In Jesus, God was given a face and heart we could see.
Franciscan brother, Father Richard Rohr, has written a series of contemplations on the humanity of Jesus that help us to understand Jesus’ divinity.
“St. Francis of Assisi (1181–1226) brought attention to the humanity of Jesus. Prior to St. Francis, Christian paintings largely emphasized Jesus’ divinity, as they still do in most Eastern icons. Francis is said to have created the first live nativity. Before the thirteenth century, Christmas was no big deal. The liturgical emphasis was on the high holy days of Easter. But for Francis, incarnation was already redemption. For God to become a human being among the poor, born in a stable among the animals, meant that it’s good to be a human being, that flesh is good, and that the world is good—in its most simple and humble forms.
In Jesus, God was given a face and a heart that we could see. God became someone we could love. While God can be described as a moral force, as consciousness, and as high vibrational energy, the truth is, we don’t (or can’t?) really fall in love with abstractions or concepts. So, God became a person “that we could hear, see with our eyes, look at, and touch with our hands” (1 John 1:1).”
The truest form of worship to God, is being the visible and tangible expression of God’s love and grace in the world. This is what it means to be a church, and a follower of Jesus Christ.
Today is the third Sunday after Epiphany in Year C of the Common Lectionary. And many of you might wonder what that means? Basically, three weeks ago we celebrated the epiphany, which kicked off the church season we’re in. And Year C means we’re in the last year of a three year reading cycle.
The purpose of the lectionary is to make sure the church moves through the Bible. Which you’d think would be a common thing we do already. Even though it doesn’t cover all the books, the Lectionary helps us…as one of my professor said… crack open the gold leaf on the parts of the Bible that aren’t at the top of our reading list.
Every week there’s a passage from the Old Testament, a Psalm, an Epistle, and something from one of the four gospels. Some Christian denominations read all four selections, and then there are churches like us who only focus on one text to draw our lesson from. Today, I want to shake up the way we typically do things and read parts from all four recommended books.
This is what worship looked like back when the Israelites returned to Jerusalem to rebuild their city after being held in captivity in Babylon for 60 years. And it’s not really that different than how most Christian churches practice today.
They read the scripture, they stood and knelt at different times. They prayed and bowed their heads in reverence to God. And like some do today, the people lifted up their arms to God with both heartbreak and joy as a way to feel God’s embrace.
The best part I think is after service they ate and drank together, making sure everyone was included – even those who had nothing to offer. The Bible tells us, Church is a community of people.
While Methodist worship differently than Mennonites, and Presbyterians differ from Pentecostals, most Christian churches share many rites and rituals with our ancient Jewish founders.
Church is a community. But did you notice who’s there in the congregation. The people who were at the Water Gate, a place where the residents of the city would come to draw clean water and be refreshed.
From the religious officials to the common person, young and old, male and female alike...anyone and everyone who was there was invited to hear the word of God and be refreshed by God’s Spirit. The Bible tells us Church is a community that is diverse.
Which takes us to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Picking up from last weeks topic of the variety of spiritual gifts, Paul continues in chapter 12 saying:
The Bible makes it pretty clear that God wants everyone to partake in the worship experience. In fact, the more the merrier. But more than just butts in the seats, God wants us to actually show up. That is, to bring our spiritual gifts, the very gifts given to us to build up the Kingdom of God…but also to use our gifts to make worship more meaningful and multi-dimensional. You see, Church is a community that is diverse and dynamic.
Everyone needs to be welcomed, because through Christ everyone belongs to God. And this is important to stress, because we live in a world where people are increasingly becoming more disassociated with the community around them. Some scientist have argued loneliness and seclusion pose a greater health risk to our society than smoking or obesity.
It’s no secret that part of being human is having the need to belong. That’s why one of our goals here is to reach people who cannot or will not walk into a physical church structure. We made New Church to be a safe place where all opinions and all people are welcome to join us, wherever and whenever they want.
Humans also desire to be in a place where we can have significance or make a difference. For me, Jesus Christ, is such a place. Through him, God has welcomed me in a loving embrace. I am safe in God’s presence…free to be the best possible me...all for God’s glory. Just the same, God invites and welcomes you.
Jesus did not discriminate. Every one was equal, despite our differences. And no one was greater than the other. With Jesus, the Church community is diverse and dynamic, and always welcoming us to be who God made us to be.
