Tag Archives: Brenda AiM

Sunday Sermon – AiM Brenda

1502435_488720847898065_5065822072428423218_o (1)5th SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST – June 28, 2015                                              Our Savior’s Lutheran church, Virginia, MN

TEXTS: Lamentations 3:22-33; Psalm 30; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43

OPENING PRAYER:                                                                                                   Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord. And may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength, our rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, grace and peace. Amen.

This morning we have been blessed with some extraordinary scripture texts in light of everything that has been happening in our country and in our congregation. Lamentations offers words of hope to a people whose world has been turned upside down. The Psalm offers a re-orientation back to God after a time of dis-orientation, perhaps due to an illness or some other type of tragedy. Mark’s gospel lesson is a typical “Markan sandwich” which places a story within a story: A worried father reaches out in faith to Jesus on behalf of his beloved daughter who is gravely ill. And then, a woman who has suffered hemorrhaging for 12 years reaches out in faith for Jesus. As Jesus is “interrupted” and stops to heal and restore this woman back into her community, the news comes that Jairus’ 12 year old daughter has died. The people from Jairus’ household come bearing the sad news with the admonition to not trouble Jesus the teacher any further. Nothing more could be done.

But wait. Aren’t these stories all at the heart of the Gospel, the good news for all people? Whenever death hits us square in the face, whenever it seems the road has come to a dead end, whenever we get to that point where we think we just cannot go on one more step…remember God’s faithfulness. Stretch out your hand to Jesus – for hope, for healing, for restoration. In other words, for resurrection and new life.

That is the purpose and mission of Christ’s body in the world: To be a community of faith and hope that opens their hearts and minds, sanctuaries and homes, so that Christ’s healing power may become a reality for broken hearts and broken relationships. That is the mission for everyone here at Our Savior’s: To welcome whomever Christ sends in need of community with acceptance, love, forgiveness and wholeness. To provide for the needs of the neighbor in whatever way is possible. And, to continue to look to Jesus for the ways and means to carry out that mission – trusting that indeed, God is a God of abundance in every way. God will provide more than enough love, more than enough resources, more than enough opportunities to be God’s hands and heart in the world.

As we heard Cooper read the second lesson this morning, the Corinthians had differing opinions on how that could take place. What can I say? Congregations are still divided when it comes to questions of mission and money! But today’s appointed texts place Paul’s letter to the divided and opinionated Corinthians right in the middle of texts which point us back again and again and again to God’s faithfulness in all situations. These texts remind us of the importance of thanking God for the amazing ways in which God provides and for the amazing way God makes a way for God’s people through the most difficult of life’s situations. These texts also remind us of the importance for each one of us to share our life’s stories of God’s faithfulness with each other. As we listen to each other’s stories, the congregation is made stronger and the congregation’s witness to God’s faithfulness shines even brighter throughout the entire community.

When congregations divide “taking sides” due to opinions on politics, financial issues or who should make up the church staff, congregations lose sight of the mission God is calling them to carry out. If more energy is spent on preserving traditions, we are blinded to what god is doing in the present time. There is room in god’s family for differing opinions – but not at the expense of splintering the body of Christ.

This past week has brought us news of great tragedy, as the nation is called to a time of mourning nine members of the body of Christ who were gunned down in a house of God. As we make time to listen and learn the faith stories of Clementa, Susie, Ethel, Depayne, Sharonda, Tywanza, Cynthia, Daniel and Myra, we begin to have an even clearer picture of the faith community at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. We have much to learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been given the grace and strength to turn this tragedy into living out God’s love and forgiveness! A model for Our Savior’s to remember even though your perspective is not involving the same scale or scope of grief or change. Emanuel A.M.E. Church continues to love. They continue to give. They continue to care not just for each other, but for those who have wronged and those who are lost.

God’s great, abundant love is flowing through these amazing wounded healers for the sake of the world. Not only is this congregation collectively reaching out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment for healing, they are also holding out inviting hands to the rest of us to join them in that ever widening circle of God’s grace.

Again, even though the changes which have taken place here at Our Savior’s in the past year and the changes coming in the next weeks pale in comparison to our sister congregation in South Carolina, I want to challenge you (collectively “you”), to take a closer look through God’s perspective for the mission of this faith community.

* Where are the walls of division that need to be torn down in order for God’s healing to take place? How can you listen respectfully to one another and care for one another in the midst of differing opinions for the good of the whole people in answering God’s call?

* How is this congregation not just modeling, but truly living out God’s love for the world in the actions and words taking place both inside and outside the walls of this building?

* Who among you will tell the many stories of God’s faithfulness throughout the years to this faith community, so that those who are new to it may be strengthened in hope, and those in leadership will be strengthened to lead with godly purpose?

In the midst of today’s biblical texts about the God of steadfast love, mercy, faithfulness and hope – who loves, forgives, heals and provides – the Holy Spirit challenges us with Paul’s letter of stewardship and commitment to the body of Christ for the sake of the world.

God calls faithful leaders who come and journey alongside in mutual ministry just for awhile. Then change comes as new leadership is called. Your call to live out the covenant promises made in baptism does not change!

I firmly believe God continues to have a purpose and mission for Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. Your call, your commitment, is needed to be obedient to God’s call. This is not a “poor church” nor is it a “tough place” for the next pastor who is called to lead you in mutual ministry and mission to the world! God has been faithful to Our Savior’s through world wars, great depressions and recent recessions, dividing social issues and staff changes. God is still faithful and God can be trusted to lead you through yet another time of transition. Pray God’s wisdom and guidance not just for the elected leadership of this congregation but also the elected leadership of the community and the country.

Continue to support God’s mission here at Our Savior’s by whatever gifts you are able to share – be it your time and faithful presence, prayers, and in the sharing of your financial gifts which make it possible for good, faithful ministry to continue – even through more changes. Now is not the time to lay back passively to watch what happens here! It is the time to encourage and love one another, to listen to each other and listen to the Lord, so that, you may be a unified faith community even as you celebrate the diversity of people, gifts and ideas.

It is my firm belief that God will continue to raise up godly leadership here – which is your legacy! The Holy Spirit will continue to empower you with the will and means to do that so that others may come to experience the healing love and grace of God through Jesus Christ. Amen. May it be so!

And now, as preparations have been made to take my leave of this faith community, my heartfelt thanks are offered to all of you, present here or not on this day, for the incredible experience of sharing life in community with you these past fourteen and a half years. Thank you and Thanks be to God!

Would you please stand as you are able? I would ask that people sitting on the pulpit side face and turn the people sitting on the piano side and vice-versa for our prayers of promise and blessing.

