Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Who To Blame? 3-22-20

Here’s the sermon for the 4th Sunday of Lent, based on John 9:1-41. Jesus encounters and heals a man born blind, then promptly disappears while the man endures ongoing controversy.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/sermon-018-who-to-blame-3-22-20

An Unspoken Truth 2-26-20

Tonight’s Ash Wednesday sermon, based on 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10, reveals a sense of urgency in our invitation to be reconciled to God. Christ has made it possible, and he has given us tangible signs that we are able to hold on to that give us God’s grace.  This partnered with the ashes we receive on our foreheads speak a truth into confession and forgiveness.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/sermon-014-an-unspoken-truth-2-26-20

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

May God’s grace bring you comfort and peace on this night. Amen

About a week and a half ago I was able to not only attend, but also to participate in a service of ordination for a fellow pastor down in Council Bluffs.  After many years of serving as a minister and slowly working his way through the educational piece, James Rut was ordained into the office of word and sacrament.

Now James is a native of South Sudan…and the congregation that he serves is made up of members of the South Sudanese community from around the Metro area…and his ordination was a celebration, not only for that individual congregation…but really for the entire South Sudanese population around the upper Midwest…and there were visitors from as far north as St Cloud, MN and as far south as Kansas City for what was…in EVERY way…a celebration.

Now I’ve been to ordinations before…and for the most part, they follow a pretty set liturgical flow…there are personal embellishments of course, but the general flow is pretty common.  But that was not the case for James’ ordination…it was a glorious mix of cultures, with MANY aspects coming out of nowhere in comparison with the very general order of service that had been prepared.

The other aspect that made this interesting for me personally, was the invitation to serve as assisting minister to the Bishop…pretty much right before the service started…in this capacity I ended up leading a fair bit of the service, but I had to be on my toes because we never knew just when one of the Sudanese embellishments was going to pop up.

Now it all went fine, but it really made me aware that I’ve grown comfortable with worship not always going according to plan…but that wasn’t always the case…back in my earliest days of preaching and leading worship, even before I’d begun seminary…I would provide monthly pulpit supply to a small country congregation where 10 people on a Sunday was a good crowd.

They were a fun bunch who graciously put up with my lack of experience…and we also joked around that if I skipped something in the liturgy, they should throw a hymnal at me…a joke that was all well and good…until the day it actually happened. (pause)

On this particular Sunday…we wrapped up the opening hymn and I jumped right into the Kyrie…something we really only do here in Underwood on Maundy Thursday but it’s the part where I chant “In peace let us pray to the Lord” and go back and forth with the congregation.

About midway through the Kyrie…one of the guys raised his hand and interrupted me…Scott…you skipped the brief order…and sure enough I had.  We always started with the Brief order of confession and forgiveness…and I had missed it.

Now this threw me for a loop to be sure…and my mind was racing in that instant…and admittedly, my first thought was “oh well…we do that every week…what’s it going to hurt.” But I could also tell that it was important…that this aspect of worship…of the flow of the service…this was something that was vital to them…and in the years since then…I’ve come to recognize that importance as well…to feel the necessity of coming before God…of confessing our brokenness and sinfulness and need for a savior…to admit these thing to one another and with one another…and then to immediate hear those words of absolution…the announcement of God’s grace and forgiveness for each of us.

I can’t help but think that this is something that is absolutely central to our Lutheran heritage…to our understanding of faith…and the vital sense that WE bring into worship as well…certainly our liturgy or order of worship is different here at Underwood than in other Lutheran congregations…but we’ve got that same bit don’t we…as we turn to page 56 in our hymnals every Sunday morning to share in this practice together.

But tonight we don’t do that do we? (pause) Tonight’s worship is different…and even though we will share in a time of mutual confession together a little later in the service…we’re not using the brief order…and you might notice…we won’t have the usual announcement of forgiveness that typically comes with confession. (pause)  And this is because of the setting…of the day that we find ourselves in today…Ash Wednesday. (pause)

Today, as we kick off the season of Lent…as we begin moving towards Holy Week…and the culmination of Jesus’ ministry, not to mention the culmination of the Christ event itself…as he is betrayed and tortured and ultimately killed on the cross…but as we start off this season, it is good for us to reflect on our part in it.

And tonight’s focus…tonight’s service…and especially the action which we all join in a few moments from now…all of this serves as a tangible reminder of our brokenness…our sinfulness…the part that we play in whatever it is that God is up to through Jesus.

