St. Paul’s is a welcoming and inclusive community of about 280 members who come from all over the greater Milwaukee area.
We treasure the richness and diversity God has given our community, as it enhances our understanding of God.
Prior to Kate and Prince William’s wedding I jokingly might ask someone, “Did you get an invitation to their wedding?” “Duh, No.” “Well would you like mine? I can’t go. I have to preach that weekend.” Ha, ha! Yeah, they didn’t think I was so funny either. Who in their right mind turns down a royal wedding and reception invitation? Well, that happens in one of Jesus’ whacky parables.
You won’t believe this – but there are some Christians who misuse Jesus’ parables. They say things antithetical to Jesus’ life and teaching – making him sound excluding of people, not the gracious grace and inclusion of God’s heart for all people. They use this parable to say the Jews blew it, and now they, these Christians, not all though, are the new tenants. Somehow they think that means they’re going to heaven, and the others – well, go figure. Jesus does warn religious leaders they’re about to lose their place. But unlike those about to lose their place predict, Jesus merely says – God looks for those who will bear the fruit of his kingdom. Let those with ears hear. What do you think this owner would do with us?
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How would you feel if someone burst into here, runs to the altar, turns over chalices, throws out the bread, and shouts, “God doesn’t want to hear your confession. No Absolution or Holy Communion for you today. You have perverted God’s house.” “Oh, really – just who do you think you are? And what Bishop sent you here?” Wouldn’t we be incensed? I would hope so. Notice I didn’t include dismantling the pulpit -sorry. That would really be over the top.
“Location, location, location…” Do you get it? Location is important, in purchasing a house, selecting seats for the symphony, a play, the opera, the ballet, or especially Lambeau Field. Location gives others a clue as to your status, your place in the world.
For those of you following the past couple of weeks, you know that Matthew is heavy into forgiveness as one of Jesus’ main themes. Matthew would probably add forgiveness to Paul’s list of gifts that never end – like faith, hope and love. Forgiveness is a fount of generosity, flowing from God into our lives – and through us to one another. Forgive – “how many times,” asks Peter? As many as seven? – which I am sure he figures is excessive. Jesus responds, “No, try seventy seven” – Wow. Translated, Jesus means forgiveness has no limits. Don’t count the times – just keep forgiving. That’s how God is – life-giving, healing, and effusively forgiving.
I’m an optimist, by nature. Yet I also realize some things are inevitable. Jesus says the poor will always be with us, and they are. Another thing – some churches let sinners join. I’ve seen it happen. They can make a church messy. Some are annoying people who will blame you for their problems. Yes, God’s people can disappoint us and let us down sometimes.
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I have admired Peter – in a strange way. He has what I lack – the gift for speaking up, giving an answer, without regard for whether he’s right or wrong – usually wrong until after Pentecost. Given all his bone-headed comments Peter finally gets one right. “But who do you say I am?” Peter steps up: “You are the Messiah, Son of God.” “Great, Peter, blessed are you. You nailed it!” Peter must be feeling right proud of himself. When we connect, knock one out of the park, the ooh’s and ah’s – a Nobel Prize winning comment for sure – well, that is Peter, the day he nails Jesus’ identity. He gets the words right, but that’s all.
And Jesus said, “Who do you say that I am?”
I need to tell you a story.
Once upon a time there was an abbot of a monasterywho was very good friends with the rabbi of a local synagogue. It was Europe, and times were hard. The abbot found his community dwindling and the faith life of his monks shallow and lifeless. Life in the monastery was dying. He went to his friend and wept. His friend, the rabbi, comforted him and told him: