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Monday, December 31, 2012

Epiphany Matthew 2:1-12 Isaiah 60:1-6 Ephesians 3:1-12 Psalm 72

Isaiah 60: 1 Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. 3Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Light is a symbol for God's presence.
Light is what the Wise Men sought. They followed the star; they found the Christ Child. 

May we all seek the light this year.

As I have thought about these passages this week, the word Epiphany rises to the top more than Light. What is an epiphany? It is 'an experience of sudden and striking realization.'

Have you had one of those lately? I will never forget the day in small group 3 years ago it hit me that I had been living my life in envy and jealousy of others. All of a sudden I confessed it to my friends and it was over. I let go of it completely. Every now and then it tries to sneak back and I remember that day of letting go; of my Epiphany.

There have been several others throughout my life but that was the most recent.

When was the Epiphany for the Wise Men? When they saw the star in the East? Or when they found the Young Child? Or just all of the above? I'd like to say it's when Herod knew nothing about it. They realized he was a different kind of King. Not one born in a palace or to privilege, but in an out of way town to economically challenged parents.

Epiphanies are not something we can really seek. We can seek Christ; and in that seeking he will give us the experiences of sudden and striking realization. But they hit when we are not expecting them.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Grow! Feast of Holy Family I Samuel 2:18-26 Psalm 148 Colossians 3:12-17 Luke 2:41-52 Christmas C 1

I Samuel 2: 21 

And the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.
26 Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.

Luke 2:51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

Psalm 148

11Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
12Young men and women alike, old and young together!
13Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.

Colossians 3

20Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord.

This week more than many it is easy to see the connection in the lectionary passages! 

As I am still in the 'note' process of crafting a sermon which must be preached twice this Sunday, I will simply share some 'thoughts.' 
Forgive my randomness; there is no rhyme to these reasons yet.

"Obey" stands out. But I hate that word. When it applies to me. Now, when it applies to my children, well, that is much better. 

But then "grow" has risen to the top of the cup also. 

"Favor" is third in the running.

"Young" or "Child" is fourth. 

Increasing in wisdom and stature and favor.

This is the only account of anything to do with the childhood (between birth and baptism/entry of ministry) of Jesus in the four Gospels.

The Gospel of Luke is written as a journey. 
This is the first journey that Jesus takes to Jerusalem.

We continue to learn about the reversal of expectations.
Jesus was not born in Jerusalem as a 'proper' Jewish king should. 
But here we find him in Jerusalem, in the Temple, conversing with the religious leaders like a 'proper' Jewish king and his parents do not expect it.
The child teaches the parents. 
The rabbis/teachers are amazed by the child. 
Yet the parents have provided the tradition of going 'up' to Jerusalem for Passover. They have provided structure of the community of faith. 
Jesus was given a rich heritage of faith.

Jesus is 12, he is not 13, which would make him a man according to Jewish tradition.
Then there is the preaching path that takes us to 'family conflict during holidays.' Maybe I shouldn't touch that one.

A case study of what a father can do to keep children off drugs.
1. eat dinner with his family
2. do homework with his children
3. take his children to church/synagogue/place of worship

What is the next step to take after Christmas? 

ll that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

"Not all those who wander are lost," is the most famous quote from the Lord of the Rings series.

Jesus was wandering but he was not lost. 

What do we learn from children?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Voice! Magnificat Advent 4 C Luke 1:39-56 Micah 5:2-6 Hebrews 10:5-10 Psalm 80

Voice is the word that keeps surfacing as I study these passages.
Micah has a voice that cries out:
2But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. 3Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. (NRSV)
The writer of Hebrews has a voice that cries out:
He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.(NRSV)
In a post-exilic voice, the Psalmist cries out
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!
Elizabeth cries out
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 

45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

A baby leaping in the womb? How does that feel? Well, like nothing else. One of my children was extremely sensitive to loud noises in utero. She jumped. And that is a strange feeling to feel a person jump that has no where to go. Baby John jumped. He felt the vibes coming from Baby Jesus; the tremor only just beginning; the agitation before the quake; the distant thunder before the downpour. Baby John felt all of that. And Elizabeth in the wisdom of her years that moment.
And she spoke to Mary; her beloved cousin...

Blessed is she who believed
It is one thing to be chosen.
It is another thing to believe.
Thee would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord. Were there times before the morning sickness hit that she wondered if the angel's visit had only been an apparition? A fleeting dream....?

It is still another to be willing to do the task to which God has called.

as she awoke one early morning running for the door did it hit her? The promise was fulfilled IN HER.

Did her mother watch, judging? Listening to Mary in those wee hours, did she question her?

And Mary has done both. She has believed. And she has done. 

Could she have refused? 

