Posts Tagged ‘Jospeh’

Jesus and Silent Joe 12-22-19

In this sermon, based on Matthew 1:18-25, I explore the divine announcement of Jesus’ pending birth as well as the birth itself. Matthew aims the action at Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father. His actions reveal a great deal about the connections that humanity holds with the Messiah.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

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

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

As someone who has a background in acting, not to mention a fair amount of public speaking…I’ve got an appreciation for skills related to this type of thing…and in particular, I’m thinking about the skills needed for non-verbal communication.

It goes without saying that this takes on a lot of different forms, but I’ve always appreciated individuals who can convey a message without words…they use expression and mannerisms, and of course their actions to convey what’s going on with their character.

I’m sure there are a lot of examples of this type of thing, and a couple come to mind for me…and in both of them…the non-speaker is part of a duo…now the first set are entertainers in the realm of illusion…Penn and Teller…Penn talks constantly during their act…and in the midst of it all…Teller is busy doing the magic…and his expressions and actions make up his side of the show.

The second example actually comes out of a series of movies that came out back in the 90’s and early 2000’s…humorous but REALLY lowbrow…a pair of characters known as Jay and Silent Bob.  They’ve got a lot in common with Penn and Teller…Jay talks A LOT…but Silent Bob…well its right there in his name isn’t it? He’s silent…and its his expressions and actions that tell his side of the story in whatever scene they pop up in.

This idea of a silent character is where I’m connecting into today’s gospel story…Matthew’s account of the divine announcement of Jesus’ pending birth, relayed angelically to one of his parents…not to mention, in an almost throw away comment…we hear of the birth of Jesus as well.

Now Matthew’s account, this passage which we have just shared, is unique within the three year cycle of the lectionary and the passages that come up here on the final Sunday of Advent…its unique because of the presence of Jesus’ birth within the passage. Granted, most of it is still anticipatory in nature…looking forward to the birth…which it should be as we are still in Advent for a couple more days…but with Christmas coming right up on us in a couple more days…I don’t think it’s a bad thing…in many ways today is a transition from a sense of anticipation into celebration of the Messiah’s birth. (pause)

But that being said…the unique aspect of Matthew’s account of this story and the focal point did grab my attention.  Perhaps its because we’ve just come out of year highlight Luke’s gospel…one in which there is a stronger emphasis on the Good News and its effect on the marginalized. We see this in many moments, but one of the earliest happens when the angel of the Lord shows up to announce the pending Messiah and interacts with Mary, the mother of Jesus.

In Luke’s account they have a conversation…Mary is given some agency…even a choice in the matter…but Matthew presents things a little differently doesn’t he…and that was blaringly obvious to me as I started working towards today’s message….the angel shows up to Joseph.  Joseph is given direction…Joseph is given divine assurance of what’s happening…and even though as “righteous man” he’s determined to follow the law in regards to his now-pregnant fiancé, Joseph receives divinely inspired direction aimed at taking the unexpected action in this story.

Its all about Joseph isn’t it…and where’s Mary?  She’s in the background…completely passive…she’s got no choice in this matter, She’s powerless…and like Teller on stage, and Silent Bob in the movies…she’s given no voice in this VITAL moment of history.

And I’ll be honest…that REALLY bugs me…because while Luke reveals her choice and her agency in this whole deal…Matthew glosses over it…she’s lucky she even gets called by name…and I wonder what she was thinking…is she standing there in the background wanting to smack Joseph upside the head. What makes him so special that all of the focus falls in his court? (pause)

That was my first thought, one that I wrestled with as I explore Joseph’s role in this story…and not just within this immediate passage.  I took a look at the different times that Joseph pops up…because he does fill an important role in the early life of the baby and then child Jesus.

While Joseph had seemingly died by the time that Jesus’ ministry begins in his adulthood, Joseph is still around during each moment we’re given while Jesus is growing up…filling that role of parent…of provider and protector…and we find evidence of THAT specific role of parental protector of the baby Jesus…when his divine dream radar just keeps going off.