Let us pray.   Merciful God, we thank you for these sisters and brothers, whom you have made your own by water and the Word in baptism. You have called them to yourself, enlightened them with the gifts of your Spirit, and nourished them in the community of faith.

Uphold your servants in the gifts and promises of baptism, and unite the hearts of all whom you have brought to new birth. We ask this in the name of Christ. Amen.

Please remain facing each other. In a few moments you will be making public profession of your faith. I ask you now as People of God, in the presence of your brothers and sisters in Christ and in the presence of God: Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism: to live among God’s faithful people, to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people following the example of Jesus and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?

If this is your promise today, please respond: I do, and I ask God to help and guide me.

People of God, Do you promise to support and pray for one another in your life together in Christ?

If so, please respond: We do, and we ask God to help and guide us.

Let us pray.

We give you thanks, O God, that through water and the Holy Spirit you give us new birth, cleanse us from sin, and raise us to eternal life. Stir up in your people the gift of the Holy Spirit: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy in your presence, both now and forever. Amen.

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A Farewell to AiM Brenda Tibbetts

FullSizeRender(1)With a deep sense of gratitude we announce the resignation of Brenda Tibbetts, Associate in Ministry, thank her for her many years of ministry in our congregation and community, and congratulate her on the exciting new opportunity awaiting her!

Brenda has accepted a call to serve as NEMN Synod’s Assistant to the Bishop for Congregational Transition, starting July 1. Bishop Tom wrote of Brenda:

“Brenda is a called and commissioned Associate in Ministry at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Virginia, Minnesota. She has served in that call for the past 14 years, has done a fantastic job in those years in her congregation, her conference, and our synod. She had been very active with the School of Lay Ministry for years, and is a strong proponent and participant in our synod ministries and our church-wide ministries. I first got to know Brenda in the ‘90s when she and I were on the Voyageurs Lutheran Ministry Board of Directors, and I got to see up close her commitment to the gospel, her deep love for the church, and her impeccable gifts of attention to detail. I’ve watched over the years as Brenda’s ministry and faithfulness to God and this synod has continued to blossom.” (Synod Reflections, May 31, 2015)

Brenda has served at OSLC since 2001. She crafted beautiful worship services each week; led services at several area nursing homes each month; organized and taught the Faith Matters Confirmation Program; led several weekly study groups; has been active in our conference, synod, and church-wide ministries; served on the Caring Ministries Committee, Youth and Family Committee, and the Music Worship and Arts Committee; and offered pastoral care to the hundreds of people who stopped by the church and invited her into their homes and hospital rooms.

Though we are sad to be saying goodbye, we are so excited about the many ways Brenda’s gifts will be used as she walks with other congregations in our conference during times of transition and know the NEMN Synod office will be a great fit for her.

Brenda’s final worship service with us will be June 28. We also invite you to join us in celebrating Brenda’s ministry at OSLC Sunday, August 9th at 9:30 am for her installation worship service with Bishop Tom, followed by cake and fellowship.

Sunday Sermon – AiM Brenda Tibbetts

youaremine6th SUNDAY OF EASTER             May 10, 2015                                               Honor Grad Sunday/Baptism/Mother’s Day    

TEXTS: Acts 10:44-48; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:1, 4-5, 9-17

OPENING PRAYER:                                                                                                   “Speak, O Lord, as we come to you, to receive the food of Your Holy Word.   Take Your truth, plant it deep in us; Shape and fashion us in Your likeness.”                                                                           ( – Keith Getty, Stuart Townend)         Now may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Strength, our Rock, and our Redeemer. Amen.

“BUT I CHOSE YOU”

Garrett, Tucker, Ryan, Rickey, Dylan and Sam; Erin (newly baptized); family and friends, grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace. Amen.

“I am the vine, you are the branches,” Jesus said to his disciples. He was preparing them for the next chapter in all of their lives. Jesus would soon be completing his earthly tasks and leaving them to carry on his mission. Jesus was sharing from his heart all the love he had so that they might hang onto his love, remember and claim his promises, especially when the journey became difficult and challenging.

“I am the vine, you are the branches.” In this “I AM” statement of Jesus, we hear echoes from the Old Testament. “I AM” – All that I will be, All that I am, All that you will ever need, the source of your love, my love the heartbeat of the universe…” I AM the vine that brings nourishment and support. And “you,” “you”, here is in the plural sense of the word – for a solo person can not be branches. In order to bear much fruit which is the love of God in Christ Jesus for the sake of the world, “you” as in all of us, need to remain connected to the vine of God’s love.

In John’s Gospel, the word Abide is huge. In fact, it shows up 44 times – from the Greek to the English it also translates as “staying, remaining, continuing.” John is making a very strong point here for all who hear this word. Abide encompasses the relationship God has in Jesus. Abide encompasses the role of the Spirit in binding covenant promises and building relationships; and, Abiding enables us to be the children of God through the water and the word, in the bread and in the wine.

In other words, to Abide means to continue in God’s love.

The Holy Spirit is given as a gift to abide with us, to walk alongside us as a promissory note if you will, that indeed, all of the covenant promises we receive in Jesus, are a done deal! As we have been grafted onto and continue to grow securely in the vine, we can freely move out, expanding in our love for God and in our love for one another. Love is the trademark fruit of truth when we abide in God’s love for us. Love is the source and fruit of our call to service.

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For Jesus then, and for parents now, there are last minute reminders. Lists of things to remember. Extra love shared because a new beginning is just around the corner. For any adult who has nurtured youngsters into young adulthood, you well understand the mixed emotions of preparing to send them out on their own into the world. This sending out also brings changes for you as well!

And yet, as we lift up and celebrate our High School Seniors getting ready to graduate, we know – and we want you to know – that you are not going out on your own by yourself. Jesus goes with you. And our prayers go with you as well, that you would remain connected to the vine. Even though distance may separate us, we remain connected to each other as we remain/abide connected with Jesus Christ.

It has been a privilege to have journeyed together, with you (plural), since many of you began 6th grade confirmation. We, (as your confirmation leaders, Sunday School teachers, Pastors, Youth Directors, parents and congregation) have sought to teach you and model for you some very important faith life skills such as prayer and praying for each other. Another life skill we have hoped to instill in you has been to show you how to find your way through the scripture, underlining verses of promise and comfort. So, when you are packing up your supplies for college, be sure to include your Bible! And don’t be afraid to open it up and read it! It is a way to remain/abide in God’s love.

We trust the Holy Spirit will continue to nurture the seeds of faith that have been planted in you. The Holy Spirit will also bring those things to your mind at the appropriate times offering hope and wisdom, challenge and comfort.

