Faith Lutheran, Nov. 6, 2022
Lucas Shurson’s Installation
Isaiah 42:5-9, Mark 10:35-45
Our presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton reminds us often that “we are church together.” We live out being church together in a very real way on days like this one. Congregations and individuals across the Treasure Valley Cluster and synod have been praying for Faith Lutheran and for Lucas Shurson and now here we are. Hooray! Faith Lutheran has a new pastor.
We not only have something wonderful to celebrate, but we also have a rich collection of scriptural texts which all seem so fitting for this chapter of church life. We are at a time when it is both challenging and exciting to be the church. For myself, I have greater understanding and empathy for the Israelites’ experiences under Babylon than in any other time in my life. And with that, these past few years and our current circumstances have made me ever grateful for words of hope from God’s prophets, words like those we heard today from Isaiah chapter 42.
The prophet reminds us of God’s character, “the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it.” The same God who gave us breath, who created the big mountain ranges and meadows we love, that same God is doing something new. “See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare;before they spring forth, I tell you of them.”
So, it was for the Israelites and so it is for those of us gathered here today. Is it comforting that God is making something new or is it uncomfortable? Perhaps it depends on the day or event moment. The pace of change in our world is so rapid that maybe we want to scream, “That’s okay God. You could just leave things as they are.” But God has always brought life out of death, something new out of something old. We worship a God of resurrection and new beginnings.
This congregation has been through its ups and downs, many times of discernment, some conflict, but you have ultimately kept the gospel at the center and God has already created new beginnings through and with you. Now one more chapter begins with this mutual ministry with Pastor Lucas.
You have known and know that what never changes is God’s presence and steadfastness. “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people.” And there it is. We worship a God of promises. We will hear promises today, promises about the life of pastor and people and your life together. All of those promises can be traced back to the promises made at the font as well as the covenants God made with people and all of creation. Those promises come down to the unwavering truth that you are loved, and God will not let you go.
How easy it is to forget those promises, or to feel that we are the first and last generation that needs to be reminded of God’s character and God’s promises. Several of the rostered leaders here today were at Hope Lutheran a few Saturdays ago and heard Dr. Nessan remind us of other times the church has weathered challenging times. It was a perspective I needed.
Pivoting and innovating will continue to be necessary and useful. But even they can become idols. Our weekly worship and relationships with fellow and sister Christians will continually remind us that ultimately, we are bearers of the good news of Jesus Christ. We are called together, both pastor and congregation, to share this good news with our whole lives, our words, and our actions.
In the gospel lesson this afternoon, Jesus makes the good news clear. He says he came to give his life as a ransom for many. A ransom is a liberation created by divine strength, not by payment. Jesus declares that God, through Jesus’ death, will free people from oppression and captivity to another power. How this happens is a bit of a mystery, but the liberation is no less real.
Discipleship will finally mean more trouble, not less. Following Jesus is likely to be disruptive. True discipleship is characterized by a costly pouring out of one’s life for another. It may be an aging parent, a difficult spouse, a special child, another member of the Christian fellowship who has unusual needs, or any person whose situation calls for neighborly service at personal cost. Jesus came to serve and to give his life. His followers are also called to servanthood.
Know that you Lucas and you Faith Lutheran are not alone as you live out your baptismal call. The body of Christ is a body. We are truly church together. None of us can do this work alone. And we are the body of Christ accompanied by the Holy Spirit. As each of you disciples continues to take one faithful step forward, know that the Spirit is always with you, in the bread and wine, in our shared worship, and in your daily lives. Thanks be to God.