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August 21st, 2022

Sermon by Pastor Ron Nelson

August 21, 2022, Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Turtle Island

MOST OF US DO NOT LIKE TO HEAR THE WORD “DISCIPLINE,” ESPECIALLY WHEN IT IS APPLIED

TO US. WE PRESUME IT IS GEARED TO TAKE AWAY OUR FREEDOM, AND IN THE LONG RUN

ALWAYS COMES WITH SOME SORT OF PUNISHMENT.

SO, IN SOME WAY, THE ANTIVAXXERS THINK THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO DIE AND TO CAUSE

OTHERS TO DIE AND WE SHOULD NOT GET IN THEIR WAY. I GUESS THE GUN COWBOYS HAVE

THE SAME IDEAS. YET A TYPICAL DICTIONARY DEFINITION OF THE TERM SAYS, “IT IS SIMPLY

THE PRACTICE OF TRAINING PEOPLE TO OBEY RULES OR A CODE OF BEHAVIOUR.” OBVIOUSLY,

OUR “HORN HONKERS” DID NOT/DO NOT WANT TO OBEY ANY RULES. DRIVING ON THE RIGHT

SIDE OF THE ROAD, WEARING SEAT BELTS AND A HOST OF OTHER SUCH LAWS SAVE LIVES BUT

THERE ARE THOSE WHO WOULD RATHER DIE THAN TO BE TOLD WHAT TO DO.

SO, WHEN THE AUTHOR OF HEBREWS WRITES ABOUT THE “DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD.” HE IS

SIMPLY TALKING ABOUT THE UNIQUE RULES AND BEHAVIOUR PATTERNS THAT JESUS

EXPECTED THEM/US TO OBEY. OUR FIRST LESSON FROM ISAIAH TALKS ABOUT A GOD WHO IS

LORD OF ALL NATIONS AND TONGUES. GOD KNOWS THERE ARE THINGS WE NEED TO DO, IF

WE ARE TO LIVE WITH ONE ANOTHER. IN ISAIAH, THE RECENTLY FREED JEWS ARE

ENCOURAGED TO RETURN TO THE PROMISED LAND, TO COME BACK TO THEIR HOMELAND

WITH A NEW UNDERSTANDING TOWARDS THE GENTILES. THE GENTILES WERE NOT SIMPLY

“NON-JEWS.” THESE “FOREIGNERS” WERE/ARE ALL INCLUDED IN GOD’S PLAN FOR SALVATION.

YES, THAT IS IN ISAIAH WRITTEN THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO.


YET THE CHURCH IN 1493 IN THEIR, “DOCTRINE OF DISCOVERY” SAID, “ANY “NEW” LAND YOU

DISCOVER BELONGS TO YOUR COUNTRY AND ANYONE LIVING THERE CAN BE DONE AWAY

WITH. “A GOOD INDIAN IS A DEAD INDIAN.” WELL, THEY MAY HAVE SAID IT MORE FORMALLY,

BUT THAT IS WHAT THEY/WE SAID. SO, IN A SENSE WE WERE BEING GOOD TO THE

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE BY PUTTING THEM IN RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS, EH? IT WAS BETTER THAN

BEING DEAD, RIGHT? WERE WE NOT “GOOD CHRISTIANS” OR WHAT?

AS ROGER KARBAN SAYS, “I AM CERTAIN A NUMBER OF HOLY, PIOUS JEWS WOULD HAVE

PETITIONED THE HOLY OFFICE – IF THERE HAD BEEN ONE – TO HAVE ISAIAH DECLARED A

HERETIC.”

SO, ISAIAH AND JESUS TRIED TO INSTIL IN THE PEOPLE WHAT DIVINE DISCIPLINE REALLY WAS.