Blake was a freshman in high school when he signed up to be a reader at the church. But many people thought it would be a mistake to give him the responsibility. You see, Blake was born with vision and hearing issues that affected his speech. Some worried that the congregation would have trouble understanding him.
Paul said, the members of the body that seem to be weaker, or different than us, are actually indispensable. We all have something to give for God’s purpose. And Blake was no different. So I honored his request. And I respected the concerns of his critics by projecting Blake’s readings on the screen so people could follow along. I was not surprised when Blake did a great job. And because of him, the PowerPoint presentation became a central element of our weekly worship.
Believe it or not, there were people who thought Jesus couldn’t do the job either. In the fourth chapter of Luke’s gospel, we get this story.
The lectionary breaks Luke’s story into two parts. In the first part, Jesus returns to his hometown to celebrates sabbath in his parents synagogue. Maybe because his reputation had preceded him, Jesus was asked to give the reading and interpret the scripture, like Ezra once did. When he is handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, Jesus locates a particular passage that talks about the Messiah.
Unlike Blake, who just wanted to participate in our sabbath worship, Jesus used this platform, and this prophetic text, to announce to the world both his ministry and his mission.
As Luke will go on to reveal, the congregation had trouble understanding Jesus too. Not because he had a speech impediment, but because they were only able to see him in one way. To them Jesus was just a kid from the hood, a local carpenter’s boy…no one of any prominence. Moreover, they get angry with Jesus for making this claim and attempt to kill him for doing so.
What does all this say about the way we do church? How do we gather. How might we honor God? Are we just showing up? Or are we truly living up to our greatest God-given self?
As the lectionary moves us through the Bible, we learn what true worship is to be. It’s not just standing and kneeling to get some cookies at the end. True worship is about hearing and doing of the will of God for the building up of God’s Kingdom.
For the Christian churches, this means continuing Jesus’ mission and ministry – bringing the good news to the poor, freeing those who are trapped in an unjust economic system, and providing care to the least of these our brothers and sisters.
It is right to honor God with our lips, but our words can fall on deaf ears if we refuse to honor God with our hearts and hands as well. For there is no greater praise we can give God than by living out Christ in the world. True worship – that which is truly pleasing to God – is being the manifestation of God’s love and grace in all that we do. Jesus did this. But do we?
In Psalm 19, our last reading, the writer tells us that:
The psalmist tells us that the natural world bears witness to God’s glory by living out it’s created goodness. So too is it with all of God’s people. To live in accordance to God’s law enables us to live as God made us to live. God sent Jesus to show us how it’s done. When we see and do as Jesus did, then we learn and teach the will of God for all to see God’s glory.
We might do church in a non-traditional way. But we struggle like everyone else to carry on the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ, in a world that continues to reject and crucify him. But this is what Jesus called us to do. So we do it. It might not be perfect, but I believe that even our struggle is pleasing to God when we live out Christ to the best of our ability.
Church is a community that is diverse and dynamic; a place that is welcoming and caring; and it always proclaims the presence of God’s love through Jesus Christ as a sacred act of worship.
This can happen in a building, in a backyard, or online, or at work or school. God doesn’t need a steeple or stain glass. But God needs us. We are the Body of Christ whose various gifts reveal to the world that the kingdom of God has come. It’s in our hearts. It’s in our hands. It’s here and now. This is how we church.
It is my hope that you will leave here today with this on your heart: The truest form of worship to God, is being the visible and tangible expression of God’s love and grace in the world. This is what it means to be a church, and a follower of Jesus Christ.
The lectionary opens our hearts and minds to how the Bible directs our calling. It allows our eyes to see the world, and ourselves, through God’s lenses.
By moving through the Bible, word-by-word, page-by-page and story-by-story, we learn how to live out the scripture in such a way that we can’t help but to become… the living word of God.
It’s not a secret that ministers wear many hats. More than just a pretty face in front of the camera, I am the preacher, the church secretary, gardener, and janitor to name a few. Behind the scene is Fiona, who not only operates the camera and sound equipment, but is also a greeter and sometimes the church babysitter for Sean, who some have described as the church’s version of Ed McMahn.
Kevin likes to help me break down the chairs after service, while Kathleen often helps to set up. And then there all of you who participate in our bible study, or give financial, spiritual, or emotional support. Not one person is more important than the other. And yet, each one of us plays a vital role in ushering in the kingdom of God.
