First Lesson: Acts 10: 34-43
Responsive Reading: Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 15: 19-26
Gospel Lesson: John 20: 1-18
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
This morning, I want to begin by talking about a reality that plagues some of the most seemingly successful people in our world.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg describes herself attending Harvard University and “Feeling like a fraud”.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor while attending Princeton described herself as “Too embarrassed to ask questions”.
Actor Don Cheadle describes his worldview as such “All I can see is everything I’m doing wrong that is a sham.”
Actress Meryl Streep told a reporter in 2001 “I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?”
Three-quarters of students at Harvard Business School feel like they got in by the failure of the admissions process.
From personal experience, I’ve had some of the brightest, most talented, amazing kids that I’ve come across tell me that they inevitability feel themselves to be unworthy compared to others.
The following phenomenon is known in Psychology as “Imposter Syndrome” points to a much larger spiritual issue. The issue is judgment is all around us. Our life often seems to be a constant reminder of our own imperfections. Judgment plagues us when we step on the scale for our yearly physical. Judgment plagues us when we check our bank statements after a big spending spree. Judgment hurts us when relationships collapse. Judgment comes to us in its harshest form at the grave. There seems to be no surer judgment in the world then the dead remaining inside the grave.
Today’s Second Lesson comes to us from 1st Corinthians 15. 1st Corinthians was written about 25 years after Jesus’ supposedly rose from the dead. There were still those within the Corinthian Church who could not believe Resurrection to be true no matter how many times they heard it. Many of the Corinthians believed the Greek idea that it is only the soul that is eternal. They didn’t believe that Resurrection was possible. The letter’s author Paul is seeking to preach to the Corinthians that there is indeed life beyond the grave.
Paul’s word’s emphasizing the necessity of resurrection to belief: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is worthless, and your faith is worthless.” What Paul is saying here in the words of my good friend Warren Baker is that if Christ has not been raised “One ought to throw the good book in a fireplace.” Paul says that without Resurrection that Jesus is merely a man like all others still lying in a tomb. The formerly skeptical Paul as he says these words has come to conclude that the stones covering the tomb have indeed been rolled away. Paul’s life had been changed every day since!
What Resurrection points us to even as the word threatens to come crashing down on us at any moment is that in the end either death shall win out or God’s love shall ultimately triumph.
Henri Nouwen says “The mystery of God’s love is not that he takes our pains away, but that he first wants to share them with us.”
The promise that we are given of Resurrection is secure because Christ has indeed been raised from the dead by the power of God.
There are probably people out there this morning who believe Resurrection to be nothing more than a TV infomercial appearing too good to be true. Let’s be honest; this Resurrection story is hard to believe. Let’s grant skeptics that they have a valid point.
The first people who encountered the women after leaving Christ’s tomb considered them to be “delirious.” What I want to say this morning is that Resurrection should be hard to grasp if we really take its promises seriously.
We remember the words of Hebrews 11:1 that ultimately “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen.” What we can grasp onto this morning is that those who went to Jesus’ grave didn’t believe that Resurrection was possible before they became witnesses to it.
From where we draw, comfort is Mary Magdalene's confession “I have seen the Lord”. Mary didn’t believe that she would ever see her savior alive again. Mary didn’t believe that the proverbial stones of sin and shame in her life could be rolled away before her very eyes. Mary’s whole view of the world around her changed though as she encountered the risen Lord. Easter Sunday reminds us that we are not limited by the confines of this world; we are not limited even by how we see ourselves. We are a people of Resurrection!
In 2007, there was an episode of the TV show the Simpsons where the bald, blue-pant wearing seemingly doofus father Homer Simpson is pictured in the church bulletin sleeping on a pew, body positioned in such a way that his sleeping wasn’t all that subtle, drool is coming out of Homer Simpson’s mouth. The First Church of Springfield’s bulletin headline blares out next to Homer’s picture“Jesus died for this?
What Easter tells us is “Yes, Jesus did indeed die for those who seem to be nothing but fat, lazy slobs like Homer Simpson.
The truth about Resurrection is that we can witness its truth in even the most unexpected of places.
The following story comes from a guy named Peter Karenfills who describes an encounter he had when out for a morning drive. Peter has a gentleman cut him off and flash him an obscene gesture along with yelling some church inappropriate language out the window. Peter couldn’t figure out why this gentleman would act this way towards him.
So Peter pulls into Starbucks behind this gentleman. Now most people would have used this as an opportunity to tell this gentleman off good. “How rude?” “How disrespectful?” So Peter tries finding this man but couldn’t. So he stands in the line to buy himself a coffee when the man walks out of the bathroom. Peter tells him today is “his lucky day”? He offers to purchase the man his coffee. The man proceeds to look at him stunned. “Really?” The man said. The man did not recognize Peter. After buying the coffee, Peter told him that he was the guy that he “road-raged at earlier.”
The man begins to apologize. He admits that his behavior came from a lot of stress in his own life. Peter merely laughs it off by saying “It’s all good.” They then both discover the reason for the cut-off was the man’s turn signal was burnt out. What this story reminds us is that Resurrections take place in the world around us whenever the way that we look at the world is totally spinned on its axis. Resurrection serves as a continual reminder that light can indeed come from out of the deepest darkness.
I want to close this morning with a story as told by Ed Markquart. It’s a story of a six-year-old boy that I’ll call Sam. Sam grew up in Laos during the Vietnam War. Sam got separated from his mother and father during the war, so he had to live with Grandma, Grandpa, and some of his cousins. News eventually arrives that Sam’s parents had both been killed during the war. Sam was sad! Sam mourns their loss nearly every day for the next three years of his life. Every day in his grief, Sam got continually more used to his surroundings of his new family. No one though could replace Mom and Dad. One day, Sam receives an unexpected telegram saying that his parents were alive and now living in Seattle. Sam couldn’t believe this story to be true. Sam believed that what was thought to be dead couldn’t possibly come back into his life. Sam was initially apprehensive about leaving Laos. Sam’s new family was comfortable, and the future was uncertain. Sam was going to have to get on a plane and fly for the first time. Sam steps off the airplane in Seattle seeing nothing but “tall, white people” speaking a language that sounded like gibberish. Sam finally sees his parents though off in the distance. As Sam walks closer to them, he sees them beaming at his presence. Sam had never been so happy in his life than at that moment. The telegram that Sam had received back in Laos was true! Resurrection was indeed possible within Sam’s life.
As we reflect on Sam’s story today, the truth of the Resurrection is this. Resurrection spins the globe upside down. What Resurrection says to us in the words of Giles Fraser is that “God loves you because of who you are not because of what you have achieved.” Grace shall triumph over Judgment in the end. Judgment has been made powerless on the cross. Resurrection says that it as the point of our greatest dejections, do we find our greatest hope. This great Christian hope extends not only to today but throughout all eternity.
He is Risen. He is Risen indeed. Amen!
 Goudreau, Jenna. “When Women Feel Like Frauds They Fuel Their Own Failures.”. Forbes Magazine. 2011. Oct.19.Web Mar.21.2016.
 Goudreau, Jenna. “When Women Feel Like Frauds They Fuel Their Own Failures.”.
 Warrell, Margie. “Afraid of Being ‘Found Out?’ How to Overomce Imposter Syndrome” Forbes Magazine. 2014.Apr.3. Web. Mar.21.2016
 Goudreau, Jenna. “When Women Feel Like Frauds They Fuel Their Own Failures.”.
 Baer, Drake. “Do You Have Imposter Syndrome or Are You Actually Qualified For Your Job?”. Fast Company. 2013. Nov.1. Web. Mar.21.2016.
 1st Corinthians 15:19-26.
 Carlson, Richard. “Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:19-26”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul. 20.Mar.2016. Web. Mar.21.2016.
 1st Corinthians 15:14
 Lose, David. “If It’s Not Hard to Believe, You’re Probably Not Paying Attention!”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul. 24.Mar.2013. Web. Mar.21.2016.
 Lose, David. “If It’s Not Hard to Believe, You’re Probably Not Paying Attention!”.
 Lewis, Karoline. “True Resurrection”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul. 20.Mar.2016. Web. Mar.21.2016.
 Inspiration comes from a blog post entitled “Jesus died for this” found on Eternity Matters blog.
 Karenfills, Peter. “Why am I posting a selfie with a coffee cup and a peace sign.” Love What Matters. Found on Facebook. 20.Mar.2016. WebMar.21.2016.
 Karenfills, Peter. “Why am I posting a selfie with a coffee cup and a peace sign.”
 Karenfills, Peter. “Why am I posting a selfie with a coffee cup and a peace sign”
 Markquart, Ed. “Afraid of the Unknown.” Sermons from Seattle.Web. Mar.21.2016.
 Fraser, Giles. “Christianity, when properly understood is a religion of losers
Responsive Reading: Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29
Gospel Lesson: Luke 19: 28-40
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
People were mad! People hated their government! They hated having to pay their taxes! They hated seeing their way of life threatened. Many people felt few ruled them. Fury was organizing in Jerusalem this year. The threat of riots was real and present. Jerusalem a town of 50,000 would soon swell to a population several times the size. Holy Week was here as they gathered for their Passover celebration. They dreaded what the Romans might do to oppress their people next.
Fear ruled many people’s lives in Jesus’ day. We know this emotion well. I think of our current political dialogue which often seems to be driven on both sides by who can propose the most fear inciting scenarios to win votes. Fear comes from all walks of life from the threat of poverty to the threat of violence. People who take “wait and see” attitudes in the age of social media we often dismiss as naive. Fear drives more of our ways of life then we can we probably realize.
When I was fifteen years old, I got a call from Grandma. Grandma wanted to know if I could travel with her to California to claim my Aunt Carol’s body. Carol hadn’t answered her phone for a few days. Not being able to get a hold of Carol was not a new occurrence. Grandma naturally assumed the worst. Pretty soon, I was supposed to help her track down a body at the Los Angeles County Morgue. We all know people like this whose actions motivated by fear who gathered on Palm Sunday.
In the midst of fear though came a rumor of hope. The previous day had just been the biggest day of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead after four days in the tomb, so as Jesus was coming to town that day. Jesus was the hot “new” act. Jesus was a new religious leader, unlike the ones who had led them down before. He was the new political messiah surging in the people’s polls who was going to confront those Roman bullies (once and for all).
When I was 10-11 years old, I thought professional wrestling was the absolute greatest thing in the world. My best friend, Danny McNabb, and I would often get together and have wrestling matches against pillows on each other’s bed. The biggest wrestling star in the world at this time was Hulk Hogan. Hogan was famous for the 24 inch “python” arms. Hogan was known for walking into arenas to Rick Derringer’s Real American. Hulk Hogan could seriously take anyone on as he body-slammed the 500 lb. Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III. One time, my dad took a group of friends and I to watch Hogan wrestle at the Target Center. As Hogan walks into the arena on that day, he walked in such a way that he was fearless even as he prepared to do battle with forces much larger than himself.
People were waiting on Palm Sunday for a leader. They were waiting to see their Hulk Hogan stand up to the bad guys. People were waiting to see the “status-quo” blown up.
In October of 1987, the Minnesota Twins were heavy underdogs in the American League playoffs to the Detroit Tigers. The bats especially Gary Gaetti’s got hot. The Twins win the series 4-1. The Twins after having celebrated in Detroit fly back home to Minneapolis. They hear a crowd had gathered at the Metrodome. The team figures it’ll just be a few people. The Twins take a bus back from the airport to the Metrodome. It seems especially busy for 10 PM on a Monday night. The Twins step inside the Stadium 60,000 people are there. Homer Hankies are everywhere. People were longing for the euphoria of a championship. Shortly these fans dreams would be realized. Picture this scene and now imagine the crowd on Palm Sunday.
Instead of Homer Hankies though they began to gather up Palm Branches. When Jesus was going to approach they were going to throw these Palms on the ground as a way to point for their longing “Save Us” “Hosanna, Son of David”. There were those who were whipped up into a frenzy unmatched at any political rally were going even further they were throwing their shirts and cloaks on the road. I imagine onlookers had no idea what to make of this scene. When Hulk Hogan entered the ring at Target Center, he ripped off his shirt as the crowd went wild.
Jesus’ march to Jerusalem was different. Jesus was neither tall nor physically imposing. Jesus was not going to shout out fancy catch phrases like “What you gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on you.” Jesus wasn’t going to ride in a strong white horse; rather he was going ride on a slow, pathetic donkey. The power that Jesus displayed was going to look very different than the people had previously imagined.
It was in that initial appearance on Palm Sunday that something probably began to stand out about Jesus’ intentions in the week ahead. Jesus was not looking to spit on any Roman soldiers. Jesus was going to be spit on himself.
Jesus was soon going to be beaten! Jesus was soon going to be bloody! Jesus was soon going to be crucified! Jesus was soon going to be buried! The Palm Sunday crowd had seen their hopes of things getting better quickly vanish before their very eyes. Jesus like Hulk Hogan seemed not to be the hero that they sought. Now here the crowds were searching for answers moving forward.
Jesus had come to town with the promise of dramatic miracles: turning water into wine once again before people’s very eyes and conquer the Romans once and for all. The most negative of human emotions were filling these fantasies: revenge, judgment, anger, and violence. The same emotions that had led to all sorts of brokenness within the world which Jesus lived in the previous generations. Jesus was instead preparing to usher in a new kind of kingdom: a kingdom of peace, of hope, of grace, and a kingdom of mercy.
The scene that defines Holy Week, like none other, is Jesus standing in the presence of the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate. Jesus was standing before one of the most powerful men in the world. Jesus’ fate could permanently change dependent on the outcome of the meeting. Jesus could have gone out a martyr by telling Pontius Pilate off and telling him off good! Jesus could have backed down from his convictions as a way to try to escape to safety. Jesus just stood there in silence. Jesus’ Kingdom would not collapse under any threat.
Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, he had taught Nicodemus “You must be born again to see the kingdom of God.”. Only Nicodemus couldn’t make sense of Jesus’ saying because one needs to undergo death before there can be a resurrection.
There are two kinds of people in this world: optimists and pessimists. Optimists tend to see the world in terms of possibility, whereas pessimists tend to see the world in terms of reality. Pessimists tend only to view the world by the judgments of sin, death, and the devil which could afflict us. Optimists tend to look at the world by where Resurrection could take place. What we need to remember as we begin Holy Week is that Palm Sunday is not the completion of our celebration, and this is important.
Let me tell a story as told by Tim Zingale. There once was a little boy no more than ten years old. This little boy lived in a small town where there had never been a circus. He had read about circuses at school, but he had never seen an actual circus. One day when walking uptown, he saw a sign that the circus was coming to town. The boy knew that he had to go to that circus, so he began to save his allowance to attend. He began to count the days down. On the night before, he was way too excited to sleep. The boy got up before daylight and got his chores done so he could be downtown at nine AM. Shortly after nine, the great circus parade came down Main Street. The boy saw lions and tigers, elephants, bears, horses, jugglers, clowns, acrobats, and a circus band. The scene was the most exciting thing that the boy had seen in his whole life. The boy started jumping up and down because he was so excited at what he saw. When the parade ends, the boy walks up to the last man in the parade to hand him his money. The man takes it bewildered. The boy goes home joyous because this circus parade was the greatest thing that he had ever seen. The only problem was that he only saw the parade and went home before the circus began.
Our lesson for today is as we go through the ups and downs of this life. The times ahead do not promise to be easy. We will see spit and we will be spit on ourselves. Here comes Jesus riding on a colt. The colt may not look all that fancy: water, wine, wheat, and mere promise. Often in our faith, all that we can grasp onto is a promise that Resurrection might be coming soon.
A few months ago, things were looking bleak within our local community with the mine idled, but we now look ahead as see the hope of sunshine on the horizon.
Things were bleak for a time this winter and this week, but today we celebrate the birth of spring. We see this as a sign of resurrection coming forth from the earth.
Things were bleak for a time during Holy Week, yet next Sunday the sun will rise once again. Daylight will be here. Hope will stand before us. Jesus is getting ready to leap forth from the grave and appear before our very eyes. Amen
 One of my favorite commentaries on the history of Palm Sunday comes from Ed Markquart’s “The Riots of Pilate” found at sermonsfromseattle.
 Grow Doug. “Celebrate Good Times’: Welcome-home rally was an unforgettable moment for ’87 Twins team, fans.” Excerpt from “We’re Gonna Win, Twins!”. MINNPOST. 2010. Apr.10. Web. Mar.16.2016.
 Matthew 21:9
 Luke 23:1-7.
 John 3:3.
 Zingale, Tim. “Hands”. Sermon Central. 2008.Mar.10. Web. Mar.16.2016.
First Lesson: Isaiah 43: 16-21
Responsive Reading: Psalm 126
Second Lesson: Philippians 3: 4b-14
Gospel Lesson: John 12: 1-8
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I want to tell you the story this morning of the most dramatic events that I have ever witnessed. I was at a Basketball game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks at Target Center. I couldn’t tell you who won this game. But I will always remember what I saw on that night. During one of the timeouts, the Timberwolves mascot Crunch was standing in the middle of the court staring at a giant, wrapped box. What was inside the box? I had no idea at the time. When out of nowhere came running in Bango the Buck the Milwaukee Bucks mascot. Bango grabs the box and runs off with it in the process being chased by the Timberwolves mascot Crunch. Pretty soon, Bango and Crunch are out of sight. Half a quarter or nearly fifteen minutes of time passes without a resolution. All of sudden, flashing lights come strolling down upon Crunch chasing Bango throughout the arena still carrying a giant box. Bango soon stops and pushes Crunch down a flight of steps. Bango stops in front of a young woman. Bango gets down on one knee. Bango takes off his head. You can all guess what type of ring was in the box. Now people could ask all sorts of questions about this event. Was it necessary proposing this way necessary? Probably not. Was it practical or cheap? No. Are Bango and Mrs.Bango still happily married? I have no idea. All I know is that Bango the Buck was going to stop at nothing to take a bride.
Today’s Gospel lesson is another tale of someone acting exuberant or a little bit nutty in the wake of the moment. Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead. All sorts of people were excited about this as the news began to spread. Many came to believe in Jesus because of it, whereas others started to plot his death. So shortly after Lazarus’ raising, Lazarus, his two sisters (Martha and Mary) and Jesus sit down for dinner. What happened at this dinner would set the stage for Jesus’ ministry in the days ahead.
There are two key characters in this interaction. The first character is Mary. We know a little bit about Mary from another prominent story in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus had dinner at Mary and Martha’s house previously. What can we say about Mary is that she was a free-spirit, whereas sister Martha was a task-oriented doer. Mary was sensitive, a thoughtful listener, and a crier who people knew for her sheer emotion. When I picture Mary, I picture a hippie, real long hair, maybe some visible piercings, all sorts of tattoos, and someone who wasn’t going to live life by anyone’s rules. Mary especially didn’t care about the progress of her financial portfolio. Mary decides to do something kind of crazy as they gathered for dinner that night. Mary takes a pound of Nard ointment dumps it on Jesus’ feet and starts wiping his feet with her hair. Few things to know about Nard: Nard came from a plant way up in the Himalayan Mountains, Nard had to travel across Asia via camel, and Nard cost an average worker one year's wages to buy. Since women didn’t have much in the way of economic opportunity, Mary was probably pouring her life savings over Jesus’ feet. Now I understand Mary wanting to do something special for Jesus since he had raised her brother from the dead. There just had to be better ways though then to waste a pound of Nard on his feet?
The thing about Mary is she dared to be different. Mary understood the Kingdom of God not to abide by worldly standards. Mary had every right to be excited beyond all rational thought. We know people like Mary. Mary’s non-sensible actions remind me of my favorite story about my grandma.
One day Grandma was bored. Grandma looks out into the yard and sees a deer in the yard. Grandma thought the deer looked friendly enough. Grandma thought the deer looked like it might make a pretty good pet. So Grandma decides to lure with food the deer inside the house. In case you were wondering, deer don’t do really well inside houses for the deer soon grows hysterical in such tight confines. Grandma has to call the Game Warden to help get the deer back outside.
Now I imagine the Game Warden leaving Grandma’s house that day thinking “What is this woman’s deal?” The Game Warden knew how a person was supposed to behave around animals. The Game Warden couldn’t make sense I imagine of Grandma’s behavior. I imagine the Game Warden was kind of like Judas Iscariot on this day.
The other key character at the dinner party with Mary is Judas. Judas didn’t know quite what to make of Mary’s scene. I picture Judas as having the complete opposite personality as Mary. Judas was probably wearing a fine robe, well-groomed, and Judas appeared to be sensible in his decision making. Judas’ talent was in finance. Even Judas’ friends thought he was Mr. Uptight, who would never tell a joke. Judas’ reaction to Mary makes me think of my best friend from college named Cody.
Cody was serious about his studies. They were always priority number #1. Cody in his junior year would ramble on and on about how one professor structured a test in his freshman year so that Cody only ended up with an “A-“. Cody would insist on wearing ties to college on tests day because he was the “money-player” who would not fail. Cody, as you can imagine, didn’t have a whole lot of tolerance for the Mary’s at Concordia College in Moorhead. Cody made snide remarks a time or two. So picturing people you know like Cody, imagine their reaction to a scene such as this one with all sorts of expensive perfume being casually dumped on Jesus’ feet by a young woman rolling around on the ground.
Here was Mary acting tacky like Bango the Buck was acting tacky. So Judas figures it’s his obligation to speak up witnessing the scene: “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”. Now we know Judas had ulterior motives when asking this question. No one can say that Judas’ question was not the right question to ask. Certainly there were more practical uses of money than what Mary was displaying. Judas wasn’t wrong to point this out.
Last week, we looked at the most famous of Jesus’ parables in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The Older Brother was like Judas being reasonable. The Father was being unreasonable. The thing that Judas was not grasping at this moment in time about Jesus ministry is Grace is never reasonable. Grace is not about being right. Grace is not about being practical. Grace is not about abiding by any book whatsoever.
Phillip McLarty recalls the story of the Crim Family, who lived in the town of Kilgore during the Great Depression. Times were tough for everyone in Kilgore and any money was tough to find. The Crim’s owned the General Store in Kilgore, where everyone shopped and decided the only way to eventually save the business was to start extending credit for goods. The credit was good news for the folks in Kilgore, but everyone, including the Crim’s, kept going deeper and deeper into debt.
Finally, one day the Crim’s receive life-changing news no different then Mary finding her brother alive, or Bango the Buck getting a “yes’ to his marriage proposal. The Crim’s received word that oil had been discovered on their property. The Crim Family was never going to have to worry about money ever again. The Crim’s were every Sunday in church Presbyterians. The Crim’s decide that this event was going to serve as an opportunity to proclaim their faith to the people of Kilgore. The Crim’s decide to call a meeting for all of their customers to meet at the general store at 8 AM on Saturday morning. Word spread throughout Kilgore. People were nervous thinking that the Crim’s were going to seize now everyone’s property in town. Just like Jesus was merely expected to mourn at Lazarus’ grave. So Saturday morning, the meeting starts. The older brother, Malcolm Crim begins to speak. In Malcolm’s hands was a box containing everyone’s charges. Malcolm begins by announcing the good news of discovering oil. The Crim’s had more money than they were ever going to need, so everyone’s debts were now canceled, and prosperity would soon come back to Kilgore thanks to the Crim’s oil. Everyone’s was ecstatic on this day. In fact, they were so ecstatic that they would have dumped Nard on Malcolm Crim’s feet in celebration. You see Mary had just received the best news that she would ever hear. Lazarus was alive! Mary was now a believer in the Resurrection. Mary was no longer going to view the world in practical terms; Mary had been given a new hope as she embraced her previously departed brother.
Judas saw this event at dinner differently. Judas was angry that Jesus was celebrating alongside Mary. Certainly Jesus could have associated with a better crowd then this reckless, borderline hysterical named Mary. I imagine Jesus’ smiling the whole time upon seeing Mary’s joy after having seen the power of Resurrection within her life. You see the next week was going to change everyone’s lives for Jesus, Judas’ and Mary. Jesus was preparing for his burial. Judas was beginning to see Jesus’ reckless generosity as foolishness, so he would soon betray him. Mary would soon witness a Resurrection once again! Amen
 Luke 10:38-42
 McLarty, Phillip. “Holy Extravengence”. Lectionary.org. 2004. Web. Mar.7.2016.
 McLarty, Phillip. “Holy Extravengence
 McLarty, Phillip. “Holy Extravengence.”
First Lesson: Joshua 5: 9-12
Responsive Reading: Psalm 32
Second Lesson: 2 Corinthians 5: 16-21
Gospel Lesson: Luke 15: 1-3, 11b-32
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Tullian Tchividjan tells the following story in his book One Way Love. A woman came into his office for counseling in the wake of her divorce. The woman was mad at her ex-husband, her anger was so consuming that it affected every relationship in her life even with her children. In this woman’s defense, she had every reason possible to be mad. Her husband was a real jerk! He had treated her terribly throughout the course of her marriage and then abandoned her when she was particularly vulnerable.
Tchvidjan, as he sits back hearing this, decides to ask whether there was any possibly of forgiveness?
“Forgiveness” the woman sneered, “He would never ask for forgiveness.” “And even if he did ask for it, I would never grant it.” The woman finally gave a tiny softening in her stance as she says “Maybe if he really changed to the point that I believed that he was a totally, different person then and only then could we talk. “We are only supposed to forgive those who are truly sorry. That’s how God works.”
Plenty of people think this way about how God works. God can only act after he’s seen the signs of transformation. God can only act once the one-hundred pounds of sin have been lost permantenly from one’s lives. Jesus is speaking to people like this today. You see Jesus is hearing complaints about his ministry. Jesus is hearing that he’s attracting the wrong kind of crowd: tax collectors and prostitutes along with all sorts of other questionable sinners. Jesus is hearing all sorts of doom and gloom scenarios about what might happen if they keep taking over the faith.
Let me suggest something this morning. Perhaps the issue this morning doesn’t lie with the tax collectors and prostitutes perhaps the problem lies with those who believe they can never be a part of the community ever again.
I want to tell you this morning the story of the Peterson Family from Saint Olaf, Minnesota- Papa Peterson, the older brother Ed Peterson, and the younger brother Jacob Peterson. Papa Peterson was a banker and the definition of a prim and proper man. Papa Peterson never had a hair out of place on his head, the top button of his shirt was always buttoned, and he would never dare to show excess enthusiasm. Papa Peterson’s personality was thought to be stiff. Papa Peterson was a kind and loving father who would do anything for his children.
When Jacob Peterson was growing up, his father was his hero. As Jacob grows up he starts wanting to fit in with the kids at school. Their approval soon becomes more important than Papa Peterson’s. Jacob got lousy grades in school. Jacob would never come home on time. Jacob started using substances for recreation. Jacob had even gotten arrested a time or two during his high school years. Papa Peterson never lost his cool with Jacob; Jacob could see the pain in his father’s eyes whenever he faced him. Finally one day Jacob had enough of Saint Olaf and everyone that he knew there. Jacob was going to leave town forever. If only Jacob could be free from Papa Peterson, then he could have some real fun! Jacob marches up to his father shouting “I hate this town, I hate you, and I never want to see you again.” Jacob in arrogant, even hostile fashion demands that his father gives him his share of the estate early. Jacob basically tells his father to drop dead!
Older brother Ed is watching this scene play out before his eyes. Ed Peterson was the model son. A star athlete who was a 4.0 student throughout school, Ed had come back from college to help and eventually take over for Dad at the bank. Ed had a great head of hair and a beautiful and polite blonde haired and blue eyed wife. No one in Saint Olaf could dare say a bad word about salt of the earth like Ed Peterson. Ed was outraged watching Jacob tell his father off. Ed was hoping to see his father snap at his brat of a son. Papa Peterson calmly gets out his checkbook, writes Jacob a check that will take care of him for life and watches Jacob storm out the door.
Jacob Peterson moves to Minneapolis. Jacob rents a fancy apartment, buys a fast car, and parties with his friend’s day and night (drugs, gambling, booze, and girls). Jacob was glad to be away from the boring town of Saint Olaf and his uptight father. Jacob’s good times could not continue. Heroin was the drug of choice. Pretty soon, hundreds of thousands of dollars was wasted. Jacob was broke by the needle. Jacob soon has to give up his apartment. Jacob soon finds himself sleeping on the street on a cold, Minneapolis night. Jacob Peterson spent years thinking how cool he was, now he was hungry, and he was lonely. Might anyone help Jacob Peterson then he began to think about Saint Olaf? Jacob knew that both his dad and brother were big deals there. Papa Peterson had retired, and Ed was now running the local bank. The family pets had more food back in Saint Olaf then Jacob currently had. Jacob believed that his life could never be what it once was. Jacob hoped that maybe his family would take pity on him; perhaps he could help scrub the toilets down at Ed and Papa’s bank. Jacob decides to try to make contact back home in Saint Olaf. Jacob finds phones to call back home. The first two times, Jacob calls he doesn’t get an answer.
