The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Preached at Luther College in Decorah, IA
on July 21, 2013

Festival Closing Worship, Lutheran Summer Music

It’s complicated.

Martha thought she was doing the right thing.  There was a guest in the house, a man.  It was Jesus.  Social convention called for the preparation of a welcoming meal.  She got busy with lamb shanks and bread dough in the kitchen.


It gets more complicated:  Mary was of no use to her.  She was sitting at Jesus feet listening to his teaching – a place where only men belonged – and leaving all the dinner preps for Martha to do alone.  Not cool, Mary.  And then, here’s the kicker:  Jesus told Martha that Mary got it right.


It’s complicated.

Unexpected messengers stop by the desert tent of Abraham in the heat of the day.  He, too, sets about making them comfortable and welcome, hoping against hope that they’re friend, not foe.

It gets more complicated:  they surprisingly accept his offer and then when the meal is done announce to him the unbelievable message they came to communicate:  Even though Abraham and Sarah are an elderly couple, well beyond child-bearing years, the messengers promise that in a year when they swing through, there’ll be a baby son.


It’s complicated.

Paul proclaims to the Colossians that the human Christ is the first born of all creation, some sort of mysterious God-and-man in one.

It gets more complicated:  This Christ is in all of us, and we belong to him and through him are children of God, the body of Christ.


It’s complicated.

Here we are, one last time.  We are a community of faith and compassion that God has built over the past four weeks.  Thinking that we are about to say goodbye to one another is almost unthinkable; yet there is a sense of urgency about getting home as well.

It gets more complicated.  Everyone of us in this room is some how bound together in the experiences we have shared through Lutheran Summer Music.  This summer.  Summers past.  And in our mind’s eye is the hope of future summers of music-making at LSM.


Here’s what binds us together:  there are memories of practice tips and practice rooms.  Compline’s silent procession home.  There was Ursa that bear growling at us from a tuba, and a Bach Cantata.  Our hearts, our ears, our very bodies are filled with prayers rising like incense night after night, by Shastakovitch, Lux Aeterna, and a Russian Easter Overture.  There were silences you thought might go on forever and there was water everywhere.  We never thought we would work so hard or play so hard.  We loved it.  We hated it.  We were stretched and challenged, encouraged and comforted.  It was wonderful.  But it was complicated.


And now, home.  More complications.  Real life.  School starts before long.  Maybe even college.  Summer jobs.  More practice.  Former friends to whom we return.  The experiences we carry with us will change us forever.  Adults and students alike.  God has used these four weeks to help all of us acquire new tools for our tool kit of life itself.  Because, guess what?  Life is complicated.


The world we all return to is a world of agony and ecstasy.  It seems like slithering on every tree we walk by is a new temptation – Adam and Eve have nothing on us.  You are headed home to high schools that are not perfect, to families and communities that might be broken or dysfunctional.  None of us has it made.  At the same time there will be amazing musical and academic moments ahead.  And here is the most amazing thing of all, and perhaps the most complicated:  God will be in it all.  God will be in it all.  “Comfort, O comfort my people,” says our God.  Do you remember that from our very first morning prayer?  Be strong.  Com forte.  With strenghth.  I am with you.  Jesus has been united with you in every death you will encounter – deaths big a small – and God will raise you up.  No matter what.  It is the promise of your baptism.  This is the song that you take home in your heart for all the days ahead.


Here’s just one more complication if you can stand it; a final word with which to leave you.


God both holds and sends us.  Don’t ask me how.  I can’t begin to understand it or explain it, but I know it’s true.  And it’s complicated.  God will – God most certainly will – hold you.  In the hearts of one another, in the breadth and depth of all that we have experienced together, in the love of Christ that never, ever ends.


And at the same time, God is sending you.  You – some of the most gifted and faithful young men and women a pastor could ever hope to have as his congregation…  God is sending you into the world to bring the Christ you’ve got to a world in need.


God’s spirit stirs those waters where you, God’s sons and daughters are born into your calling to do this.  Each one of you ordained.  Each called and claimed.


Go, with strength into the complicated, wonderful world.  And serve the risen Lord Jesus.


In the name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.