Monday, February 17, 2020

Choose life.


February 16, 2020
6th Sunday after Epiphany
Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Psalm 119:1-8
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Matthew 5:21-37

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable and suitable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Today’s gospel is a hard one to hear, right?  I mean it sounds like we are being hit over the head with the law.  And even with Jesus saying, you have heard that it was said, but I say to you, it seems that the laws being decreed are even stricter.  Not what I’m looking for when wanting to hear the words of Jesus. 

But what happens if we, or when we read these as laws of love?   As laws that call us into leading and living full lives that nurture relationships and community, that bring God to the forefront of all that we say and do? 
Isn’t that who God is calling us to be? 

Isn’t that Jesus command and call for each of us really, to live our best lives?
It’s like God created us and said, this isn’t just good, but this is really good, now go, live your best lives!  And what happened?  We messed up.  Time and time again.  Yet God comes back in with a word of love and the action of grace and sends us on our way again. 

And so here we are…claimed and called to live our best lives.  Yet when we think about living our best lives – it’s not just for ourselves, but for the whole world.  Let me say that again, it’s not about living our best lives for ourselves, but for the whole dang world.  These commands that Jesus declares are to help and guide us into living more fully into God’s love.  Which impacts more than our own little lives and homes…but the rest of the world as well.    

Our gospel lesson today is that not so gentle reminder that the thoughts we have, the words we speak and the actions we take can have deep and far reaching impacts on those around us not just in our own homes but in our schools, places of work, communities, nation and world. 

God wants us and Jesus calls us to live lives of integrity and lives that are not only life giving to others, but life giving to ourselves as well. 
Right?  God wants us and Jesus calls us to live lives of integrity.  Lives that are lived honestly and completely.  Lives that when lived are life giving not just to ourselves but to others as well.  That how we act and treat others deeply impacts the greater world around us.  That we are called to live lives that fulfill God’s call to love and serve, and when that happens, when we do that, not only are our lives, hearts and souls filled, but also the lives of those around us.  

And it seems to me that living the fullest, deepest life means completely surrendering to God’s call and law in our lives.  What I mean is that we are called to fully live into who God created us and calls us to be.  Doing things that do not cause others to stumble, but living and acting in a holy way by doing acts of love and service that truly let Christ’s light shine in all that we say and do. 

God’s call is clear.  The truth is that we can’t do it.  (Not on our own anyway…)  Try as we might, when given the opportunity to live our God’s word to choose life, we often fall short. 

Am I right?  We cut down those around us for having different opinions instead of listening and engaging in dialogue.  We don’t build up others around us because we are afraid that they will outshine us.  We don’t love others fully because we are afraid that a love that deep and that holy won’t be returned or even accepted.  We would rather live in the perceived safety of our own personal space bubbles surrounded by our own stuff so we don’t have to put ourselves in places where we might learn and grown through our interactions with others. 
It’s easier to stay comfortable.

And safe. 

But here’s the thing. God is still going to call us, wherever we might be, to draw us out of those safe spaces and into the places where we will learn and grow. 

God will still nudge us, some times gently and other times with the force of a mighty wind, into places and conversations where we will be given the space to listen, to speak, to learn and to be God’s presence all within the community of others. 

This call for us today is because of God’s great and amazing and unending love for each and every one of us. 

God as a loving parent in our lives, wants the best and only the best for us.  Right?  Wants us to live our best lives!  God, as a loving parent truly wants the best for each and every one of us, for each of God’s beloved children.

So, out of this unconditional love, God will continue to call us to live our best lives. 
Lives with hope and promise.
Lives that will give life to others.
Lives that will nurture, strengthen and build up community.
Lives that will transform the world as we know it through acts of service and love. 

As we heard from Moses in the reading from Deuteronomy, there are options for the future… “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

We have the opportunity friends, to choose life. 

What does that look like for you? 
Is it serving on a Wednesday evening by filling college care packages? 
Is it helping to provide food for a funeral meal?
Does it look like calling or visiting a friend you haven’t seen in a while? 
Is it joining the prayer chain so you can pray for the people of this place as part of your daily devotions? 
Is it volunteering at the food pantry? 
It will look different for each of us. 

But given the opportunity, choose life…
Choose life, friends, so that you and your descendants may live…
Choose life, friends, loving the Lord your God, living out God’s loving call in your lives…
Choose life, friends, so that all may know God’s abundant love, grace and peace in our world. 
And now, may the peace which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen. 


Thursday, January 23, 2020

Enough?


January 22, 2020
Well homily
Ephesians 3:14-21

Please read Ephesians 3:14-21 as a prayer for you…

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

After a great weekend at the Harrisburg Youth Quake, I thought I would share the theme verse from the weekend – ‘Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.’ It’s Ephesians 3:20-21 and as I looked it up, I realized these verses are part of a larger passage, I mean that happens with all the verses in the Bible, but as I read around these verses, I learned that these verses are part of a longer prayer.  That’s why when Jeff read it tonight, I encouraged you to listen to it as a prayer.   I hope when you hear it again, you can hear it as a prayer, for you…

I don’t know about you, but those verses, this prayer just wrapped itself around me as I read it and reread it this morning.  Like a warm bathrobe on a cool morning, or a cozy blanket on a cold night, this prayer wrapped me in not only warmth, but a feeling of comfort, holy presence, care and peace. 

It’s that reminder, that even though we are created in God’s divine image, there will be times when we fall short of who God created us and calls us to be.  But (big but here) but, when that happens, there are others praying for us…praying that we may be filled with the fullness of God, that Christ may live in our hearts and that we may be strengthened in our inner being with power through the Spirit. 

Whenever we feel like we are not enough, we are reminded that God is more than enough for all that we need in our hearts, minds, lives and world. 

At Youth Quake during times of prayer, I became acutely aware of those around me.  My heartstrings were drawn to those on either side of me and the places/situations they left to be part of this weekend, and also the worries and cares that they still carried with them to the Quake. 

I became aware of the individual needs and worries that we all have (from youths to adults) that we carry with us each day no matter where we go.  These worries/cares/needs, may be related to our families, our school or work environment, our home life, our own sense of well-being or self-esteem, our financial status, our faith journeys, our futures…all of these things enter our hearts and our minds and our lives each and every day.  And when we look outward to TV, movies, social media, it can make us even more worried that we are not fitting in or getting it just right. 

So, I encourage you to look beyond the media, the hype, social media to seek God and God’s presence in your life.  And to not only see, but feel God’s support and compassion for you – just as you are. 

You are beautiful.
You are holy.
You are created in God’s divine image. 
You are created for a purpose in this world that no one else can do. 

Yet, when you are feeling that you are not up to par, that you are not enough, remember that God is more than enough for all that you need and may you be wrapped in the encouraging words and prayers of others. 

Because here’s the truth.  As we sat there praying at Quake, I wondered to myself if I was enough.  As we share highs and lows as a group and I hear the ups and downs faced by youth and adults alike in this congregation I wonder if I’m doing enough to help shine Christ’s light in this place.  I know I am called to serve in this place, but am I doing enough? 

And so I, too, need the reminder of this prayer.  So, if you would, open your hands, place them on your lap to receive God’s blessings and let go of your worries, close your eyes and hear this prayer for you: (I took a few liberties in adjusting the language to fit our gathering.)

Holy one,
For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of God’s glory, the Holy One may grant that you all gathered in this place may be strengthened in their inner being with power through God’s Spirit, 
and that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith, as they are being rooted and grounded in love. 
I pray that the folks hearing or reading these words may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that they may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to God who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever.  And let all God’s people say, amen.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Baptism of our Lord


January 12, 2020
Baptism of our Lord


Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 29
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

As we gather today, we remember Jesus’ baptism.  We began worship not with confession and forgiveness which we do almost 99.9% of the time we gather in worship, but rather with the Thanksgiving for Baptism.

It’s true, maybe you saw it in my eyes, I LOVE beginning with the Thanksgiving for Baptism, especially the sprinkling of the water part.  Billy says I really get into it.  He’s right. 

In preparation for today I got to thinking about my own baptism.  And you know what?  I don’t remember it.  I’ve seen pictures such as this one.  


I’ve heard stories, but I have no memory of it actually happening.  And yet I know, that on March 31, 1974 my mom and dad brought me to the font at Faith Lutheran Church in East Hartford and I was welcomed into the Lord’s family. 

This past year I visited Faith Lutheran while my mom was at her bell choir rehearsal, they may still have the same font, just with a new bowl.


Even though I cannot remember it, but for pictures and stories, I know it happened.  I know I’m baptized and it’s because of God’s gift of love in my life that it has happened.  It was nothing that I personally did or can do, it is entirely a gift of God’s grace.  Even though it was my baptism, it was not about me.  It was a gift to me and through that gift I have been named, claimed and called to be sent. 

I am God’s beloved child.
I am claimed by God with the mark of the cross on my forehead.
And I am sent into the world to proclaim this great love to all people. 

Today we hear about Jesus’ baptism.  Jesus heads out into the wilderness, to for a baptism of repentance.  It is done, as Jesus says to fulfill all righteousness.  As Jesus comes up out of the water, the Spirit of God comes down…and we/they hear a voice from heaven saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  After this act of baptism, we hear that Jesus is named, claimed, and sent.  This baptism isn’t based on anything that Jesus had done up to that point or anything he hadn’t done.  This act was a gift of God. 

As we hear about this act we know that Jesus is God’s beloved child.
Jesus is claimed by God.
Jesus is sent into the world to proclaim this great love to all people. 

Kathleen Norris writes about Jesus baptism in this way, “that the incarnation (God becoming human) is not only about Jesus but about us: ….it demonstrates to us not only what God is like but also who God wishes us to be.”  (Kathleen Norris, The Word, Christian Century)

Let me say that again, “The incarnation is not only about Jesus but about us: … it demonstrates to us not only what God is like but also who God wishes us to be.” 

So, our baptism isn’t about us.
And Jesus’ baptism isn’t about him.

Both of these amazing acts of God’s love are not about the individual being baptized, but about a God of love and how God shows and shares that love in the world around us. 

Both baptisms are all about God and God’s gift to us as individuals and as a community of faith, as the Body of Christ. 

And so today is a day that invites us to remember the gift of baptism and how it has changed us and how it changes us for life in the world around us. 

What do you remember about your baptism? 
Do you have pictures that you’ve seen? 
What stories have you heard or do you tell about that day? 
I’m sure this has the potential to be a walk down memory lane with your families later and I encourage you to do so.  Bring out the photo albums, or look through memories on social media, and talk about that day with your kids, grandkids, parents or grandparents. 

As we remember our baptisms, we remember them right now, together as a community of faith, as the Body of Christ, proclaiming together that we are daughters and sons, children of God. 
We, as the body of Christ, are named.  We are claimed. 

And we are sent. 
We are sent to live among God’s faithful people,
We are sent to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper,
We are sent to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,
We are sent to serve all people, following the example of Jesus,
And we are sent to strive for justice and peace in all the earth! 

Yup, we are sent, to do all of the above…and then some. 

We don’t just hang out here after worship until worship rolls around next week, although there is often wonderful times of conversation and visitation after worship.  We leave here. 

Because, again, it’s not about us! 

I know, you are awesome. 
You are created in God’s image. 
You are loved more than you could possibly know. 
But the truth is, it’s not about you.   (womp womp)

It’s all about this great gift from God. 
It’s all about God’s love for you!
It’s all about God knowing you and who God created you be and who God continues to call you to be. 

It’s all about how this great gift of God calls us as individuals together to tell stories of God’s love as have experienced it in our own lives and how we know this love can transform the world through our words and actions. 

So, go from this place, (Well, not just yet, church isn’t over yet…)
But when you do, go…washed in these waters to proclaim the good news of God in Christ in all that you say, go serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and go…strive for justice and peace in all the earth! 

You got this! 

And now may the peace which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen. 

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Sugar Free January? Yup!

Happy New Year!  

Instead of kicking the year off with a New Year's Resolution that I will probably break by February, for the past several years I have been choosing one word to guide and shape my year.  Last year's word was growth (which I'll relfect upon in a later post).  
This year's word is: Intentional.  
I will be intentional in my focus in my faith life - through daily devotions and reflection time. 
I will be intentional about my relationships - marriage, family friends and my family of faith at Trinity.  
I will be intentional about my presence on social media - both the people and groups I follow as well as the posts and comments I share.
I will be intentional in working toward long term goals.  Some of these include finishing projects begun years ago while also giving time to learn new skills and spend more time writing (journaling/blogging).
I will be intentional about the care of my body.  I've been working with a coach for the past year and have seen growth in my fitness and running.  I would like to see that improve, so my diet (what I eat/how I fuel my body) will be an intentional focus this year.  
That last one being said, I'm part of a group that will be partaking in Sugar Free January.  
Yup, sugar free January.  
What that means for me is eliminating any added sugars from my diet for the next 30 days.  (I successfully made it through day one!)  
I will be avoiding baked goods, candy, hot chocolate, adding sugar to my coffee, and honey to my tea to name a few.  
I will be reading labels to see what products contain hidden sugars.  The one that almost stopped me in my tracks: bacon!  
Did you know that most bacon out there is processed with sugar?  I mean, I get it, when we make barbecue we often include sugar in the rub.  I guess I didn't put much thought into it after that.  Needless to say, there are a few brands that do not include sugar - it took an internet search (thanks, Billy) and a second grocery store to take care of it.  - Crisis averted! 
I'm sure there are challenges that will arise as the month progresses that will surprise me.  I do know that eating out and going to people's homes for meals will be the hardest.  But I will do my best to eat as sugar free as I can in those situations - no desserts, passing on processed salad dressing, and staying away from ketchups and barbecue sauces.  
Why share this publicly?  
A few reasons:  
One, to let family and friends know that I am making this change for this month.  I'm not doing it for attention or to draw others in (although Billy is along for the ride) but so people are aware of why I'm eating or not eating certain foods.  
Two, to let you all know that I am doing this with the guidance of a coach and a group of folks who are doing this as well.  
Three, to say that I am doing this because I know this is good for my body.  To be the best person, wife, friend, pastor and athlete I need to take care of this body I've been given.  Fueling it in a healthy way will help me care for my body and give it the good energy it needs.  
No doubt there will be some days when this challenge isn't perfect.  But overall, I'm committed to making a big change this month.  
Thankfully, 3 months ago I stopped putting sugar in my coffee.  That has become a daily practice that I don't even think about anymore.  (phew) Some other changes may prove to be more difficult, but I'm ready for them.  
Questions?  Let me know.  
Support?  Bring it on, I'll take it.  
Thanks for reading.
Blessings to you in the new year.  
+peace


Monday, December 30, 2019

1st Sunday of Christmas Sermon

December 29, 2019
First Sunday of Christmas
Isaiah 63:7-9
Psalm 148
Hebrews 2:10-18
Matthew 2:13-23

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.  

Merry Christmas!  

I’m not gonna lie, this gospel text, in the midst of the Christmas season is a tough one.  It’s hard to hear about the slaughter of the innocents when we are basking in the light of the word made flesh, the prince of peace come among us on a silent and holy night.  

Yet here it is.  

We enter into the birth story with a character that is not excited or hopeful about the birth of a savior.  This Herod is not excited about this birth because it will change the status quo.  And for Herod, the status quo is good, because it benefits him, so he wants to maintain it. 

While we hear of his actions and cringe, yet at the same time, we are almost immune to the same rage and death around us today.  It’s far too easy to fall into the status quo, a place we feel comfortable because any change would mean discomfort for ourselves.  

And so, on the fifth day of Christmas we hear this text and struggle with how it fits into the Christmas season.  

Yet this text, with its discomfort has something to say to us today.    
First, in this season of Christmas, it is okay and holy, even, to pause and reflect upon the evil that exists in the world around us.  That even though God sent Jesus into the world, there are times and places when evil prevails, and it is not of God’s doing, it is of our own doing through our sinfulness and brokenness.  So we need to continually have our eyes opened to stop and see the evil around us and how with God present in the world though the birth of Jesus, we are called to respond to the evil around us.  

Secondly, that we are continually called to put our trust not in humanity, or human rulers, but in God.  How we respond to evil at work in our world and the sadness, anger and death it causes, is our call as Christians.  We are called to speak hear the voices of those weeping and mourning.  We are called to acknowledge their pain and suffering.  And we are called to respond in God’s love and grace working for justice and peace in all the world.  

Our call is to respond not out of fear, but out of love, care and compassion for all of God’s children.  Our call is to see the presence of Christ in our midst – in the birth of a baby, in the feeding of our neighbors, in sharing space at a table with strangers, in a simple act of kindness to someone we don’t know.  

Our call is to respond out of love.  

Friends, we are coming to the end of a year that has been incredibly divisive.   Our culture has seen a shift that makes it okay to put down others for different beliefs, to pick on those who are different than we are and to almost be proud about acting this way.  Friends, this MUST stop.   These actions are not living out of God’s love.  They are examples of living out of fear.  Fear of being wrong, fear of letting others truly be themselves and fear of being vulnerable.  

Not to say that we cannot be fearful, but when we act out of that fear we do so only to protect ourselves and the way things are, just like Herod.  (Oh, that’s a tough pill to swallow, right?)  That it is far too easy to live out of fear to protect what we know and how we fit into the world as we know it because we do not know how to act if the world is different.  We truly become comfortable in the systems in which we find ourselves that we work to maintain those systems, even if they are oppressive to others.  So, the truth is, we all fall victim to sin in the world and in our lives.  

We are not trusting fully that God is at work in the world.  

Yet in those moments, when we respond out of love…amazing things can happen.  

When we respond out of the abundance of God’s love and grace in the world, the world changes.  

The week before Christmas I was finishing up my homebound visits with a trip to Elizabethtown.  I was thankful that Loretta Schneck called and asked if she could join me.  We spend the day together with a good visit with Claude.  Then we were warmly welcomed into the apartment of June Brossman with smiles and tears of joy over our visit.  She gifted us with stories and a small parting gift at the end of our visit.  We chatted as we drove and as we shared lunch.  As we parted ways in the church parking lot my heart was full – overflowing even.  

The parking lot was already filling up for food pantry distribution and as I entered the narthex, I received word that there was already some issues with a patron or two arriving early.  

I took a deep breath and shared my joy filled day with the pantry volunteers.  I encouraged the volunteers to remember the amazing generosity that would happen through the food distribution and that many, many families would be grateful and fed for Christmas.  I encouraged and hoped that the volunteers would shake off the frustration from one incident to see the overall good that would happen as the afternoon progressed.  

I was able to do this because I was living out of the joy and love that I had experienced that day.  I was in a place of gratitude and joy and I couldn’t help but to share it.  

Friends, how have you experienced God’s love and grace this Christmas?  
How have you seen and felt God’s love and peace around you?  
How will you let that peace and love and grace guide to you live your life?  

We are called to live out of this love. 

When we do, it is a game changer, not just for us, but for everyone around us.  

(At this point in the sermon I shared with folks that if looking over the last week or so they were struggling to find a moment or experience that allowed them to feel God's love, peace and presence that they should check out the Angel Tree.  This tree holds tags that people take prior to Christmas that list gift wishes for families in need.  As the gifts are distributed the families are invited to write notes of thanks and the tree is transformed into a Thankful Tree.  Of the three tags I read this weekend, this one tugged at my heartstrings the most: "Dear Santa, I love you.")  If you are local to Trinity, come check out this tree.  :)

We are called to live out of this love...and when we do, it's a game changer.  

In the midst of a broken world, where we struggle with violence, anger and hatred, God still calls us to be at work in the world: 
With a heart filled with love…
With words that express welcome and love… 
And with actions that show God’s presence here and now.  

And now may the peace which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.  

Monday, November 25, 2019

Christ the King


November 24, 2019
Christ the King

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 46
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

The alarm goes off.
You get out of bed.
As you are ready to take your first sip of hot coffee on a crisp fall morning you see your phone showing missed calls, multiple voicemails, urgent text messages and you take a deep breath and think, oh rats (although if you’re like me, you probably didn’t say rats)but you still think to yourself, “I have just woken up and the rest of the world is half a day (if not a whole day) ahead of me. Oh boy.”

Ever have one of those mornings?
One of those days? 

They happen, don’t they? 

It happened to me this week and when I arrived at pericope (our weekly clergy Bible study) I sat down and heard today’s gospel reading for the first time. 

Usually when attending I have already read through the text, looked into some commentaries and listened to a trusted podcast to prepare.  Yet with the pace of this week I had not yet done that.  And BAM! 
I’m hit with Jesus’ crucifixion. 

Maybe you thought that, too, as you listened to the reading today. 
We are getting ready for Advent…preparing for Christmas and Christ’s birth…why the crucifixion?  Did I fall asleep in November and wake up in April? 

It’s one of those passages that wakes us up, and reminds us that the Jesus – the messiah – is a king like no other.  Jesus – the messiah – rules through humble service, through teaching and healing, through turning the other check and by showing power by dying on a cross. 

This is one of those passages that wakes us up, and reminds us again and again, that the kingdom of God, the one in which Jesus reigns is NOT one that we expect to see in our world every day. 

We live in a world where power is treasured, and when you have power, the last thing you want to do is give it away or show weakness. 

In the world in which we live, it can be a struggle to recognize and follow a leader, a king, even, who leads and teaches as Jesus does. 

We gather together today and celebrate Christ the King Sunday.
“It is sometimes known as Reign of Christ Sunday and is a relatively recent holy day in the church calendar.  It was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in response to the increasing threat of the rise of fascism. 
Authoritarian leaders of fascist regimes were being lifted up as all powerful demigods, and the Roman Catholic Church created this holy day in an attempt to reclaim power for the church as opposed to the secular nation-state.” (disruptworship.com)

The reason we celebrate Christ as King is because throughout history, humankind has put more stakes in human rulers than Christ as our king. 

Let me say that again the reason we celebrate Christ as King is because throughout history, humankind, you and me included, has put more stakes in human rulers than Christ as our king. 

It’s nothing new.

Power, control and authority are lifted up in our world and it seems that when you have it, you grasp it and hold onto it, so no one else can have it.  In the case of worldly leaders this is often seen because they do not wish to show weakness or lack of knowledge or inexperience.  Yet, as Princess Leia so boldly said to the Governor Tarkin in Star Wars (A New Hope) “The more your tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”  Knowing that when power is held and gripped, it is not always maintained or kept in control. 

So here we are on Christ the King, wrestling with the image of Jesus as King. 
A king who walks with the sick, the oppressed and the untouchable. 
A king who speaks of love and peace, grace and forgiveness. 
A king who enters the city riding on a donkey.
A king whose crown is one of thorns.
A king who shows power by dying on a cross.

In a day and age when we struggle to seek power, to claim power and to know in whom we can and should put our trust, we need this King of Kings.  We need Jesus, this savior whose kingdom is going to transform the world as we know it. 

Because that’s the reality, this Jesus, this King, will reign in a way that we cannot comprehend in our world today, because he is flipping the world upside down.  Throughout the gospel of Luke we hear of Jesus’ kingdom as one that lifts up the lowly, puts the wealthy in their place and is one where Jesus continues to reach out to teach, touch and love the least of those in the communities through which he travels. 

Think of those who are cast aside in our world today.
Think of those who are not treated fairly, not welcomed in, not given the time of day, or respect or health care or a fair wage. 
These are the folks that Jesus is welcoming into the kingdom here and now. 

Yup.  Jesus is like, hey you, feeling lost, lonely, forgotten, come, sit with me. 
Hey you, have you been treated unfairly throughout history? 
Have you been hurt and neglected because of who you love or who God created and calls you to be? 
Have you been cast aside because people do not understand your mental illness? 
Come,
sit here,
with me
in the kingdom,
right now. 

Friends, that is what the reign of Christ looks like. 

Every so often we get glimpses of it. 

It creeps into our world, and reveals itself in a way that we do not expect it to and when it does it is holy and beautiful and sometimes causes us to say, NO WAY!  Because it is a place of love and welcome, grace and forgiveness that does not fit into the structure of the world as we know it. 

When I was serving a congregation in Indiana, I was not always able to make it home to New England for Thanksgiving.  One year I drove up to Chicago to spend a few days with my friend Casey from high school.  He and his partner hosted an orphan Thanksgiving. 
The turkey brined overnight on the porch, Casey, Ira and I stayed up late on Wednesday peeling apples, making pies, watching Food Network videos on how to properly truss a turkey, and fit as many chairs around their extended kitchen table as we could. 

As Thanksgiving afternoon approached, the apartment was filled with friends, food, laughter, some bubbly drinks and warmth. 

We sat around the table ready to eat, and I was the one asked to say the prayer.  I was ‘the’ pray-er.  I remember blessing our gathering, the people around the table which included people of the Jewish faith, people who did not believe in God, people in partnered relationships, people who had no family, and our hosts who opened their apartment to us all, no questions asked. 

I prayed for the food, the friends, the overflowing glasses (to which one person chimed in – she means the drinks! and I said, you bet I do!) we all chuckled and were thankful to be together, to be fed and to just be ourselves. 

That, to me, was one of those kingdom moments.  The motley crew gathered around that table…Jesus was there.  Joining us in the toast and the feast. 

And here’s the thing, it happened without all of us knowing it would.
It happened in spite of a wild mix of people each accepting invitations on their own.

The kingdom of God is meant to transform the world.
Jesus, our king, is transforming our world.

Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus has made a place for you….at this table with a feast of bread and wine - the body and blood of Christ.  

Led by Jesus’ model of welcome, grace, peace and love, may we be so bold and empowered to seek spaces and places to model that welcome, grace, peace and love this day and all days.  

And now may the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.