Tonight we use ashes…and tonight we hear words that remind us of our mortality…that we are made up of dust…that the building blocks of our physical bodies are quite literally the dust of the earth…which is also quite literally star dust…we remember…perhaps with a great deal of humility…that as God made EVERYTHING in our reality…the same materials went into making you…and as amazing as that is…we are also reminded that when this life is over…when the spark that makes you…you. When it runs out, then we will return to the dust that we came from.

And in addition to that, we are reminded of the cause of this cycle…the brokenness that we are a part of…and that is also a part of us. (pause) Now I’ve got a love/hate relationship with this particular worship service every year.  On one hand, I am blessed to look each of you in the eye and for just that brief instance…to be aware of the relationship that we have formed and we share…I think about the history we have in common…the highs and the lows…the good stuff and the hard stuff…and that is wonderful…but at the same time that those thoughts are running through my mind, I’m also hyper aware that I am saying words and taking action that refers to your death.

And as we think about the reality of death…we are also aware of how little control we have over it…which, when we’re honest with ourselves…we know is actually zero…we have no control…and death comes for us all…and as we know…as we have seen time and time again in our community…it can, and often does strike without warning.

And that sense of the unknown…that recognition that tomorrow, while expected…is not guaranteed…THAT keys us into the sense of urgency present within Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that we have shared tonight.  This brief portion of the letter reveals a great deal about Paul’s experience in ministry…the hardships and the persecutions that he was familiar with…while at the same time the hope and the joy and the benefits that he regarded in the eternal sense…but even in the midst of all that which we can find in this short passage…there are two phrases that really jump at me as we consider all of this tonight.

Now is the time…now is the day…right now…in this moment…and what are we called to do?  He lines it out in the very first verse…be reconciled to God. (pause) Now before you think I’m going all fire and brimstoney on you…let me clarify.

I do not believe that this call to be reconciled…this call to turn away from our brokenness…this call to repentance…I don’t believe that its fear based…or that we should hear it from the perspective that “you might die tomorrow, and aren’t you afraid you’ll go to hell?” I don’t buy that because I believe with EVERY atom of my being…every bit of dust that somehow forms me…I believe that the spark that makes me me, and that makes you you…I believe that originated from the one who made us in the first place…the one who made us bearing the divine image…the one who calls us very good in the first place…I believe all of that which makes us individuals and yet unites us in our common humanity…I believe that reveals an inherent need for relationship with one another and with the one who made us in the first place.

And yet I also recognize that the brokenness of this reality and of me, hinders that relationship…and yet…despite this…that same God has made it possible through Christ to be reconciled…and that happens as we give voice to the sin that resides right here. As we turn from it and turn back to the one who has promised us to always receive us back.

This is the promise of the gospel…this is the truth revealed in the parable of the prodigal son…that no matter where we are and what is standing in the way, our perfect parent is always seeking us out.  (pause)
And thanks be to God, that this is not just some batch of words that we say…but that Christ has also given us tangible signs of this promise.  Through the waters of baptism…we are claimed by God as beloved children…heirs of the promise of grace and love and forgiveness…and then as we gather around this table, united in our common brokenness…and tonight literally bearing a mark on foreheads…we hear those words, and we receive the body and the blood of Christ which is broken and poured out for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sins.

This happens tonight and I love how they are paired up together. We hear the words of our mortality and limitations, and then we receive the elements of forgiveness.  Keep that in mind tonight, as our liturgy lacks the announcement of forgiveness…because tonight…God is literally handing it to you for you to receive.  Amen

Be Salty 2-9-20

In this sermon, based on Matthew 5:13-20, I explore Jesus’ statements that we are both salt and light…things which can be both a benefit as well as destructive. We explore what that means for us as the body of Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven which is here now in the midst of the brokenness of the world.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/sermon-011-be-salty-2-9-20

(As this sermon was preached non-scripted, there is no available text to read)

The Sun Will Come Out 2-2-20

After a period of not posting my sermons due to travel as well as a non-scripted approach, today I’m sharing one again.

Today’s sermon is based on the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:1-12. We explore what it means to be blessed now, even when the world makes it feel like we aren’t.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/sermon-101-the-sun-will-come-out-eventually-2-2-20

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

May the grace and peace of our Triune God be yours, now and forever. Amen

The weather this time of year is pretty fickle…with all the back and forth in temperature…it snows one day and melts the next. We get fog, we get ice…but if there’s one thing I noticed through most of last week…there isn’t a whole lot of sun is there?  Sure, we get clear days here and there…but for the most part we are living the truth of that age-old hymn (sing) In…the bleak…mid…win…ter. (Pause) Admittedly, that’s the only line I know…but there’s some truth in it isn’t there?

