Sunday, November 6, 2016

Claiming LIfe

Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
“Woe to you when all speak well of you, 
for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:20-31 NRSV.)

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

This past summer, as I was nearing the end of my internship and the end of my studies at Luther Seminary, I took a break from reading non-fiction. For nearly five years, it has seemed to me that the only books I’ve read have been those related to school, whether they were about theology, faith formation, church administration, missional leadership, or pastoral care--or any other topic a seminary student needs to know about in order to be a pastor. Or at least to be a beginning pastor.

So, I decided to read through the entire Harry Potter series.

Now I’m sure that I’m probably the only person alive in our world today who, by 2016, had not read any of these remarkable books by author J. K. Rowling. Unless, of course, some of you choose to admit that, too. 

So, over about 6 weeks, I delved into the world of wizardry and Harry Potter. 

The books were fascinating and magical. Frightening, at times. Funny, at others. It was completely worth it and, if you haven’t read them, I really encourage you to do so.

Now, I’m not going to preach on Harry Potter today. But, as I read through our lessons today and, particularly, the lesson from Daniel, about his vision of the four beasts, I couldn't help but think of the Dementors, those foul creatures from the Potter series. They are described as infesting the darkest, filthiest places; glorying in decay and despair; draining peace, hope and happiness out of the air around them. Get too near one and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you.

No wonder Daniel’s spirit was troubled within him. And the vision in his head terrified him. 

This seems like a bizarre text for today, doesn’t it?  On this All Saints Day, a day when we remember all those in the faith who have gone before us, who have moved from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant, those whom we have loved and who have loved us and who, most importantly, have been examples of faith for us, examples of believing in God and trusting in God’s faithfulness. On this All Saints Sunday, this Daniel text just doesn’t seem like a good fit.

Oh, but it is!

In order to understand why it is so appropriate for us today, we have to understand the nature of this text. This portion of Daniel, along with the book of Revelation, is what we call apocalyptic literature. If you’ve ever read any part of Revelation, it can be a terrifying book. I had a parishioner last year who asked me why this book was in the Bible, sharing that it terrified her so much she never read it. 

The function of this type of literature may be unfamiliar to us. It is crisis literature. It is literature written to encourage, to give hope and support in a time of crisis. In Jesus’ day, these passages from Daniel 7 were so widely read at the time, that there grew to be what we might call a Daniel 7 cult. It is from this text that we first hear the term “son of Man.” It is also one of the first anti-empire texts in scripture. 

The beasts in this text represent empires. Empires that, like the Dementors, are sub-human. That drain the life out of our world. They seek to amass great wealth and power and, in the process, destroy our planet, destroy the poor, destroy peace.

It is in response to these destructive, Dementor-like empires that the “son of Man” comes. Here, in Daniel 7 we first hear that term--son of Man. Here in Daniel 7 we also hear the first anti-empire texts in scripture.  Read Daniel 7:13b-14. 

Daniel, troubled and terrified, seeks to understand his vision. In the interpretation, beginning with v. 17, notice that singular son of Man becomes plural. Look at verse 18. No longer does it read the “holy one of the Most High,” but the “holy ones of the Most High.” The saints of the Most High.

One individual sent by God stands up to the powers of empire. In Christ, God breaks into these destructive empires to establish God’s kingdom--a kingdom of justice and peace, a kingdom of love and forgiveness, a kingdom of hope and healing, a kingdom in the fullness of God in Christ.

The inbreaking begins with Christ’s coming. It continues through the work of the holy ones of the Most High--the saints we honor and remember here today. Some of them we read about in Scripture. Some became known across the world. But most, like the saints we remember today, were those who were not famous, not known. But they carried on the work of God’s kingdom. They shared their faith and gave us a glimpse of God’s kingdom so that we, too, might be called the saints of God, members of the body of Christ, the holy ones of the Most High.

We, saints, are citizens of a different kingdom than that of the empires of the world. It is this kingdom that Jesus describes today in our Gospel text. 

It is a kingdom where true power is not shown in dominance, but in service to others. It is a kingdom that calculates worth based on a different standard. Where those with wealth stop working for the systems--the empires--that exploit the poor, instead of continuing to build more wealth. Where those with power, turn away from amassing more of that power to stand in solidarity with the poor and powerless and to seek to change the systems that continue to oppress them.  Where God continues to lift up people who, under the world’s standards, have no business being lifted up. In this kingdom, God continues to lift them up--the poor, the hungry, the grief-stricken--and says to them, “These are the ones who are blessed. These are my people.” 

It’s been a difficult election year in our nation, hasn’t it? It seems as though we have experienced--endured might be a better word--endured one of the ugliest elections in years. One of the most painful parts for me especially has been the insults and recriminations that have flown back and forth between political candidates and their followers, the daily barrage of hostility, cruelty, dismissiveness of “others”, whether women, Catholics, Mexicans, Asians, losers, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Russians, or Syrians. I have to admit that I, too, have gotten caught up in the back and forth, in the ugliness of this election.

All of this--the insults, the recriminations, the name-calling, the hatred--all of it comes out of fear. It is the same fear that drives us to build walls to keep immigrants out. The same fear that drives us to create economic structures to wall in our profits and project our jobs. The same fear that causes us to protect ourselves and to keep what is ours. It is a fear that divides us and keeps us from experiencing the fullness of life in God’s kingdom and with each other. It is this division that Jesus warns us against in our text today. A division that, like the Dementors, destroys life and sucks away every happy memory, every shred of hope.

