Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas 1b sermon, Dec. 28, 2008, My adopted sister

Sermon Text this week was Isaiah and Galatians.

No notes today (I wrote in the car on notecards) But the gist of the sermon is that Paul's "meaning of Christmas" is that we are adopted through the birth of Christ. When we baptize (as we did this day) we celebrate this truth that we are adopted children of God as one human family. My daughter is my adopted sister.
Listen below if you wish

Dec. 21: Advent 4a sermon: I sing because I'm happy

Sermon Text: The two Luke passages: Annunciation and Magnificat

Sorry I didn't record today. Forgot! Here's the notes to give you an idea of what was said. (It was our Cantata.)

Lot’s of singing today. Probably the most appropriate way to prepare for Christmas. It’s what we find Mary and Elizabeth are shown doing. They are carrying the light and the witness to the light within their bodies—and what does it do to them? Fills their lungs with songs of praise.

I like this idea of carrying Jesus. I can’t know what it is like to carry a baby, but I can know what it is like to carry the baby Jesus. This is the one gestation that we men have the opportunity to experience.

Lara always said that she carried Julianna way high and than she carried Wesley. That got me thinking about how we all have the individual gift of carrying Christ in different ways.

Where do you carry Christ? Do you depend on Christ to guide your decisions? Do you feel the Spirit’s involvement in the decisions you make? Do you approach personal and family decisions with periods of prayer, or even fasting?

Do you carry Christ up high in your lungs, where you feel the Christ child just kicking at your diaphragm trying to urge you to say something? Do you feel compelled to speak the good news of the gospel?

Do you carry Christ in your heart, stirring you to act on behalf of those in our midst who are hungry, tired, put down, and abused?

Do you carry Christ in your mind, enchanting you with new ideas and inspiring the wisdom that pushes us into new ways of knowing Christ?

No matter where your “center of gravity,” I believe it is part of our role as creatures of God to carry Christ in our throats, singing the praises of God. It doesn’t matter if we think we have good voices or not. We sing because we’re happy. We sing because the one who comes in a manger comes to set us free.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dec. 14 sermon, Advent 3B, "It ain't me babe."

Texts: Isaiah and John

Sermon Notes: One of my Christmas memories is looking at Christmas lights with my family. I remember fondly having to be herded into the minivan with my sister at my mom’s insistence to preserve this tradition, and the two of us mocking her with synchronized overly enthusiastic “ooooooohs,” and “aaaaaaaaahs” from the back seat when we would see a house with only the most half-hearted attempt at lighting up the house (if you’d like an example of a half hearted attempt, check out my front porch.)

Today’s scripture tells us that John the Baptist came to testify to the “Light” and that he himself is not the light. What would our fiery John the Baptist think of the light display?

There is one line in that passage that leaped out at me this week as he is there being interrogated by the Pharisees: “I am not.” It reminds me of Bob Dylan’s great song, “It ain’t me babe.”

It seems the interesting thing about JB in this text from John’s Gospel is that he is pretty clear about who he is and who he is not. And maybe we are to learn something from JB’s insistence that he is not the Messiah.

Maybe we are to learn to say that about ourselves. Now, of course we don’t think we are Messiah’s…but there is something in JB’s reaction that is helpful. When asked, he quickly points the attention away from himself and toward the One coming – Jesus. And Jesus did this too. He almost always points attention away from himself and toward God or toward the needs and issues of others – to testify to something much greater!
You know, I bet if we were all honest with ourselves for a moment, I expect most of us might have the notion that religion is about the fulfillment of our hopes. We hope to find peace for our anxious lives, help for the journey.

So we come to church hoping that the music, the scripture and preaching will meet our needs whatever they may be – to have our cup filled to overflowing. We hope to hear interesting sermons that we can use for our lives. If we were all completely honest…most of the time…we come to church for pretty selfish reasons. But that’s understandable, and I don’t think God is angry about our natural aptitude toward self interest.

But, bear with me a moment to say that Advent is often a lesson in humility. It is actually one of the greatest times in the life of our Christian faith where we can say – “It’s not about us…it’s about Jesus”. Because that is what we are supposed to be doing – PREPARING for something much bigger than us! We are reminded in Advent that this is actually the shape of our discipleship – to be the body of Christ in the here and now and point to the way or “testify to the light and love” that is Jesus Christ.

But, we still tend to get caught up in the “maybe it’s about us” idea. In church – we want to have our cups filled; get our own spiritual house or everything in our lives in perfect order to be a good disciple. Friends, while there is real truth in that and we do need to make sure we are in good shape spiritually – we can’t wait forever either – gosh we may never get to a place of perfect order. Because the truth also really is – IT IS IN NO WAY ABOUT US! We must claim as JB did – “No…it’s not me, but it is my job to testify and point the way”.
the hub-bud of Christmas preparation – both in the church and personally with all the shopping and preparations are certainly makes it easy to be “all about us”. We make ourselves absolutely crazy this time of year with stuff, stuff and more stuff that we pile on – in the church we are so busy we can’t even see straight and at home is a frenzy too.

We stay so busy with all the things we think we have to do or need to do or should be doing. And you know what – I just can’t imagine that our Savior who came into this world so humbly, lived as a servant, walked around the desert in sandals intended for us to make the season of his birth so complicated and hectic. He would probably say to us … “get over yourselves”

To juxtapose this mentality with what I see some of you doing, especially this week. We have a group within the church that should be celebrated. Who were involved in a flurry of activity and shopping, but it was for the benefit of others.

