Messages, Meditations, and Musings on the Life of Faith by Rev. Dr. Scott E. Olson, Interim Senior Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church, Waseca, MN

Sunday, December 1, 2019

What’s Your Greatest Hope for Grace? - Sermon for Advent 1A

What’s Your Greatest Hope for Grace?
Advent 1A
December 1, 2019
Grace, Waseca, MN
Matthew 24.36-44

A young man was waiting at the altar for his soon-to-be wife as she walked down the aisle. He was looking forward the long-awaited fruits of matrimony and the joy of finally being “one flesh.” As he stood there expectantly, his best man leaned closer and said, “Wouldn’t it be great if Jesus came back right now?” The horrified look on the groom’s face said it all: absolutely not! As much as his theology suggested otherwise, the nascent husband did not want Jesus right then, or anytime soon for that matter.

It’s a safe bet that the second coming of Jesus Christ has been the last thing on your minds these past few days, if at all. I’m guessing you’ve been busy celebrating Thanksgiving, spending time with family and friends, seeing movies, shopping, wrapping presents and the like. In most cases, that’s as it should be. And if you’ve thought about Jesus’ coming at all, it has probably been as the Babe born in Bethlehem, perhaps coming to mind as you have heard Christmas carols played while baking or shopping.

If we think about Jesus’ second coming at all, it’s because yet another prognosticator has made the news, either making a new prediction or gloriously blowing it on the first one. This is despite the rather clear message in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus emphatically says we are not to guess. Jesus puts an exclamation point on the statement be declaring that not even he knows when this will happen. But Matthew includes this story because the people of his time wondered why Jesus hadn’t returned yet. And, unlike the nervous groom in our story, this kind of literature helps strengthen people in an uncertain and anxious time. It does so by cultivating hope within them. The hope of God’s promised future reminded them that they had a purpose in the meantime. God had called them to mission now.

Pastor and theologian Kate Huey says it this way. “Advent remembers and retells the story of people who, like us, were waiting for the promises of God to be fulfilled, and striving to live faithfully as they waited.” Thomas Long adds that, in the face of a world with so many needs, “…the only way to preserve hope … is to trust that at any moment we may be surprised by the sudden presence of God.” Advent reminds us that God not only comes into each moment, but does so with a call on our lives.

This call on us may sound like a burden, yet one more responsibility for us to bear, but it’s the opposite. The call from God is an opportunity to participate with God in the ongoing transformation of the world. So, how do we know where God is calling us and what God is calling us to do? We listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting. And one way we are going to do that here at Grace is by filling out some “hope slips.” Please take your slips and finish the sentence, “My greatest hope for Grace Lutheran Church is …”

One way you might think about this question is to imagine your greatest fear related to Grace and then think of its alternative. Hold on to them and then bring them up when you come forward for Holy Communion placing them in the basket. The church council and I will read these and use them to see what themes are being lifted up in God’s call on us for the future. It’s one more way help us in this Time of Listening as we prepared for the Time of Discovery.

Regardless of the outcome, please know this: As Luther Seminary professor Rolf Jacobson reminds us, the God who came in human history at Bethlehem and promises to come in majesty at the end of the age also promises to come in mystery as Emmanuel, God with us. Thanks be to God, Amen.

To listen to an audio version of this sermon click here.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

"What Are You Looking For?" - Sermon for Pentecost 23C, Lectionary 33C

What Are You Looking For?
Pentecost 23C – Lectionary 33
November 17, 2019
Grace, Waseca, MN
Luke 21.5-19; John 1.35-39a

 “Are you a Christian?” she asked, with a hint of excitement mixed with wonder and awe. We were in the break room of a Minnesota fabrics store, she a salesclerk, me a manager trainee. I sensed she was excited to meet a fellow Christian, especially one of the supervisory variety. “Yes,” I admitted, though I didn’t tell her I’d recently returned to the fold after a lengthy absence following Confirmation. Her next question threw me, but didn’t surprise me: “Do you believe that we are in the end times?”

With that question I knew immediately about her particular brand of Christianity, one that focused on Jesus’ supposedly imminent return, especially of the “Late, Great Planet Earth” and “Left Behind” kind. “Yes,” I responded out loud. However, to myself I said, “But not the way you think.” I didn’t know a lot of theology then, but I knew enough that I didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole with her. Fortunately, one or both of us was needed on the sales floor so I didn’t have to pursue it further.