In a recent essay, Willie James Jennings, a theologian who graduated from my alma mater, Fuller Seminary, calls on all Americans and, particularly, Christians to “claim the power of life together precisely at the site of threat and fear. Our faith places us inside the actions of a God who faces our dangers and yet refuses to yield to fear. God offers life and invites us to gather courage there, making it a place where God creates community.”

Yielding to fear destroys community. Our Christian faith claims the power of life together precisely at the site of threat and fear.

This is exactly what Jesus’ disciples did in the first century. In the midst of a Roman empire that sought to destroy them, they claimed life right at the point of threat and fear, spreading the Good News throughout the Roman empire and beyond. 

In the same way, Luther claimed life at the point of threat and fear as he stood up to challenge the authority of an empirical church that had lost its way, spreading the Good News throughout the Western world.  

Over and over and over again, we have story after story of saints, known and unknown, who, in the midst of threat and fear, stood up and claimed life--showing the world and us how to imagine better, how to hope once again, and how to acknowledge that our lives and our needs, our safety and shalom are all in God’s hands.

So stand with this whole communion of saints today and claim life. Claim the gift of life that is yours through the death of our Savior Jesus Christ. And then dare to imagine and to engage the world in God’s name. Amen.

Preached on All Saints Sunday, November 6, 2016, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Bastrop, TX.
Texts: Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31.
Credit for ideas to

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Border Story

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”   Luke 17:11-19 (NRSV)

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

“On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee.” It is with these words that our Gospel lesson begins today. “Through the region between Samaria and Galilee.” The region between. This is our story for today, this 21st Sunday after Pentecost. It is a story of that place between. It is a border story.  

I think it’s different for you all here in Texas, with so much of your southern border a national border between the U.S. and Mexico.  It’s different at this border. 

I grew up on a ranch in north central South Dakota. And, even though we were only about 300 miles away from the border between the U.S. and Canada,  it wasn’t until I moved to Southern California that I really began to be aware of the U.S.-Mexican border and all of the politics surrounding our southern border.

You see, traveling over the border into Canada was never a big deal. Maybe it's because not many people drive through the Dakotas to get to Canada, so lines were never an issue. And security never seemed to be much of an issue either.

It was different at the border between El Cajon and Tijuana. There, even years ago, security seemed tighter and the lines at the border waiting to go through the INS station--which is what ICE was called back then--well, waiting at that southern border, the security lines seemed to be endless. 

I remember my first visit to Mexico one Memorial Day weekend. It took us 6 hours of waiting at the border checkpoint to finally cross back into California. And yet, even though waiting 6 hours could have been horrible, well, instead, it kind of became a party. People parked their cars and were mingling about. Local people from Tijuana were trying to sell pottery, blankets, candy and other goods. Waiting that 6 hours was, believe it or not, kind of fun.

And then, 9/11 happened. And things at the border were much, much different, weren't they? After 9/11, boundaries tightened up dramatically. And, then, cartel violence, which had always been there to some degree, got so much worse and became headline news.  

I remember a few years ago doing work in several cities along the Rio Grande, thinking how much I wanted to drive into Mexico to explore this northeastern part of the country, yet being strongly advised by the people I worked with that it was not safe. Not at all. That, because of the violence, they, themselves, who had so often travelled back and forth across the border, were no longer traveling to Mexico. 

No more sense of community. No more party atmosphere. Only separation. 

Like our southern border today, there was no party atmosphere at the border that separated the Samaritans and the Jews. In fact, there was a history of hostility between these people. 

At one time, they had been one nation. Yet the Babylonian exile and the return of the Jews from captivity had brought about changes and tension. The Samaritans and Jews were at odds about many things--beliefs about scripture, their worship, what it meant to be holy, and on and on. So, one has to wonder why, as our story tells us--why would Jesus be traveling in and among these border villages? On his way to Jerusalem, where he knew he would die, why seemingly tempt fate and put himself at risk, there, along the border?

Well, it’s because for God, there are no borders. The human borders we surround ourselves with, whether they be borders between nations or between people of different ethnic backgrounds or race or color or, even, religion; or borders between genders or generations;, or any other visible or invisible borders we place between ourselves and others--well, for God, they just don’t matter. God’s mercy is offered freely to all people. No borders. No divisions. No human convention about who is inside or outside, even when the outsider is an enemy, real or perceived. There is nothing that limits God’s mercy.

And this was the case in today’s story. As Jesus was entering into one of those small towns along the border, he was approached by ten lepers. Ten men who, by virtue of their disease, were considered contagious. Unclean. Who were banished to the border--a nowhere place where neither Samaritans nor Jews would choose to live, yet the place where these ten lepers, outcast from their communities, could keep their distance according to the law, according to the norms of society.

It was here, in the midst of this nowhere place with this nobody people, that Jesus was at work. Here in this barren borderland, in response to their pleas for mercy, Jesus sends these ten, diseased men on their way to their priest. And, on the way, our text tells us, they were healed. Along the way. Healed of this disease that had been a barrier for them. That had kept them apart from those they loved. That had kept them apart from their community.

And, then, one of them, realizing he has been healed, recognizes the presence of God. And what is his response? Well, he turns back and he offers praise and thanksgiving to the One who has healed him. And, this man, well, our text notes, he was a Samaritan. A foreigner. An outsider. An enemy. 

As he offers thanksgiving to Jesus for his healing, well, the other nine Jews, the ones who should have known better. Who should have gotten who Jesus was. Who should have turned back to offer their own thanks and praise. Whose people, because of their own lack of sight and lack of understanding, ultimately rejected Jesus…. While the other nine Jews continue on, it is the foreigner, the outsider, the enemy, the Samaritan, who is the one who turns back in gratitude. And, it is the Samaritan to whom Jesus says, "Get up and go! Your faith has saved you." Not that his faith has made him well, but that, more accurately, his faith has saved him. Salvation.

This is what God's salvation in Christ Jesus looks like. It is a salvation that restores us and reconciles us back into community, that turns us to see God in our midst, that returns us to worshiping God. It is a return that is focused on God, that recognizes that our God is a God who works in unexpected ways through unexpected people, bringing life where there seems to be no hope. Who turns human expectations and worldly systems upside down and, as is the case in our Gospel story and also in Naaman’s story this morning from 2nd Kings, it is a return that recognizes that God works through the lowly, the least, and the last of us to bring about healing and salvation, restoration and reconciliation. With God and with all people.

So, who are you in today’s story? Are you one of the nine? The entitled? Unable to see God at work around you among the least and lowly?

Or are you the tenth? The foreigner? The outsider? Even, perhaps, the enemy?

Regardless of who you are, God offers healing and mercy, life and salvation to all people.  No borders. No divisions. No insiders. No outsiders.  Life and salvation, offered to all people.

May our response then be that of the tenth--to turn back and give God thanks and praise. And to hear the promise in Jesus’ command to “get up and go,” that it is God-given faith in a resurrected Jesus that has saved us and that empowers us to step across boundaries and borders, to share mercy with outsiders, to pay attention to things that are worthy of praise, and to move forward into the future with the assurance that God is with us and that there is more to God’s story than meets the eye.

Get up and go, then. Go and witness to the saving love of God in Jesus Christ.


Preached October 9, 2016, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Bastrop, TX.
21st Sunday after Pentecost
Lessons: 2 Kings 5:1-15c, Psalm 111, 2 Timothy 2:8-15, Luke 17:11-19.

Sunday, August 7, 2016


Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. 

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” 

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 (NRSV)

Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

First, a disclaimer. I can just about promise you that during the course of my sermon this morning I will likely become emotional, since this is my last Sunday here and likely the last sermon I will preach here.

So, here’s the thing. If that happens, here’s what I want you to do: I want you to let go of that stoic Norwegian or German heritage and just cry right along with me. Do you promise to do that? Okay. Let’s begin.

I want to talk to you today about your treasure. No, it’s not what you think. My last sermon here will not be a stewardship sermon. Instead, I want to talk to you about your treasure--those little things or those experiences that you treasure. Those little things or experiences that bring you joy. That bring goodness and beauty into your lives. Those little things or experiences that you hold in your heart and that are your treasure.

Over the past week, I’ve been sitting several hours in airports, waiting to travel back and forth to Los Angeles for my last interview with my synod for final approval. I’ve had a lot of time to think of my own treasures. Particularly the treasures from this past year. Those little things or experiences that I hold deep in my heart.

Things like
...the way you so warmly welcomed me into this congregation and have supported my learning over this past year, showing me grace when I’ve made mistakes and offering loving suggestions as to how I might be a better pastor.
...the gift of Pastor Mark as my supervisor and all of the things we’ve talked about, so much stuff that I’ve learned from him and our ongoing and never-ending conversation around politics, a subject that both of us love to talk about. And, this year, we’ve had a lot to talk about!
...and of Michell, who knows everyone and who they are related to and who just seems to be able to accept every challenge and solve every problem I throw her way, although, she hasn’t quite yet figured out how to get the bat that flew into my office this past week out of the church.
...and of all of you who I’ve had the privilege to work with this past year in different ways, whether on different committees, or the building project, or in handbells, or in Stephen Ministry.
...the openness and honesty so many of you have shown me, a complete stranger, as you have shared the joys and, yes, the hard times of your lives.
...the ways in which you have gone out of your way to show hospitality-- those little gifts that magically appeared on my desk, the lunch invitations, the cards you sent just to say thanks for a particular sermon, the amazing home-baked goods, the fresh produce from your gardens, or even just the times you dropped in to chat.
...the trust you showed in me by letting me spend time with your children in all their innocence and simple faith and from whom I receive so much love back , including hugs and even a huge lip-smacking kiss I got just last Sunday from one of them. And, yes, even sharing your teenagers with me and all the learning that they bring!
...the way in which the beauty of this place has grown on me--the lush, green rolling hills of this bluff country and, even, the stark shades of gray of this place in the winter.
...the friendliness of small town life--that no matter what, someone always says hello to me as I’m walking to church in the morning.
...and, yes, even the experience of putting the top down on my little convertible and driving some of the back roads of this amazing golden valley.

All of these little things and experiences and so much more have brought such beauty and joy into my life this year. As I began this journey, not knowing for sure where I would end up, not even knowing for sure if I was truly being called to be a pastor, it’s as though with each of these little things and experiences, I’ve been getting glimpses into the kingdom of God.

