Saturday, December 5, 2015

God uses Nobodies

Luke 1:68-79; Luke 3:1-6

The focus of today’s readings is John the Baptist. We read about him next week, too. Unfortunately, we don’t get the beginning of his story, other than the reading from Luke that serves as the Psalm.
So. Let’s start at the beginning, with John’s father, Zechariah. One day he was serving as a priest in the temple, and the angel Gabriel told him he was going to be a father. He was to call the baby John. Zechariah said, “Say what?”. Gabriel said, “Because of your doubt, you will not speak until the baby is born.”
We can only imagine the scene at home when Zechariah told Elizabeth they were going to have a baby. Fast forward nine months to the day the baby is circumcised and named. People at the party suggest several names, but Zechariah asks for a tablet and writes that the baby is to be called John. He suddenly has his voice back and sings a song, which says that John has been anointed by God for a special purpose, to announce the coming of Jesus, the Savior.
Fast forward again and we find John living in the wilderness, calling for people to repent, change their lives, and get ready for the Savior. When the Savior comes, the world will change. Just imagine, he says, not having to climb mountain after mountain to get from one place to another. Imagine, he says, not having ruts and rocks in the road you are travelling. Imagine, he says, that the roads of your life can be much straighter. That’s what it will be like when the Savior comes. So, repent, and be baptized, and get ready!
Luke tells this story by anchoring it in a particular time and place. Scholars have since determined that some of his facts are not quite facts, the dates and people are not exactly as he has written them. But, Luke’s insistence on setting the arrival of John and Jesus at particular times and places helps readers understand that the story he is telling is true.
In those days, there was no BC and AD. Time was marked by the accession to the throne of kings and other leaders. In that time, Tiberius, Pilate, Herod, Annas, and Caiaphas were in charge. These are all famous people. They are Somebodies!
What on earth are the names of Zechariah and Elizabeth and John doing in the same list with all the rich and famous folks? They are otherwise Nobodies, until the events of God’s plan change everything. It would be like saying, In the seventh year of the presidency of Barak Obama, the governorship of Rick Scott, the leadership of Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and Synod Bishop Robert Schafer, and the Pastorate of Lynn Fonfara, the word of the Lord came to the people of Hope Lutheran Church in Citrus Springs, Florida. We’re not even in Tampa or Orlando or Tallahassee. We’re in unincorporated Citrus County. Our average worship attendance hovers around 50-60. We’re nobody important, in no place important.
Yet, we are all important, and our place is important, because we are children of God, in the world God created. And the Word of the Lord has come and will continue to come to each of us, making us all somebodies.
We have a tendency to believe we are unimportant, that end to believe that we have few gifts and skills, that we are nobodies in comparison with everyone else. We tare insignificant in the eyes of those who seem to us to matter more. Yet, Jesus assures us that the least of us is important, valuable, in his eyes, and he knows every single one of us.
Carmen works with homeless people every day. One day she was in a fast food restaurant. She noticed a homeless woman asking patrons if she could have the food they would throw away. No one was willing to share with her, even though they were not going to eat what was left.
When the woman approached Carmen, she willingly gave the woman a chicken strip and a few fries. Then she thought, “This woman is still hungry. She deserves a hot meal.” Carmen ordered a meal for the woman; when the woman received her meal, she hugged Carmen and cried, sobbing out her misery and her gratitude. “That hug she gave me was like a hug I had never felt… those tears she shed were felt deep in my heart. I held her tight and let her let it out. I wasn’t repulsed by it. I just held her. And that is a moment I will never ever forget. So next time you judge a homeless person, think twice… not all of them are homeless because of a drug addiction or because they are lazy.” Homeless people are Somebodies in God’s eyes.
For over a month, I have carried a $20 bill in my wallet. It was given to me for a special purpose, and I can’t seem to remember to take it out of my wallet to give it away. When Mike and I were in New Mexico, we worshiped in a Lutheran church. The pastor asked us to introduce ourselves, and I mentioned that one thing we are proud of as a congregation is that we have a goal of 250 shoeboxes this year. As worship ended and we were leaving the building, I felt something as someone shook my hand. She said, “For the shoeboxes.” I tucked it into my pocket, to look at later. It was a $20 bill. So, Carole, here’s $20 for next year’s shoeboxes. At the same time, I hesitate to give this money away, because it has been a reminder that somebody cared enough about our project to be so generous.
Yesterday I spent two hours ringing a bell outside Walmart for the Salvation Army. It amazed me how many people refused to look at me, or didn’t even see me. To them, I, and the people the Salvation Army helps, are invisible, unimportant, Nobodies. I was also touched by the many folks who said they put money in every bucket, and by the mothers of young children who were careful to teach their children to give. To them, I, and the needy folks around us, are all Somebodies, worthy of their notice and gifts.
We are always God’s Somebodies. We are always God’s beloved children, saved by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. And, every day, we get the chance to be somebody for someone else. We get to hug a child. We get to feed hungry people. We get to buy items for shoeboxes. We get to make cookies for parties. We get to give to this church to support our ministries. We get to buy Christmas gifts for a needy family. We get to visit homebound and sick people. We get to greet the Salvation Army Bell ringers as if they are Somebodies, and put a dollar or two in their kettles.
We get to help other people know that they are Somebodies, in our eyes and in God’s eyes.

Please pray with me. Jesus, in our lives, you are definitely Somebody. We thank you for making us Somebodies, too. Guide us daily to be Somebody for Somebody else. Amen