The so-called end times are in view in our Gospel reading from Luke. Those following Jesus are marveling at the architecture of the temple, almost like small town tourists in the big city for the first time. Indeed, the temple was a marvel: enormous stones, stunningly white and overlaid with gold shiningly visible from miles away. So, imagine their shock when Jesus predicts its destruction, which indeed will happen 35 years later. “When will this happen,” they ask, and then they demand the signs signaling its forthcoming.

In his response, Jesus tells them that what they are looking for is not the most important question they should be asking. Yet, at first, it seems as if he answers when he talks about wars, insurrections, famines and earthquakes. But then he shifts the discussion: what does it mean to be a person of faith when times are hard? Being a person of faith when times are hard means that we cannot put our ultimate trust in things that can be thrown down and destroyed. It also means trusting in Christ presence when all those things fail.

Those disciples in Luke’s Gospel trusted an idea of God, one who filled the temple and would overwhelm anyone who would come near. Those followers of John the Baptist who catch sight of Jesus weren’t very sure what they were looking for, but somehow knew that they needed to abide with Jesus for a time, to come and see. They all will learn that being a person of faith when times are hard means being prepared to give testimony to the hope that is within us with the assurance that Jesus is present, giving us what we need.

One thing it means to be a person of faith when times are hard is to make a commitment to the preaching and living out of the gospel. Today we are asking you to make a commitment to God’s mission and ministry through this place. Before I do so, I want to tell you a bit of my story about growing in generosity because I’m not going to ask you to do something that I wouldn’t do. When we married, Cindy informed me we would be tithing to our church (giving 10%). My first thought was, “Does she know how much money we don’t have?” (She’s an accountant and handles our finances. She does.) My second thought was, “I wonder how long this will last?” (It’s lasted 39+ years, but it has not always easy.)

I want to be clear about two things: first, I am not the hero in this story, and neither is my wife. I agreed to tithing out of a sense of duty, “I have to give,” which has some legitimacy. We are all obligated to give our fair share to support the congregations to which we belong. Even so, as I engaged in this practice, it was God’s faithfulness to us that was heroic. Through the practice of tithing I learned to trust in God more deeply than I ever could have imagined. Now, in addition to the obligation of giving my fair share, I have delight in giving even more.

The second thing I want to make perfectly clear is that I am not shaming you into giving. Nor am I even asking you all to become tithers, though that would thrill me to no end if you did so because of what God could do through us.

What I am asking is that you prayerfully consider growing in generosity today. For some of you that mean practicing proportionate giving, going from 2% to 3% or more. For some of you, growing in generosity might mean adding 10% to what you are currently giving. For others, perhaps growing means you are filling out a statement of intent card for the first time. And for still others, maybe growing in giving means showing up today even though you knew we are going to talk about stewardship and giving.

I wish I’d had the wherewithal to ask that young salesclerk, “What are you looking for?” when she asked me the question about end times. Then I might have had the courage to speak words of assurance to her that we have a God who knows what it’s like to be a person of faith when times are hard and encourages to live boldly in both words and deeds. Our Waseca community and beyond need to see and hear the witness of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. Many are looking for answers in places that won’t last and need us to say, “Come and see the one who does.” Amen.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

"For All the Saints" - Sermon for All Saints Sunday

For All the Saints
All Saints Sunday
November 3, 2019
Grace, Waseca, MN
Luke 6.20-31

On All Saints Sunday, I can’t help thinking about those in my family who have passed away. Certainly, my mom and dad, who died too early and didn’t see their granddaughters grow up into the fine young women they are. There are my Grandma and Grandpa Olson, who died before I was born and whom I never knew. There are various aunts, uncles, and cousins many of whom also died too young. Then there is my Grandma Johnson, who died when I was sixteen. And in a moment of borderline heresy, I think of our first dog, Chipper, who was hit by a care when I was just a few years old and other pets who we dearly loved.

But it’s my Grandpa Johnson I’m really thinking about today, whom I didn’t know as well as I would have liked. That’s because Grandpa Johnson lived in Spokane and we lived in the Cities, a long way for a visit. But when he did come to visit, we’d put out a dish with jellybeans and a rubber band because he liked to shoot them at us. Though it was a bit uncomfortable at the time, we did devotions every night.

When I was much older, I learned why Grandpa Johnson and most of my aunts, uncles and cousins lived in the Spokane area. Grandpa Johnson’s father had walked away from the family when he was 10, the oldest of four, and so Grandpa Johnson became very self-reliant. Before WWII he had a milk can re-tinning business in Rice Lake, WI that he turned into a truck body plant. (If you see a Schwan’s Truck, look for a little plate to the right of the driver’s door. It will say “Johnson Truck Body.” That was my Grandpa’s company.)

I say “was” because he was so busy, Grandpa Johnson brought in his brothers into the business to help. Long story short, they eventually forced him out of the business he started. Rather than fighting them, Grandpa Johnson took Grandma, most of my mom’s sisters and brothers, and headed west. The story goes that Grandpa Johnson would have gone all the way to the Pacific Ocean, but grandma stopped him at Spokane and said, “This is far enough.”

Now, Grandpa Johnson had built boats as a hobby in Rice Lake and so he started Herb Craft, among the first to use fiberglass in boats. Grandpa Johnson was quite the inventor, the first to design the V-shaped snowplow, but never cared to patent anything. He was a stocky man with a barrel chest and thighs like tree trunks, but he was one of the gentlest men I’ve known.

I also think about Grandpa Johnson because he “turned the other cheek” in a way I’d find hard to emulate. In our Gospel reading today, Jesus asks us to live up to an almost impossible standard: love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for our abusers. Clearly Jesus has never spent time on Facebook or Twitter. Or perhaps maybe he has… He also wants us to consider that those things we consider blessings aren’t always blessings and vice versa. Now, we must take great care not to pull these verses out of context and encourage victimization. But we must also not dismiss Jesus’ call to find life in the places that our society and culture don’t.

Now, I know that Grandpa Johnson wasn’t perfect because none of us are. I also know that because of his humble nature he would protest being idolized, rightfully so, because that’s not the point of the story. I think Grandpa Johnson would have said that he was an ordinary person with an extraordinary God, someone who tried to live his life as Jesus invites us to live, not to bring in the kingdom but to get a glimpse of it in our lives. Grandpa Johnson is a saint because he was set aside by God in his baptism and because he is gathered in heaven with all those I have mentioned and more. But he is also a saint because he tried to let the light of Christ shine through the cracks in his life.

Jesus calls us to a new way of being in the world, not measured by what we have or what we are as much as it is how we respond to God’s love, grace and mercy, especially when we don’t deserve it. As you come forward to light a candle for your loved ones, I hope you’ll remember your Grandpa Johnsons whose lives inspire you, but I hope you’ll also remember those who were a bit more “cracked” as well. Maybe, just maybe, there will be someone who will remember you, saints of God, who through your baptisms have been set aside by God to be bearers of Christ’s light. Amen.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

"Fake News?" - Sermon for Reformation Sunday

Fake News?
Reformation Sunday
October 27, 2019
Grace, Waseca, MN
John 8.31-36

“…you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”

A legend has it that five blind men approach an elephant and attempt to describe it. The first blind man, holding the trunk, says an elephant is like a hose. The second, grabbing an ear, says it’s a fan. The third blind man, wrapping his arms around a leg, says it is like a tree. The fourth touching the massive side, swears the elephant is like a wall. Whereas the fifth blind man, grabbing the tail, insists the elephant is like a snake. Each from his own perspective is absolutely sure he knows what an elephant is like.

We know all too well how truth can be a matter of perspective, but in our day and age it seems even more discouraging. It is said that we live in a post-truth society, where objective facts matter less than appealing to emotions or personal beliefs, that we don’t have a shared standard separating fact from opinion.

The situation seems more dire: not only can we not agree on what is true, there are people out there generating “fake news” to further their agenda. Just last Thursday it was revealed that a state senator in North Dakota knowingly circulated a false picture and story to attack a political opponent. His “apology” did not lessen his vitriol as he continued to attack his opponent. Furthermore, it has become commonplace to brand truth that you don’t like as fake news rather than arguing your position on its own merits. In such a climate, the Rotarians’ Four-Way Test seems a quaint relic: “Of the things we think, say and do: Is it the truth; is it fair to all concerned; will it build goodwill and better friendships; will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

Lest you think this a modern phenomenon, Jesus seeks to speak a word of truth to the crowds that have been following him. He says, “... you will know the truth and the truth will make you free,” a surprising word to them. You see, they come from a long line of “truth-spinners” going all the way back to Adam, who in one fell swoop pinned all the blame for his disobedience on both God and Eve. “This woman that you gave me” caused me to sin. The crowds erroneously claim they have never been slaves, yet who can forget the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians and now the Romans? Then Jesus tells a curious parable as only John’s Jesus can do about slaves and sons in households. Even so, the moral of the tale seems evident: freedom is found in relationship with Jesus as God’s incarnate truth.

It’s hard to believe, but some people don’t believe that Jesus ever existed, let alone represents truth. So, what does it mean in our post-truth, fake news culture for Jesus to claim to bring and be truth? First, we need to acknowledge there are different ways of knowing and that knowing Jesus is a relational term, much like we know those whom we are closest to. I know a lot about my wife; I can rattle off statistics and information, but that only scratches the surface of who she is as a person. It is my 40+ years of being in relationship that I begin to know her. It is similar with knowing Jesus. The word for continuing in Jesus means to rest, abide or remain; in modern speech, it means to hang together. We know Jesus when are with him.

Second, knowing Jesus as truth means that our lives are conformed to his and the truth he proclaims. Part of our transformation means rejecting the lie that we aren’t enough and have to be more, that lie that can do it all ourselves and have it all. Living Jesus’ truth means accepting the fact that we are accepted by God unconditionally and that each of us are worthy of love and belonging. Another part of living Jesus’ truth is allowing that love and acceptance to flow through us to others. And one more part means knowing we are forgiven when we fall short of living the truth.

Today is Reformation Sunday, a time when we remember, among other things, that God continues to move in, with and through the church in all its imperfections and shortcomings. We give thanks for such truth-abiders as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, et al. It’s a time to proclaim, as one of my colleagues has said, that we have the truth in the Lutheran Church, but we don’t have all of it. Sometimes we might feel like those five blind men grasping at the elephant but we do know that Jesus is not fake news but rather good news. Jesus is the good news of God’s desire to love and bless the world, in us and through us. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

"From Duty to Delight" - Sermon for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

From Duty to Delight
Pentecost 18 – Lectionary 28
October 13, 2019
Grace, Waseca, MN
Luke 17.11-19

In last week’s Gospel reading, Jesus’s followers asked for more faith, something we agreed was a reasonable request given Jesus’ demands on us. Jesus answered with two parables, one about a mustard seed and another about doing one’s duty as servants. We hypothesized that Jesus was trying to help them imagine that they already had enough faith and that the issue was not about having more. In fact, we wondered if Jesus was telling them that they already had what they needed to live the kingdom life and that their believing would grow by doing what is expected as a follower of him. Though I didn’t use the term last week, as a Christian there’s a sense of duty we have that comes as a response to what God has already done for us.

However, I ended the sermon by saying that there is also room for joy and praise in the Christian life, but that we’d leave that for today. Here we have these in the story of Jesus’ healing of the 10 lepers. Before we explore joy and gratitude in the Christian life, It’s helpful to remember that lepers in Jesus’ time suffered any number of skin diseases, not all of which we’d classify as Hansen’s Disease. They could have had eczema, psoriasis or even mold or mildew. Regardless of the particulars, they were outcast from society and forced to live on the fringes of their communities. Ironically, they were also reliant on that same community to help them survive, usually through begging.

It’s also helpful to remember that the Samaritans and the Jews of Jesus’ time were mortal enemies. Jews considered Samaritans to be “half-breeds,”-pardon the term-not really Jewish. Even so, both groups looked down on the other as false worshipers of the One True God. So, for Jesus to be around a leper would make him ritually unclean and unable to worship in the temple. To be with a Samaritan would make him doubly so. To make matters worse, consorting with both would be considered scandalous.

