In pm's words
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January 14, 2019, 12:00 AM

the one about what God says to us...

Sermon from January 13, 2019

Text: Isaiah 43: 1-7 and Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, as we move into this second week of 2019 there still seems be a general sense of angst, malaise, and anxiety within our world – especially here in the United States. We are still in the midst of a partial government shutdown where countless individuals are being affected. This is something that affects federal workers, veterans, and those depending on the limited support of things like food stamps to help make ends meet so that their families might be able to eat.

Now, of course there are differing opinions on how this shutdown can be ended, and there is a good chance that my opinion and yours are vastly different. But, I’m not here to talk about that this morning. What I do want is to dive into is our text from Isaiah.

You see, the people of Israel during the time that this part of Isaiah was written weren’t in a good spot either. For them, things were shutdown too. They were exiled, sent far off from their homeland. Not able to worship and live into the ways that they had for generations.

Thankfully, that time was soon to come to an end, but they didn’t know that at this point. For as the saying goes, the darkest hour is just before the dawn. Isaiah shares this promise of God with his people as they continue in their exile from all that they’ve known.

Here God speaks the words that are some of the most repeated throughout scripture and includes one phrase that only appears here.

God again says, “Do not fear.” Do not fear and all its variations are the most repeated phrase from God throughout all of scripture.

Do not fear. Why? Because you have been redeemed. You have been called. You are mine.

When times get tough – God will be with you. When things become overwhelming – God will be with you. When it doesn’t seem like you can go any further – God will be with you.

God will be with you, because God is the one who has created you and God is your God.

That is the promise that God makes with the people of Israel, God’s chosen faithful.

God speaks this promise of hope to a people who feel that all is lost. Enough time has passed that it appears that hope is gone for this people sent away from their homes, barred entry from their place of comfort and safety. Yet, here comes God speaking through the prophet Isaiah – one of the great prophets – and gives this promise again.

This promise of hope, restoration, and redemption.

But, I do find this promise of hope to be a bit different than how we’d want it to be.

When we call for God’s redeeming power, for God’s protection, for God’s hope to rest in us, I think what we really want is for all the bad stuff in our life to be ended.

We want there to be no more trouble, no more pain, no more heartache. We want there to be no more angst, no more anger, no more fighting among all. We want it to be perfect because of God’s redemption, power, and protection.

We want God to remove ‘us’ – whether we think of that as solely as ourselves as individuals or as the people we ‘agree’ with – from that which brings us pain or frustration.

I think we truly want that to happen. And why wouldn’t we? It sure would make this all a lot easier to live through if we just prayed, had ‘enough’ faith, and God swooped in, plucked us from that which causes discomfort and sets us up in a perfect little place full of comfort and tranquility.

But, that’s not what God promises. Not even close.

God tells the people of Israel – God tells each of us – when things get difficult, and they will, I will be there. When things become overwhelming, I will be there. When all hope appears gone, remember I will be there with you.

I imagine that is what God is speaking to us as a people right now – those for whom this shutdown doesn’t affect in intimate ways (but, boy do we like to think it is) and those for whom life seems absolutely bleak during this time, especially for those who are furloughed or working without pay. I imagine this is what God is saying to those who find themselves at our border as well – those who have traveled long distances to escape tragedy, pain, and fear and have come to take asylum in a place where they can start over.

God speaks to them – and to us – I am here.

So, what does that have to do with baptism? Since this is the celebration of the baptism of our Lord.

We as a people of faith – as Christians who follow the one born to the world as messiah – as God come down to be with us – see that redemption in our baptism. That place and action where God cleanses us, calls us by name, and claims each of us as one of God’s own.

I think we like to believe that baptism will make everything just peachy and fine. Once we’re baptized everything will be wonderful and bright! I see that way of belief being lived out in some other traditions of the church. Mostly because when things don’t go that way, folks feel compelled to ‘do it again’ because it must not have ‘taken’ the first time.

I’ve talked with numerous people throughout my ministry who tell me of the multiple times they’ve been baptized because those previous times ‘didn’t stick.’ Or who desire to be re-baptized because life just isn’t ‘good’ at the moment.

That just isn’t what I feel baptism ‘does’ for us.

That isn’t even what baptism was for Jesus. He didn’t get washed and didn’t have to deal with danger anymore. In fact, you might say that baptism thrust Jesus into danger because it is in those waters that he began to live fully into God’s call for him as messiah. It is in baptism where all the ‘trouble’ begins. God’s glorious trouble of radical love, inclusion, grace, forgiveness, and welcome.

Baptism does not remove us from danger. It does not make evil flee from us. It doesn’t even magically make us incredibly perfect and sinless people. It just doesn’t.

But, what baptism does do for us is claim us into God’s family. In baptism – because of what Jesus has done and continues to do in his death and resurrection we are grafted into the family and promise of God’s own people. Because of baptism, we are indeed cleansed of our sin where God looks upon us with love, grace, and mercy. It is in baptism that we are claimed by the one who created us all.

In our baptism – through Jesus’ love, sacrifice, and victory on the cross and in the tomb – we too are covered in this promise that Isaiah speaks to the people of Israel.

We too have faith and promise that God is with us always. That God is with us as we walk through the waters; that God is with us when things become overwhelming; that God is with us when we walk through the flames.

In baptism we remember that God is with us, BECAUSE of the thing that God says here in Isaiah that appears no where else in all of scripture – at least not literally said.

It is here that God tells the people – I love you.

Yes, God has lived out that love countless times throughout all of scripture and our combined history as people of faith. But it is here that God specifically says to us – I love you.

God loves you. God loves you through baptism. And in that love, God promises to be with you. Always. God has made that promise and there is nothing you’ve done to earn it, there is nothing you can do to remove it, and there is nothing you can do to ‘increase’ it.

That mark, that promise, that love, is always there. Fully, completely, and thoroughly.

We celebrate that promise of God that is extended to us through baptism, where we are indeed called and claimed into the people and family of God because of what Christ has done for the world.

In baptism, we are joined together with the one who is with us; the one who has come down to be with all of creation. In this great community of life and love, we get to live into our baptismal calls of hope, justice, and righteousness. For even though our government is still ‘partially shutdown’ it does not shut us down to live into the love and care that God calls of us to live out for all people around us.

Baptism – it won’t always be easy. It won’t remove us from danger or trouble. In fact, it may just push us to be at ‘odds’ with those who cannot see or feel God’s radical love and grace through Jesus Christ. But, we remember the promise that God has for us; that same promise that God gave to the people of Israel through the prophet Isaiah.

God is with us. God is with you. Always. No matter what. Amen.

January 7, 2019, 12:00 AM

the one about the magi...

