A Mission From God

Sunday, October 30, 2016
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
John 8:31-36

 

How many of you have seen the movie, “The Blues Brothers?” In this movie the two main characters are trying to get their band back together again. And every time they try to convince a former member to join they say, “We’re on a mission from God.” It doesn’t matter what obstacles come against them. They believe they will succeed because they are on “a mission from God.” As we celebrate the 499th anniversary of the Reformation today, I think Martin Luther felt the same way.

Why did he do it? Why would a Catholic monk, a learned theologian, risk everything –including his own life – to start a reformation? Why would he continue to say things that he knew would cause people to react with anger and hatred? Why would he speak against the church that he belonged to at the time? Did he want to get kicked out or excommunicated from the church? Did he want to go into hiding when things got really bad? Did he want to die as a result of what he was stirring up? What was so important that Martin Luther would risk his life over? He certainly didn’t start out wanting to change the world, but now he was on a mission from God.

Martin Luther, born in Eisleban, Germany had intended to go to law school as his parents wanted, when he felt the call of the Holy Spirit to enter the monastery. It was a life filled with learning, teaching, prayer, and penitence. Luther was incredibly hard on himself because he believed that God was a vengeful God and required Luther to always try harder to be more righteous – right with God. Yet no matter how hard Luther tried, he could never do enough to earn God’s grace – God’s unconditional love. He fasted, and suffered and yet felt worse at his brokenness. Until Luther started really studying Scripture, especially the book of Romans- the same verses we read in our second reading for today. He read, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Luther knew this, but the words continued to speak to him, “They are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” When the Holy Spirit really broke through and touched Luther’s heart he understood that nothing he could do would ever bring him closer to God. It was God alone who came closer to Luther and closer because of what Jesus Christ did. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was the gift that was being offered to Luther. “For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.” Luther’s works were not what would bring him salvation; it was the work of Jesus Christ who already did this. Luther now saw things in a whole new life. It opened him up; it freed him, and now he was compelled to share that glorious news with others. He was on a mission from God.

Through the study of Scripture Luther found other doctrines of the Catholic church that he disagreed with because they were contrary to what God was speaking through the bible. So Luther posted 95 thesis or points of disagreement with the church on the church door in Wittenburg, Germany on October 31, 1517. This was normal practice, to use the door as a sort of bulletin board for discussion. Luther didn’t want to start a new denomination; he only wanted to change the way the church did things, to reform the way they thought about things, and to live more closely to how God was instructing them to live through the words of Scripture. And he translated the Bible at that time that was only written in Latin into German, the language spoken by ordinary people living in Germany at that time. It wasn’t enough for just a priest to tell you what you should know, he wanted people to be able to read and study Scripture themselves and open their hearts just like what happened to Luther himself when the words changed his heart.

But change is something that makes people uneasy. They don’t want to do it. They want things to stay the same because change makes them feel uncomfortable. But Luther knew that change or reformation while uncomfortable and even dangerous needed to happen in order for the church to grow. It needed to happen if Christians were to remain true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So he pushed on. He didn’t give in even though more and more people were against him. It would have been easier for him to just stop and let things remain the way they were, but once you know the truth, you cannot go back. Luther wanted the world to know about this life-giving word of God spoken and carried out through Jesus Christ that we receive grace as a gift from God through faith – not because of any works we do, but because of what God has done. This is the good news that sets people free. This is the good news that gives people hope. This is the good news that accompanies people through whatever storms in life they are going through and to hide that good news from people would be the worst sin of all. So Luther kept fighting for reformation.  He was on a mission from God.

He wasn’t the only one. There were many before him and after him. In fact, Jesus himself was the first person to start a reformation of faith. Why did he do it? Why did Jesus keep talking to people about turning their lives around when these people were getting more and more angry by the words he spoke. Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t always like what Jesus said, the disciples didn’t like what Jesus said, neither did all the people who came to hear Jesus. Jesus said that to follow him you had to be willing to give up everything and follow him, but that was just too hard. People even today want to follow Jesus, but not if that means giving up the things they hold most dear to them. People want change to come only if it doesn’t mean they have to change or give up anything to make that happen. But change requires sacrifice, and no one knows that better than Jesus. Jesus gave up the glories of eternity to come down to earth, to become human, to suffer, and then eventually die in order that change/reformation would happen. In order to set us free Jesus died. You can’t sacrifice any more than that. So why did Jesus do it? Because he was on a mission from God.

