Weekly sermons based on the Revised Common Lectionary, with the intent of helping all find hope.
Sunday, December 15, 2019
reading could be confusing to us. Why, we wonder, is John asking Jesus if Jesus
is really the one he was expecting? It is easy to forget that we are reading
Matthew’s version of Jesus’ story, not Luke’s or John’s. In Matthew’s version, Jesus
and John do not know each other as cousins. In Matthew’s version, John does not
point to Jesus and tell his disciples that Jesus is the Lamb of God.
No, this is
Matthew’s version, where John is reluctant to baptize Jesus, whom he has never
met before. This is Matthew’s version where John and Jesus are sort of competing
for followers. John thinks there is something special about Jesus, but he is
not sure. John seems surprised that Jesus does not yet have an army preparing
to go into battle against the Romans. John seems surprised that Jesus is not like
him, loudly expressing anger at the way things are. But John is aware enough of
scripture to wonder if Jesus is the expected Messiah that John has been promising
to the crowds.
At this moment,
John is in King Herod’s prison for daring to accuse Herod and his wife Herodias
of having a sinful relationship. Herod is fearful that if he kills John, the
crowds will protest. So, he has kept him alive, but soon, Herodias will arrange
for John to be executed.
While John waits
in prison for the death he knows is coming, he sends a few of his followers to
Jesus to ask: “Hey, Jesus, are you the one who has been promised? Or is there
Jesus does not
answer the question directly, but instead invites John to look at the facts. Jesus
says, “Go and tell John that just as God promised through Isaiah, people who
were blind have now received their sight, people who were lame are now walking, people
with skin diseases have been healed, people who were deaf can now hear.”
Jesus is sending
the message to John that these and many other signs demonstrate that Jesus is indeed
bringing God’s ancient promises into being. This is good news to all people,
especially to poor people who have so little good news in their lives.
returned to John and Jesus praises John for his ministry of proclamation. John is indeed the messenger who is preparing the way for the Messiah. While Jesus
does not specifically state here that he is the Messiah, most people in the
crowd believe it is true. Some are excited at the news, and some are fearful. We
know the end for Jesus is the cross, and we also know that the story does not end with the
… Jesus has just
told John’s disciples to “Go and tell John what I have said.” At the end of
Matthew’s story about Jesus, he tells the disciples to “Go and tell” the world
the good news. 19 Go to the people of all
nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20 and teach them to do
everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of
descendants of those first disciples, we, too, are sent into the world to “Go
and tell” the good news. Mostly, we tell the good news to those who
already know it. And our tongues refuse to utter the story to someone we
don’t know well.
What if we look
at this challenge to "go and tell" the way Jesus does? What if we give witness to
what is happening right before our eyes? There are so many good things that are
happening in Jesus’ name, or at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Let’s consider
The ELCA and other denominations and organizations have been encouraging us
to include people who have traditionally been excluded. I recently saw an
advertisement for some Christmas ornaments that celebrate inclusion. The
ornaments declare that You Belong!
Belong" message is expressed in sign language and braille (just an image, not
raised bumps) images, as well as four ethnic-specific languages, and includes
an image of the LGBTQ ribbon to represent the ELCA's call for total inclusion
of all of God's people as members of the body of Christ.
Isn’t it true that having Lori as our
intern pastor is a sign of this movement of inclusion? Don’t we all smile when Riley
and Eve imitate their mother and father, either leading worship or helping the
congregation understand what is being spoken?
sometimes constantly, for ill and dying loved ones. Recently Kevin, the son of a
friend, has been in the hospital and undergone numerous surgeries. He has been
at death’s door several times. Each time the friend posts a “Please pray”
request on Facebook, there are about 100 people who respond that they are
praying, and countless more that don’t use Facebook. That Kevin is still alive
is due to the skill and persistence of his medical team, and to the prayers
that support him and his family.
Last week the Church
Library, otherwise known as Lori’s Office, was full of gifts for needy children
and their parents and guardians. This was the fulfillment of the promise of the
Angel Tree to provide Christmas for families who could not afford gifts. Why
did this happen? Because we love giving gifts in Jesus’ name.
Jesus promised that lame people would walk, deaf people
would hear, blind people would see. Because of the inspiration of the Holy
Spirit, scientific studies, and the persistent work of many inventors:
There are hearing
aids and cochlear implants to help some deaf people hear.
artificial limbs to help many people with missing arms and legs walk and reach things.
And there are great strides in
helping some blind people see, with the use of technology. Perhaps the Star
Trek dream of Geordi LaForge will someday be a reality.
There are generous
people like us who preach good news to the poor by sharing Christmas with them
year around, by feeding them with bags of food, with household supplies, and
basic hygiene items.
The way today’s
disciples can “go and tell” the story of Jesus is by sharing what is happening
at St Matthew’s Lutheran Church, in the church at large, and inspired by the
Spirit in the scientific and medical world.
One of my
favorite Christmas songs is Go Tell It on the Mountain, because the shepherds do
just that. They go and tell everyone, everywhere, that Jesus Christ is born.
It is now up to us to:
Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is God-with-skin-on. Because of Jesus, we can trust that God knows what it is like to be human.
tell it on the mountain that the tomb is empty, and that means anything is possible.
Go tell it on the mountain that
deaf people hear, that blind people see, that lame people walk, and that poor
people hear good news, because God's Spirit inspires people to bring healing and wholeness into the world.
The Gospel, the
Good News, is not ours to keep to ourselves. Our faith in Jesus is meant to be
good news for all people.