It has been 10 days since I published anything on this blog, just goes to show how much extra time I have had. I won’t post my message from Christmas Eve. It was a drama and didn’t follow the script very closely. I had read a few different books and came up with my own version of what some others had done, so I don’t feel comfortable sharing even if the words were all mine. I don’t want any inkling of things to be out of order. Today we presented the power point of the year end. I will give you the message that went with that even without the pictures. So, here it is below.
Scriptures used: I Samuel 2:18-20 & 26, Colossians 3:12-17, and Luke 2:41-52. Title was “A Journey with Christ.”
I remember attending church in years past, sitting in the pew, and listening to the minister and wondering about the message. I often wondered how someone could come up with the stories they would tell or the focus they would choose for the scripture of the day. Then, later, as I took the first class in lay licensed ministry, I wondered what you would do if you came across a particular scripture a second time. Would you reuse the message? Would you tweak the message, or would you write a new and better message? Interestingly enough, I realized that scriptures have historical context and meaning according to the learned scholars, but no scripture ever speaks to the reader the same way every time it is read.
Certainly there are parts that have meanings that don’t change. The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead always has Lazarus coming back to life, and the story of Noah building the ark always has a great flood, and even the story of Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem to be enrolled always has Mary giving birth to a baby boy. But there are lots of shifts in focus and lots of changing of camera angles and even more lots of variances in how our ears are tuned to the story each different time we hear the words. The truth is that it isn’t the story that changes; instead it is us who change. We are a little different each time we hear or read a passage and that affects how we hear and react to the stories.
Today we are hearing one of the very few stories of the childhood of Jesus. It almost seems odd to be hearing this story on the Sunday immediately following Christmas Eve Service where we listened to the story of Mary and Joseph and an overfull Inn and Shepherds and Angles and a little tiny Christ Child lying in a manger. Are we having another time warp?! It seems this year on this cycle of lectionary, we jump ahead 12 years before the Wise men can appear, or even before that bright star is able to burn out. Here we are this Sunday looking at Jesus at age 12 going to the temple and staying behind when they head home. Here this young man is giving his parents all sorts of fits. Why, and for what reason? And what on earth could this story be saying to us today? What message is there for us to understand?
If we were to go through this story on any other day of the year, we might focus on the parents. And I have looked at it in that regard with a message a few years ago. The anxious mother, frightened for her child. She likely thinks of all the things that could go wrong, all the bad that could happen to a 12 year old boy.
Or, what if our focus were to be on the interaction of Jesus and the elders and scholars in the temple? Reading it beside the scripture about Samuel, it is likely that we could be pointed in that direction. We could study up on what sort of education it would take to become one of the scholars. Such a message might be all about the priests and the learn’ed and how you interpret the rules and laws of God.
The other one of many, many ways you could look at this gospel scripture is the journey of Mary and Joseph and those who lived at the time Jesus was in human form. In terms of journeys, it really could include the journey we take with him now in our time. Because of course if you really think about it, we, too, are on a journey with Jesus. We may not have him with us in a human form, yet as he noted many times to his disciples, Jesus is among us, in our midst to minister with and to be ministered to. That is what it means for us to think of Jesus as Emanuel, God-with-us. Each time we reach out our hands and hearts and offer up our treasures, our time, ourselves in an act of love to others. Jesus is with us. It happens each time we offer food or drink or clothes or shelter or quilts or kindness to others.
(Sigh….It seems I keep saying these things and it seems we keep hearing these things, and hopefully you don’t feel like I used to sitting in the pew, wondering what more I could do, wondering if I have ever participated in any of those things other than by writing a check or hoping that my church participates for me.)
We have been about that journey often this past year. We have been about that journey in several ways: Well how about this idea. Instead of listing it, let’s look at it. I so wish that I had paid closer attention and taken more pictures. Although I will admit there are times when it is hard to takes pictures from up here. I will try to cover it as best as I can from what I have, so here goes. (Present Power Point with whatever narration is possible to add to it.)
These are the types of things we have done together. Yet there are so many more that I did not capture in picture. I think of our annual meeting, or all the times we meet in Bible Study. There are Board meeting which are about more than just the financial and building side of the church. There are worship services and fellowship afterwards. There are all the things we do in small groups and as individuals.
These pictures are just a sample of the things we have done in a spirit of fellowship and camaraderie and most of the time with great fun, with great joy. I know from past experience this has always been a church that works together and shares together and does things with each other and for each other. But I really enjoyed looking at the expressions on your faces as I placed these pictures and really examined them. Some of them might not be in the best focus, but they say quite a bit to me about how willing you are to work with each other toward a common goal.
I will also share that my goal when I accepted your request to come here and fill this spot for you, my goal was to add joy and a little laughter and life to our mix. My goal has been not just to keep the doors open, but to open the doors as wide as we possibly can to make all the room we can for anyone willing to take this journey with us. I didn’t expect it to happen overnight, and though we know and have seen on the slides that we are shrinking. I would ask that we challenge ourselves to join in a new goal. It is just a very small little thing for each of us, but together it could be strong. Let’s join forces and shoot for a goal of 0% membership in 2016. And a very tiny increase of 1% on what we do as a group and give to the world around us. I don’t have any numbers or exact activities worked out, but that is my homework for the next two weeks. I just ask that you be ready to think of what will be your answer to the challenge. Jesus went on the journey to the temple with his parents and challenged the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem. Jesus also invites us to journey with him in our time and place and challenges us to come to the “temple” with him to learn more and do more (in all sorts of ways) with him and for him.
Let’s join together in 2016 to do what we can to promote the love of the Christ Child who grew up to be the Savior.