messes and sassy sass and all.

I am sure you have all felt this sort of love for someone else.  That you have loved someone not matter what they did.  No matter how frustrating or annoying or hurtful they were.  That you have loved someone even when you did not like them or their actions very much.

This sort of love is pretty amazing.  This sort of love is downright impressive.  And it is certainly an incredible blessing.

But this sort of love is still just a very dim reflection of the love God the Father has for each of you.  God’s love for you is so perfect – it dims all other kinds of love.  God’s love for you is so perfect – it boggles the mind.

Listen to how Saint Paul describes God’s love for you.  God’s love for you “is patient.  God’s love for you is kind.  God’s love for you is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way.  God’s love for you is not irritable or resentful – it does not rejoice in wrongdoing – but rejoices in the truth.  God’s love for you bears all things – believes all things – hopes all things – endures all things.  And most wonderfully of all God’s love for you never ends.” 

I have always loved these heart-shaped leaves.

That sort of love – is a love in which we can find great comfort and hope.  That sort of love changes our lives and redeems us for all eternity.  That sort of love reveals to us the beauty of heaven.  And that is the sort of love God has for each of you.

And there is even more to God’s love for you.   In Romans chapter 8 Saint Paul wrote – “who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will hardship or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or the sword?  No – in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death – nor life – nor angels – nor rulers – nor things present – nor things to come – nor powers – nor height – nor depth – nor anything else in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Absolutely nothing can separate you from God’s perfect love for you.  God will always love you.  There is nothing in this world that will stop God from loving you – nothing.  Not even death can stop God from loving you – because God won’t let it.

Even on your very worst days – God stands before you and proclaims.  You are my beloved child.  I have loved you from the beginning of time – I love you right now and I will love you forever.  Nothing will ever change that.  Truly this is Good News – AMEN.

FCHUM Gala 2020/2.0!

This spring the Fern Creek/Highview United Ministries had to cancel their annual Gala as a result of COVID-19.  The Gala is a really – really – really big deal for FCHUM, because it is their single biggest fundraiser of the year.  Every year the Gala raises well over $20,000 to support the incredibly important ministries that happen through FCHUM every week.  (Last year the Gala raised over $27,000!)  The money raised during the Gala helps feed and care for our neighbors who are going through a difficult time.  This money helps support the Adult Day Center.  This money changes lives in powerful ways.  This money shares and shows God’s love in our community.

Every year members of Saint Stephen have attended the FCHUM Gala.  Some of you have bid quite generously on auction items in previous years.  One of our families even had the winning bid on a hot air balloon ride! 

For the past 4 years Saint Stephen has won the heavenly halo award!!!!  I am pretty sure that we were on track to win again this year – but we will just have to wait for 2021 to see if we can make it a 5-peat. (And why yes – yes I am obsessed with that halo!  I watch television sometimes so I know there could be worse things to be obsessed with . . .)

The fantastic FCHUM board and the equally fantastic Renee have put their collective brains together and come up with an alternative to the spring Gala.  Starting on Tuesday, September 1st, 2020 and going through Sunday, September 20th, 2020 there will be an on-line auction to support the life-changing ministries of FCHUM.

The auction will be open to everyone in the community.  I will share the information with you once I have received it.

Cheryl Markley and I have assembled 5 baskets which Saint Stephen will be donating to FCHUM’s on-line auction.  These amazingly, awesome baskets will be on display in Saint Stephen’s narthex for the next few weeks.  But – I know not everyone will be able to feast their eyes on their basket-y goodness there – so I am sharing the baskets with you here too.

I plan to take the baskets to FCHUM around Monday, August 17th.  If one of the baskets is calling your name or the name of someone you love a lot – please make me an offer that I can’t refuse!  I am sure that Renee would be delighted to receive a check or currency in place of a basket or 5.  (And in the case of the knitted baskets – well – we all know that I probably would whip up another between now and then!  After all – as I have been know to say – “it is for Jesus!”)

Clean-up Your Kitchen!

Give your kitchen a mini-makeover with a whole new set of linens. 

This set includes:  3 hand towels/tea towels, 4 hot pads/trivets, 6 wash cloths, and 4 scrubby wash cloths.

(These were knit using an pattern called Old Shale lace. It is pretty nifty noddle!)

Each item in this set has been hand-knit using high quality cotton yarn by a knitter with over 3 decades of knitting experience!

Beading Blitz Basket

This basket is offers hours upon hours of crafting entertainment.

It includes thousands of both glass and plastic beads. 

You will be able to make a vast collection of necklaces, bracelets, charms, and friendship pins!

Perfect entertainment for these days of staying safe at home!

Clean-up Your Kitchen!

Give your kitchen a mini-makeover with a whole new set of linens. 

This set includes:  4 hand towels/tea towels, 4 hot pads/trivets, 6 wash cloths, and 4 scrubby wash cloths.

Each item in this set has been hand-knit using high quality cotton yarn by a knitter with over 3 decades of knitting experience!

Books!  Marvelous Books!  Glorious Books!

