We are still in Easter, called to be Easter people. And what are Easter people? We are like those first women who “go and tell” that Jesus is risen! When people ask what I believe about Christianity and the Gospel, they often temper their request: “Please, keep it simple.” While in Tanzania, a Peace Corps volunteer asked me to describe my belief, “in ten words or less.”
My response? Not if/then but because/therefore --- Because Jesus lives…..
A pastor friend who accompanied me, chimed in: We’re all jerks. God loves you anyhow.
I have put some members in our community on the spot. “In ten words or fewer,” I asked, “how would you proclaim the gospel?” “If need be, you may include a clarifying sentence.”
Here’s what they had to say:
Throughout the Bible, God empowered ordinary, reluctant sinners to do extraordinary things. -Kathy Foulks
Selfless, unconditional grace, love and forgiveness for all – at all times and places. -Lisa Mensinger
Thank you for what I have been given. May it be enough for the road ahead. Onward. -Louise Nelson
Grace: "Apathy is perceived poorly, it doesn't matter because of Jesus" -Christian Mogren
Could you have asked a more complex and yet simple thing? -Chandler Bursey
“Nevertheless [Luther’s “dennoch”], God IS real. Resurrection IS. Grace IS. The Music goes on — so, get with it.” James Gardner with some clarification:
And it continues to baffle me why Jesus said that it is now “better” for us that the Holy Spirit is now within in new depth and clarity — I would have asked Jesus to be right beside me (a walking Wikipedia of “answers” and an ATM — Santa Claus — for any needed goodies).
Instead, we walk a walk of Faith, in Grace, because of Christ, as conveyed in Scripture, to the Glory of God.
And your response?
“Always be ready to share the hope that is within you,” writes the Apostle Paul.
In the meantime, it is enough to proclaim:
Christ is risen!
I know this is hard to believe. In my home congregation, we always ran out of food at church potlucks. It wasn’t because of our large Midwestern appetites. Try as she might, my mother offered more than one casserole and dessert. Still, we didn’t have enough. We were a congregation that practiced scarcity. It wasn’t only our table that was bare. Hospitality was limited to those who believed and acted “like us.”
There is a world of difference between my home congregation and Zion. The way in which members of a congregation reproduce the love of God through genuine hospitality and a love for one another will indicate whether they are the body of Christ or simply a religious club.
We were recently challenged to grow in abundance, hosting the Grand View University Choir. We could have donated day old sugar cookies and called it good. Instead, our reception was laid out like a banquet, a delicious fiesta of delicacies. We were asked to host 38 choir members and staff. Again, it would have been enough to leave the light on, provide a place to sleep, and leave the students to their Snapchat. Instead, stories with their hosts abound about side trips around the city, from mountaintops to Antelope Island.
We are called to be a community of generosity, living in abundance, sharing hospitality. Watch how we shared the gift of music in our Children’s Choir Day with Calvary Baptist Church. See the youth from neighboring congregations and how the Spirit shaped a new sense of community through their shared day of service. Listen to our witness, proclaiming hospitality for all God’s children, advocating for refugees and families separated by punitive immigration policies. Remember again what it means to be “a new creation in Christ” with our welcoming statement, especially with the LGBTQ+ community.
Hospitality is not a small or quick task. It is a continuous and sometimes strenuous way of life. And, as our Lord knows, our yen is to hold onto personal preferences and private needs.
I know this is hard to believe. Our hospitality comes from Jesus, himself. As he breathed on those disciples on that first Easter evening, he now breathes into us: “Peace. Receive the Holy Spirit.” In that breath we share a new sense of grace, a banquet table of hospitality, and the generosity of our cup that overflows.
In and through Christ,
Pastor Steve Klemz
Ash Wednesday. The cross of gritty ashes is smeared on our foreheads, as the one who marks says, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” But that same cross-shaped mark tells another truth, remembering the crossed traced upon our foreheads in Holy Baptism: “Child of God, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and marked with the cross of Christ forever.”
These markings tell the central truths of our lives. We are dust, with so short a time to live and to laugh and to love. It also tells the eternal truth, that each of us is a child of God, beloved, the delight of God’s heart. We are dust. We are children of God. In all of this, we are people joined to each other and to God through our baptism into Christ.
On Ash Wednesday, we are summoned into the Lenten invitation: “As disciples of Jesus, we are called to a discipline that contends against evil and resists whatever leads us away from love of God and neighbor.” In your observation of Lent, remember that you are Easter people, wrapped in the eternal embrace of God’s love and promise of new life for you. In your observation of Lent, do not pretend that we are not dust and that there are no deserts and Good Fridays for those around us.
I pray for you a Lenten season of holy reflection, quiet joy in the love of our forgiving Savior. May you have a clear view of all that leads you away from love of God and neighbor. And, we pray, for an Easter of renewed commitment to bringing the fullness of Christ’s love and life and grace to all people.
+ Pastor Steve Klemz
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CONNECTING THROUGH GRACE
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Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Rocky Mountain Synod
ZION EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
1070 Foothill Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84108
8:15 am Awakening Worship
9:15 am Sunday School
10:30 am Traditional Worship