In pm's words
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January 20, 2020, 8:00 AM

that one about come and see...

Sermon from January 19, 2020

Text: John 1: 29-42

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, the first thing I want to point out this morning, is how many of y’all noticed that we’re getting the same story two weeks in a row? Did y’all pick up on that? Last Sunday, we celebrated the Baptism of Our Lord, and we read The Gospel of Matthew’s account of that baptism. John argues a bit, Jesus convinces him it needs to be done.

Down in the water Jesus goes. The heavens open up. A dove descends. God speaks.

You know, we get the same basic story this time, but did you notice that things seem a little different? No where here does John the Baptizer, actually perform the act of baptism, though I suppose it is implied. John recalls that he saw the Spirit descend upon Jesus. He shares that with those around him as he continually points to Jesus.

As I’ve said quite a few times throughout my ministry – that’s John’s job. He’s the boney finger that points to the messiah. And he’ll do that, even when it costs him.

Which, we see play out immediately in this text. For during the following day, the Baptizer, or I suppose he’s more of a pointer or a witness, again points out Jesus – Here is the Lamb of God – and the two disciples with him get up and start following Jesus.

I want to focus on the interaction that Jesus has with these two new disciples of his. They come to him in earnest and Jesus says, “What are you looking for?”

That’s a bold and deep question isn’t it?

As a pastor, it’s a question that I at times get to and have to ask. It’s a question that cuts right to the heart of any matter. Because, we as humans can beat around the bush with the best of them. Right?

We can be in a conversation about anything – Religion, politics, sports, intimacy, school, work, life, anything – and we’ll talk around all the things that we want.

What are you looking for?

Are we looking for something to make us laugh – to distract us from the world around us?

Are we looking for some new piece of technology that promises to make life even simpler?

Are we looking for a job – a relationship – a community that will help us ‘get by’ a little better?

Are we looking for someone to hope and believe in? Someone who will make it ‘all better’ or return things to ‘the way I remember’ it used to be.

Are we looking for things to ‘change’ in some specific way, that of course doesn’t require us to actually change at all?

What are you looking for?

That’s really the question, isn’t it?

We hear that question from our parents, our friends, our jobs, our schools, the ads that bombard us every day.

What are you looking for?

I always wonder if these two disciples – I wonder, if we – know the full extent of what Jesus is asking.

As John has already told them that this is the Lamb of God they probably had some preconceived notions of what that meant.

Would the Lamb of God – the messiah – be a powerful warrior to lay waste to the enemies of Israel? Finally, putting the chosen people of God back on top in the hierarchy of faith? Would the messiah be that astute political mind who could eloquently – with tact and precision – use words to bend the powers that be towards God. Perhaps the ‘Lamb of God’ would be one who literally descends from the heavens with the power to control and manipulate people and things around him since he had the power and privilege of the Creator.

No matter where those disciples’ minds might have fallen as to who they thought the Lamb of God would be like – they wanted to be a part of that. Their teacher pointed to the one ‘more powerful than he’ and they left and followed that one.

And so, they come to follow Jesus to see what this guy is all about.

Jesus notices them, turns, and asks that question…

What are you looking for?

I’ve always found their response to be both surprising and refreshing. For their response is a little different.

Where are you staying? Where do you dwell? Where do you remain?

Even though that response doesn’t really answer Jesus’ question, I’m pretty sure that it is than what I would’ve responded with. If Jesus – or anyone really – asked me the question, “What are you looking for?” I’m pretty certain my response would be, “I don’t know.”

We all do that don’t we?

What are you looking for in your life? I don’t know.
What are you looking for in your job? I don’t know.
What are you looking for in your faith? I don’t know.

What are you looking for? I don’t know.

I wonder if those disciples and many of those others who would soon gather around Jesus were looking for fame, ease, and fortune. It’s what we would expect from being so close to one so powerful right? We strive for that, hitching our wagon to those who are ‘going somewhere.’ So that we’ll be able to ride those coattails on someone else’s good fortune.

I believe we all do that. In big and small ways. Even when we think we don’t do it, we’re still probably seeking to be at least associated with or at the very least noticed by that more powerful person.

When the disciples ask Jesus where he’s staying, he invites them in further to his life and the life opened up for them. And, I like to think that Jesus didn’t invite them in only for a place to lie down and receive a small meal.

No, Jesus’ invitation is more than that. Jesus’ invitations are always more than that. Jesus says,

Come and see.

Come and see where many will gather to hear words of hope.

Come and see those who scatter from that group because those words didn’t align with what they wanted to hear and live into.

Come and see a deeper and more full interpretation of faith that will rock you sideways and turn the world upside down. Where you will enter into life and relationship with those that are easy to look past and step around.

Come and see the life that you will live with God in your heart. A life lived for others. A life that speaks out. A life that points to injustice and calls us to action. A life that makes others uncomfortable because it speaks the bold truth; it shines light on the injustice that works in the shadows and operates during the day. Come and see. A life that is full, but never easy.

Come and see this kingdom of God that is at hand – but, lived out in ways that you would not expect. That includes the welcoming of people that others have cast aside.

Come and see where you too are welcomed, even when you don’t think that you’re worthy of that kind of love and life.

Come and see that you are already enough in God’s eyes.

Come and see this life that is so much more than you could possibly expect.

Come and see.

I don’t know if those disciples completely and fully knew what Jesus was implying when he asked, “What are you looking for?”

I don’t think we completely and fully know what Jesus is implying when he asks us, “What are you looking for?”

Sometimes I really don’t know what I’m looking for. I’d guess that most of the time y’all don’t know either.

But, I want to be able to live this life where my response to that question from Jesus is the same as those disciples, “Well, where are you at?”

Jesus, I don’t know what I am looking for – but, where are you staying? I think that’s a good place to start.

And Jesus invites us in deeper to ‘come and see.’

Come and see Jesus in the Word.

But, even within that Word, there are struggles, questions, and ponderings. We can’t do it alone, so we should probably gather together with others and talk and discuss. More likely than not, those conversations will stretch us, make us uncomfortable, and open us to ways we hadn’t thought before. There will be the chance to just drop it and move to a group that ‘thinks’ more like us. But, does that help us grow deeper into that relationship with God and with one another?

Come and see Jesus in this meal of bread and wine – body and blood.

We participate in this ancient practice and sacrament that connects us to that very first meal with Jesus and his disciples, that binds us with all those others who celebrate with us right now around the world, and provides us with a link to those who will come after us. In this meal, we find the one who has forgiven us, who fills us with strength, and who sends us out to proclaim this Word.