Glimpses into the kingdom of God. It sounds a little like our story today about Abraham, doesn't it? Called to go to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance, he set out, not knowing where he was going. In faith, he waited and watched for the promise--that God would make of him a great nation and would provide a land for his people. And Abraham waited. And he watched. Childless, both he and Sarah waited. And they watched. And they never saw that promise, did they? But along the way, God gave them little glimpses. “Look up into the sky, Abraham!” God said, “Count the stars! This will be your nation.” Or the birth of Isaac at the age of a hundred. The son long promised to Abraham. The son who would be the first of this great promised kingdom. Each experience of beauty and joy gave Abraham a glimpse into the promised kingdom of God.

We wait. And we watch. Just like Abraham and Sarah, in faith we wait and we watch for that promised kingdom of God. What we’re looking for is hard to describe. Those small signs that stand out for us in the middle of a deathly world, signs of life. Of love and beauty. Of goodness. We don’t see them as often as we’d like. We try to cope in between, convincing ourselves that we’ve been faithful, that we’re happy, and that the wait isn’t so bad. But, in truth, it feels endless. And miserable. And sometimes it seems like there just isn’t any hope. And, then, we get a glimpse. Always, it seems, we get a glimpse just when we need it most. And, once again, we are hopeful.

What are the glimpses that give you hope? What are those little things or experiences that bring beauty and love into your life, that give you a glimpse of God’s kingdom? Those things that you hold in your heart and that you treasure. Perhaps it’s your children. Perhaps it’s watching your garden grow. Perhaps it’s looking into a sky that is covered with stars.

Inside your bulletin today, you’ll find a Post-It Note on the "Taking Faith Home" insert. Or, if you don’t have a bulletin, there are pads of Post-It Notes in each pew. What do you treasure? What do you treasure that gives you a glimpse of God’s promised kingdom? Take a moment to think. Write it down as you choose. I’ll give you a minute or two. When you finish, place that note right over your heart.

God has given us his kingdom. It is God’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom by adopting us into his kingdom through the power of the Holy Spirit in our baptisms. In the Word and in the bread and wine, Christ is present for us here and now, and forever, and continues to work faith in our hearts. We need never be afraid. We need never give up hope.

I'm reminded of a poem written by my pastor, Michael Coffey, from my church in Texas. The name of the poem is "Count the Stars."

Abraham’s countless stars hover over our troubled heads
Sarah’s sky lights enlighten our skittish steps
our ancestors fill the night sky with testimony
this is not all there is, there is more to come
more than the terra and the ocean
the sky painter who flicks your future on midnight canvas
is making space for your story and song
making and guarding promises still unspoken
opening wormholes to times and places
unreachable by your linear, downward searching mind
so let that muscle in your forehead go and feel your brow drop
and your heart slow and your brain relax and the flow flowing
and rocket on through fear until faith is your Milky Way

Count your stars! Treasure the glimpses you are given into God’s kingdom. Today, put your hand over them on your heart as a gesture of dedication--a dedication to our God, who loves us and desires only good for us and who has given us the same promise that he gave Abraham--the promise of his kingdom and of life into all eternity.

And, thank you, for all of the glimpses of God’s kingdom that you have given me over this past year.

Let us pray. O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Preached August 7, 2016, at Chatfield Lutheran Church.
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost - Year C
Texts: Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Psalm 33:12-22; Luke 12:32-40

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Stuff and Fullness

3 Therefore, if you were raised with Christ, look for the things that are above where Christ is sitting at God’s right side. 2 Think about the things above and not things on earth. 3 You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. 
5 So put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth, such as sexual immorality, moral corruption, lust, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 The wrath of God is coming upon disobedient people because of these things. 7 You used to live this way, when you were alive to these things. 8 But now set aside these things, such as anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. 9 Don’t lie to each other. Take off the old human nature with its practices 10 and put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it. 11 In this image there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all things and in all people. (Colossians 3:1-11, CEB)

Grace and peace to you from God our Father. Amen.

Today is moving day for me. Over the past week, I’ve spent every spare moment packing and preparing all of my things to go into storage for a few months as I await the Holy Spirit to lead me through the assignment and call process to my first congregation. Today, after I finish worship, a couple of members of my internship committee are coming to move most of my belongings up to the Cities.

It’s amazing, isn’t it? How much stuff we collect along the way. How we seem to grow into whatever space we’re living in. Last year, at seminary, I lived in a small, 200 square foot studio apartment. I had little room for much extra. So, when I moved here I really didn’t have very much stuff. But, here, I have been living in a two-bedroom apartment. Over the year, I easily expanded my stuff to fill the extra space. So much stuff.

I needed a place to store my stuff. So, this past week, while in the Cities at a conference, I found a self-storage place near my son’s house in Plymouth. So, I went there to look at sizes and pricing and eventually rented a storage unit. 

The process took a little longer than expected because there was glitch with their computer software. So, I ended up spending much of the time in conversation with the woman who was working at the desk. She was an older woman. She worked two jobs and had worked for the owner of this company for fifteen years. She was originally from North Carolina--I could still hear some Southern in her voice--and had grown up as the daughter of a Baptist minister. She and her husband had been married for over 40 years and had lived much of it here in Minnesota. She was wearing a pink bracelet in memory of a friend who had recently died from breast cancer--a woman who had emigrated from Russia and who she had befriended. She shared with me how, after her friend died, she had begun to watch over her friend’s mother, who spoke only Russian. So, using Google Translate, she was learning Russian so she could help her deceased friend’s mother learn English. She was quite an interesting woman. But, perhaps, the most striking statement she made was in the context of what was happening in our world today. She said that she had become afraid of people. Because of everything that was happening in our world, she was afraid of people. Here was this warm, talkative and deeply religious woman, who had gone out of her way to befriend a Russian immigrant, to step in and help her friend’s elderly mother learn English, saying to me that she was afraid of people. And, particularly, afraid of people she didn’t know.

