Message for Epiphany 2 on John 1:29-42 on January 15, 2023 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas. You can see this preached on video here beginning at minute 24:55 with the Gospel reading.
“What are you looking for?” Jesus begins his ministry with a question in John’s Gospel—not an exorcism as in Mark, not a sermon like in Matthew, not in the Temple reading from Isaiah, as in Luke. “What are you looking for?” Jesus asks 2 of his first followers who hear John the Baptist announce him to be the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
It’s a good question—if we cannot articulate what we need—then maybe, we will miss the power of Jesus altogether. So, “What are you looking for?
Our culture and advertisers will certainly try to answer this question for us: we need more stuff, a bigger house, more status or income, we absolutely need more likes and followers on our social media pages, and also more separation from those who are different from us-by class, skin color, political party, or even ideas.
But Jesus’ question really pushes us beyond the superficialities of a consumer culture, an image of God as a cosmic Santa Claus, and the politics of anger and division, and asks us, “what hunger is driving you—not on the surface, but deep down in the core of your being?”
• A sense of meaning and to know your purpose
• To know your loved and you matter
• To really experience forgiveness
• To let go some of the old negative tapes or stories from the past and stop letting them limit your present and future
• Strength and guidance for a difficult situation,
• Healing from pain or illness,--all the losses that come with aging
• Comfort and ability to deal with loss and grief,
• Parents- a month without illness—to know my kids are going to be okay;
There are a lot of significant ways we can answer this question in a conversation with Jesus, and the answer will be different at different times and stages of our lives. Which is why it is interesting to note how the two disciples answer it. It looks like they almost blow it!
They answer Jesus’ question with another question! “Where are you staying?” What? You’re talking to the Son of God, the Messiah, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, and you’re asking for his Airbnb?
But, actually, as you might guess, it’s not as much about directions and lodging as it is about a relationship. The disciples are not just asking where Jesus is staying for the night, they are asking, “Where are you abiding? Where will you remain, where will you endure, where will you continue to be?” The Greek word for “staying” (meno) can be translated all of these ways and is used no less than 44 times in the Gospel in the John. Abiding with Jesus, remaining with him, having an enduring relationship with Jesus is essential as one of his followers.
Andrew and the other disciple are really saying—"we want to dwell with you, Jesus; we want to be where we can receive what you have to teach us; we want to know where you are staying so we can be close to God by abiding with you, Jesus.” And that is what they do.
And isn’t that deep down, what we all want? To dwell in God, to live in God through Jesus’ presence, in every breath, in every day, to experience his power moving through our words, our actions, our relationships, our work, or school and parenting and grandparenting? So, Jesus says to them, “Come and See. Come and be with me. Come and abide with me. Participate in the life of God through a relationship with me.”
• For to abide with Jesus is to belong God.
• To abide with Jesus is to be brought into the circle of love with the Creator of the universe and to be made whole and healed.
• To abide with Jesus is to be forgiven by the Lamb of God, to receive hope for our future.
• To abide with Jesus is to experience the deepest peace there is, and to know that we and those we love are ok for eternity.
When we abide in Jesus, we receive the meaning and purpose we desire: We can hear the guidance we need, we receive the strength we seek, the comfort that we crave, and the love that nourishes our soul. For Jesus abides with God and God abides with him. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth--to bring us into that same intimate relationship Jesus shares with God.
And like any relationship the more time we spend in that relationship, the deeper it becomes, the more intimate the conversation, the more revealing the love, the deeper the bond. Because Jesus dwells within us, we can just close our eyes and picture him sitting next to and carry on a conversation. This is what I do—it’s not complicated for fancy.
I saved a devotional reading from a few years ago which reads:
When you go to your place of prayer, don’t try to think too much or manufacture feelings or sensations. Don’t worry about what words you should say or what posture you should take. It’s not about you or what you do. Simply allow Love to look at you—and trust what God sees! God just keeps looking at you and loving you center to center.
This is “abiding in Jesus.” I practiced this kind of abiding this week during my morning prayer. One morning I had this very strong physical sensation of the indwelling presence of God—Jesus, the Spirit, the Creator—I was praying with all of them together—and I experienced this strong feeling of love, center to center. And then I heard this instruction, loud and clear: “Do not try to seek out in the world the love you already have right here. Your job is to radiate this love out.”
This is why Jesus’ ministry starts with a question—because without it, we have life backwards—we try to fill ourselves out in the world with the success and money, and stuff, and food and alcohol, and unhealthy habits or relationships, and all the things the culture says will make us happy, and then we try to yoga, exercise, pray, and serve and earn our way to God, and we wonder why it seems like we’re following the formula but always come up empty.
The question invites us to Jesus first. Jesus says, come and see, come and stay, come and dwell, come find what you need, what you are looking for. Come abide first, fill up with God first, experience Jesus’ complete, all-encompassing love and forgiveness first, satisfy the spiritual hunger, the emptiness, the meaning, the sense of purpose, the identity the forgiveness and love, and when we’re full, when we are center to center, then God says—"go radiate disciple! because our relationship gets lived out in the world that needs My light refracted through you. I need My love and forgiveness and justice reflected and lived out through you—your experiences, your skills, your insights, your talents."
Abiding with Jesus is a relationship that gets lived out in the world. For to abide in Jesus is to abide with all beings that God has created. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being.”
This means everyone belongs, every person, every nation, every ethnic group, every gender, and sexuality, and religion, and culture. We all belong to God, even our enemies, which is why Jesus told us to love and pray for our enemies. In First John, it says, “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them… Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars.”
This is the essence of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whom we celebrate tomorrow. He spent his life and ministry as a preacher and civil rights leader, holding us accountable to the truth, that everyone belongs equally. In a country founded on Christian principles, we have treated some of our citizens as if they don’t belong—as if they don’t belong to God and don’t belong to us.
In his Letter from Birmingham Jail and The Struggle that Changed a Nation, King wrote: “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All [humanity is] caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be...This is the inter-related structure of reality.”
Or we could say this is the inter-related structure of being created by the same God, abiding in relationship with God through the same Jesus Christ. When we abide there, finding ways for a just life for all is not threatening, but naturally flows from the love we have already received.
Today, Jesus also asks those who are oppressed, disenfranchised, caught in generational cycles of poverty, or systemic racism, the same question he asks us, “What are you looking for?” Like us, people are seeking meaning and purpose, love and comfort, strength and guidance; and they hope for what we assume: to be treated with justice and fairness by our institutions, to have equal opportunity, to belong as a full citizen. In an environment where differences between us are exploited and used as the basis for hateful rhetoric and actions, how much more are we called by God to embody in our daily life, the unity we share with all people who have been created by the same God and abide in the same love.
When we ground our identity, our well-being, our very life, in abiding with God in Christ Jesus, we do not need to merge who we are with our own cultural group, political views, or economic class to feel safe and valued. On the contrary, we live from the security of our relationship with God, this deep abiding love and peace, and we follow Jesus in embracing all people, in advocating for policies that bring freedom and inclusion for all of God’s children. Dr. King taught us that the work of justice and love in the world radiates from the inside, out—from abiding with a loving God who made all of us—to living it out in the world. This is the only way nonviolent action and change are possible—through radiating love that comes from God!
As ones who abide with Christ, we attend to our individual relationship with God (our right arm points straight up) and we live out this unity in just, open and equal relationships with all people whom God created (our other arm moves horizontally to form a cross) +.
+ This is the life Jesus radiates out into the world through us.
Message for the Baptism of Our Lord Sunday on Matthew 3:13-17 given on Jan. 8, 2023 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church
I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said to me—"oh if I came to church the roof would fall in,” or “the place would burn down”—as if they are so bad or so far from God that their very presence would cause a physical calamity. Perhaps we have the legacy of Jonathan Edwards and his 1741 sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” to thank for the notion that our sins can so shock and anger God.
It’s an ego trip really – albeit a negative one, but an ego trip none-the-less--that we can be so far from God, that our sin is so bad –that God cannot love or forgive us—and that makes us extra special in the sin department.
But of course, we are here, so we are not worried about the roof falling because of our sin, or the place burning down due to our past because we showed up. But I wonder how much of ourselves we hold back from God. We come seeking, but still feel unworthy, we come hoping, but still hide part of ourselves, we come praying, but still fear rejection, we come wondering, but still holding onto to secrets, we come craving more, but are still closed off to a deeper relationship with God.
About 25 years ago a friend invited me to go with her to an Al-Anon 12-step meeting for family and friends of those with addiction problems. She thought working the 12-steps would help me deal with my own co-dependent behaviors since there was some addiction in my extended family tree (these behaviors get passed down without us realizing it!)