It has been a blessing to have traveled together to the seminary several times. We have seen that the Body of Christ, the Family of God, is not limited to this building or a specific pastor or even specific places or times. Jesus, the great I Am, the one true vine, is with you in all situations and in all places. It is our prayer that you would seek out friendships, campus ministries and congregations that would continue to nurture your growth in faith and continue to challenge you in your love and service to the world. Indeed, we have already witnessed you bearing fruit from these experiences!

[Hold up bag of Swedish Fish candies)

One of the favorite “rituals” or reminders of our journey in faith together has been the sharing of your “chosen” snack – Swedish Fish. (I wish you could see their faces right now!!!) That ritual has bonded you together in more than one way! J May it also remind you of the other nourishing meals we have shared together – particularly at the table for the Lord’s Supper. We all need this food of mercy and forgiveness in order to continue to grow in Christ’s love. Continue to seek to be fed at the Lord’s Table.

This morning we say, “Thanks be to God!” for new growth – for new chapters – for new branches abiding in God’s love:

+ TBTG! With Erin’s baptism, we celebrate and welcome her into the Lord’s family. We are excited that in Erin, a new tendril of Jesus’ love is growing and reaching out in love in her and through her!

+ TBTG! Seniors, we celebrate “you” (plural) with your upcoming high school graduation. There is new growth taking place even as the branches are maturing and are budding with the promise of bearing much fruit!

+ TBTG! For Our Savior’s – this congregation as a vineyard of branches, abiding in Christ and moving forward through a time of transition. New growth is taking place amid pruning and fertilizing. We celebrate with all of the branches which are budding and are bearing fruit through baptisms, graduations, the leadership provided by our Interim Pastor Loren, for volunteers serving on transition teams and on Call Committee ballots, council and staff, Ministry Teams and prayer warriors who pray for clarity of vision for mission; all of which is done for the sole purpose of bearing fruit and bringing honor and glory to God.

+ TBTG! That deep within the vineyard of this 15th chapter of John’s Gospel, there is a wonderful promise. It is for “you branches” (plural) as a reminder of God’s mercy and love for you. Write it on a post-it note and stick it in your wallet or on your bathroom mirror, or put it on the dashboard of your truck or car…be sure to underline it in your Bible. When those times of life come (and they will) where challenging storms rain havoc on the branches, or when you need reassurance of God’s love for you, repeat this verse to yourself: Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”     (John 15:16)

Go ahead. Say it aloud. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” What does it mean for you that Jesus chose you?!

Now, I want you to turn to your neighbor and say to them, “Jesus chose you.” What does this promise mean for your neighbor? And for you in your relationship with your neighbor knowing that Jesus has also chosen them?

Knowing we have been chosen by Jesus, together we can grow into the next chapter: knowing that we are loved, forgiven, and given a commandment that will shape our lives and that will make a difference in the world. “Love one another.” Jesus’ command fits in with whatever vocation or task God calls each of us to do.

“You did not choose me but I chose you,” said Jesus, “and I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

Let us pray.

“[May] the light of Christ be seen today,                                                                         In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.                                                           Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us, All Your purposes for Your glory.”                          ( – Keith Getty, Stuart Townend)                                                        

God’s blessings be with you all as we move forward in Jesus’ name. Amen.

– Brenda Tibbetts, Associate in Ministry

Sunday Sermon – AiM Brenda

20150413_1049232nd SUNDAY OF EASTER                   April 12, 2015

TEXTS: Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133: 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31

RESURRECTION DIFFERENCE: CONFESSING BELIEVERS

OPENING PRAYER:

“Speak, O Lord, as we come to You, to receive the food of Your Holy Word. Take Your truth, plant it deep in us; Shape and fashion us in Your likeness.    That the light of Christ might be seen today, In our acts of love and our deeds of faith. Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us, All Your purposes for Your glory.”   (- Keith Getty, Stuart Townend) Amen.

What difference does the resurrection make in your life?   Beyond an Easter Sunday celebration held once a year or maybe standing at the gravesite of a loved one. Does it make any difference in your daily life and daily actions that Jesus Christ was crucified, died and was buried…and Yes! On the third day he rose from the dead! Each day. Every day. Are we still believing?

The Gospel Lesson for the First Sunday after Easter is always the story of Thomas. It challenges us with the question of: “How will we live out our lives now that we have heard the good news that Jesus lives?” This text has become so familiar to us that we simply label it “The Doubting Thomas Story”, thereby jumping to final conclusions without really asking what it is the text wants to teach us.

In John chapter 14 (just a few chapters back from this morning’s text), Jesus was preparing his disciples to carry on after his death and resurrection. It was Thomas who asked Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus answered him, “I Am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  So it would only seem logical that when Jesus was standing face to face with Thomas explaining that “He was The Way”, that made sense. Well, “The Way” was no longer visibly in front of Thomas. Jesus had been crucified, died and buried. How could Thomas possibly begin to know “The Way” now? His world had been rocked to the core. He had lost his compass point.

And then to “top it off,” now the women and the other disciples claimed to have seen Jesus! Why wasn’t Jesus showing himself to Thomas if it was really true that Jesus had risen from the dead? Things like that aren’t natural. Thomas’ heart was locked within a room of grief. His mind was locked within a room of logic. He needed something… He needed Someone… to open those locks allowing resurrection light to shine upon him. And when Jesus met Thomas where he was at, Thomas became a confessing believer, a witness to the very light of Christ.

We know that part of the story very well.

Looking around that particular part of the story, however, we see some other interesting things were taking place. In the midst of the disciples’ grief, confusion and fear – Jesus showed up! He came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he showed them his hands and his side. You can imagine how they would have rejoiced and been ecstatic to see their Lord living and breathing and standing among them! But it wasn’t party time. There was still work to do. It was time for Jesus to lay out their callings because the resurrection had, indeed, made a difference.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Jesus wasn’t about to leave them “empty-handed” for their mission. For when he had said this, “He breathed on [into] them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” Echoes of creation! The start of new beginnings!   For indeed the Word became flesh and dwelled among us!

In The Book of Acts and in 1 John, we heard followers of Jesus testifying to the goodness of the Lord. They told and lived the story of the crucified, resurrected and coming again Christ. The resurrection made all the difference in the world in their lives; and, it propelled them out to share the good news. The Holy Spirit gave them the words to say and the courage to speak!

“Teach us Lord, full obedience. Holy reverence, true humility;                        Test our thoughts and our attitudes, In the radiance of Your purity.                  Cause our faith to rise; cause our eyes to see Your majestic love and authority. Words of pow’r that can never fail – Let this truth prevail over unbelief.”  (- Keith Getty, Stuart Townend)

Has the resurrection of Jesus Christ made a difference in your life? In the life of your faith community? Who is it you are looking for as you come to worship? Are you looking for Jesus? Wherever you are in your journey, He will meet you there.

