Second Sunday of Christmas
Today’s portion of Mathew’s Gospel has two stories within a story.
One is the familiar telling of how three wise men, also known as The Three Kings, followed a star over great distances, and presumably through many hardships.
They believed the star they followed would lead them to witness the birth of the new king of the Jews. Not being Jewish, they must have known something was unusually special about this birth. So they came, through a very long journey that might have been very difficult, to humbly worship this newborn king. This was the first Interfaith worship!
The other story is King Herod the Great, ruler of all Judea. News of a new King of the Jews threatened him to the point of plotting to kill the child. Wise men are not easily fooled. They listened to Herod, and then later they listened to God’s warning in a dream (for dreams are God’s hidden language).
These two stories are like bookends in human experience. One is the best of us, manifested in wisdom, perseverance, humility, and trust in the Divine. The other is the worst of us, manifested in seeking power at all costs.
Most of us see a bit of both in our own lives, and in others. If we follow the star that led the wise men to their joy, we will find our own peace and joy. It will look a lot like how Jesus lived: a journey of struggle, of hope, of knowing the outcome is worth the effort. We will also receive God’s prompting and guiding, perhaps in dreams, how to choose the right path for the right reason. The key is humility and willingness to love as Christ loved.
On this, the eve of the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ when he was “launched” into his life work, we wonder and marvel at the wisdom that saw it in him before he had taken his first breath. Let us continue to seek his wisdom and love with every breath we take.
December 29, 2019
The First Sunday after Christmas
“In the beginning…” Our Holy Scriptures begin with the Book of Genesis in which the writers tell us that in the beginning, God created all that is, and call ed it good. Then God created humankind, called humans very good and gave us responsibility to care for all of creation.
Sometimes we wonder at God’s wisdom and plan, looking at how we have failed so often. But God is greater than anything we can imagine, and God has a plan we cannot fully see.
John goes on to write, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (1:14). Logos is not an abstract concept; it is a living, breathing part of all creation. The wisdom of the Divine knew when it was time to become incarnate to show humanity the way for which we were created: to reflect the image of God as intelligence, wisdom, reason, compassion, and hope, and to care for all of creation with the love that created it in the first place.
This is who we welcome into our own lives, Jesus Christ. He is the mirror that shows us our own true being and made in the image of God. Our Baptism has given us the power to live into our true being with the Holy Spirit helping us, day by day.
There is no darkness that can extinguish the light of Christ within us, or in the world, no matter how hidden it may seem. It is always burning, and is rekindled with every prayer and every act of justice, healing, mercy, compassion, and self-giving love. Our part is to kindle it within ourselves and in each other, and to share it until we all know we are part of God’s plan to heal and restore all of creation. And then keep on loving and shining the light of Christ, giving thanks for the love of God in us, among us, and through us for the love of all.
Sermon Advent 3 Year A
December 15, 2019
Isaiah 35:1-10 , Canticle 15 The Song of Mary (Magnificat)
Luke 1:46-55, James 5:7-10 ,Matthew 11:2-11
We begin our Advent worship lighting the candles of hope and proclaiming, “We enter the darkness and wait for light’s return… living Christ, we trust you, we love you, we praise you; … God of our hearts, we wait for you alone.” Waiting is hard, which is why patience is a virtue. The alternative is to let anxiety and fear drain us. Then, by the time the anticipated event happens, we are too tired to stay up and watch for Santa, or too tired to mobilize precious energy to overcome adversity.
Today’s holy Scripture remind us of how patient God’s people are, at least some of the time. To wait for what seems impossible and still find hope and meaning and joy is a gift of faith. Mary had this gift. Thus she was chosen, even though she had no rank, power, or wealth, to be the vessel for the will of God to become reality in the birth of her son. She sings what is often called The Magnificat, of her joy that God blessed her with the privilege and responsibility of giving birth to the kingdom of God on earth.
Like Mary, John the Baptist had been waiting for Isaiah’s prophecy to come true, and ceaselessly did his part to help the people become ready. When Jesus quoted Isaiah to John’s disciples, saying “it’s happening already,” John knew his wait was over. Mary, John, and Jesus knew they had a part to play in God’s plans, yet even they had to be patient for the right time to act and the right time to let go.
How do we cultivate patience? Our bodies already know: they tell us to slow down, to take a deep breath in, and then slowly release. This is how we refuel our bodies and brains. It calms us, it gives room for the Holy Spirit to enter and work in ways we may never know. Try it now. Close your eyes. Picture something you are having difficulty waiting for. Breathe in slowly, breathe out slowly. Keep going, each time breathing in patience, breathing out anxiety or fear or distress of any kind. Let it go. Give it to God. Keep inspiring the Spirit of God, and releasing what is no longer helping you.
Our bodies have the wisdom we need, listen to yours. Practice patience and you will, like Mary, John, and Jesus, discover how and when to act, and what role you play in helping God do holy work.
Second Sunday of Advent
December 8, 2019 - Hope
Isaiah 11:1-10, Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12
The Prophet Isaiah lived in times of great suffering and loss and turmoil. God sent him to bring good news to the people, if only they would listen and obey. Those who did found great comfort and hope. In today’s passage Isaiah predicted there will come a time when latent righteousness and faith will sprout and have an everlasting effect on the culture. Natural enemies will lie down together in mutual acceptance. There will be no more hurt or destruction in God’s realm on earth. People will notice and inquire – what’s going on?
Hundreds of years later John the Baptist appears proclaiming “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is, as Matthew tells us in his Gospel, Isaiah’s prophesy coming true; finally.
John’s mission was to show people how to shed their animosity, pride, and selfishness to make room for God’s transforming love. What comfort this news was to the faithful!
The way was to repent of their sins, literally washing them away in the waters of baptism, to allow their hearts and minds to open to God. Lots of people noticed, thousands flocked to John. He saw through their hearts, and welcomed the penitent. He also exposed the hypocrites who proclaim a faith they didn’t believe or live.
Isaiah predicted the path of difficulty would be eased, and make possible to endure; that faith would also bring joy into the struggle. St. Paul promised those who chose this way would find that it was indeed possible to include all others. all people were included, not just the Jewish people. The promise was for a lasting hope that even adversity would not overcome until the time when all creation cooperated in peace.
These predictions already happening. We see it in racial reconciliation, in interfaith cooperatives, in international diplomacy. We see it in neighborhoods of historic enemies working together to decrease violence. We see it in when opposites choose to complement each other instead of clashing. We see it when dominant personalities yield to quiet ones. Can you think of other examples of natural enemies making peace? These changes happen when ordinary people make way for righteousness and faith to meet and lead them. What comfort to us and all who will listen and follow!
Will we tell our stories of how God is changing us, so that others will notice and ask, what’s going on?
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
Sunday November 24, 2019 The Last Sunday in Pentecost
Hope Under Pressure
Jeremiah 23:1-6 / Colossians 1:11-20 / Luke 23:22-43
Isn’t it strange to hear Luke’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion outside of Holy Week? Kind of a “downer” as we prepare for the Holidays. Yet here we are. Jeremiah foretold a powerful leader, a king like David, would come and save his people and punish their enemies. I imagine even in his time folks, thought: show us. Yet some held hope under the pressure of living very hard lives.
Jesus dying as he did, and still asking God to forgive his enemies, is a hard reminder of what we are to do. Most folks who we need to forgive are not sociopaths; they simply are too selfish to see how deeply they hurt others. We still need to forgive them to let go of the burden of judgment, to be free of their negativity. Even the guilty one next to Jesus realized his place and Jesus’ power, and humbly asked to be remembered. For this Jesus promised him eternity at his side.
We all stray from our intentions to be faithful, to bear with the struggle under pressure of terrible things happening. Pauls’ letter to the Colossians is a pep talk to such people. He does his best to speak the hope that will sustain and lift them up. It’s all about God working in them and through them, just like us.
Whenever I hear “Colossians” I think of galoshes, what we wore in my childhood to protect us as we tramped through all kinds of nasty storms. I think of the Gospel, that Jesus is king of all creation, and a king of love for all, as my spiritual galoshes. What if we put them on when we head into a storm? What if we claim the power of God’s love to give us hope under pressure?
It’s a stormy time in our world. Let’s remember to put on our spiritual galoshes, and go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God.
What does resurrection mean? We claim, in the Nicene Creed, that “we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”
There has been controversy about this central doctrine since before Jesus’ time. The Sadducees of his time rejected the notion of resurrection. They also were looking to pick a fight with Jesus and trap him in heresy.
What was Jesus’ response? He didn’t attack them, accuse them, call them names, or flaunt his authority. He calmly spoke his truth, and made it a teaching moment for those who were open to learn. This is a good example for us when we are challenged or provoked… speak our truth calmly.
Jesus’ truth that day was bigger than what many Jews believed about resurrection. They imagined a time when all of Israel would be restored to its glory. Jesus explained that in the resurrection relationships would not be based on family and marriage, but on a common shared experience of being in the love of God. Elsewhere in the Gospels Jesus often told people he himself would be resurrected. They didn’t believe him; not even his closest disciples. The writings about Jesus’ resurrection appearances show us that whatever else they understood or believed, (or didn’t), the resurrection is our greatest mystery and our greatest hope.
What do you believe?
Our faith teaches at least three radical truths about resurrection. One is that God raised Jesus from the dead, demonstrating Divine Love’s power over evil and death. Another is that God has the power to resurrect our earthly losses and suffering into a new life of courage, hope, and joy. Another is that the entire body of Christ will be resurrected, much as Jews think of Israel being resurrected, when Christ comes again in glory.
What do you believe?
What is unique to Christianity is that we believe (or want to believe) that through the Risen Christ we have the power to live into resurrection hope in our own lives, and the power to help God transform and redeem life as we know it. This is what being Church is all about.
How do you and how will you take your place as part of the Church, the body of Christ helping God bring resurrection hope?