The church is still called to be a reformation church, to continue to change and grow into being faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. We are called to get out of our complacency and to be bold and courageous witnesses to the gospel. In order for our churches to continues we need to be willing to sacrifice just as Jesus, Luther, and all the reformers after him. We are on a mission from God.

Next year will be the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Luther began the reformation against the sale of indulgences where people could essentially buy their way into heaven by the sale of indulgences and prayers. In 1999, the Roman Catholic church and the Lutheran church signed a document called the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. In this document both denominations fully agreed that a Christian is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by works.  Luther didn’t see the fruits of the work he started, but all these centuries later it is coming to fruition. And currently the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran church have put together another document called the Declaration on the Way, which discusses the progresses we have made in our dialogues together over the past 50 years as we move closer to hopefully being able to celebrate Communion together. As a person who was raised Catholic, this is something I always hoped, but doubted would ever happen in my lifetime.

Reformation is hard work, but it is worth it. It’s worth the sacrifice because the good news that Jesus Christ came into this world to save everyone is something that cannot be contained. The Church at large and our individual churches and congregations are in need of reformation, redevelopment, and renewal so that we do not turn back inward on ourselves instead of reaching out to those around us. The church was not intended to be a place where people come to be complacent, but a mission center where people are empowered by the word of God to be the agents of change for good in this world. God’s mission for the church is to bring all people closer to a relationship with Jesus Christ who shows us the Father. God’s mission for the church is to stand up for justice for all people, to proclaim Jesus’ message of love and salvation for all people, and to set them free from whatever is holding them back.

What is holding us back? What things do we find so hard to let go of that we are willing to hang onto them even at the cost of hurting or alienating others? Change is sometimes hard, but it is the only way to grow.  I recently heard about how lobsters grow, something I had never heard before. You see lobsters are soft-bodied creatures living in a rigid shell that doesn’t expand. When the lobster begins to grow the shell doesn’t expand and so the lobster feels confined, and under pressure. The lobster feels stress. And so the lobster goes under a rock formation, casts off its shell, and grows a new one. Until…the lobster again becomes too big for its shell and it repeats this process over and over again. In order for the lobster to grow, it needs to feel uncomfortable enough to cast off its shell and form a new one. The lobster is always in a state of reformation. We too need to cast off what is inhibiting our growth. We need to be set free.

Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, is our salvation. That truth will set us free – nothing else. God has written this promise of covenant on our hearts. May the Holy Spirit give us the courage to act with boldness and continue to reform our hearts and God’s church. We are on a mission from God. Amen!

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A Change of Heart

Sunday, October 23, 2016
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
Luke 18:9-14 & Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22

 

Last week our Scripture lessons revolved around prayer and how Jesus tells us to “pray and not lose heart.” Sometimes our praying is like wresting. Jacob wrestled with God until he was blessed. This week our Scripture lessons address prayer as well. They show us the difference in the way we pray and how prayer can change our hearts. And our hearts need to be changed, because so often – as in the people in the gospel lesson today – we compare ourselves with each other. Comparisons are dangerous. They separate things. They separate people. Comparisons separate us. And yet human beings do it all the time. We put things and people into categories. We label one thing good and the other bad, often without even knowing what is on the inside. Take for example a piece of fruit. An apple can look beautiful and delicious on the outside, yet if you cut it open it might have a worm eating away in there – hidden from sight yet causing damage from the inside out. Or you might take a look at a piece of ugli fruit and not even try it because it looks so hideous from the outside, yet cut it open and the delicious taste of the combination of lemon and tangerine awaits you. Things aren’t always what they appear to be on the outside and comparisons are dangerous.

We do the same things with people. We put labels on them. We gossip. We can say hurtful things. We make judgments based on the things people do or say without even getting to know the person and what is going on inside. We may try so hard to do the right things and be the kind of people we think we’re supposed to be that we end up alienating people around us.

It’s not just individuals that do this. Congregations do it too. They compare themselves to other congregations. We say, “That church is so big; they have so many members that they need traffic control.” “They must be doing something right that we’re not.” And yet we don’t know the facts. They could easily be saying things that people want to hear. It’s hard for a preacher to preach the gospel sometimes because Jesus’ words aren’t always easy to hear. They can make us feel uncomfortable. Many people are tempted to listen only if the message is one that doesn’t make them feel uneasy. But to be a true disciple of Jesus we can’t just settle for hearing what we want to hear. We have to be willing to open our hearts and let the Holy Spirit speak to us.

That is the message in today’s parable. Two men prayed to God. Two men believed in God. One a Pharisee who followed all the religious laws because he wanted to be right with God. He did what Scripture instructs. He tithed 10% of his earnings. He supported the work of the church. He fasted twice a week. He was a righteous man in that he did all the right things. Yet he was a sinner and the worst part of it was that he didn’t think he was a sinner. He compared himself to those around him, especially the tax collector not far from him. Pharisees associated mostly with people in their own group. They didn’t associate with others who were not righteous, like the tax collector.

Tax collectors were not like the IRS today. They were part of a corrupt system that would charge high taxes and take them from the poor and enrich the wealthy. They made a deal with the Roman government that if they gave Rome their share then the tax collectors could keep the rest for profit. It was not an honorable job to have and it’s no wonder the Pharisees looked down on them. They put them in corner and labeled them sinners. But the tax collector that the Pharisee encountered that day was praying too. Only he wasn’t praying in the temple; he knew he would be kicked out because of what he did and who he was so he kept his distance and prayed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” He knew he needed help. He knew he needed a change of heart and he knew only God could do that.

Both men believed in God. Both men prayed. But one man knew he was a sinner and the other did not. The tax collector knew he needed God’s forgiveness and mercy and the Pharisee thought he was doing all the right things. Both men were sinners, yet only one was justified – made right with God – not because of his actions, but because of God’s actions. That’s what justification means – we’ve been talking about this in confirmation the last couple of weeks, because it’s such an important concept to understand.
We can do all the right things and be righteous, but if we – like the Pharisee – think that these things bring us closer to God and justify us then we are mistaken. We are justified – made right with God – not because of what we do, but because of what God does. God’s actions are what save us, not our actions. Nothing we do can earn God’s love and grace. They are gifts that God gives to us freely, and it is God in whom we must put our trust not our own actions.

Yet, this does not mean that we are not called to act in righteous ways. Martin Luther, the great reformer, said “God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.” That is the difference. We do not show compassion, mercy, forgiveness, to others to earn God’s approval. We don’t tithe and fast to earn God’s love. We do these things out of gratitude that God has saved us and so we do these things to help our neighbor. When we truly understand that it is God’s actions that matter and not our own works, then we stop comparing ourselves with others. Instead of us feeling better than someone else and gossiping, we will see that we are all the same. Instead of feeling we are worse than someone else and that we have no gifts to offer, we see that God has given different gifts to each one of us. Truly feeling this promise in our souls, we are then overflowing with gratitude for what God has done for us.

In order to truly understand this we need to acknowledge that we are indeed both saints and sinners as Martin Luther said so many centuries ago. We are both the Pharisee and the tax collector. That is why we gather together each week to confess before God and one another that we are all guilty and in need of God’s forgiveness and mercy. And each week we can walk away in gratitude that we have the assurance of God’s forgiveness.When we pray to God to change our hearts then we will experience the grace we so desperately long for.

Prayer develops within us a heart of compassion and generosity. When we pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us and stir within us and lead us to Christ we are convicted of our sinfulness and we can repent, yet because of what Christ has done – not us – we have the assurance that we are made right once again with God.

This parable is about putting our trust in the right place, not in ourselves, but in God. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot fix our problems individually or those of our congregation. We cannot save a congregation. I cannot save a congregation. No pastor can do that. Only God can do that. God is the only one who can turn things around and we as the church need to pray for God to change our hearts. And God will.  God will change our hearts and God will renew our congregation. God will renew our spirit of generosity. God will renew our spirit of love and compassion. God will change our hearts to be inviting and loving as Christ showed us how to be.

