We just don’t get Jesus

A sermon for Epiphany 3: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, Luke 4:14-21

 

Every now and again, well ~ more often than not, well ~ the point is we just don’t get Jesus. We know his story, birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension. We know that our baptism through his baptism celebrates that we are God’s children. We even give lip service, and sometimes some thought to grace, unearned and unmerited which is all true. And when pushed, we might even relent and agree that grace is for everyone; terrorist, the scary old couple in the rickety house in the woods, Darth Vader and the followers of the Dark Side; even our own shadow side. But we still don’t get Jesus.

Listen again to the opening line of this morning’s Gospel: Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit. Filled with the power of the Spirit. What images popped into your mind?

  • grand preaching on the mountain?
  • flipping tables over in the Temple?
  • a person swooning then falling out having been slain in the Spirit?
  • the staccato rhythm of someone speaking in tongues?

Maybe it’s me, but I expect most images were grand and glorious, full of vigor. I imagine Jesus while actually making sense topping all the candidates in the presidential debates. I mean that is what Jesus is all about, being at the center of such wonder by which all people are drawn to God.

But this doesn’t fit the rest of the story. Jesus is home. He goes to the synagogue, just like he has always done. Maybe it’s his turn, or maybe the honor is extended to him because he is home, it’s no matter Jesus is given the scroll, a book in Jesus’ day, of Isaiah to read. He reads what roughly comes from Isaiah 61:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed, go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

He returns the scroll and then sits down. Where’s the Spirit? Where is the blazing call for righteousness? Where is the vim and vigor of a Spirit-filled, window shattering, foot stomping fire ’me up for God let’s go save the world inspired preaching? Where is the power of the Spirit?

It is there. It is just not exactly like we tend to think about it. When we read from the beginning of Luke, and we will see the Spirit in several people Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, and Mary (Reese). All of whom follow the Spirit’s lead by quietly doing what they are asked, or revealing something of who Jesus is. There is also John, who can get all fired up, remember “You brood of vipers!”? But that is not about Jesus; when speaking about Jesus his language is less “Go get ‘em.” and more “look over there.” It seems the Spirit in Luke invokes quietly serving God, at least for the most part (Hoezee). But we should not be misled, for there is a deep disruptive message in Jesus’ reading.

The Good News Jesus’ neighbors hear, is about God, finally, restoring Israel (Reese). The Romans et. al. will be thrown out, and David’s House will, once again, rule. But that’s not what Jesus says. Jesus’ promise is to the poor, the captive, the blind, and the oppressed. None of whom would be in the synagogue, because good Jews scorn them, and generally excluded them from life in the community. The Year of the Lord’s favor, is somewhat economically and socially Sabbath; it refers to a break every seven days, for everyone – slaves and aliens included; a break every seven years, for debt relief, and to fallow the land; a break every seven times seven years, when all leveraged land is returned to its owner (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner). No proper Jew would object to a religious observation, a day of rest and honoring God; but all this social and economic justice stuff; well Jesus has gone from spirited preaching to meddling. The truth is, like Jesus’ neighbors, we have as much in common with the oppressors as we do with the oppressed (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner).

We are not alone in not getting Jesus. This morning we read again from one – no not one – first Corinthians. The church there is very different from what we experience as church. They, like us, are small. They are socially diverse, hence the problems of differentiating between people of differing social status. They are a minority sect, the followers of Jesus, in a minority religious sect, the Jews. There is probably more than one home church, but we can’t be sure (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner).

What we do know, is that they are divided over gifts of the Spirit and social status. The short version of what Paul says is everyone helping to make Jesus known, is what identifies them as Jesus’ followers. Unity in the midst of great diversity is how Christians are different; it is how we make Jesus visible (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner).

Paul can be maddeningly convoluted, and we’ve been reading snippets, so let’s cover some key points. Paul says they/we may not fight over Spiritual gifts or over ethical, social and economic differences, about who’s in and who’s out. He does not say unity is the same as conformity. The diversity in the church in Corinth, and here is a divine gift to be celebrated, in itself, it is a sign of the Spirit (Peterson). In unity in diversity, everyone is connected to everyone else; your well-being is connected to the community’s well-being; your well-being is connected to the well-being of every single person in the church. In such a connection, the least of these can assist just as those of higher social or economic standing.