It reminds of another song that I find myself singing sometimes…usually at this time of year when we don’t see very much of the sun…a little adaptation on a familiar song.  (sing) The sun’ll come out…eventually…least I hope so cuz if not its really bad…REAL…LY Bad… (pause)

Now I’m guessing that most of you recognize that tune and know the actual song that it references…the signature song from the musical Annie…come on everyone…sing it with me… “The sun’ll come out…tomorrow…bet your bottom dollar that…tomorrow…there’ll be sun…” (pause)

Isn’t that song just amazing?  It oozes optimism…like a recognition that today is hard…things just aren’t going my way today…but…regardless of how lousy it is…the sun WILL come up tomorrow…tomorrow’s a new day…and we can take all this hard stuff…and put it behind us. No matter how hard this moment is…we’re still okay because this is not the end…and all this junk that is going on…whatever it is…it does not define who I am (pause)

And that right there…that sense…that recognition that our lives…that our very identity is not defined by the haze that sometimes surrounds us…its not dictated by the gloom that sometimes dominates our attention…that sense RIGHT THERE…that’s where we’re gonna jump into the lesson for today. (pause)

Matthew 5…the Beatitudes…arguably one of the better-known pieces of Jesus’ teachings…the beginning of a much larger ministry moment known as the Sermon on the Mount…as Jesus sits down to teach these giant crowds who have already started to gather around him.

We’re still early in his ministry…last week, we heard about the opening portion…as he settled around the region of Galilee and started calling a few disciples to come along behind him…and since then not a whole lot has happened…honestly, its been more of the same…but his fame is spreading around Galilee and even over the borders…and we hear that people are bringing the sick to be healed…and that they’re coming from all directions…Galilee, Syria to the north…the cities of the Decapolis on the far side of the sea…up from the city of Jerusalem and the southern region of Judah…and even from the area to the east of the Jordan river. (pause)

Its worth noting the geography spelled out in this bit of narration…because these giant crowds aren’t all the same type of people…while we often think of Jesus’ earliest moments in ministry being centered around fellow Jewish folk…we find here that’s not the case…and he would have a giant mixture…Jews and Gentiles…people from a WIDE variety of cultures and nationalities…all matters of different faith and deities…you name it.

And so…as Jesus sits down and kicks off 3 chapters worth of teachings…a lot of his audience would probably be scratching their head…and even the phrasing that he uses in this earliest portion that we’re focusing on today…even that would have been foreign to many in the crowd.

Blessed…now that’s a loaded word isn’t it?  What does it really mean? Its probably safe to say that we would all define it a little differently wouldn’t we…and maybe its hard to articulate…maybe its hard to put into words…but…I think we all know it when feel it don’t we? The sense of blessing…the peace that comes with it…maybe the joy or happiness…I think those can all be associated with it. But still…its hard to define isn’t it?  Because “blessed” isn’t just something that happens when you sneeze in public and someone rattles off “bless you.” Its more than that isn’t it?

And so maybe…in order to REALLY wrap our heads around what this word means…we need to realize HOW Jesus is using it…because there’s a distinction…Jesus is NOT using it as a verb…its not like Peter inhales some mountain dust and blasts off a sneeze and JC goes “Bless you Pete.”

What Jesus is actually doing is using this word as a statement of identity…almost like a name…that these individuals…that these types of people…these folks who are having a specific type of experience…if they were wearing a name-tag it would say “Blessed one.” And that is the case throughout all 9 of the beatitudes that we have heard today.

Now I want your to bear with me…because in a lot of ways, we’re gonna have an English lesson today…because the specific language and tense…and sensibility within the Beatitudes is VITAL to understanding it.

For starters…every one of the statements starts the same doesn’t it…with that identity…that the person embodies…right now…present tense…across the board…BLESSED…ARE…the poor spirit…blessed are those who are mourning…blessed are the meek…and those hungering and thirsting for righteousness…blessed ARE…the merciful and the pure in heart…and the peace makers…and finally BLESSED ARE…those who are persecuted and singled out because of the name of Jesus…blessed ARE…right now.

