Christmas Eve Community-wide Potluck, 6 P.M. -- everyone invited, bring what you can, or if                                                 you can only bring yourself, we hope you will !
Christmas Eve Candlelight Worship 7 P.M.
     An evening of worship with hymns, prayers, and candle-light.
     “...I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people”
      Joy to the world !
Christmas Day Worship    10 A.M.
     Music and quiet readings...
     “...The LORD reigns; let the earth rejoice” Psalm 97  
     "Infant holy, infant lowly....”

 4957 East Highway 61, Hovland, MN (midway between Grand Marais and Grand Portage along Lake Superior's North Shore)
 Pastor Kris Garey    218-475-2439  P O Box 188, Hovland, MN 55606; Trinity@boreal.org


Sermon, Sunday December 21, 2014 

Preaching Advent 4 Remember the time and the culture  Of what we hear today
Remember that having a family meant physical protection for it gave hands to plant and harvest, to nurse and care, and  meant favor being shown by God,
for children also meant the family would continue on in the world to be part of the blessing God promised through his chosen people into all the world…
So to not have children meant you could not be part of the blessing,
And meant you were disgraced
And a disgrace…
And remember too
That in that time and culture
To be pregnant without marriage, without proper relationship,
Meant a woman was eligible not just for being turned away
But eligible for death, even death by being stoned.
So remembering those two things
Disgrace for a family, and especially a woman, without children
Yet also disgrace if with child in a way seen illigitmate,
Remembering these, 
hear first the story of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, and her husband Zechariah, from the beginning of Luke Chapter 1:
(bold print is from Scripture)
In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order… His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.  Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord.  But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
Once when he was serving as priest before GodZechariah was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord … Now at the time … the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to Zechariah an angel of the Lord, …When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him.  But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice… he will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.”
The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.  But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary…When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”

ah, Elizabeth, disgrace removed; what she had endured undone,
ah Elizabeth, the Lord has looked upon you with favor.
And the son she and Zechariah have       Grows to become
John the Baptizer who as God promised, prepares the way for people to follow their Lord.
Oh, but how did the Gospel of Luke say it again,
About what Elizabeth felt when being pregnant, there in her aging years when she had been so sure all hope was lost? And where does God’s story go from there?
Back to the words from Elizabeth, and then our Gospel for today:

After those days Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said,  “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”

Luke, Chapter 1: In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
But she was much perplexed, troubled by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.  
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.  
And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

God’s angel messengers here, they come and go.
But God’s message
To Elizabeth, to Zechariah, to Mary
You are favored…
Remains and
God’s message
Through Jesus
To us remains:
You are favored by the Lord.  
Which means we might,
Be troubled, afraid, as was Zechariah, and ask, “how will we know…”
Or feel sweet relief as did Elizabeth
Finding that with God it is never too late
Or we can hope to be like
Who finds a way, in the midst of knowing, surely knowing, as she knew the law of the day
That what will come will take great courage
And say                Here I am, a servant of the Lord;
Let it be with me
According, O God, to your word.
And when the angel left
And the power of the Most High
overshadowed all her fear
and the Holy Spirit conceived for Mary
To carry
The child of God
Mary gave her life into the hands of God
And gave her child
Into the hands of God
Who gave his Son
That we too can know:
in God’s sight
We are looked upon with joy,
And so be freed to do what it takes great courage to do
be with God
in lifting up the lowly
as we are lifted up,
and magnify the Lord
by extending God’s mercy to others
as we rejoice in our Savior
whose mercy is upon us.
Thanks be to God.
(we pause in silence, for reflection)

Let us join in reading Mary's response to God's good news:

Luke 1:46b-55   “The Magnificat”  
All          My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
               my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
Pastor   for you, Lord, have looked with favor on your lowly servant.
All        From this day all generations will call me blessed;
            you, the Almighty, have done great  things for me,
            and holy is your name.
Pastor  You have mercy on those who fear you,
      from generation to generation.  
      You have shown strength with your arm;
      and scattered the proud in their conceit,
      casting down the mighty from their thrones
      and lifting up the lowly.
      You have filled the hungry with good things,
      and sent the rich away empty.
      You have come to the aid of your servant Israel,
      to remember the promise of mercy,
      the promise made to our forebears,
      to Abraham and his children, forever.   
A time of silence for reflection follows our reading.

Sermon, Sunday November 16, 2014 

The sermon begins after the Gospel reading below.
Bible readings for this Sunday are:Zephaniah 1:7, 12–18; Psalm 90:1–8[9–11] 12; 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11;
Matthew 25:14–30
And here is the Gospel reading, Matthew 25:14-30:
Jesus tells a parable about his second coming, indicating that it is not sufficient merely to maintain things as they are. Those who await his return should make good use of the gifts that God has provided them.

