20

Feb 19

February 20, 2019

part of a sermon on Jesus’ beatitudes

By Robert English

I wanted to share part of my sermon from Sunday.  The reading is Luke 6:27-38.  It is Luke’s version of Jesus’ beatitudes.  I rewrote and paraphrased Jesus’ beatitudes to fit our context.  I borrowed this idea and some phrases from two sermons, one by Nadia Bolz-Weber and the other by Doug Gay.

In these blessings Jesus is uplifting those in this world who have been ignored, forgotten, trampled or pushed to the side.

Blessed are the poor, those who live below the poverty line, not the poor in spirit, but those people who don’t have enough for this week, people who aren’t making ends meet and are desperately scrounging together a life for themselves and their loved ones.  Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are the hungry, all those who know what it’s like to skip a meal, the school children who don’t eat when we have snow days and all those folks who are standing in line at the Alliance Food Pantry or who are first in line when we host a pancake breakfast .  Blessed are all those who flood the Kroger at the first of the month because the food stamps just hit their account.  Blessed are the hungry for you will be filled.

Blessed are those who weep.  Blessed are those who know what loss feels like.  Blessed are those who are white knuckling life, trying to hold it all together for others while everything around them is falling apart.  Blessed are those who occasionally have to go have themselves a good cry.  Blessed are those who weep now for you will laugh.

Blessed are you when people hate you, when people exclude you and defame you on the account of the Son of Man.  Blessed are those who are innocent and wrongly accused, those who are dismissed and discredited as they work for the common good.  Blessed are those who know that the way that the world is, is not the way the world should be.  Blessed are those who speak the truth in love no matter what the cost.  Blessed are you when people exclude and defame you, rejoice in that day, leap for joy, because your reward is beyond this world.

These blessings, these beatitudes, give us this glimpse into what the kingdom of God looks like in this world, this kingdom of God that Jesus calls us to acknowledge, to see in our midst and to live into.  The challenging part of this vision that Jesus casts is that this kingdom of God looks so different from the vision we get from the world of what our life is supposed to look like.

I don’t know about you, but this seems pretty counter cultural to me.  It seems like Jesus is teaching us to live in this contrary way in this world, he is blessing human weakness and vulnerability instead of power and wealth, he is uplifting those moments where we don’t get it right and don’t have it all together and where our life is hanging on by a very thread.  He is saying to us in these moments you are blessed, you are favored, you are beloved, I am with you, loving you into the fullness of life.

16

Jan 19

January 16, 2019

the kingdom belongs to kids

By Robert English

So Jesus once said that the kingdom of God belongs to children.  It’s one of those Jesus quotes that people usually familiar with even if they aren’t particularly religious.  It is also one of those pieces of scripture that comes with a formulaic interpretation that I’ve not only heard over and over again but also, if I’m being honest.  Usually it goes something like this:  children have a sense of awe, wonder and innocence about them which all of us adults lost because of….. well life…. so we all need to be more child-like in how we see the world.

This isn’t a bad per se except but I wonder if there’s more that Jesus is getting at?  (instead of just using kids as an object lesson for all the adults in the audience)

I’ve been thinking a lot about my two kids and what it means for the kingdom of God to belong to them.  I think that there is definitely a sense of awe and wonder that they carry for this world which inspires me, but also, I’ve found that my kids (and a lot of kids I’ve known over the years) seem to effortlessly embody grace, i.e. unearned love.  They are disciples, followers of Jesus, each in their own way. They are learning to fail, learning to feel, learning to get up & try it all again and they offer this unearned love and forgiveness to others and themselves along the way.  It’s something to behold, to cherish and to emulate.  I only pray for enough wisdom and courage to not hinder them or stop them in any way from knowing this grace, naming it and claiming it as their own.

19

Dec 18

December 19, 2018

Shine! Don’t hide your joy

By Robert English

Read Luke 1:39-45

This is the third Sunday of Advent.  The days seems to be moving more quickly as we approach that sacred night and blessed Christmas morning.  Traditionally the third Sunday of Advent belongs to Mary, the mother of Jesus, blessed among women, bearer of the light of God which shines in our darkness.  It is a day of joy as we rejoice with her at the news of such a blessing, the blessing of a child, a son born to a lowly woman, who will bring salvation and light to the entire world.

I love this text where Mary goes to visit her relative Elizabeth to share the news of her pregnancy.  I can still remember the anxious joy my wife and I felt when we first shared the news of Allison’s pregnancy with our daughter Olivia with our loved ones.  We intentionally plotted out each of the different ways we wanted to share our joyous news.  As we shared, the look, the reaction, the tears, the love, the abundant joy.  All of these are moments of deep and profound grace that we were able to share with those who are most dear to us.

