Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lost and Found Luke 2:41-52

There's much mystery to Jesus person. Many call it incarnation. He is God and human 100% both all at once. Luke's gospel starts with stories inviting us into the mystery Luke 1:1-2:52. John's gospel starts with a riff on God becoming flesh.

To drink deep of the mystery of the incarnation it's good to consider the story of Jesus as a boy in the temple Luke 2:41-52. It comes after the more familiar Christmas stories about angels, Jesus' virgin birth in a stable, shepherds, and Jesus' dedication in the temple. This is the only story in scripture about Jesus growing up.

The plot's pretty simple
Jesus went missing but he wasn't lost.
He found himself at home in his Father's house.

The longer story is that Jesus went to Jerusalem with his folks, Joseph and Mary (Luke 2:41-42). These 2 were the people he called dad אַבָּא abba and mom אִמָא amma. He was raised in their family with brothers and sisters. And they went to Jerusalem for Passover. Sounds like a great trip. They traveled as part of a large and wonderful group. But Jesus, unknown to them, stayed in Jerusalem. His parents headed home towards Nazareth (Luke 2:43-44). And Jesus stayed at home in the temple. Why wouldn't he? After all He was home. The temple was his Father's house.

I imagine the moment as a dad. Here's the family on the road. Traveling with a group assuming Jesus had journeyed with them in some other part of the group. Panic came at the end of a day's journey. Where's the boy. He wasn't where he should have been. Where was he? Luke 2:45

They hustle back to Jerusalem. They spent a day looking, I'm guessing, in all the places a 12 year old boy could find to get in trouble Luke 2:45. I'm a dad with 2 12 year-olds. Sometimes I think they're grown and responsible; but other times I think of all the trouble they can find in the world. Fear is very real for parents in any day and age. And after searching all the places where a boy could have gotten into trouble Joseph and Mary found him in the temple. Jesus God in flesh was home. Yes he's God but he is also Mary and Josephs' Thing is he was their boy. Sure the teachers were reveling in this moment. Such wisdom and insight came from a boy Luke 2:46-47. Mary got to the point,

Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety
Luke 2:48 NRSV
Yep he was son of God. But he was also their kid, the one they were responsible for and they didn't understand or much appreciate his dawdling. Jesus explained he was only in his Father's house Luke 2:49-50. Joseph and Mary didn't understand and Jesus didn't protest. He went home and honored Joseph and Mary. And Mary tucked away what she heard in her heart Luke 2:51-52. Luke said she did just the same thing with words of the shepherds Luke 2:19.

There's power in this story. It helps us to see the reality of God coming as more than just a consciousness in the person of Jesus. Here were two parents freaking out because this child God/Man was missing. He was not phantom. He was their kid. Here's a great joy and mystery for us. God would come and be one of us. John wrote of the mystery calling Jesus the Word,
and Καὶ
the word ὁ λόγος
flesh σὰρξ
became ἐγένετο
and καὶ
tabernacled/pitched a tent/dwelt ἐσκήνωσεν
among/with ἐν
us ἡμι̂ν,
and καὶ
we looked upon ἐθεασάμεθα
the τὴν
glory δόξαν
of him αὐτου̂,
glory δόξαν
of ὡς
only generated/begotten son μονογενου̂ς
beside παρὰ
the Father πατρός,
full πλήρης
grace χάριτος
and καὶ
truth ἀληθείας.
John 1:14 Greek from The Greek New Testament (electronic ed. of the 3rd ed. (Corrected)). Federal Republic of Germany: United Bible Societies.
And I give thanks that Jesus has come to live, to die, and to rise that we might have life in him. AMEN.
Peace, and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Praising in the Between Time Luke 1:39-55

Mary's words in the Magnificat aren't often part of the Christmas story. But reading them I wish they were more on my mind as Christmas nears. Holiday celebrations can be full of activity and obligation. There are gifts to buy and places to be. But in Mary's words I hear a soul praising God. This year I want to sit back and sing out in praise to God who brings grace, life, light, and healing into the world. Yes my Christmas tree is lit and I am buying a few presents for my girls and close family, but my soul has reason sing praise to God today.

