Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Have you ever been watching a great TV show, and suddenly it ends on a cliffhanger? The dual feeling of disappointment that it's over and resolved and the anticipation for what happens next resounds suddenly out of the sound of a gasp or the throwing up of our hands. Our minds begin to wander and wonder about the possibilities of what is to come for the characters, the story, and how we may feel about it.
Or what about the feeling you get after a trailer/preview for a movie? You see the characters on screen again, you remember the plot that surely will tie up loose ends and take the story further. You begin to anticipate the continuation, or the beginning, the end, of a story, a journey, a life...
Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent, the season of the Church in which the birth of Christ is anticipated. The Church does not simply wait to celebrate Christmas, but prepares itself for the breaking in of God in flesh with us in a newborn baby. It is kind of like a movie trailer or preview. Advent provides the means to prepare, to anticipate, to wait...
I love the season of Advent because it is counter-cultural to wait. It seems nowadays, with the world at our fingertips, we have become impatient; we have lost the beauty in preparing, anticipating, for waiting. The season of Advent allows me to build up my excitement for Christmas! The words that we reflect on in the Church--hope, love, joy, peace, Christ--help me to wait well. This kind of waiting does not yield questions (like the ones I used to utter in the car on road trips) "are we there yet?" "why is it taking so long?" "can't you go any faster?" No, Advent yields questions like "what beauty lies in waiting?" "how is God preparing me to receive Christ" or "what will I do once Christ is here?"
The gospel lesson this week is Mark 13:24-37. Take a moment to read it...
The passage talks about the second coming of Christ; when Jesus will come again in all of his power and glory. In a preview scene of the coming of Christ, a fig tree's branch becomes tender and puts forth it leaves, and summer breaks through...
This passage is not about Jesus being born at Christmas, but it is about God coming into this world in a new way. We are waiting for that day, and we can anticipate, prepare, and wait for that day just like we wait for Christmas in Advent. In this way, our life is an Advent as we purposefully wait for Christ to come again. And the best of all is that God is with us...we have this hope.
Come thou long-expected Jesus,
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.
*Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, United Methodist Hymnal, 196.
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
#SaveThanksgiving is a trend I am seeing online-maybe there is hope yet!
Thanksgiving is a great holiday. The gospels, especially the gospel of Luke, share quite a bit about Jesus also joining people around tables to share a meal. There are at least 8 occasions in Luke alone! (5:27-32, 7:36-50, 9:10-17, 10:38-42 [implied], 11:37-52, 14:1-24, 19:1-10 [implied], 22:14-38, 24:28-32, 24:36-43)
He ate with tax collectors, sinners, followers, crowds, pharisees, lawyers, apostles, and many others who were guests at these tables.
Jesus recognized the power and influence of gathering around a table for a meal and a conversation. These were not simply occasions to fill the belly, but to fill souls. He offered himself at these tables in different ways--for healing, guiding, teaching, leading, and simply to be a guest in someone's house. So as you gather around your tables of thanksgiving, know that you are doing one of the things that Jesus loved to do, and thought it was important to do!
This Sunday in the life of the church, also known as the liturgy, we Christians observe Christ the King Sunday. This image of Jesus Christ as King does not really match up well with him dining at tables in other people's homes, does it? When I picture a King eating, it is at some banquet hall in a palace, not at a wooden table next to someone else's porch or living room. In Jesus Christ, we have a complete picture of what a King is: he lays down his life for those who loves, he works for peace and justice in the world, and he calls his people to model his behavior, so that we may find life and purpose here. So, that's why he eats with people in their own homes and places. That is why he died on a cross. And that is why he has the heart, and the authority, to ask us to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22: 37-39).
Our gospel focus will be Matthew 25: 31-46. Take a moment to read it...
The lesson begins in a grand way: the Son of Man will come and judge the nations on his throne with the angels surrounding. Everyone will be there, and the Son of Man will begin the final judgement. This sort of imagery and language was quite similar to what those gathered have heard. It echoes some of the psalms and passages in Ezekiel and Daniel.
But then Jesus starts saying things they have never heard before. He begins talking about who will come into the Kingdom of God, and it won't be the righteous that they expect. It will be those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited the lonely. Jesus says that when you do these things for God, God will welcome you. These are the "least of these" that Jesus speaks of. They are the people in need around you. They are your neighbors. When you see them, Jesus posits, you see the face of God. "But when did we do this for you?" they asked. "You did it for me, when you did it for those in need." Christ is the King. Amen.
Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love,
show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you.
Neighbors are rich and poor,
varied in color and race,
neighbors are near and far away.
These are the ones we should serve,
these are the ones we should love;
all these are neighbors to us and you.
*The United Methodist Hymnal, 432.
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
Here at GMUMC, we are wrapping up a sermon series about what it means to be the C/church. This week, we are learning from Matthew 25:1-13, the parable of the ten bridesmaids. Take time to read it...read it here
One of the messages of this parable is about timeliness, and what we are to do while we wait. And we hate to wait. Whether its on the phone for the next customer service representative, in our cars as we slow to 20mph through a school zone, to endure a slow internet connection, or at the doctor's office for our never-on-time appointment, waiting is hard.
Jesus is teaching about the kingdom of God. It will be like this...ten bridesmaids wait for the wedding, but the foolish ones ran out of oil for their lamps, while the wise ones were prepared for the delay.
Jesus is teaching us to embrace the waiting, not by twiddling our thumbs, but actively "filling our lamps." We become filling stations of oil for our lamps. The wise bridesmaids also keep their light shining for their community around them. They provide the light by which others may actively wait.
As a metaphor, these bridesmaids model active discipleship as the waiting continues for the coming fullness of the kingdom of God. To be like them is to shed light on the kingdom that is already here, although not fully here. We are able to pursue God by following Jesus--seeking God through studying the scriptures, loving our neighbor with acts of mercy and justice, and worshiping God with our life. We can't do that without being filled. That is something we can do! We can be prepared for the kingdom by being ready to be filled by God through prayer, worship, service, by pursuing God now, not just waiting for Jesus to come again. This is the essence of life of discipleship, and it actually makes a difference in the world. By our light, others may see God at work in the world.
Let's face it, waiting is awful. When I have to wait, I get anxious. I start thinking about what could go wrong, about what I may have forgotten. I get distracted, worried, and over time I may even lose hope in what I am waiting for. Jesus tells us through this parable that it doesn't have to be this way as we "wait" on God. We can be prepared, and share our light with the world. We can live our life in hopeful anticipation that God will use us and prepare us.
Fill yourself up. Let your light shine. Have hope. Be at peace.
O let me feel thee near me!
The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle,
the tempting sounds I hear;
my foes are ever near me,
around me and within;
but Jesus, draw thou nearer,
and shield my soul from sin.
*O Jesus, I Have Promised, The United Methodist Hymnal Number 396