Come and see Jesus in these waters of baptism. Those waters that wash us before God. Where we acknowledge that we don’t have it all together, that we do mess up, and that life isn’t easy or squeaky clean. But, once for all we are washed and welcomed into this community and life of faith. Where nothing can take that away.

Come and see our Lord in the faces of those before us. The ones we know deeply and care for abundantly. Yet, we come and see Jesus in the one who doesn’t look like us, the one who lives a life that we don’t understand, whose struggles are different from our own. The ones we have yet to meet.

Come and see our God who dwells in us. The one who has come down to be with us – and that means you, too. Where you might not think that you’re worthy enough, lovable enough, ‘perfect’ enough for God to notice you. God has come to be with you too. Fully and completely. You are enough. Already.

Come and see.

Our Lord lifts those words up today as the ultimate and best invitation of discipleship that there ever was or ever will be. Jesus invites those two following him – who aren’t quite sure what’s going on, but are enthralled and drawn to this man. They are seekers and wish to know more, even if they cannot fully comprehend what’s going on. Jesus invites them to come and see.

Come and see.

As Jesus invites us today and every day to ‘come and see,’ we too are compelled to point as the Witness of John has done. Where as we began this text, we see John point to the one for all to see. John the Witness points and speaks so that others might know that the one more powerful than he is among them. So, that they too might be beckoned in love with ‘come and see.’ We too get to live the life of a witness. Sharing with those around us the Lamb of God who is already here. Come and see all you people!

Come and see the new life that is offered here. Come and see the one who brings a new and true identity to each of us. Come and see the Lamb of God. Come and see God at work in this place, within these people, through our hands and feet. Come and see Jesus present in the bread and wine. Come and see God splash in the waters.

So, what are you looking for?

Come and see. Come and see. Amen.

January 13, 2020, 9:00 AM

the one about doing things backwards...

Sermon from January 12, 2020
Baptism of Our Lord

Text: Matthew 3:13-17

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen.

So, this is always an interesting story within our scriptures. This moment when Jesus is baptized by John the Baptizer. It’s interesting because John asks the very question that I’m sure many of us think when we read this story.

Shouldn’t I be baptized by you? This doesn’t seem like the right way to do things.

Let me tell you a story. As a pastor, I’ve been to a few more ordinations than most people because I tend to have a few more friends who also happen to be pastors. I remember every single one I’ve been to or been a part of, but one ordination service stands out to me. It happened just over four years ago – just a few months after I was called here to be the pastor at Redeemer.

Normally, at the ordinations that I’m a part of, I’m there as a friend of the ordinand or even just as a colleague. Where I’ve struggled with that individual through seminary and classes, or on a very few occasions, I was there to help and guide them through their formation. Yet, this particular one was different. It was for the pastor at Mount Pilgrim Lutheran in Prosperity – Bobby Morris.

What makes this different is that Pastor Bobby was my Hebrew professor in seminary. He is the one who helped teach me – and many others – the distinct cadence of the Hebrew written language. He helped me and others discover the beauty in the literalness of that language. For example, ‘yad’ means left and the sea. Because, as the legend goes, as the Hebrew people walked to the promised land, the sea was on their left.

Pastor Bobby was my professor, yet I was there at his ordination. I laid my hands upon him during that holy moment of an ordination where all clergy present are invited to give their blessing as they welcome this new sister or brother into this odd and wondrous call of leader.

I remember telling Pastor Bobby after the service that I think we did things backwards. Because he was my professor, he should be the one laying his hands on me in that moment – because he helped form and shape me. We both chuckled at the oddness of that moment we shared and thought that maybe perhaps it was one of the few times that has really ever happened.

It was different. It felt a little strange.

But, as I read this text from Matthew’s Gospel, it makes me think of that moment all over again. John too knew that there was something odd about this moment. It seemed backwards. The optics of this moment would make it seem like John was more ‘powerful’ than Jesus. Yet, he relents in his misgivings when Jesus responds that we must do this in order to fulfill all righteousness.

Jesus desired to be baptized. Yet, what we know of Jesus he couldn’t have approached it the same way that we do. At least, not completely. We see baptism as the moment when we are cleansed of our sin. We are washed and welcomed into God’s family as children.

Yet, Jesus was already God’s son and he didn’t need any cleansing of his sins. Hard for the Son of God – the Word of God made flesh – Godself – to be sinful.

But, Jesus still insists on being baptized. And I’m wondering if it has more to do with the second part of baptism. That we are washed and welcomed into the community and family of God.

Jesus begins his earthly ministry in this moment, and he is baptized. Perhaps it is here that he desires to be baptized to be a part of something with us. To be in this with us. After rising from the waters of the Jordan River, Jesus proceeds to call us into new life and faith as one of us.

He too, is flesh and blood.

He too, is baptized.

He too, is one of us.

Last Sunday we had the joy of welcoming Palmer Grace Kopp into not only this community of faith, but welcoming her into the family of God. It’s done. She’s a part of this. She’s a part of us. She is one of us because she has splashed in those same waters of baptism that we have.

Baptism is done in community. It isn’t a solo act. You need another person there to welcome you into this group that is open for all. She is joined into the same community and family that Jesus has been baptized into. She is one of us, just as Jesus is one of us.

Our God has come down to be with us. Our Lord has washed in the waters of welcome and community. Our Christ begins his ministry where we do.

In water. In the knowledge that he is good enough already. Our lives of faith begin in those waters, and in the knowledge that we are good enough already.

How could Jesus do what he did, be who he was meant to be, if he were not one of us? How could we possibly look to him as not only our Savior but also our model for how to live faithfully in this world if he did not do what we do, including participate in our rituals? It wasn’t that Jesus needed baptism to wash away his sins, but he chose to be baptized so to fully embrace his own humanity, to share in the human journey with us, to be part of our family. This is what baptism does. It brings us into the family of Jesus and gives us a place of belonging.

Jesus enters into this rite of the faith, not to be washed, but to be a part of us. To show us not only who God is, but who we are to God. That we are in this together. We are in this community and fellowship with one another. In this baptism, Jesus is stating I’m here with you – all of you. I’m not special in the sense that I don’t have to do all the things you do. I am washed and welcomed.

Jesus’ ministry begins in welcome. Being welcomed into the community and family of God’s children, but also being welcomed into the ministry that is laid before him. Jesus begins in these waters. It is from this moment, through these waters, that he’ll begin to gather those around him. Not only his disciples, but followers, friends, helpers, listeners, and more.

He’ll gather and welcome those many would never (and still don’t) expect or respect. He’ll have conversations with those on the outside, he’ll proclaim forgiveness to those others wouldn’t dare go near.

