Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Shepherd King

5 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”  (Jeremiah 23:5-6 NRSV)

This is the last day in our Christian Year. The year began, not with noise makers and parties, but quietly as we prepared our hearts and lives for the arrival of the Messiah: the first and the second coming.

The Messiah arrived amidst a flurry of activity and excitement.  For a few short but frenzied weeks, we looked forward, standing on tip-toe, waiting for him.  He finally arrived: a vulnerable baby, born in a stable, wrapped in rags, a feeding trough for a crib.  His visitors, lowly shepherds who were considered the bottom of the food chain.

And we call him King.

We know little of his early years, but we spent a considerable number of Sundays trying to learn from him so that we could follow him more nearly.  As we watched his ministry grow, we followed with enthusiasm, seeking his kingdom.  We watched the denial, the betrayal, the trial. We watched the crucifixion.

And we call him King.

He hung on a cross among thieves.  “Father forgive them…” he called out to God.  “They don’t know what they’re doing!”

And we call him King.

The crowd tried to shame him.  The Roman soldiers mocked him.  He assured one of those dying near him that, “today you will be with me in Paradise.”

And we call him King.

Three days later we tried to understand his resurrection.  They couldn’t keep him down, not even by killing him.  His was raised from grave, the victor over death.  He could have hung out with anyone: Caesar, Herod, Pilate, the Wise Men from afar.  He could have gone anywhere and done anything he wanted to do.  He chose to hang out with his disciples and followers.

And we call him King.

He spent time with this motley group of followers.  He taught, they listened and finally got it.  Then he ascended to be with God.

And we call him King.

He was the Good Shepherd, Messiah, Son of God, Son of Man, Emmanuel, Christ.

We called him King.

Paul wrote to the Colossians:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him.  He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of the cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20)

We call him King.

And then we go out and worry and fret and bicker and fight.

Yes, peace is still elusive; I’m not seeing the swords and spears industries dying.  Plows and pruning hooks are still at a premium.  Although, they are out there.

We have serious problems that need serious answers.  Four years ago some of you were ready to slit your wrists over the election results.  This year, others of you are considering it.

We’re scattered by the powers that be.  We’re out of control.  We look to ourselves for power and feel powerless.  We’ve lost ourselves in despair and hate.

Is it worse today than when God called Moses from the burning bush?  Than when David was anointed king? Then when Martin Luther hung his 93 Theses on the Chapel door? Then when Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his colleagues stood up against Hitler’s Nazi regime? Then during the demonstrations in Martin Luther King, Jr’s day?

Do we dare to read the paper or watch the news in an attitude of prayer?  Can we analyze what we see through the lens of Jesus as King?  Can we read in Jeremiah’s prophecy the words from God that say, “I will attend,” “I myself will gather,” I will bring them back,” “I will raise up shepherds”?  That God is always at work, even when we least realize it?

How does this speak to us today?  As we end this liturgical year, we need our king more than ever.  Read that Colossians text again.  It has so much depth.  You can’t read it quickly; you can’t even read it all at once.  Take one phrase at a time and ponder what this means to you.

God raised up a righteous branch for Israel and has provided for God’s Chosen People.  God sent the Messiah to earth to show us the way.  How do we live faithfully in the King’s Reign?  How do we live out what we believe when we stutter over the words, “Christ is King.  Christ reigns”?

Christ is King.  Christ reigns supreme.  And no one, no matter how powerful they think they are, can come close.

Christ is King.  He asks the impossible of us, like giving up all we have and giving to the poor; be willing to carry our own cross; to come and die to our old self; hate father and mother; drop our nets of career and identity and follow him.

This is the one we call King.

As we enter the Advent Season, I invite you to once again journey to the manger.  Look at the world through the Christ Lens.  Look for Christ and his activity in the world.

Allow the King to make a difference in your life.  Allow yourself to give up what you really don’t need.  Demand of scripture explanations for that which makes no sense.

Journey to the manger to meet your King again for the very first time.

We call him King.  His reign is radical and counter-cultural.

We call him King.

What he teaches doesn’t always make sense in this world.

We call him King.

He’s all we’ve got.

But, then again, he’s all we need.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.

 

Advertisements

Hope for the Day of the Lord

As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you?

13 But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.

16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 17 comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.  (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5;13-17 NRSV)

Tuesday is coming.
We can feel it.
It’s almost palpable.

Some of us will bid a fond farewell to our President wishing him well in his retirement.

Others will say good riddance, looking forward to something better.

Some of us will awaken Wednesday morning happy and relieved with the results of the election.

Others will feel dismayed, even frightened at the results.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the news. There’s too much information out there and much of it is skewed depending on the bias of the speaker. Politicians are in the business of telling us what is wrong with our country and that we should be very afraid.  Then they assure us that that they have the only possible answer.

Politicians have been providing the easy answers for as long as I can remember. But there are no easy answers.

Tuesday is coming. And with it more worry and fear and grief.

We feel like the congregation at Thessaloniki. They’ve heard the good news. They served faithfully. But, then someone stood up and announced the end was here.  Perhaps they claimed that God had spoken to them directly. The end was near. And now the Thessalonians are shaken out of their wits.

The author writes a reminder of what must happen before the end arrives. There are signs to look for and they haven’t seen them yet, have they? “Remember what I told you when I was with y ou.”

Chances are that some of the congregation took the letter and studied the signs. What will the rebellion look like? They pored over the details and became worried and fearful. They may even have come up with a date and time and so they could go to high mountain and wait for Christ’s return.

Others probably went back to their homes and jobs, trying to ignore them.  They understood that Christ will come and they aren’t in control of it; let’s get back to work.

And a few may have studied the signs, realized the timing was wrong and took hope. They reaffirmed their belief that God is still in charge; that God is powerful and majestic; that no evil is more powerful than God.

These few stood firm and held on. They viewed the alarmist behavior; they understood that evil exists; they refused to ignore it while affirming that God is greater than any of this.

Ultimately good wins out over evil. Today’s worries are enough for today; God is waiting for us in the tomorrows of our lives.

Evil exists. We see it in the cancer racing through a young mother’s body; in the mental illness that leads another to make bad choices that hurt others. Evil exists in racist activities. Evil exists in the world, but we cannot allow it to scare us out of our wits.

Faithful people identify the evil and try to change the laws surrounding the treatment of mental illness. Faithful people care for those fighting the disease that wracks their bodies. Faithful people refuse to gloss over the facts; they bravely look in the mirror and ask what they are doing to keep bad policies alive.

Faithful people don’t try to identify the “lawless one” but rather seek to know in prayer, “Is it I?”

We are the ones created by our Creator. We need God as much today as they did in Thessaloniki. We cannot know the mind of God; we cannot control God by trying to please God. We cannot delude ourselves into thinking that we don’t need God or that we already know God’s mind.

Faithful people acknowledge this and return over and over and over again to reaffirm this and confess their need to take charge. Augustine once said that evil is the capacity of the self to deny and reject good.

Where you find people of faith, you find gratitude. Gratitude for Christ’s activity in their daily lives; gratitude to their Creator for the beauty of the earth; gratitude to the Holy Spirit for abiding presence.

Fearful times? Yes, they are. And in these times I turn to these words from Paul and to the prophet Haggai:  “…Yet now take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt.  My spirit abides among you; do not fear.” (Haggai 2:4b-5 NRSV)

There is only one thing we can trust and believe. There is only one thing we need to remember and take comfort in: that when we awaken on Wednesday morning, God will still be in charge no matter who is elected.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


%d bloggers like this: