Archives for October 2019
Life in Christ is abundance and blessing, even in this frightening world, and it is freedom: freedom to truly live, and freedom to help others also find life and freedom in Christ.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Sunday of the Reformation
Texts: John 8:31-36, with references to much of John’s Gospel; Jeremiah 31:31-34
Note for online readers: This sermon came on the heels of doing a five week Bible study on John’s view of salvation – life in Christ in God’s reign – and John’s theology, along with Jesus’ words in John, were fresh in my mind as I wrote. But the sermon was written out of John 8:31-36 (with brief note to Jeremiah 31:31-34), the text for the day. There was so much in this brief Gospel reading that resonated in my heart with the rest of John’s Gospel, after being so immersed in it for two months. This wasn’t an exercise in fitting in Scripture quotes, in other words; I simply wrote the sermon I felt God was calling out. But after Sunday’s liturgy, I was curious to see if I could track all the references in the whole of John that ended up in this sermon, so I went through and noted them. (There are a couple instances of repeat references I didn’t include.) In hopes that it might be helpful for those who read the sermon online to look up things for themselves, for further study, I offer them here. If they’re not needed, try to ignore the footnote markers! I think they’re a little distracting to reading and to flow, so you could also simply watch the video and avoid them. – Pr. Joseph Crippen
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
“If you continue in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”1
Try to grasp what Christ Jesus is offering you: “If you remain in my Word, that means you are, in truth, my disciples, and in that reality, you will also know the truth, and in that knowing, you will be made free.”2
We know these beloved words well. Yet we often seem to just admire them and regularly miss the profound, life-shaping gift Jesus offers in them. Do you ever experience it?
That’s John’s question in writing this Gospel.3 John believes if you did realize just what Jesus was offering you, you’d have an abundant life,4 a life that experiences light in the darkness of this world,5 a life that quenches your deepest inner thirst,6 a life that feeds and satisfies you like nothing else you know.7 A life where you are truly free.8
If such a life sounds wonderful to you, then listen to Jesus’ words today and consider whether you can trust him.
The path to trusting begins with remembering: Jesus is the Word.9 Jesus is the truth.10
“Remaining in my Word” simply means living life connected to the very life of Christ, God’s eternal Word in the world.11 It’s God’s Word written on your heart, as Jeremiah promises.12 It’s being joined to the Vine that fills you with life, as Jesus says later in John.13 “Knowing the Truth” is simply knowing Jesus,14 God-with-us,15 the Word-Made-Flesh,16 and as Jesus repeatedly says in John, that means knowing God,17 through life in the Spirit.18
So Jesus says: stay with me, connected to me,19 and you will know God’s intention for you and the creation – God’s Word – and you will know the very heart of God for you and for the creation – God’s Truth.
That’s how you find light in the darkness, by trusting in Jesus and holding tight.20 That’s how you are quenched to your very core, by trusting in Jesus and being filled.21 That’s how your deepest hungers are met, by trusting Jesus and taking him into your deepest center.22 The Meal of Life we celebrate each week is a real eating and drinking of Christ’s life into you. But this connection with Christ is also available to you always through the Spirit,23 not just at Holy Communion. God’s very Word24 and God’s very Truth25 – Christ Jesus – in your heart. That’s where you find true freedom.26
And Jesus’ promise assumes that this Truth, this Word, are given you because this world is frightening and challenging, to help you live freely in it.
In John, Jesus offers life to a foreign woman, estranged from her community, and fills her with conviction of God’s love and welcome, even in her challenging circumstances.27 Jesus heals a man blind from birth, but more, is God’s presence with him, changing this man’s life.28 Jesus offers himself to Mary and Martha and they know him as God’s living, resurrection life, even in their grief, and even before he raises Lazarus.29 Again and again, knowing and trusting Jesus in John doesn’t always change people’s outer circumstances.30 But they find freedom and joy and hope in God’s new birth31 that trusting Jesus gives them. They live in God’s Word, they know God’s Truth, and they are changed.
Listen to what Jesus promises you and the world:
I am the Light of the World, Jesus says.32 The world is still filled with darkness, but you can see when you hold on to me.
I am the Bread of Life, Jesus says.33 You might still have physical pain and difficulty and needs, but if you hold me within you, I will satisfy you fully.
I am the Gate of the sheep34 and I am the Good Shepherd,35 Jesus says. Even with the wolves of fear and doubt threatening and the beasts of hatred and oppression crushing so many of God’s children, I will be with you and all my children, always.
I am the Resurrection and the Life, Jesus says.36 So even if you die, you will live, and better, if you trust in me now, remain in me, you’ll find life in God now that will change you forever.
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Jesus says.37 Holding on to me, you’ll find your way in this world, you’ll know the truth that God loves you and all things, and you will have life within you, no matter what happens to you.
And I am the True Vine, Jesus says.38 Stay connected to me, which means you’re connected to God, and the life that I flow in you will produce the same sacrificial love that I have for the creation that will save all things.39 Your love will be a part of saving all things for God, too.40
This is true freedom, freedom indeed, that Jesus offers you.41
Freedom from anxiety and worry: you belong to God and no matter what happens, God will always be with you, in life or in death.42 Freedom from fear of your sinfulness and flaws: you are loved forever by God and your sins are forgiven, forgotten.43 Freedom from the possessions that claim ownership of you: you have the life of Christ in you, and are free to let go of these false gods that can’t truly satisfy you.44 Freedom from blindness to your privilege and power: you are a branch of the Vine of love that gives up all power and privilege, even divine life, for the sake of love of the other,45 and you are free to love in that same way.46
This is the freedom Jesus offers you. Freedom indeed, true freedom to live, no matter what the circumstances of your life might be.47
And living this is true discipleship.
Because knowing this freedom makes you Christ, like Jesus.48 You become a servant:49 a washer of feet,50 a bringer of light to others’ darkness.51 You become someone whose vulnerable, sacrificial love fills up others in their deepest need,52 quenches the thirst of a world longing for justice.53 You become a shepherd who not only works to protect others from the harm of this world but who works to change this world so that all might find green pasture and clean water, hope and life.54
When you are free in Christ, you not only know the abundant life Jesus longs for you to know.55 You become a sign of that resurrection life in the world, so others might be drawn to the love of God in Christ and be free indeed themselves.
“If you remain in me,” Jesus says, “this is what will happen to you, and to the world.” 56
So where else would you want to remain, to be, to live?
In the name of Jesus. Amen
Note: Scripture footnotes are below the video.
 John 8:31-32
 John 8:31-32
 John 20:31
 John 10:10
 John 1:3-4; 8:12; 9:5; 11:9; 12:46
 John 4:13-14; 6:35; 7:37-38
 John 6:27, 33, 35, 50-51
 John 8:36
 John 1:1, 14
 John 14:6
 John 1:1-2
 Jeremiah 31:33
 John 15:4-5
 John 14:6-7; 18:37
 John 1:1, 18
 John 1:14
 John 1:1-3, 18; 5:19-23, 37-38; 7:28-29; 8:18-19; 14:7-9; 15:23
 John 3:5-8, 34
 John 15
 John 1, 8, 9, 11, 12
 John 4
 John 6
 John 3
 John 1
 John 14, 18
 John 8
 John 4
 John 9
 John 11
 Sometimes it does – Cana, a man healed on Sabbath. Sometimes it doesn’t – the woman caught in adultery. Sometimes it takes time for people to trust Jesus for life because of their circumstances – Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea – but they come around. And sometimes there’s faltering in the trust – the disciples on Thursday through Saturday of Holy Week, including Peter and Judas – but they are welcomed back into trust, forgiven, loved (which would have included Judas had he lived, I’m convinced.)
 John 3
 John 8:12; 9:5, 39; 11:9-10; 12:35-36, 46; 16:1
 John 6:35, 48, 51, 53-58
 John 10:7-10
 John 10:11-18
 John 11:25-26
 John 14:6-7
 John 15:1
 John 15:5, 9
 John 15:16-17
 John 8
 John 10:11-18, 27-29
 John 3:16-17
 John 6:27, 49, 58, 63, 66-68
 John 3:14-15; 8:28; 12:31-32; 15:13, 20
 John 13:12-16, 34-35
 John 8
 John 17:18, 21
 John 13:16
 John 13:12-15
 John 12:36
 John 13:34-35; 14:21; 15:12-14
 John 4
 John 21:15-17
 John 10:10
 John 8:31-36
You belong to God, and you are God’s justice answer to the world.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 29 C
Texts: Jeremiah 31:27-34; Luke 18:1-18; 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
“They will be my people,” God says.
