St. John Lutheran Church
Come & See, Serve & Grow
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.
But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient.
I remember being at a conference a few years ago and New Testament Scholar Dr. Wally Taylor pointed out that Paul or the Pauline epistles in the New Testament don't use the word disciple. The word disciple is found in the gospels while the word imitator is found in the Pauline letters. Lutheran tradition is very much influenced by Pauline theology, so this might shed some light on how we may come to an understanding of discipleship, or lack thereof.
If you are at a loss to what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, find a disciple and imitate that person.
A few years ago I was at Panera Bread and I saw that the way they trained to employees was to have them virtually at the hip of their trainer as they learned how to be an effective employee. In fact, I was told it is literally called "hip to hip training."
We often like to tell our children, "Do as I say, and not as I do." However, we know that in reality our actions speak much louder than our words.
If being a Christian is just about going to church once a week and getting the Sacraments "done" then your children and others are going to see that. Is that what you want others to imitate as a follower of Jesus?
Often times we feel that if we just lecture people to how it is supposed to be then the pews will be full on Sunday. That really isn't how Christianity works or the reason it has flourished throughout history. Our actions as imitators of the divine love we know in Jesus Christ gives witness to the new life we have received in Jesus. This is what people see and respond to. If we live like our faith in Jesus Christ matters then those who observe, follow and imitate us will likely follow suit.
Being in community and relationship is the key here. I need a mentor in Christ, someone to imitate, someone to disciple me, and I need to be disciplining someone else at the same time. When we do this we are asking people to do as we do, and according to the letter to the Ephesians we are going to be living different lives than how the rest of the world operates.
May others do as we do, as we live and love as Christ loves us.
Pastor Adam Sornchai
Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, ‘Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.’But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’
The Anointing at Bethany is a revelation to both who Jesus is and what he is destined for. Jesus is the Messiah which means anointed one, and hes destined to die. This woman on one hand is anointing a King, but on the other hand she is anointing his body as if he were dead.
Where the disciples go wrong is that they see that their mission and ministry is about them and what they are doing. What this woman at Bethany seems to get that they don't is that the mission and ministry of disciples of Jesus Christ is going to be first and foremost about Jesus Christ.
Remember Jesus isn't just some great moral teacher. The anointing at Bethany is a reminder that this Messiah is one that will be crucified. It is his sacrifice on the cross that makes all the difference in this world as opposed to anything we could ever muster up.
This passage doesn't give us permission to neglect the poor since they will always be with us. We are certainly called to love and serve the poor as Christians. The woman at Bethany proclaims to disciples of Jesus Christ that everything we do is grounded in our "wasteful" devotion to Jesus. In our postmodern age there are many Christians and congregations that unfortunately believe deep down that Jesus isn't enough. Some see worship and bible study as a waste of time, and Holy Communion every Sunday might take too long. Devotions before every meeting in a congregation need to be very quick so "we can get to business!"
The woman at Bethany is a witness to how we should be "wasteful" in our love and devotion to Jesus which includes our time, talent and our treasure. This kind of holy wastefulness is liberating because it keeps our attention first and foremost on Jesus the anointed one, crucified for the sake of the world.
When we dive into this holy wastefulness towards our Lord and Savior we will follow him and waste our time, gifts, energy and resources in the places where he leads us. Like being with the poor, the marginalized, those mourning, the sick, and those in prison, just to name a few.
It is worth noting that other than Jesus this woman is the only other person in the entire New Testament that we are told to remember when the Good News is proclaimed. That sounds like a very powerful and important witness that we should take note of and follow.
I suppose an important question to consider both individually and communally is that if we aren't wasting our time, gifts, energy and resources in love and devotion to Jesus and the people and places he calls us to serve, than what are we wasting it all on?
Pastor Adam Sornchai
O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!
‘For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counsellor?’
‘Or who has given a gift to him,
to receive a gift in return?’
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.
St. Paul reminds us in these verses of praise that even though God is beyond our control and understanding by faith and obedience we can trust and count on God.
Romans 11:36 might sound somewhat familiar to someone who attends a liturgical church.
In the Lutheran liturgy one may often hear these words or something similar at the conclusion of the Thanksgiving at the Table for Holy Communion, "Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, now and forever."
For Christians, a God who transcends human understanding does not lead us to despair because God makes himself known to us in this world. God is constantly reaching out to us.
We see this most clearly in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. After the consecration of the bread and wine to then hear the words, "Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours almighty Father, now and forever" ought to be a very sobering experience because it proclaims to us that the God of the universe, the God who has been revealed to us is present, our God is with us.
This is also a proclamation and reminder of our salvation, comfort in knowing who we belong to.
Through Christ. With Christ. In Christ.
Jesus brings us to the father, with Christ we receive the inheritance, and in Christ we receive new life. The beauty of the Sacrament of Holy Communion is that Christ is also in us.
Yes we worship a God beyond human understanding and control, but by faith we are a people of hope not despair. The Good News is that our God is a God we can trust and Jesus promises to be present whenever we gather around Word and the sacred meal known as Holy Communion.
Pastor Adam Sornchai
Romans 2: 1 - 11 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, ‘We know that God’s judgement on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’ Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God?Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.
Human beings make judgments all the time. Sometimes in our society we want to simplistically say, "don't judge" or "who am I to judge". Yet in a culture that is devoured by individualism and relativism I don't believe that Paul wants us to never make judgments or to say anything and everything is permissible because it "isn't right to judge." That would be one extreme that we encounter at times.
The other extreme is an extreme Christians often get labeled with and that is being judgmental. We might tend to be overly concerned and outright condemning of someone's conduct. That end of the spectrum doesn't seem very Christian either.
Judgement is okay. Judgement keeps us alive at times, and it might help keep or put others on the right path.
When our judgement becomes sinful is when we put ourselves on the side of God's judgment.
In our sinfulness and brokenness when we judge we put ourselves on a higher platform than those who we are judging. This is why Paul humbles us in Romans 2. The Jew and the Greek, each and every one of us stand on the same ground. No one is higher or lower. In many ways none of us have a leg to stand on, particularly if each of us have to give an account of our own deeds.
Romans 2 reminds us that no matter how good, moral and faithful we are in the end we still need Jesus and we rely on God's grace and mercy to save us.
So when we do make our judgments let us look in the mirror first. Let us ponder God's grace bestowed upon us and see how that transforms our judgement, interaction, and compassion towards our neighbor.
Pastor Adam Sornchai