When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, [Mary and Joseph] brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
Pastor Marc's sermon on the July 26, 2015 (July 26, 2015) on John 6:1-21. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below.
Imagine - for a minute - that’s it the end of a busy day. And let’s say it wasn’t a very good day either. Everything that could go wrong, did. We’re cranky, tired, and we just want to go home. But first, we’ve gotta eat. So we head to our favorite comfort food place to grab something tasty and easy. But when we get there - something’s going on that we didn’t expect. There’s a line. And none of the people in line seem to be from around here. They’re staring at the menu longer than they should, and when they order, they keep messing up what they’re saying. And some of these people are ordering food for like 20 other people who are all standing outside, half-in-line and half-out, making it so no one really knows where the line is or where it’s going. Now that’s pretty annoying. But as we closer, we realize the line is filled mostly with high schoolers. They all seem to be wearing brightly colored matching t-shirts. When they speak, we hear these strange accents from places like Long Island, South Carolina, Texas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. And even though these kids have been up since 7 am, after only a few hours of sleep the night before, they’re all just so happy and polite - high fiving each other and strangers and bragging about it on social media - like the kid who claimed he received over 1100 high fives in one day. That, in some ways, is kind ofwhat the ELCA Youth Gathering is like. 30,000 Lutheran youths and their adult chaperones, from all fifty states and from countries all over the world, converged on Detroit last week. We ate in their restaurants. We walked their streets. We explored their hidden graffiti works of art in parking garages and alleyways. And we delayed traffic when, after our nightly gatherings at Ford Field, we walked a mile and half downtown to find the shuttle buses that would take us to our hotels 45 minutes away. With this many spirited Lutherans in one place, and all of us in brightly colored and matching tshirts, downtown Detroit looked, in the words of a local, like a bag of Skittles exploded all over the place. But this giant bag of Lutheran skittles didn’t descend on Detroit just to hang out. We weren’t there to only enjoy ourselves. Instead, we came to a city that some had written off - and we came to live our faith out loud. Because God has a habit of being in the places where we don’t usually look. So we came to Detroit to see what God was up to and to see just how God was going to change us in the process.
In our gospel reading today, we’re jumping ship, so to speak, from the gospel according to Mark into the gospel according to John. And we’re going to be here, in this chapter, for the next five weeks. So the chapter starts with Jesus in the area he grew up, along the sea of Galilee. Now, the region of Galilee wasn’t a popular place. The people there were fishermen and farmers, poor and mostly rural. The people there spoke in a funny accent and weren’t highly thought of. Most believed that nothing good could ever come out of Galilee. But this is where Jesus is, preaching, teaching, and healing the sick. And as he continues his work, a large crowd gathers around him - because, as John says, they saw the “signs that he was doing for the sick.”
Now, that word, “signs,” is important. Jesus is casting out demons, healing the sick, curing diseases and making paralytics walk again. Jesus keeps doing these miraculous things - these acts of healing that we wish would show up more often in our daily lives. But the writer of John never calls these acts miracles. Jesus is never just a miracle worker. Everything Jesus does points to who Jesus is. So as this crowd of 5000 gathers around him, right around Passover, Jesus has them sit down. And he takes from a youth in the crowd two fishes and five barley loaves - a kind of bread usually avoided. There’s no way that such a measly quantity of food could feed 5000 people. But, in Jesus’s hands, it does. From this poor quality bread, everyone is fed. From what little they had, 12 baskets are leftover. From their scarcity, comes abundance.
One of the main components of the ELCA Youth Gathering was that every youth and adult would spend one day serving Detroit. The ELCA partnered with local non-profits throughout the city to put us to work serving the community in ways that the citizens of Detroit needed and wanted. The projects we did ranged from helping stock a newly established diaper pantry, repainting murals inside public schools, boarding up abandoned buildings or installing new community gardens all over the city. Each day, 10,000 people would board hundreds of buses that would take us everywhere. And the numbers from what we accomplished are pretty amazing. 600 neighborhoods were affected. Over 300 vacant homes boarded up. 3,200 vacant lots were cleared. 36 urban gardens installed. 99 picnic tables built. And over 1 million diapers donated to launch a citywide diaper pantry for families in need. As a church, our hands did a lot.
Now, our team from CLC contributed to those numbers as well. We, along with churches from Wisconsin, Ohio, and Minnesota, were sent to the Eastern Market - a giant farmer’s market serving 80,000 people every Saturday. And our mission was twofold. First, we would head out into the brutal heat and sun to clear some vacant lots of litter, debris, and other gross things. And then, with our muscles sore, our faces sweaty, and our legs covered in cuts, ticks, and bee stings - we’d then head into the market to do an even scarier thing: we’d walk up to people we don’t know, talk to them, and share what Eastern Market is doing for their community and what it could do for them. So after a short five minute presentation about the Market, and with a handful of maps and schedules for when the market was open during the week, we were sent out, to talk to people who perfected the “silent/no eye contact” New York style brush off.
I’m proud of all the kids who did this because I know it’s not easy to talk to strangers - especially when you’re hot, sweaty, and you haven’t slept much in a few days. And people were a tad weirded out, and rightly too, when these youth in matching religious t-shirts came up to them and started talking and asking questions. We totally came off as a little Jesus-y. But we weren’t there to hand out tracts. We weren’t there to try and convert people to become Lutherans. We weren’t even there to talk about ourselves. We were there to simply tell these people about their city; about their market; about all the things going on in their community. We were there to raise up their abundance; to bring to light all the amazing things they were doing, and to be a sign that their city was hope-filled and not hopeless. The people of Detroit - they so graciously welcomed us, smiling as we took over their favorite places, shouting words of thanks as we blocked their traffic for miles - letting us know that they loved their city and wanting us to see all that their city had to offer. We know that folks have written Detroit off. We know that many see Detroit as a scary, fallen, or a place that the right kind of people just don’t go to. But we know that Jesus is there. And where Jesus goes - that’s where we go to.
Today’s reading ends with Jesus walking on water. His disciple are in a boat at night when they’re caught in a storm. The wind howls. The waves crash on the boat. They’re not moving and they don’t know how to get out. And that’s when Jesus comes. In this story, Jesus doesn’t still the storm. He doesn’t calm the winds down. He doesn’t talk to the disciples about their faith or if they’ve doubted him. Instead, Jesus enters the storm. He walks straight into the scary, dark, and unwanted places. And when he gets in the boat with his disciples, all he asks is that they they don’t be afraid because Jesus is in their boat. Jesus is in our boat too. He’s in our storms; our struggles; our dark places and our fears. He’s with us when others have written us off and when we have written ourselves off too. And since he’s with us - since he’s willing to walk into our storms, into our darkness, into our struggles and fears - then we’re called to be like Jesus; to walk with our neighbor in their struggle; to find the stranger who is trapped in darkness; to see where the storms are and head straight into them because, like Detroit - Jesus is already there - so we should be there too.
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