But I had heard about steps 4 and 5 and I was not too interested in taking a “searching and fearless moral inventory of myself.” And even if I did, there was absolutely no way, I was going to do step 5, which was to read this moral inventory to someone and "admit to God, myself and another human being, the exact nature of my wrongs.” Because I thought my sins were special and unforgiveable, and needed to remain secret, and something I would always have to hide from God and everybody else.
I hear this fear and hesitancy in John the Baptist. He has been preparing his whole life for this moment—preparing the way for the Messiah! John’s birth was foretold by an angel to his father, Zechariah in the temple! His mother gave birth in her old age, his father was mute until he was born—he has known the stories of angels appearing to Mary and Joseph about Jesus, and his job has been to get people ready. And now it begins—the culmination of his life’s work as Jesus joins him at the river of repentance. Jesus is ready to begin his ministry by entering into solidarity with the people and their journey with him through Baptism.
But John resists Jesus’ request to Baptize him: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” John feels unworthy, he is too sinful, it’s all backwards: there’s too much distance in their status—John holds back, he would rather play his role with the people, to keep his place, separate from Jesus, the Messiah. John comes craving more, but even he is still closed off to this opportunity for a deeper relationship with Jesus. But, Jesus insists— “Let it be so now; it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”
What feels backwards to John and to us, is indeed proper to Jesus; what feels wrong and unworthy, is in fact, fulfilling all righteousness for Jesus.
As it says later in Matthew: “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt. 20:28)
To “fulfill all righteousness” for Jesus is to be in right relationship—right relationship with John and right relationship with God. Jesus surrendered himself to the full human experience—to being by baptized by the Baptizer alongside the people he came to serve and to save. In so doing, he affirmed John’s worthiness as his servant and friend.
Imagine the actions John took in baptizing Jesus—standing in the river together, scooping up water, lifting his arms up onto Jesus’ head—Just this physical action alone invites John to open up his heart and soul to Jesus—How can he harbor secrets, and hold back his fear when he has opened up his arms and bathed Jesus in water? Then John submerges Jesus in the river, and goes further down himself with him—a foreshadowing of their future journey into death, and then rising up out of the water into resurrection. John is as soaked as Jesus is, the feelings of unworthiness, fear, and worry washed away by the water, loosened by the movement. The love that flows from Jesus to John carries no superiority or distance or judgment—just the bond of love and forgiveness that frees the tightness in John’s chest. Jesus surrenders to John’s washing, and in so doing, John becomes clean.
Right relationship with nothing held back. Open heart to open heart. Both surrendered to God’s will. Fulfilling all righteousness. That’s when the roof of heaven cracks open, and the physical world changes! From the heavens, the Holy Spirit lands on Jesus as the voice of God affirms, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Right relationship with God—a fully open, honest, transparent, surrendered relationship with God changes the physical world—people filled with the Holy Spirit, following Jesus, doing what our Lord asks—that’s what changes the world—not hanging on to sin, and not pride in how bad ours is and how unworthy we are.
So, if John can move through his resistance and distance and unworthiness to baptize Jesus himself, our Lord and Messiah, and enter into a deeper, right relationship with nothing held back, then we can, too. It took me a few years, but eventually I did go to Al Anon, and I actually wrote my 4th step, 30 pages of my life story—a searching and fearless and ugly moral inventory, and with fear and trembling, I read it aloud to the 1 person who was helping me through the steps. I waited for her to pronounce judgment on me, and she chuckled and said, “you were just a normal kid.” I felt as though an enormous weight had been lifted off me.
There’s a slip of paper you were given with your bulletin. On it, I want you to write something you have held back from God. I promise no one will ever see it—not me, not anybody. Write on it something you continue to feel guilt or shame about from the past—even your childhood. Something you can’t forgive yourself for, or a resentment you have not let go; something you would like to release that you haven’t been able to, a secret you have never shared. Write something that if you were released from this worry, this guilt, this thing, you would feel freed, or released, or relieved.
Remember that your sins are not special or unique, and that we all have them, and Jesus knows it already, that you’re just a normal human being with regular sins and issues that we all have. This is for you to join John the Baptist in the river as Jesus comes to you, to let you know that no part of your life, your story, your thoughts, or your past-- is hidden, excluded or a hindrance to a deeper, love relationship with Jesus who saves you, with the God who made you, and the Spirit who fills you.
