Where Were You On That One 12-29-13

This week’s sermon came from Matthew 2:13-23. THis story is the slaughter of the innocents, when King Herod attempts to destroy Jesus as a baby, seeing him as a rival.

Listen to the sermon here:http://soundcloud.com/revdalen/where-were-you-on-that-one-12

You can read along with the sermon here. Disregard the odd punctuation and indications to pause.
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
August 9th, 1997…That’s one of those days that I’ll remember forever. It was a Saturday…a very warm and pleasant day, particularly at about 7:30 in the morning. I had big plans for the day. Two of my friends were picking me up from my parents farm…from there we were going a town over to pick up another one of our friends, and from there we were road tripping out to Sioux Falls, SD…the closest “metropolis” to our rural farm town community.
The first couple steps of our planned outing went just fine. They picked me up, we buzzed to our friends place and picked him up…and the four of us were off for the day…road tripping in a mid-80’s beige Ford Tempo.  We hadn’t gotten very far…maybe all of about 10 or 15 miles…when our plans…went right out the window. (pause)
As we drove along the highway, the car drifted over towards the shoulder…not an uncommon thing when you have four young friends joking around together…but then at just the wrong time…the right side tires dropped off onto the shoulder…and at the exact point where this happened…the shoulder had eroded away to a good 8 or 10 inches below the surface of the road.
The force of the car slamming down onto the shoulder combined with a set of tires that was well aged and in need of replacing…resulted in the front passenger side tire blowing out…just as my friend, the driver, tried to yank the car back onto the road…a blow out…a quick direction change…and the momentum of the car all combined together to throw us completely out of control…We drastically fishtailed back and forth between the ditches until finally, our forward momentum took over…and we rolled over twice…right down the middle of the highway.
Sitting there in the passenger seat, I can remember looking down and seeing my window shatter on the pavement…then looking forward to see the windshield spiderweb as we came down on the roof…I felt the jolt as we came down on the tires to first time and then the sickening feeling of going over sideways one more time before finally coming to a violent stop.
Needless to say…this was a major shock…a major surprise…because none of us, expected that to happen. But then, we’re never really ready for that type of thing are we?  If only we’d had some sort of early warning system…if only we’d known ahead of time how dangerous thin the tire had become on that car…we’d have driven a different one…If only we’d known ahead of time that the shoulder had gotten washed out…we’d have taken a different road…if only we’d known ahead of time that this accident was going to happen…we’d have never gone on that road trip. (pause) But we didn’t know those things…we didn’t have a warning…and it happened…because Accidents…happen don’t they…and diseases happen…and tragedies happen…Things happen whether we’re ready for them or not.
But what if your name happens to be Joseph…and you live in a little backwater part of the Middle East…and you’re wife happens to be the mother of God. Well in that case…it seems like you get a warning.  I don’t know what just what it is about Jospeh…maybe he had a metal plate in his head or something…but he sure seems like he’s tuned into the Angel of the Lord Dream network isn’t he?
Matthew 1:20…We heard this a week ago. Just when Joseph had resolved to dismiss the pregnant Mary, “An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.”  Well…okay…one time, that’s nothing…angels appear to people in the Bible constantly. (pause)
But then…Matthew 2:13…After the wise men left, “an angel of the Lord appeard to Joseph in a dream and said Get up, take the baby and his mother and flee from danger.” (Pause) Hmm…that’s twice…and then…just a few verses later we hear “When Herod died…you guessed it…an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph and said…He’s dead…head on back to Israel.” THREE TIMES the angel appears to this guy…telling him what to do…and more importantly…warning him of danger…What is it about Joseph? I just don’t get it. (pause)
Well now hold on a sec…maybe its not about Joseph…because Joseph isn’t the one in danger here…Joseph isn’t the one that really needs to worry in any of these situations is he? 1st time…Mary’s pregnant…2nd time, the baby Jesus is in danger…3rd time…the danger for Jesus…has passed…what do you know…it’s not about Joseph after all…this whole time…the warnings, though they are directed Joseph’s way…are about Jesus…God sends an angel to intervene, not once…not twice, but three times to ensure the life of Jesus. (pause)
Well, you know what…that’s all well and good…Jesus needed to live…I get that…I think we all get that…we need him to stick around for a few more years…he’s got this whole crucifixion thing that he needs to take care of before he dies…so, maybe I can get behind the need to spare his life…the precious life that is still so very new. Granted, he’s a couple years old at this point, but shoot, we’re still in the season of Christmas…liturgically speaking…he was just born on Tuesday for pete’s sake. Isn’t it a little bit early to be hearing about threats on Jesus’ life? (pause)
