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“It Begins with a Voice…”

(a sermon for January 12, 2020, the 1st Sunday after Epiphany, based on Psalm 29 and Matthew 3:13-17)

We are a church that is, by its very nature, sacramental.

By definition, a sacrament is a holy act and visible sign declaring the promise of the gospel to those who receive it in faith and gratitude.  As Christians, we believe that a sacrament is holy because Jesus Christ himself, by word or example instituted it.  Now, in most protestant churches, including the congregational tradition of which we are a part, baptism and communion are the two celebrations of the church that are recognized as sacrament.  The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, also recognizes five other rites of the church as being sacramental: confirmation, penance, ordination, matrimony, and the sacrament of the sick (that which used to be known as “last rites.”).

That’s not say that these are of lesser value or importance in our tradition; it’s just that for us communion and baptism hold a special significance in the Christian life. We believe that the sharing of these sacraments make for the most intimate part of the worship experience, and are amongst the most meaningful parts of one’s walk of faith.  Sacrament, you see, is by its very nature a very physical act: a time when you touch Christ and Christ touches you; a moment in which your own relationship with the holy begins to take shape and grow.

All these ecclesiastical explanations aside, however, I’ve always loved what Frederick Buechner has written about the nature of sacraments: he says that while in the midst of such church oriented milestone moments, “you are apt to catch a glimpse of the almost unbearable preciousness and mystery of life….  church isn’t the only place where the holy happens.”  He goes on to say that “sacramental moments can occur at any moment, any place, and to anybody.  [For instance,] watching somebody be born.  Sharing love.  A high school graduation.  Somebody coming to see you when you’re sick.  A meal with people you love.  Looking into a stranger’s eyes and finding out he’s not a stranger” after all.  In fact, Buechner suggests, “if we weren’t all as blind as bats, we might see that life itself is sacramental.”

I love that; because what Beuchner’s words serve to remind us is that in amidst all of life’s many and myriad experiences is found yet another example of the mighty hand of God at work.  There is so much of the holy that’s happening all around us – so much in our lives that is truly sacramental in nature – but only if we have eyes to see it for what it really is!

What’s interesting, you know, is that in my own work as a church pastor I am, by definition and through ecclesiastical authorization through the United Church of Christ, a minister of Word and Sacrament, and so as you can imagine I’m dealing with that which is sacramental all the time… but not always in the ways you might expect.  There’s communion and baptism, absolutely, but there’s also, for instance, the sacrament of the Sunday School Christmas pageant, especially on those inevitable moments every year when one or more of our little ones (and maybe even a few of our big ones!) literally start groovin’ to “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy.”  It’s the sacrament of “Silent Night” sung by candlelight; or, for that matter, of our reaching for the high notes of “Up from the Grave He Arose” at Easter Sunrise!  There’s the Sacrament of Fellowship and Laughter that’s found at Bean Suppers, Holiday Fairs and countless other gatherings, as well as the sacrament of sorrows shared and of burdens mutually borne in moments of grief and struggle and uncertainty; and within that, the sacrament of Prayers Ascending not merely on a Sunday morning but on every other day of the week.

What I experience on a regular basis as your pastor are the sacraments of not-so-random acts of kindness, of words of encouragement spoken, and of standing up for and with those in need.  These are also the sacraments that are revealed in countless untold blessings of our having been drawn together as a community – a true family – of faith; and then there’s the sacrament that come in the palpable sense of God’s presence, and his power, and his love… but not, as it turns out, here at 10:00 on a Sunday morning but at some other time and place during the week, perhaps even in amidst a situation where you least expected to find God… and yet, there God was.

Because, you see, while ours is a shared ministry of Word and Sacrament, the truth is that it doesn’t always happen at church!  For when you and I experience something like that – something like God – in our lives, whether it’s in joy, or in peace, or in struggle or even in the wake of great tragedy then life for us becomes a sacrament, something that is most holy and good and fully imbued with God’s presence and power and love. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest to you this morning that that the only place where true life and real living begins and grows and flourishes is with the voice of God.

It all begins, you see, with a voice….

…a voice that is at time raucous and profound as thunder crashing across the silence of a summer night; at other times as gentle and as subtle as the sound of crickets after a storm.  It begins with a voice that’s “tympanic… symphonic,”  [The Message] filled with “glory and strength” and “full of majesty.” It begins with a voice: the voice of God.

Realize, of course, that when I speak of the “voice of God,” I am referring to the biblical understanding of what that voice is.  For when the people of the Old and New Testaments referred to “the voice of the LORD,” they were not as much referring to an audible, speaking voice coming down from out of heaven (although scripture is full of moments when that was the case) as much as they were referring to the ongoing activity and the powerful nature of God!  What you’ll always throughout scripture is that the words “the Lord spoke” are almost always synonymous with “the Lord did.”  It’s right there from the very beginning in the creation story in Genesis:  “Then God said, ‘Let there be light;’ and there was light.”  Actually, our English translation of scripture sort of suggests a cause and effect – that first God said it, and then it happened – but the original Hebrew is lot more direct and to the point: at God’s very utterance, the deed is done, and it’s done with power and might, in the process shifting all that we ever expected to be true about life, so to be in accordance with his will.  We see this very clearly in our reading this morning from Psalm 29, in which the Psalmist sings – because remember that these psalms were in fact songs meant to be sung with all due emotion and even bravado (!) – that “the voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire; the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness.”  In this psalm we bear witness to a God of action: a God who, when he speaks, the oaks whirl, the forests are stripped bare, and strength is given to his people.  In fact, God’s involvement in every aspect of life and in creation is so readily apparent that all in the temple can but cry, “Glory!”

So, that in mind, it is no coincidence that the ministry of our Lord Jesus begins first with baptism and only with the voice of God; and even then, that voice is manifest in action and divine love, with the spirit of God descending upon Jesus like a dove from the heavens, opening at just that precise moment.  It’s a voice as from a loving parent, perhaps even as a mother would sound cradling her child in her arms:  “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” I have long been fond of speaking of our celebration of baptism in the church as a sacrament of welcome: be it be the christening of an infant or an adult baptism, it’s a welcome into a life of faith, a blessing for the beginning of a journey toward whatever life brings, and the affirmation of God’s presence and love being there at every part of the journey.  And truly, that’s what was happening here: a visible (and audible) sign of God’s active and continuing involvement in the redemption of his people.  It’s important to note here that the ministry of Jesus Christ did not begin in a vacuum but by the voice of God: a voice that was heard and felt by his people gathered that day by the River Jordan; a voice that made clear what God was doing in sending Jesus to this earth to bring forth his kingdom and to do the work of redemption; a voice that even now reminds you and me of the holy presence of God in our lives, yours and mine; of our baptism, and of who – and whose – we truly are.

In fact, lately, I’ve been thinking that for all the “sacramental” aspects of what I do as a pastor, at the end of the day I’m more of an officiant than the actual provider!  By that, I mean I’m not the one who truly “baptizes” the baby, any more than I’m the one who sanctifies the wedding vows between two people in love, or that I am the one who makes a simple meal of bread and grape juice the body and blood of Christ. I am simply the intercessory of what God is doing, the instrument of the music that God wants to be played.  God does the baptizing; God blesses the marriage vow; God in Jesus Christ, by his great and redeeming love, who makes the elements of bread and wine infinitely more than the commonplace.

In all of these sacraments, and so many others as well, there is the voice of the Lord, speaking in and through our hearts, our lives, and in the fellowship of faithful, kindred hearts; speaking so powerfully and personally that the very ways that we speak, and act and love are perceptively shifted in positive and creative ways.  I know that I have heard that voice speaking into my own heart and through the continuing journeys of my own life; and, unless I miss my guess here, I suspect you have too.  We experience that voice in the countless ways that God’s spirit moves in unexpected, life-renewing ways; and we hear it in the comings and goings of our our daily lives, if we’ll but have ears to hear what’s being said.  The good news is that all the love, and the peace, and the hope, and joy that is manifest in the voice of Jesus Christ has been spoken, and even better is that it continues to be spoken – even and especially now.

And that’s the challenge of the gospel, beloved: to listen for the voice of God!  Slow down for a minute; be quiet for once; listen in the middle of the silence for the voice that’s inside you, and pay attention:  for perhaps it is the voice of the Lord seeking at this very moment to lift you higher so you might walk along his pathways rather than your own.  Listen… for just maybe in the midst of all the other noise that fills up our ears we might just hear the sound of his voice; perchance to experience something holy and good.

Because it all begins with a voice… and with God.

Thanks be to God.

AMEN and AMEN.

© 2020  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2020 in Baptism, Communion, Epiphany, Life, Psalms, Sermon

 

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Promises to Keep

snowy-woods1

(a sermon for January 8, 2017, the 1st Sunday after Epiphany, based on Matthew 3:13-17)

It was many summers ago now, back when all three of our children were still quite young; and we were in the midst of a week-long camping trip at one of the state parks in Vermont (Silver Lake, if I remember correctly).  We’d been spending a lot of time that week exploring the backroads of rural Vermont, and we made a discovery that most natives already know: that there are as many dirt roads in Vermont as there are paved, and just because there’s a black line drawn on a road map doesn’t mean there’s actually going to be found there any kind of highway at all!   So we got lost… a lot (!), and especially given this was in the days before GPS units quite often we’d find ourselves literally “following our noses” as we drove along these beautifully unimproved roads winding through hill and valley, forest, field and village!

Well, one afternoon we’re driving through this deep, rich green expanse of forest which as near as I could tell was several miles from anywhere (!), when suddenly from the back of our mini-van, I hear one of my children ask the question, “Whose woods are these?”  And friends, immediately when I heard that, the memory of high school English classes of many years before stirred within me; and I had an answer:

“Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.”

(“Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” by Robert Frost)

And suddenly, here I am driving down this road reciting Robert Frost… and from memory!  Of course, this ability didn’t impress my children one lick, and Lisa probably just rolled her eyes (!); but for me the realization that I’m actually on this very land which inspired Frost to write all that wonderful poetry was a powerful thing, indeed.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.”

Understand it’s mid-August, many months away from the first snowfall, but still these woods were “lovely, dark and deep,” and I found myself thinking how good it might be to live out there amidst the beauty and the quiet of just such a forest; to follow in the poetic footsteps of a Robert Frost or a Henry David Thoreau, to be dwelling in harmony with nature, living simply and somehow outside the confines of the rest of the world and all its confusion (trust me here, it’s a bit of a daydream that still enters my mind and heart from time to time!)

However, as is the case with most such daydreams, sooner or later I come to realization that as nice as it sounds, it’s not going to happen; but not for the reasons you might think.  Actually, it’s because in the end, these woods – wherever they happen to be – are not the place of my life’s calling.  You see, I, too, have promises to keep; many promises, in fact, that I have made freely, gladly and joyfully in the midst of my life.  These are the promises, for instance, that I’ve made as a husband to “love, honor and cherish” my spouse and partner in life; there are the promises I have made as a parent to love and nurture my children (even now when they’re all grown up!); and then there’s the promise I made as a Christian to love and serve God as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.    The bottom line is that who I am and what I do ultimately has a great deal to do with all these promises I have made in my life and more. Likewise, I am responsible and accountable to the commitments I have made; to myself, to others and to God. So… while the woods are lovely, dark and deep, I do have promises to keep; and miles – a great many miles, I trust – to go before I sleep!

Actually, I’m mindful here of another poem, a little free verse piece I found years ago in some pastoral resource or another:  “And God said, ‘You are free… free… FREE (!)… to be bound in any way you wish.’”  Truly, even in these uncertain and swiftly changing times, if there is one value upon which we all can agree, it is most certainly the value of freedom; and yet, would you not agree that the exercise of our freedom exists and rests wholly on our full commitment and allegiance to that which sets us free?  Think about this: a free nation must from time to time be forced to zealously guard and defend that freedom, even if that regretfully means going to war.  A marriage vow shared by free and loving hearts must be held sacred against all the temptations that would seek to destroy it; likewise, the task of raising children to be free and independent adults requires us to keep a fairly tight hold on them as they grow and learn about the world around them.

Even our faith – our very freedom in Jesus Christ that comes to us in our baptism by water and the Holy Spirit – even our faith must be embraced with the spirit of obedience to God’s righteousness.  This is why we do not merely sprinkle water on the baby’s forehead without first asking the parents if they promise to hold that child’s Christian faith in trust until they are old enough to confirm that choice as their own.  That is why we ask all those being baptized if they promise, “by the grace of God, to be Christ’s disciples, to follow in the way of our Savior, to resist oppression and evil, to show love and justice, and to witness to the work and word of Jesus Christ as best [they] are able.”

All of life, you see, and our faith itself is wrapped up in the promises we’ve made; the same promises we are charged to keep.

Isn’t it interesting that the very first words that our Lord Jesus speaks in Matthew’s gospel is not about freedom, but rather about obedience.  Actually, our scripture reading this morning is one of those passages that have raised questions for theologians from the early days of the church.  We pick up the story as John the Baptist is baptizing in the Jordan River as a sign of the forgiveness of sins and of the “breaking in,” so to speak, of the kingdom of God.  But John, as it turns out, is actually surprised when Jesus shows up asking to be baptized; and in truth, so are we.  After all, this is Jesus, the one who is pure and without sin; what does he need with a baptism of repentance?  And at least at first, John will have no part of it:  “I need to be baptized by you, and [yet] you come to me?”  But Jesus explains that this is the way it has to be; so “to fulfill all righteousness.”

It’s the first thing that Jesus says in Matthew’s gospel, and it’s important for a couple of reasons: first, because it points up what God has done in Christ Jesus.  When we think of God, we think of power, mystery and glory; we ponder the grandeur of creation, and the wonder of miracles.  And truly, elsewhere in the gospels, there are such “signs” that point to Jesus as the “son of God.”  But here, the divinity of Christ is expressed in his obedience to the will of God; or, as William Willimon has described it, “his willingness to get down in the water, so to speak, to ‘get his feet wet,’ standing knee deep in the Jordan with all the rest of us sinners.”  Jesus’ baptism is a sign of his total, complete linkage to the will of God and to the fulfillment of God’s righteousness in the world. And at the end of this passage when a voice from heaven speaks, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased,” that voice is expressing God’s pleasure with Jesus’ obedience; it is a celebration of Jesus’ complete submission to becoming a servant of God!  Our test this morning offers up the  first example we have as to what would become the very course of Jesus’ life and ministry; a journey that would culminate in his willingness to go even unto the cross.  So you see, these short verses we’ve shared this morning provide us an important piece in understanding everything that is to come in the gospel story.

But there’s more:  what’s also important is that in telling us about Jesus’ baptism, Matthew is reminding us of the meaning of our own baptism.  Now this may sound a bit harsh, but let me say it straight: baptism is not something we have to “get done,” either for ourselves or our children; a task to be taken care of in the same manner as making sure we have a yearly physical.  Likewise, baptism is not to be thought of merely as an act of church initiation, any more than it’s about whether it’s properly done by sprinkling or immersion, or if the one baptized is an infant or a deciding adult.  Whatever the particular tradition or theology, whatever the attitude toward the ritual or the liturgy employed, baptism is ultimately something much more.

Baptism is nothing less that our declaration (either for ourselves or in trust for our children) of obedience to God.  It’s our promise to submit to the movements of a righteous God; it’s our commitment to be faithful members of Christ’s church, to celebrate Christ’s presence in our lives, to further Christ’s mission in the places of the world where we dwell.  Baptism is the promise we make that we’ll let God’s will surpass and supplant our will; so that by our very lives we will show forth the righteousness of God!

Kind of changes the whole idea of what we do around the baptismal font, doesn’t it?  But then come to think of it, it kind of changes our whole notion of what you and I do once we finish the service this morning and start out on “life as usual” in the week ahead! We are called to be obedient believers; but in the end, you see, obedience isn’t such a bad thing.  As Richard J. Foster writes in his book, Prayer:  Finding the Heart’s True Home, “Obedience is not as burdensome as it seems at first blush.  We are doing nothing more than falling head over heels in love with the everlasting Lover of our souls.”

Beloved, as the church of Jesus Christ, we are claimed and named as the people of God; we have been sought out and gathered together into the community of the baptized.  We come to bask in the warmth and the fellowship of this place as we worship the Lord in spirit and truth… and well it should be.  But we’re also not meant to remain here; as baptized believers, we’re meant to go… to go out there into the community and the world, to live in obedience to God as disciples of Jesus Christ.  We are a people called and led; a community directed and disciplined; men, women and children empowered and encouraged for the work of the kingdom of heaven.  You and I are each and all ministers of the gospel and even now are becoming servants to God’s will and God’s righteousness.

