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Clearing-Up the Mix-Ups - By Pastor Thomas Engel


All I wanted was vanilla ice-cream.

It’s unusual for me to do anything once I’m settled in for the evening.

But, I had such a craving for ice-cream that I lifted myself out of my recliner and went to the store.

With my mind set on vanilla ice-cream, I went directly to the freezer aisle and began my search for it.

I took a quick glance up and down the ice-cream section, and my first scan found no vanilla ice-cream.

I found all other kinds of flavors-something called Party Cake, another was Strawberry Shortcake, and another was Lemon Cookie Crunch, and there was Sea Salt Caramel Brownie, and finally behind several cartoons of Chocolate Cake with Brownie Bites and Fudge Swirls, I found one lonely cartoon with “Vanilla” in bold letters.

In my growing frustration looking for Vanilla, I was thinking, “Why is it so hard to get the pure and simple these days.”

I got back home, plopped down in my recliner, found a movie on Netflix, and started to eat my ice-cream.

After a couple of spoonfuls, I thought that this ice-cream had a different kind of taste but was good.

I looked at the cartoon, and under the bold letters of “Vanilla,” it said, “with coconut water.”

Okay, I have a new favorite ice-cream, vanilla with this coconut thing going on, and I’m not a big fan of coconuts.

So much for the pure and simple.

Now, let’s talk about toothpaste.

A new flavor is out. I love mangoes, but I’m not sure I want to try the New Mango-Orange toothpaste. I’m sticking with good old peppermint.

Going to the store for groceries-soy, almond, oat, or cashew milk? Buying a car-gas, electric, diesel, or hybrid? Going out to eat-Chinese, Italian, German, or Mediterranean?

You and your family can’t decide what to eat. So you Doordash five different meals. Problem solved.

We do have our choices. Don’t we?

I’m still sticking with the milk that comes from a cow for my cereal. Although, I use cow- free milk for my smoothes.

How about other things in life like philosophy?

Do you follow Aristotle and his method of logic in argument? Or Emerson who was all about self-reliance? Or maybe Socrates who was big on making his opponent squirm under the deep probe of question after question until the truth came out?

What approach to learning do you take? Do you like to learn by drill and memorization? Or by playing around with something and seeing what happens? Do you need a teacher looking over your shoulder? Or do you like to go off by yourself to learn something new?

What kind of working atmosphere is best for you? Do you like a working condition where it’s my way or the highway type of thing going on? Not for me but at least there are clear directions. Or how about we are all in this together? But getting consensus about which direction to take can lead to disagreements. Or do you like the place of work where your talents are appreciated and used?

We have many choices in life from all the products on the shelves at the superstores to how we go about our lives from work to family life.

With summer almost over, did you take a vacation? Was it a road trip, cruise, island vacation, or did you do what I did? I stayed home and went about town doing things-you know here in Chicago, the vacation destination of the world.

I bet like most big city people, you haven’t seen all of its tour attractions.

Since we are here in church this morning, let’s talk about religion.

How many different religions are there? There are five basic ones-Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.

But, all of those religions have subgroups. For instance, over 34,000 separate Christian groups have been identified in the world.

In the United States, there are over 40 different Lutheran denominations.

So, it looks like we have many choices to choose from to where we go to church on Sunday mornings.

With so many choices, is this a problem or not?

In keeping with our Gospel reading for today, we can ask this question, “What are all of these different religions eating?”

In this past few weeks, we have been reading what is called Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse.

Jesus has been talking about how he is the food and drink that people need for faith.

As bread and drink come into our bodies and nourishes us, Jesus comes into our hearts of faith and gives us life in him.

To be clear, with Jesus talking about bread and drink, he is not instituting the Lord’s Supper here.

I believe it’s more like a preview of the Lord’s Supper that he institutes on the night before his death.

In this way, on that night with his disciples, they have an idea of what Jesus is doing by giving his body and blood as Lutherans say, “In, with, and under the bread and wine.”

I’m not sure of the number of people that believe Jesus is the bread of life.

But, Jesus does say that only those who believe that he is the bread of life are the only ones with true faith.

At the time that Jesus was talking, there were those who did not want to believe that Jesus could be the Savior, for he was born of a common family.

And they said Jesus’ teaching was “hard.” But, it was only hard because of their stubbornness to believe.

Jesus was just too simple for them. His message was too pure.

Simply and purely, Jesus was saying believe in him, as the Son of God, and you will have the gift of life that God the Father wants for you.

In life, we mix up a lot of things, and that’s okay. If you your a health-nut and like your latte with ginger, honey, and blue-green algae, you go for it.

Or how about strawberry syrup in your coffee. I haven’t tried it yet, but I heard it’s surprisingly good.

But, when it comes to faith, we are to keep it all simple and pure. We are to believe only in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

We come here on Sunday mornings to get a clearing-up of all of our mix-ups.

This chaotic world and our hectic lives have their ways of mixing us all up.

At times, we may not know what direction to go in.

We are hearing messages that can be confusing-I’m vaccinated, do I wear a mask or not? Or I’m not vaccinated, for I’ve some health concerns for myself, do I get vaccinated?

What about city budgets? Are we to take money out of the police budget and put it in places that address social issues?

Do we teach race relations in schools or do we focus on the three “R’s” only?

What about the growing crime problems? How do I enjoy going out and still keep safe?

How do I balance the risks and still try to live a “normal” life?

What role does government have in my life? How much do I depend on science?

I know God has given us government and science, but I also know that my help only comes from the Lord.

How do we get God, citizenship, data, statistics, studies, research, theories, causes, movements, work, school, and family all to come together.

I just read a devotion that had an interesting thought.

We have heard about doing random acts of kindness. That sounds good as we help as we go along at times.

But, this devotion made the point that we should at all times be kind for that is who we are-kind people.

God is always offering His Word to eat, and by faith, when we digest it, and it’s in us, we are getting a clearing-up of all or our mix-ups.

We get a direction of how to work out life and how to get it all together.

We remember, at all times, that it’s Jesus, who is the Word, is in us.

Jesus is love, is caring, is compassionate, is truth, is light, is forgiveness, is strong, and the list of all that is good and beneficial goes on and on.

So, when we eat of what God offers to us in Christ, we are everything that Jesus is.

And if that wasn’t enough, as we talked about earlier that Jesus was giving a preview to the crowd, we are blessed to have the Lord’s Supper.

This simple and pure meal gives us all that we need-forgiveness of every sin and strength to begin a new life with Jesus fully in it.

How do you like your pizza? Do you like one or two toppings or do you get the works on it? I say anything but pineapple.

Although I’ve changed in these past years.

I use to be a sausage and pepperoni pizza kind of guy, but I’ve been getting vegetarian pizza lately. Who would have thought I would be eating pizza with spinach and mushrooms?

Life is always changing, and with the changes, things can get all mixed-up.

It’s best to have a simple and pure formula for life.

Of course this simple and pure formula comes from the only one who is simple and pure, Jesus Christ.

Here is that formula from his Bread of Life discourse:

“Everyone who listens to the Father and

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