Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Sermon from this past weekend.

January 15, 2017
2nd Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-11
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

Since we don't read the Psalm each week, I read this before the sermon. (Psalm 40)
I waited patiently for the Lord;
   he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
   out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
   making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
   a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
   and put their trust in the Lord. 

Happy are those who make
   the Lord their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
   to those who go astray after false gods.
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
   your wondrous deeds and your thoughts towards us;
   none can compare with you.
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
   they would be more than can be counted. 

Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
   but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt-offering and sin-offering
   you have not required.
Then I said, ‘Here I am;
   in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do your will, O my God;
   your law is within my heart.’ 

I have told the glad news of deliverance
   in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
   as you know, O Lord.
I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
   I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
   from the great congregation. 

Do not, O Lord, withhold
   your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
   keep me safe for ever.

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. 

Six years ago on a Friday evening my ministry in this place began.  Surrounded by 30-ish youth and many adult chaperones we were given final directions on how to get to the Hilton in Harrisburg for the Harrisburg YouthQuake.  I jumped right in and have been loving it here ever since. 

Each year following that first year I’ve enjoyed attending the quake.  Well except for last year with that 30+ inches of snow…it was good that we stayed home. 

One year the keynote speaker was Tiger McLuen.  They youth enjoyed his larger group presentations and the adult chaperones were able to attend two adult leader sessions with him as well.  My one big take-away from the adult session was this.  As he talked about youth ministry he said, number one: It’s all about you.  Talking with the adults he said you need to be a person to whom and with whom the youth can relate, you need to be accessible, open, understanding and honest.  We thought, okay we’ve got this.  We understand, it’s all about us. 

And then he said and number two:  It’s not about you. 
A few of us thought, huh?  But he continued to explain…as soon as you have their attention, trust, relationship, you immediately get out of the way and point to Christ.  And we all went, oh….that totally makes sense. 

Hey, look at me, look at me!!! Now, look there! (at the cross) 

You ebb and flow between the two (it’s all about me….it’s not about me) and while relationships deepen, you continue to point to the cross and to Christ. 

And that…is the same thing that John does in our gospel lesson today.  John has been out and about baptizing and calling people to repentance, in preparation for the coming of Christ – look at me, he says, look at me!  This is my message to you…and then John has their attention and he says, look – here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Look, here comes Christ.  Look….this is the one you have been waiting for and preparing for…not me…but him. 

For us today, we are still seeking that savior…the one who takes away the sin of the world, the one who has experienced our joys and our pains and continues to be there for us no matter what and the good new is: The messiah has come! 

And the even better news is:  It’s not you! 


Am I right?  We look at the people in our world around us, looking for the one who will save us…well that person has already come…in Christ. 

God is present with us here and now through the gift of the Son, Jesus Christ, the Messiah…the savior. 

Does that mean the life will be smooth sailing? Oh, heavens no.  We will continue to live our lives in a broken world, one where we struggle with death and dying.  A world where we struggle to feed the hungry, care for our neighbor and work for peace and justice for all the world.  A world where we struggle and argue with others about the state of our environment and the state of our nation.  A world where we seem to speak more than we listen. 

Yet in the midst of it all…God is with us. 
We are reminded of that in the word of our psalm for today.  
“I waited patiently for the Lord;
   he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
   out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
   making my steps secure.”

Upon reflecting on this psalm, a colleague wrote, “God is present with us in the pit and has the power to draw us out, but a life of discipleship requires turning right back around and entering the pit once again, in the name of preaching good news to those still held captive within it.” 

God is with us, especially when we are most in need of a savior.  And we, then, turn and return to the depths or the pit where others may be to proclaim that good news, that they too have been saved, that they too are free from sin and death to love and serve their neighbor.  Because in essence that is what we continue to do for one another.  Someone drags us out of the pit…and we are able to be there to lift up others….the cycle is cyclical….I wish we could be pulled out of that pit once and be good to go…but we return to that place sometimes through fear, sometimes through doubt, sometimes through loss and sometimes because we have lost all hope. 

But the truth is this: Our present hope stands on the solid foundations of the past, saving acts of God. 

Look as we might, to the world around us for a hope for the future…our present hope stands on the solid foundation of the past, saving acts of God. 

Whatever the future may bring, we look to it, knowing all that God has done for us in the past, knowing that God is here with us now and that God will continue to be with us in to the future.  May we, go forward, knowing what God has done in the past, proclaim that good news…and point to the cross so that others may see and know the presence of God and the hope in Christ Jesus. 

Let us pray,
O God,
None can compare with you, for your wondrous deeds for our salvation are without number. 

Make us bold witnesses to your faithfulness that all the earth may rejoice in your love toward us in Jesus Christ our Redeemer.  And let all God’s people say, amen.  

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