"Just come and see!"

Have you experienced something so wonderful that you couldn’t wait to tell someone, anyone and everyone? Did you have trouble describing the experience, finally saying, “oh, just come and see what I’m talking about!”

John the Baptist is so excited. He was there! He saw and heard it all! The heavens opening, the voice of God speaking, the spirit of God as a dove descending. He had a front row seat and now he must tell someone, anyone and everyone who would listen that the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is here!

I’m wondering if John’s disciples are caught up in the story and listening to John relive the experience again and again and again. The very next day, John sees Jesus and wastes no time. Look, look here HE IS! Here is the Lamb of God. John’s two disciples follow Jesus, leaving John.

Crowds begin to follow Jesus. And he asks them a question.

Now if a bunch of people were following me, I think that I would ask them, “what do you want?” or “ can I help you” or “why are you following me?” Jesus he asks, “What are you looking for?” These are the first words we hear Jesus say in the gospel of John.

What are you looking for? Well, this morning it could have been my keys, my glasses, my cell phone or all three.

Truly, delving in deeper, some of us answer a job, enough money, peace in our families, quick and easy solutions to a difficult and nagging problem, something to get us through a challenging day, something to make our lives better. Anything to make us feel just a little bit better about ourselves, our lives, our community, our country, our world.

When Jesus asks that question, he is asking the crowd and he is asking us, “what are you seeking?” And the disciples don’t give him a direct answer but rather counter with a question themselves.

Were they avoiding having to answer? Was it too difficult to verbalize? Is it too difficult for us to verbalize what we are looking for because in verbalizing we give voice to something we would rather not acknowledge to ourselves, much less publicly. For in verbalizing it would make the emptiness in our lives all to real?

And so the disciples ask, “where are you staying?’ And that’s a loaded word in the gospel of John – “stay”. It also means remain, stay, live, dwell, last, abide, endure, continue, a place to be.

Isn’t that what we all want? A home, a meaningful relationship, community, a place to be?

And that’s what the disciples wanted as well – to be a part of something larger than themselves, to have meaningful relationships, a place to be.

And so Jesus says to them and says to us, “Come and see.”

This is a wonderful invitation with no strings attached, no probing questions, no expectations, no qualifications, no accusations – just a simple invitation with three words: come and see.

What are we going to come to and see? God?

A common exercise during most VBS programs is to talk about God sightings At first they have a difficult time. And adults are no different. Seeing God is such a foreign concept for everyone.

We’re really good at naming the places that we expect God to be – personal tragedy, anxiety, hurt. But actually seeing him? That’s more difficult. Yes, it’s easier to see him in the large events, but what about the mundane, everyday stuff that goes on?

Then comes the challenging part – sharing those sightings. It feels clumsy, uncomfortable, perhaps even alien. It’s hard work but so crucial to what we are called to do and be in this world. It is in the sharing of where we see God that we give something of ourselves, something that for many of us we find intimate and personal.

It is in this sharing that relationships are forged and connections are made.

To go the next step is even harder – embodying Jesus’ words and inviting someone to “come and see.”

The power of “come and see” – of invitation is before us in this passage from John. From Jesus’ intitial invitation to the first disciples who followed him came the many of the 12 closest disciples of Jesus.

Andrew finds a place to abide, remain and to be. But before he leaves, he goes and gets his brother, Simon. “We have found the Messiah –come and see.” Simon gets a new name – Peter, the rock on which Jesus builds the church.

It doesn’t stop there – in the verses that follow other disciples are invited to come and see: Phillip, Nathanael, the woman at the well who invites her entire village.

Jesus asks us “what are you looking for?” and we respond, “where are you staying?” Are we really asking can we find a home with you? Are we worthy enough? Does it matter what we have done and where we’ve come from? Can we be in relationship with you?

“Come and see!”

Here at Resurrection there is much to be found – a community of acceptance that reflects the love Jesus, a place where we reach out, a place where we love, a place where we care for each other, the community and world. But if we don’t say to others around us, “come and see!” how will they know about what we’ve found here in the 6710 Plank Road?

In this coming week, may you notice God in big and small ways, share that experience with someone and invite them to come and see all that is going on here in this community at Resurrection. And we have a lot going on – God is here and active in our lives. We feed our homeless at local shelters, support other outreach organizations such as Hope House and Micah ministries. Souper Bowl of Caring is in two weeks, even meetings where we struggle with how best to walk to the future where God is and has already in store for us.

And what if they say, “no, I don’t think so…” That’s OK!! We’re called to invite and to say, “come and see.” Keep leaning in. Keep asking. Invite them to the fun things we do here at RLC. The Holy Spirit will take care of the rest so don’t take it personally. You’ve done what you’ve been called to do. And you’ve planted a seed.

God loves you and will do amazing things through you! Just come and see!

Staying focused and keeping our heads in the game…

Epiphany is one of my most favorite seasons of the church year. Every Sunday between now and February 23 (Transfiguration Sunday) in the scriptures that we study an aspect of Jesus’ character will be revealed. For the first Sunday after the Epiphany we get to witness, through the eyes of Matthew, Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River.

More importantly we come to understand how Jesus keeps his focus and his head in the game.

John has just finished saying, “I baptize you with water …the one coming after me …he is much more powerful and I am not even worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with fire and the Holy Spirit.” And right on cue, Jesus appears on the scene to be baptized.

John doesn’t want to do it.

All four gospels record the baptism of Jesus. All four gospels to squirm at this point. How is it that the one without sin has come to the Jordan to be baptized? It doesn’t make sense.

John asks a question of Jesus, “do you come to me?”  He understands who Jesus is. He knows whose Jesus is. What purpose does it serve that Jesus comes to be baptized? John knows it should be Jesus baptizing him! And so he asks the question, “do you come to me?”

Yes, Jesus comes to John. “…it is proper for us to in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” In other words, it’s time to receive the mission, get your head in the game, get focused and get to work.

For Jesus, getting his head in the game means that he lives out the incarnational God that he is. No, he doesn’t need to be baptized but God has joined us on the journey through Jesus. So, yes, be baptized!

This baptism is a two-person proposition. Jesus must seek it (it is right for us to do this); John must do it. This is God’s plan and it must be so. That is the path to righteousness.

What does this righteousness look like? For Jesus, it is both inward and outward – an inward desire paired with outward actions.

This is the first act of Jesus’ public ministry and he is obedient to God’s will, God’s calling for his life and all that is before him. Jesus is on a mission – God’s mission. It begins with laser-like focus.

Yes, Jesus is the messiah but he is a humble messiah. He walks the same path that we walk though his walk is very different. Setting the example for us, he is not so unsure of himself that he has to hold onto power. It will be at his weakest point that he will be the most powerful.

And God punctuates this whole scene with a simple statement – “this is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus’ identity is affirmed. Before and above anything else, Jesus is God’s son, the beloved, with whom God is well pleased.

Jesus is focused. He understands who and whose he is before he begins the enormous mission before him. The first test will come soon. The same Holy Spirit that descends on him will take him by the hand into the desert for a 40-day fast and a tempting three-day conversation with Satan.  

If Jesus has just one ounce of doubt, one degree of misunderstanding of who and whose he is, if he mistrusts the relationship he has with God, it will leave him open to temptation. He must stay focused and keep his head in the game. And he will do that knowing that he is God’s son, the beloved, with whom God is well pleased.

Before we start any mission, we too, must be focused and have our head in the game.

We must understand who and whose we are and understand the relationship that we have with God so that we, too, may resist the temptation to make it our mission, our call rather than God’s mission and God’s call to where we are to be and who we are to be at this place and in this time.

The most important thing that we can hear from the scripture is that we, too, are God’s beloved. And perhaps that is the hardest to hear and understand.

Why is that? Because all our lives we hear other names that people call us – stupid, loser, chicken, fat, dumb, clumsy – think about the names that people have called you.

Names are powerful – we are given names. We take names for ourselves. Names give us pride. Names shame us. Names can make us great. Names can reduce us to nothing. The old adage – sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me – is undone. It’s a myth. The cold, hard reality is that names are powerful and they can hurt deeply.

Our earthly names do not define us, they do not give us life and none of them provide for us redemption. BUT God’s name for us does. God’s name gives us life. God’s name gives us redemption.

In our baptism GOD calls us his child, his beloved.  Who we are: beloved child. Whose we are: of God. Names are powerful but God’s name for us is so much more powerful than any name that we could be given here on earth.

NAMED by God as his beloved child and CLAIMED by God when we are marked with the cross of Christ forever, we have the promise of the Holy Spirit, we are given the promise of life with God forever.

So who are we? Beloved child! Whose are we? of God! This means that no matter where we go, God goes with us.

Who are we? Beloved. And Whose are we? Child of God. This means that no matter what we do, God does not abandon us.

Named and claimed – we can go forth to face the challenges of the world before us.

Named and claimed – we can, with boldness, answer God’s call to his mission.

So the next time someone asks you what’s your name tell them, “I’m a beloved child of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, and focused on answering God’s call to mission.”

And if that is too much to remember, simply say,” I am a beloved baptized child of God.”

We wait for…peace

Between a rock and a hard place.

We’ve all been there…having to make a decision between two options, neither of which are very good. It’s an intolerable situation – faced with making a choice, neither of which would have a pleasant outcome. Perhaps a decision that will have life and death results. It’s called being between a rock and a hard place, a very uncomfortable place.

That’s where Joseph find himself…making a decision that will have life and death results. Divorce Mary quietly or loudly – a broken promise was a broken promise. We don’t know what went on between Mary and Joseph or Mary’s father and Joseph when it was discovered that Mary was pregnant. It couldn’t have been a pleasant conversation. Certainly wasn’t peaceful.

First century marriage customs are different – many of the marriages were prearranged between the men of the family when the children were, well, children. Love was not the issue. The bride did not expect love, companionship or comfort.

The idea of marriage was to join two families together, not individuals.  And most of the time it was done to gain economic or political advantage. It all came with a price — a bride price, which was paid by the husband-to-be. 

Betrothals were about a year long and were binding, just like marriage. Only death or divorce terminated them and if the betrothed died before the actual wedding date, the surviving spouse to be would be considered “widowed”.

And, the honor code was simple – you didn’t take something that was not yours and that included someone’s betrothed wife. And since the child was NOT his, Joseph was entitled to a refund of the bride price. The families were in crisis – confused, hurt with dreams dashed – and terribly embarrassed.

Joseph lived his life according to the law of Moses – he was righteous in that respect. He loved Mary but now he found himself hurt and disappointed – and betrayed. His espoused wife had obviously been unfaithful. The evidence was clear. She was pregnant and Joseph knew he wasn’t the father.

She faced death by stoning and when they caught up with the father – well, he could face the same penalty – again for taking something that was not his to take.

It was a dark day indeed for Joseph, son of David. His rock and hard place. Two choices. Both bad. The outcome – the scandal – so much to bear.

Joseph was also a kind man. Rather than to have her stoned, he resolved to divorce her quietly, as if there is such a thing. He lived by Micah 8, “what does the Lord require of you? Do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Love wins over Deuteronomy and its laws. And how would you stone the Holy Spirit anyway?

That’s what the angel called him – “son of David” – King David – right out of the Old Testament — now there’s a man with a story rife with scandal.

Matthew, in vs. 1-17, of this same chapter, takes great pains to draw the genealogical line from Abraham right up to Joseph. Contained in that line are the names of “other” women – Tamar, who slept with her father-in-law, Rahab the Amorite Harlot, Ruth the Moabite, and the wife of Uriah – Bathsheba, who became David’s wife.

That’s what it means to be a part of the family – no one is perfect and yet God works through all the imperfection to create something wonderful and beautiful and good and God’s purpose will not be thwarted. God does new things through old sinful ways and habits of God’s people.

Do not be afraid… those places between rocks and hard places scare us. Fear – opposite of faith – stops us in our tracks, makes us contemplate and do things that aren’t in God’s plan. It is precisely in those places that the divine is most creative.

 It takes a dream and an angel to awaken Joseph to something beyond his wildest imagination – God is revealing a new thing that God is doing in the world. 

God awakens us to the possibility that it just might not be about us, but something much bigger, beyond all comprehension is going to happen, and that all God is doing is beckoning us to take God’s hand for an adventure of a lifetime. It may make absolutely no sense to us. 

This is scary stuff . No less for Joseph. It took an angel to convince Joseph. Take Mary. Take the child. Name him Jesus.

YOU name him Jesus. It was the father that did the naming and therefore the claiming of the child. That was the 1st century paternity test. It still didn’t sound logical.

Because simply put, there are times that to us, God is not logical. What we have here is a baby named Jesus, the fulfillment of a promise that is a baby that is going to be named Emmanuel.

Emmanuel, which means God with us.

A baby is born, who is going to save people and that he is also God manifest – God with us – Jesus and Emmanuel.  God makes a promise and then in surprising ways, fulfills it.

Jesus is that promise kept. And this passage also reveals the character of God to us. Not only does he keep his promises in ways that we don’t expect and might find strange, but God goes above and beyond.

Here, not only has God kept his promise, but broadened it. This promise is not just for David and all his kinfolk as well as Israel, but it is for all of us. And now that Jesus is called “Emmanuel” begins to make more sense.

“Emmanuel” – which means, literally translated from the Hebrew, – “the ‘with us’ God.”  The bible was written because God had much to say to us and it is a book of faith to be believed. Jesus is the ‘with us’ God who saves the world from its sins.

This narrative that contains unexpected, surprising and even jaw-dropping events helps us to see God as one who will do the unexpected. It helps us to see God as one that will not quit.

God’s creation is a work in progress, always changing, not always making sense, sometimes downright inconvenient and confusing. God is always at work, never tiring and always surprising.

God is the ultimate promise-keeper. And this is never more fully understood than in the cry of a child, born of an unwed pregnant teenager out back in the stable.

As we bring this Advent season to a close, may we listen for God’s word of love, grace and mercy today and always, knowing that God is coming, God is here and that in the end, everything will turn out OK  — even when we’re face with impossible situations, rocks and hard places — because God has promised to always be Emmanuel.

Fear not. God is doing a new thing. And God has invited us to be a part of God’s amazing, creative, redemptive work. And find peace in that knowledge! We wait for what we already have…

We wait for…joy!

“Are you the one?” What an odd question to ask. What a very odd question for John to ask.

Last week, we read of the confidence of John the Baptist as he proclaimed the coming of Jesus, as he pointed out that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah.

But nothing has changed. The problems are still there. The oppression is still happening. Prophets, like him, are sitting in jail cells, rotting and ignored, contained. Joy? It’s long gone.

But now he asks, “or are we to wait for another?” John’s confidence is gone, he is having doubts, he’s wondering if he has gotten it right, as he sits in prison and waits. He is looking for the Messiah to release him from his jail cell.

He waits for the one that is to come, this one who will baptize people with fire; his winnowing fork is in his hand and he will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Where’s the fire? Where’s the Messiah!

No wonder John was confused by this Jesus. What kind of prophet is this? Prophets eat wild locust and honey – this Jesus eats with sinners. Prophets dress in camel’s hair with belts around their waists, signifying the perpetual mourning for the degradation of Israel. Jesus wears the traditional dress.

John was looking for a Messiah who would come preaching fire and brimstone, open up a can of you know what, kick you know what and take names. But this Jesus brings forgiveness, healing, love and mercy.

Instead of marching on Jerusalem and taking the town by force, this Jesus has thunderous condemnation, not for Caesar, but for his own people and for the Pharisees.

“Are you the one is to come, or should we wait for another?” Same question we ask when God doesn’t act the way we would like for him to act or do what we want or expect him to do.

And so it shocks us when Jesus sends a message back: “what do you think?” It is a bit unnerving when we realize that Jesus is rebuking John for looking for an old testament style messiah.

Go and tell what you see and hear. Blind people see. Lame people walk. Lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised. Poor people hear good news and it is brought to them. Miracles – prophets don’t perform miracles, but this messiah does!

And these are not just miracles in terms of healing. These are miracles of restoration. These miracles restore people to community. Isn’t that God wants – to restore people’s relationship with him. To restore joy?

Jesus, too, is restoring people to community. Blind people were cast aside – denounced as sinners. Lepers were cast out of society and relationships. Lame people were not even allowed to approach the altar. Now these people are restored to the community that excluded them.

Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at Jesus for doing these things. What would cause people to take offense at actions that are done solely for the sake of the other; and that give justice to the least of these?

Is Jesus telling John and his disciples and telling us to stop looking for that mind-blowing sign in the sky and focus instead on the invitation to be a part of the kingdom of God? Look for the joy in and among us?

After John’s disciples leave, Jesus heaps praises on John and declares him the greatest of the prophets. And then we encounter verse 11.

Yet even the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

John is relating to the world in the old way. And he was the greatest of that age. But there is a new age now. The new age and new world order that Jesus describes in the beatitudes.

In the new age, we are invited to relate in a new way. We are to seek good for the other. We are to give to others as we find ourselves. This is a new way of doing discipleship. Choose this way and already you are greater than John the Baptist, greater than anyone in the old age.

John never got out of that jail cell. He was beheaded. We don’t know if John got to hear the good news of Christ. All we know is that he was looking for all the wrong things in all the right places.

Jesus came to help us see all the right things in all the right places. He came to help us see the world through God’s eyes. He came to help us hear the Good news. He came to give us a promise of eternal life with God.

As we come back to John’s original question, born out of desperation and loss of hope – are you the one who is to come or should we wait for another – we also have to ask ourselves another question – is this a Messiah that we can live with?

Can we handle a God who desires us to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with him? To treat others as Jesus would treat them?

Or are we looking for a vengeful, frightening God?

Can we deal with a God who comes to us in Jesus offering forgiveness, showing mercy, calling us all to repentance?

Or do we just want God to do it and leave us out of it so we don’t have to examine how we think or questions our actions.

God never shows up in ways that we expect him and the kingdom of heaven manifests itself in ways that we can never imagine. But God does show up and the kingdom of heaven does draw close and we know this simply because he sent Jesus to embody that promise. As Advent reminds us, we are called to wait, expect, see, hear and listen. And to do so with joy.

Because we wait for joy and we already have it.

We wait for…faith, which can look strange sometimes…

“In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea…”

By today’s standards John the Baptist would creep people out. But no so in the first century.

He was a standard issue, first century prophet. He drank no strong drink or wine and lived in the tradition of Elijah as described in 2 Kings 1. And that made John a rather hairy fellow. Prophets didn’t cut their hair. As for eating locusts and wild honey out in the desert, John was totally dependent on God and living off the land – living in faithful relationship with the one true God.

Prophets of the time didn’t talk about the future. They recalled the past and spoke in the present. They have been described as “truth tellers of the present and past.”

That’s where we find John the Baptist – out in the wilderness continually prophesying, continually recalling the past and speaking truth about the present. This is what people were coming out in the desert, in the wilderness to see.

John’s message was simple: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

As we read “repent” in Matthew 11, there is much about this word that doesn’t get translated. In the Greek, this isn’t a “one and done” but rather a continuous action: repent and keep on repenting.

Commas and punctuation matters, except in the Greek where the written language was in all caps, contains no punctuation much less spaces between words. Why is this important to know about this passage? Depending upon where you place the punctuation, it can be rendered as

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord”

Or

“The voice of one crying: In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord.”

Which is what Isaiah 40:3 says.

As for the rest of the verse: “make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” In the desert, in the wilderness. We’ve got to go through wilderness to get to resurrection. And that is going to take faith!

It is in the wilderness that Jesus, preparing for his ministry, goes toe-to-toe with the devil. It is in the wilderness where things get worked out.