Prayer is a powerful thing. It is our connection with God and with each other. The most powerful prayer we can say is “God, be merciful to be a sinner.” “God change my heart.” When God changes our hearts, we will see opportunities where we never saw them before because we will see from God’s perspective and not our own. “Create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and put a new right Spirit within me.” May this be our communal and fervent prayer. Amen.

 

Wrestling With God

Sunday, October 16, 2016
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
Genesis 32:22-31  & Luke 18:1-18

“I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Jacob spoke these words as he wrestled all night with the mysterious man. Many think it was an angel or one of God’s messengers. Jacob said it was God. “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” Wrestling or battling another person is tough enough; battling the divine is even harder. Jacob knew all about fighting people. His name meant “holder of the heel” for when he was born it was said he came out holding on to his brother Esau’s heel. It seemed he was fighting right from the moment of his birth. And he continued to fight. He fought for what he wanted, most of the time through lies and deceit. He would cheat his older brother Esau out of the blessing from his father. And now he was fighting to get a blessing from the divine, whether or not it hurt or not. To Jacob, that blessing was worth everything. And so he wouldn’t let go. He kept on wresting until he got that blessing.

The widow in our gospel story shows that same kind of persistence. She needed justice. As a widow in that society she had no one to care for her, no sons to provide for her, no family to support her, and no one to advocate to the judge on her behalf. But she needed justice an so like Jacob she wrestled – she fought with the judge until she received her justice, her blessing. And this judge was a hard opponent. Judges were required by the law to take care of widows, but he didn’t fear God and he didn’t respect people. But this widow – like Jacob – was persistent and she was not going to let the judge go until she received her justice, her blessing.

When was the last time you wrestled with God? Sometimes praying is wrestling with God, especially during times when we are faced with challenging situations. We may doubt whether God even hears our prayers and rather than give up, Jesus says we need to “pray always and not lose heart” just like the examples of Jacob and the widow. They were desperate and needed justice and blessing in order to live. Jesus is telling us that when we face desperate times, when our hearts are broken, when we are in the midst of despair, when we don’t know where to turn next, we need to pray – to wrestle with God – until we receive that blessing we so desperately need.

We may pray or wrestle with God when we are trying to find the will to go on after the death of our spouse, or maybe the death of our child, or when someone we loved so dearly dies. During these times are hearts are literally broken and we wrestle with God for meaning. We may wrestle with God in prayer when we or someone we love is diagnosed with a terminal disease, or when we’re dealing with an illness that doesn’t seem to be getting better, or a relationship that has wounded us. We wrestle with God over losing jobs, or friends, or dreams. And these Scripture texts are telling us that we are to keep on wrestling, to keep on praying and not let go until we receive the blessings we need to live. Jesus says to keep on praying and not lose heart.

Jesus wants us to know that if an unjust judge will finally give in to giving in to this widow’s needs, how much more will God – who is a just and compassionate judge – give to all God’s people who call on him for help. God is a just judge. God throughout history has always cared for God’s beloved people. He brought the Israelites out of slavery into the promised land. God led them by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God gave us the ten commandments as a gift and guide for our lives. God send Jesus who suffered and died and rose again when we were lost to sin and death to bring us back to a right relationship with god. God sent the Holy Spirit to call us back to Christ and to comfort, guide, and empower us always. God has never abandoned us and God never will. Like Jacob and the widow, God is also relentless and will not let us go.

Yet in the process of praying, we may not get what we want, but we will always receive a blessing. It just may not be the one we thought we would get. The most powerful part of prayer is that it changes us. Prayer opens our hearts. In order to do that, we often need to let things go. We may need to wrestle with God to let go of past hurts, to let go of being judgmental, to let go of our anger, to let go of perfectionism, to let go of our need to be in control, to let go of always having to be right, to let go of our fear, to let go…..and to trust in God. Trusting in God opens our hearts and allows us to see and feel and accept God’s blessings. And in return we can then be blessings to others. There is so much hostility and hatred in our world right now, so much suffering and pain. People are praying for justice. They are praying for peace. God is calling us as Jesus’ disciples to be the instruments through which God answers other’s prayers. We are called to let God’s priorities of compassion and love be our priorities.

