Everyone Welcome – Everyone Equal
My grandmother used to tell me stories. When she was a child, she would on occasion go with her mother to the home of the richest family in DeKalb, Illinois. DeKalb was the birthplace of barbed wire. Barbed wire helped tame the American West. In 1874, the Barb Fence Company produced 10,000 pounds of wire. By 1879, that figured had grown to more than 50 million pounds. Barbed wire was big business and it made vast fortunes for the entrepreneurial inventors.
The Ellwood House was a grand mansion. It was a one of a kind show-place that hosted parties for Civil War generals, politicians, and industrialists. The ballroom was decorated, there was dancing, cigars, and fine wine. No expense would be spared. It was all about extravagant hospitality for the guests.
The servants employed at the Ellwood Mansion were numerous, but the grand parties required more labor. My great-grandmother and other women in town would be hired to work in the kitchen, in the parlors, out of sight, behind the scenes. My grandmother remembered those nights fondly. Sometimes she played with the Ellwood children, other times she never got out of the kitchen.
The servants had only one role. They were there to serve the Ellwoods, by taking care of the needs of every guest. It should be noted that the servants did not have a say in the guest list. The Ellwoods invited whomever they wished. It was not the servants’ place to approve or disapprove. The merit of each guest was simply not their business.
The servants either understood this, or they were soon not welcome in the mansion themselves.
Every Sunday, we come to a mansion that we helped build. But the mansion, we call the church, does not belong to us. We are simply servants here. Jesus is the one and only host of every party at TLC. Jesus invites whomever he wishes.
Our role is not to approve of the guest list, we are not to judge the merit of anyone that enters the doors of the church. The past or present of the guests is none of our business. Their age, occupation, belief system, or orientation is not our concern. The master of the house invited them to the party and they showed up.
Our only response is to welcome them with open arms, to take their coat, to offer them a drink, to express our profound appreciation for their presence.
For much of the history of the church, we have forgotten our place. The one who invited known sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes to the party, does not need us to keep the church free from riff-raff. We work here; that is all.
Everyone welcome—everyone equal. It is either true, or it is not. We either follow Jesus, or we don’t. At the feast of bread and wine, everyone eats; no one is turned away.
Every Sunday when you come to TLC, dress appropriately. Wear the clothes of a servant. More importantly, have the attitude of a servant—the attitude of Jesus. What freedom God offers us!
You are gay? Does not matter to me. I just work here. Come on in, join the party.
You are divorced? Does not matter to me. I just work here. Come on in, join the party.
You are a Trump supporter? Who cares? I just work here. Come on in, join the party.
You are a Patriots fan? Does not matter to me. I just work here. Come to the table.
“Many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus. When the Pharisees saw this they said, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’”
Gotta love those religious people. The servants who argue with the Master about the guest list are soon the only ones not welcomed at the party.
I look forward to serving you this Sunday- come serve with me.
There are 365 days in the year—only one day is Christmas.
Here you see a photo of my grandson Camden from last Friday, December 21st, as the Trinity Preschoolers got to visit with Bill “Santa” Read. Bill came down from his home in Coupeville on both Thursday and Friday, even though he had no power at home.
On Saturday, he spent his entire day with children at Safeway in Oak Harbor. Bill does this each year because he loves children, and it provides a vehicle to raise money to feed the hungry. He does it to honor his late wife, Cheryl, and to honor his God.
Bill starts growing that beard in the Summer. It is hot and uncomfortable. He purchased his own Santa suit.
On Christmas day, Bill was airlifted from Coupeville to Providence Hospital in Everett. I joined his family at his bedside. Bill did not make it. Bill died on Christmas with his Santa beard intact. Bill went home for Christmas to be with his dear Cheryl. Their first Christmas together since 2011.
There are 365 days in the year. What are the odds that our Santa would die on Christmas?
Bill was the best we had at TLC. He sang and played for the choir. He cooked for the men’s breakfast, his home was always open to everyone in the parish, he was the reason that we have a Valentine’s Day Dinner.
Bill “Santa” Read died on Christmas. To quote Luther, “as a matter of faith I can accept this, as a matter of the flesh I am most crushed.”
Through my tears this morning I am giving thanks for Bill and I am shaking my fist to heaven.
I pray that this dark season of grief will give way to dancing and laughter.
I think about her often. She lived in a modest home built by her father. She walked with a limp; I was with her when she broke that leg. When I stayed overnight, we made fudge together. She taught me how to play poker. She was the first person I knew who had a remote on her TV, and yet, she never did get a dishwasher. She volunteered tirelessly. Her hospitality was comfortable and gracious, no pretense. Her door was always open. There was always room at her kitchen table. The coffee was always on.
She was my Grandma Elliott. She raised three children in the Great Depression. She carried the family on her back when my grandfather was ill. She loved me. I always knew that she loved me, and she loved Christmas.
She loved Christmas, the tree, the decorations, her family gathered at her house. The cards, the food, the friends, the music. She loved Christmas. She loved the story. The promise of new life stirring mysteriously in the womb of a virgin. The journey by donkey from Galilee to the sleepy village of Bethlehem. The stable, the shepherds, and the angels. The Christmas Star bearing witness to the light of the world. The lamb of God lying in a feed trough. The journey of the Wisemen as they sought the face of God.
It was just a few days before Christmas when she died. I was with her. Struck down by some strange disease that attacked her immune system. She had contracted the disease through a blood transfusion. The doctors did not even have a name for the disease then.
I remember that Christmas vividly. Presents under the tree from a Grandma who was gone. The celebration continued, carols were sung, the story was shared. Grandma loved the story.
▪ The light shines in the darkness.
▪ The cries of a baby who came to dry the tears of a thousand generations.
▪ The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
Grandma loved the story.
My friends, don’t lose the story. Don’t let the story be obscured by the bright lights and advertising. Love the seasons. Love the traditions. But don’t lose the story. Come to church and hear. Invite friends to visit the story with you.
For unto YOU a child is born.
It is hard for us to comprehend the magnitude of the devastation; the grief and loss that is being experienced by our neighbors in California. 7,000 homes destroyed, entire communities gone, hundreds of thousands of people displaced.
100% of your gifts to Lutheran Disaster Relief will be used to assist those in fire-ravaged areas to survive and rebuild their lives. Lutheran Disaster Response teams are already on the scene, working with local and state agencies.
What can we do? We can pray, and we can give. We can give generously to those in need. We are Blessed to be a Blessing!
You can give by following this link on our church website.
You can also make out checks to TLC and put “Fire Relief” in the memo. Those checks can be mailed to TLC at PO Box 97, Freeland, Washington 98249. You could also drop a check off at church or put a check in the plate this Sunday.
Together we can make a difference.
Thank you in advance for your generosity.
We have been engaging in serious theological conversation the past two weeks. You are all theologians and I am proud of you. What is a “theologian?” A theologian is one who studies the movement and mysteries of God. It is important to note that theology is not exactly a science. The more you learn, the more questions you have. The mystery and majesty of God will never be fully comprehended by mere mortals.
What is the place of Prayer and Miracles as we consider our life and faith?
If God offers us no insurance, and very little if any protection from the perils of this life, then does prayer make a difference and do miracles still happen?
The answer is YES and YES!
Prayer has the power to change lives, to change families, to change the course of history. When we pray, we open the lines of communication to God. In doing so, we open our hearts and minds to God. The Holy Spirit has entrée into our lives. The Holy Spirit can change our lives.
Prayer puts us in the path of the Gospel. As I said Sunday, I don’t believe that prayer changes God, and it certainly does not provide God with any new information. Having said that, prayer can and does change us, and in that change God can work to change the world. God answers prayer and 99% of the time those prayers are answered by the loving care of the people that God puts in our lives.
Miracles– miracles still happen. I believe in miracles. I have witnessed miracles and have heard your testimony to the miraculous way that God has moved in your lives.
Miracles still happen, but 99% of the time God works through people to accomplish miracles. The Red Sea does not part very often, water is rarely turned into wine, and I have not seen anyone walk on the Sea of Galilee. But everyday people are healed of their diseases, relationships that were thought to be dead are mended, and simple acts of grace bring about miraculous results.
Prayer is critical—keep praying. Open your heart to God. Miracles still happen. But God needs a prayer partner and God needs a miracle partner. And that partner is YOU! Prayer without our participation is like sitting on Santa’s lap at Christmas. The expectation of a miracle does not preclude our participation in that miracle.
Celebrate miracles, but do not bet your future on them. Say your prayers and then get out there and work for good.
You are all theologians! What did one theologian say to another theologian? “God knows.”
See you in Church!
“I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where is my help to come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121
The sun had just risen on September 11, 2001. Two days earlier we had rallied for the Fall and used, for the first time, our new gym, kitchen, nursery, and Sunday School wing. The sermon title on September 9th was “The world will never be the same.” The words were unintentionally prophetic.
Seventeen years have passed now. I am quite sure that there has never been a seventeen-year period in human history with more dramatic change. The sweeping change is unparalleled. Our nation is not the same. The world has changed, technology companies have changed our economy, social media has transformed the culture, travel is more complicated, churches and service clubs are closing. The younger generations have been raised with constant war and a fear of terrorism. We are more connected and less intimate than ever before.
The seventeen years have passed so quickly. The man in the mirror sports more wrinkles now. There can be no denying the march of time, the changing of the seasons, the passing of the generations. We are dust and to dust we shall return. What will the next seventeen years hold? Will we survive the next seventeen? There are precious few guarantees.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where is my help to come? My help comes from the Lord, the marker of heaven and earth.”
Everything in life is changing, sifting and decaying, but God is faithful. God is with us. God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. We have nowhere to turn but to God. Our hope is not found in national security, financial security, or the latest workout program.
My help comes from the Lord. Seventeen years later that has not changed. Three thousand years after the Psalms were penned, that has not changed.
I will see you this Sunday in Church. That’s right, I am showing up this Sunday. Wear your tee-shirts and put yourself in the path of the Gospel.