Now, let’s move on within the very one…blessed are the poor in spirit…WHY? Because theirs IS…the kingdom of heaven.  Present tense…theirs is the kingdom now…because Jesus has already told us that the kingdom has come near hasn’t he?  Its already among us…and those who are blessed now, are blessed because its already here. (Pause)

And now let’s move on…the next batch…we see a now leading into the future don’t we? Blessed are those who mourn…for they WILL BE comforted….the meek…for they WILL inherit the earth. And that same trend continues…blessed now with a future result.

And as I think about it…I can’t help but think that Annie’s song has this whole thing figured out doesn’t it?  That sense that it might be lousy in this moment…that it seems like I can’t catch a break…that the world is ending…or that the world has it in for me…but (sing) the sun’ll come out…tomorrow…” (pause)

Don’t get me wrong…this isn’t just some self-help…buck up because its not that bad…feel good drivel…that’s not what Jesus is about.  He’s not denying that lousy stuff goes on…and that as we grow in our faith and get more outspoken about the brokenness in the world…as we follow the prompting of the Spirit within us to point out injustice and inequality…and ways that the powerful take advantage of the marginalized…and they start to potshots at us because of it. Jesus IS NOT saying all that stuff is going to go away…he’s simply saying that in the midst of all that junk that is a reality within our existence…this does not define you…and you ARE Blessed because we have a God who desires to be with us and who CONTINUALLY is found with those pushed to the margins…and even if its hard to see…I believe that it is possible to see these little glimmers of that kingdom that is already among us when individuals step out of their comfort zones and reach out to those experiencing life at the margins…lives that the world discounts or throws aside…those moments that we’ve talked about over and over again when we reflect the light of the one who took on flesh and dwelled among us.

Now the world might not like that…it might even strike out against those who are willing to live their lives in this way…but just think…Jesus reminds us that when we live out this NEW way of life…this NEW way of love and joy and acceptance…a life lived in the reality that we’re all on the same page…that despite wealth or prestige or power or authority or the car we drive or the clothes we wear or the restaurants we eat in or the number of likes on our latest Instagram picture, or retweets on Twitter…or shares on Facebook…all that stuff masks the truth that each one of us is broken…and flawed…we’re all sinful…we all fall short of the glory of God…and we constantly fail ourselves and each other…but thanks be to God that GOD KNOW IT…and this is why God took on flesh in the first place…to come near to us in a way that we can see.

To be with us as one of us so that we can hear and touch him…so that we can record his words and teachings…and remember the miracles of his healings…and that when the dark powers of this world lashed out and tried SO hard to snuff out that shining perfect light of God…not even death could accomplish it.

And as we consider THAT amazing aspect of the gospel…maybe Annie’s song needs a little tweak…because I imagine it was pretty gloomy on that Friday when Jesus died…but then… (sing) God’s light’ll come back…on Sunday…bet your bottom dollar that on Sunday…we see the SON… (pause)

Maybe Jesus even hinted at that very point today…blessed are the pure in heart…for they will see…God. (pause)

Life’s not perfect…and the gospel…the scripture…the Bible…its honest about that…God knows it…and Jesus professes it…but despite the brokenness of this world and of us…we are claimed by the one who NAMES us…blessed ones.  Amen.

The Incarnation 1-5-20

In this sermon for the Second Sunday of Christmas, I explore John’s version of the Incarnation. God enters into the world as the Word became flesh to dwell among us…but we also are reminded that God’s fingerprints have been present since THE BEGINNING, as the light shines in the darkness.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/sermon-007-the-incarnation-1-5-20

The Innocents 12-29-19

This sermon is utterly off the cuff and unplanned. Due to the news of an antisemitic hate crime the night before this sermon, I punted my original plan of a hymn sing with accompanying reflections on the hymns.  The news mixed with the assigned gospel text of the Slaughter of the Innocents, found in Matthew 2:13-23, seemed far to timely to ignore.

As this was not scripted, there is no accompanying text.  Also please note in the audio, the scripture passage at the beginning is substantially louder than the sermon itself. A mic-issue during the reading of the passage resulted in splicing in a separate recording of the scripture.

You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/sermon-006-the-innocents-12-29-19

A Long Long Time Ago 12-24-19

In this sermon for Christmas Eve, based on the normal text of Luke 2:1-20, I explore the action of God in the birth of Jesus. We dive into divine mysteries of faith, and not understanding what God is up to, but being assured of the promise that it is for us…and there’s a healthy amount of Star Wars excitement.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/sermon-005-a-long-long-time-ago-12-24-19

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

May the grace and peace of our Savior be yours tonight. Amen

When I was in high school and college, I went to a lot of movies. Rarely would a week go by that I didn’t take in at least one…and since I watched a lot of movies…I also watched A LOT…of previews.  And I enjoyed it…it was one of my favorite parts of the experience in those days…to see a small piece of an upcoming movie…and to get that sense of wonder and anticipation about something coming your way in the future.