Oh, yes, there are times we’d just like to step back and “let the world go by,” so to speak; but there’s a deeper call on our lives, yours and mine… and it’s that…

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep

But [we] have promises to keep,

And miles to go before [we] sleep,

And miles to go before [we] sleep.”

May we be blessed on the journey ahead; and may our thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN.

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2017 in Baptism, Epiphany, Jesus, Ministry, Sermon

 

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Affirmation

IMAG1507(a sermon for January 12, 2014, the 1st Sunday after Epiphany, based on Matthew 3:13-17)

I believe that among the most powerful and telling words found in all the gospels are those spoken from heaven above at the moment of Jesus’ baptism:  “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

I had to do a little digging to find it, but it was still there in a folder buried deep within my file cabinet: a hand-written note that was placed in my seminary mailbox way back while I was a student there and just beginning my very first assignment as student pastor of a little church up in Northern Maine.  The note was from one of my professors, the director of field education for Bangor Seminary at the time; and in nearly indecipherable handwriting it read as follows:  “Dear Mike,” (in those days nobody called me Michael!) “I wanted you to know that… I learned that Anita (the former student pastor of the church I was serving) has received many Christmas greetings from folks at Houlton which include commendation of your work as their pastor.” And then, below this, he added these words that I’ve never forgotten:  “Since the pastor too often hears only the negative stuff, I thought you ought to know that some good words are being spoken.”

Well, over 30 years later, he turned out to be right on both counts:  in this vocation, you do hear all the negatives, trust me; but oh, what a blessing it is to hear those good words!  That little note meant a great deal to me back then, and even now the memory of it warms my heart.  But lest you think I’m talking merely about the nature of pastoral ministry or even one young pastor’s need for praise, understand that this is a blessing that runs much broader and deeper than that!  In fact, I would go so far to say that the one human desire that binds us all together, the one wish that every one of us share is a deep yearning for affirmation: which is to be accepted and appreciated, to be valued by others as someone who is worthwhile; and above all, to know that you are loved, without hesitation or condition or limit.

And what we learn in this brief yet incredible moment of the gospels; when Jesus comes up, dripping wet, out of the water of the River Jordan and the skies opens up before him with “the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him” is the very picture of the God who is the Lord of Affirmation; for this is the God who says to Jesus and to the world – as well as to you and me “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

You know, the thing that I always remember about this note is that at the time I received it, I really hadn’t done anything yet!  I’d been their pastor in Houlton for only a matter of a very few weeks: I hadn’t yet had any chance at all to prove myself in the task of ministry; there hadn’t even been enough time yet for me to really mess things up!  The fact is, I was untried, untested, green and wholly wet behind the ears: however you’d care to describe it, folks; that was me!  And yet, here I was; already the recipient of love and appreciation offered up in abundance from these good people, all without even having really stepped out all that far along the pathway; this pathway of faith and ministry that I’d walk with these people over the next five years (in the larger sense the same pathway I’m still walking 30 years later).  As I look back on it now I realize just how very blessed I was to have begun the work of Christian ministry with that kind of affirmation!

Well, likewise understand that this divine affirmation of Jesus of which we read this morning took place before Jesus’ public ministry had even begun; prior to this there were no lessons or parables that came from Jesus (at least none that we know about); none of his disciples had been called, there’d been no acts of healing or other miracles as of yet, and of course, this was long before the events of the Passion.  Matthew only devotes a few scant verses to this at the beginning of his gospel (Mark and Luke both record it in similar terms), but it is nonetheless a singular and significant moment in Jesus’ life and ministry: that before anything else, first there’s affirmation: God’s own powerful word that “with you I am well pleased.”

And if we correctly understand that God intends for the meaning of this moment to extend to you and to me; then, friends, we also come to know that our baptism in Christ’s name represents God’s affirmation of us as well!

Let me explain that:  you see, most of the “good words” we hear in this life come to us after the fact: we did a good job, we crossed the finished line, we “earned” the kudos and the accolades that come our way along the respect that goes along with them.  But the glory of God, friends, is that God speaks those good words before anything has been said and done; before there are successes in life, and before there are the inevitable failures that come about as a result of our weakness or sin.  What we’re talking about here is the cornerstone of grace; the hallmark of Godly love and the radiant sign of the power and ability of God to create and sustain new life, to soothe the soul and empower the spirit. This is how we can be called children of God, because God has already affirmed our inherent worth in His sight.