The third time, Jacob leaves the following message “Dad, I’m taking a train back to Saint Olaf”. The train will get in at 3 AM tomorrow night. The train will stop for ten minutes after that. It continues to Fargo after that. I can either stop in Saint Olaf or continue along the way. I fully understand if you never wanted to see me again. I just thought that you should know. As Jacob hops aboard the train, he was fully expecting never to see either his father or brother ever again. The towns become increasingly familiar to Jacob at every stop along the way. Jacob soon looks at his watch and sees 2:45 in the morning. The sights that Jacob was seeing kept getting more and more familiar until he sees the Saint Olaf train station out of the corner of his eye. Jacob saw a light inside the station. Jacob was fully expecting to see it dark, he looked and saw familiar faces. He saw the neighbors from down the street; he saw his cousins, and he even saw a few friends from high school. Jacob didn’t see either Papa or Ed. Finally, the train stops in Saint Olaf, the doors begin to open, and standing on the track was Papa Peterson. Papa Peterson though looked different. Papa Peterson’s hair looked frazzled; his shirt was untucked, and his socks didn’t even match. But as soon as Papa Peterson saw Jacob, he threw his hands way up in the air and ran towards him shouting “My Son, My Son.” Everyone inside the train station comes out its doors. Papa Peterson and Jacob begin to embrace. Jacob dares to try to apologize for all that he had ever done and said. Only Papa Peterson kept cutting him off, saying that “the death of our relationship was in the past; now we celebrate its resurrection.” As both men, simetousley shed tears of joy. Ed Peterson could not attend Jacob’s return. Ed was mad. Ed thought that Papa was being a foolish, old man.
Ed had spent years plotting how he would tell Jacob off if he ever saw him again. Jacob didn’t deserve forgiveness! Jacob had told the kindest man that he would ever know to drop dead! Ed wanted nothing to do with this party in Jacob’s honor. He was going to deny that Jacob was his brother if anybody asked. Finally a few days pass, Ed was going to confront his father before facing his brother. At the very least, Jacob needed to help himself before Papa should help him. How could you forgive him Ed asked Papa? To which Papa said, “If we only forgive those who can change their ways according to our standards, then we would live in a world without love, grace, or ultimately salvation. The thing about love is that it will always be reckless, always be generous, and in many cases love will be uncomfortable. What was once lost has now been found.”
Ed Peterson was right about his younger brother. His younger brother was a reckless jerk. Jacob Peterson had indeed gotten all the breaks. Ed Peterson had done everything as according to the book as a person could. What Ed Peterson failed to grasp was the ways that Resurrection can change the world. We think the way that the world ultimately works through lecture and achievement. Ed Peterson is the only reasonable thinking person in this whole story, but the thing about Resurrection is that it is never reasonable. Resurrection is about taking what is dead lying in the grave and bringing it back to life.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son brings the whole Christian faith into perspective. The Prodigal Son draws parallels with Infant Baptism in that reminds us that it is when we are at our weakest and most vulnerable do we see the way of the cross. Infant Baptism reminds us that there is nothing that we can do to accept or believe. The thing that stands out so much about the Father’s response to the Son is that there were no steps between forgiveness and resurrection. Our God truly does welcome the infants, the lowly, sinners, losers, the victims, the outcasts and the prodigal sons those who ultimately can not help themselves. Amen
 The following comes from an article entitled “Lecturing the Prodigal Son(s) in the NY Times” written by Zahl, David and Will Mcdavid published on Mockingbird (MBIRD.COM) on Feburary 20, 2014.
 The story comes from Tchvidijan’s book One Way Love.
 The following is a paraphrase of Tchvidijan’s story
 The inspiration for this story comes in a few different places. The majority of the story is based on a Phillip Yancey article from Christianity Today found in his book What’s So Amazing About Grace?. The illustration comes from a Tim Zingale sermon entitled “The God of Unmatched Shoes” written in 2007 found on Sermoncentral.com
 Luke 15:32
 The connection between the Prodigal Son and Infant Baptism comes from Robert Farrar Capon’s Kingdom, Judgment, and Grace found on page 297. Eerdman’s Publishing. Grand Rapids, MI. 2002.
 The following quote comes from Pastor Donavon Riley’s Facebook page on March 1st, 2016. It’s based on a quote by Preston Sprinkle “God rescues sinners, losers, and victims those who can’t help themselves.”