I love in this story how Mary moves with haste, with purpose and with joy to visit Elizabeth.  Upon entering into Elizabeth’s house Mary greets Elizabeth.  And in that moment something wondrous happens.  The child within Elizabeth’s womb, John the Baptist, leaps with joy.  The text says: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’”

What a moment.  An intimate and loving moment of pure joy with undeniable hope.  It got me thinking as I prepared this week for our worship this morning, what sounds bring you joy?  Think about it for a moment, what sounds do you hear in your life that bring you joy?

Maybe it’s the sound of your grandchild’s voice the very first time they learned to call you learned to call you Grammy.

Or maybe it’s the sound of your coffee pot brewing in the morning, as you go about your daily ritual, doing all the things you need to do to prepare yourself to face a new day.

Perhaps it’s the way your spouse’s voice changes when they tell you about something they are just absolutely jazzed about that is happening at work.  And as they share with you their energy and that life that they are sharing is just infectious.

Or maybe it’s all the quiet sounds of the woods in fall, as you walk through them lightly on a brisk morning, the wind blowing through the trees, the remaining birds softly singing their songs.  And the world just feels right.

These sounds make up our life.  They surround us and come to us in expected and unexpected moments of grace and love and they fill our hearts to overflowing with a joy that comes as a gift from the most high God.  These sound are a gift of God’s grace, that unearned love, which undergirds and underlies our entire existence, that love which makes itself known in big awesome holy moments of awe and wonder, and in everyday kind of moments of connection, love and hope.

This is one of the moments we have pictured in our text this morning.  A moment shared between two women, each expecting a child, each filled with all of the anxiety, fear, hope and excitement that comes with news that you will become a parent. Each filled with joy for themselves and one another.

These are beautiful and sacred moments and sounds, but if we are being honest, our lives are also filled with a different kind of sound.  The sounds that don’t fill our hearts, the ones that annoy and frustrate us to no end.  Those sounds that we encounter in our world that are like the nails on a chalk board they send a shiver down your spine, they fill you with anger, frustration and sometimes even despair.

The sound of that one person honking their horn when you’re stuck in bumper to bumper traffic.  And they are honking and honking at you, even though everyone knows you can’t go anywhere or do anything.

The sound of your child who starts to cry in that moment right when you were about to fall asleep, it wakes you up as they fall back asleep quickly and easily, but that rush of adrenaline that hit you means you’re sitting up in bed fully awake desperately trying to get back to sleep.

There is the sound of the doctors voice as they share with you that diagnosis that you’ve been dreading,  that your loved one does in fact have cancer.

There is the sound of another customer who is annoyed with something totally beyond your control as they share, at length, all the things you and your company just can’t do right.

The list could go on and on and on.  These sounds populate our existence, they are part of this thing that we call our life and the truth is that sometimes these sounds of frustration, anger, despair or loneliness, they seem to be a little bit louder than all the sounds that bring us joy.  Sometimes these sounds of darkness seem more pervasive, more normal, more ubiquitous, so much so that we start to believe that these are the true soundtrack of our universe, the soundtrack to the way the world actually operates.

But our story today, the story of two young women steeped in hope and love, overflowing with joy for one another and for themselves, it reminds us that the story of Advent and Christmas tells us that this isn’t true, that the sounds that take us away from hope, the sounds that bring us to a place of despair, the sounds which fill us solely with irritation, these are actually a detour, a blip, from the way the world actually is.

Because the story of Advent and the story of Christmas is a story about a God who loves us so much that God came to be with us in the flesh, God came and made a home among us, right in the midst of the cacophony of annoying noises, redeeming all things, saving us by the wonders of his love, and making our joy complete.

And as people of faith we are called to live with that complete joy, to choose joy in our lives, to let that joy shine forth for others and the whole world.  But what does it mean for us to have our joy made complete, or to live with our joy right out there for all in the world to see?

When I think about this I think of a story I once heard a pastor tell about two spiritual giants in our world.  This pastor, who is this famous mega church pastor relayed a story of being invited to a panel along with Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dali Lama.  They were all asked to speak together.  And in case you don’t know, and I didn’t, the Dali Lama and Desmond Tutu are good friends, like really, really good friends.