His ministry begins here in these waters.

That call of faith and welcome also begins with us in the waters of baptism. Our ministry begins there too. We too, from these waters, are sent out in God’s love to welcome, forgive, and love those around us. It is through those waters that we know we belong to something far bigger and grander than we could ever imagine. And, beginning within those waters, we get to tell everyone that they are a part of it too because they are already good enough.

You know, that was an odd moment in that ordination a few years ago. Yet, even as I talked to Pastor Bobby about it, he said something pretty important to me, that has sat with me since then. When I mentioned that oddness of a student laying hands on a teacher in a moment of blessing during their ordination service, he said this, “You know it might’ve been a bit backwards, not something we’re used to seeing. But, regardless – thanks for being a part of welcoming into this.”

In baptism we are welcomed.

In baptism, Jesus is welcomed into our life.

In these waters, we are sent to welcome all. Jesus is there with us, too. He started in the waters as well. Amen.


January 6, 2020, 7:00 AM

the one on the 12th day of Christmas...

Sermon from Sunday, January 5, 2020

Text: John 1:1-18

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus, the one who has come down; the Christ, will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, it isn’t very often that we get to celebrate this Sunday. It’s only every few years that we get to the second Sunday of Christmas. You see, tomorrow is the Epiphany of our Lord. Tomorrow is the day that we remember the wise men from far off who arrive at Jesus’ home and present him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

But, today. We get to celebrate the 12th and final day of the season of Christmas. And what better what to celebrate that than to remember our baptisms as we celebrate with Palmer Kopp as she is baptized and welcomed into the family of God.

As we enter this time of the new ‘Roarin’ 20s, I kept thinking about all the things that we do as a people as we enter any new year. We like to make promises.

Promises to ourselves. Promises to those around us.

We set goals. We dream dreams. When the calendar turns to January 1, the possibilities seem endless.

Some of those goals may be to become healthier. Eating less junk. Drinking less. Taking on new routines.

It may be setting aside deliberate time to read a book, read scripture, be in prayer each day and week of the new year.

It may be promising that we’re going to take things like school and work more seriously.

It may be striving to hit some athletic or artistic goal.

It may be finding those ways in our lives that might be used to honor, lift up, and advocate for those in need and whose voices go unheard otherwise.

You could be like my dad and just say you’re going to give up smoking and drinking – even though you’ve never smoked or drank alcohol in your life. Word of advice, don’t be like my dad. I’m actually surprised he hasn’t made that joke this year…yet.

All of us, it seems the entire world’s citizens, approach every new year the same way. We look at this new year and we desire and strive to make ourselves better in some way. To improve our life in the ways that we can.

And in all that fluster and buster of making new promises, goals, and life changes, we read this text from John’s gospel. One of the most wonderful and beautiful writings in all of our scriptures.

This eloquent prologue of how God has come down to be with us. These words that make us think of Genesis and the beginning of all things. There is so much hope and love and power in these words written in the opening verses of John’s Gospel.

This hope that God has been present with us all along. That Christ, our Messiah, has been spoken into this world from the very beginning. That no matter where we turn, where we’ve gone, where we go, the Christ has been here with us. Always.

This Word that radiates life and light. The light that pushes back the shadows. This life that cannot be snuffed out.

We get to hear this first promise – the promise of the presence, light, and love of God – on the day that we hear those other promises that are going to be made today.

Those promises made by Mary Alex, Robbie, their families, and each of us. Those promises that we will – together – help raise Palmer in the faith that has been passed down to us. Passed down to us by those who made promises for us, and who had promises made for them. Those promises that extend all the way back to those who immersed or splashed in the waters of the river Jordan. Those who washed themselves clean. Those who turned and re-turned towards the one who loves and created us all.

Those promises of bringing the Word of Scripture, the Creeds, and the Prayers to Palmer. Helping her see God at work in the world and how God works through her to bring life and hope to those around her. Helping her find her voice to proclaim God’s love and life as she sees those around her use their voices and actions to show God’s love and grace to the world.

We all get to be a part of that promise. We all get to be a part of raising her in this faith of promise and hope. We get to remind Palmer today and every day she is not alone.

There are quite a few who look at Baptism as something that we do to ourselves. We make promises and we work together so that God will remember us, keep us, and hold us tight. That we do these things so that God’s love will be bestowed upon us.

And frankly, I think that is rather sad. As I and Palmer’s great-grandfather say those holy words of ‘Palmer is baptized in the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit’ we do so with the knowledge that we are participants in this holy work. We say those words and believe this action is not something that we do, but is something that we participate in with God.

For God here is the main actor. God here is the one who is ‘doing’ the work of baptism. We get to participate in this holy and humble moment.

The promises that we make – whether they be the promises that we make in this service of Holy Baptism today, or the promises that we make as we look to a new year – are never done alone.

We work together with one another and with God to make these promises known in our lives, and also to help us hold true to the promises we make.

Because no matter how much we promise this day, we’re still going to falter. There will be days and times that our voices and actions won’t show the love of God to others. There will be times where we will be too tired to teach the prayers, the creeds, and the commandments. There will be times that Palmer might not want to hear about these promises. There will be times that we don’t live up to the promises we make today.

It will happen.

Yet, our ability, desire, and stubbornness to live into these promises isn’t what makes baptism holy and central to our lives as people of faith. Our ability to teach well, lead well, advocate fiercely, and nurture thoroughly in faith isn’t what gives baptism its validity.

It isn’t about what we do.

No, it is about what God has done, is doing, and will do.

God is present in these waters. God is present in our lives. God has been there from the beginning. Speaking those words of love, living those words of action, inviting us into the life of faith through word and deed.

God is the one who makes baptism valid, holy, and central.

God is at work.

We make promises, we live into these promises, we live this life of faith because of what God has already done and continues to do.

God has come down to be with us. God has been birthed into the world. Christ has invited us into this life of new and radical faith and love. The Holy Spirit is here to guide us through it all.

We are able to live into these promises because God has already lived into the promise for us. God has declared us good enough. God has declared love for us. God has done it all.

We know this, because the heavens were ripped open and torn asunder so that God could enter into creation as one of us.

We are washed and claimed in the waters of baptism because God already loves us. Because God has already come to be with us. Because in God’s eyes we are already enough.

That’s what we hold on to as we move through the promises we make and remember today.

We start at already enough.

That’s where living into these promises begins. Whether it be the promises we make in service today, or the promises we make to improve or better our lives in this new year.

We are already enough.