When the 10 lepers cry out for mercy, they may have just been begging for money; we don’t know what they were asking. Yet, Jesus gives them more. He tells them to go show themselves to the priests, which was a necessary requirement for reintegration into society, including worshiping in the temple . Dutifully, they do exactly what Jesus orders them to do and are healed on their way, no doubt anxious to get back to their normal lives. Yet, suddenly one of them turns around and comes back to Jesus, loudly praising God in the process. Why does he do so? I think it’s because he sees God’s healing presence in the midst of the awfulness of his life. In doing so, the Samaritan leper moves from duty to delight in his relationship with Jesus.

There is much about the Christian life that involves duty: we love others because God first loved us. We forgive others because we have been forgiven. We pray because God tells us to ask him for what we need. We give of ourselves, our energy and our money because we are committed to being a member of a particular community of faith. But we also experience deep joy and delight in these things when we see God working in, with, and through us. Even when our personal and communal lives don’t go as we plan, we look for those places where God meets us in the messiness of life and see how God works in ways that astonish and surprise us.

One of the reasons we gather together is to help each other see God’s working and share the delight we experience. You see, as important as it was to the lepers to return home to their family, friends and livelihood it was just as important to the community who were anxious to welcome them back. As the poet John Donne as noted, no one is an island; what happens to one of us affects us all. That’s one of the many reasons why what we do here—what God does here—is so important. This week I invite you to find where God is working and delight in his presence. Amen.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

"Doing is Believing" - Sermon for the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Doing is Believing
Pentecost 17 – Lectionary 27
October 6, 2019
Grace, Waseca, MN
Luke 17.5-10

This past Wednesday night one of the Confirmation students asked me about my favorite sport to watch. I responded, “golf,” mostly because I try to learn something about the sport I play regularly. I also told him that I follow the Twins and Vikings though they have crushed my heart in the past. But I think that another reason I said I liked to watch golf is that, although I love to watch many sports, I don’t like to see “showboating” or excessive celebration. In golf the most you see will be a hand clutch. Maybe it’s my stoic Scandinavian nature, but I think it’s because I don’t think you should make such a big deal out of something you get paid to do. One should act like, “I do this all the time; it’s no biggie.” Yet, our culture is so much into rewards and “look at me,” as evidenced by this Kwik Trip Rewards card in my wallet. It’s not the only one I have.

In our Gospel reading today from Luke, Jesus’ closest followers ask for something that sounds reasonable: more faith. Who wouldn’t want more faith, especially in light of the cautions and demands he has laid upon them a few verses earlier. Jesus has just warned them about stumbling along the Christian life, to rebuke those who do, and to forgive those who repent. That sounds like an overwhelming demand on the lives of those who follow Jesus and so they ask for faith. Who can blame them? Jesus’ response is curious, if not off the wall: he looks around, spies a mulberry tree and tells them the tiniest amount of faith could do wonders beyond imagination. He then tells a parable about servants who should not make a big deal of doing what they are supposed to do.

When approaching a text like this, especially with parables, we want to ask some questions. For example, why did Jesus give this teaching to his followers and why did Luke think it important enough to include in his Gospel? After all, we don’t have everything that Jesus said and did, so why this? And Luke had to make choices about what he collected, so why did he included these sayings. Furthermore, as we explore these questions with Jesus’ parables, we also want to remember that Jesus’ parables are not puzzles to be solved but mysteries to be entered; they are designed to open us up more than be opened. So, here’s one hypothesis: I think Jesus tells them (and us) that asking for more faith is not the right request in response to his call on their lives. Rather, he invites them to imagine a Christian life in a more ordinary, yet more life-giving kind of way.

We moderns tend to think of faith as those things we believe to be true about God, Jesus, etc. Now, the things we believe are an important part of faith, but they are a smaller part than some people want to admit. The biblical story in general and Luke in particular are more concerned about faith as trust, a trust that gets expressed in how we live our lives and then grows through exercise. In other words, “Doing is believing.” Faith is more about a relationship with Jesus than it is about a list of propositions we have to subscribe to. Faith as trust in God grows as it is exercised, in response to what God has already done in us.

Jesus tells his followers that he has already given them what they need to live the life of faith. He tells them that faith doesn’t have to be heroic. Most often faith is just doing what needs to be done, what is right in front of you, what may seem ordinary and even mundane, without thought of a reward. As Lutheran followers of Jesus, we are reminded that we don’t do these things to earn our salvation or to get rewards (we don’t swipe our cards). Jesus has taken care of that already. Because Jesus has healed the breach between us and God, we can grow into that relationship right now.