“I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The good news is that God has already blessed us through the precious gift of Jesus Christ. He is our greatest blessing, our greatest treasure and he will never let us go. As we leave here today let us not let go of him. And let us bless and glorify God by praying always, staying close to Jesus, showing love and compassion to others, and being a blessing for each other. Amen.

On The Way

Sunday, October 9, 2016
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
Luke 17:11-19

 

The young woman was on her way to check on the garden in her yard. She looked over the stone wall and saw them – laughing and singing and eating…such happiness! These people were getting together almost every weekend. There they were, gathered together in the yard, adults sharing stories and hugging each other, children running around screaming in delight, music playing. The food smelled so good, she could almost taste it. It was a celebration. It seemed they were always celebrating. And she wanted to join in on this celebration too. She wanted to be a part of it all.

But she couldn’t. She wasn’t part of that family. She didn’t even know them. She was in her own yard, and they were on that side of the stone wall. That stone wall that separated her from them. That stone wall that she didn’t dare cross over. She was young and insecure. She wanted to go near them, to say hello, but…..she just waived, and kept her distance. Just like the lepers in today’s story.

The lepers knew their place too. They were the outcasts of society, only it wasn’t just in their minds. It wasn’t from a lack of self-esteem. They were rejected. They were the outcasts. They were considered “dirty or unclean.” Whenever they encountered people they had to yell, “unclean, unclean” so everyone would keep their distance. Everyone in the village and in the surrounding towns knew who they were and made sure they stayed far away. Lepers lived together in small groups by themselves. They had no outside friends. No one even wanted to look at them. They didn’t want to catch that illness. Certainly those people, those Samaritans were sinners. They thought, “Why else would God allow their bodies to be so ridden with disease?” And that’s probably how the lepers felt themselves. They knew their place in society or should I say outside of society. Their shame made them feel less than human so they kept their distance.

They had heard the whispers of Jesus and the miracles He performed. So on that day, they ventured out from their dark caves into town. Maybe….just maybe….there was a chance, a chance for….cleansing? They didn’t know, but they had to try. What did they have to lose? Their lives? What kind of life did they have? So when the lepers had Jesus in their site,
they shouted from across the road, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” They didn’t dare cross over. They kept their distance. It didn’t matter that everyone was staring. They only cared that Jesus saw them. Would He look in their direction or would He turn away like everyone else and keep going? Their usual downcast eyes were now wide with anticipation.

There’s a lot of downcast eyes in our society today. Have you looked at people while you’re walking down the street and said hello? Sometimes someone will smile and look back and other times they just keep walking, their heads down to the ground. They’re not lepers, but they suffer from isolation too. In a society that’s connected to the world-wide web, in many ways we’re more isolated than ever before. We need that human contact, the smile, the hug, someone to listen. And yet there’s a distance between us. We don’t know one another. When someone says, “Hi how are you?” the response is often “good”, or “fine.” But the truth is sometimes, “no, I’m not fine. I’m terrible. Someone I love is terribly sick. I just lost someone I deeply love. My heart is broken. I’m overworked and exhausted. I lost my job. I don’t know how things are going to work out. There are people suffering around us all the time and often we don’t even know it. There are people around us every day who are on the verge of a breakdown, or even worse, close to ending their own life. Do we take the time to really see and hear them?

There’s a leprous epidemic today too, only we can’t see it like in ancient times. It’s hidden behind smiling faces, and friendly greetings, but it’s there. Loneliness, isolation, and a feeling of total unworthiness. And all of us at one time or another have felt it, haven’t we? Yet as much as we want to be healed, we keep our distance because we’re afraid if people knew the truth about us they’d never even look at us. Deep inside we yearn for people to see us. Yet there’s a part of us that keeps that distance, because there’s a danger in getting too close. There’s a danger in being that vulnerable. What if we get rejected, again?

And sometimes we keep our distance from God too. We might be so upset that we don’t even know how to pray, so we don’t even bother. We stay away from God by keeping a silent distance. Yet we forget that we can never hide from God. God is near even when we don’t feel that closeness. We may try and put up a wall between us and God, but the Holy Spirit is always working to break down that wall and soften our hearts. It takes courage, but God will never let us down. God will never break our hearts and gives us the courage to take risks and try again.

For the young woman who wanted to get over the wall and do something new, the birth of a baby made all the difference. She had just had her first child and the neighbor across the yard, on the other side of the wall, had just had a new baby too. As she held her daughter in her arms, she walked to the stone wall and commented to the neighbor how beautiful her new baby was. The neighbor in turn, commented on the young woman’s baby, and as they say…the rest is history. A tiny baby bridged the gap between stranger and friend. The two women soon became friends and remained close no matter how far apart they were in distance. Who knew a tiny baby could make such a difference!

There’s another baby who made an even bigger difference. A baby who was sent into our broken and sinful world to bridge the gap between us and God. To bridge the gap between isolation and communion. To bridge the gap between forsakenness and salvation. I’m talking about Jesus – the Word of God made flesh – who was born to bring healing to all people.

And in today’s text we hear of this baby who is grown and on His way to Jerusalem, on His way to suffer and die on a cross in order to restore us to a close relationship with God. Jesus was on His way to finish what He came on earth to do – to take away the sin of the world and make us whole again. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem when a group of lepers called out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Their eyes were waiting in anticipation, and Jesus saw them! He was on a mission, but He was not too busy to hear them. He was not too busy to see them. This is why Jesus came into the world – to set people free. Jesus, the rejected one, will never reject us.

When Jesus called back, “Go and show yourselves to the priests” the lepers went. And as they went – on their way – they were made clean! They may not have noticed right away, until the Samaritan – a bigger outcast than even the rest of the lepers because he was the enemy – thought about Jesus’ words. Why would Jesus say to go and show themselves to the priests who would declare them clean unless….unless something already happened? And looking down, the one leper saw that he was indeed cured of his leprosy. And he ran back praising God. Jesus said the leper’s faith made him well. But Jesus wasn’t just talking about his physical healing. He was talking about something even more important. He was healed on a deeper level. The leper realized that Jesus had saved him and that is why he ran back to thank him. Thankfulness, gratitude, is the expression of our faith.

Like the Samaritan in today’s story, we need to stop and realize that our salvation has already happened. Jesus has bridged the gap between us and God. Because of Jesus we are assured that we are not alone and that we have the promise of eternal life. We have the assurance through our baptism that we are part of God’s family. We don’t have to look over from a distance and wonder how we will get there. Because of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist – which means thanksgiving – we have the assurance that our sins are forgiven, God’s grace is poured out upon us, and the Holy Spirit is with us. That is a reason to be grateful even when our lives seem less than perfect.

That’s the power of God’s Word – the Word of Life! And God’s word speaks to us on the way. On the way to doing the things we do every day God’s word comes to us. It isn’t something that is planned. Jesus didn’t plan to meet the lepers any more than they planned to meet him. But Jesus comes to us in unexpected places and at unexpected times- sometimes even in the midst of terrible struggles.

This week we have seen the terrible destruction from Hurricane Matthew on the lives of people in the United States and especially in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world. Time and again these people are struck down with earthquakes, hurricanes, and deadly disease. It’s estimated that almost 900 people now have died from the recent hurricane and over 90 % of their homes destroyed. They are desperate. Cholera from the polluted water is becoming a serious problem. One Haitian woman named Samantha who was interviewed walked through her destroyed home crying and saying, “This is my home.” And then she said, “We still, thank God for life – everything else has been destroyed.” Even though everything else is destroyed, this woman is thanking God for her life.” Her faith – like that of the Samaritan – has made her well – perhaps not well in her body, but well in her soul.

Can we as Jesus’ disciples who have been blessed with so much more, say it is well with our soul? Do we feel Jesus’ salvation deep in our being? Do we live every day with gratitude for all Jesus has done for us? If we have Jesus we have everything. And when we really see that reality, then we live our lives every day in gratitude.

Starting today let’s live in gratitude – not because everything always goes our way – but because Jesus has given us everything – his very life – so that we would always have life. In gratitude let’s really notice the blessings we take for granted – clean running water, a safe shelter, food to eat, clothes to wear, family, friends, and so much more. In gratitude let’s share what we have with others. As we go on our way, let’s remember in gratitude that the Holy Spirit goes with us. Trust in that power. We are blessed to be a blessing. Amen.