It was those who participated in the Angel tree project and brought Christmas gifts to 44 people in our community who would have trouble making ends meet. These are the kinds of gifts that do reflect the gifts of the magi. Giving to glorify God. Taking the attention off ourselves and doing it to testify to the light. Many of you participated in this—thank you.

Also, the gift without any request for recognition of the funds that paid for the reroofing. Isn’t it beautiful! We’re set now for another 30 years, thanks to that gift.

And that my friends, is the real meaning of Jesus coming into the world to walk among us and for this time of Advent preparation. In this passage of John’s Gospel, a much needed humility is worked out by focusing on Jesus – the LIGHT to which JB and John the Witness were sent to testify! We are not the light, but we do indeed point to the light that enlightens our lives and hearts
What are you hoping for today? I think John is just asking us to have an open heart. Later in this Gospel, Jesus says more about who He is, but right now at the beginning before we meet Him, John simply introduces Jesus as the LIGHT, while saying he is only a witness – to testify to the light. Because in this busy wonderful season, it doesn’t really matter who has the biggest and brightest light display in the neighborhood. We, like John must be clear about who we are – people called to testify to the love of Christ.

Because as Bob Dylan said, “You say you’re lookin for someone:
Never weak but always strong,
To protect you an' defend you
Whether you are right or wrong,
Someone to open each and every door,
Someone who will die for you an' more,
But it ain’t me, babe.

And during this season, it is about the one who is. Let’s take the focus off ourselves and turn attention toward the one who saves us from ourselves.


Monday, December 08, 2008

advent 2 sermon, dec 7, the wilderness

texts: isaiah and mark


A way in the wilderness.
Salvation traditionally comes from the wilderness.

Moses, Elijah, and David all had to flee to the wilderness (Exod 2:15; 1 Sam 23:14; 1 Kgs 19:3-4). Likewise, Jesus will emerge from the wilderness to begin preaching the good news and will return there several times (Mark 1:35, 45; 6:31-32, 35; 8:4).61

Where is the wilderness for you? Is the wilderness a safe place or a dangerous place? The Greek God of the wilderness was Pan, the little guy with goat legs, remember. You know what word we get from Pan? Panic!

Story about getting wilderness survival merit badge. Made a shelter in the crook of a fallen tree. Had no food, so we caught a frog and boiled it to eat—(think we just ended up boiling the frog and then being grossed out.).

In the end, our boy scout leaders (who got to bring a tent) surprised us with birthday cake for one of the boys who was spending his birthday on the outing. Spent the night cold and jumpy about the things that might be crawling on me in that little nook.

The wilderness is a place that can be dangerous. Perhaps that’s one reason our salvation begins in the wilderness.

The text from Isaiah says “In the wilderness prepare a way for the Lord.” Interesting that the quotation marks are found around the whole sentence, including “in the wilderness,” in Mark’s use of the same verse from Isaiah, he locates the voice in the wilderness saying ……
You would probably have similar stories about the literal wilderness, but what about our metaphorical wildernesses? Those places and times and life experiences that make us feel uneasy, uncomfortable?

Some would say life in the current economy is a wilderness. We are on edge. We are watching representatives from the auto industry begging for money from the government. Things don’t look good. The prevailing wisdom is that we are one or two wrong moves away from a financial depression!

In this “wilderness” how do we heed John’s call to “prepare a way for the Lord?” How do we “make strait the paths for him?”

Bud Reeves, a minister in Hot Springs, wrote in a recent article of the Arkansas United Methodist, that “tithing creates in us a sense of peace and security” amidst a crumbling economy. Tithing helps us straiten out our own priorities, our own “way.”

This is one way we find hope and promise in the wilderness. If you feel the panic of a world of economic instability, put your trust in God’s activity. How literally and physically put our “trust” in God? We can tithe.

During the Holidays, when everything around us says we should be feeling nostalgic and happy and loving, some of us suffer from grief, and stress, and relational discord.

These are also wilderness experiences. These are situations that make us panicked, and angry, and uneasy. Be assured today that it is in these times of wilderness that God’s power can be most effective in changing your life.
When we are feeling good and happy, we tend to put our confidence in ourselves. When we are stripped of these feelings, we are usually more ready to put our trust in God.

If this season holds the wilderness of grief and pain for you for a loss you have suffered, you can find God’s presence in the loving arms of a community ready to help you bear that weight. You can find hope in the strategies and coping resources available to you tonight at the Griefshare “surviving the holidays” event.

If this season holds for you the wilderness of a stressed marriage, perhaps there you will find a renewed commitment to the covenant of marriage in the truth that love is not just a feeling, love is an act of will. Ask for God’s transforming fire to enliven your marriage with passion and dedication.

If the prospect of buying the perfect gift for your loved ones, attending four parties in three weeks, and travelling to two states in the quest to find that holiday cheer instead leaves you in the wilderness of stress—ask God to help you recognize the peace of the Christ child amidst the chaos of a Bethlehem under siege.

Take heart that Mary and Joseph struggled from similar difficulties, and couldn’t even find a place to stay. So God led them to a stable, where the hope of the world could be born. God works in unexpected ways—attune your senses to God’s path.

All of these wildernesses can be traversed with God’s renewing power. John baptized with water for the forgiveness of sins. He proclaimed that one would come after him who would baptize with the refining fire of the Holy Spirit. A baptism that In Peterson’s words, “would change us from the inside-out.”

.We believe this meal we have available every week, this table of communion, is fuel for that fire. The more steady the flame, the stronger the light to guide our way in this wilderness.

You see, it’s a change in us that gives us a straight path through the wilderness. Circumstances may change, but if we are changed and renewed from the inside out, we can make it through anything

Wednesday, December 03, 2008