Let me share a story a friend posted on Facebook. A beautiful, expensively dressed lady complained that she felt that her whole life was empty, it had no meaning. She went to visit a counselor to seek out happiness. The counselor called over the old lady who cleans the office floors and told the rich lady “I am going to ask Mary to tell you how she found happiness. All I want you to do is listen to her.” The old lady put down her broom, sat on a chair and told her story: “Well, my husband died of malaria and three months later my only son was killed by a car. I had nobody – I had nothing left. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I never smiled at anyone, I even thought of taking my own life. Then one evening a little kitten followed me home from work. Somehow I felt sorry for that kitten. It was cold outside, so I decided to let the kitten in. I got it some milk, and the kitten licked the plate clean. Then it purred and rubbed against my leg and, for the first time in months, I smiled. Then I stopped to think, if helping a little kitten could make me smile, maybe doing something for people could make me happy. So the next day I baked some biscuits and took them to a neighbor who was sick in bed. Every day I tried to do something nice for someone. It made me so happy to see them happy. Today, I don’t know of anybody who sleeps and eats better than I do. I’ve found happiness, by giving it to others.” When she heard that, the rich lady cried. She had everything that money could buy, but she had lost the things which money cannot buy. The happiness in life does not depend on how you are; but on how happy others can be because of you” (Jokers).

Next week is our annual meeting. We plan to elect a couple of people to Diocesan Convention, look at some financial information and talk about possibilities for our future. As important as they are they are no more than organizational questions. What I pray we can get to is the power of the Spirit. I pray we can get to prayerful discernment of how in our diversity, together we can quietly show how the kingdom of God is right here right now. And by ‘we’ I mean not only those who belong to St. Stephen’s, but those who belong to other followers of Christ, those who belong to followers of all Abrahamic faiths, and those whose seek spiritual awakening, but are put off by the organizational puff and stuff. I pray we discern how we and the whole world may perceive and proclaim the Good News; may perceive and proclaim the glory of his marvelous works. Then finally, we may actually get Jesus.

 

 


References

Ellingsen, Mark. 24 1 2016. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/&gt;.

Hoezee, Scott. Advent 3C | Luke. 13 12 2015. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-   starters/advent-3c/?type=the_lectionary_gospel>.

Jacobson, Rolf, Karoline Lewis, and Matt Skinner. Sermon Brain Wave. 24 1 2016.

Jowers, Phoebe. 22 1 2016.    <https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=expensively%20dressed&em=1&gt;.

Kesselus, Ken. “Parts of the whole, Epiphany 3 (C) – 2016.” 24 1 2016. Sermons that Work.

Lose, David. Epiphany 3 C: A Peculiar Power. 24 1 2016.

Mast, Stan. Epiphany 3 C 1 Corinthians. 24 1 2016.             <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermonstarters/&gt;.

Peterson, Brian. Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a. 24 1 2016. <workingpreacher.org>.

Reese, Ruth Anne. Commentary on Luke 4:14-21. 24 1 2016.        http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

Advertisements

Simple Acts – Extravagant Grace- Transformative Belief

A sermon for the 2nd Sunday in Epiphany: Isaiah 62:1-5, Psalm 36:5-10
1 Corinthians 12:1-11, John 2:1-11

You all know the story of the Wedding in Cana. Jesus is invited to a wedding, and the host is running out of wine. After being prompting by his mom, he asks some servants to fill up jugs of water. The water becomes wine, very good wine, and there are lots of it something like a thousand bottles (Lewis, 2016). This is not the only ancient story of a supernatural production of wine in the ancient Mediterranean world (Harrelson, 2003). I suspect it’s extravagance exceeds the others.I’ve preached and suspect you’ve heard about the glory and extravagant abundance. You might have explored the implications of a wedding feast as not so much a family event but a village event. It is a time when everyone takes a break from the endless drudgery of daily, weekly, and monthly, labor (Cox, 2016). It’s a time to eat and drink abundant food and wine. It is a time to celebrate the bounty of harvests past and, more importantly, the harvest to come. Throughout scripture, a wedding is symbolic of the last days and God’s future reign (Gaventa & Petersen). Not all the elements are bright. To run short of wine is seen as running short of blessing (Lose, 2016).

This morning two short almost throw away phrases caught my attention: “and they took it” the other phrase “and his disciples believed.”

