December 15, 2019
I think it’s curious that we hear about John the Baptist’s doubt about Jesus on the same Sunday we sing Mary’s song magnifying the Lord and rejoicing in God our Savior. “Are you the One,” John wants to know, “or should we be waiting for someone else?” You can read an earlier message on Matthew 11:2-11 and Luke 1:47-55 here.
Martha Spong reminds us that joy and doubt are not necessarily mutually exclusive. I recommend you read her thoughtful reflection on this week’s lectionary readings. May you be released from whatever binds you, or stalls you, or holds you captive, so that your joy – like Mary’s and John the Baptist’s – may point others to Jesus.
Holy Lord, our hearts leap in our chests when we experience your nearness. We cannot help but know ‘the joy of the Lord’ when you are in the center of our lives. But how easy it is, Jesus, to slip into doubt and despair when we take our eyes off you.
Give us the kind of steadfast faith that Mary had when she said, “let it be to me according to your word,” even though she had no idea what she was getting into. Give us the courage to seek you out when our doubts overcome us, just as John did. And remind us, as you did John, that the evidence of your kingdom is right under our noses. You are working through us to magnify your name. Let our joy be complete and point others to you, Almighty God.
December 8, 2019
Blessings on your Advent journey! You know, some folks aren’t even aware there is a season called ‘Advent.’ For them, this season leading up to Christmas is Christmas. We get that message loud and clear everywhere we go, in every store where we shop.
Last week, we celebrated the first Sunday in Advent with the 34th annual Hanging of the Greens. I mean, it looks like Christmas in here, doesn’t it? What are we waiting for? Let’s cut to the chase and start singing “Silent Night” and get that Baby Jesus into the manger where he belongs!
But we aren’t there yet. Continue reading
January 13, 2019
Do you know your purpose in life? Do you have a clear idea of why God made you, and what you are supposed to do with this one precious life you’ve been given?
Jesus did. He understood that his primary purpose was to bring us humans into right relationship with God. That was the whole reason he came into the world – God With Us, Emmanuel – not to condemn it (John 3:17), but to save it. In order to do that, he had to become one of us. Continue reading
December 10, 2017
Imagine you are in Palestine. War is everywhere. You are surrounded by violence. The military leader who just got promoted to imperial dictator happens to be the same general who was responsible for destroying your village last year. Friends and family have scattered, and you aren’t sure what you should do next.
Someone bumps into you on the street, and presses a pamphlet into your hands. For a moment, your eyes meet, and you are struck by two things: first, the intensity of this stranger’s gaze, and second, by the fact this intensity does not seem to be rooted in anger or fear, but … joy. You glance at the pamphlet in your hand, and read the title: “Good News.”
You could use some good news. Is the war over? Has the dictator been overthrown? You find a safe place to open the pages, and you begin to read…
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Continue reading
December 11, 2016
View a video of this sermon here.
Mary’s song, the Magnificat, echoes the song Hannah sang when she brought her son, Samuel, to the temple and dedicated him to the Lord. You may remember that Hannah had been childless, and had begged God to give her a son. When Samuel was born to her, Hannah kept her promise to God, and gave him over to the priest Eli, to serve in the temple. Samuel became the last of the judges, and it was Samuel who anointed Israel’s first king, Saul. Later, Samuel also anointed Israel’s greatest king, David.
When Mary learned that she was to become the mother of Emmanuel, God With Us, she went to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who, much like Hannah, had become pregnant after many years of childlessness. Mary imitated Hannah’s song, while Elizabeth reflected Hannah’s story. Mary and Elizabeth may have been related to one another by blood, but they were both related to Hannah in spirit. When Hannah sang, she prophesied that Israel would one day have a King. Mary’s baby would become King of Kings, and Elizabeth’s baby would be the prophet who introduced that King to the world.
Fast forward about thirty years. Continue reading
December 4, 2016
Watch a video of this sermon here.
What do you think of first when you hear the word “repentance”? What do you think it means to repent?
In today’s gospel lesson, you will hear about repenting three times. John the Baptist calls us to repent, to prepare for the coming of God’s Kingdom. We usually think about repentance in terms of what we need to repent from – turning away from our sins. But turning away from sin begs the question: What does God call us to repent toward? As you listen to John the Baptist’s words, I invite you to focus your attention on what it is you need to turn toward when you repent. Continue reading
An updated version of this sermon for 2017, with photos of the Jordan River,
is available here .