What if this is really the point of our texts today? What if, in our Gospel lesson, it’s not about the man’s wealth but about his isolation. Consider the little conversation he has with himself: “What will I do? I have no place to store my harvest! Here’s what I will do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones.” There’s no indication from our Gospel story that there’s anyone else in his life, anyone else that he should care about, anyone else with whom he might share some of his wealth. 

We are really no different than this man. In our own selfishness, we surround ourselves with stuff. Maybe it’s physical stuff that takes over our house and our garages. Or maybe it’s stuff to do, where we’re so busy that we completely lose focus in our lives over what is important. Or maybe it’s experiences--that we need to have more and more new experiences, more and more adrenaline rushes. Or maybe it’s our wealth and consumption, that we just never seem to have enough. And, so, in our selfishness and greed, we want more and more and more. And, in the process, we misuse and abuse creation. We misuse and abuse each other. We surround ourselves with more and more stuff--whatever the “stuff” might be. Getting more becomes our sole focus. And, as a result, we become isolated. We become deeply isolated. From creation. From other people. But, mostly, we become isolated from God.

You all know how I love technology. I have a smartwatch, a smart phone, two iPads, one for my music and one for everything else, a laptop computer, a desktop computer, a smart TV.  I rarely buy a hard-bound book anymore and I don’t keep a physical calendar anymore. Instead, everything I do--reading news or a book, making notes, keeping a calendar--everything I do or need to do I do digitally. I love technology.

And, so, it was a little out of the ordinary for me this past week to order a book. A hard bound book. A day planner. A liturgical day planner, actually. It’s purpose is to help me organize and center my life around the values and beliefs that I profess. To help me develop my own rule of living, similar to the rule of living developed by ancient monastics like the Benedictines or the Franciscans. To help me order my life around God, instead of around myself. To use it to take time each day and each week to reflect upon the “things above” and to work to order my life around those things, instead of the things, or the stuff, on earth. You see, I think, that’s the message from Paul this week to the church in Colossae. And also to us. 

In our baptisms, we died and were buried in Christ. We were also raised with Christ. Death. Resurrection. The next step for us is ascension. To set our hearts and our minds on those things that are above. Not because of some heaven and earth dualism where heaven is a higher good than earth, but because Christ, the Risen One, is now the Ascended One whose rule is now “from heaven.” To continually set our hearts and minds on those things above, to put to death those things in us that separate us from this Ascended One and, as a result, separate us from our neighbors and from all creation. To strip off this life of the old self and to be clothed with a new self, a self that--as Paul writes in Colossians 3:10--is being renewed and made new in knowledge according to the image of its Creator. To put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity so that the peace of Christ might control our hearts. And that the word of Christ might live in us richly.

This is the whole point of Paul’s letter to the Colossians: that we might be renewed and grower deeper in knowledge so that we might be restored to our original calling as those created in God’s image. It is in and through Christ, that we are restored to our full humanity, that we come full circle back to how God originally created us to be in Genesis 1. And how God originally intended for us to live. No greed. No isolationism. No divisions or walls to separate us. No fear. Not afraid of each other.

But fullness. Fullness of relationship with creation. Fullness of relationship with each other and with all humanity. And fullness of relationship with God.

May God grant us such fullness. In grace. Amen.

Preached July 31, 2016, at Chatfield Lutheran Church.
Pentecost 11, Year C. 
Texts: Psalm 49:1-2, Colossians 3:1-11, Luke 12:13-21.
Based on ideas and suggestions by David Lose on "In the Meantime" and Brian J. Walsh on "Working Preacher."

Monday, July 18, 2016

Step Back and See the Possibilities

The Son is the image of the invisible God,
        the one who is first over all creation,
Because all things were created by him:
        both in the heavens and on the earth,
        the things that are visible and the things that are invisible.
            Whether they are thrones or powers,
            or rulers or authorities,
        all things were created through him and for him.
He existed before all things,
        and all things are held together in him.
He is the head of the body, the church,
who is the beginning,
        the one who is firstborn from among the dead
        so that he might occupy the first place in everything.
Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in him,
        whether things on earth or in the heavens.
            He brought peace through the blood of his cross.

Once you were alienated from God and you were enemies with him in your minds, which was shown by your evil actions. But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death, to present you before God as a people who are holy, faultless, and without blame. But you need to remain well established and rooted in faith and not shift away from the hope given in the good news that you heard. This message has been preached throughout all creation under heaven. And I, Paul, became a servant of this good news.
Now I’m happy to be suffering for you. I’m completing what is missing from Christ’s sufferings with my own body. I’m doing this for the sake of his body, which is the church. I became a servant of the church by God’s commission, which was given to me for you, in order to complete God’s word. I’m completing it with a secret plan that has been hidden for ages and generations but which has now been revealed to his holy people. God wanted to make the glorious riches of this secret plan known among the Gentiles, which is Christ living in you, the hope of glory. This is what we preach as we warn and teach every person with all wisdom so that we might present each one mature in Christ. I work hard and struggle for this goal with his energy, which works in me powerfully.  Colossians 1:15-29 (CEB)

Grace and peace to you God our Father. Amen.

