Jesus: The Early Years ~ Reverence

Sunday’s Scripture ~ John 2:1-11

This week concludes Reeves’ first unofficial 2013 sermon series.  I say unofficial because I didn’t intend Jesus: The Early Years to actually be a sermon series…it just sort of happened that way.  Love when the Spirit moves in ways that I never expect and makes greatness out of what most definitely would have been scatteredness.  Thanks be to God.

Jesus has been baptized and has crossed the threshold into his years of full-time ministry.  It is believed he served three years in ministry from the time of his baptism until his crucifixion.  According to the Fourth Gospel, the Wedding at Cana is his first public miracle.

One of my favorite capturings of the Weddings at Cana in reception history is from !Hero the Rock Opera.  Enjoy!

Yes…weddings in the Jewish culture in the time of Jesus were a big and widely attended.  They still are today.

And Jesus was in the midst of this one.  I can’t help but smile when I think about Jesus at a reception…what if Jesus gathered with all the fellas to catch the garter!?!  What if he helped heckle the groom as he went to retrieve said garter…

I can imagine Jesus with joy on his face as he sang the celebratory songs and participated in the traditional chair dances, as he ate, drank, and was merry.  I agree with Robert Brearley that “sometimes the church has forgotten that our Lord once attended a wedding feast and said yes to gladness and joy.  Prompted by his earthly mother, Jesus turned water into wine to point us to his heavenly Father, a God who loves to hear the laughter of people celebrating people.  Sometimes the church has forgotten to live the joy of such revelation.”*

In the Incarnation God inserted joy into brokenness through the Word made flesh in Jesus.  And in Cana God kept the joy overflowing – and the partying going – as Jesus turned water into wine.  What a testament this is that life is not about drudgery just waiting for the next ball to drop but that life is a ball and something worth living because of the God who gave and gives us life!

I am guilty of letting troubles weigh me down – in my personal life, in my church, in my community, in my country, in my world.  While in seminary my friend Dan and I took a course entitled Crisis Ministry and it seemed for a while that every chapter of every book we read began with a reference to Psalm 22 – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  It became a sort of inside joke for us…we felt forsaken because we continually had to read about our forsakenness…even though we were far from it.

Yes, my friends, we are far from it.  In the midst of troubles, God desires joy and works swiftly on our behalves to return us to moments of celebration.  God wants us to live in Cana.

God wants our lives to be one great big party.

With Jesus.

Prayer: Great God, you are the giver of all good things.  You gave us life to enjoy to the fullest and to give back to you in service and love.  When life gets in the way of that joy – when events turn our posture away from celebration to worry, to fear, to anger, to disgust – Lord, redeem our thoughts, soften our hearts, and empower our hands, our feet, our hearts, and our wills that together we work to return to celebration.  In joy we pray, Amen.

*Quote from David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting On the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, Volume 1 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 260 and 262.

Jesus: The Early Years ~ Authentic Grit

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 3:21-22

Last Friday I treated myself to a movie.

In a movie theatre.

I know…this could cost a person one’s entire paycheck if he or she is not careful!

But my local theatre has a great “early bird” showing price – $4.50 for any show beginning before 2:30pm every day.

To that I say, “tweet tweet.”

I saw “Les Miserables.”  I thought it was spectacular.  The music – the sets – the costumes – the casting.  I laughed – I cried – I hummed along.  I even sang in a few instances…the theatre was rather empty…it was an 11am showing.

I have seen other installments of the film (one day I hope to see a stage production).  I have read Hugo’s work…and portions of it in French.  But each time I see it I am still not prepared for the graphic and dire straits in which the people of France find themselves.

I find the words from We Three Kings fitting, “sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying…”

Driven mad by hunger, sickness, anger, grief, and guilt.  Feeling completely alone in a sea of people.  Wanting for companionship – true companionship.  Craving the chance for a fresh start.

Aching for hope.

Mind, Jesus was not a contemporary of the 1832 June Rebellion of Paris.

But

as he presented himself for baptism at the banks of Jordan River, the community gathered around him may have felt a kindred heart with the characters crafted by Hugo.

The Gospel according the Luke tells us that the baptism of Jesus occurred with “all the people.”  And who were these people?  We know they weren’t all “high society.”  Some of them may have been.  But most of them – most of them were characters the likes of Les Mis.

Robert M. Brearley describes it this way, “Jesus presented himself for baptism as an act of solidarity with a nation and a world of sinners.  Jesus simply got in line with everyone who had been broken by the “wear and tear” of this selfish world and had all but given up on themselves and their God.  When the line of downtrodden and sin-sick people formed in hopes of new beginnings through a return to God, Jesus joined them.  At his baptism, he identified with the damaged and broken people who needed God.”*

If you are familiar with Les Mis you know that a sort of line was formed among the townspeople that were recruited for the rebellion.  Leaders were appointed and they spearheaded the revolt until they met their fates through musket fire and canon blasts.  But the people who sought change fought for it and remained resilient.  The closing scene of the film is an image of rebirth – the townspeople emerging from the wreckage, claiming the newness of their lives out from under the regime, claiming their agency, claiming their destiny.

Jesus joined a line of downtrodden folk seeking new life through healing waters.  That new life also sparked a rebellion of sorts.  Some wanted it to be more of a political rebellion – perhaps along the lines of Les Mis – but what occurred first was more an ideological and spiritual awakening and realignment.  Jesus was and continues to be the leader, the shepherd, of this movement.  His leadership led him to his death, which is our threshold to eternal life, our truth rebirth.

Jesus got in line with humanity.  He got in line with you and me.  And all our mess.  He got in line with Les Miserables The Miserables and in his baptism, suffering death, and resurrection proved to us his unyielding commitment.

Prayer: Holy God, when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan the heavens opened, the Spirit descended, and your voice affirmed your love in Jesus for the healing of the human race and all creation.  By water and word you lovingly invite us into this same life-giving mission.  May your Spirit, moving like a stream of water flowing from its source, work in us this day to realize your vision of a world made new in Christ, in whose name we pray.  Amen.**

* Quote from David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting On the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, Volume 1 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 240.

** Prayer from Kimberly Bracken Long, ed., Feasting On the Word Worship Companion: Liturgies for Year C (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), 46.

Jesus: The Early Years ~ No Place I’d Rather Be

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 2:41-52

In our Scripture passage this week Jesus begins to live into his destiny!

(That sounds kind of corny…but I cannot think of another word that fits what I am seeking to capture.)

In this Scripture passage Jesus begins his transition from student to Rabbi.  This is all part of the plan of him being the Rabbi.  The Master.  The Lord.  The Savior.  The Son of God.  

This is who Jesus was created to be.  This is who Jesus was.  Jesus accepted this yoke.  Jesus drank from this cup.  Ultimately Jesus hung from this cross.  My intent is not to be dramatic, but to give voice to the magnitude of what may appear to be a quiet text…besides the little scuffle Jesus has with his folks about missing the departure time from downtown Jerusalem.

Mary and Joseph find him in the Synagogue.  In God’s House.  There is no place he’d rather be.  And Jesus admits it.  Openly.  Freely.  Unashamedly.

This Scripture is the springboard for Jesus into authenticity, which I think is an endangered species today.

  • We fear to be who we truly are for how we will be received or for how we have been received.
  • We worry about the ramifications it will have on our relationships with our families, our friends, our co-workers.
  • We question, “If I am me will I be passed over for that promotion?  Will I keep my job?  Will I keep my friends?  Will I keep my family?”
  • We weigh the possibility of living in-authentically because it might be an easier price to pay…then it’s only me who loses because no one else is the wiser…but if I am the one who loses then will I ever be the one who wins?

Authenticity is so endangered these days that we almost don’t recognize it when we see it…like me when I read and studied this passage from Luke this week.  Perhaps what happens more often is that we experience a bout of authenticity and someone attempts to hush it up.

Authenticity was once the norm; it has now become the aberration.

We need to get back to authenticity being the norm.  I believe we do so by being authentically ourselves and finding our safe places, our security, our families – brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers – our neighbors among those that encourage and foster our authenticity.

Mark 3 records, “Then [Jesus’] mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother’ (3:31-35).

“Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

True authenticity.  Let’s get move there.  Let’s thrive there.

A friend and congregant this week asked me if I had seen Jodie Foster’s Golden Globe speech.  It’s awesome and another testament and much needed installment of authenticity.

Prayer: “That We May Be True” from A Barclay Prayer Book

O Lord Jesus, help us to be true to our faith and true to you, when things are difficult.  When we have to stand alone; when loyalty to you makes us unpopular with our fellow men and women; when doing the right thing involves us in the dislike or in the laughter of others: help us still to be true.

Give us strength to do what we cannot do and to be what we cannot be; and help us to remember that by ourselves we can do nothing but that with you all things are possible.  Amen.

(William Barclay, A Barclay Prayer Book (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 246-247.)

Jesus: The Early Years ~ Evasive-Explicit Maneuvers

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 2:13-23

This week’s Scripture explores the tumultuous atmosphere into which Jesus was born.  A paranoid superpower felt threatened by the Christ-child and therefore decreed that all male children under the age of two must be exterminated.  Joseph led his family into safety – not in their homeland – but in a foreign land.  The Holy Family sought sanctuary in Egypt and remained there until told to return to Israel.

The text not only shares the lament for the children but invites readers to add their voices to the woeful chorus,

‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’ (Mt 2:18)

I am sadly reminded and sickened by the violent events that continue and cause me…cause us…to add our voices to the woeful chorus.

For the children of Sandy Hook…

For the children in Portland…

For the children in Milwaukee…

For the children in Tuscon…

For the children in Blacksburg…

For the children in Columbine…

For the children whose terror is not physically evident…

For the children in war-torn lands…

For the children who ache for want of food, drink, warmth, and security…

For the children who have not experienced love…

For the children…

Lord, these children cannot escape to safety.  What they once conceived of as safety has been ripped away.  Some have never known safety.  Draw us to you.  Redeem us that we may lead and become the safety for these dear ones, for these innocents, for these your precious lambs.  Lord, hear our prayer and bring your peace.

I am reminded that as our Savior was born into chaos that he would bring order out of chaos just as our God ordered creation in the beginning.  Our Savior comes with justice and assurance.  Emmanuel comes as servant and sacrifice.  Jesus hears the weeping of the children and accompanies their tears with his own.

In his weeping Jesus says, “No more.”

No more.

Jesus hears the weeping of the children.  Jesus hears their prayer and responds.  Will we?

Reflection and Prayer: The Prayer of the Children

Jesus: The Early Years ~ Happy Epiphany!

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 2:1-12

At Reeves the children have been anxiously anticipating the arrival of the Wise Men since the beginning of Advent.

Yep…that was 6 weeks ago…

I don’t have many pet peeves when it comes to Scripture…but the “harmony” that tends to happen with the Nativity story is one of them.  Yes, I know that nativity sets come complete with wise men.  And yes, the wise men have been in my personal nativity scene since I set it out during Advent.

But

I know that the wise men arrive at Epiphany rather than showing up with the shepherds the night Christ was born.

So to teach this lesson to the kiddos at Reeves we played “Where’s Waldo Wise Men” each week during the Children’s Moment since the beginning of Advent and we will conclude it this Sunday.

Can you guess where the wise men will be this week?!?!

Weekly the children received a “text message” from the wise men – yes…they are quite cutting edge and technologically advanced – that included clues about where they were on their pilgrimage to Bethlehem.  Each week the wise men made their way closer and closer to the creche.

This week they arrive and present their gifts to the Christ child.

As I think of the wise men presenting their gifts, I am reminded of a field trip I took during elementary school to the Polk Theatre to view the play The Gift of the Magi.  I remember expecting the wise men to be there…I knew all about that story.  But this was another story of love and giving…and more so of sacrifice…and I think it is equally fitting for us as celebrate Epiphany.

(You can read the full text here…I will summarize.)

Jim and Della loved one another very much.  Their love was their greatest treasure.  They did not have very much money, but each wanted to give the other a special Christmas gift.  Della had long beautiful hair; she decided she would cut and sell her hair in order to have money to purchase Jim a chain for his golden watch.  That night when Jim returned home he was astonished to see Della had cut her hair.  He handed Della a slim package – her Christmas present.  She opened it to find two beautiful hair combs.  He confessed that he sold his watch to purchase the combs.  Della confessed that she cut and sold her hair to purchase his gift, the watch chain.

Each made a sacrifice for one they loved out of love.

From the wise men we have the tradition of giving and receiving gifts.  From The Gift of the Magi we learn that true wise men [wise people] are those that give freely and wholly and lovingly and sacrificially, not withholding anything.

Reflection: We see again and again throughout Holy Scripture people giving so that others may have and we see the blessings that follow this giving and receiving.  In this new year what gift might God be leading us to give our partners, our children, our family members, our co-workers, our neighbors that we will experience greater blessings?  How might God be leading us to live a life marked by giving freely and wholly and lovingly and sacrificially, not withholding anything?  How might God be calling us to continue the legacy of the magi all year long?

Prayer: Teach us how to give, O God, as you give, openly, freely, generously, and then to find, as we always do, that you have replenished what was given, and more besides; for your openness, freedom, and generosity are far more than we have any right to expect, and we thank you, through Christ our Lord.  Amen.  ~ by John Killinger