The first disciples lived in a very dangerous and violent world. Their lives were turned upside down following Jesus, yet they were filled with an energy to share and love and live as Easter people, as people who truly believed that Jesus’ death and resurrection made a difference!

We are the beneficiaries of 2,000 + years of their testimony. We have Bibles and ancient texts and the lives of saints bearing witness to us of how Jesus’ death and resurrection makes a difference. S till, we often find ourselves questioning or ruling out things we can’t understand. We are afraid and are in need of a face-to-face encounter with the risen Christ. We lock the doors to our hearts and minds to Jesus’ commission to testify to the amazing love of Jesus with others we know. We lock the doors to our sanctuaries and faith communities by shutting out the very people Christ died for – because they might “be different” from the faith community we knew in the past. Sometimes, we are simply afraid to be changed by moving forward; and so, we are entombed by the stale air of the past.

Jesus promises a blessing to “Those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” These texts in the Living Word have been written so that “you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” Resurrection life that begins even here and now! Abundant life that is meant for sharing!

“Reach out your hand.” Jesus told Thomas in his unbelief. Jesus says this to you and me, too. Reach out. Believe. Jesus will meet you – in the bread and in the wine. In the Word and in the water. In the community of faith where He is present with us and out in the world where He goes ahead of us. Jesus comes to us – desiring to be in close relationship with us – giving us his very body and blood, giving us his forgiveness and love, giving us an invitation and a commission: “As the Father has sent me,” Jesus said, “so I send you.”

“Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds. Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us.. Truths unchanged from the dawn of time, That will echo down through eternity. And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises, And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us. Speak, O Lord, till Your Church is built, And the earth is filled with Your glory.”  (- Keith Getty, Stuart Townend)

What difference does the resurrection make in your life?

Take a moment.

Exhale the fears and cares of the world.                                                        Breathe in the life-giving breath of the risen Lord Jesus Christ –             that together, we may proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord!                              And, that together, we might declare and worship Jesus as Thomas did, boldly confessing, “My Lord, and my God!”

Amen.

– Brenda Tibbetts, Associate in Ministry

Lenten Message – Brenda, AiM

photo (2)2015 MID-WEEK LENTEN WORSHIP # 4

March 18, 2015 – Wednesday, 6:15 pm

Our Savior’s Lutheran    Church, Virginia, MN                

 

“TO SERVE ALL PEOPLE FOLLOWING THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS”

Texts: 2 Timothy 2:1, 15, 22-25; Philippians 2:1-11; Mark 10:32-45

Good evening. We are now one week and a half away from Holy Week. These past 4 weeks we have been journeying along with Jesus toward the cross through the covenant of our baptisms. We have been exploring what it means to be “Living Our Baptism: [to] Walk Across the Water” as it were by stepping out of our comfort zones. We’ve been reminded “To Live Among God’s Faithful People”, “To hear the Word of God and Share in the Lord’s Supper”, and “To Proclaim the Good News of God in Christ Through Word and Deed”. Tonight we will focus on what it means “To Serve All People Following the Example of Jesus.”

As Children of God, baptized and set free from the powers of sin, we are called to live a new life. A life that is transformed by the love of God in Christ Jesus as well as a life that serves all people. Not just the ones we like…but all people.

This evening’s texts lay out a sort of “job description”, if you will, as to how we are called to live lives of love, faith, gentleness, kindness and service – not just in isolation (it would be easy to be kind if there weren’t any people around! Right?!) But this job description goes beyond individualism. It is just as important, maybe even more important, for the whole community gathered together and for the entire community outside of these walls. Herein lies the challenge to live a life of service following the example of Jesus.

Let’s take another look at what we heard this evening.

* Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, and a pure heart

* Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies

* The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but be kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness

* Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit

*In humility regard others as better than yourselves

* Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

And Jesus said,

* Do not lord it over others – it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.

* For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Hmm…Kind of flies in the face of our culture where we are all bombarded with messages to think about ourselves – how we look, what we drive, where we go, who will see us and notice what we are wearing, how many toys and fun stuff we can accumulate because advertisers are paying big bucks to get you to work harder to make more money so you can buy their stuff… “Nice guys finish last” so get what you can now at any expense to anybody. Really? Is that what discipleship looks like?

Is that what life is meant to be about? Will “things” and “envious looks” bring about deep joy and a purpose in living a life that is meaningful? Does running on the hamster wheel until we are exhausted model the love of Christ? Or, might we broaden our vision and deepen our relationship with Jesus by learning from his example…building relationships with people, offering hope and healing, welcoming, encouraging and accepting others, feeding the hungry and helping those in need, listening to the lonely, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping alongside those who weep.

It is through the love, caring and serving of others that Christ’s love is made known to the world. Jesus calls us to serve one another – not grudgingly out of duty – but out of response to the love and mercy He has blessed us with. When caring service is done out of love and kindness, it is noticed. And it makes a difference in the lives of others.

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A couple of years ago, I got hooked on the TV program “The Voice”. I am always blown away by the incredible talent and the stories of the contestants. It’s also kind of fun to hear the friendly bantering between the coaches but you can tell that they still have respect for one another even when they are teasing each other. You can tell they have a passion for music . They do some great coaching. There is also a deep sense of competition between them! The coaches are famous, wealthy and known around the world. They have the world “by the tail” so to speak…but last night, they were the ones who were blown away and humbled by the solid performance of one young man named Sawyer.

Sawyer was partnered up with a young gal who was really nervous. She was equally as talented as many others there but she was just starting out with less experience singing in front of a large crowd. What caught the attention of all the four coaching stars, was Sawyer’s humility and stage presence. Even though his future could be made, detoured or changed by his performance, his care toward the one he was called to sing with was tangible. He refrained from grand standing to gain more attention to himself. His demeanor and humility gave courage to the one struggling with nervous anxiety.

They both sang their socks off and sounded amazing together! However, the judges also noted his deep humility…his willingness to be less (not in terms of his gifts but his public actions) for the sake of the other. He was working as a solid team member. His conduct throughout the hours of rehearsals and competition spoke volumes about his character, about his values, about what is important in his life. I like to think his actions will continue to have an affect not just on the coaches but also with everyone who was watching.

Where is God calling us to serve in a similar manner? To lay aside our egos or personal agendas for the sake of the other team member, for the whole people both inside and outside of this building? And, like Sawyer, to humbly listen and graciously serve the other whether it is in a committee or council meeting, a school function, as captain of a team or first chair in music, or even in a grocery store or your neighborhood? How can we model Christ’s servant hood through our words and actions with care and kindness – not because we “have to” but because it is the nature of being a Child of God! It is our commission given in the waters of baptism and sealed by the promise of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them…But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

A poem entitled, “Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant way” by Herman G. Stuempfle, Jr. seems to wrap up tonight’s theme very nicely and will serve as a prayer…

Lord, help us walk your servant way                                                               wherever love may lead                                                                                                and, bending low, forgetting self,                                                                                   each serve the other’s need.

