Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sharing the story

Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 1:46b-55; Matthew 11:2-11

The coming of Jesus changed the world, forever. Isaiah described a new world. So did Mary. The world they describe is one of peace, of a balance within nature, of balanced power among humanity. God’s mercy brings happiness and joy.  Instead of a military revolution, the coming of the messiah was – and is -- intended to usher in a time of peace and harmony. Mary and Isaiah both shared the story, so we know it today.  
Last week John the Baptist was predicting destruction for all who did not repent and follow Jesus. His was a swashbuckler approach to faith. Repent or die, is what John threatened. Jesus’ message of healing, acceptance and forgiveness is not at all what John proclaimed.
In today’s reading, John is wondering if he may have been wrong. He has been hearing about Jesus, while he, John, is in Herod’s prison. So, he sends a disciple to Jesus. “Tell me, are you the one who was promised, or are we to wait for someone else?”
Jesus does not answer the question directly. Instead, he asks another question. What do you see? Then he calls attention to what he has been doing.
I asked the Confirmation class to assist with the message today, to help visualize what Jesus is talking about. … Jesus says to John:
The lame walk (wheelchair) D
The blind see (blindfold) K
The deaf hear (pin drop) E
Those with skin diseases have clean skin (bandage) S
The dead are raised (no props needed) J

Can you imagine what it would have been like in those days? It was a time of very simple medical skills and herbal medicines. Disease and disability were caused by superstition, sin, and demons. Fake healers abounded. They might bring about some temporary relief, but the problem would return. When Jesus healed people, they were really healed.
And they shared their story, so more people could hear about Jesus and perhaps be healed as well. The stories were shared, and shared, and shared. It was through the sharing of these stories that the new of Jesus as the messiah spread around the world.  In today’s language, the stories went viral, like in internet video.
Westjet Airlines uses fun videos to get the message about their company across to current and potential customers. This year’s video has gone viral, with over 23 million views so far, since the video first aired a few days ago That means over 23 million people have seen the video. In November, the 200 or so passengers on a flight had an opportunity to tell a video Santa what they wanted for Christmas. They scanned their boarding pass so the crew behind the scenes knew who each passenger was.
Some folks said they wanted something simple, like socks or a tie. Others mentioned video games, specific toys, a new cell phone. One man said he wanted a new wide screen TV. At the destination airport, a crew was taking notes and went shopping. They wrapped the packages, got them through security, and on the luggage belt just as the passengers were arriving. A team of blue suited Santa’s helpers greeted them with a “merry Christmas” as they opened their gifts. Some people were in tears as they saw what “Santa” had given them.
In producing this video, they did a great kindness for a handful of people. They helped children and doubters believe in Santa Claus. They brought joy and peace to about 200 people, and through the video to millions of people around the world as one person shares it with their friends, and their friends share it with their friends, and so on. This marketing plan spread the news about the company a lot faster and with a lot less expense than a TV commercial.
You and I can do the same thing with our relationship with Jesus. We know he is our messiah, our God. We all have stories about how he has been present in our lives in difficult times. We all have stories about healings that seem impossible. We all have stories about the kindness of strangers who helped us. And we all have stories about how we have helped those in need.
For example, we can share the story of our angel tree. We are Santa to two families this year. The delight we see on the faces, the hugs we get, as the parents pick up the gifts for their children is all the thanks I need to keep me shopping again next year. The older children know what we do for them, and remember that we believe in Jesus, so they believe in him, too.
We can share the story of SOS, the food pantry. The hundred or more people who receive food each week at the food pantry know that without our help they would go hungry. They know it is because of Jesus that we give what we give.
We can share the story of how Hope likes to gather for a meal, for a concert, for a few games of Bingo, for an auction, and how we love a great party in Jesus’ honor.
We can share the story of how many shoeboxes our little congregation puts together each year, to the delight of children around the world.
We can share the story of how well we welcome visitors. Lots of congregations say they are welcoming. Ours usually outdoes others in the hospitality department. Our visitors tell me so!
We can share the stories about how our widows and widowers help and support each other with caring words, with invitations to a meal, with making sure they feel included and useful despite their new single status.
We can share the stories about what our money does. When we contribute to our congregation, to our synod, to the ELCA, to Lutheran World Relief, we help Jesus heal people around the world. We help the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, and those with skin diseases have clean skin. We spread the good news that the dead will be raised to new life through our various ministries in the US and around the world.
When we share these stories with our friends, we help the good news of Jesus spread like a video virus. All it takes is for us to open our mouths and hearts and tell the stories of what Jesus is doing in our lives and at Hope.
This week, look for an opportunity to tell a story about what Jesus is doing in your life and at Hope. Don’t be afraid; trust in the Holy Spirit to put the right words in your mouth and in the listener’s ears and heart.
Please pray with me. Jesus, our Messiah and our God, we are so grateful for your presence in our lives. Help us to tell your stories, and to tell our stories, so those who need to hear them can know you, too. Amen