It seems that God allows free choice. 

I read once that perhaps God had visited many young women before Mary and none had been willing. Who knows?

But Mary was willing. "May it be to me as you have said."

But the loudest most joyous cry of all comes from the mouth of Mary:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, 
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 
48for he has looked with favor 
on the lowliness of his servant.

How could it be favor when she faced persecution? 

The flowing-like-honey song we call the Magnificat 
(Latin for "My soul magnifies") 
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 
49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, 
and holy is his name.
 50His mercy is for those who fear him 
from generation to generation.
 51He has shown strength with his arm; 
he has scattered the proud 
in the thoughts of their hearts. 
52He has brought down the powerful
 from their thrones, 
and lifted up the lowly; 
53he has filled the hungry with good things, 
and sent the rich away empty. 
54He has helped his servant Israel,
 in remembrance of his mercy, 
55according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
 to Abraham and 
to his descendants forever.” 
I keep reading of those who want to emphasize the past tenses (aorist for those who studied Greek) 
of this song.
We cannot get around the grammar. 
He has shown strength
He has scattered
He has brought down
He has filled
He has helped
We know that God has done these things. 

But we know that he is doing these things and that he will continue to do these things. Because we know the Baby was born and brought much to pass.
Mary does not know this yet. 

but she does know. 
Or she would not sing.

But the voices around us cry out the opposite
The world is ending. 
Mary lived in a world controlled by the violence of the Roman empire. Pax Romana, meaning peace of Rome came at the price of soldiers enforcing at any cost. 

How could she believe this? Wasn't her nation under occupation?
What powerful thrones had God brought down? 

Weren't there still hungry people in the world? 
Aren't there today?

But this song proclaims that God has already brought down the powerful.

He has lifted up the lowly. 

He shows that by having the greatest song of all sung by a poor young woman from a tiny town, pregnant with the greatest gift the world has ever received.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Voice! Advent 4 C Luke 1:39-56 Micah 5:2-6 Hebrews 10:5-10

My friend had a baby last week.
My heart leaped for joy when I heard that this precious bundle had arrived. 
Mary and Elizabeth were close.
And they shared the joy of expecting babies at the same time.
Elizabeth, an old married woman who had hoped for so long to bear a child;
 Mary, a young woman who had not even dreamed it would happen so soon.
 Both waiting for their babies, talking, speculating, planning for the future.
Did they sit and knit and sew baby clothes?
Did they discuss diapers and feedings and plans?
Did they have any idea what their sons would be like? What they would do?
How they would preach?
They could not have known. For now, they sit, they wait, they feel joy.
Mary's heart was not pierced with the sword yet
But still she fretted. What would Joseph do? What would he say?
The story of Joseph's acceptance of the baby news is not in Luke;
We read it in Matthew.
When we read Luke, we have poetic license to wonder.
Did she tell him before or after she visited her cousin?
Did she just let him see the baby belly when she returned to Nazareth?
How did he respond?

But then I think, could a woman so afraid of being publicly shamed have sung such a song?
Was her heart 'right'? Was her faith deep enough to believe that all would be well?

The lack of Joseph's voice goes along with the lack of Zachariah's as he has lost his voice for his doubt.
This leads us to perceive the greatest story ever with its beginnings in the wombs of two women.
Women have no voice in first century Judaism.
Women are to be silent.
Women cannot speak in public; not even to a family member.
Women have to walk a certain number of paces behind a man.
Any self-respecting Jewish man will not touch a woman in public as any one who might be bleeding is considered unclean...and well, you never know if women are bleeding.

But God has chosen to announce the birth of HIS SON with the voice of a woman;
Yes, we have heard the voice of an angel.
But now we hear the voice of a woman; a young woman; probably a young teen
And she responds to the voice of an old woman; 'past child bearing age.'

The older woman who gives birth to the prophet represents the past.
The young woman who gives birth to the savior represents the future.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Content? Advent 3 C Zephaniah 3:14-20 Philippians 4:4-7 Luke 3:7-18 cont. again

Contentment seems to be the word that rises out of the Scriptures this week. I struggle with this. A couple days ago I was stressing and throwing fits about something over which I have no control. I want to control things. Do you? God reminded me that he is still in control and drew me back to Philippians 4:4-7. "Do not be anxious about anything." I don't think of this as a command as it is written in a letter and not dictated from heaven. I think it is simply a reminder to turn everything over to God. Anxiety is something I cannot control. However, I can control what I do with it. Will I let it lead me to turn the things which make me anxious over to God, or will I stew and fret and freak out about what I cannot control? The NIV says 'I have learned the SECRET of being content in every situation." Perhaps the secret is turning everything that makes me anxious over to God?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Content? Advent 3 C Zephaniah 3:14-20 Philippians 4:4-7 Luke 3:7-18 cont.

