Ash Wednesday begins Lent

Each year, Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, when the sign of the cross is placed on our foreheads.
The sign of the ashes suggests our human frailty and mortality. What seems like an ending—a small trace of ashes--
is really a invitation to make each day a new beginning in which we are washed with God’s mercy and forgiveness.
With the cross on our brow, we show how we long for spiritual renewal—and how we look forward to the joy that flows from the Easter feast to come!


Ash Wednesday Worship, Feb 18, 7 p.m. at Trinity in Hovland.

 

                 (Recent sermons posted after photos below...)

Trinity Lutheran Church, midway between Grand Marais and Grand Portage along Lake Superior's North Shore
invites you to Worship, Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. and during Lent, Wednesday evenings for soup and worship
with the Holden Evening Prayer Service.

4957 East Highway 61, Hovland, MN
Pastor Kris Garey    218-475-2439 
P O Box 188, Hovland, MN 55606;
Trinity@boreal.org

Sermon, January 25, 2015 

Sermon is included after two of this Sunday's readings:
Gospel according to Mark 1:14-20
14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent, and believe in the good news."
16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea — for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Old Testament:  Jonah 3:1-5, 10
The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying,
 2Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.
3So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days' walk across.
4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's walk.
And he cried out, "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"
 
5And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

Epistle:  1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Sermon, Pastor Kris Garey
Having as our readings two stories that if we open them up a bit include one beside a sea (the Gospel from Mark) and one where what we hear is preceded by time spent at sea on a boat (the Jonah story) is pretty darn fine when we are where we are, beside a great almost sea ourselves.Two sea stories, but hardly identical.  
Maybe you noticed.
The Gospel according to Mark filled throughout with immediately. Immediately follows immediately,
Jesus was coming out of the water of Baptism, immediately he saw the heavens split open ...
and immediately, Jesus is driven into the desolate places of the wilderness, tempted by Satan, ministered to by wild beasts...
And then immediately we hear...
Jesus came into Galilee.
then, passing alongside the sea
saw Simon and Andrew, brothers, casting a net into the sea.
And when Jesus said
Follow me             immediately they left their nets
Then Jesus saw James and John, 2 more brothers
immediately he called them...they rose, left their nets and followed.  
Sometimes we too have call stories like that, whether of lifetime or of take an action now calls.  Someone said to me this week, “I felt the urgency of God’s request, and just dropped everything and went...”
But other call stories take longer,
much much longer...
like Jonah’s.
Today we open Jonah here:
“The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time.”  
Which means there was a first time....
and that first time, God had said,
 “Get up and go to Ninevah and preach to them… “and Jonah got up—but fled the exact opposite direction, away from where God was sending him, and away, Jonah thought, from the presence of the LORD. 
And away fled Jonah, toward the sea,
not toward the inland city where the Lord directed him.
Jonah’s response reminds me of a character on a British Comedy Series
which is actually about a congregation, a pastor, and a church council...
maybe it doesn’t sound like it could be a hit comedy, but The Vicar of Dibley, as it was titled, was a hit in England for many years. 
My favorite character is Jim, who’s been on the Church council for years
and to almost everything that comes up,
he replies, ... no no no            no          no no  no           -- and then sometimes adds a final NO, but mostly finally adds  YES
which if you think of it
is exactly like Jonah...
 
Can’t you imagine it, from Jonah?  no no no no...no NO
Jonah is not Simon, Andrew, James and John, those immediately following brothers Jesus called.  
Oh, Jonah acts, immediately to God’s first call,
not following, but fleeing in the exact opposite direction—scrambles onto a ship, and hides below the deck, hoping to hide from God.
Can you hear the no no noooo NO !
It’s as if those that Jesus calls take off rowing like madmen headed for the opposite shore, to get as far away as they could.
That is what Jonah does. Run, flee, try to escape the Lord, and the LORD’s bizarre instructions. Get away quick, NO to Nineveh.
It was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, that destroyer of Israel, that brutal occupying force.  Jonah says by how he runs, No no no noooooo NO .
But where Jonah flees to, God is.
And God takes Jonah to new places, unusual places, places from where it seems no word of God could come...
And then we hear  “The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, “Get up and go.”
And, this time, Jonah does, and goes to Ninevah.  
What a contrast in responses:  those with immediate yes’ to Jesus offer,
the first rampant no no no of Jonah.
—both strike me as so like our own human lives.
Sometimes we might be like the 4 brothers,
yes to God right away.
And sometimes we don’t get to yes at all, or for a very long time.
One of my best friends is named Lori
and she lives in Duluth; we used to work together, ...
and she has an important part in my coming to faith story
but part of her story is that when she was a little girl
she’d “play church” she calls it.  At age 6 or 7, she propped up boxes for organ, altar and pulpit.
and dragged in a bench for a pew.  She’d sit on the bench, stand behind the altar, in the pulpit, and pretend to play the organ.
She talks, still, about that time with such love in her voice, for the time when her love of God was easy and when she thought: “I was sure, for awhile, that I’d be a pastor...but then...I changed.”
She grew up, got married, had kids, attended church faithfully.  But maybe partly because for so long woman were thought not allowed by words in the Bible to be Pastors, she stopped somewhere around 13 any thoughts of being a pastor.  
And she felt she ought not be the one to read scriptures “up front” either.  
But along the way, where she was, God was there ahead of her. She had a deaf uncle, and learned sign language; became the one who’d sit next to him in church, signing on her hands the words she heard. After awhile, deaf friends joined her uncle, and then she began to stand near the front so more eyes could see her.
And somehow one day someone asked her, could she read the scripture too, then sign the words.    And then one day her pastor asked her to preach...and today she preaches, words in voice and words on hands, and is pastor.
Did she have a no, no noo  at some point to God? 
She says she doesn’t even know if she said no,
or just never paid attention beyond thinking it was fun to play church; she says she doesn’t know if she was just letting herself off the hook and avoiding hearing her call...or if God just eased off for a time.
But we laugh about how whether she had said, no no no, or just didn’t ponder, it didn’t stop God !
God kept right on using her life as Yes,
in her uncles life,
in the many lives of deaf and hearing people who have heard the Gospel of the Lord from her voice and hands, in the people she is pastor to,
and in my life.
We here at Trinity feel we are a small congregation in the middle of woods alongside a sea.
Sometimes to God we say, YOU BET, and jump straightaway into YES to God’s call.
Sometimes it takes us longer, and we pass through no no noooo no maybe   to   no no NO...
and then sometimes land at yes.
This is our annual meeting day,
Look just at the last year, and you will see  
God has taken whatever
our hesitant or immediate or pondering ways have been,
our no no nooo NO,  our Yes, our Maybe  
and turned them into the love of God,
poured forth as he decrees,
that others might see, and hear the voice of Jesus say, come and follow....
Arise you!  the Lord said to Jonah, Go you !  hear the call I am calling to you.  Be arising, be a-going !  
Let us pray: We give you thanks, Oh God. We pray to hear Your call, that others too may know and follow You. In Jesus  name we pray.
Amen.
 

Sermon Jan 4, 2015, 2nd Sunday in Christmas, Pastor Kris Garey 

Preaching Christmas 2 2015 (Jan 4) w/ our Gospel and Epistle reading  Our 2nd reading is from Ephesians, Chapter 1, where St. Paul writes that in Jesus, all of God's plans and purposes have been made known for  heaven and earth are united in Christ. Through Jesus, we have been chosen as God's children and have been promised eternal salvation.  Here is the reading:

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory.      
           Pause    Word of God. Word of life. Thanks be to God.

The Holy Gospel according to John 1:1-18    (John begins his gospel with this prologue: a hymn to the Word through whom all things were created. This Word became flesh and brought grace and truth to the world.)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. 15(John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.                       Pause.  this is the Gospel of our Lord.   Praise to you O Christ.
 
Sermon:

Somehow for me today, 2 stories have come together.    
But one isn’t a story, it’s the Gospel.
And the others isn’t a story, it’s a painting.
A painting I saw in a gallery at UMD, many years ago.
Then, the painting struck me--but didn’t make me think of God.
This week, it comes to mind, making me think of nothing but God, and Jesus….
And John the Baptist…And us…and all people,
for the Word of God in Jesus brought to all people the light that shines in the darkness,
the light             the darkness can not
comprehend, nor overcome. Nor quench. Nor dampen.
For darkness can only make us forget to see.
 
