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Proclaiming the Word

The Gospel according to John is often the favorite among people, thus people are surprised that it is not my favorite Gospel. It might be due to my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), because it is so different from the Gospels according to Mark, Matthew, and Luke.

However, the difference is beautiful language of philosophy, deeper thinking, and poetry that people love; and yet, this results in difficulty to follow it and to find concrete, tangible lessons to take forth.

This prologue, the opening verses of the Gospel, can specifically be a challenge to find tangibleness to hold on to but it teaches that words are important.

Words have power.

We have been taught, however, that words only compile about 20 percent of our communication while 80 percent is composed of our tone of voice and body language. And yet, words remain extremely important.

According to the Gospel of John and the Christian tradition, Christ is the Word (Incarnated).

This Word brought creation into being when God (the Father) spoke at the birth of all that exists.

But we can become stuck on the meaning of the word ‘Word’.

We often hold that ‘Word’ is simply about what we speak, write, or read and that is definitely part of it. But in the life of the church universal, we understand that the Word comes in three parts.

The first aspect of the ‘Word’ is the Bible or Scriptures. This is words in black and occasionally red on white pages that is the foundation of our worship, fellowship, and discipleship. This is the Word that offers guidance for our lives, which we can read.

The second aspect of the ‘Word’ is Jesus the Christ. Jesus was the Word Incarnate and embodied in his public life and ministry, which we can learn to imitate through the Scriptures.

The third aspect of the ‘Word’ is the ‘preached word’. It is not simply preached from a pulpit or desk on a Sunday morning from the pastor or a guest preacher.

Within our Baptismal Rite, we dedicate and commit ourselves first and foremost to proclaiming the Word (or Christ) in the thoughts we think, the words we speak, and the actions we do. All of our thoughts, words, and actions should embody the light of Christ. This light is hope, peace, joy, and love shining forth into a world that does not always seem illuminated, in a world that far too often seems dark, lonely, hopeless, full of strive, lacking in joy, and lacking in love.

We do not always give thought to our words, especially how our words impact others.

  • When we have and hold negative thoughts, whether regarding ourselves or another, we do damage.
  • When we are disrespectful, rude, inconsiderate, or self-centered (Martin Luther’s definition of sin), those words do damage.

This concept is included in our Lutheran understanding of ‘you shall not kill’, because we are called to not cause harm to another in body, mind, soul, or otherwise.

How often do we think negative thoughts, speak damaging words, or act in destructive means that is harmful to ourselves or another?

This is NOT proclaiming Christ in hope, peace, joy, and love.

Proclaiming the Word in hope, peace, joy, and love in thought, word, and deed is an aspect of being Christ-like and embodying Christ. Unfortunately, it is an aspect that I personally have failed to uphold.

I am confident that we all have and continue to fail to proclaim Christ in thought, word, and deed.
We could all do better.

This week and beyond:

  • I invite us to ponder our thoughts and words.
  • I encourage us to ponder how our thoughts and words influence our actions.
  • I challenge us to ponder how our thoughts, words, and actions impact us, family, loved ones, friends, and even the stranger we pass on the street.

May we go forward with the Spirit of Christmas proclaiming loudly the Word
with the light of Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, and especially Christ.
Amen.

Scriptures were John 1: 1-18.
Originally preached 03 January 2021 for Trinity Lutheran (Union City, Indiana).

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2021 in Sermons

 

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Christmas Spirit

Christmas is not a day.

According to the church universal, Christmas is a twelve-day season beginning on Christmas morning.

And yet, the Spirit of Christmas should be within our homes, minds, hearts, and souls 365 days a year.

Advent was the hopeful anticipation and expectation of God arriving into our sinful, broken, and dark hearts, souls, homes, communities, nations, and the entire creation with the divine light of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

Christmas is the celebration of said divine light of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love busting into our sinful, broken, and dark hearts, souls, homes, communities, nations, and the entire creation. And yet, this Christmas we were reminded said sinfulness, brokenness, and darkness remains as we heard word of an intentional explosion in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee.

