Peace Lutheran Church of Edgemont
Sunday, May 09, 2021
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On the Way with Bishop Mike

On the Way with Bishop Mike 

“If You’re Not Careful…”                  Luke 13:1-9


The car lay on its side in the snowy median, it’s flashers going, the dazed young driver standing next to it, his cell phone pressed to his ear.  I instinctively took my foot from the gas and felt the car slow as I moved carefully into the right lane. It was slippery.
Even as I slowed, I told myself that kind of thing happens to others, not to me!  I’m a good driver!  I tried to explain away the car in the ditch. The driver was young.  He must have been texting.  His car wasn’t reliable.  Worn tires. Maybe he’d been cut off.  But then, somewhere, in the deep recesses of my prideful mind, I heard my mother’s words, “If you’re not careful, the same thing could happen to you!” 
Jesus’ warning words in this week’s lesson tend to make me cringe.  They sound harsh to my ears.  While he separates the human and natural evil we endure from the belief that the terrible things we experience are punishment or retribution from God he also calls us to repentance – to turn back to God – and warns that, if we don’t, we will suffer a similar fate.  I hear my mother’s words echoing in Jesus’ words (or is it the other way around), “If you’re not careful, the same thing could  happen to you!” 
Like my mother’s words, Jesus words are not a threat, but a sign of concern and love.  To turn away from  God is to turn toward death as certainly as speeding on icy roads is to court a trip to the ditch.  And God, as Jesus shows us time and again, does not desire the death of sinners.  When evil befalls us, (for whatever reason) God’s heart is the first to break.

  If we have any doubt about that, Jesus tells us a parable about a fig tree and a gardener who is willing to give it some manure and one more year to bear fruit.  After three unproductive years, that’s undeserved patience!  

 If we have any doubt, we simply need to look to the cross where Jesus took on all the hatred and violence of humankind, overcame evil, and defeated death for you and me and the whole world.  That’s undeserved grace! 

 In a world where a white supremacist guns down fifty people at worship, where cyclones kill hundreds and even thousands, where families flee their homelands in the face of violence and warfare, and people’s livelihoods are swept away by springtime floods, what more can we do than to turn toward God with our hands stretched out for mercy?  What more can we do than cry out with the Psalmist, “O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water?” (Psalm 63:1) and lean forward, listening intently for the Good News of the Easter angels, “Why do you look for the living among the dead, he is not here, but has risen!” (Luke 24:5)
And then, be moved, not only to take our foot off the gas and slow down, but even more to pull over and care for our brothers and sisters in the ditch.
Bishop Mike
Thank-you for reading.  Please pray with me for the people of Christchurch, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique, Africa, Nebraska, Western Iowa and the Midwestern United States, and all the people in our world whose lives have been torn apart by tragedy, violence, bloodshed and war.