This past week I was on vacation in Colorado. In fact, I was at a family reunion. My father had thirteen brothers and sisters. Every three years, our family, which is now into its fourth and fifth generations and numbers over 300, gathers together at some place in the U.S. to remember who we are and where we are from. It’s an amazing and moving time as we sit together and listen to the stories of our lives, of the lives of our parents and children, and of the lives of our grandparents and grandchildren.  This year we met for our reunion in the mountains of Colorado for five days. 

While we were there, I had the opportunity to see my niece, who I haven’t seen in a few years. She’s been busy with finishing college and starting work. I’ve been busy with school and internship and moving across country a few times. So, here in Colorado, we had a chance to catch up.

She’s quite a young woman. A mechanical engineer who graduated with honors from Cal-Poly. She has a great job with a start-up biomedical company in Southern California. She loves to hike and camp. And, she loves to tinker with machines. She has three motorcycles that she loves to mess with along with numerous other mechanical and electronic devices.

So, it seemed natural that, when she showed up at the reunion, she brought her new drone along with her. Now, I’ve only read about drones and watched them online. I’d never seen one in person or watched on in action. So, it was fascinating for me to see her operate this and to watch what it could do. 

Here’s an example of what it was able to do. Here, in this video, she was able to take a video of the members of our family who came to the reunion (by the way, this is only about half of my family!) and then to raise it up further into the sky and pan over the entire area where we were able to stay. We were able to see the setting first from a very small perspective and then to see it from a much larger, fuller perspective of the entire place. 

It is this video, taken by my niece from her new drone, that was helpful for me this week in thinking about our texts. 

Let’s first look at our Gospel lesson. I really don’t care for this story. Because it just seems to pit Martha against Mary and vice versa. It also seems to say to me that we have to choose one way of life over another--that a contemplative life is better than an active life of service. That Mary’s attention to Jesus’ teaching is better and more important than Martha’s work to be hospitable. 

But if, like the drone, I pull back and look at the bigger picture, I’m wondering if something different isn’t going on here, something I’ve never stepped back far enough to see from a fuller perspective. What Martha was doing was what was expected of her. She knew that guests were coming and so she got busy to make sure everyone had everything they needed. This is what was--and often still is--expected of women. It was work that was not just expected, but also valued. 

What wasn’t expected, though, is that Mary would take the position of a disciple, seated at the feet of Jesus, listening to him teach. If hospitality was considered women’s work, well, discipleship was considered men’s work. So, perhaps, the intent of this story is to push us out, to see a broader perspective, to see the possibility of something different, to see someone actually acting differently from what would have been expected or even allowed a woman to consider. Perhaps as Jesus repeats Martha’s name, he isn’t expressing frustration with her, but deep affection: “Martha, Martha, it is exactly because I love you that I don’t want you to be distracted or trapped by your work or your expected role, but instead to step back and see all that is possible for you, just as Mary has.” 

To step back and to see the possibilities. 

Perhaps we can take a lesson not only from Mary, but also from my niece’s drone.

To step back and to see the possibilities.

What if, for example, we were to step back and see the possibilities in the recent protests over the shootings in St. Anthony and Baton Rouge?  To not view them only from a close perspective, where they might seem out of control or disruptive or wrong. But to back up and take a broader view. To gain a bigger perspective. To see the possibility of these protests as transformative. That they might be the first step in an upsetting of societal structures that protect and elevate those of us with white skin over those of us who are people of color.  

Or what about the ways in which we deal with young Muslim men and women who go to Syria to fight with ISIS. What if we were to step back and look at the bigger picture? 

This is what crime prevention officers did in a small town in Denmark. On receiving reports of two young Muslim teenagers missing from an immigrant neighborhood outside their town, they, too, stepped back to gain a bigger perspective. After an investigation, they found out that these young men had gone to Syria. They had been drawn to the call put out by ISIS for Muslims worldwide to help build a new Islamic state. 

The police officers didn’t stop with this information, though. They stepped back and began to ask why this might be happening and what they might do to prevent radicalization.

Now most of the rest of the European countries came down hard on citizens who traveled to Syria. France shut down mosques it suspected of harboring radicals. The UK declared citizens who had gone to help ISIS enemies of the state. Several other countries threatened to take away their passports--a move previously reserved for convicted traitors.

But Danish police took a different approach. They made it clear that any citizens of Denmark who had traveled to Syria were welcome to come home and that, if they did, they would receive help with going back to school, finding an apartment, meeting with a psychiatrist or mentor, or whatever they needed to fully integrate back into society. In the process, they ended up creating an unusual--and unusually successful--approach to combating radicalization.

This program came to called the “hug a terrorist” program in the media, but this description doesn’t sit well with the cops. They see themselves as making an entirely practical decision designed to keep their city safe. From their perspective, coming down hard on young, radicalized Muslims will only make them angrier and more of a danger to society. 

To step back and see the possibilities. 

You see, that’s also the point of our Colossians text today. From a close-in perspective, it would seem impossible for an infinite, eternal God who exists outside of time to indwell in one human being who is mortal, finite and who dwells inside of time. 

