Thursday, December 30, 2010

Searching for Light? How about Epiphany Matthew 2:1-12

Epiphany is about Light.
Some liken Epiphany to the sunlight that comes a little earlier and stays a little later with us in the Northern Hemisphere these days. The change is subtle at first, but come June it's obvious.
Epiphany is about light; but it's about a different kind of Light that is coming into the world for us.
Epiphany is a celebration for those who have found the Light. Matthew tells of 3 men who had searched for this light. Some people call them Wisemen; some people call them 3 Kings of the Orient. They came with gifts that were meant to honor the new born king. They found him not in palace in Jerusalem near the temple where they expected him, but in a cattle shed in Bethlehem.
We see people like the 3 wisemen today. Some people call them "seekers" and some churches dedicate their most visible ministry to those who seek the Light but don't really know yet who they are trying to find. Epiphany for the seekers is a chance to meet the true light; God isn't always acting like the one who we are expecting to find. No the true God who 3 kings met at Epiphany is different than the one they expected to meet. Epiphany for the seeker, and for us in the fold of Christ's Church, is the chance to let go of our preconceptions and meet again the God who would heal, teach, preach, challenge, be beaten, killed, and raised from the dead.
Pax, John
PS. I'm asking prayers for my marriage these days and for our 3 girls.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Seeing Angels changing plans. Luke 2:1-20 Matthew 1:18-25, Matthew 2:13-23

Christmas Eve 2010 and the First Sunday of Christmas

Real angels aren't soft and cushy.
Real angels are messengers and warriors. They comes in God's service. They come not on a whim or a fancy but right into the middle of everything.

I get a chill from reading the stories of Angels making announcements as part of the Christmas: in Luke, to Zechariah, to Mary, to the Shepherds in the fields. In Matthew, to Joseph before Jesus birth and after.

When Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant there must have been a million things on his mind. I think suspicions and doubts. Mary was pregnant and she said she'd heard it from an angel. I suspect sin. A well reasoned blogger points to the fathers and sees two distinct lines of conjecture.

1) Joseph wanted to step aside because he knew the child was Holy and he wasn't
2) Joseph suspected Mary of sin and wanted to step away.

I tend to agree with the 2nd perspective. I imagine that in Joseph's eyes Mary had a great big stack of troubles coming that were all hers and the father of her unborn child's to face. Sure he'd promised to walk with her in their upcoming marriage; but now believing she had broken her promise to be faithful to him Joseph was ready to walk away.

There's a key detail about Joseph. He was an upright man. I think he chose not to add to Mary's troubles; but he wasn't going to invest anything more of himself either. He would simply back out.

And then the angel came saying first "Fear not," and next "take Mary as your bride." Joseph wasn't just a bit player; he was a complicated man with emotions all his own and after the angel came to him a reason all his own to stay with Mary.

There are so many moments in the Christmas story when God's power is visible. Now looking back 2000 years later we see all these moments when God stepped. To Joseph God sent an angel 2 times first warning him not to fear but to stay and take Mary as his wife and the second time to take Mary and the infant Jesus and flee into Egypt away from Herod's wrath. As we reflect on all the miracles that added up to the birth of the savior and this is just one more of them that flows together uniting two people who hours early had nothing left to hold them together. There might be question in our minds about what Joseph thought of Mary's pregnancy, but there can be no question that what the angel told Joseph changed everything.

There's no way around the ambiguity of the human heart and human faith; but there is clarity in the Good News. Listen to the angels, "Fear not" trust that God goes with you. AMEN
Pax, John

I am asking prayers for my marriage these days. May God guide both Siri and I in right pathways for His name's sake. AMEN.

Monday, December 13, 2010

When God Sends in the Angels... Matthew 1:18-25

When God sends the Angels into our lives our plans and our most hopeless situations are well on their way to being transformed.
Case in point: Joseph.
When God sent the Angel's into Joseph's life he was a hurting man. He was pledged to marry young woman and build a life together. Then news came his bride to be was pregnant. Joseph was ready to turn away from their engagement. He could have chosen public disgrace for Mary. Instead he sought a quiet way out. He would leaved Mary and her family with their own troubles. Joseph most likely had reached an uneasy peace. He'd protect his reputation and leave no reason for the crowd to rise up against Mary. He couldn't take away her troubles but he wouldn't add any further to them.
And God sent an angel to Joseph with a greeting
Ιωσὴφ υιὸς Δαυίδ, μὴ φοβηθης
Joseph son of David, no more in fear
The greeting was more than a empty gesture or perfunctury words. It was a declaration of God's intent. Joseph had a reason for peace and hope and faith deep in his sould. Joseph heard the voice. God's plans were announced and now he saw the direction God had for his life, "...for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." Matthew 1:20 KJV.
The angel did more than just tell him to remain calm. The angel gave him a reason to be calm. The angle spoke of God's activity. Trusting in the angel's words Joseph needed no more convincing.
The loose ends were still there but now after a vision of the Angel Joseph saw a reason and a new hope. The whispered talk of shame and guilt were still there; but now Joseph had a reason; a promise from God. This child was coming as part of God's plan.
There's hope in Christmas for all of us. Hope that trusting in God and turning our lives over to God will mean we have a place in God's plans. There are no promises of a perfect life; but there is a promise that God is with us through to the very end.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Knowing it's Jesus Matthew 11:2-11

Jesus spoke about the signs of his being messiah to the followers of John the Baptist. And this same Jesus gave his friends a warning about false prophets,

the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray. Matthew 24:3-5 NRSV
We wait and watch for Messiah's coming. In our age many seek to claim a prophetic office. Some are just guessing what will come next in our ever uncertain world; and some are claiming inside knowledge from a divine source. And Jesus warned his friends not to be lead astray by following someone other than the Messiah.

As Christians we hope to meet Jesus soon. Looking at Matthew 11:2-11 we are reminded again what to look for when we search for God. Even John the Baptist, a true prophet, was searching and wondering if Jesus was the one. In prison word reached John of Jesus' ministry. John knew he himself wasn't the one. He knew that he was even unworthy to untie the sandals of the one.
As news of Jesus ministry reached John it became clear that God was up to something. Jesus was revealing the power of God not with teaching but by calling followers and performing acts of great power.
John the Forerunner sent his followers to check Jesus out,
Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them... Matthew 11:3-6 NRSV.
Jesus' words are the most plain directions we could ever follow to find Jesus.

Today as many claim to be prophets it is time to listen to Jesus word's again. Look not for wisdom that sounds pleasing to our ears. Look instead for the the mighty works of God. Look for mercy, forgiveness, and grace, look for the one who is truth and light and no other. You will find him where the lame walk, deaf hear, blind see, the contagious are made clean, and the poor have the Good News declared to them.

Grace will Shake of the Chaff Matthew 3:1-12

Advent brings an annual reading of John the Baptist's bold declarations in the desert: repent and prepare.

Many read the Gospel, including a preacher I heard yesterday in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and focus in on our actions to make ourselves ready. Quoting a bishop's letter the preacher made a case that Advent involves preparation responding to John's call.

Reading Matthew again this year I was reminded that God is up to something preparing us; making us ready. John announced the coming of the Lord saying not just what we ought to do but what God is doing.

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:11-12 NRSV.
The Gospel here speaks of God acting on us; Jesus stand ready with a winnowing fork in his hand. Our lives will be winnowed. God is ready to sift us thoroughly separating the good grain from the chaff. Grain, when harvested, is an organic whole that must be sifted to be useful. The same thing can be said for each of us; God calls us in and needs to make us ready. John speaks here not of separating good people from bad; rather John is describe the act of God to sifting, winnowing each of us that we might be ready to meet him and follow him free of the chaff.