Sermons

PastorEric-2Sunday's Sermon - 
The Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer. 

It is Trinity Sunday, a day when we celebrate the Holy Trinity, God in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I like this definition from ELCA Pastor Clint Schnekloth:

“The Trinity is the way we tell the story of how Jesus Christ is born of Mary and the Son of God, alive now in God and alive now also in us.”

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“No one ever promised it would be easy.”

I remember hearing these words in a seminary counseling class. It was a class which was part the study and practice of counseling and part group therapy for us student participants. One of my classmates had just shared a difficult counseling situation which brought out a deep personal crisis from his past. He wept as he related these feelings. The professor responded with kindness and compassion toward this student. After dealing with the student’s concerns, the professor looked at us all and said, “No one ever promised it would be easy.”

“No one ever promised it would be easy.”

That is most certainly true. Not in our personal lives or our lives at work or school. Not even in our life together here at Mt. Olive. No one ever promised that life on this earth would be easy.

I do not know about you, but, sometimes, I cannot help but think, “Why does it sometimes appear that we who try to honor Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of humankind lead lives seemingly more difficult that some who do not know Jesus?” Our love for Jesus and our fellow human beings can make our lives more difficult; it seems, not less, at least at times. And, it does appear sometimes that others who do not even know Jesus live lives that appear far easier than our own. And that does not seem fair. And it certainly at times is not easy.

Jesus never promised it would be easy. Over and over in the Gospels Jesus makes that clear. Jesus makes it clear that those who follow him and his teachings will not have an easy life. Their lives here on earth may even be more difficult.

This is part of what we Christians call the theology of the cross. What this means is that following Jesus will not necessarily make our lives easier and might even make them more difficult, but that we can live our lives with the assurance that God is always with us, in good times and bad.

This contrasts with what we call the theology of glory. You can hear this sort of theology preached by some television evangelists. It is the assumption that once we love Jesus, all will go well in our lives. That those who love Jesus will find everything just fine in their lives.

You and I know that that is simply not true. Good Christians experience both the good and the bad in this life. Good Christians become seriously ill. Good Christians have terrible accidents. Good Christians lose their jobs. Good Christians have trouble with their spouses, parents and children. Good Christians even die before their time. Good Christians experience all kinds of heartache and even evil in their earthly lives.

What we know to be true is that while our earthly lives may be difficult, we have the assurance of Jesus’ presence with us in this life and beyond this life. No matter what. Jesus Christ took care of that once and for all times in his death and resurrection. And he gives this gift to us with no strings attached, a free gift for us with the only requirement that we receive it and then try to live as if it made a difference in our lives, for it most certainly does. In good times and bad times in our lives, in all times of our lives, Jesus Christ is with us to carry us through these times.

That is what Jesus states again in the Gospel lesson today from St. Matthew’s gospel: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus will never leave us. He will be with us always, to the end of time.

There’s a wonderful song of Christian Old Testament theology in the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” a show written as their master’s degree thesis while they were still in graduate school, before they became famous with “Jesus Christ, Superstar” and followed “Superstar” with many other musical productions such as “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera.”

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” tells the Old Testament story of Joseph, one of Jacob’s twelve sons. I am sure many of you remember this story: Jacob loves Joseph the most and gives him a fine, many-colored coat. His brothers are so jealous that they throw Joseph into a pit. If that isn’t bad enough, his brothers then sell Joseph into slavery in Egypt and tell Jacob that Joseph is dead. Joseph languishes in prison until his knack for interpreting dreams gets him appointed as the Pharaoh’s, Egypt’s ruler’s, right hand man. Joseph ends up running Egypt’s day to day operations for the Pharaoh.

Later, Israel is in the midst of a famine and Jacob and the remaining sons hear that Egypt has plenty of food and come begging to Pharaoh for food. Egypt has food because Joseph’s interpretation of the Pharaoh’s dreams has helped Egypt prepare for the famine. Since Joseph is the day to day ruler in Egypt, Jacob and his other sons end up before Joseph. Joseph recognizes his family and forgives them. There is a dramatic, tearful, joyful, and forgiving reunion of Jacob’s family.

In the musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” early in this story, Joseph is in prison in Egypt, before the Pharaoh knows of Joseph’s dream-interpretation skills. Joseph is imprisoned, cold and alone. His family thinks he is dead – there is no one alive who appears to care for him. Joseph’s life is far from easy. Capturing both the spirit of Judaism and the essence of our Christian hope in God, even when times are not easy, Joseph sings the song “Close Every Door.” It goes something like this:

Close every door to me,
Hide all the world from me
Bar all the windows and shut out the light
Do what you want with me,
Hate me and laugh at me
Darken my daytime and torture my night
If my life were important I would ask if I live or die
But I know the answers lie far from this world
Close every door to me,
Keep those I love from me
Children of Israel are never alone
For I know (that) I shall find
My own peace of mind
For I have been promised a land of my own.

Children of Israel are never alone. That is God response to “no one ever promised it would be easy.” God’s promise from Old Testament times until today is that children of Israel, you and I, are never alone, no matter how difficult our earthly lives may turn out to be.

Thus, in whatever situations you and I find ourselves, here at Mt. Olive, in our home, work, or school, with family, friends, neighbors, or even folks we do not know, in any and all situations in this life, we can be, we are assured that God is with us. We are never alone. God’s love for us never ceases.

Our lives are not always easy. And, sometimes, our lives can be quite difficult. But our lives are always surrounded with God’s love for us, a love which never ceases. We are surrounded by God’s love for us in Christ Jesus and the assurance that this love is eternal. That’s Christ’s guarantee for you and me, this day and every day. Jesus will be with us always.

Amen.

The Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer
Senior Pastor
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Santa Monica, California

 


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    • Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
    • 1343 Ocean Park Blvd.
      Santa Monica, CA 90405
    • Office 310-452-1116
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    • Closed Sunday & Monday

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    10:10 am Confirmation Class.
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