Text, scripture and audio from weekly sermons.
Click "Read More..." to access the audio and listen to the sermon.
I've never had sympathy for Joseph. The idea of him dismissing his pregnant fiancé to save his own reputation disturbed me. The all too real literary trope of a father abandoning his child seemed to find its roots in this Gospel story. Mary was hardly a teenager and he almost left her to fend for herself. I considered Joseph a weakling, a coward, a man not of his word. But then I became pregnant and realized that the birth of any child is a terrifying and earth-altering endeavor. It is awesome, but awesome in the sense that "awe" means mixed emotions of wonder, dread, respect. And our little babe is just a little human babe, not anything close to what the angel of the Lord is describing Joseph's child to be. So, I get - marginally - Joseph's fear, his trepidation. An angel of the Lord has just told him his child is about to save the people from their sins - to change the course of human history forevermore. His fear is not so much the fear of ridicule from friends and family about his pregnant teenage fiance but more that he grasps the gravitas of his and Mary's joint calling to be the earthly parents of a divine child.
I had a perfectly good sermon on Thursday morning - about the earliest I have finished a sermon in my life. I came home early, raked leaves and, after the kids were in bed, flipped on the news and saw that Nelson Mandela had died. Perhaps as clearly as anyone in the last century - at the very least in a line of leaders that passes from Ghandi to King to Mandela - he saw a vision of a new kingdom, a new way for the people of South Africa.
What would it be like?
News coverage broke into the football game last Saturday night to announce a deal with Iran. John Kerry, our bleary-eyed secretary of state, strode to the podium in Geneva to tell the world about an interim agreement that would, a little bit, perhaps, for 6 months, have some UN inspectors begin to look at Iran's nuclear sites. They had been haggling into the wee hours for days, laying the groundwork for months, to see if there is some way to bring stability to the region by making sure Iran isn't able to build a nuclear weapon. It was an exhausting process that involved many people over many years, and it is just a beginning, that could fall apart any minute. But, I wonder, what would it be like if in the middle of those talks a US representative, or better yet someone from Iran, stood up and said, "You know what, I don't think we need these things anymore. We would like nuclear energy to develop our economy - or, better yet, we would prefer renewable sources. Would you help us harness the water and the wind? If so, we'll let you shut down all of nuclear reactors, shut them up tight." He shall judge between the nations, Isaiah writes. He shall arbitrate for many peoples. I wonder what would happen if our diplomats decided to do something like that. What would it be like?
Christ the King Sunday on the church's calendar has its genesis through the decree of Pope Pius XI in 1925 who called for a special service in order "to celebrate the kingship of Christ as a way of combating the destructive forces of this age."1 Without a doubt much has happened on the geo-political stage since 1925 that could use combating. If you didn't know any better, you might say the world, much of the time, is a big, hopeless mess. But, as our text claims, in fact, we do know better2 ...
Listen for God's Word from Psalm 46:
When I was in 8th grade, we were required to read Charles Dickens' dark novel, A Tale of Two Cities. Many of you know how it begins, at least the first part of it:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way..."