Archive for January 2012

You Gotta Be Kidding?!?

January 28, 2012

Luke 1:26-38
26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Advent4 / 12-18-11 / John Stiles / Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Children’s Time: Show a recent knitting project. I got all the way through the pattern and found out I had to do it all over again – four times! – for the blanket to be finished! You know what I said? “You gotta be kidding!” Some things take time to get it right.  Ask for things they are impatient for… Talk about how Mary had to trust God when she had the baby Jesus.  Let’s pray and ask God for patience when we get anxious and trust God will see us through.

Intro: Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

“You gotta be kidding!” Don’t you wish Mary would’ve said something like that? I suppose her words: “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” are as close as we get to that kind of shock and surprise! You want me to do what???

“Well, first off, you’re going to have a baby. And, he’s going to be a king. In fact, his kingdom will have no end. Oh, and don’t bother picking out names. That’s already been taken care of. I know you had your heart set on Jehosephat, but his name shall be “Jesus.” It kind of has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? It means ‘savior.’

Somewhere in between her “How can this be?” and her “Let it be according to your word.” there is a soul struggling to find her way. “Be not afraid,” the angel Gabriel had said to her. Really? She was at risk, now, of being stoned to death for infidelity. Her pregnancy would bring shame to Joseph. At best she’d be dismissed privately, or shunned from the community.

Have you had moments like that? Where you’re not sure whether you can take this news that is being shared with you?

We’re refinancing our home mortgage. The interest rates are at an all-time low. We figured, why not? Maybe negotiate a lower monthly payment. What we weren’t prepared for was finding out just what our home is worth – and it’s a lot less than what we paid for it in 2006!

You can call it whatever you want: negative equity, upside down mortgage, underwater loans… it still means the same thing. The housing values from 6 years ago have vanished, leaving most Americans in homes worth less than they paid for them.

It’s enough to make you want to buy a tent and occupy Minnesota! How fragile are the economies we build our lives upon! Is there anything certain these days? Any real sound investment?

In our first lesson for this morning, King David had the perfect gift in mind for the Lord: a house of cedar. After all, now that he was at peace with his enemies, living in a brand new home, why shouldn’t God have an upgrade? No more tent for the Ark of the Covenant… let’s build a temple – a house of cedar for the Lord!

Nathan (the court prophet) says, “Go ahead. Do all that you have in mind. God is with you.” But later, God says to Nathan, “Not so fast! Did I ever ask for a house of cedar?” Ever since I brought your people by the hand out of the land of Egypt, I have been with you. Did I need a house back then? Nope. You go and tell David this: I will build you a house that will stand forever (here’s where the Lord gets all mysterious). “Your throne shall be established forever,” he says unto David.

Now, thousands of years later, those tents and temples have long since fallen. But the son of David, whom we call Jesus, still reigns in the hearts and minds of believers all around the world. This throne has prevailed.

I was talking with Pastor Ivy Borgstrom this week, from St. Mark’s Lutheran in North St. Paul. She said that they are doing Confirmation interviews with the youth who are getting ready to be confirmed. And she tells them that all these years in confirmation have been a slab of concrete – learning about the Lord’s Prayer the 10 Commandments, the Bible and the sacraments has all been the foundation: “Now, what sort of house will you build upon it?” I love that image of getting confirmed with nothing to show for it except a bare slab of concrete.

But, oh how important that clean slab is to a sturdy home! Ask any contractor about footings and proper landscaping in the overall construction of a home and you’ll see. You just can’t build to last until the foundation is in place.

The foundation David built upon was simply this: he was lowly and humble of heart. As were his predecessors Abraham and Moses and those who would come after him: Mary and Jesus.

David was out following sheep through the pasture when Samuel came to his house to choose a king. His father, Jesse, didn’t even bother bringing him in for the lineup. Surely, one of his older brothers would be the one. But the prophet, Samuel, passes by them all. “Are there no other sons?” he asks Jesse. “Only the youngest, but he is out tending the sheep.” “Bring him in,” says Samuel. And immediately the Lord commands Samuel to pour the oil of anointing over David’s ruddy little head, “Behold the king of Israel!” (“I do hope you know what you’re doing, Lord!” he probably muttered under his breath)

Mary was a nobody. She was marrying into Jesus’ family tree (through Joseph). But in her humility God saw all that was needed: a willing heart and faith to see it through those 9 months and all the years to come.

No one wants the baby to come early – as much as we anticipate that birth – it takes time to get it right.

The same is true in our lives of faith. We wouldn’t want it any other way. When you are lured by the world to rush things – to demand instant gratification – step back and let Mary speak. “Let it be born in us.”

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You gotta be kidding?!!

January 3, 2012

Advent4 / 12-18-11 / John Stiles / Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Luke 1:26-38
26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

“You gotta be kidding!” Don’t you wish Mary would’ve said something like that? I suppose her words: “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” are as close as we get to that kind of shock and surprise! You want me to do what???

“Well, first off, you’re going to have a baby. And, he’s going to be a king. In fact, his kingdom will have no end. Oh, and don’t bother picking out names. That’s already been taken care of. I know you had your heart set on Jehosephat, but his name shall be “Jesus.” It kind of has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? It means ‘savior.’

Somewhere in between her “How can this be?” and her “Let it be according to your word.” there is a soul struggling to find her way. “Be not afraid,” the angel Gabriel had said to her. Really? She was at risk, now, of being stoned to death for infidelity. Her pregnancy would bring shame to Joseph. At best she’d be dismissed privately, or shunned from the community.

Have you had moments like that? Where you’re not sure whether you can take this news that is being shared with you?

We’re refinancing our home mortgage. The interest rates are at an all-time low. We figured, why not? Maybe negotiate a lower monthly payment. What we weren’t prepared for was finding out just what our home is worth – and it’s a lot less than what we paid for it in 2006!

You can call it whatever you want: negative equity, upside down mortgage, underwater loans… it still means the same thing. The housing values from 6 years ago have vanished, leaving most Americans in homes worth less than they paid for them.

It’s enough to make you want to buy a tent and occupy Minnesota! How fragile are the economies we build our lives upon! Is there anything certain these days? Any real sound investment?

In our first lesson for this morning, King David had the perfect gift in mind for the Lord: a house of cedar. After all, now that he was at peace with his enemies, living in a brand new home, why shouldn’t God have an upgrade? No more tent for the Ark of the Covenant… let’s build a temple – a house of cedar for the Lord!

Nathan (the court prophet) says, “Go ahead. Do all that you have in mind. God is with you.” But later, God says to Nathan, “Not so fast! Did I ever ask for a house of cedar?” Ever since I brought your people by the hand out of the land of Egypt, I have been with you. Did I need a house back then? Nope. You go and tell David this: I will build you a house that will stand forever (here’s where the Lord gets all mysterious). “Your throne shall be established forever,” he says unto David.

Now, thousands of years later, those tents and temples have long since fallen. But the son of David, whom we call Jesus, still reigns in the hearts and minds of believers all around the world. This throne has prevailed.

I was talking with Pastor Ivy Borgstrom this week, from St. Mark’s Lutheran in North St. Paul. She said that they are doing Confirmation interviews with the youth who are getting ready to be confirmed. And she tells them that all these years in confirmation have been a slab of concrete – learning about the Lord’s Prayer the 10 Commandments, the Bible and the sacraments has all been the foundation: “Now, what sort of house will you build upon it?” I love that image of getting confirmed with nothing to show for it except a bare slab of concrete.

But, oh how important that clean slab is to a sturdy home! Ask any contractor about footings and proper landscaping in the overall construction of a home and you’ll see. You just can’t build to last until the foundation is in place.

The foundation David built upon was simply this: he was lowly and humble of heart. As were his predecessors Abraham and Moses and those who would come after him: Mary and Jesus.

David was out following sheep through the pasture when Samuel came to his house to choose a king. His father, Jesse, didn’t even bother bringing him in for the lineup. Surely, one of his older brothers would be the one. But the prophet, Samuel, passes by them all. “Are there no other sons?” he asks Jesse. “Only the youngest, but he is out tending the sheep.” “Bring him in,” says Samuel. And immediately the Lord commands Samuel to pour the oil of anointing over David’s ruddy little head, “Behold the king of Israel!” (“I do hope you know what you’re doing, Lord!” he probably muttered under his breath)

Mary was a nobody. She was marrying into Jesus’ family tree (through Joseph). But in her humility God saw all that was needed: a willing heart and faith to see it through those 9 months and all the years to come.

No one wants the baby to come early – as much as we anticipate that birth – it takes time to get it right.

The same is true in our lives of faith. We wouldn’t want it any other way. When you are lured by the world to rush things – to demand instant gratification – step back and let Mary speak. “Let it be born in us.”