Oh---about the painting.  It was big, lifesize tall and long.
It had a small group of Canadian Mounted police on horseback, in the winter, atop a mountain … traveling a century ago up and over mountain terrains.
First on the left was one with red wool coat and gray fur hat who stood beside his horse. With his old binoculars, leather strap frayed, he looked toward far off mountains across a valley that stretched between.
It was night…clouds mostly covered moon and stars…
and, as only painters and artists can portray,
more snow and clouds were moving in …obscuring more of what could be seen…
The red wool coated man stood, back turned, looking way out yonder… dark night getting darker, covering clouds blowing in on gusting wind…
Both hands held binoculars to face; steam rose from his breath; his horse’s neck hung low, tired, both were ready for journey to be done.  But where to go, in cold and snow and dark?  
Vaguely at his side were other riders, all looking the same direction. Snow covered backs were seen, dejection showed. Figures peering into dark as darkening stretched,
soon to cover any light from stars.
Entering the exhibit room, it was what you saw first, this left side of the mural, the group of men and horses hunched together, straining to see off to the left …  
and then, my eyes were drawn to move, across the painting toward the right.
Horses rumps, bedrolls, shoulders, backs of riders, all snow covered…
then good sized fallen trees and good sized boulders, all snow-covered…
And, as eyes traveled paintings length,
one last rider, away from the rest;
far on the right; looking a different direction,
sitting straighter, taller, leaning forward;
wearing red jacket and buffalo plaid black and red hat,
left arm reaching back, motioning to partners    “Look, see.”
My on-looking eyes found this man apart was pointing,
eagerly extending all of shoulder, arm, hand, forefinger,
pointing so that my eyes beheld…   
a spot that seemed at first so small,       yet, somehow
midst that darkened blackening painted night
was given just enough color to be unmistakeable once seen
 
There, down the trail ahead      Not across the valley but in it;
 a light that speaks of cabin lamp…    Sigh, relief, light up ahead!
That light, a pinprick in a painting so large, was yet so visible.
That painting, portraying a rugged human trip across rugged mountains in the snow…
capturing imagination, making eyes travel…
brought to me and other observers walking into the room
sighs of relief        as we found, yes there was a light for them, up ahead.
I hadn’t thought of that painting for years, but it comes to mind with  
“the light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.”
 
God’s Word,        the One through which all things come into existence,
the One from whom we have all received
Grace upon grace, draws us---to see
Beacon of light.  That is Christ.
Beacon of light.  That is God.
Beacon of light. God’s Holy Spirit who helps our eyes seek to see.
Beacon of light, one with God at the beginning.   
The Word that became flesh,
beckons our eyes that we might see, no matter the journey,
that the light of God is with us. 
Mountains. Valleys. Snow covered travel. Snow covered fallen trees and boulders.  Storms moving in. Fatigue overtaking.   
Still, the light of God is with us, is shown us.
/////
There was a guy named John the Baptist.
Suppose he’s ever portrayed with red wool jacket and buffalo plaid hat?
Seeing what others did not yet see, pointing to what is to be our way?
Testifying to the light …   that others would begin to see.
How did he see it, that light of God?
In the eyes of Jesus? Or pouring forth from ways of Jesus?
Or      Shining out by what Words
the Word of God in Jesus spoke,
words that, never matter what we think,
gather all things and all people in Jesus,
in this the Word, the Son of God.
What did John the Baptist see?
Light like light of beacon constellation across the sky?
or pinprick cabin lamp a trails journey away?   
All we know is this: what the Baptist saw in Christ made clear, this is the one.
John was sent from God, witness to testify,
so that all begin to see, then believe.
True light         arriving.
True light         which enlightens everyone.  
John pointing the way,           motioning to others: “turn and see,
Look !  It is He. Ahead, yet here now.”
And we receive, grace upon grace…light upon light…
beacon-to-travel-by   upon    beacon- to-travel-by.
The Gospel of John tells us: no one has ever seen God,
yet, in Jesus, God invites us to see.
It is Christmas, a divine mystery time.
Today without shepherds or sheep,  angels or singing,
without stable or manger,   without Mary, Joseph, wisemen, or infant…
We receive the Christmas story:   
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
 
There is one more artist, to mention. A woman in Germany back in the 1100s.
Her name was Hildegard Von Bingen, and from childhood on God gave her Christian visions. In her Holy calling, she wrote them down---amazing for a woman back in the 1100s, and amazing that we still have them today, to help us ponder…Here is a reflection on the first Chapter of the Gospel of John, a poetic portrait:  
 
“Then I saw a most splendid light,
  which is without beginning
  and to whom nothing can be wanting:
  this splendid light means the Father;
  and
  in a figure of a man of a sapphire color
  without any spot of the imperfection of envy and iniquity,
  is declared the Son,       born of the Father,  
  according to the divinity       before all time,
  but afterwards incarnate,        given flesh as is humanity          in the world, in time;
  and the whole of this burns       in a most beautiful, shining fire,
  which fire shows the Holy Spirit,       by whom the Son poured forth the light
  of true brightness upon the world.
 