It is in the wilderness where God meets us, works things out and prepares us for ministry. It is in the wilderness where faith is forged.

Think about the wilderness times in your life. How did God met you there? How did things get worked out? How did God prepare you for the ministry to which God called you?

The image of the threshing floor brings all this preparation into focus. We might not understand the concept that John is communicating to us because we have an urban base of understanding reading about a first century agrarian society. And how many of us have visited a threshing floor in the United States?

Wheat grows on a stem and the head is the grain. These two need to be separated from each other before flour can be milled. This would take place on a threshing floor.

A threshing floor is a three-sided structure that is built in the side of a rise where air comes over it. Wheat stalks are put on the floor and beaten to separate the wheat grains from the chaff, which is everything else. 

The grains of wheat are significantly smaller but also heavier than the rest of the chaff. A farmer using a winnowing fork with two prongs scoops up the wheat and chaff and throws it in the air. The breeze comes over the structure. Chaff blows away in the wind and the wheat falls to the floor to be collected, on its way to becoming bread.

We find God here standing at the threshing floor and God has put the winnowing fork in Jesus’ saving and loving hand.

There are times when we feel so beaten down, that we too, lay broken on the floor. Jesus picks us up – our good parts and our bad, our wheat and chaff – and gently throws it all in the air.

With his breath, his ruach, this Holy Spirit, holy breath of God, our chaff – all that is bad in our lives – is gently blown away.

“The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of the knowledge and the fear of the Lord,” these same words spoken at our baptisms and confirmations place faith in our hearts and minds and souls.

The Holy Spirit blows our chaff into the fire and Jesus gathers the good part of us, which he puts into his granary and uses for his purposes.

The bad parts, the disappointing parts of us are burned with unquenchable fire and destroyed. It is in faith that we are prepared for continual repentance.

Repentance is much more than saying sorry and promising to not do it again. It is a literal turning around, complete change, go in the other direction. It’s not so much of what we are doing wrong but rather what we need to do differently.

God uses the wilderness times in our lives to point out that our way is not the way that God would have us to go and it’s time to change course.

Imagine what direction God could be point us in? What does God want us to do and be in this time and this place.

God has a dream! We hear about it in Isaiah 11. The dream of a peaceable kingdom where once there was animosity and hate, harmony and acceptance prevail.

Wolves and lambs. Leopards and baby goats. Calves and lions. Children and venomous snakes. All getting along. Changing their ways. Lions become vegetarians and share meals with oxen. All experience righteousness and faithfulness.

This is the place of justice and mercy, hope and wholeness, peace and faith.

God has a dream. The God who can raise up children of Abraham out of stones will raise up a child out of a manger who grows up to be a man on a cross for the sake of all people. And this man’s life, death and resurrection ill be the salvation for all.

So we are called by God to continual repentance, to change directions, to imagine, to hope, to be a part of God’s dream where the kingdom of heaven is so very near. Even if it’s in the middle of our personal wilderness. It is here that we will be able to hear that voice crying, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

God is indeed doing anew thing! This is the time to dream. This is the time of faith!

We are waiting…for hope!

We embark on a four week Advent series “We are waiting…for what we already have.” Week One:

The temple, the seat of the living God, the beautiful opulent temple, was nothing more than a heap of smoldering rubble and desecration. The Jewish Revolt over the Roman empire failed. The hopes and dreams of the Jewish nation, along with the bodies of those who fought, lay dying in the streets of Jerusalem.  All was lost.

The end of the world came 70 AD. It is in this context that the gospels were written down, committed to paper from memories.

This was a frightening time for the disciples of Jesus and the fledging “People of the Way” that would become the Christian church.

In this context came memories of the Messiah – that very different Messiah – predicting the end of the world, the world as they knew it.

The disciples had begged Jesus to give them a little heads up. Tell them what signs they need to be watching for and exactly when to be watching for them.

And we’ve been watching for them ever since. There are those among who have taken these scriptures and turned them in to fear mongering. It’s been going for 2000 years. The world for centuries has been afraid – very afraid – of what the end might look like.