Now there was one in particular that I can remember…showed up late 1996…it opened with an image of a small square boxy television set, placed in the middle of the large theater screen…and as images of a space battle played on that small tv screen, a voiceover told us “For a generation, THIS, has been the only way to watch Star Wars.”  And you see a X-wing fighter flying straight at the screen…and you hear “UNTIL NOW” and that X-wing comes through the tv screen…straight at you, filling the entire theater screen.

This was how they announced the Special Edition theater release of the original Star Wars trilogy…and I was ecstatic…All three of the original movies came out by the time I was 5 years old and so I was part of that generation who had only seen them on television…and so the excitement to be able to sit in a theater a few months later…and see that blue text…a long time ago in a galaxy far far away…followed by a second of silence before the giant STAR WARS emblem flashed across the screen at the same time as that amazing musical fan fare begins…it was thrilling.

A couple years later, beginning in 1999, it happened again…and this time, with the release of the prequel trilogy…I was able to sit in the theatre and have that same excitement and thrill…to know that I was seeing part of a larger and familiar story…and yet to experience an unknown chapter.

2015…it started again…with the release of episode 7, the Force Awakens…and that time I was able to sit next to my son for his FIRST experience of Star Wars in the theater…and finally, this past weekend…in what has been billed as the FINAL chapter in the Skywalker Saga…episode 9…and sure enough…as I sat there in that brief second of quiet and dark, and then felt the thrill of STAR WARS along with the music…and I don’t know if was nostalgia or excitement or anticipation…or maybe a mixture of all three, but I had a little grin on my face as we entered back into this familiar LARGER story…maybe for the last time…in order to experience it new. (pause)

It seems to me that through 42 years of Star Wars…the way that we continue to revisit that larger story…connecting with the familiar…sharing it with a new generation…and even those moments of anticipation for something new…that whole thing seems to have a great deal in common with the sense that we bring tonight.

Christmas…such a vitally important part of the church year…of the overarching story of what God is up to in our reality…a night in which we join together in the familiar to celebrate something that is worth remembering.

Some of us bring many years of experience to this night…a sense of tradition…memories of year’s past and in our minds “the perfect” Christmas conditions.  Some might be here for the very time…hearing this story, experiencing this worship with brand new eyes.

For some…events have happened in the past year that give you new perspective…you are bringing something different tonight…and because of that, whatever it is…good, bad, or otherwise…this night feels different…and you hear that same old story in a new way…and this is a truth that we all bring into our lives of faith…that OUR existence shapes our experience of the scriptures…and of worship and tradition…that our lives up to this point, shape how we experience the divine. (pause)

It seems to me that this is also the case for the individuals who are involved within the Christmas narrative…the story of the Nativity…the story of Jesus’ birth…so let’s think about the different people that we hear about.

First off, a couple of big-wigs in the historical and political realm. Ceasar Augustus…emperor of the Roman Empire…and Quirinius, the Syrian governor who overseas the area we know as the Holy Land.  Two important people…who beyond a name drop, and an order given for a Roman Census…we never hear from again. Logic would say that these two would play a bigger part in this reality altering moment…but beyond the census giving the Holy Family a reason to be Bethlehem…they play no other part…because apparently God doesn’t put a whole of stock in status and political power. (pause)
Who else do we hear about?  Well, we’ve got Mary and Joseph…who have followed the rules and headed off to be registered…and they’re in a tough spot aren’t they? As we hear, the time comes for Mary to have her baby…because those two political bigwigs don’t give a hoot about the biological situation of these commoners from backwater Palestine…and biology doesn’t care that they are in a strange city, surrounded by strangers in the dwelling of some random house in Bethlehem.