These past few days I’ve been learning some of the ways the people of Grace “believe by doing.” I’ve heard how the quilters send tangible expressions of love to high school seniors and the needy. I’ve heard about Pine Ridge, mission trips and the food shelf ministry. I’m sure there are many more I’ll be hearing about in the time ahead. Through our baptisms, God has called us all to lives of meaning and purpose. With the gift of the Holy Spirit, God gives us what we need to live out our baptisms in our work, play, school and families. And if that isn’t enough, God gives us his very self, body and blood, in Holy Communion to remind us and strengthen us.

So, does this mean that there is no place for joy or gratitude or thanksgiving in the life of faith? Of course, there is, but that’s the sermon for next week, so you’ll just have to come back. Meanwhile, look for the ways that God is doing God’s work in the world in, with and through you, however ordinary they may seem to be. We are an ordinary people but with an extraordinary God. Amen.

Monday, September 16, 2019

"Cross My Heart" - Sermon for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Cross My Heart
Pentecost 14 – Narrative Lectionary 2
September 15, 2019
Grace, Mankato, MN
Genesis 18.1-15; 21.1-7

Last week, we heard the second creation story of the first human man and woman, how relationships between them, God and the entire world are at the heart of creation. We anticipated their act of disobedience that led to their expulsion from the Garden, how those relationships would be broken. Since then, they have populated the earth, but the brokenness was so severe God caused a flood. Noah, his family, and representatives of all animals are spared in an effort to reboot creation and start over. God realizes this is not going to work as hoped so he sets a rainbow as a sign of his promise never to do it again. Instead, God goes “Plan C,” identifying another couple through whom God will work on restoring creation to him.

What a couple it is, two “seasoned citizens” who are promised descendents as numerous as the sand on a beach or stars in the sky, but who are well past their ability to produce children. Understandably, Abraham and Sarah, as thrilled as they are, cannot see how it can be possible. It will take 10 years for them to see the beginning of God’s promise, with many missteps and misconceptions along the way. Finally, three heavenly visitors arrive with another promise, to which Sarah can only laugh. Yet, Sarah’s laughter of absurdity and pain turns to joyous laughter at the birth of Isaac, which means “Laughter.”

 “The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised.” As I thought about God’s promises to Abraham and Sarah and promises in general, it occurred to me that most promises are not fulfilled immediately or all at once. Indeed, they unfold over time and often unexpectedly. Last Wednesday, little Mackenzie gave me a pine cone from a tree in her yard. The pine cone, like all seeds, is a promise that unfolds over time and in unexpected ways. When Cindy and I married almost 39 years ago, we made promises that unfold, also unexpectedly. Abraham and Sarah will never see those numerous descendents that God promises to them, a promise that still unfolds today.

The promise to Abraham and Sarah was that all peoples of the earth would be drawn to God through their descendents, the chosen people. As we will see this story unfold in the weeks and months ahead, God will eventually do this through Jesus. God promised the Israelites a Messiah, an anointed one who will bring this promise to completion. Yet even here, God’s promise continues to unfold unexpectedly as Jesus restores us through his life, death and resurrection. In Jesus Christ, God has said, like countless children, “Cross my heart and hope to die.” Whatever God’s promises to us, every one of them all say that we have a future of hopefulness, not resignation.

Last Sunday, God made a promise that Kinzey Jane would belong to God forever, and you, her parents and sponsors made promises the nurture her in the faith, promises that will unfold in her lifetime. Thursday, Genny’s family clung to the promise that death is not the last word and the God will bring all things to completion, that we would see each other again, promises that continue to unfold. Yesterday, Alexa and Alan made promises in God’s sight, promises that will continue to work their way out in their lives together. In a few minutes, we will taste God’s promised presence with forgiveness and new life in Holy Communion.

Over nine years ago, you and I promised to walk together in God’s mission and ministry. It was a promise that unfolded, often in unexpected ways, but always because of God’s faithfulness to us. You have now called Pastor Odegard to walk with you and I expect the same thing will happen, only differently. In the building renovations, you have responded to God’s call like your ancestors before you to stand as witness to a God who continues to move in our world to restore all things to God’s self. So I encourage you to trust in that promise, look for where it unfolds unexpectedly, and laugh with joy when it happens. Amen.