SERMONS

What do the feeding ministries of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Manhattan – helping to feed over 500 families weekly – and Redeemer Lutheran Church in New Paltz – gathering food to support the outreach work of FAMILY of New Paltz – who saw the number of people accessing their food pantry rise to over 250 as the pandemic hit, and the New Paltz Student Christian Center and its food pantry – providing remote access to its nutritious sustenance for students experiencing more financial struggles than ever, working ecumenically to try and create even more ways to provide even more access to needed resources; what do these ministries have in common?

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What the world needs now is strong, courageous, and potent reminders of what true and real love looks like.

We need to tell the stories of people like Malala Yousafzai, the women who from a young age courageously campaigned for equal education for girls in Pakistan. She was shot by the Taliban at just 15 in an attempt to silence her, but she miraculously survived the attack and at just 17, became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace prize. More importantly, Yousafzi never let the attack deter her courageous work and continues to use her now global platform to advocate for girls’ education.

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If someone were to create an advertisement spoofing today’s gospel lesson, it might go something like this:

Has your faith “get up and go” gotten up and gone?
Then you should try this new supplement, “Gusto for God.”
It’s 100% cross-created and Holy Spirit approved.
Try “Gusto for God” today.

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As we listen to today’s gospel lesson, we may find ourselves cheering on Simon Peter as he “gets it right,” naming Jesus as Messiah. Go Peter: first of the disciples, longest to be traveling with and witnessing all the fullness of God that is Jesus! You’ll have your human failings and stumble soon enough, but for now, you got it Peter.

Yet if we focus too much on Peter’s passing moment of triumph, we risk missing the real show. For Peter and all of the disciples are but witnesses to Jesus, witnesses to the one who is really in the spotlight. Jesus, who asks the disciples who people are saying that he is. And the disciples respond that some say he is John the Baptist, some that he is Elijah, some Jeremiah or another one of the prophets.

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In a story that I was reading this week about evangelical Christians, a woman in a small town in Iowa described how she had voted a certain way in 2016 because she felt it would protect her rights as a Christian, and give her and other Christians back power that had been lost.

It took me a few days before it dawned on me, just why that statement seemed so strange to me; the statement that her vote would “protect her rights and give back power to her as a Christian.” Then a light bulb went on as I thought: Christianity and striving to follow Christ with God’s help are not a right or power to be encoded into a government, but a humble privilege and a calling to a daily way of living and striving. Something we irresistibly do because the Holy Spirit, Divine and persistent as it is, just won’t let us go - despite challenges that can and will come our way, as well as periods of doubt and drought in our lives of faith.

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