Again, Christmas is not a day. Christmas is technically a season.

The Christmas Spirit should be cherished daily by each person, each critter, and the entire creation for divine Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, and God in human flesh and bone is not only born in a specific time and place, but in every time and place.

The Christmas Spirit ignites our ability, willingness, and desire to share said divine light of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in and despite the sinfulness, brokenness, and darkness within ourselves in mind and soul, our homes, our communities, our nations, and the entire creation.

The Christmas Spirit reminds us that God has, continues, and will forever enter into our hearts, souls, homes, communities, nations, and the entire creation in, among, though, and despite the ordinary.

Joseph and Mary were Israelites and practitioners of Judaism, per cultural and religious custom these parents brought the newly born Christ child to the temple. This was ordinary.

Simeon was a devoted and righteous man, who desired to lay eyes upon the Messiah, or Christ.
Simeon was in the temple. This was ordinary.

Anna was a widowed woman, who often spent time in prayer in the temple. This was ordinary.

And yet, the Christmas Spirit reminds us that God has, continues, and will forever enter into our hearts, souls, homes, communities, nations, and the entire creation in extra-ordinary means.

Mary was a young, unwed, virgin girl in first century Palestine. This is extra-ordinary.

Joseph was a well-respected man, who the angels persuaded to not dismiss Mary and to raise this divine child as his own. This is extra-ordinary.

Simeon is enabled to recognize Jesus as the divine light of Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, and the Messiah.
Simeon proclaims that this child is the long-awaited salvation of Israel AND the gentiles.
Gentiles were the uncircumcised, pork-eating pagans. This is extra-ordinary.

Anna is a female. Anna is an elderly, vulnerable widow. And yet, Anna is a PROPHET.
Anna is stirred from her prayers. Anna recognizes Jesus as the Messiah. Anna begins to prophecy.
This is extra-ordinary.  

The Christmas Spirit is indeed the extra-ordinary bursting forth through the ordinary, but take a moment to note how the narrative ends:

When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.

Wait! WHAT?

The Archangel Gabriel announced Mary will birth, nurture, and love the Christ child, named Jesus.

Joseph is visited by an angel who assures him to trust Mary about her sexuality and to marry her.

Mary visits Elizabeth, whose unborn John (the Baptist) leaps with joy at the unborn Jesus.

Mary sings the Magnificat, which praises God and embraces the ‘Grand Leveling’ or ‘Grand Reversal’.

Mary gives birth to God Incarnate, God in human flesh and born, in a lowly manger.

The Shepherds are visited by angels who encourage their travel to said lowly manger.

Simeon recognizes Jesus as the long-awaited Christ or Messiah.

Anna, the prophet, prophesized about the life and public ministry of Jesus as the Christ.

Despite ALL of this, the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to their home in Nazareth. The Holy Family returned to their ‘life as normal’, well the new ‘normal’ with an infant.

Similarly, we often pack away the Christmas Spirit was the Christmas decorations.

We fail to recognize the divine light of Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, and Christ.

We fail to reflect, to shine said Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, and Christ into our sinful, broken, and dark hearts, souls, homes, communities, nations, and the entire creation.

As the Christmas Spirit is packed away until next year, our lives return to ‘normal’.

Similar to children, we choose to not be on our best behavior until Christmas is approaching again.

We return to old routines and habits hindering our ability to be Christ to others.

We return to old routines and habits hindering our ability to even recognize Christ in others.

And so, may this year be different…

May we leave the Christmas Spirit out.

May we hold the Christmas Spirit in our hearts and souls.

May we put the Christmas Spirit on display in Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

May we shine the Christmas Spirit upon ALL people, at all times, and in all places.
Amen.

Scripture was Luke 2: 22-40.
Originally preached 27 December 2020 for Trinity Lutheran (Union City, Indiana).

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2021 in Sermons

 

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