Sermon from January 6, 2019

Text: Matthew 2: 1-12

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ! Will y'all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen!

Good morning and welcome to this the Epiphany of our Lord. This is the day we celebrate the wise men or magi from far off follow a star and come to pay homage, respect, and worship the one who was born as messiah and King of the Jews. They came to worship the one who they discerned from gazing into the night sky, following a star to the little town of Bethlehem within the tiny state of Benjamin.

Let’s look at these wise men and see what God is teaching us through them, and what we can learn even still today. If you hadn't figured it out yet, these aren't Jewish men. We don't even know how many of them there are (for scripture doesn’t tell us – no matter how many stories we hear and song we sing that depict three). However, there are a few things we do know about them.

There are more than one. They are 'wise' or as some translations call them 'magi.' Though, we have wondrous hymns (one of my favorites) talking of "We Three Kings" - they aren't really described as kings in any way. Even though they aren't described as 'kings' within the text, we do know that they were incredibly wealthy, or at the very least represent incredibly wealthy places.

The gifts they offered Jesus are extravagant. They would’ve been extravagant for anyone born of royalty, let alone someone born to a poor carpenter and his wife. Each of these gifts were rare, traded frequently, and lustfully sought. Myrrh was known at times to be EQUAL in its weight to that of gold. There were times when myrrh was even more rare it surpassed that high value. These were not run-of-the-mill ever day gifts. They didn’t stop at the local Dollar Store or Wal-Mart as they entered town to get a quick gift. They were gifts befit of someone truly grand. Hopefully you noticed that these gifts were not given to the only person who is named a ‘king’ in this reading. These extravagant gifts were not given to King Herod.

These wise men were also, well... very intelligent. You might even call them 'scientists' of their day. They used their gifts of searching through the night sky to see signs of anything. Through their own skills and rituals, they were witness to something different - a star different from the others - and the light of this star led them to the City of David to see the 'King of the Jews' born under that star. 

So, it was these men, offering lavish gifts, following a star in the night, from distant lands, who came to Jerusalem to tell King Herod and all the scribes that their messiah had been born. That is something you’d would think the scribes would already know being that they were 'in the know' within their own faith life. They studied scripture in order to ‘figure’ out what God is up to in the world.

Yet, that's not how God is typically made known in the world. God usually shows up in places and through means we least expect.

The story of Jesus birth is full of these different ways. This treasured story about how God was born into the world as a child within a poor family, wrapped in cloth, resting in a feeding trough. His first visitors were not people of 'stature,' but instead dirty shepherds grazing their sheep in the field during the middle of the night.

This morning we continue that thread line where God's light - shown through a star in the sky - calls and leads men from the east (some scholars say Persia, but no one really knows) on a trek to pay homage and worship this young king of kings. It is through these men - outside the realm of Judaism - who tell the political and religious authorities of God's own people that God was among them as messiah. When you take a step back and really think about it, it is all sorts of ridiculous. This isn’t how we’d tell the story of this momentous moment.

So, what does this mean for us today in the 21st century? I think if we really look at this text we can be a little surprised that God worked through the gifts and rituals of another faith to reach out and embrace all people under Christ the king of kings. Did you ever think about that? Remember, these men from far off are not Jewish. We can assume that they are of a different faith altogether. Yet, they come to worship the one born in Bethlehem.

I truly find it comforting that God does work in this way. Yet, in a way it is also somewhat frightening too. I stand here and preach the gospel hoping and praying that people hear my words, see God working through this community of faith, and come to the one who accepts all under the cross out of love, forgiveness, and mercy.

Yet, we see in this beautiful story that it isn't words, liturgy, or sacrament that lead these men to the Christ child. Instead they come to 'see Jesus' and God's action in their lives through other means. In this story it is through their collective gifts of discerning the movement of the stars.

Today, it could look like someone feeling a rumble in their stomach – so they come to this place because they hear that there is free food offered every time we worship, it could be an individual's flight of fancy to 'pick up' the Bible because they just like to read, it even could be someone who comes to worship to 'seek the one born under the star of wonder' because of an experience totally outside what we'd consider 'normal’ or ‘routine.’

I've shared this story before, but I think it is worth mentioning again. When I was in seminary, I was blessed with an opportunity to travel to Mexico for about 3 weeks. Living, eating, studying, and fellowshipping with those of a context completely foreign to my own. We learned of the life that these people lived - the poor, desolate life that many live through day in and day out in Mexico City (and elsewhere). We were able to see holy sites that were both Christian, native, and an interesting mix of both. We were also able to learn and study under profound descendants of the native and ancient Aztecs. As we studied and learned, one individual told us of a wonderful story of his people's life. 

When the "Christians" came and sought to 'save' these different people and bring them to Christ, they read and taught them the Bible and all its wonderful stories of God's action within the life and history of the world. But, one of the more outspoken and faith-filled 'converts' came to those chief priests and stated, "Father, I want you to know that you did not bring us God. For the entirety of the history of my people, we have always worshipped God. We have seen and felt God's action in our lives as we farmed, as we loved, as we built, as we looked at the world around us. No, you haven't 'brought' or 'given' us God. What you have given us, is God's name - Jesus. Thank-you for that."

I loved that story, and even years after hearing it, it still sticks with me.  Especially in light of this Day of Epiphany and throughout the season of Epiphany. Where a light came to those far outside the realm and supposed 'reach' of God's people and led them to this child, this King of Kings. Where upon seeing this child - well after his birth - fell down in exceedingly great joy and worshipped him. Showering him with gifts of riches - greater than that given to 'kings' of their day. Gifts not even given to the ‘actual king’ in this story.

God reaches out to each of us, God calls each of us - those of us sitting in these pews this morning and even those not currently with us - and draws us all to this one born as messiah. For, God announced the birth of the messiah to shepherds through an angel on Christmas, to wise men via a star on epiphany, and to the political and religious authorities of God's own chosen people through foreign visitors.

From a manger, where a child lies wrapped in bands of cloth, God's reach, God's embrace in Christ Jesus gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Jesus eats with outcasts and sinners. Jesus touches people who are sick and people who live with disabilities. Jesus even calls the dead back to life. Ultimately Jesus draws all people to himself as he is lifted upon the cross. In Christ Jesus, no one is beyond God's grace.

God calls all of us to Christ. God uses means and ways that we couldn't possibly imagine leading us to Christ. God uses ways that many of us would consider non-traditional and possibly even weird. Yet, God's desire to embrace all people and God's own work to share the gospel is far greater than our collective understanding. It is more 'mystery' than formula. 

Where is God shedding the light of Epiphany within our own lives? Possibly, even using YOU in ways that you couldn't imagine to bring the light of Christ into others' lives? Perhaps even using others to share God’s light with you in ways you wouldn’t expect.