14For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.' 21His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.' 23His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' 26But his master replied, 'You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents.
 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Digging a hole          And putting stuff in it
And covering it up              Putting it in dark earth
Below sight                 
Where it can not see the light of day
Nor be seen even with a light…
Good for a root cellar
Or a treasury to store what you don’t want others to know you have
But not the way            To live a life
That reflects the abundant love of God.
So ok,               This parable sounds alarming,
Maybe because we know ourselves to be
So much like the 3rd worker   ---   Wanting to keep safe
Wanting not to fail               Wanting just to be left alone
Not wanting life to be too disrupted
By doing more and more in the abundance of God
when we may feel a scarceness
But                 Digging a hole
And hiding what is given us
Affects us                   and we end up flinging ourselves
Our nature            Our ability to see with joy
Our lightness of being           Right down in the hole of fear
And covering ourselves up.
And what then happens to us?
We are drowned in dark forboding.
We are lost in not knowing where to begin.
We can’t see the openings above and below and around us.
About this parable, there has been lots and lots written, over the last couple of thousands of year.
Lots written, lots spoken, lots thought.
The outlooks vary         
Depending                I suppose
On personality of writer, on culture of writer
On personal outlook and research and theology
And it can change                  
For all those others        And each of us
By what our life experience in the moment is
But look at where this parable is placed
by dear Matthew who urgently wanted us to hear of the Good News of God’s Love in Jesus…
And we might get a clue of one way it can be for us
No matter what our life experience or culture or personality is.
Jesus has been teaching his disciples, and we are in what we label chapter 25 of 28 chapters---so the first end is near.  The cross is near.  Death and suffering are near.
We might want, if we know the suffering to come, to just dig a hole and pull ourselves in, bury ourselves in the dark of not looking out.  For if we’d been sitting there hearing Jesus, and actually thought death and torture were close
Wouldn’t we want to miss it?
And hide ourselves away…          So understandable…
But then we would miss       The fullness of the story,  
The promise of God          That the Light of God
Will conquer all darkness and trouble and world dilemnas and world history and personal struggle
And instead we stay afraid, hidden away    
In a self-made hole    Or an upper room
Or non-discipleship, non following of Jesus, but looking back at what we thought might be…
Afraid, we’d not undig our hole
And so we’d be not seen      Be alone
Gnashing our teeth and crying out in the darkness that we have no where to turn…
So Jesus says,
“Don’t do that…Be with me     See the light I bring
See the abundance I hand over to you
Not of wealth     Not of abilities    But of Joy in my Joy.
Just after this parable ends, Jesus says  
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him…”    who would want to miss that?
And what comes then?
A woman who pours out abundance in ointment that had cost perhaps what seemed as much to her as the 15 years of wages that a talaanta represented…
Her abundance poured out where?
On Jesus
To show her ability to pour out in fullness what she had received,
Life worth more than all the money there ever could be
And then want comes, in Matthew’s telling of the story of the woman and her costly gift given to Jesus?
Who saw only waste instead of as abundance
And so he fled to enemies of Jesus and asked for money
To betray Jesus
And in so doing,   It seems to me     He digs a hole
In which to hide
And miss the light of life itself
He cannot tolerate the abundance he had seen
Thinking it misspent
And then, when he does betray, he finds the silver he received  
To be without gleam without light
And tries to rid himself of it
Flinging the silver on the floor at the feet of those who had given it to him….
And ends up in the darkest part of life
With his own realization that he had in betraying Jesus thrown
Away all with worth…
Judas ends up making his own noose, dying, and the flung back silver purchases a burial ground where foreigners, those not welcomed were shut away even in burial..
This parable isn’t about money, it just sounds that way.
Its about many aspects of our life with God,
Of our abundant moments in which to seek to know God
Who seeks us always…
not holding back from us
not hiding away from us
not digging a hole to bury us, but rather welcoming us…
in the life of Jesus, who comes to save us from ourselves
And to tell us that in him, even our darkness has light
With him, our scarcity has abundance.
Jesus, born to be the Light of the World
Lets us see
With a new light that reflects for us
That abundance is not money piled high
Not money stored away a future day
Nor success instead of failure
Nor weapons to make us feel secure
Nor health that makes us feel we will not ail
Abundance is the love of God
Shared with us by the loving hand of God who trusts us
And asks us
Journey with me
That others may see
There is an ancient hymn that helps us see new light
and the words include this
“Poor Judas in despair flung silver on the floor…”
It goes on in the imagined voice of Judas
“that field was meant to be a final place for me
But Jesus came to save me
By dying life    He gave me.”   And the writer gives Judas joy to sing, telling us “Sing praise and adoration to God for our salvation.”
Yes, Jesus says for all he has come, for our salvation. For Judas and for us.
Yes, Jesus says I am the light of the World.
Yes, Jesus says, to all nations and all people,
Come into the abundance I provide.
And so we with Peter and Judas and all the betrayers of God
Need not bury ourselves away
For God has poured out for us
Abundant Love in which there is unending light
Through which we can live in the world and with all those in it
In new ways.                 Thanks be to Christ.   Amen!


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