You came to earth, O Christ, as Lord,                                                                      but pow’r you laid aside.                                                                                                                                                               You lived your years in servanthood,

in lowliness you died.

No golden scepter but a towel                                                                                   you place within the hands                                                                                              of those who seek to follow you                                                                                and live by your commands.

You bid us bend our human pride                                                                                 nor count ourselves above                                                                                            the lowest place, the meanest task                                                                                that waits the gift of love.

Lord, help us walk your servant way

wherever love may lead

and, bending low, forgetting self,

each serve the other’s need.

Amen.

Sunday Sermon – AiM Brenda

photo(1)4th SUNDAY OF LENT

TEXTS: Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21

“IMPATIENT ON THE WAY”

Opening Prayer:

Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts. Shine through the darkness.

Christ, be our light! Shine in your church gathered today. Amen.

Grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace. Amen.

“They set out…but the people became impatient on the way.”

The Israelites had been traveling a great distance and a long time since they left the land of Egypt. It had been a miraculous time filled with amazement at God’s mighty hand – rescuing them from slavery, loaded down with bounty given them by their oppressors, they exchanged the fertile soil of Egypt’s fields for the dry dust of the wilderness. Heading only toward a promise of new life in a new land.

In scripture, stories with wilderness settings should clue us in that this will be a time of testing for both God and the people. Will the people remain faithful to God and live in God’s promises? Or, will the journey cause them to forget and forsake the God who has saved them? Will the God of the covenant remain faithful to faithless people? Even while providing for their daily needs, the journey got the best of them. The wilderness test was getting harder each day as they looked to what they left behind in the past (which, as time went on, the memories became far more rosier than the reality had been.) The people began to look back and turn in on themselves: what they wanted, what they needed; and, as they continued to look in the wrong directions, they were missing out on experiencing what God was doing in their present time.

So, they grumbled against God. They grumbled against the leaders God gave them. They were a miserable lot of grumbling, complaining, ungrateful people. They had lost their focus on the purpose of their wilderness journey. They had lost sight of the promise God had given to them.

“They set out…but the people became impatient on the way.”

Turned in on themselves, they soon turned against each other.

And apparently, God had had enough. Enough of their ungratefulness. Enough of their whining and pining about the “good old days.” Enough of their lack of trust even though their daily needs continued to be met by God’s gracious hand. Enough! They were failing the wilderness test.

Now, this is one of those really tough, scary Bible stories which goes on to say, “Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people; and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died.” It was enough to finally get the attention of the people to stop their grumbling and repent from their ornery ways! Confession and a request for forgiveness    quickly followed. “They cried to the LORD in their trouble and he saved them from their distress; he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction.” (Ps. 107:13-14)

Yet, true to God’s character, “the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Ps. 86:15) God provided a way for healing and salvation. “Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.” (Ps. 107:21-22)

God did not abandon God’s people or forsake God’s covenant promise with them. Wilderness time occurs throughout history and human nature. Jesus was not immune from wilderness testing either. With his very life, Jesus became the One lifted up to bring light and life, hope and healing, for all creation. Jesus is God’s covenant promise – the sacrificial gift once and for all. As he said, “so must the Son of Man be lifted up that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:14) In John 12:32, Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

+ + +

Have you ever faced a wilderness time in your life? Even now, as a community of faith in this Interim period, we might consider ourselves journeying through the wilderness. How will we fare the test as a community of faith? Fractured and grumbling? Or, keeping our focus on God’s promise in the One who is lifted up and drawing all people to himself? Is there a sense of “impatience on the way” and focusing in on personal needs and personal issues rather than on the whole people and where God is leading? How is Christ drawing you and others to himself?

Martin Luther defined “Sin” “as being turned in on one’s self.” That’s what happened when the Israelites began to long for the past, living in the memories, complaining about the present and being fearful of the future. It can happen in faith communities, too, especially in wilderness times of transition, hard work and waiting.

“They set out…but the people became impatient along the way.” Though not surrounded by literal serpents, make no mistake, biting words tossed around carelessly or maliciously have just as much poison and potency. Venomous bites of grumbling rather than gratitude, negativity rather than new life, unrealistic expectations rather than energized partnering in reaching out…it happens – and we are not immune from it.

The only antidote is to lift high the cross, to tell of God’s love, to celebrate God’s gift offered freely at Christ’s expense: “for by grace you have been saved through faith, it is God’s gift.” (Eph. 2:5) When we reframe our mission in light of this grace, in light of the cross lifted high in our conversations and activities, the light of Christ shines in us, and through us, illuminating our path along this wilderness journey – it will draw all people to Christ.

+ + +

This past week, our Director of Youth & Family Ministry Meagan and myself, along with two other adults from Our Savior’s had the privilege to journey with eight of our senior high youth down to Luther Seminary for two days of classes. (By the way, these classes are open to everyone and we would love to have more adults join us!) For several of these young people, it was their 3rd and 4th time attending seminary classes. For some it was a brand new experience. It is exciting to be a part of their faith journey! It was also exciting to watch them participate in class. As they share traveling, meals, class time, chapel, devotions, laughter and games and ice cream together – we watched them form bonds of friendship and grace. Confirmation classes, other youth activities and an upcoming BWCA trip will also provide the means and grace to learn additional ways of working together, trusting God in new situations, and sharing their faith.

Encouragement and caring for each other builds those bonds so that the light of Christ shines brightly. That light of Christ was shining through our young people this week. It was noted by our hotel desk clerk as well as several seminary staff members. Our adults were told several time what “well-behaved, respectful young people” we had with us. These young people want to make a difference in the lives of their friends and families, their faith community and the world! And, they are doing it!

Parents – you are to be commended; and, Our Savior’s – as a faith community, God has blessed us with the opportunities to provide a wonderful, caring environment for nurturing faith growth for all ages. We need to say, “Thanks be to God!” and tell others how God is working in our midst! God calls us to be partners in this amazing mission!

Grumbling and turning in toward ourselves will not allow us to see or celebrate God’s mercy and goodness here and now. Nor can we offer thanks and praise to God for providing for our daily needs in this wilderness if we are self-consumed.

Wilderness journeys provide opportunities to grow closer together as a community – or to splinter off into separate ways. Stay the course. Keep your eyes on Christ, the One who leads us into light and truth. Trust in God – who has been faithful in bringing you through difficult times in the past and can be trusted to bring you through again. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Eph. 2:8-10)

Thanks be to God for this incredible gift!

Let us pray.

Lord God, you sent Christ to be our way of life. May your Holy Spirit open our hearts and minds to reflect His light. Help us to look beyond ourselves to You that we may shine with your love. Give us courage to refrain from becoming impatient that we would fully trust that You are, even now, already in the future – preparing this faith community as well as the next Pastor, to serve You together in new and exciting ways. Lead us in Your timing out of the wilderness to amazing new opportunities to be God’s people wherever You call us.   Amen.

 

Lenten Worship – AiM Brenda

lent 12015 MID-WEEK LENTEN WORSHIP # 1                     February 25, 2015           

“’To Live Among God’s Faithful People’: ‘Re-Membering’ the Body of Christ”

Texts: Acts 2:42-47; Romans 12:1-13; John 13:34-35

In this season of Lent, we are reviewing and remembering the promises given to us by God in baptism. Tonight we take a look at the first promise – “To Live Among God’s Faithful People.”

+

Nephrologists. Renal Failure. Fistulas. Dialysis. Ureaic Toxicity. Live Donors. Transplants. Re-profusion…Blood flow. Recovery.

In the past couple of months, I have been learning a bit of new medical terminology and a lot about unconditional love. On Friday the 13th this February, our oldest son donated one of his kidneys to my youngest brother whose kidneys had been in renal failure and therefore on dialysis for about one year.

As our family gathered in the waiting room, we could feel ourselves being held in God’s love through many prayers, cards, phone calls and text messages sent by you and countless others. It was a “good” Friday for all of us.

It wasn’t a very long procedure to remove Than’s donated kidney, make the necessary surgical repairs on him and then send him to the recovery room. In fact, even though the transplant coordinator nurse kept us well informed of the process and progress of both our patients, we were amazed at how quickly we were able to see Than in his room.   His surgeon spoke with us and told us how pleased she was with how he had handled the surgery and how healthy his kidney was. When we told Than what she had said and then told him, “You did a good job, Bud,” my son responded, “All I did was lay there!”

Relief flooded over us – but we knew there was some more work being done on my brother and the waiting continued. About 1 & 1/2 – 2 hours later, our “angel” nurse returned and told us, “The kidney has been ‘re-profused’ and there is excellent blood flow in and out of the kidney. Now, we are waiting for it to produce [the necessary by-product that kidneys make].” They would continue to closely monitor my brother for awhile, do an ultra-sound to make sure things were in their proper places before they would send him on into recovery.

It truly was an unselfish gift of unconditional love given by our son. It was astounding to hear that blood was flowing through the newly transplanted kidney in my brother. What has become somewhat “routine” for those Mayo transplant surgeons is still, nonetheless, amazing when we think about the wondrous way in which the human body functions. The bodies that God has created.

It is no wonder, that Apostle Paul used the metaphor of the body to describe the faith community as the Body of Christ. Each part of the body is needed to make the whole body function properly. Each person has gifts to share that strengthen the whole community to be the Body of Christ in the world.

Our son willingly offered his kidney – with no strings attached. Literally, with no strings attached! In fact, the moment that kidney was removed from his body, it no longer “belonged” to him. The surgical staff along with our son, referred to it as “Todd’s kidney.”

Gifts of unconditional love – given without strings attached. That is what Jesus did for us and for all of creation on that Good Friday, too. Giving his life blood so that we may have the gift of new life.

+ “I hope your brother understands what an amazing gift of new life he has received…” is a comment we have heard repeatedly. That statement got me to thinking about faith communities – and this church in particular. We have been “re-profused”. We have received new hearts and minds as it were, through the body and blood of Jesus flowing in and through us at his table, washed clean in the waters of baptism, receiving the gift…His unconditional, “no-strings attached” love enfolding us, waiting and strengthening the Body of Christ here to produce the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the sake of the world.

+ I hope we understand what an incredible gift of new life we have received in Jesus!

As baptized children of God, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and marked with the cross of Christ forever, we are called to live into and live out of our baptismal promise – “to live among God’s faithful people.”

Yes, there are times when this family of faith waits in anxiousness. There are also times of toxicity built up in the Body’s bloodstream when the love of Christ is blocked and not flowing through us as it should. But, when we gather here together, living among God’s faithful people, offering thanks and praise to God for creating this Body and the unconditional love given to us – it is like getting a regular check-up from the greatest of heart surgeons or kidneys, or whatever body part is in need of healing. “On-going” check-ups like regular worship and prayer times are of great importance to keeping this Body healthy. My family has felt the love from you here and I hope you have felt that same love in your life, too.

+++

In this season of Lent, we remember Jesus’ journey to the cross and the night in which he was betrayed. As He broke bread with his disciples, as we break bread with him tonight, we hear his words, “As often as you do this,” Jesus said, Do this in remembrance of me.”

As we remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us, we, as the faith community – in all of our pain and brokenness, all of our joys and sorrows, we, are “Re-Membered”, re-profused – and the healthy flow of love is restored. We are re-purposed, re-cycled and then sent out to share the story of this awesome, overwhelming love! We offer our willing hearts – and the Great Surgeon goes to work – transforming us to embody Christ in our midst and in the world.

In John’s Gospel chapter 13, we read where Jesus said,

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus’ disciples are known by their love.

Living among God’s faithful people, we are re-profused…experiencing new life as God’s love courses in us and through us…and the world awaits anxiously as it needs us to produce God’s love:

Remembering Jesus and Re-membered as the Body of Christ.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

– Brenda Tibbetts, AiM

Sunday Sermon – AiM Brenda

1502435_488720847898065_5065822072428423218_o (1)5th SUNDAY OF EPIPHANY – February 8, 2015

Texts: Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11; 20c; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39

“WAITING ON THE LORD”

Opening Prayer: Come Holy Spirit,…may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength, our rock, and our redeemer. Amen.

Grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace. Amen.

The past couple of Wednesday evenings, our mid-week worship services and our 6th-8th grade confirmation students have been learning about God’s people in exile – and their return to their land. Exile is never equated with a person or group of people feeling “comfortable.” In fact, exile brings feelings of uncomfortableness and disorientation. In class we imagined that this exile might even look something like “The Hunger Games.”

What once was known routine has suddenly been flipped upside down. What once seemed to be trusted traditions are no longer applicable in this new place. People well known and well loved move on or are taken from us for a number of reasons. Certainly in many places of the world today, we hear stories of refugees fleeing their homeland for their lives…Survivor Mode running them into the unknown. Running, hiding, searching for loved ones and basic necessities, not knowing who to trust – it is exhausting. And as such, it depletes energy for hope and creativity.

