This service has been filmed during the period we are worshipping online only while our building undergoes repairs needed following storm damage. During this period and due to equipment limitations, we are unable to hold a complete worship service.


Some Say God

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer, and may you see fit to use me as a vessel from which you pour out your Divine Word.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*This morning’s scriptures are Exodus 32:11, Job 20:23, Ezekiel 22:31, and Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30, and come from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition. Other scriptures may also be used and will be cited within the message.

It seems old secular songs are heavy on my mind lately. Last week it was the chorus of Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.” This week it has been Bette Midler’s hit, “The Rose.” Only this time it was the tune I was hearing, not the words. I was definitely hearing different words being sung to that tune. I even wrote them down.

Some say God’s unkind and vengeful,
God’s impatient, God is wrath.
Some say God’s a god of judgment,
Who brings punishment to man.
Some say God only loves the righteous;
For all others there’s no need.
I say God, God is forgiving
And Love’s God’s only creed.

‘Twas the least, the lost, the lonely
He came to lead and love.
Those the Temple found unworthy.
Those the pious felt above.
Whores and lepers, tax collectors,
Poor and rich and young and old.
It was them He ate and drank with.
And to them, His wisdom told.

Come you now, all you outcasts,
Come you now, those sent away.
Come and sit down at His table.
Christ the Lord wants you to stay.
Some say God, God does not want you,
Lest you change the life you live,
God says, “Child, you’re how a made you.
Come receive the love I give.”

I know, I know. It’s corny and clunky, but that’s what I’ve been hearing in my head since Monday.

I imagine it’s because far too often these days, we hear a lot of condemnation and enmity being spoken in God’s name. Far too often these days, someone with a megaphone, a microphone, a pulpit, or a governmental title is quoting a scripture like the passages from Exodus, Job, and Ezekiel. Far too often these days, we hear how certain groups of people are “an abomination in the eyes of God,” usually referencing any group of people that makes hetero-normative white people uncomfortable.

Luke had a little bit to say about what would be an abomination in the eyes of God. That which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. “He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight,” (Lk 16: 15).

It begs the question, what is highly valued among people these days, doesn’t it?

Values vary from place to place, from people group to people group, and from individual to individual. It’s possible to have individuals within a people group situated in a specific place that don’t share the same values. For instance, here in the US there are individuals that have a rigid, dogmatic set of religious values and standards, there are individuals who have very disparate religious values and standards from the first group, and there are individuals who don’t have any religious values and standards at all because they don’t follow or adhere to any religion. All three groups have sets of morals. While there may be common morals shared between the three groups, the moral sets aren’t going to be identical.

Having a different set of morals from your neighbors can be a challenge, and it is a challenge that often leads to conflict. We read of those types of conflicts throughout the Bible, especially the Old Testament. Those conflicts occurred between groups of people, but they also occurred between the people and God.

It’s the depiction or interpretation of God’s methods of dealing with those conflicts that lead some to say and believe that God is judgmental, wrathful, vengeful, impatient, and unkind. And it’s the fervor with which some people today choose that vengeful, wrathful, unkind depiction of God as the model for their moral sets, constantly sitting in judgment of others, gatekeeping, and condemning any and all who do not agree with them. They declare themselves the rightful righteous and work overtime to establish their beliefs and moral set as the law of the land. Not just here, not just in Christianity. Look at Afghanistan. Look at Iran. Look at North Korea. Look at China.

But Christ said God is Love, God is free and unconditional grace, God is forgiving. And then Christ exemplified all that through his life here on earth … living with, loving, and leading the least, the lost, the lonely … the very people the self-proclaimed “rightful righteous” found unworthy.

If that’s how God was and I believe Christ would know, who are we, mere mortals, to argue with that? Who are we to ignore Christ’s commandments and the New Covenant by constantly enforcing the old laws that new covenant replaced?

Rev. Kliewer wrote the following on June 21st – the summer solstice:

I love my country
I love my faith system
I love myself (I hope in a healthy way)
Therefore I examine
Therefore I have moments of disapproval

Socrates said that the “unexamined life is not worth living”
But self-examination is not always an easy thing

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. asks this follow-up question.
“But what if the examined life turns out to be a clunker as well?” (Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons)

And Alex Bosworth suggests, “Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. But you know, an over-examined life can be a real crap festival, too.”