By the water of baptism, we are shown unconditional love and are marked as God’s own beloved forever, each and every one of us daughters and sons with whom God is well pleased.  That’s why we rejoice in the church when someone comes forward in faith to receive this “sacrament of welcome” as their own, and that is why we celebrate as we do when a young family stands at the front of this sanctuary to present their child to be baptized by water and the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, when we “do baptisms” in this place, we are in fact acknowledging and professing what God has already done, which is affirming them as creations of love and people of promise.  We are proclaiming and celebrating God’s great and welcoming love, a love that is offered up to us prior to anything else we may have done and or may yet do.  This is love that is unquestioning and unfailing, without any of the boundaries and conditions that you and I have the tendency to place upon it; and it’s love that’s wholly and fully demonstrated in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and renewed with each and every new day by the touch of His Holy Spirit.

I think that’s one reason why I’ve always loved the sacrament of baptism, because what an incredible way to start out in this life, whether we’re talking about that of a newborn baby, or of any one of us who have made that great confession of faith and thus have begun life anew.  What a thing to step out on a pathway of faith, knowing with every fiber of your being that before you’ve even taken that first step, you’ve already been welcomed home!

And that’s exactly how it is for us, beloved; for this is the God who says of Jesus, and of you and me, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

And there’s one more thing about this, friends; something important… just as it is true God begins his relationship with us by affirmation; just as God continues to affirm us daily by his care and nurture, through gentle guidance and with an encouraging word, it is also true that God calls forth from us the same kind of love to pass on to others.

I cannot begin to tell you the numbers of persons I have met in my work and along my life’s pathway – men and women, children and youth – whose very lives have been defined by the utter lack of affirmation in their lives; so many people who have rarely, if ever, known what it is to be accepted and appreciated and loved by the people around them.  The old and familiar maxim that if a child lives with criticism, he or she learns to condemn; if a child lives with hostility (or ridicule or shame), then that child learns to fight (and to be withdrawn and to live their lives out of a false assumption of guilt); all of this holds painfully true for so many of us; perhaps, I dare say, even some of us who’ve come here to worship this morning.  There are indeed those who have become so weighed down by the utter sorrow of not having known the affirmation of those around them that they dare not open themselves to God’s!  And that is tragic for many reasons; first because God does indeed affirm us, and that is a terrible thing not to receive (!); but also because affirmation is the first step in answering that call to affirm others!

Let me ask you: how many good words get left unsaid?  How many times have we rushed out the door to get somewhere without telling the people closest to us that we love them, or have parted company in the midst of a heated discussion without somehow saying that despite the fact that we disagree on this one point we still can’t imagine a life without them near to us?  How many times have we thought about saying something encouraging or nurturing or even life-giving to someone we thought might need it, but then backed off because it required some risk or vulnerability or some embarrassment on our parts?

What we’re talking about here are missed opportunities for affirmation, the chances we’ve lost along the way to share what we’ve received by God’s love!  And that should never happen; to put it biblically, “since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.”  (1 John 4:11) And it’s when we have the grace to let our guard down; when we actively seek to love one another by word, but most especially in action, it’s then that we truly answer God’s call; and moreover, it’s how you and I together become a Christian community.  It’s love – God given, Christ nurtured and Spirit inspired – that makes us a church in this place.  LOVE, as simple and as all-encompassing as that.

With each passing moment, you see, God turns to us and affirms just how very much we are loved.  What we need to do is to “re-turn” to God so that we might, in faith and love, affirm others.  We need to show our families, our friends – and even the people beside us in the pews (!) – the same kind of affirmation as we have received.  And might I add that we need to do it before being asked; we need to show our love before those around us demonstrate worthiness or the lack thereof; and yes, before other words get spoken that cause hurt rather than healing.

God has been there for us from the beginning. As the song we’re about to sing puts it, God was there “to hear [our] borning cry, and there when we grow old.”  The question is, will we be there for one another with that same kind of love? I hope and pray that it will be said of each of us that we were.

May the Lord guide us in lives of true and loving affirmation.

And may our thanks be unto God.

AMEN and AMEN!

c. 2014  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2014 in Baptism, Church, Epiphany, Jesus, Ministry, Sermon

 

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