  Let us pray, Help us point, O God, to Jesus.  Thank you for Gospels and artists and
  writers that point us to see. Thank you for John the Baptist, pointing always to your Son.  Thank you Your Light, in Jesus Christ, giving grace upon grace,  
  overcoming all darkness. Help us trust, we ask you and pray. Amen.  


 
 

Christmas Day 2014 

Preaching Christmas Day 2014
Maybe this is a good place to start, today, Christmas Day,
with a reading from an American novel about immigration:
Giants in the Earth. 
Its about Norwegian settlers in the late 1800s who knew the North Atlantic seas and fishing life –But left them for a new land in America.
They hoped to live well, busting sod to farm in the mid-west Plains which were thought beguiling, thought profit making.
But the settlers found that the Plains seemed their own entity, and  had a way of trying to define, not just life, but existence.
Not just existence, but life.  
It is a story with a short section that reminds, especially on Christmas Day
of the Gospel of our Lord… God’s son,
born in a stable              with no other home
placed in a manger    with no place else to be
born into our own lives, where we too often feel dread
placed into our very lives, his choice to be.
Hear then, this short portion of the novel Giants in the Earth:
>              An endless plain...endless, beginningless...
>              a grey waste..an empty silence...a boundless cold..
>              Snow fell; snow flew; a universe of nothing but dead whiteness.
>              Blizzards from out of the northwest raged,
>              swooped down and stirred up greyish-white fury,
>              impenetrable to human eyes.
>              As soon as these monsters {these blizzards from the northwest} tired,
>              storms from the northeast were sure to come,
>              bringing more snow...
>              “The Lord have mercy!  This is awful!” said the folk,
                    for lack of anything else to say.
                {The Lord have mercy! This is awful!” said the folk},
>               “Monsterlike the Plains lay there—sucked in her breath one week,
>               and the next week
>               blew it out again.
>               {Monsterlike} Man she scorned;
                          his works she would not brook, {not tolerate..}
>               The Plains would know, when the time came,
>               how to guard herself    and her own against him!
>                    {against this tiny newcomer of human folk}
>               But there was something The Plains did not know.
>               Had it not been for the tiny newcomer,
>               who by mysterious paths had found his way
>               into the settlement on Christmas morning,
>               the monster might have had her way;
>               but the newcomer made a breach in her plans—a vital breach.

>               Most marvellous it was,...
>               a thing so pitifully small and birdlike...
>               There was no substance to him, really nothing.
>               Only a bit of tender flesh wrapped in bits of silk...
>               But life dwelt in every {pitifully small} fibre of it.
>               Yet hardly life—rather the promise of it.
>                so fine and delicate that one was afraid to touch it
>                with rude {working} hands}.
>              Ah, that newcomer!...
>               Had the Prairie been possessed of the commonest hobgoblin sense,
>               she would have guarded herself,
>               first of all,
>               against him.
>               But this wisdom the Prairie had not.
>               glorying in her great might, (her great might)
>               depending on the witchcraft     that had never failed her,  
                  she lay there unconcerned.
>               And powerful though she was,
>               the newcomer {born on Christmas morn}
                  minded her—the Prairie
                   no more than she did him.
>               Weak and insignificant,
>               he yet bore within him the talisman {the mark and the way},
>               to set her direst power
                 at loss.
>               For the child beguiled
                 the heavy hearted folks,    
                 Who lived admist the Prairie dark
>               into laughing,
>               and what can avail against folks who laugh---
>               who dare to laugh
>               in the face of a winter like this one?...
>               That winter it was *he* (child, born on Christmas morn)
                  who saved people from insanity and
>                the grave.”
AHHHH
In that year, in this year
that lifetime, and this
that earth time and this    
that universe time and this
Our Lord,
Jesus by name, Son of God by title,
Is the one
 Who saves from aloneness and death
From forces of devil and the grave     
From Prairie and forest forsakenness, and the weather in it all.
Our Lord is the one
Who is the light
that shatters all darkness Of living, of life; of prairie of storm; of seas and of boats.
Christ is the light
That gives us new sight to see infants,
and to face terrors
And know there is Light that no darkness overcomes.
We give thanks to God.
Amen.
           
 

Christmas Eve 2014 

Oh what a night…And you might even know …
It is a holy night… across all universes and all time
And
Here at Trinty
Outside in what you might call a remembrance for our imaginations:
the nativity scene with stable, star, silouettes ;
And downstairs in the fellowship hall
And here, in the pews where you are sitting…
Yes, a Holy Night                  And in the air around you,
And in the stained glass window
And at the altar
And on the very floor beneath your feet
And in the wreaths and greens upon the walls and in the birchbark stars upon them
And around the tree, with its lights and angel on top and Nativity Scene beneath
And in the candles, Oh Holy Night
Ah the candles….            Drawing our eyes to pinpoint lights
On this Night our inner selves long for
As we long to know
there is more                than just any single me…
More than just             any collective us.
We gather for various reasons, tonight,
in this gathering space…and it is Holy, this night
 
And in this night, I’ve a letter for you  
to help you drop aside all the thinking and planning and details
To help you just             Ease into this O Holy Night
And let your imagination take hold
While God’s Spirit takes hold
The letter was spoken to me…not mailed, but it is about a time here
Just a couple of weeks ago…
Dear people of Trinity, the long distance voice said…
Sundays find me there at odd spaced times   
In your worship space.
Sundays find me there, sometimes
With tears held back or on my face.
Oh smiles too…but mostly small
For there is so much I see the world needs
I see so much to which we pay no heed.
And then I feel
Too weak to help in the face of so much …  So much….
But then there came this, a recent Sunday that found me there
in your Sanctuary with tree and wreath and greens and
Floors one hundred years old, I heard it said.
And then my eyes, as they traveled around
taught me new to see,
and with new imaginations I found
stained glass-- and my eyes moved up to cross  
and looked again to greens and tree … where stars and angels and doves
were placed
But that isn’t all…
You see, often times my faith is absent or dead.
And then it makes no sense to me
to think I know                  what can’t be known,
and then in irritation I repeat,
“Why would God, if there is a God, make mystery
For us to try and take apart with reasoning, wits, history…
Would a god really do it that way?
A baby?  Really, God born our way?
In an old stable, maybe with an old wooden floor?
With only light of a candle or lamp?
A baby? Would God really do it that way?”
 
But then came that Sunday not long ago
Remember the day?     
There was a baby there
A few months old           So tiny to hold!
And suddenly                 That baby by father was handed down
To a man near the front         Whose seat was a wheelchair,
and the baby, contented, kept looking out, at all it could see..
and then a time later
baby by parent was again handed-down
to a lady who I heard say, “I’m more than 90 you know.”
As our voices sang hymns
I saw baby’s journey extend
to a woman way in the back, near where I sat..
I swear her even her red jacket glowed
But that is not all       I want you to know
I saw wide open smiles … even on faces that had come in sad
I saw little pauses, and intakes of breath
As baby turned eyes into   those
 
Of everyone who had chance to take hold
of a baby ! right there in their arms, in the flesh!
 
Our Worship too quickly ended for me, 
The people were kind, inviting to me
But ahead lay a long drive, so I did not stay
And found in my journey
I was lingering within worship
where words about Jesus flowed forward and back
where music and hymns were easing my way
where people were joining in prayer.
I knew goodwill there, in the very air.
But that’s not all I have to say:
My mind lingers on that smidgeon little baby, passed around.
And now I’ve an answer, when I ask in a day:
“Would God really do it that way?
Or a baby? Would God really do it that way?”
Now when those questions pop into mind…
I have seen yes.
For what other way would there ever have been
For God to really show us that God loves us SO MUCH
And wants us so much, to know so much, deep in our souls!
I’ve found          joy and love are God’s plan,
and our receiving is handed, like baby that day,        right down to us
and our giving-care then goes hand in hand   
With smiles and looks into eyes.
Tell your church, Pastor, on Christmas I’ll not be there…
But I’ll be at worship, and with tears on my face
Will thank God          On that Holy night
For the church and the people who gather in that lovely space.”  
 
Yes,
O Holy Night               And throughout life
Holy Days and Nights                  Are Everywhere we are
So when you wonder
If there really were a God would God really...     
Remember                    God wants to draw you
...and shows you “so much
By human-flesh-bearing-divine God in Jesus —
In his baby size beginning in life, and always,   God with us
So joy can break out
and spread,           face to face.             Thanks be to God.    Amen.
 

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,
Perhaps
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
Mary,
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.
Amen.
(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.
 
(Sermon)
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?
Judas.
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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