So afraid that we might miss the signs that we have lost the hope of the words that come to us when our worlds end because of loss of a loved one, job, security, sense of self, lack of belonging, a place to be, catastrophic weather, health concerns and the list goes on.

Jesus gets to the heart of the matter – the unpredictability and unexpectedness of life scares us. In these apocalyptic texts, which means revealing or uncovering, God lifts the veil of despair, war, sorrow and hate and lights candles of hope for us. And we pray for God’s light to overwhelm the darkness of the world and of our hearts and of our souls.

It’s the unpredictability that scares us. We want to control it. We have life insurance, medical insurance, disability, travel, house, phone, car, possessions insurance. Understand, I’m not saying throw these away and dispense with the premiums. It does speak to our need to feel safe and secure.

We don’t know when we’ll need any, if at all, the insurances that we pay for. There might be a medical calamity on the horizon, a car accident that totals our vehicle.

We would do well to put on repeat verse 36: But about that day and hour NO ONE KNOWS, not the angles who get sent by the son, not the son who sends the angels but only the Father, only God.

And we know of too many instances of where one is taken while the other is left behind. Stories from 9-11 or even those London Bridge this weekend – the perpetrator just began randomly stabbing people.

That’s what Jesus is saying in vs. 37-39, when he compares his return to the flood and Noah’s family. Jesus doesn’t pass judgment upon those who fell victim to the massive flooding.

They were going about their lives – eating and drinking – we all do that.

Marrying and giving in marriage – we all do that.

It’s what people do – they live.

The people in Noah’s day were not prepared for what was coming their way. Noah and his family was – and keep this in mind – left behind. They were the left behind to do God’s work, to carry on God’s story and to embody God’s salvation and promise.

Jesus uses this instance to show the sudden and unexpected randomness of life. Pairs of people who were out doing their thing – living lives, working hard in the fields, grinding wheat. All is peaceful and no one expects a thing, oblivious to what is about to happen. And then one is taken.

Again, the unexpectedness and uncertainty and uncontrollability of our world, our humanness brought into the light.

Have you walked through your neighborhood at night? What do you notice? Streetlights? What about the yard light? Are your neighbors home?

And when you are gone, do you have lights on timers, motion-sensor lights on your porch? An armed security system?

We are vigilant when we are gone making sure the mail is taken in, the papers are not left out advertise our absence. Lest a robber comes in to invade our home, our lives, our property, stealing our sense of peace and security.

We’re ready…just in case.

We’re diligent – just in case.

Where is God in all of this?

We are called to live lives, not in fear but in faith. That’s the way God made us, that’s the lives God intends for us to live.

We are to live in the light of the promise of future hope.

We have the promises made to us in our baptisms.

We have the promise that God will always call us “children of God.”

We have the promise of Emmanuel—the “with us God.”

God is here! And God is not going anywhere!!

Emmanuel does not insulate us from all that scares us but God does promise that we don’t face it alone as we go about our living. As we eat and drink, marry and give in marriage, as we plant in our fields and grind our wheat. In the living of life.

The promise of the presence of Emmanuel and the hope of Emmanuel to come allows us to think about the possibilities.

What can we dare to do?

Living in the sure and present hope of the future yet to come, what can we dare to do now?

The invitation of Advent implores us to explore a different kind of living in daily life. What do we dare to change right now in our lives the reflect who and whose we are. That reflects that we are children God, wonderfully made to live in God’s image, in faith, not fear.

God shapes by the waters of the font and keeps feeding us the bread and wine.

What can we dare to do? What possibilities can we imagine? Because Jesus came, because Jesus comes to us now; because Jesus comes again and again, we have hope.

The hope we wait for and already have!

To God be the glory!

Proclaiming Christ crucified…it’s what disciples DO!

Today is Christ the King Sunday and it is just natural for us to think about coronations and crowns and grandeur and palaces and kingdoms and power!

And yet there is a dead guy hanging on the cross!

This is where our salvation was bought. This is the one and only savior of the world. This is how the nations are saved. No other way. By no other means. By no other person.