Mary…is probably scared out of her mind…not only is she in unfamiliar surroundings…but she’s about to go through labor and birth for the first time…and remember she’s like 13 or 14. Granted, the angel of the Lord had shown up and relayed this whole deal to her 9 months earlier…but now she’s in the midst of it.  (pause) Joseph…he’s there too…and though we don’t hear much from him, I imagine he’s stressing out as well.  But in the end, the baby is born…they wrap him up and lay him a manger…which, despite any expectations you might have of a barn connected to a hotel…would have actually been a normal aspect of the structure of houses in those days…everyone had a corner where you’d keep your animals in the cold of winter…and so you also had a manger to feed your animals…and lacking any other available space…that’s where they laid the baby. (pause)

Now we have one other batch of people to consider…the shepherds…a ratty, stinky, batch of guys hanging around outside of town…pretty much the lowest of the low from a social standpoint…polar opposite of those first two individuals that we heard about in the emperor and governor…and yet these shifty characters are the ones with the dynamic, downright shocking part to play in this story.

It was nighttime…the sheep were bedded down…and while they were keeping watch, I imagine not much was really happening…I bet that guy was totally nodding off…when suddenly…out of nowhere…brightness and divine glory and booming angelic voices surround them. This was their Star Wars fanfare moment…and they are given the divine message. Born to you this day, a savior, who is Christ the Lord…and then a heavenly choir shows up…adding to the experience…but then just as quick as its begins, its over…the angels depart…the shepherd blink at each other for a moment before deciding…well, let’s go check it out.

And they do…and they find the baby laying there just like the angel said…and they share the divine news that was given to them…and then they haul off, still praising God and telling everyone they encounter…which is great…and Joseph’s over here doing who knows what…and Mary…she hears all this stuff…and sorta takes it all in…and then treasures it. (pause)

Different people…all of whom bring their own perspectives…their own experiences into this DIVINE moment in history…and that shapes HOW they experience this divine encounter…and same is true for us.  Consider what has happened…consider what we profess to be true…consider what we celebrate every year at this time.

The divine creator of EVERYTHING…God who is ultimately bigger…larger…grander…greater…the one who is completely and utterly MORE than we are…through the power of divine Holy Spirit…which is still the same God but is somehow also different…that Spirit of God SOMEHOW has begotten a baby into the womb of very young woman. A baby who is somehow both human and divine…who is the Son of God and yet IS GOD. (pause)

This truth which we profess…this concept of one God in three persons…it defies all logic…and when we bump into things like that…we default to calling it a divine mystery…and there’s nothing wrong with that…but its doesn’t explain things.

This is a concept that comes up in Confirmation Class all the time…and this year’s class has really grabbed onto that question.  “Wait…so Jesus is God?” “Yes.” “But Jesus prays to God right?” “Yes.” “And Jesus calls God, Father right?” “Yes.”  “So…Jesus is his own dad?”

Don’t get me wrong, I love it that our young people are thinking about this…that they are wrestling with it…because it doesn’t make sense does it…and yet…that the gospel…that we have a God who desires to be with us so much, that this DIVINE entity would become one of us and dwell among us…and not only that…but in order to somehow overcome every aspect of this broken reality that hinders our relationships with God and with one another…this same divine made flesh would grow up…spend 3 years embodying the freedom from what hinders as he heals, and teaches, and raises the dead, and constantly reaches across the margins to those pushed to the outside…and then when the powers of this world push back against this new thing that God is bringing into the world…his body is broken and his blood is poured out…and he PROMISES us that whatever is going on in THAT moment is FOR you…and we will remember that…we will celebrate THAT tonight as well…even though we don’t understand it…even though it is a mystery on how or why it works. (pause)

People of God…it is my great joy to stand up before you when we gather for worship…and especially in times like this one when we gather specifically for the purpose of remembering the action that God has taken in our reality…it is my joy to speak about the divine mysteries of our faith…the mysteries of things we cannot explain…but to be able to share the truth and the promise that whatever it is that God is up to…that it is for you…a promise spoken by the angel to the shepherds…that this good news of great joy IS for ALL people…even if we do not understand it.

The birth of Christ…which we celebrate tonight…it may have happened A long long time ago…somewhere far far away…but it is for you…and just like the shepherds…you are invited to go forth from this place…from this experience…glorifying God and telling all who you encounter…about this mysterious thing that God has done.

This is the promise of the Gospel…that it is for you…and this is the challenge of the Gospel…that now YOU…are empowered by that same Spirit…to carry the good news out into this world that is so desperate for it…a world SO desperate for news of joy and love.

I gotta reference Star Wars one more time…not the brand new one because that would be spoilers and that’s not cool…but episode 8 that came out 2 years ago. There’s a line in THAT film that embodies the mystery of what God is up to in our reality…the mystery of Divine love for this world.  “This is how we win…not by fighting what we hate…by saving what we love.”

I don’t know how it works…but I profess to you…THIS…is what Jesus…has done. Amen.