Monthly Archives: December 2013

“The Fictions of Position…the righteous One!” 12/08/2013 Sermon

“The Fictions of Position…the righteous One!” •

Isaiah 11:1-10 & Matthew 3:1-12 • December 8, 2013

Brothers & sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

I recently bought a new printer for our family and was printing some research documents for a grad school class I’m taking. The warning “Low Ink” came across my computer screen. Now you and I know that when we first see a warning like that, we ignore it. There is still a lot more ink left in that cartridge before the printer will stop printing. The time came when I needed to print the final paper that I needed to submit for the class. I had been ignoring the warning of “low ink” for days. Guess what happened when I tried to print that final paper? Yep, blank pages. I ignored changing the ink cartridge and ended up having to turn in the paper late for that class.

Out in the country, where things are normally peaceful and calm, the voice of a preacher is heard. He is not sharing a three point sermon that ends with a poem. He is urging his followers to REPENT before it’s too late. To “Prepare the way for the Lord, make his paths straight.” To change. Let’s read this together. The words to today’s gospel reading from the 3rd chapter of Saint Matthew will be on the screen. Please, join me in reading them.

You and I live on the other side of John’s proclamation. We understand that he was telling the people to prepare for Jesus, the one who is coming who will change the world forever. A few people listened, but most ignored this weird man who ate strange food and wore ridiculous clothing.

As I read these texts from Isaiah and Matthew this week, I heard both the prophet Isaiah and the preacher John the Baptist calling for repentance; calling for change; inviting the people of God into a new way of living. A new life that God was revealing in Jesus. For the people in Isaiah and John the Baptist’s time, this was something that was going to happen in the future. For you and I, this change and new life in Jesus Christ has happening. And it’s something that not only touches our future, it also touches our past, and our present.

Notice that the people around John the Baptist are confessing their sins, and receiving forgiveness and a new beginning as the people of God, by being baptized in the Jordan River. Our own journey is similar, isn’t it? In the water and word of Holy Baptism we are forgiven and freed by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. But our journey doesn’t end there – it only begins. In baptism, we enter into a constant and never-ending journey of change and transformation. I think that is one of the most difficult things for you and me as we try to live as followers of Jesus. I mean come on, change? Transformation?

Often I’m pretty resistant to either of those ideas. Resistant of change or of transformation. And I’ve served in the Christian church long enough now to know that I’m not alone in that resistance. I mean, do you know how many church members it take to change a light bulb? Change the light bulb? My grandmother donated that light bulb!

I always appreciate when I get visits or phone calls or emails about something I’ve written or offered in a sermon. One anonymous comment I got was particularly revealing to me. And mind you, anonymous feedback and comments are usually filed in the trash can next to my desk quite quickly, but this one was a little different. They were upset with my preaching because I am always try to challenge us to go further, to do more, to be constantly growing in our relationships with each other as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ and in our relationship with our savior Jesus. To be followers of Jesus that are not afraid to boldly share the love and grace of God beyond the walls of Good Shepherd. The anonymous commentator thought that I should preach more along the lines of “I’m OK, you’re OK.”

I’ll be honest. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to do that. I haven’t discovered much in the Bible yet that would support that lifestyle if you really claim to be a follower of Jesus. And I’m certain that the world in which we live is a world that God says is not OK just the way it is today. I do not believe that following Jesus is about just lounging around in our favorite chair and ignoring our neighbors around us because we’re OK.

You and I worship a God that meets us where we are, and is constantly challenging us to go further, to reach deeper, to stretch beyond the horizon of the world we can see to finally realize that our life in Christ is way more significant than anything we can imagine.

So, as we enter the second week of Advent, how is God calling you? Calling you to experience the coming of Jesus into our world? The good news of our Savior Jesus Christ, is that God meets us where we are, but that’s not where God leaves us. God is always calling us forward, to take bigger and bolder steps and more courageous leaps of faith as we follow Jesus. And this isn’t about finally needing to replace the ink cartridges on our spiritual printers or accepting the fact that grandma’s donated light bulb is no longer effectively shining the light of Christ in this world. The coming of Jesus into the world bring about complete and total transformation of our lives. Nothing less will do. I think that is what Isaiah and John the Baptist want us to hear today. I’m not sure I always think that many who claim to be followers of Jesus in 2013 are always open to hearing that kind of message.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we follow Jesus in this Advent season and prepare to receive him once again at Christmas, open yourself to be changed. To be transformed. Jesus coming into the world has changed us, changes us in this very minute, and will continue to change us in every new day.

So, I offer this blessing for us to receive tonight – May the spirit of the Lord rest upon you, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord; may you rest in the spirit of joy in God’s presence now and forever. In the name of our God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

“The Fictions of Power…the peaceful One!” 12.01.2013 Sermon

Click here to view a video recording of this sermon.

Isaiah 2:1-5 & Matthew 24:.36-44

Brothers & sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

You’ve probably had one of those moments where you came across something that sounded just too good to be true. More often than not, it turns out to be just that. It turns out to be a little bit of fiction so to speak. You all know the saying … “If it seems too good to be true…it probably is!”

And so, this weekend begins the season of Advent. Advent is about preparing for Christ to come among us again. We tell stories, read scripture, and practice disciplines that help us get ready for Christmas.

Advent is a deeply peaceful season. All too often though, it seems that the peace that Advent brings is shattered by a culture that views Advent as the number of shopping days left before Christmas. You and I are bombarded, most especially at this time of the year, with offers and new sales and gimmicks intended to get us to buy stuff. For as much as I’d like to think that those things are not going to get my attention, that I’m not going to buy into the Christmas fictions that today’s culture lifts up as being most important, regrettably, I often fall prey to the individualized materialistic world in which we live as I long for things that are simply too good to be true.

Centuries ago, before the phrase, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” became common thought, God’s people gathered to hear again the extraordinary promise from God that was too good NOT to be true – it was a future that had God’s fingerprint all over it. It was a strong word of hope and promise that would bring the people of God out of the fiction of their hopelessness into the reality of God’s faithfulness. The images that came to life in the prophetic words of Isaiah that we heard today were bright with the promise of life in the midst of great darkness. When God spoke this vision through Isaiah for the future of this oppressed, hopeless people, he described a reality that would move people from the fiction that they were powerless to a promise of peace.

In the same way, the people of the first century who heard Jesus speak the words recorded in Matthew 24 about the unexpected hour at which the Son of Man would come, hear a compelling invitation to be ready for the new reality that God would usher in.

The good news of Advent is that God is still speaking to the children of God! And so, children of God, one question that seems important today is: What extraordinary promise is God speaking to you and to me today? I believe these words from the second chapter of Isaiah and the 24th chapter of saint Matthew are supposed to bring all of God’s children out of fictions, out of darkness, out of misconceptions of power and bring us into God’s reality. A reality of true light and of deep peace that passes all understanding.

In this season of Advent, as the secular holiday machine grinds away, wanting us to believe in things that ARE too good to be true, God extends an invitation that calls us to walk out of Christmas fictions into the life-giving reality of a savior named Jesus. But brothers and sisters in Christ, if we’re going to do that, we must also ask ourselves, “What is our Christmas fiction?”

For all the holiday parties of cheer and claims of good will, why do so many people like you and me feel so empty? For all of the warmth and proclamations of peace, why does this time of the year seem to bring out the worst in many people? For all of the opportunities that you and I have to lift up the gift of Christ, why do we keep buying into structures that result in depression and guilt and financial debt? Could it be that we’ve morphed the Christmas story into some unreasonable fiction that actually destroys the reality of God’s love, grace, and mercy for all of God’s children? A reality that we receive as a gift in a savior named Jesus.

The promise that God makes to us as we move from fiction into reality begins when we walk into the truth that God’s love can be known in direct and tangible ways in Jesus Christ. The Advent season leads us out of Christmas fictions that tell us that contentment and fulfillment is measured by more and more material things. The Advent season leads us into a deeper relationship with each other as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ and with Jesus. The Advent season moves us from the fictions of power that wants to control own lives and points us to the peaceful One – Jesus Christ, who is God’s ever unfolding promise of love.

One final thought and question as Advent begins. I’ve already shared today that I think God’s Advent invitation calls us to walk out of darkness into light. So, I think a final question to ask today should sound something like this. This Advent, how will you and I walk out of darkness into light? Or how about, how will you and I prepare ourselves to be present to God’s promise revealed to us in Jesus? Or even, how will we walk in these weeks before Christmas with more confidence in God’s paths and belief in the power of Jesus that is a true reality in our life today?

Isaiah spoke of this hope-filled truth when he set God’s vision in front of the people: “Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’”

The move from Christmas fictions of power, position, prosperity, and unfulfilled expectations begins when we respond to the prophetic words of Isaiah who says to you and to me today, “Come, and let us walk in the light of the Lord!” I believe it starts at the moment when we are no longer willing to settle and simply accept culture’s twisted fiction of what brings happiness, contentment, and fulfillment. Instead, as children of God, we are invited in Advent to embrace God’s truth in Jesus who is light in our every darkness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this year in Advent, let us walk in the light of the Lord and discover again the love and truth of God that is simply too good NOT to be true. And as you and I take these steps, maybe, just maybe, we will be beacons of peace for others who will be able to experience the light of Christ through us this Advent.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

This sermon is part of the Advent Worship Series “Christmas Fiction” that is part of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church’s worship this Advent. We give thanks for our brothers and sisters in Christ at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN for the development of this series.