Unless, of course, it isn’t. 

Unless, of course, we step back and see the possibilities.  See a new way that God was and is at work. As we read in verses 19-20...For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven.

To step back and see the possibilities. To step back and see that, through the event of Christ, God has reconciled himself to all things--on earth and on heaven. That God is at work making a new reality. A new social system. A new creative order marked by peace and reconciliation. Salvation is not about the transformation of our existing reality--the defeat of enemy powers. Salvation is about a radical reconciliation of the entirety of the created order. Salvation here is not about God making an offer and waiting to see who takes it. Here, it is about God just doing it. About God turning all creation on its head and reconciling himself to it through Him in whom all of the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.

To step back and see the possibilities. And to imagine God in a way that we have never imagined God before.

May that be our lesson today.


Preached Sunday, July 17, 2016, at Chatfield Lutheran Church.
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Year C)
Texts: Psalm 15, Colossians 1:15-29, Luke 10:38-42

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Why Are You Here?

My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads.

Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. (Galatians 6:1-16, NRSV).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Why are you here? 

No, really. Why are you here today? What is it that makes you come each Sunday, week after week, year after year, to this place?

Now, you can rest easy today, because I won’t make you share! But, I think this is an important question for each one of us to think about.  And, after you’ve thought about it, I’m sure that, if I did ask you to share, the list would probably be endless. 

That’s how it would be for me. There would be many reasons. That, here every Sunday, I am re-centered or re-grounded in my faith and in my life. That, here, I hear God’s Word--Word that always seems to speak to me just the right thing at just the right moment. That, here, in the ritual of our liturgy that has, for the most part, been unchanged for nearly 2,000 years, I am connected to the whole church--past, present, and future. That, here, as I receive communion I feel Christ’s presence, not only in the bread and wine, but also through all of you.

Perhaps, communion is the single best explanation. Communion with God. Communion with the whole church. Communion with you.

Why are you here? 

I think that often we forget that God has not intended us to live out our life of faith alone. So, often we talk about "my faith," or "my church," or "my beliefs," or, even, "my God."  But, this is not God’s intent for us. The nature of faith is communal. It is about learning and growing together, about embarking upon a journey of faith that is not individualized or isolationist, but that is lived out communally, within a body of believers, in a congregation. People of faith who are joined together in the body of Christ. We say the words with each baptism--”We welcome you into the body of Christ…”

It is here, in this community of believers, that we learn what it means to be Christ’s disciples. Where we begin to experience what “faith working through love” really is. Where we learn to freely live out in faith the whole law as contained in the single command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 

Here, in this place, we love, we laugh, we grow. And, we make mistakes.

Yes, we make mistakes.  We do. We are not perfect. None of us. There is not one of us able to keep the law, even as hard as we might try.  We make mistakes.

When this happens, when we or when someone else makes a mistake, what is to be our response? I know what is our response often is. And I’m not pointing any fingers here, because, I am as guilty as anyone. Often, our response is to judge. To either tell that person that they are wrong, that they have sinned, or, even more likely, to talk about that person among ourselves, to gossip about them over coffee. Either way, to judge them. 

When I was in my early twenties, I was a member of a small church in the southern part of Los Angeles County. The congregation there was very warm and welcoming and one family, in particular, led the way. They were a large family--ten kids. And, as large families do, they immediately brought newcomers into the fold and welcomed you as one of their own.  All of them--adults and children--belonged to this congregation.  All of them, except one.  One of them, a daughter, had gone through a divorce. She had divorced her husband because she had refused to remain in her marriage--a marriage marked by both verbal and physical abuse. The congregation insisted she remain in her marriage. Yet, in trying to protect both herself and her children, she refused.  And, in response, the congregation, led by her own father as council president, stood in judgment of her and, eventually, excommunicated her. She stopped attending that church. In fact, she stopped attending any church.

There is a better way. A way that is modeled on the servanthood of Christ. A way that seeks to build people up, instead of tearing them down. A way that restores community, rather than dividing. It is a way suggested by Paul in the opening verses of the last chapter in Galatians--a letter written to congregations that were themselves divided. “...[Y]ou who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.”

“You, who have received the spirit…”. It is no accident that the paragraph just preceding this is that listing the fruits of the Spirit--the text we read last week: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

When someone makes a mistake, it is not our place to judge. It is never our place to judge. This is what is meant by Paul with the very next sentence, “Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.” The temptation for us is not that we might fall into the same sin as the other, but that we would be tempted to become arrogant. To think that we are better than that other person. To think that we even have a right to judge that person.

Instead, when someone makes a mistake, we are called to enter into their burden. To exhibit the fruits of the Spirit: to take their burden upon ourselves--to reach out to that person and to share it with them. No judging. No gossip. No distancing ourselves from them. But entering in. Entering into their burden and, in so doing, fulfilling the law of Christ.  The Law selflessly fulfilled by Christ in his life and death, when he gave himself for us and all people by embracing the commandment to love another as oneself. This is the law of Christ. It is the law of love.

Over these past six weeks, as we have dwelt in Galatians, I hope you have more fully understood and more fully accepted the freedom that Christ has given us--freedom from the shackles of the law. Yet, a freedom that leads us back to the law. To do the law of Christ, the law of love. Servants to none and, yet, servants to all.