After you write it, you can fold it so no one sees it. Then bring it forward during Communion and put it in the Baptismal water, give it stir, and let it go. I promise no one else will see what you wrote (it's dissolving paper!). We will have one line for Communion so you can have a few seconds alone at the baptism bowl, and then come to me for the bread.
Having released something to God, you will pick up a Guiding Word as a spiritual focus to fill you with something new for the coming year—they are in the side aisle after you dispose of your Communion cup. The words are face-down. Trust the Spirit to give you the right word for this time—tape it to your frig or mirror and discover why this word is a spiritual focus for you in 2023.
Churches that do this call these “star words” because they guide us during the year like the Wise Sages followed the star to find Jesus. For those watching from home—if you have given us a shoutout in the comments, we will pull a word just for you, and mail it along with a slip of this special paper for your forgiveness ritual this week.
No one’s sin is going to cause the roof to fall in, but the forgiveness in Baptism cracks open the heavens for the Holy Spirit to descend upon us! Right relationship with God changes the physical world because it changes us and frees us to be God’s messengers of Jesus’ love, forgiveness, and hope! That’s why we’re a church where "spirits come alive!" So allow Jesus to free your spirit in a new way today and join John in the cleansing waters of Baptism!
Thank you to the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, NJ for the free download of beautiful Star Words!
The Christmas story from Luke and Matthew includes many important names—Emperor Augustus, Governor Quirinius, King Herod—the people who run the world, who change people’s lives with the stroke of pen, who order soldiers, and wield power others can barely imagine.
Even the angel Gabriel is named in his essential mission to announce the mission to the soon-to-be Mother of the Messiah. Of course, Mary and Joseph are named as Jesus’ human parents who will raise this Christ child to be named Jesus. But after Jesus is born, wrapped in bands of cloth, and laid in a manger, these specifics drop out—no one else is identified by name.
Who is this angel who appears to the shepherds and tells them good news of a great joy? Is it Gabriel? Michael? Some underling with her first big assignment? And how about the multitude of the heavenly host? Maybe they would like a mention by name in Scripture—even the third grip—whatever that is, gets their name mentioned in movie credits—but the third alto of this heavenly host? Nothing. And what about the shepherds? No names, not even a number of how many there were. And the wise sages from the east?—people of high status themselves—nameless, with not even a mention of their country. We can deduce by the way they watch the stars that they are Zoroastrian priests from Persia—or perhaps from as far as India or the Arabian Peninsula.
Why is the text so specific in the beginning, and then so vague as the story progresses—all these nameless characters—no one in particular shares or receives the news of the Messiah and responds?
Certainly, the Gospel writers want us to know Jesus’ birth took place in a specific time in history. But another answer lies in the angel’s words to the shepherds. This nameless angel says two things that at first sound contradictory. First, she says, “I bring you good news of a great joy for all the people. God’s love in the birth of Jesus is for everyone—it’s all-inclusive.
It’s the same message as other places in Scripture—“for God so loved the world, the cosmos, all people –that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” There are no names, so everyone knows that this message literally includes all people!
But shepherds, who are at the bottom rung of society, usually do not feel included in the “everyone”—in “all the people.” They are like the day laborers today who hang out at the Valero gas station near the High Five hoping a builder will pick them up for work. They are used to being overlooked and shoved aside. All the people often feels like everyone else—those who have a better family, a decent job, people who do not struggle like they do, who have more on the ball, are more worthy, less lonely, more faithful, more sure in their beliefs, who do not feel beaten down by life or like they are flunking in some way. Some days, we all feel like a shepherd—that we are on the outside looking in at all the people God really loves.
So in the next breath, right after the angel says, “I bring you good news of a great joy for all the people,” the angel says, “to you”— to you, shepherds, personally, specifically, “to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Lord, the Messiah.” To you— Tom, Arlene, Kristin, Bill, Gail, …… To you a Savior is born. What do you need from the Savior who is born to YOU this day?
I asked our homebound members this on my visits this month, and one said, “peace,” another said, “to know I am loved,” someone else said, "to become stronger," another said, “to be transported to heaven,” and still another said, “deeper faith.”
The savior is born for everyone yes, and also, the Savior is born to you—the names are dropped so we can put ourselves in the story, and we can hear the angel speaking to us.
And the names are gone, so we can see that there’s a multitude of angels which means there are plenty to go around, including a guardian for each of us.
So, with the shepherds and sages, we can gaze around us, and see God in all things, be it an angelic presence appearing in nature, in the stars, or the shimmering light of love manifest in an infant, a smile, a human connection, a moment of hope.
With the shepherds and the sages, we are always on the journey of faith. Because the Savior is born to us, we live with the joyful expectation that we get to participate in what God is doing in Jesus here and now. All we need to do is bring ourselves because Jesus does, in fact, know you by name.
Unexpected and holy God, your love shines through the ages, making real your presence in our own story in the form of an infant. We rejoice that you sent yourself-- this great gift of hope, peace, joy, and love to all people, to everyone, to the whole world. Open our hearts to receive that you are also born to us, personally. Enable to ask for the saving we need, at this moment, in this time, as you place us in the story of incarnation and salvation with the shepherds and sages. Give us the joyful expectation that we will see your angels, your stars, your light, your love aflame in the world, hidden in plain sight—in the people around us, in your creation, in the faces of those in need, in every act of love. Wrap in bands of healing cloth, those who are sick and suffering in any way, especially those who are lonely or distant from family, and those on our prayer list. Make us faithful and joyful in our journey with Christ as we shine his love, share our gifts, and carry the good news that he is born to all, and to each one. We pray in the name of the Christ child, born to us this day. Let all the faithful, say, Amen.
“Expectations are pre-meditated resentments.” I first heard this when I was learning about addictive family systems and family systems theory, and it stopped me up short. I was a master at high expectations and judgment when people did not live up to them. When we were dating, Dan noticed this prevented me from even enjoying movies, because if they didn’t turn out how I was expecting, I did not like them.
Part of my personal and spiritual growth over our marriage has involved learning new ways to operate in relationships, in the world, and in ministry, so I would not hobble my spirit with self-made resentments born of my own constructed reality. I embraced this theme for Advent, of “Great Expectations” with a little fear and trembling…
All of that is to say, I understand John the Baptist, now sitting in prison—wondering what is up with Jesus. John has done his due diligence in preparing the way for the Messiah: he has confronted the powers that be in their self-righteousness and arrogance; he preached preparation and repentance with Baptism, a fire-y message that refines and purifies, so the Messiah can come with redemption and judgment. John is paying the price at the hands of the powerful who are not so thrilled with his message—he’s awaiting death in Herod’s prison.
There John hears stories about Jesus—but Jesus is not what he is expecting. John expects the liberation of God’s people from oppression and bondage, more fire-y judgment, but so far nothing has happened. The domination of Rome, its local rulers, and the religious powers are carrying on as usual.
Instead of upending them, Jesus is focused on healings, exorcisms, and banquets with sinners of every kind including those colluding tax collectors. Jesus is great at healing and restoration, but weak on judgment and vindication like John. With his expectations disappointed, John begins to doubt Jesus. Are you the one? Are you the Messiah we have been waiting for or should we look for another, someone who behaves like the real deal?
It's comforting, isn’t it? To hear John the Baptist struggle with doubt? To know that in the midst of his suffering in prison, fearing death, he begins wondering if he got it all wrong. He is cold, hungry, probably tortured, and his pain causes the questions in his mind to run rampant.
Physical, mental, or emotional suffering does lead to spiritual doubt. We have probably all experienced it one way or another—the doubt that comes with suffering. I certainly have—a hollow dark night of the soul in chemo-hell that I pray I never to experience again. And we wonder, if God is all powerful, why am I sitting here in so much pain? Why are we still waiting for Jesus to redeem the whole world? Why is there still war and injustice, exploitation and violence, poverty, and horrible illness? Is Jesus the One who is come and save us or should we look for another?
This is one of those moments when we really want Jesus to give a direct answer like, “Yes! It’s me! I am the One. I am the Messiah! Ta-dah!” But he doesn’t do that, does he? Instead, he wants John’s disciples to testify to what they hear and see. They have to look for evidence of God’s power breaking in to people’s lives through Jesus. They need to discern God’s presence and the kingdom. They have to watch for good news—well—they have to engage in Advent with great expectations of seeing God breaking into ordinary life in extraordinary ways through Jesus: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.
Jesus does make this part very plain and direct. If that is not God’s power breaking into this earthly realm and transforming reality, what is?
This good news should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Scripture or who reads Isaiah and longs for the restoration of this nation who has suffered. Because this always been part of the vision:
• Isaiah 29:18-19 – the deaf shall hear and the blind shall see
• Isaiah 35:5-6 – says the same thing and adds then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
• Isaiah 42:18, Listen, you who are deaf, and you who are blind, look up and see!
• Isaiah 61:1-3 The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners,
• We hear more of the same in Psalm 146 which we just sung.
Jesus hopes the elite will overhear all the testimonies now being told by John’s and his disciples and all those being healed. It is really the whole nation who is blind and deaf to their own Messiah. Will those in power who are blind and deaf to the needs of the people also begin to see and hear the truth?
Franciscan priest Fr. Richard Rohr says, “the best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” John expected Jesus to overthrow the oppressors and instead Jesus practiced the better—the empowerment, healing, and restoration of the oppressed. The powerful’s shameful treatment of the sick and outcast became evident as the crowds flocked to Jesus for food and healing. The feeding of the masses, the empowerment of the poor, the healing of the marginalized, was indeed upending the system and disrupting the power structure. If it was not, there wouldn’t have been such powerful movement to execute Jesus. Jesus did not go about it how John expected, but never has healing and feeding been so threatening or subversive. Really look, John. Really watch. (Those who really understood this are Martin Luther (educate and feed the masses!), Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandhi, Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement through the church in South Africa).
In his response to John, notice that Jesus is not offended by John’s questions or doubt—in fact he praises John as the greatest prophet. I hope this gives you comfort and relief in your own questions and doubts and wonderings about God and Jesus as the Messiah. Theologian Paul Tillich wrote that “doubt is not the opposite of faith, it is an element of faith.” Doubt is an element of faith for John the Baptist and he knew Jesus personally—Jesus is not fully who John expected—Jesus may not always be completely who we expect either.
But Jesus does love us in our doubts, and he always enters our suffering because he himself suffered. Jesus heals and transforms from the bottom up –which means that he enters at the worst, hardest and lowest point and meets us there, where we think no one can, and there he loves us, there he embraces us, there he says, God’s love is big enough to carry you out of this chasm, this hurt, this depression, this sorrow, this illness, this fear. I will not leave you or forsake you, for I have suffered so that you know that I will never abandon you, not even death—even there, I will carry you over to a new life with God.
If Jesus can praise John the Baptist in his doubts and transform the lepers and the lame, then surely he can love you and me in our doubts and in our suffering. Because death could not hold him—the powerful thought they won—and they did not! He rose to defeat the power of evil for good!
Jesus’ power—alive today—breaks into our lives and that’s what we watch for, wait for, look for and what we expect—that’s what gives us hope in the midst of doubt.
Because every experience of love, every kind word, every meal, every hug, every encouragement, every prayer said on our behalf, are all moments where the life and love Jesus break into our ordinary days with healing and hope.
Jesus wants us to go through our daily life with the ability to see and to hear God’s presence and love available and showing up for us—so like John he wants us to look for evidence of God’s power breaking in to people’s lives through Jesus…to discern Jesus’s presence— to watch—and to engage in Advent all year—with great expectations of seeing God piercing our ordinary life in extraordinary ways in Jesus. This is what enables us to make a difference in our community together.
I still do have some expectations –I expect God to show up every day—to see signs of love and hope around me and in the world, and these expectations help me keep on the lookout for what Jesus is up to around me and in other people’s lives.
This week I want you to watch for a Jesus-sighting—a moment where the extraordinary breaks into the ordinary. A moment of love or kindness, something your kid or grandchild said or did, something good breaking into your everyday when you felt hope, peace, joy or love—the four spiritual gifts of Advent. And I want you to tell someone about it. Testify—tell your family at the dinner table, call up a friend, send me a text--I want you to blow up my phone this week! Post it on our FB page in the comments on one of our Advent posts that come out every day! It doesn’t build up anybody else’s faith, or help anyone else see or hear what Jesus is doing if you keep it to yourself. Jesus said, “tell what you have seen and heard!”
Our first Jesus-sighting is going to be after church today with lots of great cookies, packing Hunger Helper lunches, and a herd of shepherds and a choir of angels fitted for your costumes in the congregational life center! I'll see you and Jesus there!