THE “SAVED” WILL INCLUDE PEOPLE WHO WE THROUGH THE YEARS HAVE PRESUMED TO BE

OUTSIDE OF THE “TRUE CHURCH.” “THERE WILL BE WEEPING AND GNASHING OF TEETH WHEN

YOU SEE ABRAHAM AND ISAAC AND JACOB AND ALL THE PROPHETS IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD,

AND YOU YOURSELF WILL BE THROWN OUT.” “THE LAST WILL BE FIRST AND SOME ARE FIRST

WHO WILL BE LAST.”

YOU ALL KNOW THE SET UP TO A JOKE, RIGHT? “A MAN WALKED INTO A BAR….” WELL, WE

SHOULD HAVE BEEN READY WHEN THE PERSON IN THE GOSPEL ASKED, “LORD, WILL ONLY A

FEW BE SAVED?” REMEMBER THIS IS BEING ASKED TO THE HOST OF THE EVER-OPEN TABLE. IT

COMES JUST AFTER JESUS HAS ENCOURAGED PEOPLE TO KEEP KNOCKING ON A LOCKED DOOR,

TRUSTING THAT THE PERSON WILL EVENTUALLY OPEN THE DOOR, AND SAY, “WHAT’S UP?”

REMEMBER, THE WRITER OF LUKE WAS WRITING THE GOSPEL NOT AS A DOCUMENTARY BUT

TO HELP A PRACTICING CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY TO DEEPEN THE LIVING OF THEIR FAITH. IN

THAT CONTEXT WE REALIZE THAT THE STORY FOCUSES ON TEACHING, EATING AND DRINKING,

WHICH WERE/ARE THE KEY ELEMENTS OF THE CELEBRATION OF THE EUCHARIST. I WAS

SURPRISED WHEN PEOPLE HERE IN CANADA LIKE MR. NATAN OBED, THE INUIT LEADER, SAID,

THERE WAS TOO MUCH “WORSHIPPING” GOING ON WHEN THE POPE WAS HERE. WE CAN

DISAGREE ON WHAT THE POPE SAID, LIKE YOU CAN DISAGREE WITH MY SERMONS, AND HOW

WE WORSHIP BUT THAT IS WHAT WE DO. THE THEME OF THE EUCHARIST SUBTLY PERMEATES

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE. FROM THE HUNGRY BEING FED IN MARY’S SONG [THE MAGNIFICAT]

THROUGH THE BEATITUDES AND THE TEACHING SURROUNDING THE LORD’S PRAYER, LUKE

EMPHASIZES GOD’S ROLE IN FEEDING THE HUNGRY.

I AGREE WE LOST A LOT OF WHAT THE EUCHARIST SAYS AND DOES WITH ALL THE “BELLS AND

WHISTLES” OUR ROMAN FRIENDS DID IN EDMONTON AND QUEBEC. I MORE AND MORE

BELIEVE WE HAVE LOST THE MEANING OF A TABLE, WITH THE EUCHARIST BEING SERVED FROM

AN ALTAR THAT WE HAVE TO WALK UP TO. [YOU WILL PROBABLY WANT TO CANCEL MY NEXT

WEEK’S SERMON, EH?] THE BANQUETS JESUS DESCRIBES IN THE GOSPEL ARE IMAGES OF THE


REIGN OF GOD, AND WHEN THE RISEN LORD APPEARS TO THE DISCIPLES, HE EATS WITH THEM

AND THEY RECOGNIZE HIM IN THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD. [THAT EMMAUS STORY WAS

USED AT ONE OF THE POPE’S SERVICES.] ALL OF THIS SUGGESTS THAT THIS STORY OFFERS A

REFLECTION ON THE EUCHARIST.

SO WE NEED TO ASK, WHAT WAS HAPPENING WHEN JESUS SEEMED TO REJECT SOME OF THE

PEOPLE? “WE ATE AND DRANK WITH YOU, AND YOU TAUGHT IN OUR STREETS.” BUT THE

LORD REPLIED, “I DO NOT KNOW WHERE YOU CAME FROM.”

