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Here's the Leonard Cohen song, Anthem, I reference:
We continue along in the season of Epiphany, the time in the church year when we hear stories that help us get to know Jesus better. God has come among us as a baby born to a teenage Palestinian girl in a manger in an animal stall behind a sold out motel. Wise men of the day have sought him out and we too seek him. Week after week, we’ll hear stories that help us understand more about this God who has made himself known in the person of Jesus Christ. Today we hear one of the most famous stories of Jesus’ power--his miraculous turning of water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana.
These Epiphany stories will give us signs of Jesus’ promise of presence, and God’s enduring promise of hope and abundance.
They will also show us that again and again that in God’s hands there is no limit to what is possible.
This week the Epiphany season also shares the holiday on which we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.--the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was above all a Christ follower and we cannot know his story fully without entering into the story of God made known in the person of Jesus Christ.
Every year on the King Holiday I make sure to re-read his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. I first encountered it in high school and it changed my life.
This piece was published as part of the Advent Meditations of the Office of Young Adult Ministries
It’s Christmas Eve! We’ve been waiting and preparing and hoping and wondering and longing for this night for weeks now.
Tonight we join in Mary’s last moments of waiting. Tonight we, the Church, are like young Mary–very pregnant, stretched full with impossibility made possible, full of confusion and wonder and hope and expectation. Like this young woman, we are ready to give birth.
We join Mary in her expectant-ness. Tonight the Church takes deep breaths; tonight the Church pushes so hard against the heavens that God slips right through and into our very own world. God becomes like us.
See, we know that humans are made in God’s image. But we’re not always particularly good at actually being images of God. So God helps us out. God decides–chooses–to give us some more information. God comes to live with us, to walk around in a body just like we have in a world just like ours. In the life of Jesus, we’ll see how God would live life. We’ll see that it means hanging out with people nobody else likes; we’ll see that it means giving up what we want or what is easy for what is right and what is good; we’ll see that love and forgiveness and truth can beat anything. We’ll see that they can beat confusion, disappointment, betrayal, injustice, and even illness and death. And in the end, Jesus will do all that for each of us.
How do you feel in these last few hours before the big arrival?
What have you learned during Advent that helps you anticipate Jesus‘ arrival?
What has God been preparing in you–how is your heart different now than a few weeks ago?
What new things are you about to give birth to in your own life as a follower of Jesus?
Tonight we celebrate that God chose to become human for a while.
Mercy–being kind and forgiving–has a face.
Hope–trusting in God’s promise to be with us always–has a heart and lungs.
Love–LOVE–has hands and feet and eyes and ears.
Tonight God’s story becomes a person we can know.
As any of our children can tell you--it's still not Christmas!
Here we sit on the fourth Sunday of Advent. Here we sit in our fourth week of waiting.
We’ve been waiting and preparing and hoping and wondering and longing for weeks now. And we've almost arrived.
My notes for today's sermon:
Pilate asks Jesus: "What have you done?" Jesus answers: "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over."
The Kingdom of God will be experienced and defined by what Jesus' followers do. Jesus is clear that his kingdom is different from kingdoms as we usually know them. By extension, Jesus is saying that he is a different kind of king. The world understands power, might, prestige, wealth, status as things to be enlarged and protected. The kings of this world amass armies and wealth in order to secure their power. Jesus says power works differently in his kingdom.
MARK 1: To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
As Bishop White described in his introductory remarks, the 5 Marks of Mission are identifiers. They are those external marks by which the world will know whose we are. We know we are being the Church fully when all of these Marks are manifest in our life.
This first Mark is really the foundation (but also the culmination!) of the others. We are to be about proclaiming God’s Good News.
In my small group, we heard powerful testimony from one of our youth deputies, Bridget from Messiah-Trinity. She shared how some of the friends she’d talked to about God said they didn’t go to church because someone had told them along the way that God didn’t--that God couldn’t--love them. They were told this for a variety of reasons: they weren’t ‘good enough’; some piece of their story was 'unredeemable'; a part of their identity was 'unacceptable.' Some felt rejected simply because they didn’t have the right kind of clothes to wear to church. Bridget summed up her frustration with these convicting words: The church is a place for the broken; the church is a place for sinners. They should be told they are loved.
MARK 5: To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
It seems appropriate to lift up the 5th mark of mission as we break for a meal, since the food we eat is connected by our care of creation.
This mark can sometimes feel controversial--it evokes various partisan images and we can find ourselves tempted to point out other’s shortcomings while forgiving our own. We do well to remember that this mark is particularly important to those living in parts of the Anglican Communion which are more agrarian than our own context. Many of the same Anglicans who express their disappointment in our moral reasoning and biblical interpretation also call us into account for our responsibility to care for the earth. The closer you live to the earth everyday, the more you notice whether or not it’s being cared for adequately. The wealth and technology and industry we enjoy must be balanced with concern for how our lifestyle impacts our neighbor because of how it impacts the earth we share.
MARK 3: To respond to human need by loving service
MARK 4: To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
These two marks seem to go together for us--they describe God’s call for us to both serve the day-to-day needs of our neighbors as well as well as taking a hard look at how we can overturn the injustices in the world so that fewer neighbors might find themselves hungry, poor, sick, homeless.
I hope you will particularly remember Sister Emily Cooper* as you reflect on these Marks of Mission.
Dru Kemp, the faciliator for the workshop on Mark 4, asked us, as had all the other leaders, to fill out our two sticky notes--one with “what we’re doing now” which reflects this Mark of Mission and “what we could be doing.” “Think of it as now and then” she said. Then she paused thoughtfully, and said “or, I guess, as “then and now.” God calls us to live new lives in pursuit of divine justice and service. Is living that out something we want to keep pushing out into the future? Or wouldn’t we be better to think of leaving our old life behind, always stepping into the deeper waters the Bishop has called us into?
Please see this post about our “I Dream of a Church” exercise as a response to our reflection on Acts 8 and the 2nd Mark of Mission.
Libby Wade, rector of Grace Church, Paducah, led us through the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. She pointed out that both Philip and the Eunuch were in a place of being receptive when they met each other. Philip was receptive to the Holy Spirit’s prodding, and the eunuch was receptive to learning more about something he had become interested in. The work of nuturing the Christian life--our own, and the lives of those we meet--depends on our receptivity to God’s still, small voice.