One of the things that has always impressed me as I have read the Bible
Has been the presence of healthy criticism
In the Hebrew scriptures, we have the prophets
Who are nothing if not feisty and critical
Not to mention blunt
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

In the teachings of Jesus, we have those moments when
He exposes our worst tendencies as human creatures
Our judgementalism (You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel)
Our hypocrisy (Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence)
Our failure to take care of the vulnerable (Matthew 25)

Yes, there is more!

And Paul and the other writers of the letters certainly had no trouble
Calling out the early church for its various foibles.
Paul, for example, called out the church in Corinth for turning the Lord’s supper into an occasion for inequity and worse.  “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, and another gets drunk.”

Thank God for this honesty!

Perhaps one of the things that has allowed me to remain within the bounds of the Christian faith is my belief that there is room for


And there is room for criticism, change, and growth
There is a place to call our nation out for the ways it is wrong
A place to call out the church for its failures
And a place for challenging ourselves.  How with think, how we respond to others, and how we behave.

One of the greatest challenges of a person ordained into the ministry of word and sacrament is to find a balance between challenge and affirmation.
Between being a prophet and a priest

Priests are about the status quo (I think)
About passing on the beliefs, and yes, the rituals, of the faith system
Priests are those presiding at the table, reminding us to remember the works of God
Prophets are those calling us to be better
They are those pointing out how we have stumbled off the path
And are failing to be what God calls us to be

(I think there is also the role of pastor, which is very important for many people.  It seems to me this role was actually given to those called Deacons.  But this role in many churches is also laid on the shoulders of the clergy)

So Pastor, Priest, Prophet
Can one person embrace all of those roles?

I suspect we lean in toward one role over the others
I believe I am, perhaps, heavy on the prophet side of the equation
I can be one who challenges.  Even blunt.  One who stirs things up
I can be pastoral
And I do, in fact, administer the sacraments
But I suspect I am more prophet than priest
I also suspect that in the American church, there are more priests than prophets
Although I think many consider themselves prophets but are really priests
They “protect” the church, and point to enemies without
They call out the sins of others but are blind to the sins of the church (blind guides)

I have an element of pastor (I am a licensed therapist)
But honestly, as an introvert, I struggle to be that warm, reassuring presence some seek
(and need)
I often wish I had a better balance

I believe the American church needs more prophets
It needs more Martin Luther King Jr’s
More people like William Barber, Richard Rohr, Matthew Fox, Jacqui Lewis
Barbara Brown Taylor, Rachel Held Evans, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and Diana Butler Bass

Yes, we need the priest (for we need the sacraments)
Yes we need the pastors (we are pretty beaten up)

But we need the prophets
But we need prophets who, once they have challenged
Can welcome and comfort
Like Jesus did

As I said, it’s a complicated thing
Its something I am thinking about on this summer solstice morning

I agree, Rev. Kliewer, and it’s something I have been pondering as well.

Yes, Christ came to save us from ourselves, to save us from sin, but not one time did Christ use force, not one time did Christ back legislation or run for office or make deals with the Empire. Not once.

Not once did Christ condemn anyone he healed or say “I love you, but I don’t love your sin.” Not once.

Not once did Christ heal anyone that didn’t ask him to heal them.

Not once did Christ demand payment or even encourage his followers to “support his ministry.” He just trusted they would.

Not once did Christ demand that people follow him. He asked, and he accepted their choice in the matter.

Christ simply, beautifully, completely exemplified the love, grace, and forgiving nature of God.

Some say God is unkind and vengeful. Some choose to cling to that understanding of God. But Christ said, “”But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””

Therefore, following The Way Christ taught us …

Come you now, all you outcasts,
Come you now, those sent away.
Come and sit down at His table.
Christ is welcoming you to stay.
Some say God, God does not want you,
Lest you change the way you live,
God says, “Child, you’re how a made you.
Come receive the love I give.”

Let’s pray:

When we offer God our confession, we join the beautiful work of reconciliation, which begins with our reconciling with God. Trusting in our Partner in grace, let us make our confession, first in silent prayer.

Silent confession.

Gracious and loving God, open our hearts so that we are able to admit to you the fullness of our lives – that which is beautiful and good, and that which is hurtful and hateful.

We confess that we do not follow Jesus in all that we do.

We love with condition.

We judge and condemn.

We cast the first stone, and keep the logs in our own eyes.

We do not turn to You as the source of our healing.

Forgive us, we pray. Forgive our sin, and empower us to be imitators of Christ in love and service. Amen.

Assurance of Forgiveness

Friends in Christ, know this: the mercy of God is from everlasting to everlasting, and I remind you of this surpassing grace – in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

Alleluia! Amen.


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