Imagine you are a servant at this feast. You know wine is running short. You are a part of that background buzz in a social event at the edge of calamity. You hear a guest say something to another. His answer lets you know he is her son. His answer that his hour, his time has not come is cryptic, but that is none of your concern. Then she turns to you; the eye contact is direct. I image the tone; it is rare, it is not commanding, not acquiescent, not even specifically directed at you. Still, there is an air of expectation: “Do whatever he says.” Without explanation, Jesus says to fill the water jars. The guests use the water to purify – or to wash their hands, so there is water there. But they are large, and there are a lot of them, and you have other responsibilities to tend to. Nonetheless, you help your colleagues fill them. When you are done, he says “Take some to the chief steward.” You note he didn’t taste it. You don’t taste it; you just do as you were told. You notice the steward’s amazement as the wine is tasted. You witness his summoning the bridegroom for an off to the side conversation; you can overhear the stewards’ praise for the quality of the wine being served after the guests won’t likely realize it’s quality.

We’ve been so trained to hear this story one way it is easy to overlook some gleanings. Think about how easy it is to be a part of sharing grace. The servants’ tasks were very simple. There are no decisions just do as ask. The same is true for us in just doing as we are asked we can be a part of sharing abundant grace. Notice that Mary has no authority over the servants, she asks, well speaks, and they comply. Notice also how few of the recipients know the source. None of the guests, not the steward, not the bridegroom, only Mary, Jesus, and the servants. Sharing grace is often a quiet even unnoticed effort.

I know you have heard it because I have said it experiencing God’s grace more often than not happens in usual and customary places. Being a part of serving God’s people doesn’t take anything special, just a willingness to participate when opportunities arise, especially when you cannot see the connection between the source of potential troubles and the offered solution. Part of witnessing God’s grace is learning to see differently. While not as specular as a thousand bottles of wine moments of divine grace happen all the time. And when you are involved in sharing grace, you never know whose looking. And that brings us to second phrase “and his disciples believed.”

Of Jesus disciples at the wedding two were following John, one is unnamed. The other, Andrew, goes and gets his brother Peter. Down the road, presumably on the way to the wedding, Phillip and Nathanael accept Jesus’ invitation to “come and see.” That makes five disciples: two heard John’s proclamation about Jesus identity. Peter is invited by his brother to meet the Messiah; Philip and Nathanael accept Jesus’ invitation to come and see. None have any real direct experience of Jesus. All this happens in the three days.

I’ve been to a few swanky weddings, but I’ve never seen anyone arrived with five additional guests. I never have seen someone just shown up uninvited. Without making any insinuations about social protocol, there does seem to be a quality about Jesus that draws people to follow him anywhere. It doesn’t take much to imagine that they have shared the stories of how they came to be with Jesus. They would all know the possibility that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. Although he does not seem to have any of the expectations; he is not a mighty warrior, he is not from Royal blood, at least not obviously, he is not from the prophetic tradition, he is not of a priestly clan, he is just a man going to a wedding. There is John’s proclamation, but John is a bit of an extremist, living in the wilderness; still there is something about Jesus that makes it is easy to follow him. When I’ve been to big parties where I don’t know anyone, I’ve tended to keep the person who invited me in sight. It doesn’t take much to imagine the disciples are aware of the impending flummox over the shortage of wine. It is possible they overhear the conversation; so they may well know the whole story. We know that, at the least, they witnessed something because John tells us they know Jesus miraculously provides lots of really good wine for the rest of the wedding feast. We know what they saw leads them to believe in Jesus. Two heard John the Baptist call Jesus the Lamb of God, which has messianic implications. And we heard Andrew tell Peter that Jesus is the Messiah. What that means, at this point we don’t know. I’m not sure they know. I am not sure it is important. What is important is that they came to believe, they came to have faith in Jesus.

Of all the places one might say is the place where you came to believe in Jesus as God’s Messiah I don’t imagine a huge party would be high on anyone’s list. So if you want to see Jesus, my experience is that folks witness the presence of God more often than not in the mundane and ordinary, grocery store, school, an office even a wedding.

Two points: If you are seeking God look in the places you are every day. If you are really seeking God, try the street corners, back alleys, homeless shelters, food pantries, charitable clinics, refugee camps, and transition houses. Go anywhere folks are reaching out to the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the sick, the oppressed, the depressed, those who are abused or otherwise marginalized and driven by society to the edge of life. Go any place where there is risk and the potential for tragedy. In the bible, this is where Jesus spent almost all his time. It is also the places from which God calls almost all the kings, prophets or other to lead his people.