So, once again, why are you here? 

My hope is that you are here because it is here, in this place, that you experience Christ. Not only in the Word we have heard or in the bread and wine we are about to receive. But that you experience Christ in each other, here in this community.  A place that gathers us and all believers in.  A place that lives into the law of love, that restores us when we stumble, that leads us deeper into discipleship, and that prepares us to go out into the world in mission, to do the law of love--knowing that we are not alone. Knowing that Christ is with us and that we have each other, now and into all eternity. 

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

Preached July 3, 2016, at Chatfield Lutheran Church.
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Texts: Psalm 66:1-9, Galatians 6:1-16, Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Setting Our Face

1 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. 4 You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy,drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:1-6, 13-25 NRSV)

Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He gave himself for our sins, so he could deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. To God be the glory forever and always! Amen.

“When the days drew near for him to be taken up," we read in our Gospel today, “[Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem.” 

Jesus set his face to Jerusalem. There is a single-mindedness of purpose here in the ninth chapter of Luke’s Gospel, a chapter that begins what is often called the “traveling texts.” Ten full chapters. Nearly half of Luke’s Gospel.  Why so much space to get to Jerusalem?

If one reads through these chapters as we will in the coming weeks, it is immediately apparent that these are teachings texts.  Texts for intensive disciple-training. Jesus knows his time with the disciples is limited. He knows that soon they will arrive in Jerusalem and he will be arrested, crucified and die at the hands of the people. And so, he has turned not only his body, but his entire being towards Jerusalem, focused both on what is to come and on what he must do in preparing the disciples for once they arrive. There is a single-mindedness of purpose shown here by Jesus. Forward-looking to Jerusalem and even beyond Jerusalem, to the very ends of the earth. 

Jesus set his face forward.

Have you set your face forward, too, with the same single-mindedness of purpose as Christ?

Over these past five weeks, we’ve been immersed in our Galatians readings, texts that tell us how we have been freed from the law. That we have been freed from the law for freedom. In verse 1 of chapter 5: “For freedom Christ has set us free.” The law no longer matters. The law no longer counts. 

And what does count? Well, we read in verse 6: “...the only thing that counts is faith working through love.”

This is, in a way, the irony of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. It is the irony of their freedom--the irony of ours, as well.  We have been freed from the law to do the work of faith which is, in fact, the work of the law. No, it’s not works such as circumcision, food laws, or the like. But, it is the work of living out the ethical core and central command of the law: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In freeing us, Christ has released us from our own bondage to sin, not so that we might be self-indulgent, but that through love we might become slaves to our neighbors, slaves to one another. 

The Tree is Life is an epic film by producer Terence Malik that centers around a Texas family in the 1950s. It follows the life journey of the oldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile an internal emotional conflict caused by the two completely different ways of living taught by his parents--the way of nature or the way of grace. Let’s watch the opening scene

This struggle of the oldest son is our struggle. It is a struggle laid out in this beginning scene--between the way of nature, or as Paul names it, the way of the flesh, versus the way of grace, or the way of the Spirit.

The way of nature, or the way of the flesh, is the way of self-indulgence. It is a way of living produced by selfish motives, where “I” comes before “we.” It is exemplified by behaviors that Paul lists in verses 19-21 of our text: things like, doing whatever feels good, hate, fighting, losing your temper, group rivalry, jealousy, and the like.

Living in the way of the flesh cheapens the gift of grace given to us by God in Christ.

The other way, the way of grace, or of the Spirit, stands in complete opposition to the way of the flesh. It is a way of living that is exemplified by selflessness, where “we” comes before “I.” It is a way of love that is characterized by service to others, where one’s selfishness has been crucified and replaced with the fruits of the Spirit in verses 22:23: love, joy, peace, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control--the fruits of living in the way of the Spirit. 

The way of the Spirit is the way of discipleship.

Have you set your face forward? Or, better yet, how have you set your face forward? 

Is your face set forward with the single-mindedness of purpose that comes out of living in the Spirit? Or is it set forward with a focus on living out the selfish desires of your flesh? 

In verse 16 of the NRSV translation of our text, we read that we should live by the Spirit and not gratify the desires of the flesh. It’s a both/and proposition. Do one and don’t do the other.

A better translation of this verse, though, is this: “I say be guided by the Spirit and you won’t carry out your selfish desires.” Here’s it’s a cause-and-effect proposition. If we are guided by the Spirit, if we live in the way of the Spirit, then we won’t carry out our selfish desires. We will become less and less guided by the flesh and more and more guided by the Spirit.  

Is this easy? To follow in the way of Jesus? No, it isn’t. It isn’t easy to love when the world says hate. It isn’t easy to show self-control when the world says do whatever feels good. To speak peace when the world screams fight. To be faithful when the world throws idol after idol our way.

But, this way--the way of grace, the way of the Spirit--is the way of the kingdom of God. It is the way of Christ and the way to which Christ calls us: to deny ourselves, to take up his cross daily, and to follow him. 

It is the way of freedom. A way where we are, as Luther wrote, a servant to none and a servant to all. It is the way to life.

So, set your face forward. Set your face in freedom toward Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth, walking in the way of the Spirit--the way of life, the way of the kingdom of God.


Preached at Chatfield Lutheran Church - 6th Sunday after Pentecost (June 26, 2016)
Texts: Galatians 5:1-6, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62.