THINK ABOUT IT, DOES THIS SOUND LIKE A WARNING THAT IT WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH TO SAY,

“WE EVEN FORCED OURSELVES TO SIT THROUGH PASTOR RON’S SERMONS, BLESSED

OURSELVES AND RECEIVED COMMUNION AND IT STILL WAS NOT ENOUGH?” WHAT IS A

GAL/GUY SUPPOSED TO DO?

IN TODAY’S LESSON FROM ISAIAH, GOD SAID, “I KNOW YOUR WORKS AND YOUR THOUGHTS.”

WHAT HE DID NOT SAY WAS, “I SAW YOUR CHURCH ATTENDANCE CARD.” GOD THEN WENT

ON, LIKE JESUS IN THE GOSPEL, PROMISING THAT PEOPLE OF ALL NATIONS WILL PARTICIPATE

IN THE JOY OF DIVINE GLORY. AGAIN, AS I HAVE SAID BEFORE. WHAT “DIVINE GLORY” MEANS

IS BEYOND MY PAY GRADE.” BUT MY GUESS IS, IT WILL BE GOOD. SO, IN THIS LAST CHAPTER

OF ISAIAH, GOD CALLS ALL THE NATIONS, NOT JUST A CHOSEN PEOPLE, NOT JUST WHITE

EUROPEANS, BUT ALL PEOPLE, THAT NOT EVEN THE ONCE-HEREDITARY PRIESTHOOD CAN BE

RESTRICTED TO A CERTAIN CLASS. DOES THAT MEAN EVEN WOMEN CAN BE

PRIESTS/PASTORS? EVEN POPE FRANCIS HAS NOT GOTTEN THERE YET. THANK GOODNESS

OUR PART OF LUTHERANS HAVE.

ALL OF THIS SHOULD LEAD US TO RECOGNIZE THAT “EATING AND DRINKING” WITH CHRIST IS

GENUINE ONLY, WHEN OUR TABLE IS OPEN TO ALL, AS JESUS’ TABLE/LIFE WAS/IS. BECAUSE OF

THE “DO NOTS”- OF OUR FAITH, IT IS EASY TO OVERLOOK THE FACT THAT THE HISTORICAL

JESUS DEMANDED HIS FOLLOWERS TO BE LIKE HIM.

THE GOSPEL TODAY BEGAN WITH A QUESTION ABOUT NUMBERS, A QUESTION IMPLYING

EXCLUSION. JESUS REPLIED ABOUT HOW TO GET INTO THE MASTER’S MANSION. HE MOVED

FROM A QUESTION OF COMPETING FOR LIMITED SPACES, TO UNDERSTANDING HOW TO BE

READY TO ENTER THE PLACE TO WHICH WE ARE ALL INVITED. JESUS EXPLAINS THAT THE

“SAVED” WILL BE THE PEOPLE KNOWN BY THE OWNER. YOU SEE, SALVATION BECOMES THE

EQUIVALENT OF BEING KNOWN BY GOD, AND WE BELIEVE ALL PEOPLE ARE CREATED AND

KNOWN BY GOD.

NOW WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT, IS MORE THAN RITUALS AND MAKING THE RIGHT SIGNS

AT WORSHIP. IT IMPLIES THAT WE LISTEN SO DEEPLY TO GOD THAT HER WORD LIVES IN US.


JESUS IS SAYING THAT HE REALLY KNOWS ONLY THOSE WHO HAVE ALLOWED HIM INTO THEIR

LIVES SO COMPLETELY THAT THEY REFLECT AND ACTUALLY REPRESENT HIM IN THEIR OWN

CONTEXT. THIS WOULD BE LUKE’S VERSION OF, “I KNOW MINE AND MINE KNOW ME.” IF WE

UNDERSTAND WHAT JESUS SAYS IN THIS PERSPECTIVE, WE SEE HOW JESUS’ REPLY TO THE

QUESTION, “WILL MANY BE SAVED?”, AND FLIPS THE FOCUS BACK ON THE QUESTIONER. IN

ESSENCE, JESUS IS ASKING, “ARE YOU SEEKING MY WAY OF LIFE OR JUST SOME PRESTIGIOUS

STATUS?” THOSE WHO SEEK RANK WILL FIND IT BUT IT WILL BE SHALLOW, THOSE WHO

FOLLOW JESUS DOWN THIS ROAD AND THROUGH HIS DOOR WILL FIND THAT THEY ARE THE

LEAST MADE FIRST, THE LOWLY WHO WILL SHINE WITH GOD’S OWN GLORY.