That’s God’s new promise Jeremiah declares today: God will bring all God’s people together and start over. “I will write my law on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they will be my people,” God says. “Everyone will know me.”
And God means everyone. Twice God says that this new covenant, this new promise, will be made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. All God’s people, all the chosen ones, are included.
It’s hard to imagine the impact of this promise. If Judah had little hope in their own return from exile, they certainly had long since abandoned any hope for their siblings and cousins to the north, lost for 150 years by this time. But God says, “I know where everyone is, and I’m blessing them all.” Everyone will be God’s people again.
This new promise is fulfilled in Jesus, God-with-us, the Anointed of God, and in Christ we see the true breadth of the Triune God’s promise: it is for all people, the whole world, all God’s children. Everyone is now chosen, everyone now belongs.
You belong. You are God’s. So, Jesus tells you, pray always.
That’s why he tells this story.
Jesus says, “If someone as corrupt as this judge finally gives justice because he’s tired of all the asking, how much more will your God give justice to God’s chosen ones? That is, to you, to everyone.
So don’t lose heart, Jesus says. You matter. You can pray and God will hear, God will answer. If this widow doesn’t give up trying to connect with this wretched public official, who doesn’t care for God or for people, don’t give up trying to connect with the God who loves you and wants justice and mercy in this world. God will not delay in giving help.
This prayer Jesus talks about is an invitation to trust that you are God’s beloved and God wants to talk with you, listen to you, help you. It’s an invitation into a relationship with God just like Jeremiah says God promises.
Prayer for Jesus is living into a life of trust in God. It’s not words to operate a divine vending machine.
God’s voice in Jeremiah says, “They will be my people, and I will be their God. They will all know me. My words, my law, will be written on their hearts.”
God gave the chosen people the Torah, the written law, and again and again they failed to follow it. Everything they needed for life was there, and yet they went their own way. But now, when half of them seem lost forever and the other half are stuck in exile, God says, “let’s try again.” This is God’s answer to our inability to follow the written law of God: I’ll just put it inside you, so you know it by heart. This is the whole point of Scripture, Timothy says today, to “equip those who belong to God to be proficient for every good work.”
So God comes in person, in Jesus the Christ, to do this. To meet us face to face. To place in our hearts, through the Holy Spirit, the love of God and love of neighbor that is the backbone and heart of God’s law. As you live into the life of the Triune God, and know God’s love and grace, God’s Spirit changes your heart into God’s heart.
That’s where you hear God’s answer to your cries for justice, to the world’s cries for justice.
It’s always been God’s answer. But now, in relationship with God, changed in your heart, you can hear it. God says, “I will quickly grant justice. Come, let’s do it together.” God can only make the justice and mercy God dreams for the world through your hands and mine, your hearts and mine.
So persistently pray for justice, Jesus says. Just be ready for God’s answer: “you’re with me; let’s go do this.” God’s justice answer to the world is a changed you, a changed me. A changed everyone who belongs to God. This isn’t individual salvation. God needs widespread heart transformation, millions of children of God with God’s love and grace written on their hearts, living God’s justice, knowing they belong and that all belong.
This is the faith Jesus wonders if he’ll find when he returns.
He wonders if he’ll find people who live in trusting relationship with God, knowing they are loved and forgiven. People who are transformed in their very hearts to love and care for the world as God does. To hear all the cries for justice, and to answer with their bodies, their voices, their hearts, their love.
Given how we’ve tended to pray for God’s justice and expected God to do it, Jesus’ concern is valid.
But it needn’t be. You belong to God. You are loved and forgiven always, your sins wiped away and forgotten in the Triune God’s sacrificial love. You are God’s chosen one. You can live in trust with God through Christ Jesus, and have your heart changed. You can expect to work with God for justice in this terrifying and toxic world we live in. This is God’s dream for you. And the world.
Ponder this deeply. Because there’s another possibility to this parable.
Maybe Jesus looks at us sometimes and sees the unjust judge. Acting as if we don’t fear God or respect people. Closing our ears to the cries of those crushed by this oppressive world we’ve built, our hearts to the pain of anyone who isn’t us. It’s not how we always are; but it can be. Keep this corrupt official in mind when you consider sitting out an issue, or avoid looking for ways to make a difference, or are tempted to resist the sacrifice God’s justice for all will mean for you.
The artist Sara Bareilles has a breathtaking new album about living in the midst of the chaos of these days, where she sings, “Be the hand of a hopeful stranger, little scared, but you’re strong enough. Be the light in the dark of this danger, till the sun comes up.” 1
That’s God’s dream for you, beloved child of God. You are God’s answer to the cries for justice. God says to those who cry out: Have you met my child, my light, my beacon of hope? They will hold out their hand to you, and help you find a safe place to be.
So, my friends, do not lose heart. Pray always. And let God’s love move you as God’s hope in the world.
In the name of Jesus. Amen
1 Sara Bareilles, in “A Safe Place to Land,” on Amidst the Chaos, 2019, Epic Records
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God’s abundant healing is available to all people, in all places, and can be experienced through worship.
Vicar Bristol Reading
The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 28 C
Texts: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7; Luke 17:11-19
This Gospel story about the ten lepers reveals so much about who God is in Christ – a powerful, compassionate, healing God.
The divine power in Jesus is so evident to the lepers, that they recognize it the minute they see him coming. Even from afar, they can tell that this is someone who can do miraculous things. They call out to Jesus, asking for mercy, and calling him “Master.” This term of respect acknowledges Jesus’ authority in a particular way: In Luke’s Gospel, the title “Master” is used by Jesus’ closest disciples. These ten sick people are strangers to Jesus, but they can see him for who he truly is. They know Jesus acts with the power of God.
And what does this one with divine authority do? He heals. He heals not just one of these people, not a few of them, but all ten – at once, with barely more than a word. It’s almost as though healing just overflows from who Jesus is, and it is generous enough to reach all ten of these people. There is no scarcity here. In the presence of Christ, there is healing in abundance.
And there is acceptance and mercy for people who have been marginalized.
Leprosy was, and still is, a disfiguring and stigmatized disease. Any illness was significant and dangerous in the ancient world, but a chronic, infectious illness like leprosy, would have been especially disruptive to the rhythms of work and family life. Lepers could end up isolated and shunned by others. But Jesus is willing to go to them and heal them.
And to really underscore that this is a display of radical compassion on Jesus’ part, Luke adds one more twist in the story. All ten lepers are healed and sent on their way, healthy, presumably able to be reintegrated into their community. But one leper has a particularly transformative experience and returns to praise Jesus. That leper, the text says, was a Samaritan.
This is a moment in the story at which the audience can gasp in surprise. Samaritans are classic outsider characters in Gospel stories. This man wasn’t just an outsider because of his illness, he’s twice an outsider because of his identity as a Samaritan. Even Jesus goes out of his way to mention that this guy is different. He asks, “Was none found to return and praise God except this foreigner?”
Now Samaritans weren’t from some distant region; Samaria was next to Galilee, where Jesus was from. But Samaritans had a different ethnic background, practiced different religious rituals, and acknowledged a different temple. This had caused centuries of conflict with Israelite Jews. So when we hear that, of all the healed lepers, it is this political, ethnic, and religious outsider who comes back to fall at the feet of Christ, it’s a surprise!
And it’s a reminder of how often Jesus crosses traditional boundaries to show compassion and mercy to all people, even people with whom he shouldn’t be interacting, even people who have long been considered foreign enemies. Luke wants us to hear that Christ’s healing is so abundant that it extends to everyone, even Samaritans.
Jesus says to the Samaritan: “Your faith has made you well.” In the narrative of Luke, Jesus says this phrase to people who are treated by society as outsiders, but who are healed and loved by God. He says it to a woman who was labeled “sinful” for her lifestyle, and scandalous for anointing Jesus’ feet with her hair. He says it to a woman who has been bleeding for more than a decade and can do little more than reach to touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak. He says it to a blind beggar who waits at the city gates, dependent solely on the assistance of passing strangers. And he says it to a Samaritan leper: “Your faith has made you well.”
Jesus doesn’t this to the disciples, or the temple priests, or the theological experts, or the patrons of the synagogue… But to the people who are sick or poor, people who are often invisible. But they’re not invisible to Jesus. Jesus sees them, and loves them, and makes them well, because the healing power of God is abundant towards all people.
This doesn’t just mean physical healing of illness or injury. There can be a soul-deep, transformative healing.
When the Samaritan leper came back to fall at the feet of Jesus, he had already been cleansed of his illness. And yet Jesus tells him his faith has made him well. His act of gratitude and praise before Christ brings an even-deeper degree of wholeness and wellness than the physical healing he has already experienced. Who can know what more needed healing in him? The burdens that other people bear are not always easy to see. But he knew, and Jesus knew. And something about being in a posture of worship made him more than clean… it made him well.
Perhaps you have experienced something like that: Being made well by a close encounter with God. Worshiping before the living God doesn’t necessarily take away bodily pain and illness, but entering into a sacred space, into loving community, into song and silence and prayer – that can be a balm for a weary and wounded soul. Some people describe worship as entering a “thin place.” This is an idea from Celtic Christian tradition that describes a time or space where the boundary between the physical and the spiritual is especially thin, a time or place where you can experience the holy, where you can draw close to God.
Of course, thin places aren’t always churches – and too many times, churches have been places of harm rather than safety. Churches have, unfortunately, come in between people and God’s abundant healing. But God’s presence extends far beyond the walls of any one church, just as God’s healing and compassion extend far beyond any one particular group of people.
No one is an outsider to the healing love of the Triune God, and no one can ever be outside that love.
There is nowhere that is so far that you can’t experience it. Even if you end up in Babylon, like the ancient Israelites to whom Jeremiah was writing. The prophet encourages the Israelite people to make a life in Babylon, a place that is far from their homeland. They are not there by choice but in exile; they are the foreigners. Still, Jeremiah says they should be as present as they can in that place. They won’t be able to go to their familiar places of worship, but God’s spirit is still with them right where they are. They can still worship, and they can still pray.
Jeremiah even tells them to pray for their new neighbors, to seek the welfare of their former enemies. Jeremiah understood that God’s love could extend even to people like the Babylonians, and God’s healing could be found even in a place like Babylon. God’s compassion is just that abundant: it is for everyone and in every place.
So if you are feeling far from home, lost and confused, remember that Holy Spirit is present with you right where you are. If you are feeling like you have been made an outsider, remember that Christ will cross boundaries to come close to you. If you are feeling like your soul is weary and needing rest, remember that you can always come into the healing love of God and be made well.
Faith is trusting God’s power at work in your heart and life, which is always sufficient.
Vicar Bristol Reading
The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 27 C
Texts: 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:5-10
You have enough faith. If you’re worried that you don’t believe the things you’re supposed to believe, or you have too much doubt, or you’ve done too much wrong, or you’ve done too little right – I can tell you that, right now, just as you are, you have enough faith.
When the disciples ask Jesus to “increase their faith,” Jesus declines. Not because they don’t qualify somehow, or because he’s withholding more faith from them – but because the faith they have already is sufficient. Even if it’s tiny! Jesus picks one of the smallest things he can think of to drive this point home: if your faith is as tiny as a mustard seed, that’s enough.
Mustard seeds are famously small, but I don’t think that’s the only reason that Jesus picks a seed for this metaphor of faith. Seeds grow. They transform on a scale that’s miraculous. From something so tiny can come giant trees, sprawling shrubs, stretching vines. Seeds provide – they bring fruit and food. And seeds are alive. They contain a living thing. And that living thing can produce other living things, seeds that make plants that make more seeds that make more plants…
So if faith is like that, then even the tiniest kernel of faith can live and provide and grow. Despite Jesus’ seed metaphor, I imagine that you have still felt like your faith is fragile or inadequate at times.
Timothy, a leader in the early church, seems to have faced a crisis of faith like that, one that was emotionally difficult. In Paul’s letter to Timothy, we hear that Timothy has shed tears; he has felt ashamed and afraid. His faith has grown as dim as an ember. But Paul believes that Timothy’s faith can still be re-kindled.
He reminds Timothy that his faith, tiny ember that it is, is not his own: Timothy has inherited this faith from his ancestors. Paul writes: “Your faith lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I’m sure, lives in you.” In other words, the tiny seed of faith is alive and growing. It was alive before Timothy, and now, it lives in him. Timothy doesn’t carry the burden of faith alone. Wise, courageous women (in this case) carried it before him, and now this treasure of the faith has been entrusted to him. Someday Timothy will pass it on to those who come after him, and those who come after them, and those who come after them…
Could Timothy ever have imagined that all of us would be sitting here today, recipients of the faith that was passed down from his grandmother? That tiny ember, that had almost gone out, still lives. Look, it is here, living even now, in this room, in us.
When we gather together in worship, we bring into this space the legacy of those Loises and Eunices who brought us up in the faith. They may not be literal, biological mothers and grandmothers – but you know who those people are in your life, those mothers and fathers and siblings of faith who nurtured you on your spiritual journey, who shared with you the precious good news of the Gospel, who reminded you when you were most afraid and ashamed: that you are loved; you are enough.
Now you are entrusted with the treasure. You are part of family tree of the faithful. You are called to tell others that they are loved, that they are enough. And the faith will keep living and growing, beyond our lifetimes.
We will see this in action this morning, when we baptize Abigail. This is part of the Lutheran tradition of baptizing young children. We don’t question whether or not little ones have “enough” faith, or believe the “right” things in order to be baptized – because this is God’s free gift, without qualification. One does not have to do anything to receive it. Babies can’t even walk themselves to the font! They get carried, by their mothers and grandmothers in faith. When we are baptized at any age, we are always carried, in a sense, to that moment by our mothers and grandmothers in faith. And no matter what happens in the lives of the baptized, the gift of God’s grace will always be there for them. Nothing can ever take it away.
Because God’s spirit is always at work in us, through our whole lives. Paul reminds Timothy of this also when he writes about the Holy Spirit that is “living in us.” The Spirit is always within us, guiding us and working through us. You don’t have to rely on your own strength; you can rely on the life-giving power of God that is already within you. You don’t have to worry about whether or not you have enough faith; you just have to trust the one who is at work in you. Faith is trusting that God’s work in you is sufficient.
However, trusting that God’s spirit is moving in our hearts and lives doesn’t mean that faithful living requires nothing of us. Paul describes discipleship as a “holy calling:” In response to God’s gift of grace, we are called to live Gospel-centered lives. That’s not always easy. Living out the radical compassion of the Gospel requires commitment, discipline, and sacrifice.
In the Luke passage we heard this morning, Jesus reminds the apostles of this: The Gospel life requires a willingness to serve without reward or repayment, to serve because it is the way God has told us we are to live. Jesus compares it to household slaves dutifully serving at the table of their master. They serve the meal first, before eating themselves.
It’s uncomfortable for us to hear that metaphor today. We know that a master-slave interaction is an unequal and coercive power dynamic, not a model relationship. It is troubling and confusing to hear this imagery used by Jesus. Yet we can still wrestle with the implications of his message.
The end of his short parable contains a surprising twist for the audience: Jesus puts his listeners in the role of the servants, not the master. The authority role is reserved for God. This metaphor is not about humans having power over other humans, but about faithful obedience to God. And God is not the same kind of master that humans would be. When Jesus speaks of the “kingdom of God,” we understand that he is describing God’s reign of complete mercy and justice. That is in contrast to earthly kingdoms over which humans reign. Similarly, when Jesus speaks of being “slaves” to God, that is in contrast to human systems of slavery. God is always liberating. Obedience to the way of the Gospel is never oppressive, even if it is difficult. It is always life-giving.
We don’t serve God and one another because we think it will gain us reward. We serve because it is the way of life that Christ showed us – Christ, who himself became a servant out of love for the world [Philippians 2:7]. We don’t have to wonder whether a master like that would invite us to sit down at the table and share a meal. The table of the Triune God is open to all, always, and the meal is ready. That’s what we celebrate each time we share communion.
So instead of hearing this parable as a reminder that we are worthless slaves, it can be a reminder that we are devoted servants in God’s kingdom, living out our commitment to the Gospel as a “holy calling.” If ever we feel that we are inadequate for the tasks of discipleship, we can remember that it doesn’t depend on our own power, but on God’s power working through us. And God will never give up on that work in us, no matter how dim our faith feels from time to time, because in God’s sight we are always enough. We continue living as faithful people because God has always been faithful to us – just as God was faithful to the generations who came before us and will be faithful to the generations who will come after us.