Use the gifts you have been blessed with - the gifts of music, teaching, driving, collecting, caring, even staring at the wonder of the stars - to see God's action in your life. See that God is at work through you and in all the wonders that make you – you. Use your gifts to shower and point and proclaim God's work in Christ Jesus - the king of Kings, the LIGHT of Epiphany that shines on all and leads all of us to the Cross of Christ. 


January 1, 2019, 12:00 AM

January 2019 Newsletter Article

Grace and peace to each of you this wonderful New Year of 2019!

2018 brought an exciting and generous time for Redeemer. A wonderful unexpected gift. The ability to use that gift to help so many different organizations immediately, helping our own congregation directly (and significantly), and also being set up for mission in the world for years to come.

But, even without that 2018 was a pretty fun year for Redeemer. We worshipped, we celebrated, we lamented, we cried, we wondered, we saw God at work in some amazing places.

As I think about where God led our community of faith in 2018, I cannot help, but think where God will lead us in 2019. To become a bit more focused in that area, our congregation will be going through a visioning process in 2019.

This will be an opportunity for us as The Lutheran Church of The Redeemer to discover and discern what it means to be disciples at Redeemer - for the community and world. I’ve said before that more often than not, whenever someone asks ‘who you are’ – whether that be who you are as an individual or as a community – we tend to define ourselves by what we are not. Which isn’t a great way (or complete) way to identify who you/we are. Going through this visioning process will – I believe – allow us to firmly define who we are and empower each of us to share that with those around us.

I’m hopeful and full of prayer that each of us here at Redeemer will dive deeply into this opportunity to see where God is indeed leading us as a congregation and people of faith. Plus, I think it’ll be a lot of fun!

So, this coming year of 2019 is a year of ‘identity’ for us. We should always know who and whose we are – for we are God’s. Created out of love and life for the world. Redeemed by the one who came down in love. Guided by the Holy Spirit to be at work in the world. This process will help us see how we live out that identity and where we can more fully live into those moments of faith, ministry, and service.

I’m looking forward to 2019 and I hope we can build off the momentum of where 2018 has thrust us. Keep in prayer for the ways that God continually invites and calls us into all moments and opportunities of faith, service, and ministry.

December 25, 2018, 12:00 AM

the one about that journey...

Sermon from Christmas Eve, 2018

Text: Luke 2:1-20


What joy it is to be with you all this, the most awe inspiring of nights!  I am so happy that each of you are here to celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ here at The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. Whether you’re new here, been here for a while, or visiting I am delighted that you are here this night.  Will y’all pray with me?

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

As many of y’all know, I’m a huge nerd. It’s why we have our monthly faith study called Nerd Word – where I and others get to bridge our geeky passions with our questions and stories of faith. It’s a lot of fun – y’all should check it out too. Plus, there’s food.

So, in that realm, this evening I wanted to share with all of you one of the best quotes I’ve heard in a while. And it just so happens to come from the latest season of Doctor Who.

As the doctor says goodbye again to another weary band of travelers that have been helped, she leaves them with these words.

“None of us knows for sure what’s out there. That’s why we keep looking. Keep your faith. Travel hopefully. The universe will surprise you; constantly.”

I heard that and could not help but think how much that resonates with us – those who follow and look to the one who has come to be with us.

There are many questions that we ask ourselves during this time of year, because we don’t know what’s out there. Did we get all the gifts we intended to get? When will our family get here? Can we even make it through the holidays with our families this year? What should I get so-and-so for Christmas? Is there truly light present in the darkness? And, of course the question many children ask, “Do we have to go to church… we were just here yesterday!?” 

We can also ask ourselves another question… How will we get to Bethlehem?  Where do we go to see what has been given to us by God on this day?

As we heard from Luke’s Gospel this evening, Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem as part of a family going about their everyday life. 

Or look at the shepherds as well, who come to Bethlehem by way of a dramatic, heavenly revelation.

The one common thread through all these paths is that no matter what path they took, that path has lead each of them to the same place. These paths lead to Bethlehem, the city of David, where a child sleeps, who is the messiah, the Christ for the entire world, the Word incarnate!

And how did you, my brothers and sisters, come here tonight? We have all traveled down different roads as we continue to seek and look to come to where we are now to celebrate this birth in Bethlehem.

You may be a member here at Redeemer and you came to celebrate the birth of our Lord because it is a part of your everyday life of faith. Or maybe, you are a single parent, seeking a way to relax and to hear the comforting words of the Gospel. Maybe, you are lonely or depressed and you’re seeking to hear the word of the One who does indeed love you and care for you and to hear about how that is manifested. Maybe you’re even curious as to this rumor of a baby named Jesus and who he is? Maybe you’re seeking something and you don’t really know what it might be at this point, but it has lead you here; to this place. Maybe you’ve seen enough trouble and heartbreak over the past few weeks and you need to hear words of hope, hymns of promise, and taste the body and blood of the one who has come to be with us.

No matter how you’ve come to this place, it has led you here, to the story of Bethlehem to behold the promise of God; to see this child, the Lord of Lords, the King of kings. You have come to Jesus. You have come to God. By whatever road we take, the story invites us all to Bethlehem. You’ve traveled here, just like Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, full of hope. Not sure what you’d find, but traveled hopefully for what God has done, is doing, and is about to accomplish.

What do we witness in Bethlehem?

God has pulled back the heavens and comes physically to the created world… as a child… as a baby. Think about that for a minute, let it sink in. And not only that, but God was born into a poor peasant family, a family that if looked upon by others would not be lifted up. Instead, they’d probably be scoffed at with others’ noses held high. Our Lord, born to a young girl, pregnant and soon to be married to a man who is not her baby’s daddy. Yeah, this isn’t what the world is looking for.

In all the ways that God could come to be with us, God chooses a way that is so… surprising. God chooses a way that I can almost assure you that we would not choose. One would expect God to come with all the pomp and pageantry into the world as the messiah befitting a marvelous king or emperor.

In fact, that is what most of Israel thought would happen (and truthfully, it is probably what most would want and expect today as well). Most thought that God would come as a strong, powerful, or cosmic figure who would lay waste to all the enemies of Israel. They never imagined that the messiah would come into the world as someone as weak, helpless, and dependent as an infant. 

God has typically been made known in ways that draw attention pretty startingly. The stories of fire, wind, and voice have been shared for generations about how God is made known and ‘shows up’ in the world. From what the nation of Israel had experienced, coming into the world as the Word incarnate as a child is NOT what anyone expected. But it IS how God came, and through this child, the one they called Jesus, God brings salvation and peace to the entire world.