ONE OF THE CORE GOSPEL CONUNDRUMS IS THAT ONE CANNOT SAVE ONESELF. WHENEVER

WE STRIVE TO BE PERFECT OR FOCUS ON SIN AND FORGIVENESS, WE REMAIN THE CENTRE OF

OUR ATTENTION. THE PASSAGE THROUGH JESUS’ NARROW DOOR TAKES US BEYOND SELF-

CONCERN INTO THE REALM OF KNOWING WE ARE LOVED AND ARE THEREFORE FREE TO LOVE

ANY AND EVERYONE ELSE. WHEN WE UNDERSTAND THIS, WE WILL UNDERSTAND WHAT IT

MEANS TO PROCLAIM, “LORD, BY YOUR CROSS AND RESURRECTION YOU HAVE SET US FREE.

YOU ARE THE SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD.” YOU SEE IT IS NOT HOW MANY WILL GO THROUGH

THE NARROW DOOR, [WILL BE SAVED] BUT HOW MANY WILL LET IT HAPPEN TO US/THEM? IS

IT NOT IRONIC THAT THE NARROW DOOR FOR ENTERING INTO GOD’S KINGDOM AMONG US,

REVOLVES AROUND OUR DEVELOPING A VERY BROAD MIND, SOMETHING MANY OF US

CONVENIENTLY FORGET. WHO WOULD NOT BE INTERESTED IN ACCEPTING GOD’S ENDLESS

MERCY?

TODAY’S READINGS REMIND US THAT NOT EVERYONE RESPONDS IN THE SAME WAY TO WHAT

IS OFFERED. LIVING THE GOSPEL IS A JOY AND A PRIVILEGE, WITH ULTIMATE RICH REWARDS.

BUT WE KNOW THERE IS NO GUARANTEE OF A SMOOTH JOURNEY. THE DISCIPLINE REQUIRED

MAY NOT BE FOR EVERYONE – EVEN THOSE WE LOVE. ALL WE CAN DO IS TO EMBRACE THE

INVITATION ISSUED TO US AND PRAY THAT COUNTLESS OTHERS WILL JOIN US IN DISCIPLESHIP

WHEN THEY ARE READY.

SALMAN RUSHDIE RECENTLY SAID, “A POEM CANNOT STOP A BULLET. A NOVEL CANNOT

DEFUSE A BOMB. BUT WE ARE NOT HELPLESS. WE CAN SING THE TRUTH AND NAME THE

LIARS. WE MUST WORK TO OVERTURN THE FALSE NARRATIVE OF TYRANTS.”

YES, LIKE ISAIAH, JESUS PUSHES US OUTSIDE THE COMFORT OF OUR LITTLE LOCAL COMMUNITY

BY REMINDING US THAT HE HAS FAITHFUL DISCIPLES AROUND THE WORLD. IF WE FORGET

THAT, WE WILL BE STANDING OUTSIDE THE NARROW DOOR AND WILL BE WATCHING A

DIVERSE GROUP OF OTHER PEOPLE GOING THROUGH THE DOOR.

TODAY ON WEARY NATIONS

THE HEAVENLY MANNA FALLS,


TO HOLY CONVOCATIONS

THE SILVER TRUMPET CALLS,

WHERE GOSPEL LIGHT IS GLOWING

WITH PURE AND RADIANT BEAMS

AND LIVING WATER FLOWING


WITH SOUL REFRESHING STREAMS. [ELW 521, v. 3]


AMEN.

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