Which takes us to today’s reading from the Apostle Paul who wrote this in his first letter to the Corinthian churches: Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. ~ St. Paul the Apostle
For those who visit for the first time or who stumble upon us online, it doesn’t take long to see that we are not your typical church. We don’t really have pews, or a praise band or choir. But we have couches and chairs, and occasionally my wife will sing. And there’s not a lot of spontaneous prophetic oracles or speaking in tongues like what Paul writes about. However, there has been some colorful words muttered when we’ve lost our internet signal.
This is not to say we don’t share some similarities with those churches in Corinth, as well as most Christian churches throughout history. For example, we try to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ by living out a spiritually centered life based on following his example. And as you might have guessed, that’s not as easy as it sounds. But it’s not impossible either; especially when we take this spiritual journey together.
There seems to be a growing, unquenchable thirst for spirituality these days. Perhaps it’s because our world feels out of control, and many of us are desperately longing for something greater than ourselves to swoop in and make everything alright. But here at New Church, we believe that power has already come. And as Paul attests, it has come into each one of us. We believe that through Jesus, we all receive something great from God. It doesn’t matter if you’re spiritually devout or simply spiritual but not religious. What matters is how you respond to the Spirit that is in you and all around you.
How will you use the gifts God has given you to bring God’s peace and love in a world crying out for help?
Like Paul said, “Each person is given something to do that shows who God is.” These gifts are from God, blessed by God and given freely to all of God’s beloved children through the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that Jesus received. These gifts are not earned or deserved, but given to us out of God’s steadfast love for us. We call this grace. As Eugene Peterson wrote in the Message translation of Paul’s passage, “Everyone gets in on it. Everyone benefits.”
Paul tells us there are “All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful.” There are the gifts of wise counsel, clear understanding, simple trust, healing the sick, performing miraculous acts, having a strong voice, and being able to interpret languages. And everyone gets in on this for the sole purpose of building up the church – the body of Christ, made up of all kinds of people, with all kinds of gifts, to continue Jesus’ ministry.
Each one of us plays a vital role in this purpose. You see, just as much as we need God…God needs us. And sometimes, as my friend Dawn reminded me, “God needs us more than we need God.” Just because your life might be good at the moment, it doesn’t mean there isn’t pain and suffering happening around you.
When something bad happens in the world, like a mass shooting or terrorist attack, someone will always say to me, “If there is a God, then why does bad stuff happen to good people?” My only answer is “God could ask you the same question.”
But I don't think this reading today is not really about us. It’s about God. And more specifically, the Spirit of God that activates the gifts we have so that we can serve God’s purpose and not just our own. When our focus is on doing the will of God, our world begins to shift away from us and our problems, towards God and God’s salvation, where we can experience the true peace we desire.
William Sloane Coffin writes, “Spirituality means to me living the ordinary life extraordinarily well.” Or as one of the early church fathers put it, "The glory of God is a human being fully alive."
To understand what this kind of living means, all we have to do is look at the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. He is a perfect example of how to live fully and faithfully in God’s Spirit ...even if it would cost him is own life to do so.
While preaching in his hometown Jesus quotes from the prophet Isaiah saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor…freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Like we discovered last week, we too have been ordained and anointed for this work. When we see and live out the ways of Jesus, we learn and teach the will of God so others can see God, even in the darkest of places.
So why is this important? Because it is God’s Spirit that gives us the gifts we need to find the joy we desire. It is God’s Spirit who empowers us to use our gifts in loving ways, to reveal Jesus’ good news that the Kingdom of God is already among us. And within us. The Spirit of God is here, in our hearts.
Jesus taught us that when we are kind to strangers, or show mercy to one another, the Spirit of God is there. When wrongs have been righted, and justice prevails, the Spirit of God is there. When the hungry are fed, the captives are released, the sick and dying are cared for, the Spirit of God is there. When someone apologizes or accepts an apology that leads to healing a broken relationship, the Spirit of God is there. When bridges are built instead of walls, the Spirit of God is there. When love is present in our heart and homes, when people are welcomed, food is served and drinks are poured, the Spirit of God is there.
In other words, when we are fully present in life, giving our heart and time, so that others may come to see God’s fullness in their life… God’s Spirit is fully present and fully alive. And the peace of God prevails.
I invite you today to take this spiritual journey, and dwell in this Spirit of God by living in and living out the ministry of Jesus Christ, so that the world might experience God’s greatest gift of all, the gift of salvation for all.
Six years after our initial meeting, the two of us would fret over what to name our first born child…who we were convinced was a boy. Turns out we’re wrong. Lingering in the bliss (or pain) of childbirth, we agreed Fiona Grace would be the perfect name to set the tone of our new family.
Our next child was easier because we decided a few months before she was born that Colleen would be her named. We did the same with our son, but when he we laid eyes on him, he didn’t look like the name we chose. Under pressure to put something down on the birth certificate so we could leave the hospital, Sean was literally named by committee. However, once we were home, I wanted to change his name. I lost that fight. As did his sisters who wanted to call him either Cosmo or Squirrel.
“What God creates, God loves. What God loves, God loves everlastingly.”
What’s in a name anyway? Why do we struggle to find the perfect one for a baby who we no nothing about? George Forman may have been on to something when he named all seven kids after himself.
Names are important. For starters, they make it easier for us to identify with one another. When my mom would say, “Ian” I know she meant me and not one of my siblings. When she yelled, “Ian Woodman Macdonald” I knew I was in trouble.
Some have said that a name can shape or define one’s personality. I can see some truth in that. Just ask any guy named Tony and you’ll understand what they’re talking about. There are those people will spend millions of dollars to turn their name into a brand. And remember when Prince changed his name to be symbol? It wasn’t quite the same as what Nike was able to do with Micheal Jordan. Names identify us. And names can define us.
Whether your name is on a building or the back of a jersey or above your phone number on a business card, no name is as important as the one God has given to each and every one of us.
Read Luke 3:21-22
All four gospels have recorded four different baptismal stories. Luke’s is interesting because it comes on the heels of a long, eloquently described Christmas story. Yet in what might be considered the most important tradition of Christian faith, Luke chooses to gives us just two skimpy verses in describing what will mark the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
It seems Jesus just walks up to the river bank, stands in line and waits his turn with everyone else. Saints and sinners alike intermingling as the heavens open and God not only claims Jesus, but names Jesus – My Son, the Beloved.
“Identity is always God’s first move,” writes Nadia Bolz-Weber. “Before we do anything wrong or before we do anything right, God has claimed us and named us as God’s own.” Son. Daughter. God’s beloved! That’s who we are.
Yet for some reason we tend to identify more with the people standing on the river bank – the broken and beaten down – then we do with the One whose name can heal us and lift us up. It’s easier to see ourselves as being too dirty or unworthy to enter the presence of God, than it is to see Jesus standing next to us and welcoming us to see otherwise.
Can you think of someone or something in your life that is trying to claim or name you? Family? Career? Anxiety? An institution? What about an ideal that makes you think you’re not good enough …much less worthy enough to be loved by God?
“The world tries to tell us who we are, but only God can do that. Everything else is just temptation.” It doesn’t matter if we named Sean, Cosmo or Squirrel or anything else. What matters is that God has claimed him and named him. Just as God has done with you.
“You are my Child, the Beloved.” This holy and sacred name comes straight from the mouth of our creator. And it tells me that we matter to God, and that we’re worthy of divine love...no matter of who we are, or what we’ve done or how the world might try to name us.
God has claimed us. And named us. And at our baptism God has also ordained us; cleansing us and anointing us for a much greater purpose. To share a name with Jesus, is to share in the fullness of his life, death, and resurrection as well.
Just as God called down from heaven to him, so too does God call out to us…inviting us to stand along the river banks of life, in solidarity with the misfits, the marginalized and the outcasts. It’s our turn now to let the whole world know they too are etched in God’s heart. To claim the name Beloved means to stand in the name of Jesus and allow God to define you – not the world or ego, anger, fear, or pain.
As we move into Lent, we will walk with Jesus from the raging waters of the Jordan River to the raw, rugged wilderness. But today, as you leave here, the same temptation Jesus faced in the world will be the same temptations that will confront you. Your first line of defense is to remember who you are, and the rock for which you were hewn. You are God’s beloved child.