This basket is perfect for the young (but not too young reader in your life.) It includes everything your adorably wonderful reader needs for hours and hours of reading joy and fun! The basket has 4 paperback books for 8-12 year old readers, a box of hot chocolate, book themed novelty socks, and 2 sparkling ICE drinks.

A Parent’s Best Friend Basket (with a boy-ish slant)

Things that fly!

This basket has been prepared by an expert (a mom who has been entertaining a 7 year old little boy and his 16 year old big brother for their entire lives)!

Inside entertainment!

This basket contains: 4 airplane gliders, a Frisbee, a kite, stickers, 7 Hotwheels cars, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, a fidget spinner,

crayons and paper, a puzzle block, a galaxy rock art kit, Play Dough, jacks, and just a little candy – because some days a little sugar is fun too!

Questions and Quiet Moments

When you are a pastor people ask you all sorts of intriguing questions.  Many of the questions folks ask me are of a theological nature.  I get asked about the nature of good and evil.  I get asked about events from Jesus’ earthly life.  I get asked about death and heaven and why God let’s bad things happen to good people. 

Since I am a woman who is an ordained clergy person – I get asked a fair number of questions about what the Bible says about females and church leadership.  (And yes – I do know and have read the parts of the Bible that tell women to keep quiet and not teach men.  Actually I have read the ENTIRE Bible more than once.  I am a great big nerd after all.)   You would not believe the number of the times someone has shared the following with me:

            “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” – 1 Timothy 2:12-15. 

This passage drives me a little batty because I have read other parts of the Bible too like the following:

           “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” – Genesis 3:6. 

Yes- Adam was there all along!  And Eve did not force or trick Adam to eat from that piece of forbidden fruit – but I digress.  Apparently I do that a lot – or so my beloved family tells me!

Okay anyway – before I digress too much and head off on a theological tangent (yet again) – not all of the questions I am asked are theological.  One of the questions I am asked most often is something along the lines of ” Hey Pastor Kerri – doesn’t it totally freak you out to be in the church all by yourself?”

I find this particular question thoroughly intriguing – because no – I am absolutely – positively not freaked out by being in the church by myself.  (Yes – I have had some moments when I have wished for company – but that is usually when I have been forced to tell someone that I won’t give them money for drugs and they have been upset by my answer.) 

For me – being at church – is like being at home – I am incredibly comfortable here.  I love it when the church is full of people.  I love being surrounded by my sisters and brothers in Christ – but I also love being in the church alone.  I don’t think that the church is spooky or feels haunted or creepy when it is dark and empty.  I am pretty sure that the only ghost that spends any time in the church is the Holy Ghost!

I look forward to the time that I have alone in the church.  It is very – very peaceful!  I do some of my best thinking and praying when I am in the church alone. 

I enjoy puttering around the church doing tasks in the narthex and the sanctuary and the fellowship hall and the church kitchen. 

I love listening the sounds the building makes.  Sometimes the building sighs.  Other times the building seems to crackle in the wind.

I delight in watching the light and shadows change throughout the day and over the course of the year.  The shadows look so very different in July than they do in January.

Just yesterday morning – as I was puttering around in the sanctuary and the narthex – cleaning up and straightening up after our Sunday worship – I noticed how stunningly beautiful the light was.

The light was streaming in through all of the windows casting rainbows all over the sanctuary. 

Everywhere I turned there was a beautiful pool of light or a rainbow.

I was dazzled by the beauty I was surrounded by.

The colors shifted and moved and changed as the sun traveled across the sky and clouds danced in the heavens.

I found myself standing in awe a few times just taking in the amazing beauty of it all. 

Soon I found myself giving thanks for the beauty that I had the honor to witness on what otherwise had seemed like a pretty ordinary Monday morning in the middle of July.

I know that these days are not easy.  We are living through days – weeks – and months that will historians will write about.  Will they call it the Great Pandemic of 2020?  Or perhaps they will call is something else.

But I do know that we are not going through these days – weeks – and months alone.  Our God is with us.  Our God has promised us that he is with us always.

I saw God’s presence on Monday morning in dancing rainbows and shifting shadows and beams of light.  Where are you seeing God in your own lives these days?  Keep your hearts and your eyes open.  God is with you!  You are never alone.

You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

Worship for Sunday, July 19, 2020

Isaiah 44:6-8

6Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel,
  and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
 I am the first and I am the last;
  besides me there is no god.
7Who is like me? Let them proclaim it,
  let them declare and set it forth before me.
 Who has announced from of old the things to come?
  Let them tell us what is yet to be.
8Do not fear, or be afraid;
  have I not told you from of old and declared it?
  You are my witnesses!
 Is there any god besides me?
  There is no other rock; I know not one.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 86:11-17

11Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;
  give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
12I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
  and glorify your name forevermore.
13For great is your love toward me;
  you have delivered me from the pit of death.
14The arrogant rise up against me, O God, and a band of violent people seeks my life;
  they have not set you before their eyes.
15But you, O Lord, are gracious and full of compassion,
  slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth.
16Turn to me and have mercy on me;
  give your strength to your servant, and save the child of your handmaid.
17Show me a sign of your favor, so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame;
  because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me. Amen.

Romans 8:12-25

12So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—13for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

  18I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

24[Jesus] put before [the crowds] another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field;25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”

  36Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!”

The Gospel of our Lord.

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

Last winter – long before COVID-19 turned our lives upside down and inside out – I was sitting on the bleachers at one of Jack’s archery tournaments doing what I do whenever I sit still for more than 16 seconds.  Yes – that’s right – I was knitting.  As I sat there happily knitting away – another archery mom sat down next to me and started chatting.

She said to me – “I’ve noticed you before.”

To which I replied – “Yeah – it’s the yarn – right?  It’s always the yarn!  I am the crazy yarn lady at everything my poor sons and husband do.”

But – to my great surprise – she said – “Nope – it’s how Zen you seem at these things.  No matter how long they drag on for – you just don’t seem to care.  You never even look at your phone!  You are so patient.  I could never be that patient.”

Why yes – I am knitting at Mayan ruins while looking at ants. Doesn’t everyone? See how patient I look!

Once I stopped laughing hysterically – I replied – “Oh it’s definitely the yarn.  There is nothing Zen or patient about me.  If you were to take my string and pointy sticks away from me – I would start to act like a caged animal in about 60 seconds!”

I am soooo not a patient person or Zen.  (Can Lutherans even be Zen?) 

I rarely leave a room without taking my knitting with me – let alone the house.  Because I know that it is knitting that makes me bearable.  Knitting makes me patient.  Knitting helps me sit still and behave myself in waiting rooms and during meetings and at school concerts and archery tournaments. 

Honestly – I knit so that other people will let me stay in the same room with them!  I wouldn’t dream of inflicting myself on the rest of humanity without a heavy dose of yarn.  Without yarn I am twitchy – impatient and even more annoying than usual (just imagine the horrors of that)! 

There is knitting in that blue bag in my hand.

I have noticed that I am not alone in having issues with patience.  Just this week I glanced in my rearview mirror after I dared to come to a complete stop before turning right on red at a stop light.  And as I did so – my eyes beheld – a man in great psychological and physical distress.  He was flailing about in his car like he was being attacked by a swarm of bees.  Apparently – the 15 whole seconds of his life I wasted by obeying a traffic law was just a bit too much for him!  The poor man needed to get to McDonalds IMMEDIATELY!

I found that poor flailing guy hilariously funny – but honestly most of us just plain stink at waiting.  Waiting makes many of us impatient at best and complete wild animals on our bad days. 

Patience is a virtue most of us are still trying to improve.  (While I am pretty sure other folks have given up entirely!)

And that is one of the reasons why I think that these last few months have been so hard on all of us.  We have been asked over and over and over again to be patient.  To do something that is foreign and uncomfortable.  We have been asked to do something that we don’t like to do.  To do something that we don’t WANT to do!

Will is trying to be patient but it is soooo hard some days!

Slow down.  Don’t be in such a hurry.  Be cautious.  Be patient.  Stay home to save lives.  These are all messages that we have heard over and over and over again. 

We have heard them from our governor and from our mayor.  We have heard them from doctors and nurses and epidemiologists (I never thought I would use that particular word in a sermon).  I have heard them from our bishop and from the presiding bishop of the ELCA.

As parents many of us have said these words to our children when they have been impatient and frustrated with the constraints that COVID-19 have placed on their lives.  And some of you adult children may have said these very words to your impatient (and perhaps ever so slightly stubborn) parents!

But we don’t want to slow down.  We don’t want to be patient.  We don’t want to wait. 

We have waited long enough – thank you very much!  We are done waiting.  Actually most of us were done waiting in March.  We are all out of patience.  We ran out of patience a very long time ago!

We want to hug our friends.  We want to sing in church.  We want to stand close to people again!  We want to go someplace without worrying about getting sick or making someone else sick.  We want to ditch social distancing.  We are done with staying safe at home.  We are ready to burn our masks and toss our stockpiles of hand sanitizer.  We wish we had never heard of NTI!

It seems like a million years ago when we were all this wildly carefree!

We want our lives back!  It is just so hard to keep on keeping on when your patience is wearing so thin. 

When Saint Paul talks about waiting for hope with patience it seems almost laughable.  How can we do that?  Is it even humanly possible?  We feel like we are barely clinging to hope and Saint Paul thinks we can hope for things we cannot see with patience!?! 

Most days our past lives feel like a vague memory.  And we are impatient and frustrated and exhausted by our current circumstances. 

They are smiling behind those masks!

Hope can seem like a rather strange concept during days like these.  It is hard to have much hope when words like global pandemic and surge and being tossed around all of the time!

Honestly it is hard to keep on hoping for those things that we cannot see.   Let alone waiting for our hopes to come true with patience.  It is hard to keep on clinging to hope.  It is hard to remain hopeful – at all.  Especially for a bunch of people who don’t exactly excel at patience!        

But the Good News for us is that we don’t have to do this on our own.  Our God has promised us that he will strengthen us and help us and walk with us.  God will be our rock and refuge.  The Lord of Host is with us always and forever! We can do this.  Truly we can – because we do not do this alone.  Our God is with us always.  AMEN.