So this mega church pastor is in the green room waiting and preparing for this panel conversation he is going to have with these two spiritual and intellectual giants of our time, when all of the sudden he sees Arch Bishop Tutu and the Dali Lama have each entered the room from opposite side.  The men spot each other and their faces light up with love and joy.  And the pastor said they started to playfully creep across the room toward each other, meeting right in the middle of the room where the pastor was sitting and they started to have a tickle fight with one another.  Right there, in the green room, just before they went out on stage as part of this prestigious panel, talking about injustice and oppression and all the ways they present themselves.

I am sure you know the history of what these men have endured and all that they have led through.  The persecution, the fear, the violence, the hatred.  The Dali Lama and Arch Bishop Tutu have seen the worst of humanity, the worst that we have to offer.  And yet, here they are, they are not hiding their joy, they are not living in despair, they are filled with a joy that overflows in love for one another, a joy that is truly infectious, a joy that has been made complete.

Do you ever find yourself wanting to hide your joy?  Maybe it’s because you think you don’t deserve to be happy.  Or perhaps you are worried about being joyful because someone in your life is experiencing pain.  Or maybe you’re just unsure if you are actually allowed to be happy.

Our story today tells us that we are allowed to be happy, we are allowed to be filled with joy, we deserve it not because of how great we are, or all the wonderful things we did to earn it, we deserve it or better yet, we are worthy of it because our God is a God of grace who proclaims that we are unbelievable worthy because we are cherished by him.  Because our God looks upon all of us, no matter who we are or what we’ve done, and proclaims that we are loved.

So let your joy shine, let your love out.  Be that presence for others in this world, not just during the Advent and Christmas season, which is a great start, but live your life filled with joy all year long.  And if you find yourself feeling lost, alone or maybe this season of joy is particularly hard because your are in the midst of deep grief, don’t feel guilty that you aren’t there right now.  It’s ok to feel sad, just like it’s ok to feel joyful, just know that you are not alone even though it might feel that way.  Allow your church family to hold you in love and light even if you can’t and know that no matter what you are going through it will not have the last word.

So as we prepare to go forth, may the light of God’s grace shine in our hearts, filling them up to the brim with all the spiritual gifts of the season, hope, peace, love and this day especially joy and may our joy be made complete.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

6

Dec 18

December 6, 2018

Shine! A light for all nations

By Robert English

Read Luke 21:25-36

Moving to a new city means that you spend a lot of time noticing all the things that are different about your new home.  My recent move from California to Cincinnati has provided ample opportunity for me to notice all the differences between these two places, and let me tell you there have been quite a few.  Cincinnati is weird y’all.  This is the first fall I’ve ever experienced in my life so I’ve been just a little bit baffled by the weather pattern: 50 and sunny one day, 20 and snowing the next day.  I’ve been amazed by what happens to trees here in the fall.  The leaves, the colors, amazing is the only word I can use to describe it.  The changing of the leaves has also been a good reminder that even in death there is beauty and wonder to behold, to cherish.

And then after those leaves have changed they fall off of those trees that were once lush, rich and full of life, you have to rake them, and rake them and rake them.  But you get to create these massive piles that 4 year olds love to run and jump in.

But also as the leaves fall you start to look at the woods in a different way.  The other day I was walking through Parker Woods nature preserve in Northside where we live and I was noticing how now I could actually see through the woods to the other side.

The other thing that I have noticed about my new home here in Cincinnati is this: it gets dark here really, really early in the fall.  The other day my family and I were out to dinner after our older daughter’s gymnastics class and it was pitch black as the sun had set hours ago.  I was thinking to myself, we’ve got to get these girls fed because it must be late and we really need to get the girls home and get them in bed.  Then I looked at my watch, it was 7 o’clock, even though it felt like midnight.  But, the hidden joy as the nights growing longer and the days shorter, I regularly see the beauty and wonder of a Cincinnati Sunrise, the first light of a brand new day.

When we move to a new place, a new city, a new environment, the way we see our life, the world and our place in it shifts significantly.  It gives us a brand new perspective.

And let me tell you, that is the heart of the season of Advent, getting a new spiritual perspective.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, a time of year we set a part in the church to wait for a new revelation, a time we set aside to look for the light of God’s love shining in hearts and our world.  Advent is also the start of a New Year for the church so happy New Year everyone.

We begin the church year with a time for prayer, for silence, for meditation, a time to acknowledge and let go of whatever might be holding us back and holding us down, a time to clear out the cobwebs and to make a little room inside the inn of our hearts, to simply receive, receive love, receive hope, receive joy and receive the peace of our God which surpasses all understanding, surpasses all time and place and circumstance, the peace of God which comes when we finally let go enough to recognize that we can’t save ourselves, we can’t make ourselves whole, only God’s unconditional love can.