The tomb is empty. Jesus is Lord. God is here! All means all!  

We proclaim Christ crucified!

In the gospel of Luke Jesus does things on the cross that are not contained in the other gospels.

First words that he utters from the cross are words of grace. The Greek supports he said it more than once: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” 

Kings, rulers, presidents – persons in leadership, do you know of any in the last 2000 years that has asked God to forgive an offending nation?  We expect them to get even. Show might. Put the offender in their place.  

And yet, we hear again and again, Father forgive them… poignant words from the cross. Made all the more so, because no one has asked for forgiveness! Not a one. And yet, Jesus has come to enact God’s reign of mercy.

It was the Roman leadership that tacked that sign on the cross: This is the king of the Jews.

Pilate knew how to put usurpers to power and thrones in their place.  Pilate gave Jesus the title that Herod wanted for himself.

King of the Jews! Is that what you want to be? THIS is what we do to kings who dare mess with Rome. Come riding into town like some hero. Stir up the populace.

Some messiah this guy turned out to be hanging out here on this hill. You want a royal throne in the Roman colony? THIS is what you get! Here’s your king.

He claimed to save others but could not save himself.

The leaders mocked him, the soldiers mocked him. Even one of the criminals mocked him and implored him to get all three of them out this mess.  

Unique to Luke, as Jesus hangs between the two criminals, he is having a conversation with them.

As the one is mocking him, from the other cross comes a simple request.

A simple, humble request that has been called one of the greatest acts of faith in the Bible: “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

He doesn’t ask to be rescued from his plight, a consequence that he knows he deserves. He doesn’t ask for his suffering to end. He doesn’t ask to be saved.

This man wants to be remembered. He does not want forgotten. Someone, anyone who would remember who he was.

This is the kind of king Jesus is. A king that can be approached, even as he hangs dying on a cross. A king that shows mercy and love as the world around him can only show cruelty and hate.

Now, Jesus could have simply said, “OK, no problem.” But Jesus is hanging on that cross for a reason.

What no one understood at the time, no one could possibly comprehend – it wasn’t that Jesus could not save himself, rather Jesus WOULD not save himself.

To do anything else would mean that a world would not experience God’s reign of mercy and grace.

And this guy – this common criminal – gets so much more than he asked for. In a sentence that, again, is unique to Luke, Jesus says, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus welcomes him INTO his kingdom, into paradise, TODAY! This man will not only be remembered, but will be with Jesus. TODAY!

That’s kind of king Jesus is. The kind that you can approach, even in the midst of the agony of the cross, even if you are a criminal, and he will look at you and proclaim God’s kingdom and promise you that you will be a part of it NOW, not in the future, not in sometime in the great by and by, but now!

Today you will be with me in paradise.

Paradise – the same word used to describe the Garden of Eden. It is the same word that is used in the book of Revelation to describe the tree of life.

Paradise is the place where we go to be with God.

Not just to be with God, but to in special relationship with him. That is what Adam and Eve had with God, a special relationship, that was broken by their sin.

Paradise is a restored relationship with God and that relationship was restored on the cross – not three days later at the resurrection but on the cross when he took our sin upon himself and died and faithful obedience and saved us.

That is why we proclaim Christ crucified. Jesus and this criminal show us the truth about salvation. They were not saved from their suffering. Rather they were faithful in their suffering.

Proclaiming Christ crucified means that we proclaim faith, that when we are dying we will be saved from our sin.

It doesn’t get us out of our hardships, doesn’t make the challenges go away, doesn’t end the suffering. But we do have the promise of paradise, a right relationship with God. Today. NOW.

Yes, Christ is already here among us. That is the interesting paradox – Christ’s kingdom is now but not yet. Here but not all the way here.

This king who hangs on a cross—our king who hangs on the cross – is willing to embrace, forgive, redeem and to usher in his kingdom through his death, a death he willingly accepted.

We are called to manifest this kingdom already around us as we reach out to the other, love, care and proclaim the crucified Christ’s love. 

Proclaiming Christ crucified…it’s what disciples DO!