Neurologists know our brain is configured to recognize and instantly react to danger, fear, scarcity and so on. I know that media and advertising businesses play on that reality. I see and hear every day how politicians use it. Much of what we hear every hour of every day deliberately pokes at our fear, danger response. We need, God’s people need stories of grace and abundance, stories of extravagant abundance and amazing grace for all (Lose, 2016).We need stories like this one. We also need to be a part of the story; we need to experience, to witness grace and abundance freely shared with all. And you can, they can, we can all be a part of sharing God’s grace and abundance. It is not even hard. Like the servant sharing is as simple as doing what we are asked by God, or by someone else, in a moment of observed or unobserved risk, tragedy, fear, or need, perhaps without analysis or deliberated consideration. It is as simple as St. Stephen’s Friday Families, our support of community ministries. It is as simple as sitting next to a visitor who wanders into God’s house. It is as simple as asking them to share a cup of coffee after worship.

So, while the story is set in a wedding in Cana, it is not just about a wedding with catering problems. The story is about simple acts that reveal extravagant grace, which leads to transformative belief. It is a continuing story you are a part of, sometimes as the servant, sometimes as the witness, sometimes as both. It is a story of how we proclaim the Kingdom of God is right here, right now.


 

References

Cox, J. (2016, 1 17). Come and Dine, Epiphany 2(C) – 2016. Retrieved from Sermons that Work.

Ellingsen, M. (2016, 1 17). Retrieved from Lectionary Scripture Notes: http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/

Epperly, B. (2016, 1 17). The Adventurous Lectionary. Retrieved from Pathos: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly

Gaventa, B. R., & Petersen, D. (n.d.). New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville.

Harrelson, W. J. (2003). The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press.

Hoezee, S. (2016, 1 17). Epiphany 2C John 2:1-11. Retrieved from Center for Excellence in Preaching: http://cep.calvinseminary.edu

Lewis, K. (2016, 1 17). Embodied Epiphanies. Retrieved from Working Preacher: workingpreacher.org

Lose, D. (2016, 11 1). Epiphany 2 B: What Grace Looks Like! Retrieved from In the Meantime: 17

Pérez-Álvarez, E. (2016, 1 17). Commentary on John 2:1-11. Retrieved from Working Preacher: http://www.workingpreacher.org/

 

 

I am with You

A sermon for 1st Sunday in Epiphany; Isaiah 43:1-7 Psalm 29, Acts 8:14-17, Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Last week our daughter was a child who got left at school and set off a fearful search. Today she is grown, married, has a child of their own, and is about to set out on an adventure that will define her life’s work; that’s the plan anyway. Last week Jesus was a child who stayed behind and off a fearful search. Today he is grown, though not married and without child he is about to set out on an adventure that will define his life’s work; that is John the Baptist’s proclamation anyway.

It is important to know that the three verses the lectionary skips this morning are about the end of John the Baptist’s ministry, with his arrest by Herod for chastising him for marrying his dead brother’s wife. Luke places these verses between John’s revealing the coming of one more powerful than him and Jesus’ baptism.

So, here we are presumably by the Jordan River, all the people are baptized; Jesus is baptized. But remember, John is in prison, and it is not likely he gets a weekend release to do community service. So ~ who baptizes all those people? Who baptizes Jesus? A question worthy of exploration, perhaps another day. This morning I’m wondering what is Jesus praying for or about?

Attempting to stay just with what Luke has written so far two possibilities arise. We know from Jesus’ adventure in Jerusalem that he has some idea of his identity. He did talk about the Temple as his father’ house. Perhaps his prayer emerges from what it means to be God’s child? We also know that Mary and Elizabeth meet at least once before the births of their children. It seems clear that John knows who Jesus is when he points to his baptism of fire. Our imaginations can lead us to see Jesus and John coming to know each other as they grow up. It sounds reasonable that, Jesus, is concerned about his cousin’s circumstances. Being a political prisoner is never safe, and to held by any of the Herds is to expect the worst; after all, they have no compunction about killing each other, so a bothersome trouble maker like John, well ~ you can see how Jesus might be concerned.

What Luke tells us is, that as Jesus is praying the heaven opened, the Spirit descends upon Jesus, and a voice proclaims: You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. There is a potential connection to Psalm 2, which is a coronation Psalm used in crowning kings. But divine muse is nudging me another way.

