• St. John's

Let Me Tell You Why I Love You

Let me tell you why I love you.


It began 15 years ago, before I was pastor of St. John’s. It began in 2004

with a community of elders who welcomed a young person who had been

hurt by the church and was angry. It began with a heated Holy Spirit

debate and a beautiful, historic, sanctuary. It was a congregation of old

people, of snowbirds, that doubled in size during the winter time. It was

not a logical pairing.


NO church growth manual suggests elderly German, Lutheran

congregations welcome young, queer, ex-evangelicals who are hurting and

angry.


So, Let me tell you why I love you.


That community in Arizona, not much bigger than you, invited me in. That

community of people (not only grandparents, but great grandparents)

who invited me to go with them to brunch after church on Sunday, the

community of men who invited a young queer adult to spend every other

Saturday morning working to re-build a pipe organ, followed by

donuts & coffee.


Let me tell you why I love you.


It is because of a community of people three times my age, who never had

their own kids, but who welcomed a young queer adult to sit on their

couch and cry over break-ups and dating. Who staged a

committee meeting on the night of my 21st birthday, only to throw a

surprise party.


So, Let me tell you why I love you.


The love expressed through my first encounter with a caring Christian

community transformed me. It took an angry, young, queer adult, and let

me become the person you see as your pastor.


The Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis, a professor at Luther Seminary in St. Paul,

Minnesota, wrote about the power of ‘you’ in a commentary for this

week’s readings. She instructed, “Never underestimate the power of ‘you’,

especially in the first person singular ... It’s hard to pay attention to

another (person) when you have never had another pay attention to you.”


Our Gospel for this week highlights the importance of “you” in the first

person singular. In the Gospel according to Luke, The Holy Spirit

descended upon Jesus like a dove and a voice from heaven proclaimed

directly to Jesus, “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” In

this story from the Bible, God claimed Jesus specifically and called him to

an arduous undertaking. Before Jesus was sent to save the world, he had

to hear that specific you. “You are my beloved son.” You are called by

name. You are chosen and claimed.


Isaiah 43 also illustrates the power of being called and claimed. In verse

one the prophet wrote, “Thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have

called you by name, you are mine.” The people of Israel, living in exile,

were reminded God loved them. Faced with the daunting task of

rebuilding the city of Jerusalem, they needed to hear that God valued them

and would always be there for them. In verse four the God from on high,

the same God who exiled them, who allowed another country to come in

and rampage against them, reminded them “you are precious in my sight,

and honored, and I love you.”


You. And you. And you.

You are precious in God’s sight, and honored, and God loves you.


When you are called by name,

When you experience God’s love for you,

When you know God has your back and will always be there for you.

When you are embraced in God’s love and thought the world of, no matter what you do.


You are more likely to risk embarking on the adventure to which God

is calling you.


And you St. John’s, are called on an adventure. You are called to be a

caring Christian community for thousands of neighbors living in this

community: for people who can get here by walking or biking, for people

who are starting to have babies; for young people who are hungry for a

brave, authentic, caring community and don’t know that is what the

church is all about.


This arduous undertaking will require us to be courageous in ways we

have not been recently.


However, St. John’s, you are precious in God’s sight, and honored, and

God loves you. You are descended from German immigrants who fled to

this country fleeing starvation and poverty. Who were willing to change

everything in pursuit of a mission.


If God could be with Jesus, when he was called to a cross.

If God could be with Israel, when they rebuilt Jerusalem.

God can be with you, as you are called to be a caring Christian community

for neighbors who do not yet know you.


So St. John’s, let me tell you why I love you.


Because that love of God was first shown to me, in an elderly German

Lutheran congregation who, like you, are brave enough to be a caring

Christian community.


Amen.

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322 East Washington Ave, Madison, Wisconsin 53703

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