Here, God surprises the world and begins life amongst us, fully flesh and blood. Coming into this world as any old human would. Being born, taking those first breaths just as any of us would have.

Here, God surprises the world and has promised to live life as one of God’s own creation. God begins to show how far that proclaimed love can go.

Here, at this beginning, God surprises the world and will show through Jesus what love really is. Being present with us through all of life – birth and eventually death.

Here – in Bethlehem where the bread of life is born; we are surprised. Constantly.

Our roads lead to this place and this moment. No matter how you got here, this is the place you find yourself right now.

And you know what? We don’t know what to expect as we come to this place.

Mary and Joseph have been told what this child means, and whose this child is. But, did they know for sure what that would look like? Maybe, but like most new parents I doubt it. We don’t know – for sure – what’s out there for us.

Those shepherds after they heard the angel’s message – did they know what they would find? Perhaps, but I’m not so sure. They’ve been told, but do they know truly what to look for? We all have our ideas of what this – this faith, this life, this hope – will look like, but we still have no idea what it’s really like.

But, as we search and gather together, we do so by keeping our faith. We travel together in hope for what God has given to us and what God continues to call us towards.

And as we travel full of hope – together – we are constantly surprised by what and how and where God is at work in the world.

Where God is made known in the unexpected, the outside-the-norm. God is made known in ways that throw us for loops.

So, I think the Doctor is right.

None of us knows for sure what is out there, but we keep looking and our God shows us the way. Our God shares life and love with us – with the entire world. And it begins this night.

Keep your faith. Know that God is indeed at work; still doing this new and wondrous thing.

Travel together; hopefully. We journey as sisters and brothers finding where God is – here in this Word, here in this meal, here in this place, here within each other. We travel full of hope because God has promised to be with us through all of this. And it begins tonight, in this wondrous and unexpected way in Bethlehem.

And as we travel, we are surprised by God. Constantly.

It is a journey full of hope, full of love, full of life.

We may not know what to expect, but we do this – this life of faith – together as a community, as followers of Christ, as sisters and brothers.

Unexpectedly and surprisingly, God has come to be with us. This night. This moment. We celebrate that love of God come down to be with us. We celebrate, and we share. We gift this love to others because we have already received it.

Know this love – this surprising love of God come down to be with us.

Keep your faith, travel hopefully, God will surprise you. Constantly. Amen.

December 24, 2018, 12:00 AM

the one about mary and elizabeth...

Sermon from December 23, 2018

Text: Luke 1:39-45

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen!

So, we are so tantalizingly close to celebrating the birth of our Lord. Most – if not all – preparations (that we know of) are covered. Cards sent out, presents purchased, gifts wrapped. Now we just wait a few more days.

In the life of the church, things are getting prepared as well. As you see here in the worship space, we’ve been adding just a little bit more each week as we move close and closer to the day of our Lord’s Nativity and birth. Trees, decorations, flowers, handbell tables.

There have been preparations with bulletins, and liturgy, and music, and volunteers, and more.

We are in the midst of preparation. And for the most part – for the most part – things are going OK. We know what lays before us. Sure, some things can get out of whack a bit, but we’ll handle it – like the phones not working right now. We can be calm.

I think about the calmness that Mary must not have really been feeling in our gospel lesson this morning. She’s been visited by an angel, she’s been told she is carrying a child. Not only that, but this kid is going to be kind of a big deal for the world.

Teenage pregnancy is stressful enough today; what with the looks and the whispers that people always give towards a young pregnant woman in our world. Adding on top the risk of potentially not being insured – or insurance potentially not covering the pregnancy, or not covering it in a way that the cost would be manageable. And that goes for anyone, let alone a young woman with possibly no income. And even seeing that stress lived out, I still cannot imagine what it could’ve been like back in Mary’s time.

Imagine for a moment all the things that Mary would be worried about. Yes, she boldly listens to the angel and accepts her role as the bearer of God’s child for the world, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a bit of fear, apprehension, and worry on her part.

She isn’t married. She’s young. She lives in a culture that not only looks down upon a young girl in her situation, but she could be killed for bringing this sort of shame not only to her family, but especially because she could bring shame to the one she is engaged to marry.

Lay on top of that – the angel has said who this child will be for the world.

That’s a lot of pressure.

As a commentator wrote this week, there is space – perhaps even a pregnant pause – between verse 38 and where our text this morning begins at verse 39. A lot can be fit in that space.

For you see, Mary leaves in haste to go visit her cousin Elizabeth. She needs to talk to someone and she possibly doesn’t feel like she’ll get it from those around her. And can you blame her? Who would believe this girl that God had gifted her this child? What would her friends say? Her parents? Her community? Her Joseph…?

I imagine that she is scared and full of panic. Hopefully her cousin will be able to comfort her and offer her support. Imagine what that journey could’ve been like for Mary? Imagine what the journey is currently like for those within our world, community, and country today. Those who seek help, support, and comfort when thrust into this potential at such a young age.

Mary finally arrives at the doorstep of Elizabeth’s and Zechariah’s home. She crosses the threshold, and everything seems to change. As she enters the home, she is not greeted with side-eyes, shade, and disapproving sighs. No, she is greeted with love, joy, and praise.

Elizabeth welcomes her young cousin with praise and adoration. She knows what’s going on. She herself has received the remarkable blessing of pregnancy from God in her age. She knows already that Mary is pregnant and how special her child will be for the world. She welcomes Mary with praise and blessing.

Blessed are you Mary. Blessed is the child you carry! You are blessed cousin! She welcomes Mary to come, to rest.

I imagine that there was a massive and relieved hug and sigh from both of these women.

It is in this moment, that Mary bursts into song. Adding her own rendition to the words that the community of God has lifted up through the generations. Those words of hope. Those words of salvation. Those words of remembrance. Those words of God’s love bestowed upon creation.

Mary’s song erupts from her very being after she is loved and welcomed by her cousin. After she receives support and praise from another.

Her song doesn’t begin when the Angel tells her of her current situation and future. Her song doesn’t crescendo on the road like a Disney princess in a travel montage.

No, Mary’s song of hope for Israel and the people of God breaks forth after she is welcomed in love and support.

Mary begins to sing after she finds help, refuge, and support.

I wonder what life would be like for those young women in our world today who are carrying children before society thinks they should if they were greeted as warmly as Elizabeth greets Mary. Opening homes, hearts, and love with support, refuge, and love.

What would the church look like, what would the community of faith look like, if we looked upon each person we see as a potential bearer of God’s light and life?

How would we view the world, how would we live in this world, if we greeted all we met – no matter who they were, where they came from, or what situation they were in – with grace, care, and love.

As we move closer and closer to the celebration of our Lord’s birth, we remember the strength of Mary and Elizabeth. The strength of these women to find comfort in one another and the strength to believe each other in their stories and truths.

