Monday, November 28, 2016

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Here is my sermon from Sunday. The text was Matthew 24:36-44:

Every year around this time we hear from a certain segment of the news media about a war on Christmas, and how come stores won’t say Merry Christmas. That entire argument misses the point entirely because there is not a war on Christmas. There is a war on Advent, the time of preparation. Christmas does not begin until December 25 and then runs for 12 days, so just when we should begin to say Merry Christmas is the very time in which Christmas is taken down and put away in a box until next year.  If we want to talk about a war on Christmas let’s get serious and talk about returning to the 12 days of Christmas that start on Christmas day, not the 30 or so days before Christmas even arrives. And the last piece is that this year Christmas falls on a Sunday, and we will be holding a worship service, and here is my rule, if you are not in worship on Christmas Day, either here or some other church where you are, then you never get to say “Let’s keep Christ in Christmas” ever again. There is not a war on Christmas there is a war on Advent the time of preparation to get ready for the coming of Christmas. To get ready for welcoming the Christ child into our lives once again. A time to get ready to welcome Jesus into the world, and to recognize, as we have talked about for the past few weeks, that Christ is here and yet Christ is not yet here as well. He has come and he has yet to come.

Now I do have to confess my own hypocrisy here and that is that I start listening to Christmas music before Halloween even arrives, and as soon as Linda will allow me to put up Christmas decorations they are going up, so I have my own personal war with advent. But that has never stopped me from simultaneously emphasizing the importance of Advent, as a time of preparation, a time of slowing down and appreciating and also a time of expectancy and of desire. And so, we are going to spend the next few weeks trying to do that, and approaching this season, both of Advent and Christmas, by looking at some of the most famous songs of the season, what they mean and why they matter for our faith, and we start with the hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Christ the King

Here is my sermon from Sunday. The text is John 18:33-37:

Today is Christ the King Sunday, the day that we celebrate and proclaim Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. It also represents the end of the Christian year, so happy New Year, as next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, and we begin to prepare the way, again, for the coming of the Christ child. Today sort of encapsulates one of the things that at the heart of our faith, and that is the dichotomy of things that we have to hold in tension, such as loving God with our head and with our heart, which can be opposite of each other. But the other and more important one is holding the tension between this Sunday and next Sunday, that is that Christ has already come, that Christ is already here, and that Christ has yet to come. Or as we say in the communion liturgy, Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. We pledge our allegiance to God who is with us, and cry out Maranatha, which means “Come, Lord Jesus.” But today, we celebrate Christ with us as our King, which concludes the series we have been doing on who Jesus is by looking at the three offices that he is said to hold, which are prophet, priest and King.

All three of these offices are historic positions found in the Hebrew Scriptures, and all of them had huge expectations for someone in each of these positions who would come to introduce, or bring about, the completion of creation, the fulfilment of the law, and the reign, or kingdom of God. When we talked about Jesus as prophet, we talked about the expectation that there would be a great prophet to rise up like Moses or Elijah, but this person would not be just any prophet, or just a prophet, but instead would be the prophet, the one who would fulfill prophecy and be the last prophet. It is clear that those who knew Jesus viewed him as a prophet, but in light of the resurrection it is this role as the prophet that the disciples and the early church claimed for Jesus.  And so in light of that, we should see everything that Jesus says and also what Jesus does as a prophetic witness, as the words of God come to us and to be treated with the seriousness that entails. Seeing Jesus as prophet, or even thinking of Jesus as the prophet is probably the least known and talked about aspects of Jesus’ three roles.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Jesus as Priest

Here is my sermon from Sunday. The text was Hebrews 7:11-28:

Historically, there have been three offices, or roles, that have been given to Jesus, and they are prophet, priest and king. There are three ways in which to understand Jesus, his ministry and his relation with us as disciples. They are also historic roles that act as a continuation of God’s work as found in the Hebrew scripture, but also reestablished and given new meaning because of Christ. Last week we looked at Jesus as a prophet, and if you missed that message I would encourage you to go and watch it. Today we look at the second office and that is Jesus as priest, but not just any priest, but as the High Priest. The role of priest is also one of the historic roles that was found in ancient Israel. In the stories of the patriarchs, the priestly roles were undertaken by the male head of the family, whether Abraham, Isaac or Jacob. They acted as intermediaries between God and their families, which is the historic role of priest: an intermediary an intercessor.

As the society got larger and more complex, the need for this mediator to be moved outside of the family to a centralized leader to provide greater continuity became more important. We can begin to see this in Moses himself as the people tell him, in one of my favorite passages, “We don’t like it when God talks directly to us, so tell God to stop doing that, and instead you talk to God and then tell us what God says.” This could be what we see as the beginning of prophecy in scripture, one person speaking for God, but it is also the beginning of someone acting as a clear mediator between God and the people, although it will be through Moses brother Aaron, who is the first priest of the Israelites, and then through the tribe of Levi, who become the priestly class, that the priesthood truly comes into its own as a separate occupation. But, it should be noted that these are still people who are called into their role by God, like the story we hear in 1 Samuel of Samuel himself being called by God to become a priest, even though he had already been given over by his parents to Eli to serve as a priest.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Jesus the Prophet

Here is my sermon from Sunday. The text was Luke 4:14-24:

Today we begin a new sermon series that will take us through the next three weeks seeking to answer the question who is Jesus? We are doing this because I received several questions about Jesus when I asked for recommendations for sermon topics, but my caveat is that I am not going to be able to entirely encapsulate who Jesus is in only three weeks. In fact, it might be said that every single worship service we are seeking to understand a different element of Jesus and who he is for us, what he means for us, and how we are to live differently because of that. But I decided to try and tackle answering the question of who is Jesus by looking at the three different offices, or roles, that Jesus is said to hold, and those are prophet, priest and king. These are historic roles that have been assigned to Christ going all the way back to the earliest days of the church as they sought to understand Jesus and to give some context to his ministry and message. This is not about Jesus’ nature, but about his functions, and these are not hard and fast offices as there is overlap between the three, but we are going to take each office in kind and today we are going to look at Jesus as prophet.

Now of the three offices, prophet is probably the one that is least covered and perhaps even the least understood. Rev. Richard Rohr, is a Franciscan priest who although known around the world lives here in Albuquerque, says that he has seen lots of statues and stained glass to Christ the King and even Christ the Priest, as well as accompanying celebrations, and we will celebrate Christ the King Sunday, which is the last Sunday of the Christian year before Advent begins, in three weeks. But, he said, he has never seen a celebration or a statue or a stained-glass window to Christ the Prophet, and that, he says, means something’s out of balance. This was even true of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism who, although he said that his preachers should preach Jesus in all his offices, prophet, priest and King, but actually said very little about Jesus as a Prophet. But when we don’t see Jesus as a prophet, it means not only are we not hearing Jesus’ words, or understanding his message with the weight of prophecy, but it also means that we are missing an extremely crucial piece of information about how the early church understood Jesus and his ministry, which was as that of a prophet, but not just any prophet, but of the prophet, and I’ll explain what that means in just a moment.