The angel of the Lord just KEEPS showing up in Joseph’s dream…we’ve got today’s passage.  And then after the birth of Jesus, when the king is trying to kill him off, Joseph gets a dream warning to haul the family off to Egypt.  Then after the king dies, another dream pops up telling Joseph to come on home…but then upon their arrival back in Palestine, another dream comes up warning of the king’s son who is now in charge and is just as dangerous, and Joseph takes the family north to Galilee. 4 times within 1 chapter of the gospel in which Joseph’s dream radar provides divine direction.

And each time, Joseph takes action…and good for him…We’re proud of you Joseph…but still…why’s the focus on you and not Mary…why doesn’t she get a voice in the matter and you do? (pause)  Or does he?

Here’s the mind-blowing thing that I realized after fitting and stewing on this most of the week.  Joseph…while he receives divine direction…he’s given divine assurances…and he takes action…throughout his ENTIRE story, in ANY of the gospels, Joseph…never…speaks.  Not one time…as we look at the larger story we might call them Jesus and Silent Joe, because JUST LIKE that character…its not words…its his actions that matter. (pause) So What does Joseph do?

He defies social decorum, not to mention religious regulations to accept Mary as his wife…despite logic saying that she’s committed adultery. He takes her into his home, no doubt facing public shame and ridicule…and then, when her pregnancy comes to a close and the baby is born…we hear that Joseph…named him Jesus.

Now for us…that seems like an throw away comment, one that we take for granted…BUT the significance of Joseph taking this action cannot be understated. In this time…it was the role of the father to name the child…ESPECIALLY if the child is a boy…something that we find in a few different scriptural stories as well.

And so…for Joseph to claim this responsibility…to give the name to the baby…Joseph is, for all intents and purposes…claiming this child as his own…he’s essentially Adopting the child that he knows is not his…this baby that is born of both flesh and spirit…human and divine in nature.  When Joseph says “I give him the name Jesus,” he is claiming Jesus as his child.

Now I can’t help but think of how HUGELY significant that fact is as we consider the overarching story of the gospel…a story which is hinted at as we consider the names given to the child. Jesus is the Greek version of Joshua…in fact it would be have been pronounced Yay-shua…and that literally means God saves…and not only but that but we also hear the prophet Isaiah referenced as the child is called Emmanuel…God with us.

And that’s the gospel isn’t it? The God who saves is with us. The divine will be found in the midst of us. The God who knows we are unable to save ourselves will dwell among us in order to accomplish that which we cannot. And this same God who took on flesh…while utterly different…is ALSO far more like us than we realize.

The savior of the world…the word made flesh…Emmanuel, is claimed by his earthly father…he is adopted into the family of Joseph…he is given a name by one who claims him as his own…you see where I’m going with this?  We are given the promise in the waters of baptism…that we too are claimed by a parent…we are adopted…made heirs to the promise as beloved children of God.

But the similarity doesn’t stop there either…there’s another that we find in this story…when Joseph is told that the child in Mary’s womb is begotten of the Holy Spirit…somehow, in ways that go beyond our ability to comprehend, and beyond my ability to explain…the humanity of Jesus is created out of the presence of the Holy Spirit…the Spirit which we hear dwells within him at his baptism…and the same Spirit which has promised to dwell within us through the waters of our baptism.

This same Holy Spirit empowers us as followers of Christ…and it unites us together into the one body of Christ here on earth…we REMEMBER that the very spirit of God which somehow incarnated the living word of God in the first place…resides within us.

And this promise opens up a whole new understanding of what Emmanuel means, what God with us…means…that not only do we have a God who walked among us. But that which is divine is found WITHIN us…within those who created bearing the divine image of God in the first place…and in whom God delights to be found in the presence of the Spirit. (pause)

As we move from this season of expectation into the season of celebration, remembering once more that God has dwelled among us…may we all remember in the midst of dark times, both literally as we consider the dark season of winter which is upon us…as well as metaphorically as we consider the darkness still present within this broken world that we live in…may we remember that to look in the face of one another is to see the presence of God IN one another.

And as this is true for you as you look at another…know that it is ALSO true as they look back at you.  This is the glory of the gospel that goes beyond all understanding…that the ultimate creator and sustainer of everything, everything which is seen and unseen…this God has chosen to dwell…in…you. Amen.

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:

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