The muse is pointing toward the change that is happening in Jesus life, and how God is a part of it. We’ve already explored how Jesus and John knew each other. We know John is in prison. We know Jesus is present where the baptisms were continuing, perhaps coming to an end, Luke does say, “all the people were baptized. “It is perhaps apparent that, Jesus, is stepping into his role, as defined by John. After nearly twenty years, half a lifetime in Jesus day, the time has come. Jesus is praying for the beginning of his ministry. I am hearing in the heavenly voice encouragement, a reminder that God is with Jesus in the ministry to come, no matter where it may go. Jesus now knows he is not alone.

Like Jesus, St. Stephen’s is at the very precipice of change. As financial resources are drawn down St. Stephen’s will have to discern how to continue to be the living proclamation of the kingdom of God on earth right here right now. There are possibilities; but at the moment, as Paul said, we see darkly.

In just a bit we will renew our baptismal vows. We will be with Jesus at the Jordan. Each of our baptisms has been a personal event. We or parents and or sponsors made the vows to believe and to act as the Baptismal Covenant describes. The remembrance of Jesus’ baptism is a fitting time to renew, to reconnect with those vows. This morning I invite us to do so not just as individuals, but as St. Stephen’s, a community of Christian faith. I invite us to stand with Jesus on the precipice of change and pray for the beginning, and the renewal of ministry. I invite us to stay in the silence to hear the voice from heaven:

You are my children,
            I am pleased with you,
            I am with you wherever you may go.

So, [move to Baptismal Font] please join me around the baptismal font as we prepare to renew our vows, and renew our awareness of Emmanuel – God is with us.

Renewal of Baptismal Vows Book of Common Prayer, page 292.

 


 

Bibliography

Allen, Ron. Commentary on Luke 3:15-17, 21-22. 10 1 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

Ellingsen, Mark. Baptism Of The Lord, Cycle C (2016). 10 1 2016. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/&gt;.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary January 10, 2016 – The Baptism. 10 1 2016. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Hoezee, Scott. The Lectionary Gospel Luke 3:15-17, 21-22. 10 1 2016.

Lewis, Karoline. Baptismal Epiphanies. 10 1 2016. <workingpreacher.org>.

Lose, David. Baptism of our Lord C: Expecting the. 10 1 2016.

Warren, Timothy G. “Manifesting God’s Love, Epiphany 1(C) – 2016.” 10 1 2016. Sermons that Work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Time to Turn

 

A Sermon for 2nd Sunday after Christmas

Jeremiah 31:7-14, Psalm 84, Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a, Luke 2:41-52

All parents know the stealth of children, not when one day there are such a cute 2-year-old and next thing we know an admirable adult. No, I’m referring to their ability to be right by you one moment, and the next, having tapped into to some cosmic warp, are suddenly nowhere to be seen; and then you hear the store page for a miss-placed parent and your name. One of our siblings, left one of their multitudinous brood at a picnic table at a rest stop, but not for very long. Some parents know the sheer terror of a missing child.

Once in my working life, I have apologized to a client, stood up and left, leaving work cases and references where they lay. Angie called, our daughter’s daycare had called to confirm she was sick because she had not gotten on the bus at her school. No, she was not; Angie had dropped her off at school as usual. They sent their driver back to the school. Angie stayed put as a contact point. As I had a car phone, I headed to the school.

The miss-adventure comes to an end with me in the principal’s office seeking an explanation. How had the school, I may have said ‘he, ‘allowed an uninformed substitute teacher to place my daughter in the wrong place at the Daycare pick up so that she was not visible, and therefore left? How was she left to her own devices to tell another teacher, the last one leaving the area, that she had been left by her bus?

We do not hear the story of adolescent Jesus every year; its appearance depends on the vagaries of the calendar the lectionary cycle, and the preacher’s inspiration. It is the only story in the Bible of Jesus as an adolescent (Allen). Luke gets the adolescent rebellion right: “Why were you searching for me? … I must be in my Father’s house?” (Epperly). There is also an element of the ordinary in the story. Cecil Francis Alexander notes how it relates to our everyday lives in the fourth verse of Once in David’s Royal City:

For He is our life long pattern,
daily when on earth He grew,
he was tempted, scorned rejected,
Tears and smiles like us He knew,
Thus He feels for all our sadness,
And He shares in all our gladness (Hymnal 1982) (Allen).

The high anxiety of a missing child aside, we can relate to the ordinary, though challenging time, of raising twelve-year-old kids. All of us, well most of us, can remember being twelve-years-old and the beginning of discovering who we are. This story is more than a transition to Jesus’ ministry (Allen). It is a hook by which we can relate to the very human aspect of the Gospel story.