To claim the name is to open your heart to God and practice living deeply, loving and acting faithfully, with kindness and charity. This is the way of Jesus, who shows us the way of God. This is the reality of which we are called to live. The reality of our identity, of who we are and what we are made of.
To be “beloved” means to be loved by God just as much as it is to be the love of God in the world. Love is in our name. So may love be the way people come to identify and define who you are. And who God is in you.
Last week I said, “When we see and observe Jesus, then we learn and teach the will of God.” This stayed with me all week. It had me asking myself, “How can I live up to this name in such a way that when people see me… they see only Jesus?”
The Apostle Paul writes, “As God’s beloved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Tolerate and forgive each other as God has done for you. Above all, clothe yourself with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule your hearts, to which you were called in the one body” (Colossians 3:12-15).
Through baptism we are made one with the Body of Christ. We are washed and welcomed into the universal church. As members of this heavenly body we are anointed and ordained by God to proclaim the good news of God’s redemption and grace given to us by Jesus Christ. And we do this by using words and deeds of love and peace.
To quote from the early church father, St. Iraneaus, “What God creates, God loves. What God loves, God loves everlastingly.” Whether or not you’ve been baptized, there is no limit to God’s love for you. But God wants more of you, all of you. “You are my beloved.” When Jesus heard these words spoken to him, his life and his purpose changed forever. It’s my hope that those words will do the same for you and for others, just as it did for me.
And so my challenge to you this week is to not only embrace the name of Christ, but to identify yourself by living it out the way he taught, and to do so faithfully and fearlessly.
You are God’s beloved. You are God’s love. God’s charity. God’s patience and forgiveness. You are the way of God’s grace and redemption. You are God’s beloved. Claimed. Named. And Ordained. Just as Jesus was, is, and will be forever.
I invite you to be with us as we learn the way of Jesus, and seek to teach the way of Jesus by carrying the ministry of God’s Love forward until heaven and earth become one body, sharing one name. The name of Love.
Bolz-Weber, Nadia. Pastrix. (Jericho: 2013).
Much has been said about this subject matter. So instead of adding more ink to the page, I offer you some words that have already been written down.
All forms of contemplation share the same goal: to help us see through the deceptions of self and world in order to get in touch with what Howard Thurman called “the sound of the genuine” within us and around us. Contemplation does not need to be defined in terms of particular practices, such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, or lectio divina. Instead, it can be defined by its function: contemplation is any way one has of penetrating illusion and touching reality. —Parker Palmer
The German mystic Meister Eckhart (1260–1328) said, “Let us pray to God that we may be free of God that we may gain the truth. . . .” There is no concept of God that can contain God, as Saint Augustine (354–430) preached, “If you comprehend it, it is not God.”
Thomas Keating described how contemplation evolves our perception of reality and God: Contemplation is awakening to the contemplative dimension of life. In the Eastern traditions some call it meditation or the path to enlightenment. Every development in contemplation reveals more and more of the mystery of silence and the importance of receptivity over effort, especially in prayer. It gives you a whole new perspective on reality. The effectiveness of action depends on the source from which it springs. If it is coming out of the false self with its shadow side, it is severely limited. If it is coming out of a person who is immersed in God, it is extremely effective.
[Contemplative] practices beckon earthbound bodies toward an expanded receptivity to holiness. . . . Receptivity is not a cognitive exercise but rather the involvement of intellect and senses in a spiritual reunion and oneness with God. . . . [The] contemplative moment is a spiritual event that kisses the cognitive but will not be enslaved to its rigidities. —Barbara Holmes
As I was cleaning around the house, I said to myself...”Why do I bother?” I’m sure I am not the only one who has uttered these words. I get frustrated because it seems like no one else is helping, cleaning or putting stuff away or even picking up the mess they make. (I am also aware that they probably say that about me too!)
Why do I bother? Because I want to be able to have counter space to work on and walk around the house without unnecessarily stubbing my toe or tripping over stuff. Sure it might be burdensome and drive me nuts, but doing my part gets the results I seek.
I am currently reading the Bible with a friend. We are currently beginning the words from the prophet Jeremiah. Like all the prophets, the major and minor ones, are called to clean up for God. Not because God makes a mess but because God needs a place to work.
Jeremiah pretty much says God could just stop doing what God does, throw up his hands and say “That’s all, folks. I’m going home and taking my ball with me.”
Thankfully, God doesn’t. God continues to sweep up the mess we humans make. From our countertops to the ground upon which we walk, God goes so far as to clean those hard to reach spots deep within our souls.
Why does God bother? Because God loves us that much. We matter to God. So much so that God is willing to put on the rubber gloves and get to work. If God didn’t then the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf would be rendered mute. It would be meaningless to God. And so would we.
God wants clean counters to work on. And this takes work from us. As I’ve learned with my own family, this work is easier and more productive when shared with others. But there will be those times when we have to gonit alone and just to do it; especially when no one else will.
The story is called “The Forgotten King.”
And it begins like this: “Pop quiz time! How many of you think you can name the three kings in the Nativity story? Are you thinking Balthazar, Melchior, and Gaspar? Good try, but no, they are not kings, they are Magi – wise men...astronomers of sorts who studied the stars to find the secrets of the universe. If we read the story we’d notice Matthew doesn’t name the three wise men, and actually, he doesn’t say there are three of them… And they weren’t even kings! But there are three kings in the famed nativity story...set in Bethlehem, the city of David.
The first is, of course Jesus who was just born King of the Jews. The second is Herod, who was not of the royal line, but he was king. The third, surprisingly, is Joseph! Husband to Mary, the Mother of Christ. He is, The Forgotten King! No, Joseph never held the position of King of Israel. But the Angel of the Lord called him, “Son of David.” He was descended from King David; and he had royal blood flowing through him. And if you consider the kind of man Joseph was, you see he had the very qualities that would have made him a wonderful, godly king.
Today our reading comes from Matthew’s gospel chapter one, verses 18-21. In these four verses is pretty much all we are given about Joseph. There are a few other bits of information hidden here and there, but this is the most complete picture of the man who God chose to raise up our Savior King.
Talk about an epiphany! Or a divine revelation! I can only imagine what was racing through Joseph’s head and heart after this strange encounter.
Let us return to Roxy’s story and see what she thinks. “Matthew describes Joseph as a ‘just man.’ What does that mean? According to the dictionary, a just person is someone who adheres strictly to a standard of right and wrong. In other words, Joseph always seeks to do what is morally right. This means that Joseph diligently kept the Torah, the law of God. Now quite often, people who are very strict about right and wrong in their own lives can be very rigid and harsh with other people – demanding and unforgiving. But look at Joseph! Matthew says he was a “just man AND was unwilling to put Mary to shame.”
Remember, at that time, Joseph was convinced that Mary had committed adultery
(even though they weren’t married at the time). Believe it or not, he had the legal right to have her stoned to death along with whoever the offending man was. But notice that Joseph chose instead to have mercy on Mary, and just quietly dissolve the marriage. He was both just and merciful – just like God! No wonder he was chosen to be the earthly father to our Savior.
Can you imagine how awed Joseph must have been when he learned the truth? I’m sure he wondered how on earth he was going to live up to the responsibility God had given him.
Like his ancestor King David, who was just a kid when God chose him, Joseph assumed the responsibility to set an earthly example for his Son to follow. David did this for his son too. While Solomon was a good and wise king, he still was not a Divine king. And as the scriptures reveal, Israel would suffer greatly under the kingship of others who learned from him. That is to say, until Jesus, the Christ, the newborn King came to redeem us and take upon our suffering.
There is a contemporary Christian song that sums up how Joseph may have felt being a surrogate for God. It’s by Michael Card and it’s simply titled “Joseph’s Song.”
How can it be –
This baby in my arms
Sleeping now so peacefully –
The Son of God, the Angel said.
How can it be?
Lord, I know he’s not my own
Not of my flesh, not of my bone;
But, Father, let this baby be
Son of my love.
Father, show me where I fit into this plan of yours.
How can a man be a father to the Son of God?
For all my life I’ve been a simple carpenter;
How can I raise a King?
Fast forward now about 30 years. Jesus is traveling around Israel, teaching, healing, and doing miracles. And one day in the temple, the Pharisees dump at his feet a woman caught in adultery, and they demand that He judge her. Again, according to Torah law, she should have been stoned to death…as well as the man involved in the act, but no man was brought to Jesus, just this frightened woman.
Instead of making a judgement, Jesus quietly bends down and writes in the dust with his finger. We don’t know what he wrote, but I wonder – was he thinking back to the stories Joseph had told him, about the time he thought Mary had committed adultery? Was Jesus remembering Joseph’s mercy in not demanding the death penalty?
True, Mary had not been guilty, and it’s safe to say this woman was...having been caught red-handed. It’s important to note that Jesus did not condone her sin. But instead he simply forgave her sin. Jesus treated this woman with compassion, gentleness, and forgiveness just as his fathers did...both on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus’ loving kindness got people’s attention. Especially the women and marginalized. No wonder they hailed him as their king...or why Herod allowed him to be crucified. Our rulers today continue to follow Herod’s lead...But we are called to follow Jesus.
In the life of Joseph, the forgotten king, Jesus had seen how to treat a woman – women like my wife, my daughters, my sisters and my own mother. And Jesus carried that virtue of mercy and justice throughout his whole life and ministry. He had watched Joseph loving Mary, no matter what – cherishing her and defending her against attacks and malicious gossip. When the law demanded death, he did what he had to do to honor and uphold life.
Through Joseph, Jesus learned that a woman was to be valued, honored and cared for. And as the Bible reveals, Jesus did that with every woman he encountered. In fact, he did that with every person he encountered.
Just and merciful. That is how Jesus is revealed to the world. God’s Justice and mercy...made manifest for others to see. While it seems Joseph fades into the background of Jesus’ story, I’d say, this forgotten king did a pretty good job at raising a different kind of king. Our King.”
For me, the moral of Roxy’s story is simple. We learn our behavior from watching others. Just the same, others learn from watching us. So we must ask ourselves “what exactly do they see when they look at you and me?”
Do they see a group of selfish people who are rigid and harsh with others who aren’t like us - demanding and unforgiving, always taking what God has to offer without ever really giving back?
Or do they see the glory of our Divine King, made manifest, who out of great love for others doesn’t think twice about showing mercy or forgiveness, even if it’s deeply unpopular or cost him his life.
My challenge to you today is a challenge we need to make for the entire year. Whether or not you make New Years resolutions, I hope that you will make it your goal for the year to faithfully practice the way of Jesus. By watching and observing his way, we learn and teach God’s way.
I challenge you to use the next 359 days to walk as Jesus walked, to use your words, your hands, your heart, your time, and your gifts to bring peace and reconciliation everywhere you go. And to do what you can to heal the world through acts of kindness, mercy, and grace.
I challenge you to love everyone and serve and stand up for everyone - especially those who have no voice, or rights; and those who are hiding in fear because of who they are or where they are from.
Today, as we celebrate Epiphany, I challenge you to allow God to make manifest in you the light and love of Jesus Christ. The reason this is important is simple: Through us, God’s love and forgiveness becomes tangible and real reaching others in the most intimate and profound way.
Just as God worked in human form through Jesus, so too does God use us to reconcile the world home. We are called to be like Christ in the world so others can meet God anywhere and everywhere we are.
By our faithfulness and willingness to live in such a way that reflects God’s will and not simply our own, we become something greater than some temporal, earthly king. We become sons and daughters of God Almighty - heirs to the everlasting manifestation of God’s great glory in the world. Amen.
*Special thanks to Roxy Rice for her inspiring devotional which she allowed me to share and add to.
Another shared devotional illustration from Nicky Gumbel:
When she was nineteen years of age, Chiara Lubich gathered with a few friends in northern Italy. It was 1939 and, as bombs fell, they asked this question: ‘Was there an ideal that bombs could not destroy?’ Their answer was, ‘Yes, the love of God’.
They had experienced God’s overwhelming love and they wanted to share it with others. They imitated God by living a life of love (Ephesians 5:1–2). They helped those in need. They shared what little food they had. They found clothing for those who had none. They comforted the bereaved.
Such a warmth emanated from Chiara and her friends that people gave them the name ‘Focolare’, which means ‘hearth’ or ‘fireplace’. Focolare now has 2 million members in 182 countries. Members of the Focolare community make it their rule of life, 24 hours a day, to live by the golden rule of Jesus: ‘Do to others what you would have them do to you’ (Matthew 7:12).
Love is practical. Chiara said, ‘Love the other person as yourself… Imagine how the world would be if the golden rule were put into practice not only between individuals, but also between ethnic groups, peoples and nations, if everyone loved the other country as their own.’
How can we imitate God and live a life of love?
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”