Sunday, January 19, 2020

Called By God: A Community Process

1 Samuel 3: 1-10 & John 1: 43-51
Roger Lynn
January 19, 2020
(CLICK HERE for the audio for this sermon)

In the movie “Crocodile Dundee” there is a scene near the end when Mick is leaving. He is on a crowded subway platform, waiting for the train. Meanwhile Sue has finally come to her senses and realizes that she is going to lose him forever if she doesn’t go after him and tell him how she feels. She finds herself standing on the stairs at one end of the platform, separated from Mick by a sea of people filling the entire platform. She calls to him, but there is just too much noise. There is no way he can hear her. But then something happens to turn the tide. Other people get involved. Someone who is within range to hear her voice passes on the message to someone else further down the platform until finally it catches Mick’s attention. The ensuing conversation, passed back and forth through the participating intermediaries finally results in reconciliation and a mutual declaration of love, accompanied by the cheers of an entire platform full of onlookers.

Sometimes, life is a little bit like that. We’re busy living our life, not paying much attention to anything in particular, when God tries to track us down to tell us we are loved. But we live in such a hustle and bustle, noisy and distracting world, that God’s voice frequently gets lost. It’s not so much that we’re ignoring God. It’s just that we don’t hear the call. We’re busy doing other things. Fortunately, we do not live in isolation. Connections, relationships, and community are intricately woven into the very fabric of life. The life we share with those around us is not simply a sometimes pleasant, sometimes frustrating by-product. It is an essential and central part of what it means to be human. And it is an essential and central part of what it means to be faithful. There is no such thing as an individual Christian. There are only Christians who are a part of community. It was no accident that Paul used the term “The Body of Christ” to describe the Church. So when the noise of the world drowns out the call of God in our life, there is still hope because God will speak through those around us, using whatever means necessary, for as long as necessary, to get our attention.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Wind Upon The Waters

Genesis 1: 1-5 & Mark 1: 4-11
Roger Lynn
January 12, 2020
(CLICK HERE for the audio for this sermon)

Imagine if you approached the opening chapters of Genesis from the perspective of a movie being directed by the Holy Spirit. The wind! The waves! The power! God’s Spirit at work in the world, bringing shape and form and order out of the dark, chaotic void. The storm sweeping over the landscape – powerful enough to make the mountains shake. And yet bringing strength and peace to the people. The heavens themselves being torn apart so that God’s Spirit can meet us face to face. If that isn’t the stuff of movies, I don’t know what is. Or perhaps imagine an orchestra performing the soundtrack for such a movie. The musicians  take the stage and as the instruments are being tuned a chaotic cacophony of sound begins to swell. But then God’s Spirit steps up and taps the conductor’s baton to focus all the energy in the room towards a common purpose. The music begins, softly at first, but then the tempo and intensity builds as the intricate harmonies and rich sounds of the various instruments are woven together into a vibrant tapestry of tones. You can almost feel the wind sweeping through the world, reshaping everything in its path. We are reminded once again that the God who stands behind such stories and images is both powerful and present.

In the creation story found in those opening verses of Genesis, we hear that “a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2) One of my favorites words in all of scripture makes its debut appearance here in this verse. “Ruach!” It is the Hebrew word which is variously translated “wind,” “breath,” and “spirit.” It is this “Ruach” of God which shapes creation and brings life out of lifelessness. And the “waters” over which God’s “Ruach” blows represents the primordial, chaotic forces of the “formless void.” The power of God’s life-giving Spirit is more potent than whatever chaos we might encounter in the world.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Light in Our Darkness (Epiphany Sunday)

Isaiah 60: 1-6 & Matthew 2: 1-12
Roger Lynn
January 5, 2020
(CLICK HERE for the audio for this sermon)

“Arise! Shine! For your light has come, and the glory of God has risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1) When the prophet Isaiah wrote these words the people to whom they were addressed had a hard time believing them. There wasn’t much happening that seemed to indicate there was any light shining in their lives. It required looking beyond the present circumstances and beneath the surface of what appeared to be true. It required a hopeful vision which was deeply rooted in a trusting confidence that God was, in fact, still present and still active.

It is a message which we still need to hear in our lives and our world today. It certainly feels as if darkness has covered the earth, and thick darkness the peoples. Everywhere we turn there is war, and violence, and suffering. There is environmental destruction and widespread despair and apathy. It is hard to even listen to the news anymore.

We are not alone in this experience. People since the dawn of time have faced overwhelming circumstances and the temptation to despair. One of the ways they have responded is by establishing traditions which remind them of the truth that there is more to life than what we can see or understand in any given moment. Long before Christians began celebrating Christmas and Epiphany at this darkest time of the year, earth-based religions recognized the importance of celebrating the winter solstice as the time when light began returning to the world. The message, for them and for us – it may seem dark, but it will not last. The Light is coming! 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Unto You Is Born This Day . . . A Heavenly Perspective (a Christmas Story)

This story was told as a part of the Christmas Eve Candlelight Worship . . .
(click here for the audio for this story)
- - - -
Preparations had been underway for months, and the moment had finally arrived. Well, that’s not exactly right. You see, time is a human construct, so what happens here in heaven falls outside of the normal understanding of time. Did I mention that I’m an angel? Maybe I forgot that part. Sorry. I get ahead of myself sometimes. Let me start again. My name is Khanan-el and I am an angel. You’ve probably never heard of me. I’m not one of the famous names, like Michael or Gabriel. They’re the ones who usually get the big spotlight gigs. I’m just a part of the choir – the “heavenly host” is how some people refer to us. It doesn’t really matter that you didn’t know my name before now. We all have a part to play and when each of us shows up and gives it our best, the results are really quite amazing, whether you recognize me or not. But I’m here now and I want to tell you about something that happened a long time ago (well, at least it was a long time ago from your perspective – from where I sit it was like it was yesterday – or maybe more like it’s still happening and always will be – this time versus eternity stuff is hard to keep track of sometimes). 

Anyway, as I started to say, plans and preparations had been made and the time had arrived for them to unfold and become manifest in the world. My boss (I think the name you know is “God”) is always working on sharing love with the world in new ways that you humans will recognize. (Did I mention that my name, Khanan-el, means the Love of God? I’ve always liked that.) So, God was working on sharing love in a powerful new way because you humans always seem to get distracted and confused about such things. Gabriel had been sent to let a couple of them in on the plan. A lovely young woman named Mary was going to have a baby and God wanted her to know how incredibly special that baby was, so Gabriel was dispatched to deliver the good news. Then Mary’s partner, a really good guy named Joseph, got pretty freaked out by the whole thing and needed to be reassured that everything was going to be OK. So Gabriel took care of that as well. 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Power of Love’s Weakness (Advent 4)

Luke 2: 1-7
Roger Lynn
December 22, 2019
4th Sunday in Advent
(click here for the audio for this sermon)

Deeply ingrained in the very core of our being is a strong desire for God to come into our lives and into our world and put right what has gone wrong, to fix what seems to be broken. We see this desire acted out in a wide variety of ways down through history and, indeed, in our own experience. But the foundational longing remains the same. It is this desire which underlies the ancient Hebrew expectation of the Messiah. And it is this desire which we express in our observance of Advent. We look urgently for Emmanuel, God With Us, because we desperately need to be healed of our wounds and we know that only God is powerful enough to accomplish such a miracle. So all through Advent we watch and we wait and we prepare to receive again the powerful love of our God who is Emmanuel, revealed in Jesus Christ. 

But in our almost frantic grasping for the power of God to save us, we sometimes fail to notice (or perhaps choose to overlook because it is not at all what we want to find) that God’s power is unlike any power we might expect or hope for. In fact, God seems almost to delight in presenting us with anti-powerful examples of how God works. God’s ultimate triumph comes with the daring risk of losing it all. God’s love is offered to us not in power, but in weakness. Ann Weems gives expression to this theme in her poem, “Unexpected.” 

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Watching & Waiting for Unexpected Joy (Advent 3)

Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 1:47-55 & Matthew 11:2-11
December 15, 2019
3rd Sunday in Advent
(click here for the audio for this sermon)

In this Advent season of watching and waiting, preparing and anticipating, it is helpful to remember who the waiting is for. Christmas has become such a cultural experience, and we are so bombarded by reminders beginning even before Halloween, that it is easy to think of Advent as simply four weeks to get ready for parties and gifts and Santa Claus. And even if we manage to keep our attention focused on Jesus as the real reason for the season, what we quite often find ourselves looking for is the baby born in Bethlehem. We sing carols like “Away in the Manger” and “What Child Is This?”, and we set up nativity scenes with mangers and infants, and we think we have it covered. And there is nothing at all wrong with thinking about the baby Jesus. The miracle of God’s incarnation as Emmanuel, God with Us, begins with that humble birth in a stable. But if we stop there, if our watching and waiting fails to anticipate the rest of the story, then we will have missed most of the power of what God is doing among us. And it is easy to miss, because it is not always what we expect to find, and it is not always even what we want to find. As Ann Weems reminds us, “Our God will be where God will be, with no constraints, no predictability.” 

Last week we met John the Baptist preaching a message of repentance and preparing the way of the Lord. He announced that there would be One coming after him who was more powerful than he could ever be. If anyone qualifies as an Advent role model for watching and waiting and preparing, it is John. Surely he knew who he was waiting for! But then we encounter him again in today’s reading from Matthew, only this time it is at the end of his life and we find him asking Jesus an unexpected question. “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (Matthew 11:3) How can this be the same John who called the religious leaders a bunch of snakes because they weren’t taking God’s message to heart? How can this be the same John who only reluctantly baptized Jesus, because he didn’t think he was worthy even to tie his sandals? When he was watching and waiting he was filled with such confidence and certainty, and then when faced with the very embodiment of his anticipation he finds only doubt and uncertainty. Where is the message of faith in that?

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Actively Anticipating Peace (Advent 2)

Isaiah 11:1-10 & Matthew 3:1-12
Roger Lynn
December 8, 2019
2nd Sunday in Advent
(click here for the audio for this sermon)

The musical “Godspell” is a modern re-telling of the story of Jesus Christ. In the opening scene, John the Baptist comes walking across the Brooklyn Bridge pushing a cart filled with his belongings. He is dressed in marked contrast to all those who are caught up in the hustle and hurry of the city. And he calls folks to slow down and discover another way of life. The sound of a ram’s horn can be heard echoing through the steel and concrete canyon walls which form the streets and alleys of that place. And then he begins to sing. “Prepare ye the way of the Lord...” And the people respond. Not a lot of people. And the one’s who do are not entirely sure what they are responding to. But they come. They stop what they are doing and they come.

That same call is still echoing down the canyons of our lives. We are still invited to prepare the way of the Lord – both in our lives and in the world. God is always and forever present in our world in amazing and remarkable ways, but we cannot simply sit back and wait for that presence to come to us. The season of Advent reminds us that faith is about waiting and watching for God’s activity in our world. It is about anticipating the coming of Christ into our lives in ever new and ever fresh ways. But as we were reminded last week, we must stay awake or we will miss it. Our anticipation must be active or we will not be prepared to receive the gift which God is offering.