Archive for January, 2019
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” [NRSV]
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts..
It is my prayer that we see Jesus showing up in St Louis next month to make clear the direction of our Methodist future.
With the same uncertainly AND hope the people were anticipating the fulfillment of God’s promise to show up and lead the people.
Our text is about John the Baptist’s ministry of repentance for preparation. I offer that the United Methodist Church has been kicking-the-can on human sexuality for over forty years without repenting for not being better prepared for the struggle, division and need for spiritual leadership in this year. In these generations have we been looking for the gifts of discernment? Have we been open to God’s way of communicating grace and boundaries? How have we prepared to express the eternal love of God in an ever changing world?
The people in Israel were waiting for a Messiah, a king, who would right the wrongs of their current reality and restore Israel. Many were gathering to be baptized by John in expectation that something would soon happen — the Messiah was coming.
Is in John’s message, we are acknowledging that we have been quick to point fingers of blame and drawn out lines in the sand, WITHOUT, learning how to show the power of loving all sinners. He is not happy that some of the people have come to be saved. His call to be ready to receive the gift of the Messiah begins in making room and making the spiritual course correction. He calls folks to be baptized as sign of acknowledgment.
Affirming the value and meaning of the gift before receiving the gift.
Epiphany is a season of claiming our “Greater Gifts”, and today we will be exploring how baptism, as a “first gift” from God, leads us in life toward paths of discovering and rediscovering God-given gifts, activating those gifts through the Holy Spirit, understanding how our gifts are interrelated to the gifts of other disciples in the body of Christ, and how important it is to stay true to the heart of our God-given gifts — the love of God in Christ.
The gift is knowing God’s love for us, knowing the claim God invests on our behalf, and knowing what it means to walk with God in a personal and spiritual way.
So what about this gift of baptism?
Some of you may have never been baptized. Later in the service, we want to give you an opportunity to sign up to be baptized next week if you feel God calling. Some of you were baptized more recently; some recently confirmed the baptism of your childhood; and for some, perhaps it has been many years since your baptism.
What do you remember leading up to that moment? Or, what did your parents or guardians tell you about that moment? Who was present? What did it mean to them?
April 9, 1976, I received the gift of baptism and knew it in my head. I didn’t have the musical warmed heart I had hoped t know. It was that summer of 1977 that I felt God personal presence in my heart. In was forever changed. It was in the chapel at Camp Glisson, that God assured me that this wonderful gift of love and life was meant for the world, including me!
Today I invite you to be baptized and to remember your baptism. Remember love, the claim and the call Christ has in you and in your life.
Join me now and saying aloud:
I am a sinner saved in the love of Jesus Christ.
I have given my life to the work and Will odd Christ
Christ is working through me to reveal God’s work in the world.
It is Christ who lives in me, today, tomorrow and forever. Amen! Praise the Lord!
Remember your baptism!
Lectionary Readings *Vanderbilt Epiphany Sunday 01-06-2019
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor. May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations. May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more. ..May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gift. May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service. For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.
This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles– for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
This year we arrive at Epiphany as the exclamation mark of Jesus’s birth. Beyond the historical events of Jesus’s birth is OUR response to the reality of God-with-us now. In the moments and experiences where we ‘find’ Jesus ourselves:
What are our responses?
Will we find him in the journey that awaits?
Will we start something new or wait a better sign?
In this week we stop to recognize three important foundational legs to being the year:
- What is our star? our signs? How is God trying to be ‘found’ in the world?
- Will we take action to meet him or hope he shows up on our terms?
- How will we honor him when we recognize him, how will we say thank you?
What is our sign: Bill Engvald, comedian and friend of Jeff Foxworthy, uses the tag line about find if someone says something foolish without hearing the words that are coming out of their mouths: Example, [ In the lost luggage section of an airport… Agent said, “Can I help you?” Bill said, “Yes ma’am, the airline lost my luggage.” She looked Bill right in the eye and said, “Has your plane landed yet?” He replied, ”No, princess, I’m having an out-of-body experience! I’m just checking on it before it arrives! : Here’s your sign]
It would be nice if we had signs that we wore to let people know what was going on inside our hearts and minds. For a time people would wear black for an extended period of time to remind the world their were grieving the loss of a loved one, but now we put on a happy face and tell the world I’m Just fine.
If someone is feeling forgotten, alone or unappreciated they could wear a hat with a large exclamation point on top. We would could then be more intentional about supporting, befriending and recognizing them and their needs.
In most every Bible study I have shared the wisdom of a renown Christian educator, Dick Murry, who share the “bunny-ears-running-off-into-the-woods hand sign” is fair game to use when someone is dominating the discussion in a class. I have received that signal and shared it as well.
If someone is anxious or nervous, it would be good to see a gauge that revealed the gasket was about to blow, so we could help support a change of state.
What are the signs that inform and inspire us to find God?
- At time this is the role of scripture, but we have to be reading and digesting it to do so.
- At times there are songs and music that draw us to heart or lead us to praise.
- At times there are opportunities of service and sharing that allow Christ to show up around us.
- At other times it is opposite:
Sometimes it is in the darkest of our fears, when can find no stars present, what do we do?
we must allow room for grace to show us..
Epiphany : is a preventative call:
- to live looking for signs,
- anticipate God’s revealing,
- watch with hope
The special word for this week is “Find.” In both Isaiah 60:1-6 and Matthew 2:1-12, there is movement toward the new king who was born in Bethlehem. According to Isaiah’s prophecy, the land of Israel will witness how “nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn”(v.3). The text makes reference to young camels of Midian and Ephah and Sheba will come with gold and frankincense to proclaim the praise of the Lord (v. 6,7). In the gospel of Matthew, the visit of the magi is also about rendering praise not to a land, but to a newborn king.
In these texts, there is an invitation to give honor, glory, and praise to God, who has acted in favor of the covenant people and who has come to us through the Messiah. In the gospel, the wise men from the East have had a brief encounter with King Herod. We know that Herod had an ulterior motive when having what seemed like an honest and sincere conversation with these visitors. He was intending to begin a search for the newborn king to get rid of him (vv.13).
Once they went to Bethlehem and were welcomed by Joseph and Mary, the first thing they did was kneel and honor the newborn child.
Does my/your spiritual journey that take us to meet Jesus or are we distracted along the way?
Where are the places we must stop in our spiritual journey and how do we get back on track?
Does our daily living point us toward where God wants us to go?
What is our response to finding Jesus? The wisemen offer praise, honor, and gifts. How are we inspired to offer our time, talents, gifts, service, participation and witness?
What is the taking the place of the star in guiding us toward finding Christ in our daily lives?
Where is the prevenient grace working ahead of us to show us the way?
Are we seeing the signs God gives us? Are we interpreting God’s signs to follow? Are we taking the action to find him? Are we taking gifts of praise for when we arrive or wait until we stumble upon him and be empty handed?
As we begin 2019
- Where do we expect to ‘find’ and experience God this year?
- What direction and actions do we need to begin this journey?
- What are we taking with us in anticipation of praising and honoring God when we find him?