Palmer. You are already enough in love.

Mary Alex. You are already enough in love.

Robbie. You are already enough in love.

People of God. Each of you are already enough in love.

God has come to be with us. God is with us. God is the light come down. God is the Word already present from the beginning. God is here.

Why? Because we are already enough. That’s where we begin. God’s love is with us already. Always. Amen.

January 1, 2020, 9:00 AM

January 2020 Newsletter Article

Grace and peace everyone and welcome not only to a new month, but a new year and a new decade! I cannot believe it is 2020. I know for one, I’ll be making mistakes writing the date for the next few weeks, what about y’all?

This month, for a newsletter article, I wanted us all to know that I know the world is strange. We live in strange times and no matter where you land on the spectrum of ideology, we all seem to sigh in exasperation. Why this? Why now? Where O God are you hanging out?

Throughout the month of December and the season of Advent we waited in expectant hope of the one who is, who has, and who will come down to be with us. We await the one who tears open the heavens and the earth to be with us. For many, that yearning and desire feels more urgent than ever before.

Less than a week ago we celebrated God’s inbreaking into the world as flesh and blood as we welcomed Jesus’ birth. What I find most amazing about that story and part of our combined history of faith is that as God has come down to be with us, we are called and invited to see the world in the way in which God does.

Through the eyes of love. Through the eyes of a child. Through the eyes that God has for you and all creation.

So, it may be cliché and corny to say this, but what would it look like if we entered into this new year and decade of 2020 with the way that God sees us and the world? How would we talk to one another, interact with the world, and respond to the events of the world as we look through and with the vision of God? Seeing one another in 20/20 vision of grace and love!

Seriously, see one another and those around you the way that God does – through a vision and lens of grace, love, forgiveness, hospitality, and welcome.

2020 is going to be an amazing year. I cannot wait to see what God is up to in and through The Lutheran Church of The Redeemer. I cannot wait to see who God places in our lives as individuals and as a community of faith that will help us to see God even more clearly at work in the world.

Let’s walk with one another and help each other see God at work in the world, around us, and in and through each of us. Amen!

December 25, 2019, 12:00 AM

the one about letting Christmas linger...

Sermon from December 24, 2019

Text: Luke 2: 1-20

Grace and peace to each of you this the most holy of evenings. Will you pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, this evening, we get to gather together in hope and celebration of the love to come down from heaven. We get to be with one another in song and word as we remember what God has done, is doing, and will do. We get to join in with millions of other faithful sisters and brothers across the world as we raise our voices in joy and hope to our God – or Immanuel – our Lord come down – God with us.

We get to do that tonight.

I want to share a story with you. Every year as my family prepares for Christmas, we put up decorations – like most people do. A part of our decoration process is putting up numerous nativity scenes in our house. All of these have a special meaning to us. Some have been in our family for years. Some are for the girls to play with. Some have been given to us more recently.

Yet, there is one nativity set that Erin and I both love dearly. It’s beautiful and detailed. It’s bigger than all our others. It stands out.

We put it up every year. We love it.

But, here’s the thing. It’s kind of a pain to setup and put away. It isn’t heavy. But, it comes in different size boxes and we never quite remember the exact Tetris like puzzle we have to use to put them all in the same container. Mostly though, the part I really struggle with is the fact that it has a lot of Styrofoam. Lots of it.

And anyone who has Styrofoam covering their precious things knows – it never stays where it’s supposed to. It always gets everywhere.

Some years, I feel like I’m finding bits and pieces of that Styrofoam days, weeks, and months after the set has been put away.

Now, I can’t be for sure – because I don’t remember – but last year, we did something different.

As we packed up our decorations after another wonderful season of Christmas – that nativity set stayed. It sat on the top of our bookshelf all year. We dusted it occasionally, but for these past 365 days it’s been right there.

I’d like to think that it was intentionally left there to constantly remind me, my family, and all those who enter our home that we remember this love that has come down to be with us. But, truthfully? It was probably left simply because I didn’t want to deal with anymore Styrofoam this past year.

But, looking at it now – especially as we moved closer and closer to this Christmas Eve it got me thinking.

There are two Christmases that the world celebrates. There’s the one that begins around Thanksgiving Day (but, seems to get pushed closer and closer to Halloween every year). That Christmas where everyone is singing jingles, buying presents, going to parties, sending cards, and eating wonderful food. That’s a good Christmas. I love that Christmas too. I’m not knocking that Christmas.

But, that Christmas ends pretty quickly. Once the presents are unwrapped. Once the calendar flips to the 26th, it all gets packed up. You’ll get whiplash if you’ve been enjoying the movies and songs – because those stop pretty abruptly. Everything goes back (mostly) to every day, normal, programming.

When the 25th ends, that Christmas is over. As wonderful as it is, it doesn’t stick around very long.

But, there’s another Christmas. The one we begin to remember this night. That Christmas doesn’t end. It lingers. It stays. It settles in for the long haul.

That Christmas with a soon-to-be married couple; a pregnant teenager, and her older fiancé.

That one sticks around.

Why? Because it involves life – new life. It involves hope. It emanates love.

Anyone who has had children, adopted a child, fostered children, or cares for children will tell you – kids stick around. There’s no ‘putting them away.’ Even if you want to from time to time. There’s no packing them up, there’s no putting them back in their original packing. Much like we do with all those decorations.

Life, just doesn’t work like that.

Our God doesn’t work like that. This in-breaking – this tearing of the heavens to be with all of creation – doesn’t do that.

It lingers, this new life. This new child. This one who has come down.

The box has been opened and there is nothing that can be done to put it back in there. No matter how much at times we want to.

It stays. It is here.

Why? Because the Christmas we celebrate, this Christmas that lingers involves new life.

For that is what we are given this day, that is what we celebrate this evening. We celebrate this new life that has come down to be with us. We celebrate this new life that grows with us. We remember this new life that calls to us. We are invited in to a life of deep faith by this new life. All of us – all of creation – is redeemed and saved by this new life.

This Immanuel. This God with us. This one. This child.

I think we’re going to continue to leave that nativity scene up. Partly because I don’t want to deal with stray Styrofoam for the foreseeable future. But, I think now, I can faithfully and confidently say – that nativity is going to stay so that I, and my family, and all who enter our home can remember – this Christmas we celebrate lingers. This new life stays with us. This God – Our God – has come down in love to be with us. And you can’t pack that up. Because it isn’t a decoration.

Why wouldn’t you want that to linger? Why wouldn’t you want that to stick around?

Remember that every day. Remember that love for you and for all the world every day.

Let Christmas linger. Because it does. And the more we let it linger and sit with us, the more we are called by this One. The more we are invited by this One into a life of faith that just might change us.

This one who reminds us that we are enough. We are loved. We are not alone. And when we know that gift, when we experience that hope?

We tend to share that with those around us.

So, let this Christmas linger. Let this new life that has come and is to come be with you.

May this new life walk with you. Gather us together. Hold us accountable. Invite us into love. Care for the world and all who call it home. May this Child – this God – this messiah – linger and stick in our lives and may that enduring life change us for and in love. Always.


December 23, 2019, 9:00 AM

the one about the holy couple...

Sermon from December 22, 2019

Text: Matthew 1: 18-25

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Messiah who has come down out of love; will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, on this penultimate Sunday before Christmas, we get to hear another part of the story of Jesus’ birth. At times it may be confusing because usually when we hear the story of the nativity, all the gospels – ok only Matthew and Luke because those are the only ones that talk about Jesus’ birth – get squished together. So, it might seem rather strange that in Matthew’s gospel we don’t get the angel coming to Mary, telling her that she is to carry and birth the Son of God for the world.

Instead, we get a story about Jesus’ adoptive father – Joseph. There isn’t a whole lot we know about Joseph, and most of what we know is inferred from what others do.

He was righteous. He was Mary’s fiancé and then husband. He was (probably) considerably older than her. He was a carpenter because Jesus was. He probably died before Jesus’ ministry began because he’s never mentioned again (and also, he was believed to be considerably older than Mary).

But, this morning, I want to spend a little less time on just Joseph and instead talk about this blessed couple of Mary and Joseph.

Now, we only have two birth stories of Jesus and each one focuses on a different parent. Luke has the beautiful and brave account of Mary talking with the Angel, visiting her cousin Elizabeth, and singing a song of resistance and hope which we’ve called the Magnificat. If you were able to attend our Holden Evening Prayer services, we sang that song of resistance and hope each week.

Matthew’s gospel tells the righteous and brave story of Joseph. How, although he loved this young woman, he was going to dismiss her quietly because he didn’t want any further shame and disgrace to be placed upon her. Yet, he was told in a vision that Mary hasn’t wronged him, but is in fact going to birth the Son of God.

Both Mary and Joseph do a wonderfully faithful thing. They both agree to something that others would find ridiculous. They bear the shame the world will give to both of them.

Mary would hold and bear the shame of others giving her side-eyes and mocking because she got pregnant. She ‘fooled’ around. Who is going to believe that preposterous story?

Joseph would hold and bear the shame of others giving him upturned noses and whispered voices of being weak, soft, and less-of-a-man because he still held Mary close as his wife-to-be.

They bear one another’s shame.

In many ways, it is a testament to what a marriage should be. Being there for one another, in spite of what people will say and do around you. Supporting one another. Believing the other person.

But, even though their stories are different here as they both prepare for the birth of a son, there are parts that are incredibly similar – powerfully similar. Those similarities just might be the reason that they are able to bear one another’s shame in love and respect.

An angel of the Lord speaks to both of them, and what are those words?

The angels’ first words are. Do. Not. Be. Afraid.

I cannot imagine the fear that ran through both of them in the midst of these angelic conversations. First Mary being awakened in the night by a mysterious being telling her what is about to happen to her body, not to mention what the neighbors and her family are going to say. The unknown for her would be terrifying.

Though, quite different, Joseph more than likely was afraid that his reputation was about to be knocked down quite a few pegs. How his honor is about to be tarnished. Even if he dismisses Mary quietly, the stain of this shame will still travel with him – there goes Joseph – the guy who had to dismiss that pregnant girl. And at this culture and time, honor was everything.

Knowing those potential realities, our and their God speaks through the angels and says, do not be afraid.

How much do we long to hear those words spoken from on high into our hearts? How we at times crave to hear those words as we wake up with those 2am worries and anxieties.

They might not be on the same level as what Mary and Joseph dealt with, but they are all so real and urgent for each of us. Those worries about our jobs, our school, our community. Those worries about whether my family will still love me? Will my friends still care for me? How am I going to pay back this loan and feed my children? What do we do when the people we love and respect speak such terrible things? How? Why? When, O Lord!

BE NOT AFRAID! That is what God speaks into our hearts. That is what God booms to Joseph and Mary and the entire world. Be not afraid.

Scripture is full of those words. Be not afraid. I am with you. I love you. I cherish you. I am your God.

This story begins like many other angelic and prophetic moments in scripture.

But, thankfully, blessedly there is more.

Because though the angel begins with a familiar ‘do not be afraid.’ The angel ends with the new thing that is about to be done.

Be not afraid – name the boy Jesus – name him Immanuel. God. With. Us.

I believe the Joseph and Mary were able to bear this gift, this love, this burden not just because an angel of the Lord told them to ‘chin up’ and be not afraid.

Everyone else was told that as well.

But, Joseph and Mary were able to withstand the stares, the whispers, the snide comments, the cruel jokes that inevitably were assailed against them because of the promise of who their child would be. It is the same promise that is given to each of us.

Where we too hear the words ‘do not be afraid.’

Where we’ve heard the words, “I am with you.”

Where we’ve heard the words, “I am.”

Where we’ve heard the words, “You are not alone.”

Where we’ve heard the words that Joseph and Mary heard first; this one you bear and birth into the world, this one you will adopt and raise as your very own, this child, this Jesus, this one is Immanuel. This one is ‘God with us.’

That is why we can live without that sort of eternal fear. Because God is already with us. God is here. Hope has come down. Love has been birthed into the world. The heavens and earth have been torn open because of this thing that God has done.

God has come down to be with us. God has taken on flesh and blood. God has done something new. God will lead us from within creation.

Why? Because that is how much God loves us. Cares for the world. Yearns for the world to be free. Free to serve. Free to love. Free.

Mary and Joseph’s stories are quite different. Yet, together they tell the story of a magnificent couple, a couple who lived in and through their faith. A couple that despite what the world would tell them, knew the truth. That this one, this child, was and is and will always be Immanuel. God with us.

They knew. Oh they knew. And because of their grace, faithfulness, and bravery, we know too.

Hope has come down. Immanuel is here. Be not afraid.


December 16, 2019, 8:00 AM

the one about The One...

Sermon from December 15, 2019

Text: Matthew 11: 2-11

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord who has and is to come – Jesus the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, as I read this morning’s Gospel reading, I cannot help, but think that in my best moments I ask questions like John the Baptizer (who if you notice is in one of his worst moments). As I read his question that he gives through his own followers to Jesus I cannot tell if it is intended to be read as hopeful or cynical.

As I read them, I cannot help, but think that the Baptizer is being a bit cynical. I think this, because I think that’s how I’d speak it.

John was like those prophets of old. He loudly and forcefully burst on to the scene. He drew people to himself with a message of hope, forgiveness, and repentance. All the while, he spoke out and against those in traditional seats of power. He made enemies with the wrong folks because he told them that they were not doing what God has intended. We heard last week that he called them a brood of vipers.

John the Baptizer was the thorn in the side of the powerful and elite within his culture and society. He shone the light on hypocrisy, and he gathered all to come and see. He upset a lot of people.

Naturally, when the powerful get upset, they attempt to silence those speaking out against them. The try to discredit them, say that they are speaking ‘fake news,’ ostracize them, turn people against them. When all of that doesn’t seem to work – they do the next best thing. They silence them by removing them from the equation. That could be killing them, or sending them to prison (with the intent to end their life later). John gets the latter treatment.

So, he sends his followers to seek out Jesus and ask him, “Is he the one – or is there another?”

Whether his question is asked in hope or in cynicism, I think the same unspoken question is asked – Was I wrong and was what I spoke about all in vain?

For those who are leaders in ministry and invested heavily into that ministry this is a question that is always on our minds.

Is what we’re doing worth it? Are we doing the right thing? We’re we wrong because things don’t seem really good right now?

What a great message to hear two weeks before Christmas right?

Things seem to be lurking in the shadows at the moment within the world – just as they were for The Baptizer.

Hope seems lost. Rumors are in the streets. People are working against what we perceive to be the intentions of God. It isn’t quite fun.

And yet, what did Jesus say?

What do you see at work? Where do you see the wonder and goodness of God alive and thriving?

For us here at Redeemer that is in the outpouring of love for those within our Angel Tree ministry. The ability we have to share our space and facilities with so many organizations within our community. The prayers and visits with and for those who are hurting and recovering. The conversations filled with warmth and kindness had between members of our community in the places we all run into each other out in the world. The songs and hymns of hope that blow the rafters off of this place through voice and instrument.

That is the Spirit at work; within those things we can readily see and those that we cannot.

God is at work. Hope abounds. And yet we wait.

The work that we get to participate in with God never seems to pan out exactly – or in any way – like we’d want it to. There are hurdles, obstacles, and more. Feelings get hurt along the way because different directions are taken or there are mix-ups in communication as we share in ministry together.

All of us at one time or another have the silent question upon our hearts – is this the one? Or do we wait for another?

Is what I’m doing for you going to be good? Or am I to wait some more…?

I remember a time early in my ministry where we hosted a slightly changed fall event. Where before there were ‘hundreds’ of people who would pass by the church and receive candy out of trunks. But, there was no community building or relationship strengthening at work. People literally just walked by.

So, it changed the next year. We brought the people inside. We had games. We had fun. People stuck around. But the numbers were lower. Way lower.

Some were distraught. Some were filled with apathy.

The statement was made – Sorry it was such a bust this year pastor.

But, was it? Sure, we had less people. But all those people stuck around for 45 minutes to an hour instead of the hundreds that passed by in minutes. People had fun, smiles were on every face, hope was in that place.

So much hope and love that there was a young woman who was differently abled. She was 22 at the time, but had the mental faculties of someone who was a young child of 6 or 7. She had a great time. She left with her family, but 10 minutes later she came rushing back. She found me and asked with hope and earnest in her voice, “Can you pray for me pastor?”

And I did. We surrounded her with our prayers. That wouldn’t have happened with the hundreds passing by in minutes.

Yet in that place, in that community, that woman found safety, warmth, acceptance, and love.

Through her, I and the community felt God’s presence and hope. Through us, that woman experienced the hope of God in her life.

Go and tell what you see here. People are healed. The poor have good news brought to them.

That is ministry. That is good, faithful ministry.

It doesn’t always look like a raging success – when you only look at the numbers. It doesn’t always feel like ‘you’re winning’ in the world. And you’re not always going to be ‘winning’ in the ways that the world determines.

John pointed the way to the one who was to come who was more powerful than he. He baptized with water and called for repentance. Yet, the one who came baptized with the Spirit and brought life to a world and to people without hope.

That same Lord – that same God – that same Spirit – is at work now. That one that brought hope and life to the poor, the pushed out, the ostracized, the ridiculed. That same one is here. Still. Now.

God is at work. God is at work around you. God is at work in and through you for others. God is at work in and through others for you.

Hope abounds. Go tell that upon the mountain. And in the valleys. On the streets. Go tell what God is up to in this place, in your life, in the world.

Hope is here. Hope is coming down.

What did you expect to find? Go and share the hope that is here and is to come. Amen.

December 9, 2019, 8:00 AM

the one about the Baptizer...

Sermon from December 8, 2019

Text: Matthew 3: 1-12

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our risen Lord Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, before I felt, or more accurately before I responded positively, to the call to be in ministry I worked for the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office in Columbia, SC. I worked mostly in a sub-program of the Pre-Trial Intervention program. I was able to meet a whole host of different individuals while working there. Clients who came through the program, attorneys, judges, and those who provided programs and jobs for our clients to complete and fulfill their community service obligations.

One person in particular stands out and reminds me a bit of the text we read from Matthew’s Gospel this morning.

This was an eccentric guy who had a heart that burned for God. Everything he did in his life was funneled through what he felt was God’s call to him to share and spread the gospel. Everything he did was to ‘proclaim the word!’ Even though our ideologies and theologies didn’t quite match up, that never kept him from sharing his ‘adventures’ in ministry with me. And, I believe I appreciated hearing those stories, even if they were far different from anything I would participate in. One story was particularly memorable.

When his family was young, he’d go around big cities across the country proselytizing about God’s Word. He’d setup on street corners and busy streets proclaiming that Word to all passersby. And he mentioned how many people flocked to hear what he had to say.

He had a way with words and a booming and powerful voice. I can imagine him yelling out like the Baptizer, “You brood of vipers!” It’d sound particularly impactful coming from this guy with that voice. So, I’d ask him what his setup was like (not that I was going to emulate this mind you), but I was curious.

So, he told me. With vigorous enthusiasm, he’d recount that he would drive his family around in an old hearse around busy city areas. When he got to the corner that he wanted to be at, he would throw open the back door and haul out a casket. He’d start proclaiming the word and you wouldn’t BELIEVE the amount of folks that would show up to hear him!

Well, I began to think (but, didn’t say to him) perhaps they gathered in numbers because you drove up in a hearse and threw a casket out onto the sidewalk. Maybe people were curious about what this ‘oddball’ was doing?

Now, obviously, that is not the best way to remember this man whose heart was set on telling people about God. Of course, if I had done that, I’d probably leave the mirror out of the casket, used to scare the crud out of people when he flung it open.

But, as I remember the odd antics of this man, I cannot help but think about John the Baptizer who we hear from today in our Gospel. There is a reason that Matthew goes out of his way to describe what the Baptizer looked like – and I don’t believe it was just to fulfill prophecy. I think Matthew goes into detail about the Baptizer’s appearance because, frankly, it’s a little weird.

Whatever we think people were like and acted back then – they’d fully agree with us – John’s an odd guy. It was NOT common for someone to dress as he did, eat bugs and wild honey, and look like he was a literal part of the wilderness.

And, knowing people like I think I do, I’d guess most people initially showed up to hear him because he was weird and odd and ‘out there.’ I imagine there were many that went to their friends and said, “Billy – come on man. You’ve GOT to see this guy out by the river! You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Come on, let’s go see him.

John’s getup and setup was just as odd as seeing a guy and his family pile out of a hearse on a busy street corner in Columbia, Atlanta, or Charlotte with a casket in their midst yelling something about God. It will – strangely enough – attract people.

But, as I know most people like I think I do, once the ‘oddness’ of your schtick pasts, people will walk away. Once they get their full of weird, they will go back on their way. I know this, because I’ve done it too. Sure, some will fall deep into those words and thoughts that a person is espousing, but more often than not, the majority will walk away shaking their head and chuckling to themselves.

However, I don’t think that’s how people heard and reacted towards the Baptizer along the River Jordan’s shores. There was something in his voice. Something in his message. Something that made what he was saying different. His message, his cry out from the wilderness seemed special in some way.

This was a message that I believe the people of that day hadn’t really heard before. He proclaimed to them that God loved them. Loved them so much that washing in the river would cleanse them in God’s sight. All that muck, grime, and gunk that others told them separated them from God – all that stuff used to put them and keep them at arm’s length from the world – God didn’t care about that stuff.

God called them to repentance; to turn back towards God. Turn back towards God who loved, forgave, and welcomed them. The Baptizer told them of God’s hope. This hope that was for them, for the world, for all of creation.

This message of hope that was in stark contrast to what they’ve heard all their lives. This hope that said they were already enough. That in that sense of enough they can turn back from their ways and return towards God. In fact, the lobs of condemnation that were usually directed at them were now being tossed at those whom the world, culture, and society said were the ones who were ‘above’ them.

This brood of vipers – these religious authorities – who have shirked their responsibility in proclaiming God’s love, forgiveness, and repentance to the world. The ones who had locked God’s love behind status, ritual, and laws. Those are the ones the Baptizer decries, sure telling everyone, but making it forceful so those IN THE BACK could hear his words and God’

John the Baptizer’s cry from the wilderness begins the turning of the world on its side. It is here that we begin to see that God is up to something different. God is onto something new.

That presence of God has always been there, but that message had been twisted and turned into something far different than intended. God was now at the point to set the message rightly. God is going to come down and bring it to all of creation in the most intimate and real way possible. As flesh and blood.

The Baptizer’s message and cry points us to that in-breaking into the world. He calls all to repent and stand with God. But, I want us to be certain of something here. As he lays out some harsh words, I don’t think he’s giving that particular message to everyone. Instead, his gaze and cry are directed at those who have twisted, thwarted, and locked up the message and Word of God’s love for all. The axe is lying at the root of those who have kept God’s hope and love from all. That winnowing fork and burning of the chaff is reserved for those who have kept God’s love and word from those in most need to hear it.

And who needs to hear that renewed message of love?

Those who are pushed aside. Those who are trampled over. Those who are cast out. Those that the powerful and majority in the world have kicked around all through history. The ones that others have said are not good enough for God’s love.

The hope that the Baptizer proclaims in these waters of Baptism is the hope for the world. Hope that no matter what – God loves you. Hope that no matter what you’ve done – you can turn back towards God because God loves you.

John the Baptizer points us to the one who is more powerful than he. He points us to the one who is to come who will usher in this radical love and grace into a world in desperate need to hear it. To know it. To live it. To be enwrapped in it.

During this season of Advent, we await in expectant hope for that one. That one who claims and calls us all. That one who has come down to be with us. To be with us fully and completely.

That one who may use the odd getup from time to time, but whose message makes us know that something here is different. This message that makes people stick around. This message that invites and beckons people to jump into a river. Why? Because hope is a powerful thing.

Hope is the light that pushes back the shadows. Hope is that love that we all crave and need. Hope is what is to come. Hope is what has come down to be with us.

Proclaim hope, and the people will listen. Speak hope, and people will gather. Cry out hope, and people will invite others to hear.

Hope. Hope is coming. Amen.

December 2, 2019, 8:00 AM

the one about waiting...

Sermon from December 1, 2019

Text: Matthew 24: 36-44

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ, will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, we made it to another year. As I mentioned to our young friends last week during the Children’s sermon, this is an opportunity to reflect on what we have learned and experienced; while at the same time, looking forward to what we will get to see and be a part of.

As a reminder, as we reflect, we get to remember that God loves us, Jesus is with us, and that the Holy Spirit is guiding and forming us. As we look with hope towards this new year, we look forward to seeing how God loves us, where Jesus is with us, and how the Holy Spirit will guide and form us. Each Sunday – each week – each time we gather for worship – we will embark on that journey together. We will together walk through these readings and see how those hopeful promises are to be lived out in our lives and through our hands and feet.

That’s what we get to do as we begin this new season of the church year.

And, as we begin this renewed journey we do so in a familiar, if not odd spot. A place that we don’t usually feel very comfortable with as we begin this hopeful journey towards our God’s in-breaking into creation. We begin this renewed journey towards the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry; as it is written in the Gospel of Matthew. We begin our hope-filled time of waiting for the true light of God being birthed into the world as we read those texts that lead to the snuffing of that light (if ever briefly) from the world.

As I’ve mentioned before, we as a people of faith celebrate this time of year rather differently from those on the ‘outside.’ Where it seems the entire world is already bursting with joy (which isn’t a bad thing) about Christ’s birth already. We, on the other hand, take a more measured approach. As we read the texts handed down to us through the generations of faithful before us, we hear Jesus tell his disciples and in turn tell us – wait.

Keep awake. Be prepared.