There is another bit of this story. Luke states that Jesus’ family went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival every year. I’ve heard that Jesus at twelve was going to begin his training for the Law or bar mitzvah. Bar Mitzvah cannot be traced to this time in Jewish history, so Jesus’ journey, as is his parents reflects the family’s piety(Harrelson) (Epperly). By the time Luke is writing his Gospel, there is a very real tension between Judaism and the nascent Christian community (Allen). This story moves beyond the typical ancient traditions of remarkable births and childhood exploits to reveal that Jesus grew up in a faithfully Jewish home. It makes known that Jesus, and, therefore, Jesus’ followers are genuinely Jewish, and should be accepted as followers of God(Allen). One commentator notes show the story also infers the reverse. In times of anti-Semitism, Christians should draw from this story that Jews are genuine followers of God. In less continuous times, Christians should acknowledge our misguided persecution of Jews.

Today, we are called to remember that Islam historically is a historically accepted as an Abrahamic faith. Muslims are descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s first child, whose descendants are blessed by God (Gen 16:10, 21:18). And as Christians are different in form and theology from Jews, Muslims are also different in form, and theology from both Jews and Christian and all three are authentically followers of God. Luke builds the case there is no Torah nor Prophetic basis for persecuting or excluding Christians. Likewise, there is no Scriptural basis for persecuting or excluding Muslims. This does not negate the truth that from time to time, including today, that a minority of Jews, Christians, and Muslims have perverted selected segments of divinely inspired teachings as a justification for brutal behavior towards others. This reality does not overcome the first and is not a moral basis for the mistreatment or exclusion of any group of people as a whole, for the misdeeds of some.

And yes, I am very aware of how this stance runs smack up against the utter terror of radical violence experienced in the US, Europe, and other nations. But this terror brings us right back to Joseph and Mary when Jesus goes missing. They do what they should; with reason and determination they go actively looking for their son. And we should follow their example. We should act with reason and determination to protect ourselves and others, and to eliminate the causes that allow perverted teaching such influence. We should also note how this segment of Luke’s Gospel story comes to an end.

In the beginning, Jesus is following his parents to Jerusalem. In the end, Jesus’ wisdom and stature, which describes Jesus’ growing attunement with God’s vision for his life, has captured everyone’s, including his parents’ attention (Epperly). So, while he continues to obey his parents, the truth is Jesus leads the way out of Jerusalem. Jesus is leading the way into the future (Allen).

In the beginning, Jesus is following his parents to Jerusalem. In the end, Jesus’ wisdom and stature, which describes Jesus’ growing attunement with God’s vision for his life, has captured everyone’s, including his parents’ attention (Epperly). So, while he continues to obey his parents, the truth is Jesus leads the way out of Jerusalem. Jesus is leading the way into the future (Allen).

Thursday night, Angie and I watched the New Year’s arrival in Time Square. The host began asking celebrities about their hopes for the new year. The triteness of the answers caused me to turn it off. But they raise an important question for us at the dawn of a new year. When the trials and tribulations, arise, and they will, what path will we seek to follow? Will we follow our ancestors in:

  • Herding Native Americans onto reservations and then violate the associated treaties?
  • Will we continue to disparage the descendants of those unwillingly brought to this country as slaves?
  • Will we denigrate those related to national enemies, as we did many of German origins in WWI?
  • Will we hang signs in shop windows saying “No Irish need apply”?
  • Will we intern citizens whose heritage is from a nation we are at war with as we did the Japanese in WWII?
  • Will we bar entry to those from a nation revolting from leadership we supported,
  • as we did Iranians in the ‘70s?

Or will we turn and follow Jesus, seeking to grow in stature and wisdom of life attuned to God’s eternal presence?

The new year will bring its times to turn. It has been written:

To everything –
There is a season –
And a time to every purpose under heaven (The Byrds).

May you be enlightened in your choosing.
May you be strengthened in your turning.
May you grow in stature of your purpose.

May your New Year be blessed.


 

References

Allen, Ron. Commentary on Luke 2:41-52. 3 1 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.
Church, Episcopal. Hymnal 1982. 1982.
Ellingsen, Mark. Christmas 1, Cycle C (2015). 27 12 2015. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/&gt;.
Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary– The First Sunday after Christmas. 27 12 2015. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.
Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.
Hoezee, Scott. The Lectionary Gospel Luke 2:41-52. 27 12 2015.
The Byrds. Turn Turn Turn. 3 1 2016. <http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/byrds/turnturnturn.html&gt;.