Focus: It is darkest before dawn, and the idea of the Earth bringing forth a shoot changed for me while I was on sabbatical. It was always a sign of hope and that is still true, but it’s now more of a sign of two realities. First, a powerful fire has filled the land. So many trees require fire for their cones to open and release seeds. This is true because the scorched earth is plentiful with nutrients for new growth. It is a bountiful season for growth, if we open ourselves up to release seeds of good news. Second, hundreds … thousands of shoots pop out of the ground every year, but they are delicate and in need of many things to reach maturity (sunlight, water, nutrients, care). If we spend our time releasing our seeds of good news, we must understand that not every shoot will reach maturity and that’s okay. We also need to cultivate the necessary things for that seed to reach maturity in discipleship.
Function: We are called to open up in the midst of first, and then cultivate the nutrition necessary for the incarnation to take root in our lives, our church, and our community. The things that open us up are almost always difficult and painful, because we desire to remain stable, unchanged, and in a status quo. We see this truth all over the place in our lives.
December 24, 2017 Christmas Eve Morning
Texts: Luke 1:26-38
Title: “’How can this be?’ to ‘Here I am’”
Focus: It is natural to ask questions of that which we do not understand. We are encouraged to seek and ask for what God is up to in our lives. “How can this be?” will almost always be our first response, and we should not shy away from difficult questions or perplexing problems, nor should we criticize our curiosity or the questions of others. But then, our response is, “Let’s get going. Let’s get busy.” We are participants in the incarnation of Jesus. We bring the hands and feet of Christ into the world. We challenge the empire and push the world to see that Christ is in our midst.
Function: As we come to the end of Advent and the gift of Christ becomes real for us, it is time for us to move from, “How can this be?” to “Here I am.” Now is the time to live the incarnation, to give of ourselves to see Christ in the world.
December 24, 2017
Texts: Luke 2:1-20
Title: “The Gift of Jesus”
Focus: This is the story of God entering the world to renew all things.
Function: We are the renewal that God has planned.
January 7, 2018 Epiphany
Texts: John 1:29-34
Title: “Fresh Starts”
Focus: There is something arbitrary about the New Year. The calendar sets up certain dates to be significant, like January 1st, when in truth, it’s just another day. And yet, when we take the time to reflect, we are given the chance to take a closer look at who we are and where we are, maybe more importantly to followers of Jesus, whose we are. This story of Jesus is a reminder that to be a disciple is to embrace the idea of “Fresh Starts” or “New Beginnings.” The phrase from these verses that grabs my attention is, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Function: When we read that little phrase carefully, take time to reflect on the “Fresh Start” that it offers, we find three key ingredients: 1) Behold! You have to take an account. You have to see. You have to take hold, to reflect, to acknowledge what is … but the root of the word offers a deeper idea, it means “to keep hold of” or “to belong to,” to grip with one’s mind, soul, heart … 2) The Lamb of God. Christ is the embodiment of the love of God. Christ represents what God thinks of you, the lamb is a picture of a perfect sacrifice, but before we get captured by an ancient model of ineffective scapegoating, let’s just let the deeper truth wash over us. You are loved. God loves you. That is first. 3) Because of that love the sin of the world is taken away. It melts away. It’s insignificant relative to the love of God. This is what God does, because of who God is in Christ. And what then are we called to do? Behold … keep hold of and belong to that deep truth.