I was sitting at a Target cafe Thursday. A man in tattered clothing, long hair and beard, with one sock on, both feet crammed into a filthy pair of flipflops was arguing with the cashier about the lack of money on his gift card. Finally he yelled, "I'll just go across the street" and walked out. I followed him. As he was lifting his bike I asked him I could buy him a hot drink. He dropped the bike, shocked, and said, "sure." He followed me back to the cafe where I told him to order what he wanted. He got a hot dog and a red bull. I handed him a couple dollars for later. He was overflowing with gratitude and kept saying thank you. Then I looked down at his feet and said, "Can I buy you some shoes?'"
"No, really, you've done enough."
"But it's cold and you need shoes."
"No, these are fine." One of his ankles was wrapped in tape.
"Please let's go back to the shoe dept and let me get you some shoes."
He refused again. Then he said thanks and walked out, got on his bike and rode away in the cold.

It has been 6 days and I am still haunted by this experience. I would have given him my own shoes if they would have fit him. Why didn't I ask one more time? Why didn't I try harder to convince him to let me buy him shoes?

I don't get it. If my feet were freezing and someone offered to buy me shoes I'd have taken them up on it.

I can't tell you how I know, but I do know that man was Jesus. Was he testing me?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Content? Advent 3 C Zephaniah 3:14-20 Philippians 4:4-7 Luke 3:7-18


Philippians 4 10

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. 11Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me.(NRSV)

These words were written by the Apostle Paul during one of his imprisonments. Most believe it was during his last incarceration: in Rome. 
I remember reading this as a child wondering how anyone could be content in any circumstance. But as a 40-year-old I can now say with Paul , I know what it is like to have little and I know what it is like to have plenty. Thankfully I've never been in prison as a prisoner, only to visit. And it is horrible place. If you have never visited someone in prison, you should.

If Paul was in Rome, he was under 'house arrest,' probably not so bad as when he rotted in a prison in Ephesus, chained to the wall, his back having been flogged. But even then he would have said the same: I know what it is like to have little. 

I know what it is like to have little. I have never been homeless. But as a child my family lived without a phone, or car, many times. We had barely enough; often there was one choice for food; beans or macaroni or potatoes. I know what it is like to dig down the couch hoping for a enough change to buy a box of macaroni and cheese. I know what it is like to be ridiculed for poverty.

I know what it is like to have little. One Christmas my dad was out of work. My brother and I were 6 and 7. We had just returned to church after years of being away. Our church family heard we were in need and multiple times we opened the door and found food on the porch; left by a nameless Good Samaritan. 

I know what it is like to have little. 

Paul knew what it was like to have plenty. He was a Pharisee; he was a Roman Citizen. He had privileges and he had used them to persecute people; as one of power. But since meeting Jesus he had used the power to preach; before being booted from the synagogues he showed up in his Pharisaical robes and was asked to speak. He used every chance he could to tell of this Risen One he had encountered on that Damascus Road.

I know what it is like to have plenty. I sit in a comfortable recliner in soft clothing inside a snug house with a warm puppy curled at my feet. I have multiple choices of food in my fridge; I just downed an orange juice and a grilled cheese. There are wrapped gifts under my tree. I have a car; I have a smart phone; I am typing on my own laptop. 

But do I know what is like to be content? Contentment is not as easy as 'little' and 'plenty.' Contentment is a choice. If I have little, as a healthy American I can work for plenty (yeah I know the economy is going you know where in a you know what but you get my drift). Contentment is something that I must choose. And there is always more out there.

 MY CULTURE DOES NOT WANT ME TO BE CONTENT. To be content would mean not consuming; and of course, our economy depends upon my consuming what I do not need. 

Luke 3 10And the crowds asked him [John the Baptist], “What then should we do?” 11In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.”
What kind of a tax collector would do that?

 14Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

Satisfied? Is that the same as Content? What do you think?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Advent 2 C Luke 3:1-6 Malachi 3:1-4 Psalm 126 Prepare! Cont.

Malachi reminds us that the next time he comes it won't be as a baby but a judge. I don't like that. I'd much rather hold a baby than face a judge.

People are more generous around the holidays. Angel trees are rapidly taken care of. The today show had collected more than 14,000 toys as of yesterday.

But what about the rest of the year? When the children are hungry and the toys have been sold to buy food? What then of our generosity? Where are the thousands of donors?

I would rather preach a fluffy happy message about the love of Baby Jesus. But the Scripture doesn't allow it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Advent 2 C Luke 3:1-6 Malachi 3:1-4 Psalm 126 Prepare! cont.

Malachi 3  1 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. (NRSV from

There is a tiny or not so tiny element of fear in the anticipation of His coming. 

Who can endure the day of his coming? The ones who thought they were prepared were not. They completely missed it. The ones who were busy, out working, were the ones who saw the angels singing in the heavens, proclaiming his coming. The shepherds were prepared. The religious authorities were not. 

Who can endure the day of his coming? 
We find an answer if we keep reading the chapter. "Then those who revered the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord took note and listened, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who revered the Lord and thought on his name."

They revered the LORD and they spoke with one another: which is I hope what you will be doing this Sunday morning, the second Sunday of Advent. 

Who can endure the day of his coming? 
Buried under the wrapping paper, tinsel, and lights, I hope you find a rugged manger-bed with a screaming baby inside, letting the world know he has come.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent 2 C Luke 3:1-6 Malachi 3:1-4 Psalm 126 Prepare!

I am not prepared for this Christmas season. In times past I have had all shopping done by Thanksgiving. The tree doesn't go up in our house until the first of December. But here it sits. Assembled, but empty. The house is not clean enough to decorate. The family has worked on it but it't still not 'prepared'. And somewhere in the basement is the advent calendar that should have been unearthed by tonight to read the appropriate scriptures tonight before bed.

Why? Because here I sit with bronchitis. Not the first time. I get it every fall/winter. Last year it hit on Christmas Eve. Nice ER visit. Allergy testing showed a pine allergy. So the tree is artificial this year. But still I cough. Preparations are at a halt. Because I am the Mom. The dad put up the tree, he will even string lights. But the mom leads the decorating. The dad will put up the outside lights but they sit in a container under the tree ornaments.

The mom does most of the shopping and social planning too. The mom must get better quick because she is also a professor and it is the last week before finals.

But when my children came home from church with plans to visit a sick friend next Sunday and asked me to help make gifts I thought.... They ARE prepared. They are prepared to be and giving and compassionate. Decorations and shopping may delay but Generosity will not. Because the One who Is to Come Brings A Heart changed that know no delays.

I welcome comments. I do moderate them, but please feel free to converse about the text.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Righteous Branch Advent 1 C Jeremiah 33:14-16a continued

The connection between Wall-e, Eve(a) and the Righteous Branch continues in my thoughts.

The plant changes everything.
As soon as Eve sees the plant, she hides it, but only to protect it. She is concerned only with the 'directive.'

Wall-e protects Eve because he loves her as she protects the plant...but he does not know why she does it. He only knows that he loves her.

And when she leaves, he must follow.

The plant motivates everyone to get out of their chairs and live again.

See how many parallels to Advent you can find in this story.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Righteous Branch Advent 1 C Jeremiah 33:14-16

I will be posting comments on the Advent passages at least weekly, sometimes more. Check back often for updates.

(All Scripture from NRSV) 14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
16. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called, "The Lord is our righteousness."

Jeremiah is confined in the court of the guard when he receives this message. God certainly uses those who are jailed for his purpose. The chapter and vision begin quite negatively. The Chaldeans (Babylonians) are coming to fight. God has hidden his face in anger and will allow this tragedy to happen. But in verse 6 he says he will 'Bring it to recovery and healing; I will heal them..." The focus suddenly moves from doom and destruction to hope and healing.

The metaphor for healing in this passage is the righteous Branch.
What do we know about this righteous Branch?
Simply from the passage itself.

1. It will spring up.
2. It will spring up for David.
3. It is a he.
4. He shall execute justice in the land.
5. He shall execute righteousness in the land.
6. Because of this Branch, Judah will be saved.
7. Because of this Branch, Jerusalem will live in safety.

Multiple green lights flash to the listeners.

To spring up, a plant must be ALIVE.

The Disney movie, Wall-E, the main character is post-apocalyptic story about a robot left on the planet earth for clean up after humans leave the earth because they destroy it with trash. Wall-E's only companion is a cockroach until ship lands and a sleek robot named Eve emerges. Wall-E immediately falls in love. He shares everything with Eve; until Eve finds a living plant, opens a compartment, houses the plant and shuts down. Wall-E sits by her for what seems like forever until a the ship returns to collect Eve. He attaches himself to her ship and travels to her mother ship where he finds humans who have lived for generations. There the captain discovers that Eve has brought a sign of life on earth and that is safe to return.

Wall-E was not marketed as a Christmas movie. But it is.

The Branch grew out of a dead land and brought life to the people. The Branch (plant) changed every person's (and robot's) life.

This is what the Righteous Branch will do. He will bring light and life to a dry, dead, parched land.

And with Life he will bring Justice. Hebrew: Mishpat. 
This is a great Word study on Mishpat.

To be continued....