sermon video, pt1
sermon video, pt2
My father always wanted to be a cowboy. Last week, someone gave me this horseshoe cross as a Christmas gift. So, of course, I had to message her and say, “just what I always wanted!” So, I have told many of y’all this before, but my father always wanted to be a cowboy. He subscribed to Appaloosa News and we would go to the annual Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver every January. So the horseshoe art is especially meaningful to me, and that it evokes a cross, as well, further conjures the memory of my dad because he was a beautiful example of one who Trusts.
My dad was in a work-related accident that left him covered in the hot tar that exploded from the tanker he was filling. Over 65% of his body sustained 2nd and 3rd degree burns wreaking havoc on his internal organs, as you might imagine. But when he was taken to hospital and as he was being wheeled in, a nurse later told my mom, he was singing hymns. And, when my mom visited him, his face swollen and burned, he looked at her and said, “my lips are burning for you.”
This man knew the truth of who is was and lived the trust he had in a God who came to live among us: Emmanuel. Now, my dad was certainly not a perfect person. And it is a truism that everyone is sainted in the memory of those who mourn them. But isn’t it right that this is so? For one, the person who has died now sees Jesus face-to-face and is counted among the saints who bear witness to God in that Great Cloud of Witnesses.
And if we remember the acts of faith, the example of what it means to Trust a truth that we are made in God’s image and this God came to live among us, entering our space and time in the most vulnerable state; God the Creator of everything came in the form of an itty bitty of a baby – this one whom we claim to celebrate on the 25th.
I’m grateful to Christy and Laurie (and all the GTGT peeps) who alerted me to this video. It is a lovely reminder to us where our focus must be:
The Truth of Christmas
The Truth of who you are because of Jesus
is a social media tag that stands for, “to be honest,” to share an opinion. Teens began using it to say something nice about their friends, or a way of talking to others whom they don’t know well, or to exchange complements and “likes.” “#tbh you’re pretty,” etc. Or, “to be heard” to show an opinion was heard. It’s no longer a trend,
But it’s usually a false generosity intended to illicit an in-kind response. An I’ll-promote-your-post-if-you-say-something-nice-about-me. “You’re pretty,” “you’re nice,” “your outfit is en pointe.”
Ahaz tagged his response to Isaiah #tbh when he said, “I’ll not ask God anything because I won’t put God to the test.” It was a false humility, and it revealed his fear – and, ultimately, his profound lack of trust in the God of Israel.
So God told Ahaz through Isaiah that all whom he feared will be irrelevant in the end, but Ahaz will not experience that peace because he didn’t really trust God anyway.
Conversely, Joseph, Matthew tells us, was a righteous person. When he found out that the young woman to whom he was betrothed was now pregnant – when they hadn’t yet the opportunity to consummate – he was respectful, desiring to treat Mary with regard and break up with her in private.
But when the angel of God met with him and told him who the baby growing in Mary’s belly actually is – the one that had been promised to the people of Israel for eons – Joseph trusted God. At the risk of humiliation before his peers, and the possibility of punishment for Mary, Joseph remained faithful to the covenant he began with Mary.
It was easier to believe this angel’s message because the promise of a messiah and the manner in which this messiah will come wasn’t made just to him. The promise was to the community, to the nation that God called to God’s self thousands of years earlier. It was repeated in their rituals, read to their children, and their children’s children. It was a collective trust the people of Israel maintained together. So when some lacked faith, others had faith for them.
Ps 80:19, “Restore us, O Lord, God of Hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.”
And this God-with-us, Immanuel, is a Truth that can only be believed when believed in community. A truth that can be believed because we live it out in community.
The truth that you are beautiful – not because I want you to like me back, but because you inherently are beautiful. You are Beloved because God is love – not anything that you did or do or wear – just because that is who God is, and this God lived among, this God lives in us. You belong. Not because you accomplished some task or have the right color skin, and the most sought after physique, body type – you belong because God made us all to thrive in community. And we made a covenant with one another.
The truth that can be believed because it is already within us to believe it – because Jesus’ birth – life, death and resurrection – made it possible for us to believe. Lord, help our unbelief.
Advent began as a time of prayer and fasting in preparation for baptism or membership covenant. Each Sunday of Advent we have reaffirmed out membership vows, answering one question each week. We remember our baptism in doing so, and if you come back on Epiphany Sunday (2 Sunday’s from now) we’ll do something fun with that.
For today, we will affirm together the congregations response to the reception of a new member:
Pastor: Members of God’s family and the Body of Christ, I give you one another into each other’s love and care. Encourage each other in your faith, reaffirm each other’s hope, and grow together in perfect love.
We are grateful for all that God has already given us and we welcome each with Jesus’ love. As vital members of Christ’s Body and this congregation of the United Methodist Church, we reaffirm our covenant to support this community of faith through our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness, so that together we may grow stronger in expressing God’s love for all creation.
The God of all grace, who has called us into God’s never ending presence through Christ, make you secure and strengthen you by the power of the Holy Spirit that you may fully live in grace and peace.
The Truth of our membership, the collective Trust we are strengthened and empowered to live into, comes via this itty bitty of a baby we celebrate on Wednesday. And I invite us to affirm one another with the reality of what that means about who we are and whose we are. I will read through this statement first. Then, I invite you to read this (it’s also printed in your bulletin) to each other – either part or all of it. And maybe by the time we’ve spoken and heard these words enough, we might even believe them!
You are not an accident.
Even at the moment of your conception,
out of the many possibilities
only certain cells combined,
survived, grew to be you.
You are unique.
You were created for a purpose.
God loves you.Celtic Daily Prayer Book, Book 2, p 966)
We trust because we witness the life of Jesus, the one through whom all things were created and in whom the God who Created all things is pleased to dwell – the witness of the life of Jesus in each other. My father who knew of that time-space in which he would see Jesus face-to-face, and his trust imprinted my 11-year-old soul. Y’all live out that trust in community, a membership covenant, a commitment to encourage each other in that faith through your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness, so that together we may grow stronger in expressing God’s love for all creation.
We trust, because together, we are members of Trust.