January 13, 2013

a God that gets the dirt of our lives under his fingernails

1st Sunday after Epiphany | Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
NOTE: The last few weeks have been slow around here. Between Christmas and the New Year, I took time off with my family and tried very hard to stay away from blogging. The following week(s) were focused on getting back up to speed with work. That said, I'm ready to get back into a groove. I’ve built up a calendar with topics I’m hoping to touch on in the coming months. They include updates on our life–moving from San Diego to D.C., my move from being an Anabaptist(ic) to Anglican (employed) Christian, Church History, ecclesiology, ethics and of course music. In addition, I'm thinking about how to begin working with other "voices." I'd really like to collaborate in writing more, exposing the voices of others I think ought to be heard. Lastly, I have the privilege to visit a lot of the churches I work with in thisdiocese and will additionally be posting edited versions of my sermons. Speaking of sermons, here's one from earlier today at Church of the Epiphany...
The Gospel of Luke tells us today that the people were waiting "expectantly." They wondered if this wild-eyed man called “John the Baptist” might be the Messiah, the long-awaited savior.
But what's a “messiah?”
When we read these words in the text, do we know what those people living in first-century Palestine really were longing for? The Messiah was the title attributed to he whom the Hebrew Bible predicted would come and save the Israelites from oppression. The term would likely conjure images of Moses, leading the Hebrew people out of Egypt. And, now, the people of Israel were once again living under the rule of another kingdom than their own. Rome. When would God send the long-awaited savior promised? When would there be deliverance from oppression? When might they be able to cry "freedom?"
Freedom comes in many forms. It just depends on what it is we are enslaved to. Bondage comes in all sorts and kinds. Today, from the wealthiest to the poorest in our culture an increasing number of us are enslaved to debt, money. In a town like D.C., there are countless numbers held captive by identity and public perception. All this to say, that we each experience bondage in some fashion. No matter who we are.
And like those standing by the water's edge, we each wait in expectation, waiting for someone to save us from ourselves.
Israel knew–at least theologically–that their current situation, living under the heel of Roman rule, was a result of their own actions. They were responsible for their collective undoing. And they longed for a messiah because they could not save themselves on their own.
In the same way, each of us goes about life in this city fully aware that we are broken, unable to fully free ourselves from what burdens us.
Go back to the scene that day with John the Baptist standing in the water, baptizing people. The people have gathered anxiously anticipating, hoping that maybe this man, John will deliver them from their bondage.
And then Jesus appears.
He doesn’t lead them away from this body of water that holds their fears, their anxieties, and agenda-filled anticipations. No, he steps into the waters and submits himself to the same practice the people have participated in.

This is the beautiful thing about this Jesus we proclaim. Like those standing by the waterside, we aren’t called away from our everyday life. Rather, God comes to us and enters into the ordinariness of our lives–with all our hopes, fears and expectations. It’s that action, in that body of water where the clouds part and God says he is pleased with Jesus. You'd think the Creator of the universe would make such a spectacle after all the miraculous things Jesus would later do. But before Jesus would go on to such feats, he does something simple–he enters into the everyday reality of those there that day.
And God appears quite pleased with this.
This is the God which Christians follow. A God that gets the dirt of our lives under his fingernails. And this is good news. We can search long and far for messiahs. In fact, we often hope that whatever savior we long for is somewhere disconnected from the life we find ourselves living. But the God of Scriptures chooses, instead, to meet us where we are at. Whether that be on a street corner or the boardroom, God is ready to meet you there.
We can convince ourselves that being a Christian requires a whole lot of fuss and activity. Whether or not that works for you is not something I’m interested in contesting. But I will say this, being a Christian begins and ends in recognizing the Savior entering into the everyday lives we live and living as though this is the "gospel truth." When you do so, I imagine the Father whispering, “... in you, I am well pleased.”

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