I remember growing up and also from having children now, the ability to wait during this time of year is rather difficult. We are excited for what is to come. We are anxious for the celebration to arrive. We, at times, cannot wait for it to already be here.

And what is it that we are waiting for? You might hear (or read on the numerous signs down the interstate) that what we are ‘waiting for’ is God’s judgment. Where the predominate message of that though is, ‘you better shape up, or you’re going to be left behind.’ And, it would appear – at a limited and first glance – that our readings these past few weeks line up with that thought.

We’ve heard our Lord talk a bit about signs, dangers, and unsettledness to come. It was just a few weeks ago that we read and heard from Jesus’ lips that the mere act of following him – of bearing witness to God’s truth to the world – would rend and tear apart families and friendships. It didn’t look good. It still doesn’t sound good.

This morning too, we hear a similar message from Jesus. He shares with those around him a parable about two men in the field – where one is taken, and one is left behind. Or the thief who comes in the night to take advantage of those who are not prepared.

His words carry weight as he talks about the future. A time when the Son of Man is to come – where no knows when it’ll be.

So, what are we to do?

As we enter into this new season of the church year, we wait for the Advent. We wait for the arrival of the coming of Christ our Lord. We wait.

As we wait, we grow frustrated. Time passes. Things happen. We become restless.

It reminds me a bit of when Erin and I were bringing the girls home from the mountains this past weekend. As we got closer and closer to Newberry, the cries of, “Are we there yet?” grew ever more pronounced and louder.

We aren’t there yet, but we’re close. Just be patient.

But, there’s this thing about being told to be ‘patient.’ It isn’t a lot of fun. No fun at all. The seconds bleed into minutes. The minutes turn into hours. And the hours seem like days. When you’re told to be patient, sometimes it is as if time stands still. And when that impatience grows stronger, the more we want to know when we’ll get there.

But, here’s the thing, being told to ‘wait’ for the Advent of Jesus is not like the raised voices lobbed to those in the backseat out of frustration or like telling a dog to ‘stay’ as you walk to the other side of the yard. Where that faithful canine sits with every muscle strained awaiting the command of ‘come’ to bound to their person that has wandered off. When a dog is told to ‘stay’ or ‘wait here’ they are being told to ‘not move.’ Concentrate fully on the act of waiting. Don’t let anything else bother you. Do not become distracted and break the ‘command’ given to you.

That is not what we are told as we wait during the season of Advent, nor in our waiting for THE Advent of Christ’s second arrival within creation.

We wait, however, in active hope. We wait with being prepared. We wait, but we don’t just sit around doing nothing.

In the few verses we hear this morning I believe that action of waiting takes on a slightly different meaning. It isn’t so much that we ‘stand guard’ and ‘watch vigilantly’ only straining our eyes into the distance. While also making sure that others around us do as we do.

That isn’t what Jesus means.

Perhaps, as our Lord calls us to ‘stay alert’ and ‘be prepared,’ that action requires and expects more than us just standing around and shouting that ‘The end is coming!’ In fact, I’d hazard a guess that it doesn’t mean that at all, but instead it means living into the faithful witness that Jesus calls us into.

Living into that life where others and all are loved and cared for. Bearing witness to the grace and radical welcome of inviting those different than us into our lives. Seeking to hear others so that our own voice, our own life, our own community can be that much more full and complete.

As we have entered into this season of Advent; we have heard message after message from Jesus that is of warning. Where those messages at times can be seen as full of gloom and doom. Yet, within that message we don’t get the ‘full’ story. In fact, the only thing we know for certain is that we won’t know when that time – this coming Advent – will arrive.

In the knowledge of ‘not knowing’ we are to be prepared, to stay alert, and to watch.

In that time of waiting, we are called to act. We are called to be witnesses to those around us – witnesses that live out and bear the truth of God’s love, presence, and guidance.

Caring for one another. Sharing our stories. Listening to those around us. Advocating for those being taken advantage of. Serving those in need.

Yet, as we wait in active hope, we don’t do so alone. We gather together in God’s love, as we strive for, struggle with, and live into the life of faith that our Lord has called us to be a part of.

We get to model for one another, we get to learn from each other, we get to see God at work in those we know and love, and in those we barely know. We get to be with one another – together – as we wait for the Advent of Christ.

We don’t know when that second coming will be – you could say that even Jesus didn’t know – only the father knows.

But, we are invited – as the church – into this process. We are invited to be a part of the transformation of the world in knowing that Christ’s Advent is at hand. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to ask that God’s reign come, that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus gives us the opportunity to partner with God in answering that prayer. We get to do that with one another. We get to do that renewed this day as we enter into a new season of Advent. We get to do that today as we journey with new folks here in our little, yet thriving corner of Christendom.

We get to wait – but, we get to wait in active hope, and we get to do it with one another and with those around us.

We wait in expectant hope for Christ’s Advent. We wait, but we wait living into and living out the call of life and faith that Jesus has invited us to be a part of. It is a gift. Let’s have fun with it.

Why? Because God is on the way. Because God – Emmanuel – is with us already. Amen.

December 1, 2019, 8:00 AM

December 2019 Newsletter Article

Grace and peace y’all!

What a full month we had in November, and how full and filled December will be too. Throughout the month of December there are so many opportunities for us to become over-burdened, over-stressed, and feel like we are being pulled in so many directions. My pastoral advice for you this month (and it’s the same advice I give most of the time as well) is to make sure that you take those moments – no matter how brief – to stop and recognize God’s love for you. To stop and recognize that you are already enough. That you don’t need to do more to prove your worth to God, nor to anyone else.

God loves you; right now. God is with you; right now. Jesus is beside you; right now. The Holy Spirit is guiding and forming you; right now.

You are already enough.

Sometimes that is hard to remember during this month of December. So, please take time to recognize that, feel that, be in prayer that God will give you the strength and the continued assurance of that.

As you take those moments of pause during this busy season, I also invite you to be a part of our Advent Wednesday Services this year. Once again, we will worship in and through the beautiful and poignant Holden Evening Prayer service. Even if you’ve never worshiped through Holden Evening Prayer, I encourage you to come and be a part of this short service each Wednesday, beginning on December 4th at 7pm. It is a short and beautiful service about God’s light penetrating and pushing away the shadows of the world. It’s also – in my opinion – a lot of fun to sing. Remember also, we have our Christmas Eve service on December 24 at 7pm as well!

So, yes, there are a lot of events happening within our Community of Faith here at Redeemer and in each of your lives this month. In those times of frustration, stress, and more take time to stop, breathe, and know that God is with you. Jesus loves you. The Holy Spirit is guiding you. Right now. Always. You are enough already.

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