These women – both of them – provide us a model and guide in how to welcome and seek help and guidance.

These women can and should teach this community of faith and the entire Church universal of what it means to welcome the one before us – no matter their situation, origin, or story.

As we approach Christmas Eve – the story of an unwed mother giving birth, what does it look like to – how do we live into – welcome the one before us in love, grace, and hope?

How do we welcome and love as God welcomes and loves each of us? Offering love, refuge, food, drink, and life.

Let us all welcome like Elizabeth. Let us all seek help like Mary. Let us all see God present in the midst of the stories before us and in the lives of the people around us. Amen.

December 17, 2018, 8:00 AM

the one about being simple, but not easy...

Sermon from December 16, 2018

Text: John 3:7-18

Grace and peace be with you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, what better way to begin this third week in Advent than to hear John the Baptist yell to all who gathered to hear him, “You brood of vipers!” He kind of lays it into them doesn’t it? Calls them out – calls us out.

How’d you hear about this wrath that is to come? You who fall back on your traditions and history – you better watch out. God doesn’t really care about all that. You better watch out, all of you!

John the Baptist’s words are incredibly harsh and can cause great fear to rise up within you. It is no wonder that those who gathered around him asked – possibly quivering with fear in their voices, ‘What then should we do?’

I kind of chuckle every time I read John’s response because, well… it doesn’t seem to fit. It seems too easy doesn’t it? Share what you have an abundance of – in possessions and food. Don’t take advantage of people, be content with what you have.

I had a friend who in a recent discussion about this text said, “This is like if I said to my own kids – You are the worst of all time and I am going to punch you in the face, throw you out into the street, and never speak to you again.” And they responded, “what can we do?” And I said, “just take the trash out.”

As many of y’all have commented to me these last few weeks – I’m getting in better shape, I’m feeling good, and I’ve lost weight – at least enough for others to take notice.

One of the main questions I’ve been asked (both seriously and jokingly) is, ‘what did you do?’ What is the secret to losing weight? How did you go about doing it! Has it been a diet, a complete life change, a complicated procedure? The answer of course to all of that is really, ‘no.’

Just watch what you eat – don’t over indulge and exercise – even a little bit.

It really isn’t any more than that.

We live in a world today – and the world I feel has been this way for a long time – that wants really complicated answers to life-rending questions.

How can I be saved? How does God love me? What can we do to get more people involved?

I think we expect to hear some complicated answer. We expect to be told to jump through these hoops or adhere to this strict guidelines or rulesets.

Yet, more often than not the answers to many of those questions are quite simple.

How can I be healthy? Eat in moderation, exercise – even just a little bit.

How can we get more people involved here? Ask them and invite them – literally talk to them.

How can I be saved from the wrath John warns about? Share what you have. Don’t take advantage of people. Know that you are loved.

How do I know God loves me? Because God created you, became flesh for you, lived for you, died for you, was resurrected for you.

Sometimes the answers to what people think are tough questions are really quite simple.

Now, of course living into those simple answers can be quite difficult. That’s what we fight against constantly.

You say eat in moderation and exercise to feel healthy and lose weight, but it feels good to eat and exercise can make me feel tired, sore, and it hurts sometimes.

I know. But, we’re here to help live and go through it together.

You say to get more people involved and a part of the community here I have to talk to them, but I’m scared. What if they say no? What if they ask me questions and I don’t have an answer?

I know. But, we’re here to help live and go through it together.

But, if I give away what I have, I’ll have less. What if I can’t clothe myself or provide enough food for me family? If I just do this little thing, sure that person might not get the best deal, but it is better for me and my family.

I know. But, we’re here to help live and go through it together.

Sometimes I don’t feel that love or it doesn’t happen in the way that I expect or want. Sometimes it is hard to remember that.

I know. But, we’re here to help live and go through it together.

This morning we hear John the Baptist paint a picture that seems pretty bleak and hopeless for the world. He calls those gathered around him – and in turn each of us – a brood of vipers. A place no one wants to be. Dangerous and not kind. He calls on those around him to not rely on the things they’ve always been told. Just being descendants of Abraham isn’t going to be much of anything since God can raise up descendants from the rocks. Don’t let your history and knowledge of who you are get in the way of actually living into what God calls you and has created you to be.

So, what must we do?

Share what you have. Don’t take advantage of others. Be kind to those around you. Be content with what you have.

The answer to the question of ‘what must we do’ isn’t difficult or complicated. In fact, it is rather simple and unexpected.

Of course, living into those simple things can prove difficult because we make it difficult. Yet, we remember that we are gathered together to live, work, play, and serve with and for one another. We don’t venture off alone, but we strive together to live into the simple answers that John the Baptist gives the crowd this morning.

And, when the question eventually comes up from others, ‘How… how can you do this? Why do you do this?’

Again, our answer is simple. So, simple we forget it most of the time.

We do this – we share what we have; we’re kind and open to those around us; we’re content with what we’ve been given; we live a life for others rather than taking from others – we do all this because God loves us, and God loves you, too. And we know this love because of the gift that we celebrate in God coming to creation as Jesus Christ.

Now, we don’t always live into those simple truths and ways. But, we do it together, never alone. And well – we know God is with us too through it all. Amen.

December 10, 2018, 8:00 AM

the one about that message that is famous...

Sermon from December 9, 2018

Text: Luke 3:1-6

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, a few years ago I was doing things that I normally do when life slows down, and I’ve got a bit of free time – stalking on and perusing social media. Mostly Facebook. There is a particular comic strip that I enjoy quite often called Coffee with Jesus. I’ve shared a number of those strips myself and even have one posted on my office door.

This particular time, the panel was between Jesus (as always) and one of the regulars; ‘Carl.’ He asks Jesus who his favorite Christian artist is. Jesus replies that it’s a woman in a small village in Thailand who sings her heart out while farming. Carl’s annoyed response is, “Oh, so no one anyone’s ever heard of.’ The final panel has Jesus saying, “She won’t be touring the church circuit anytime soon, Carl, but she’s famous where I come from.”

I thought of that little comic strip as I read our gospel lesson for this morning.

We live in a world that finds power in the big, the bright, and the popular. We find ‘comfort’ at times in the individuals who are well known, and we expect others to fall in line with that train of thought. We, at times, even expect God to follow that sort of way of thinking as well; for if they are famous, well liked, wealthy, powerful, and more – obviously God likes them because without God’s blessings how could they be where they are?