46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47      and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Luke 1:46-55 (NRSV)

Yes there are shopping lists and all sorts of activity in the weeks ahead. And I want my soul, in the middle of it all, to echo Mary's words today and everyday. I know God sees my sin and still blesses me. In Mary's words I hear a great reminder that God can do many great things. Even in the midst of challenge and adversity I look with faith and see the blessings God's provided for me and mine.

It's easy, for a person with a full belly and plenty of things, to forget the risk Mary took carrying Jesus. Still knowing the risk she sang praise to God who has mercy on those who fear him while scattering the proud. I hear a word in Mary about the God who brings down the powerful and lifts up the lowly. She wasn't just thanking God for what she had. Mary was praising God for the promises and for the future in God's hands for all people. Mary's word are a great song of prayer and praise for every season and every future. I serve a congregation that sings a version of Mary's words almost every week.

In Mary's song of thanks I am reminded again that God isn't Santa Claus and grace isn't karma. In God's mercy and love there's blessing and promise. This year and Christmas I want to sing with Mary about God who does great things.
Peace and thanks for reading, John

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Then What Fruits of Repentance Luke 3:7-15

Bold preachers sometimes jump into the collective imagination of people in their day. John was that kind of preacher. He could grab attention and people wanted more. His words weren't saccharine sweet, and people still wanted to hear. The truth he spoke often hurt before it healed. He spoke to the soul of his nation. Any person who would listen could hear him speak of the world from heaven's perspective.

John, sometimes called the baptist and sometimes called the forerunner, stepped into the collective imagination of the people of Israel 2000 years ago preaching a dynamic vision of God's kingdom.

John's preaching pulled people in to hear about the kingdom. Crowds came out to the wilderness to hear the news. The kingdom is close. Get ready one greater still is coming. Crowds came to hear and they wouldn't leave the same as they came. Leave the old behind: repent. John's powerful message echos in the church in the weeks before a Christmas celebration. Come welcome the new kingdom and the new king. And that means repenting.

John's words dug in deep and hard ποιήσατε οὐ̂ν καρποὺς ἀξίους τη̂ς μετανοίας
ποιήσατε οὐ̂ν poisate produce/bear
καρποὺς karpous fruit
ἀξίους τη̂ς axeous worthy of
μετανοίας metanoias your turning around/repenting.

John's word were intentional. He's inviting change in direction. Turn towards God, that's John's kind of repentance. John's call for μετάνοια metanoia repentance is a call not just a move in the heart or in the exterior life. John's inviting a 180-degree whole being turn back to God. He calls for lives that bear fruit of the turning back to God. William Willimon wrote wisely

The repentance John calls us to is no mere change of mind and heart. It is a total metanoia, a complete turning around from self to God. More than an emotional "feeling sorry for my sins," repentance is the fitting response to the presence of the Kingdom, the only way left now that our God has come, the necessary choice between self-salvation and God's salvation. Here is a costly Kingdom. John pays for his preaching with his head; we may come to the river singing "Just as I Am," but we will not leave these waters without having participated in a painful, deadly, costly work.
Willimon, William H. "What then shall we do." The Christian Century 99, no. 39 (December 8, 1982): 1246-1247. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed December 7, 2015).
John preached and the crowd asked collectively, Then what??? and the responses he gave were simple and specific. Share clothes and food with those who have none. The tax collectors and soldiers, people everybody else thought were sinners came to hear John too. When they asked, What should we do?, John's words turned very practical. Tax collectors, take no more than ordered. Soldiers don’t extort or lie. John would likely have very practical words for each of us too. Turn to God, care for the poor, live just lives. This year as Christmas nears I hope to remember that God's kingdom is always breaking in among us. And we are blessed to turn towards God and bear fruit in our lives.
Peace and thanks for reading, John.