And so we have this season of Advent, a season which is contemplative and quiet and a season of contradiction, a time to slow down enough to find the already present indwelling of Emmanuel, God with us and at the same time recognizing that love’s redeeming work is yet to be done.

Advent is a weird time of year as a Christian because the world speeds up at the same time we try to intentionally slows down.  There’s that long check-list of things that need to get done and there seems to be very little time to do it all, especially this year given that Advent starts on the first Sunday of December.

We’ve got to get the house decorated, the tree up, the ornaments out, we’ve got to solidify travel plans, party plans, we’ve got to get all the shopping done, which of course is super easy because of Amazon Prime and yet it still seems to stress us out,

we’ve got to get emotionally prepared for all the various celebrations, the time with family, falling back into old family systems and dynamics which no matter how healthy are slightly dysfunctional, because well it’s family, there’s always a hint of dysfunction.

And in the midst of it all we have the various spiritual obligations we feel which sometimes become just part of the to do list which we feel we desperately need to check off in order to make sure our heart is right, our spirit is prepared, our condition is in just the right order to welcome Christmas with all its blessing.

That’s why we need Advent, in the midst of our wild world, a world filled with pressure for our lives and our families to look picture perfect, to look the way they look on our Facebook,

a world filled with the empty promises like that we need to buy our way into happiness,

a world filled with real human suffering and a weariness as it seems like things never change.

We need Advent to help us cultivate that Jesus perspective, that holy perspective, which tells us to seek the light, to find the light shining in the midst of the darkest dark of night, which by the way is where the smallest of lights shines the brightest.

It’s always a little bit jarring to start off the Advent season with a text like the one we have today, a text where Jesus gives a vision of the end.  And yet visions of the end are never really about the future but about the here and now and this text is no different. Let me say that again, in the bible whenever there is a passage that talks about the end times, it is never really about the end times, it is about how we live here and now.

See Jesus gets us as human beings and he knows that we are future oriented people.  He knows that we would prefer to live in the future, in the yet to be realized, in the anxiety of uncertainty rather than right here and right now.  So in this reading he lays it out this way:

in the end, no matter how dark it may be, no matter how much suffering may exist in this world, no matter what you or we may go through, in the end God is always with us, redeeming all things and bringing about a new creation.  The kingdom of God is always near.

And so, Jesus gives us this simple, very profound, unbelievably difficult spiritual practice for us all:

he says, stay awake, keep alert, be attentive in this moment, experiencing all the joy and agony of life and this world, don’t escape, don’t inhabit some other moment, be here, stay in this moment and you will find your hope, seek the light shining in the darkness and you will find God.

That is a powerful word for us today, in the midst of the times that we find ourselves in.  As a culture we are still grieving the mass shootings at the Tree of life Synagogue and Borderline Grill, we are still seeing pictures and hearing stories of the unbelievable destruction of the Woosley and Camp wildfires in California, and this last week we saw images of children being tear gassed at our border.  We see all of this happening in our world and on top of it we have the joys and struggles that we each carry with us and it’s hard to see any kind of light, any kind of hope in any of this mess.

This last week my wife Allison rented that new documentary about Mr. Rogers that came out a few months ago, Won’t you be My Neighbor?  This documentary is an incredible testament to an incredible life lived following in the way of Jesus.  I’m sure many of you know already that Fred. Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian pastor.  His life’s work was about living in the light of God’s love and letting that love shine through him for as many children as possible.  What a life and what a ministry.

I often think of this quote he said when this world is, well, being the world, when things are getting almost too dark, too dark, to see.  Mr. Rogers said: “when I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news my mother would say to me ‘look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.’”

The story of Advent, the story of our faith tells us that God is here, present in the messiness of life, the light enters the darkness and the darkness can never overcome it.

The story of our faith says that God so loved the world that God came to be with us,  light to all people, all people, so that all would know the fullness of grace, undeserved love, and the abundance of life made new in him.  As we journey through this season that has been co-opted and hijacked by our culture, may we become more aware, more attentive to the movement of God’s Spirit at work redeeming all things even in the messiest of moments we may find ourselves in, may we move about these days cultivating the spiritual perspective of hope which never gives up, may we look for the helpers, look for the good, may we seek the light which shines brightest in the darkest nights.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

29

Nov 18

November 29, 2018

what we mean when we say “Jesus is Lord”

By Robert English

A sermon for Christ the King Sunday.  Read John 18:33-37.

Well everyone, thanksgiving is over, so I guess we’re supposed to start saying ‘Merry Christmas?’

Isn’t that the way it seems to go in our world.  Our society has already moved on from Thanksgiving, haven’t we?  We made it through the madness of Black Friday, which has become its own kind of holiday, and now, according to our culture, we are fully into the Christmas season.

People have already decorated, trees are up, and at Starbucks we have the special red and green cups.   Of course in the church we don’t celebrate Christmas until the season of Christmas; that is the season which follows Christmas morning and goes on for 12 whole days.  So the season that our culture calls the “Christmas season” is in fact the season that the church calls: Advent.

But, it seems as though our culture doesn’t quite know what to do with a season where in the church talk about things like growing in our patience, exploring the spiritual depths of what happens when we learn how to sit and wait for all that is to come and the joy that comes as we grow in anticipation.

Advent is this spiritually rich season of yearning for an already here and yet to be realized birth of divine love, holy love, sacred love to be made known anew in our hearts and the world.

It seems like nowadays we aren’t really that good at waiting, which was evident in my Facebook feed on Thursday, Thanksgiving night, when multiple people reported that they were in fact already watching their favorite Christmas movies, because, well, Thanksgiving over, so bring on Christmas.

And so, here we are as the church in the middle of this strange Christian year, where, because of the calendar, we have a Sunday in between Thanksgiving Sunday and the start of Advent which begins next week.  So as the world has already moved on to Christmas, for Christians the season of Advent has not even begun.

So today is this odd, wondrous, somewhat esoteric, Sunday called Christ the King Sunday, which we celebrate as the end of our church year.   Yet another weird thing about the church, our New Year begins on the first Sunday of Advent, next week.

So, this is like the Christian version of a New Year’s Eve, a time to reflect and to remember who we are and whose we are, to recall and reclaim this simple and yet profound belief that Jesus Christ is our King.  To recall and reclaim this belief that Jesus is not only our King but is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and that his kingdom will have no end.

If you’ve been around the church or Christianity for a long time then these titles for Jesus, these images and metaphors we attribute to him probably have layers and layers of meaning tied to celebrations throughout the church year or different bible passages you’ve heard and cherish.

But, if you are newer to the faith, or perhaps if you’ve never really stopped to think much about it, these titles: King of Kings and Lord of Lords, probably stand out as being a little bit unusual and probably a little bit archaic.  Perhaps they sound a little bit too churchy or irrelevant in our sphere of the world where, for the most part, we are kingless and lordless.

I mean, just take a moment and think- what comes to your mind when you hear the word king?

Perhaps you think about a British child named George, son of a young couple across the pond, whose life is one of wealth, influence and intrigue.

Maybe you think about Elvis Presley, ‘The King,’ whose music and persona were larger than life.

I know a lot of my friends back in Los Angeles are thinking about King James?- You know Lebron James, the basketball player who is considered by many to be not only the greatest active player but also perhaps the greatest player of all time.

Maybe you think about that silly and kind of creepy ‘Burger King’?  Or maybe not.

These are the images we have in our day and age of kings.  But the truth is this image, this belief that Jesus is the king of kings is rich and full of meaning which I believe is still remarkably relevant to the way in which we live today as people of faith.

So let’s unpack this idea through the lens of the text from the gospel of John which we just read.

This story comes from the final days of Jesus’ life.  Jesus is in Jerusalem where he has been arrested and is brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler over the Holy Land.  Now just to be clear, Pontius Pilate was the most powerful person in the entire region.

Pilate begins to question Jesus about the claims Pilate has heard that Jesus had been making about himself.  He asks, “are you the king of the Jews?”  Jesus points out that Pilate asks because of what he has heard from others. Pilate is not asking for himself.  Jesus then goes onto say

“my kingdom is not from this world.  If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews, but as it is, my kingdom is not from here…. You say I am a king.  For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”

See in this moment Jesus is challenging societal norms and all of the human notions of power and authority.

Jesus is taking everything everyone thought they knew about the way the world is supposed to work and he’s turning it all over on it’s head. He is challenging all of these ideas and conventions, he’s reshaping and reforming it all into this vision of what he calls the kingdom of God.

And for us to understand what he is doing, what he is claiming here we need just a little bit of context to put it all into perspective.  See the backdrop of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, is the Roman Empire.  Now the Roman Empire was the biggest baddest empire that the world had ever known.

And on thing to know about the Roman Empire is that it was built around this central notion:  the way to true power, absolute power was through coercive violence, oppression and fear.  The Romans were ruthless, completely ruthless.  They would march into your home, your village, with the largest and strongest military you’d ever seen, and they would say: declare your allegiance to Caesar, proclaim Caesar is the Son of God, Caesar is Lord or die.  It was conversion at the end of the sword.  And make no mistake about it everyone knew that Caesar was the King of all the Kings and Caesar was the Lord of all the Lords.

So these words King and Lord, these titles, were reserved for the most powerful, most wealthy, most untouchable human being that had or would ever live, Caesar, the ruler of the world.

But, then this man emerges, a carpenter, this guy from Galilee, a rural, backwater kind of place, a man who calls fisherman and tax collectors to follow him, a man who’s teaching, engaging and empowering slaves and Samaritans and women.  His name was Jesus.

Jesus who’s healing the sick and touching the untouchable and he’s having dinner parties with all the wrong people, like all the known sinners in the village, come over let’s have dinner together.

this man who’s challenging the structures of power in this world by making these radical claims like the way to true power isn’t through coercive violence and fear but humble, sacrificial love for all people.

Jesus, who is inviting people into a different kind of life, living into a different kind of kingdom, the kingdom of God, a kingdom ruled by grace and mercy, where the meek inherit the earth, where the poor and the poor in spirit are blessed with divine favor, where lowly are exalted, and those who have been last, time and time again are finally first and those who have been first since birth are last.

Jesus is proclaiming the good news of God’s unbounded love and overflowing joy for all people, all people, especially for those who know what it’s like to have the boot of the empire on their neck, those who have been used up and spit out by the powers of this world for their own gain and their own profit.  Jesus says no you have inherent sacred worth, you are created in the image of God, follow in my way because

Jesus, not Caesar, is the way to an abundant life; Jesus, not Caesar, will offer us salvation, wholeness and a peace that is beyond all understanding.

Jesus, not Caesar, is king of kings and lord of lords.

See what he’s doing here?  These loaded and powerful word, these politically charged and dangerous titles, Jesus is taking it all and flipping it upside down.  Jesus revealing to us the very nature of God’s love as we see it in scripture time and time again, a God whose love and power is revealed in powerlessness, a God who creates each of us, no matter who we are or where we find ourselves, in God’s sacred image,

a God whose compassion and mercy are without limit or condition, and a God who calls and empowers us to live lives where we give ourselves away for others in love.  A God who says to us, if we do this, if we live in this way, we will be set free from all the binds us and we will be made whole.

Ok so the question for us is how does this make a difference in our life of faith?  What does this mean for us in our world which, like I said earlier, is Kingless and Lordless?

This Sunday gives us a point to pause in our life and to ask ourselves these questions: is our relationship with Jesus first and foremost in our life?  Are we listening to him?  Are we following him?  Are we living by his truth?

You know, the reality is that there are other things in this world that try to creep into our hearts and tell us that they are a better king than Jesus.  There are other things in our world that try to take his place in our hearts and in our life.  There are other things that say, hey follow me, live by my truth and not by God’s truth.

We have these things that insert themselves into the place of Jesus in our lives.  We have these things around which we order our lives and all of our relationships. I like to call this our organizing principle.  What is your organizing principle.  What is the thing that is at the heart of your life that you organize the rest of your world around.  What is the thing that controls your calendar?  Theologian Paul Tillich called it that with which we are ultimately concerned.

But when we say Jesus is our Lord, it means that following Jesus is our ultimate concern.  It means that we have professed and believe in our heart of hearts that the way of Jesus, the way of humble, sacrificial, life-giving love is better than all the other ways of being in this world.

If Jesus is lord, then our job isn’t, if Jesus is lord then our country and our politicians aren’t, if Jesus is lord then the size of our bank account isn’t, if Jesus is lord then he is our organizing principle, he is the thing around which our world gets ordered.

So what are we to take from this into our week this week?  Maybe we can take some time, before the start of Advent to think about the things in our life that have tried to take over, they’ve tried to creep in and uproot our relationship with God in Jesus Christ.  What is taking you away from living and loving in the way of Jesus?

As we prepare for Advent, spend some time meditating on this question and see what comes up.  Name those things for yourself and ask God to help you to find ways to decentralize whatever it may be, in order to find our true center in God’s unbelievable and unconditional love in Christ.

So as we prepare to go out into the world, may we listen to our King, the one who calls us to give ourselves away in humble life-giving love, following him above everything and everyone else.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

 

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