As this third chapter of Luke begins, Luke places us within the history of all that is going down. He sets the stage of when this moment will occur – this new thing that God is preparing to do. He runs down a veritable ‘who’s – who’ of leaders at the time. Tiberius, Pilate, Herod, Annas, Caiaphas, and more. Powerful and well-known figures of the area and time. People who were looked up to and in some ways feared because of the might they held. Those individuals that most would consider to be extremely well love or liked by God, because of the power and positions they held.

And yet as powerful and well-known as they were, none of them is who the word of God came upon.

The Word of God came to John, son of Zechariah. Not only did the word of God come upon a person no one had ever heard of, but in a place far removed from the hubbub of the world.

This indeed is something different that God is doing.

Well. Not really.

God has always been in the habit of being made known in and through means and ways that are different from what the world traditionally lifts up. The work that God is up to always comes from those on the outskirts, those of non-traditional upbringings and lives, those who are unknown.

And, I think we really and truly forget that. We like to think that God’s grace, blessings, and very self come to those who are great, and wonderful, and powerful, and well-known. That God at times only speaks through those who have charisma, charm, good looks, bold ties, and powerful reach.

It doesn’t help that we constantly hoist individuals like that up to ‘speak’ for God and on God’s behalf so often.

Yet, as we begin this second week of the season of Advent, we again are introduced to one of the most odd characters in the bible. A man who comes from humble beginnings, who we later learn lives quite differently from the rest of the world. John was strange even for the times. Today, a person like John the Baptist wouldn’t speak to us in a three-piece suit with a well-manicured beard on national television. No, he’d probably be emerging from a cardboard box under an overpass somewhere on the corner of who cares, and I don’t know where.

This is how God comes and speaks to us. This is how God is made known to us. Through unconventional and interesting ways. And as odd as the messenger is – the message he proclaims is one that today we know so well, but still easily forget, and still need to remember and hold on to even more.

He preached and proclaimed a message of repentance and forgiveness. The messaged he proclaimed was one of promise and hope. He preached that no matter what – God’s love was not and is not removed from people – any people.

God’s love is there present with you. Always. God loves you and forgives you. In that love repent of those ways that draw you from God.

Those cross thoughts about someone who thinks differently than you? Repent, for God loves you.

The thing you keep doing that you know is wrong and could bring hurt to the relationships in your life? Repent, for God loves you.

Not being able to see the person before you as a beloved child of God – assuming they are evil, dirty, or a criminal – solely based on where they’ve come? Repent, for God loves you.

And all those people you’ve been ‘against’? Repent, for God loves them too.

And in that message that John proclaims, we can hear the prophet Isaiah as well. That one who spoke so boldly generations before about this God of love and forgiveness who brings things and life to fullness. Who will make the world see God’s loving presence in the world.

God will do, and has done, and continues to do all that. God continues to show up in our lives, through ways and means that we wouldn’t expect. Smoothing out those areas so that we might be able to see that love and presence more clearly and more vividly.

This word – this presence of being made known to the world – did not come to those who are powerful. It did not come to those with vast amounts of wealth, prestige, and popularity. It did not come to those with fancy clothes. It did not come to those who might be distractions.

Instead, the word of God came upon John. Son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He doesn’t look like someone we should listen to. He doesn’t live life in a way that many would jump in and join.

But, just as that comic I mentioned ended – John probably won’t be touring the church circuit anytime soon, but the message that he proclaims is pretty famous where Jesus comes from. Amen.

December 3, 2018, 8:00 AM

the one where we wait...

Sermon from December 2, 2018

Text - Luke 21:25-36

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen.

So, welcome to Advent, right? What a gospel text to march us into the season where we sit on pins and needles with bated breath as we wait in expectant hope for what is to come. The part that I think most of us wait for is the opportunity and joy that Christmas mostly represents. There have been so many things to prepare for and so many more things left to get finished. It seems that we always come to this time in the rising excitement that more and more appears to begin just after Halloween.

If anyone has seen a child lately, you can just feel the buzz of their own excitement – presents and more are coming. There’s cookies and awesome food everywhere. Lights. Trees. Crisp air. There is so much going on you cannot help, but be excited because they are excited.

So, we are all just bursting with anticipation for what is to come.

And then what? We get this text from Luke. We get to hear Jesus talk about signs, distress, and confusion. Our text this morning is turning into a real buzzkill as we enter into the season of Advent looking forward to Christmas.

Then as we hear Jesus’ words, we can begin to look a little more intently at the world around us. And, you know what. It’s not all lights, glitter, and amazing smells. There is destruction, and apathy, and fear, and lots and lots of confusion. There is palpable anger from so many people who hold on to so many beliefs and ideologies and leanings.

If we’re not careful we will think that Jesus is just talking about us right now. That these indeed are the signs. There is fear and foreboding, Jesus must be on his way soon. Though, whenever this text has been read – there has always been fear and foreboding. Jesus spoke these words as he was entering into Jerusalem before his death. He spoke these words knowing full well what may come. These words were originally written at a time when these new believers were being looked at sideways and persecuted for venturing on a path of belief outside the norm. These are not just words to heed by as readers and believers in the modern era.

We hear and read these words of Jesus and we might be able to approach this time in a new way. Yes, there is confusion and foreboding around us. We cannot deny that, nor should we deny that present reality. It isn’t so much about the future that may come or even just about past that has already transpired. But, the reality is that right now there is a lot of junk going on and people are fearful. We continue to walk through unknown times and confusion abounds.

And yet, Jesus still speaks to us this day, and I see his words in verse 28 to be especially helpful. Stand up. Raise your heads. Know that your redemption draws near.

Stand up. Take notice. Be on guard. Hope is here.

Hope. That is what we enter into during this season of Advent. It is in this season that we wait with expectation for that hope. We trust and have faith with what will come, but we still have to wait. We still have to endure. We cannot remove ourselves from our present situations. We can’t magically – as much at times as we’d like to – wave a wand and make it all go away.

So, we wait. We wait and hold fast to the knowledge that God is at work. That this new thing that God is doing, has done, and will do is to come and be with us – all of us – through it all. We believe and worship a God whose love for us is so strong, that God breaks into creation to live life with us. To be that much closer. To point all of us towards the goodness and new life that God ushers into the world.

We are not in this alone. Jesus – the Son of God – whose birth we anticipate in hope – is with us. Emmanuel. That our Lord speaks adamantly to us this morning through these words of scripture to remind us that everything else may pass away, but these words – this promise – this hope – God’s very self – will never pass away. Ever.

God – our hope – chooses to be with us. Even in the midst of some pretty terrible times. Stand firm with faith in the ever-lasting, redemptive love of our Savior who chose to be with us in the worst of times, as a vulnerable, naked, poor baby. Jesus doesn’t promise an escape from the pain, fear, and awfulness of the world. Jesus promises to live through it, with us.