Now political super powers are nothing new. At the time of Isaiah’s 40th chapter, the people of God had been in exile for a long time. Only the most elderly would have had first hand memories of the “way it used to be.” And soon, time and the Exile would rob the people of the last memories. The exile – and forced movement of the people, was understood by them to be God’s punishment for their unfaithfulness. They clung to hope in God’s covenant love even in the midst of dire circumstances. But were they hanging on to a memory to the point that they could not hear the good news coming in the present time?

The people by now had exiled themselves by remaining in a state of permanent, woeful lament. They had taken their punishment so deep to heart, that they were having trouble hearing any words of hope. “Survival Mode” was holding imagination, creativity and trust as hostage. By drawing on stories of God’s creation power to remind the people that God can still do mighty things, Isaiah hoped to catch their attention that God was indeed, doing something new.

God was re-creating and resurrecting the people for the return home. We might imagine it would be joyous – going home! But as is so often the case, home was not the same. Home had been ravaged. Changed beyond recognition. The land had been devastated and not rebuilt. “Nehemiah 11:1-2 reports that there was no crush of people begging to live in the destroyed city of Jerusalem. It was without a temple or city walls; the comforts and protections that a city would normally have afforded in the ancient world were missing. In fact, the people had to cast lots to see who would live there! And, they ‘blessed all those who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.’ After fifty or more years in exile, most of those returning would have hardly known the place. Exile was hard, but returning was difficult, too.” ( – Christopher Hays, Working Preacher) Trusting in God, committed to a common purpose and willing to work hard together, they did it.

Human nature hasn’t changed down through the centuries. Our concepts and longing for home are as strong now as it was in Isaiah’s time. Longing for Our Savior’s to be the way “it used to be” pops up regularly in conversations particularly now in this time of Transition Teams and surveys.

Certainly the Interim period here at Our Savior’s is not to be compared to a 50 year exile under Babylonian rule, J but there are similarities in that, the familiar is now a memory and feelings of disorientation can be strong: Who will be the next pastor? Will he or she understand the historical beginning and will they appreciate the traditions of Our Savior’s? Will they want to make a lot of changes? Will there be enough money? Can we afford staff, continue the upkeep of a building that is not energy efficient and still carry out mission? Where is God leading us to do ministry outside the comfort of these walls? …How long do we have to wait?

Isaiah has a word for us as well. God’s majesty, superiority, and creative powers stand above all temporal earthly or heavenly powers. In this passage in Isaiah, the word is used to uplift and heal. The word is also invitation to share in God’s creative power with them and for them. The Lord “does not faint or grow weary,” and “he gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.” “Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” ( – Isaiah 40:31)

Comforting verses for those in exile. Comforting verses for those disoriented with change. As you might imagine, the journey home for the Israelites would have been hardest for the elderly: yet, their wisdom and memories would serve a useful purpose beyond nostalgia. Their guidance and encouragement would prove necessary for building the future! It is to these that Isaiah says, “They shall renew, they shall rise, they shall run, they shall walk”…words meant to carry them – and us, along.

So, when you hear that passage, what does it mean to you to “wait on the Lord?” Do you imagine it to be like Simon Peter’s mother-in-law whom Jesus healed so completely that she jumped up immediately to serve everyone? Is it like the crowds of people who searched Jesus out begging to be healed from various diseases? Do you envision waiting on the Lord to be like Simon and his companions who were wondering where Jesus was to the point that Mark’s gospel tells us, they “hunted for him?” Or, might it also mean, “In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”

Sometimes exile and disorientation need to take place in order to move us to a place where we are ready to listen to what God is saying to us.

Whenever God comes near, there is invitation to re-orient ourselves to the Lord, to trust, to be in an on-going relationship with God through prayer and reading the Word, to praise God for God’s faithful, covenant love, to praise God for God’s majesty and the beauty of all God has created, to gather together to sing songs of thankfulness for all God has done, to share the good news that when God comes near, there is hope, and there is healing: for “the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” ( – Psalm 147:11)

In Our Savior’s current journey to new creation, are old memories building a foundation for the future?

Or, will “Survival Mode” hold us hostage to creativity, hope and mission?

“Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” ( – Isaiah 40:31)

May God grant us the hope, courage, strength and willingness to wait on the Lord – together. Amen.

 

– Brenda Tibbetts, Associate in Ministry

Sunday Sermon – Brenda, AiM

2nd SUNDAY OF CHRISTMAS – January 4, 2015

Brenda Tibbetts, AiM

OPENING PRAYER
Open the eyes of our hearts Lord…and now may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength, our rock, and our redeemer.  Amen.

“COSMIC BEGINNINGS”

Grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace.  Amen.

For the past couple of worship services, we have been hearing the story of Jesus’ birth from either the Gospels of Matthew or Luke.

* Matthew’s Gospel finds it important to share the role of Joseph in Jesus’ life and the role that dreams played in keeping the child safe.  For Matthew, Jesus’ earthly geneology is important to intentionally link Jesus back to Abraham, reminding us of God’s covenant promises and the fulfillment of those promises in Jesus Christ.  Matthew also introduces us to the magi – learned men “outside” of the Jewish tradition who came a far distance seeking out the newborn king.  They came as seekers and left as worshipers.  Matthew sends out believers with the good news and the promise that in Christ, God is with us, Emmanuel , even to the end of the age.

* In Luke’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit plays a decisive role in the life of Mary and in the birth of Jesus.  Like Matthew, Luke also includes “outsiders” in Jesus’ birth story.  But these “outsiders” are of more lowly origin who come to seek out the babe of Bethlehem.  We are amazed God has chosen lowly shepherds to share the good news!  Luke is very methodical in its historical setting as well as Jesus’ earthly geneology – connecting Jesus all the way back to Adam; as son of God, full of the Holy Spirit.  In fact, Luke’s gospel mentions several times how Jesus was filled by the Spirit.  The same Spirit who filled Jesus is the same who empowered the believers in Luke and The Book of Acts to boldly proclaim the message of Jesus Christ.  It is the same Holy Spirit today – given to us as a gift and mark of our inheritance.

* It is no wonder that we do not hear a birth story in the Gospel of Mark because Mark’s objective is spelled out right up front.  He is in a hurry, taking us along with Jesus right to the cross.  Birth events would just get in the way of pondering “The Beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  As hurried as Mark might be, there is a beauty in slowing down our own cultural calendar to ponder and celebrate Christmas just a little longer.

*  And so this morning, the Gospel of John takes us on an entirely different approach to celebrating Jesus’ beginning.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  John’s Gospel is from a cosmic viewpoint.  Christ came as light into darkness, as life to a dying world, as living bread, living water, resurrection and life.  Christ, as the great “I AM”.  Not just for Adam.  Not just for Abraham.  Not just for Joseph and Mary.  Not just for learned wisemen or lowly shepherds or even the heavenly host.  Not just for you or me.  Christ came for all:  including all of creation, all creatures and all of humankind!  No exceptions.  No exclusions.

His coming, his “tenting”/his “abiding” with us flips the entire created order upside down and all around.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth…”

Even though we have just celebrated the beginning of a brand new calendar year, keeping Christmas for another Sunday is an important opportunity to re-introduce us to Christ in our midst from before the beginning of time throughout all time and eternity.  The Gospel of John’s “Ethereal Birth Announce-ment”  brings beautiful promises given – for us.  Promises that give hope and peace as we begin a New Year.  Promises that give us identity and purpose; as well as delight and a responsibility to share them with all people and all of creation!

John’s Gospel says, “To all who receive[d]him, who believe[d] in his name, he gave[gives] power to become children of God!” (John 1.12) and “From his fullness, we have all received grace upon grace.” (John  1.16)  Such beautiful promises!

These same gifts and promises are reiterated in Ephesians where we are reminded of God’s blessedness in Jesus Christ, “who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.  He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.  In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us…In him, you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel [the good news] of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.”  (Ephesians 1.3-7, 13-14)    You may want to underline these verses in your bulletin or in your Bible at home!

As we begin a New Year, it is far too tempting to focus in on all the headlines of danger and wickedness throughout the world.  It is easy to become discouraged or cynical and lose hope.  And yet, in Matthew and Luke, we see that Jesus was born in a very dangerous time and place. Mark shows us that Jesus lived and died in a very dangerous time.  But we know that isn’t the end of the story!

John’s Gospel reminds us, it was in the fullness of God’s timing, that it took place then and then.  In the fullness of God’s timing, may Jesus be born into our hearts,   “So that, with the eyes of your[our] heart[s] enlightened, you[we] may know what is the hope to which he has called you[us], what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.”  (Ephesians 1.19-20)

As we go forth into this New Year, whether it is back to school, back to regular routines or off to Jamaica, we go as Children of God, chosen before the foundation of the world, bearing the True Light which enlightens everyone and is not overcome by darkness!  We carry the hope of God’s love which has been poured into our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit.  That, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is indeed “The Beginning of the Good News for all people.”  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Sunday Sermon – Brenda, AiM

blue4th SUNDAY OF ADVENT – Dec. 21, 2014     Brenda Tibbetts, AiM

TEXTS:  2 Samuel 7:1-11; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38 & Luke 1:46b-55

“THE ANNUNCIATION AND THE MAGNIFICAT”

“The Annunciation and the Magnificat”:  This morning’s gospel texts give us two beautiful insights into the heart of Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.   The first text [Luke 1:26-38] is referred to as:

* The Annunciation

Luke’s Gospel tells us that the angel Gabriel is sent to speak to Mary.  He announces the good news that Mary has found favor with God!  Mary’s openness of heart to hearing the Word of the Lord, even in the most impossible of situations, as well as her obedience to offer herself to this important task God called her to, are amazing when we ponder her circumstances as well as her very young age.  Open hearts and minds are one thing.  Obedience is another.  Openness coupled with obedience is the mark of a disciple, a servant of the Lord.

Mary received a direct call from God for a specific, important task in her life.  How she would respond would not only have a direct impact on her life with her family or on the life of the world as she knew it in her own time – but for all of time.  That call would be a blessing – but it would know great challenge and even great pain.  Mary shows us that it is okay to ask the question, “How can this be?”  She was given free will to answer the Lord’s call, even as we are given free will to respond to the Lord.

But as is so often the case of “Call Stories” in the Bible, the messenger or message often begins and concludes with words of assurance.  “Do not be afraid…The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”  In other words, God is with you!  “Nothing will be impossible for God.”

+ I wonder, in our own lives, how open are we to hearing God’s call to us?

+ Do we trust that the Holy Spirit will provide the courage needed to say “Yes!” and the needed strength to carry out “The Call” in obedience to God?

+ Are there areas in your life that you have a hard time believing that God can make the impossible possible?

Mary’s call began with an announcement of God’s favor.  The task was spelled out.  She was chosen to be the Mother of the Son of God!  Mary is totally perplexed.  Not fully understanding (and we surely would have been perplexed, too!) yet, she is given the assurance that this was God’s doing and God would be with her.

There is a sense of peace, acceptance and incredulous excitement that follows when Mary said “Yes” to God’s plan.  A humble, faithful servant, open and obedient, Mary marvels at the amazing ways God works in the life of God’s people – and she breaks forth into praising God with a song of trust and hope!

Our second Gospel reading [Luke 1:46b-55] is referred to as:

* The Magnificat

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name…”

+ In our own lives and in the life of this congregation, how open are we to hearing God’s call to us? Even if that calling is to something new or something seemingly impossible?

+ Do we trust that the Holy Spirit will provide the courage needed to say “Yes!” and the needed strength and resources to carry out “The Call” in obedience to God?

+ Are there areas in your life that you have a hard time praising God?  Can we, will we, as a community of brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus proclaim, “The Mighty One has done great things for us, and holy is his name!”?

Mary’s Song of Praise is a beautiful witness/example of trust in the Lord for what God has done in the past, for what God was doing in the present and a proclamation of trust in what God will do in the future.

It is a Rallying Cry for those who are downtrodden and in need of hope. It is an Anthem of Praise for those open to following the Lord’s call. It is a Song of Remembrance bearing witness to God’s faithfulness throughout the generations.

And it has been, and continues to be, a Song of Threat for those in positions of abusive power.  There was a time in our own lifetimes, throughout Central and South America where it was illegal to read this passage of scripture.  Many priests and nuns were killed for sharing this Word of Hope to oppressed peoples.   We dare not take this scripture for granted…

The Magnificat, [Luke 1:46b-55] has been and continues to be the basis for Liberation Theology.  It promises there will be a time of judgment.  There will come a time – in God’s timing – when justice  will prevail and indeed, all things be set aright.  God hears the cries of the lowly and hungry.  They will be lifted up and they will be fed.  God’s heart is open to their plight.  God will act.  How we pray or sing or proclaim – or discredit or curse – Mary’s Magnificat, her Song of Praise to a Covenantal, Faithful, Steadfast Loving God – will depend on how open our hearts are to respond and to obey God’s calling in our lives.

+ In our own lives and in the life of this congregation, how open are we to singing Mary’s Song of Praise to the Most High God?

May the Holy Spirit come upon us all to hear the Word of the Lord and the power of the Most High overshadow us with courage and obedience to follow that Word that we, like Mary, might proclaim to all people, “Nothing is impossible for God!  The Mighty One has done great things for us, and holy is his name.  His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation…”

Here we are, the Servants of the Lord.  Let it be with us according to your word!  Amen.