Because that’s exactly what’s going on here. With the arrival of Jesus…with the way that God chose to break into our reality…even now…this soon…this quickly…things are changing…and as we see, there are people out there who are so comfortable in the way things are that they will fight tooth and nail against the dramatic change that God’s bringing into the world through Christ…and the obvious example from today’s lesson…King Herod.
Now, I don’t know what you might have heard about this Herod guy…but he’s certainly no boy scout…this is no model Jewish citizen we’re talking about.  He’s a lacky of Rome for starters…but what power he did have…he was not about to let it go. This is guy who arranged the murder of COUNTLESS people…including his own children that might one day oppose his rule. In short…the guy was a power hungry maniac…and now he’s gotten word by way of the wise men that there’s a new king on the block…how well do you think that news went over with our old pal Herod? (pause) Yah…not real great.
Well Herod does a little investigating…probably managing to lop off a head or two in the process…and figures out that this new king is still a baby…under the age of two…and was born around Bethlehem…right down the road from the palace…and you know where this is going.
Herod send out an army of soldiers to the nearby town…with specific orders…Horrific orders…find all the baby boys under the age of two…and kill them…KILL THEM…KILL A BUNCH OF INNOCENT BABIES THAT POSE NO THREAT TO HIM WHATSOEVER!!!! And why? Because one day…one of them might challenge him?
Now here’s the part where I start to have a little trouble.  We know that this is the point where God sends the angel to Joseph…tells him to grab Mary and Jesus and blow town…cuz troubles comin…but why did God do it that way?  Why didn’t God warn everybody in town. How hard would it have been for the angel to make the rounds that night… “Hey…you got a baby boy? Might want to head out a town.”  But no…that’s not what happens…Jesus is saved and that’s good, but what about all those countless other babies…those innocent little children that had nothing to do with anything? Why not save them?
Maybe…just maybe…God could have sent the angel of death in Herod’s direction…just take him out…save all those lives…he was a paranoid psycho anyway…no great loss if something happened to him…but that’s not what happened…and all those babies were killed. (pause) Now what makes it even worse…just a few years later…literally 3 or 4 years later…Herod was dead….what a waste…Where were you on that one God?
Where was the warning…where was the intervention…I ask those sort of questions a lot…pretty much anytime there’s some major catastrophy or accident or tragedy.  I find myself asking God “Where were you on that one?” (pause) The Newtown shooting a year ago…Columbine…Tsunamis…earthquakes…car accidents…WHERE ARE YOU GOD? Where’s your angelic warnings when real people need them…and how do we look into the faces of individuals who have either lived through those horrors, or the individuals who have lost loved ones in them and offer them any sort of hope?  What do we say to them, when they ask us…believers in Christ…the very same questions…WHERE WAS GOD WHEN THIS HAPPENED? (pause)
Often times…in those moments…there is no good answer…which certainly doesn’t help the situation…but as I’ve thought about them…as I’ve looked back at various tragedies, I think of the words once uttered by Mr Rogers…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.”
And then as I think about that, I remember that we are the body Christ…and that’s where God is at…God is in those people who rush to help complete strangers…God is in the firefighters and policemen who run into burning buildings when the rest of us would run out…and sometimes…sometimes…God is in the person who will simply sit and hold the hand of a sobbing mother who has just lost her child…
And while we can see the face of God reflected in the faces of those willing to help others in the time of tragedy, we must also remember that in the midst of the horrors of Herod killing the innocents, that one baby did escape…and that baby was Jesus Christ…God Himself…and in the life of Christ, God experienced all aspects of our existence…and because he experienced it, he also shares it…
And I believe that when tragedy strikes and innocents are lost because of the way that sin has warped our present world…the first being to shed a tear and mourn is God himself.
We may not receive the warnings ahead of time…and because of that we may not be able to avoid the tragedies…but remember that when those tragedies strike…we are not alone…and the God that mourns the death of each and every person in all of creation…also mourned the loss of those innocent babies when his son was spared…and then 30 years later…he also mourned the death of his own son 30 years later…but then…God…brought him…back. (pause)
And in that action…in that defeat of sin and death God put sin and death in its place…and while we may still feel the effects of it in our present reality, we don’t need to be afraid of it, because we know…that there is something more…and we know that we are not alone…for he is called Emmanual…which means God is with us. Amen

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