As we begin this season of Advent, we are reminded – in joy and expectant hope – that all is not lost. And that’s hard to remember at times. There is hope and joy to come. God has broken into the world. God has torn the heavens asunder. God has re-ordered creation itself. God has done this out of love and grace. God invites us into this life. God is out there actively working so that we might know this love for us.

Because you know what? As I’ve read all these texts in preparation for this Sunday and this season, I noticed something. People aren’t doing a whole lot of ‘active stuff’ in these passages. There’s nothing in here about ‘get right or else.’ There is not a sense of, if you don’t believe exactly like this, you’re going to be toast. So, you better watch out and, well you better cry and plead that God does indeed notice and love you. That’s not what is going on.

Foolishly, I think we believe our hope rests in what we do. We’ve got to prepare our hearts, so that God will come. We need to pray so that Jesus will love us. We need to serve so that we can stand before the Son of Man.

But, if you read over these texts again, there is only one individual who is ‘doing’ all the things. There is only one person that is actively participating and making sure things are ‘going on.’ It’s God. God is the one who is redeeming and bringing righteousness to bear. The Lord is the one directing us into love and grace. Jesus is the one giving us strength so that we can endure during the difficult times knowing that hope waits for us – all of us.

God. Is. At. Work.

Jesus isn’t calling us to not be ‘flat-footed’ else we miss out on God’s love. No, Jesus is calling us to take notice of what is going on as God’s love and redeeming grace continues to build and shine through us and others. To take notice that hope is indeed present, and we do wait in expectant joy for that hope to be made known fully to the world.

Now, this doesn’t mean we get to or should we just sit back and relax and let God get everything done. But, God does indeed call us and work through us to enact that righteousness and vision of peace for the world. We do pray, and love, and serve all around us. Not so that we are noticed and in turn rewarded by God, but we do all that because God works through us and already has gifted us life eternal so that we can pray, love, and serve.

Yet, in the midst of troubling times. It is hard to remember that joy, that hope, that presence of God with us. Over the summer at camp while I gathered with youth from Redeemer, our Confirmation cohort here in Newberry, and our cluster across the southeast, I was introduced to a song and poem that spoke powerfully to this hope to come.

It was a poem that was scrawled into the walls of a cellar by Jews who were hiding from Nazis in Cologne, Germany during World War II; it is called “Inscription of Hope.” I want to end my sermon this morning and begin our expectant walk through Advent with these words…

I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love
even when there’s no one there
And I believe in God
even when he is silent
I believe through any trial there is always a way.
But sometimes in this suffering and hopeless despair
My heart cries for shelter
and to know someone’s there
But a voice rises within me saying “hold on my child”
I’ll give you strength
I’ll give you hope
Just stay a little while
May there someday be sunshine
May there someday be happiness
May there someday be love
May there someday be peace.

That someday, I believe is in God’s in-breaking of creation, this new thing that God has done, is doing, and continues to do for the entire world. This new thing we wait for and have already seen, this Advent of God. This Advent of the Spirit. This Advent of the Son. Amen.

December 1, 2018, 8:00 AM

December 2018 Newsletter

Wow. November was an incredibly pivotal and powerful month in the history of Redeemer. On November 11, we held our annual meeting and voted in new members of council and nominating team. We approved our 2019 Ministry Spending Plan. We overwhelmingly voted to enact the continuing resolution of our new Endowment Fund. After all that, we as a congregation unanimously voted to pay off our Growing in Grace mortgage (which has been done officially now). That is an incredible thing to be a part of. Plus, it’ll occurred all within 25 minutes? That might be the most amazing thing!

Our Endowment Team is hard at work in finalizing who will manage this fund. Then they will begin the process of receiving letters and proposals from the community on how that money could be used to fund numerous ministry projects around our area, state, country, and world. Those funds will begin to be distributed in 2020. Continue to be in prayer for them as they continue their work.

This month, your council at Redeemer will decide which organizations we will be able to help through the tithe portion of the gift from Carl Legrand Amick, Jr. We talked briefly about where that tithe could go during November’s meeting, and there are some worthwhile and amazing organizations that we can help with immediate (and substantial) funds. As a council – and as your pastor – we are looking at ways that we can make a great impact to help those organizations in the best and most needed ways possible. It’s really fun!

Finance Team and Council will begin in 2019 going through the Financial Needs and Wants list that we as a congregation put together a number of months ago with Deacon Mitzie Schafer’s help. We’ll begin to prioritize what items on that list fit into our scope and vision as a congregation, but also items that are needed and desired by the congregation. This will be another exciting task and endeavor for our leadership to pursue this coming year.

Finally, work has begun to celebrate this gift that Legrand has given to Redeemer. More information will be given as to what that will look like, but council has tentatively set the date of that celebration to be February 10, 2019; the one-year anniversary of Legrand’s death.

We of course will be given even more opportunities to give back from our abundance through ministries like Angel Tree and the ELCA Good Gifts. We can give back by serving those at White Oak Manor this month as we worship and sing carols with them. Who knows what other opportunities we will be given.

I am honored and humbled to be your pastor. Where we truly get to serve God, we get to serve one another, and we get to serve with one another. What better month to be so intentional about our giving of this gift, than the month we celebrate God’s great gift to the world – God’s in-breaking into the creation through the birth of a savior in Bethlehem.

Throughout it all, we will remember God’s goodness, love, and grace given to all of creation. We get to do this y’all, isn’t it great? Amen.

November 26, 2018, 8:00 AM

the one where the king isn't typical...

Sermon from November 25, 2018

Christ the King Sunday

Text: John 18:33-37

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, whenever we get to a text like this, I feel like I should make one quick sidebar about something. In the text as it is written in many English translations (in particular the one that is in your pews and the one that this pulpit bible uses), it can get a little confusing because we are limited in our language in a multitude of ways, but we are also limited if we do not understand the historical context in which this text is written.

At first glance, it would seem that Jesus is not happy with those who are Jewish. Verse 36 seems to point to that fact quite clearly as Jesus is stating his followers – if they understood who he was and what he was doing – wouldn’t allow him to be handed over to the Jews. Here’s the thing. Jesus is Jewish. His followers are Jewish. The more correct word to place in that space would be religious aristocracy. The leaders of the temple. The religious figures that speak with big voices. Jesus is not – nor has he ever been – against the faith of Judaism; against those who are Jewish.

Jesus does however, speak quite plainly that he is calling those who do not live into their call or use their call to prop themselves up and not serve God and others to repent. Unfortunately, this text gets translated into a multitude of languages without clarifying that aspect of the history in which Jesus lived and in which this gospel and others were written. And, as we have seen throughout history and tragically in the last few months, that many take texts like this and twist them so that they can be used to prop up pretty awful and terrible actions towards those who are Jewish today. Don’t do that. Seriously. That’s not what Jesus is about and hasn’t been.

Ok, so with that out of the way, how do we approach this text on this day – the last day of the church year – Christ the King Sunday. This day that we remember Jesus’ reign over the kingdom of heaven in which he ushers into the world, but a kingdom that is different from what anything the world has ever known.

Many, many individuals are confused by this kingdom that Jesus speaks of and that his followers proclaim as well. Jesus himself is the sort of ‘king’ that is unlike any other king we’ve known. How many of us have ever heard of a ‘king’ – any type of king – that reigns over an area and people that doesn’t speak about that privilege or honor? Almost every depiction of a king that we have known will speak boldly of their power, their reach, their might, and more. They’ll talk about how loyal their subjects are, the lengths that they are able to go to secure their rule for years, the power of their armies, and more. If there is one thing that I have seen depicted throughout history of kings and other equally powerful people – they are not shy to speak about what they control or the power that they can wield.

Yet, as we see here in John’s gospel as Jesus speaks to Pilate (just a short time before Jesus’ crucifixion) he isn’t boastful at all about the kingdom he rules. Pilate is confused by this, but still wants answers. If he can get Jesus to admit that he is a king – a king within the Roman Empire no less – then he’ll have grounds to end his supposed ‘reign’ as he would be declaring himself against Caesar (the one true king and god within the empire that Pilate upholds and serves).

He wants answers, but the answers that Jesus gives are not spoken in a way that makes this sort of conversation very easy to sit through. He isn’t direct, he isn’t boastful, he doesn’t act like any other king that we’ve seen. On this day of celebration of Jesus as King and his Reign in the kingdom, we don’t get to see him in a typical role of a king.

There is no power to be had here. He isn’t performing a miracle, there are no voices from on high declaring who he is, there is no incredible sign pointing to Jesus. No, instead we get a story from just before Jesus is put to death.

We get to listen in on a conversation that he has been dragged into forcefully and with hate and malice from those in power around him. This is not the typical image we’d expect from a king. There is no pomp, no circumstance, no coronation.

Yet, Jesus isn’t seeking that kind of coronation. The crown he will wear, is a crown of service, suffering, and death. For all those looking upon him that day – and still for many in this modern time – will see him as a failure. He died. His ‘kingdom’ however loosely cobbled together it appeared to be, was thought to be snuffed out in the most visible and embarrassing way possible.

Yet, we celebrate Christ our King this day.

It’s all kind of confusing isn’t it? It seems kind of contradictory that we would support this day with such a festival.

I mean, imagine that you’re living during this time of Jesus’ life and death – how you’d be laughed at because you followed Jesus the ‘king’ of the Jews. That king who was cut down in his life and publicly executed? That’s the guy who is your king? What’s wrong with you?

I imagine that that’s what many of Jesus’ followers heard during this time and what many of those early worshippers of God in Christ Jesus our Lord heard from in the years that followed the birth of this movement of God.

And, we’re gathered again today to celebrate our king. A king that many would say is a failure because he didn’t succeed. At least, not in the way that most would expect.

There’s still death. There’s still hate. There’s still fear. We don’t have to search too hard to find those things in our world today. And with the advent of technology it seems that that terrible-ness is always right outside our door (even when it is nowhere close to where we are).

Where we remember that yes, Christ is nailed to a cross and that he does die and is laid in the tomb. But, we know and have faith that this isn’t the final word. We know that this isn’t where Jesus will end up. We know he will rise. That we seek to follow the voice of the truth in our life. The voice that calls to us, leads us, and pushes us to see the kingdom at work in the midst of our world.

Where in the story we hear and read today – our ‘failed’ king of Christ is put on the same level as the ‘successful’ ruler that is Pilate. They talk, and Jesus leads that conversation to the truth – the truth that is his word and his life. The truth that Jesus is the word and is the life.

For we know that Jesus is not a ‘failure.’ At least not in the eyes of God. For the victory that Jesus receives and gifts to each of us in our baptisms, is the gift of new life; the gift of a renewed and resurrected life in those holy waters.

We hear this story on the last day of our church year. We hear this day, Pilate ask the question, “What is truth?” knowing full well that next Sunday we enter into the season where we get to say, “Just wait and we’ll show you.”

We end this church year on a question – of what is truth?

This is a question that many of us seek to find an answer to. It is the question that continues to be on the forefront of our minds in the midst of a turbulent time in the life of our country. Everyone has their ‘own’ truth. And even when we can show verifiable truth, others will still call it fake because it doesn’t fit into their worldview, it clashes with what they want to believe.

There are many who think the truth is in military power, or in political words, perhaps in the latest technological marvel, or in intellect and experience. And none of those things are truly bad. Depending how they are used.

It’s good to have a means to protect yourself, it is good to be able to talk and converse in political realms, having technological marvels does make life a bit easier at times, and possessing a sound intellect and learning from those with vast experience can be worthwhile – but, none of those are the truth. In fact, most of those aren’t even led by the voice that proclaims the truth. In more ways than one, those things can distract us and pull us away from the truth that is spoken and by the one who speaks truth.

For we know who calls us towards the truth. We know that voice that calls us by name. That voice full of care, and grace, and love, and power. That voice that leads us to see the kingdom around us. That voice that directs us to see God at work in our lives and the life of the world. That voice that is always at work – proclaiming, serving, being with all of creation.

As we approach the coming season of Advent – that time where we are in expectant hope of the in-breaking of God into our world and lives in the birth of God’s son – we still listen to that voice that proclaims the truth. And as we listen, we see our lives being led by our king – our Christ.

We won’t always know what that looks or sounds like. It’ll more than likely come from places that we wouldn’t expect. Though in those moments of confusion and unknown, we do know that our King – the one who speaks truth – looks and sounds a lot like the ones who serve those in need, who proclaim love and grace, who are present among those cast to the side by our world.

The truth that is spoken to us – the voice that we follow – speaks that language of love for the world. When we’re being led by that kind of voice, than our lives begin to look a lot like the one our Christ the King calls us into.

How that is made known in our lives is different for everyone, but the voice still calls out to us, still leads us, still pushes us, to see the truth and love that is in the world. The truth that isn’t of military power, of political rhetoric, of technological or of intellectual feats.

This truth that boldly walks to the cross for the sake of the world and is victorious over sin and death. Who in his victory frees us from the chains of fear and trepidation that the rest of those ‘voices’ would rather us listen to.

On this Christ the King Sunday, we celebrate the one that the world wouldn’t expect. And as we end this year in the church, we look forward for the ability to wait and to make space for the truth – for the voice of Christ – who calls to us and leads us out of grace and peace and love. Amen.

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