Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Well, folks, the time has finally come. After about 2 years of having two separate blogs, neither of which I updated with good regularity, I've decided to merge my pastor life and mama life into one. This blog will not be deleted, but will go dormant. If you'd still like to keep up with me and read my rambling thoughts, please head here.

Thanks for being on this journey with me!

Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Forty Days- Sermon on Luke 4:1-13 and Deut 26:1-11

Preached Sunday, February 17, 2013, first Sunday of Lent.

“Trust me.” Two short words, filled with meaning and baggage. I think, on the whole, that we want to be trusting people. We want to give others the benefit of the doubt, right? Especially as Christians, we don’t want to judge people unfairly, or interact with them based on their appearances or reputation, treat anyone differently from anyone else. We want to offer them trust.

But we live in a cynical time, in a dangerous world. It seems naïve to trust anyone. Seeds of doubt have been planted. We are wary, insecure. We look at everyone twice, with narrowed gaze, trying to figure out their angle, their ulterior motives. We are afraid, frankly. And we have transferred this distrust to God, as well.

Of course, this is not really a new phenomenon. We might idealize the 1950s as a time of perfection in America, the way life should be, imagining Wally and the Beave and the rest of the Cleavers, but it was also the time of a Cold War, and fear of communists and anyone else who didn’t conform to that standard ideal. Go back further, and there are the Salem witch trials. Further than that, Inquisition. The beginning of the Christian church. Keep going—all the way back to Adam and Eve. When we read that creation story, we stopped before their time in the garden. Genesis 3:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that theLord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’“ But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

This was the first temptation, and it was accomplished by creating distrust. It wasn’t so much that the tree was so fabulous that Adam and Eve could not resist. The serpent got them to question God. “God’s not telling you the whole story,” says the serpent. The trust starts to crack. Ever had that feeling? You put your trust in someone or something, and then something happens or someone says something and all of a sudden, in your mind, in your gut, in your heart, there is the tiniest catch. Doubt. Hesitation. No one wants to feel like a sucker, made to be a fool. Adam and Eve were no different. They shifted their trust from God to the serpent, and the rest, as they say, is history.

And then there’s Jesus. Just before the passage we read this morning, Luke traces Jesus’ lineage through Joseph back to Adam, makes that connection to him, and to God. Jesus is about to begin his ministry at thirty years old. He has just been baptized by water and the Holy Spirit, and this same Spirit now leads him out into the wilderness for forty days of fasting and temptation. We don’t know how the temptation is framed during that forty days, but at the end of that time, we find the Devil trying to cast that shadow of doubt on Jesus. “If you’re the Son of God,” the devil says, “turn the stones to bread.” The Devil tries to cast doubt not only on the authenticity of Jesus’ identity (which was affirmed during his baptism), but also on Jesus’ trust of God’s plan. “You’re hungry, Jesus. You don’t know when you’ll get bread next. Go ahead, turn this stone here. You haven’t eaten anything for forty days! You need to eat! You deserve it!” Jesus responds with scripture, part of Deuteronomy 8:3, “God humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not lives by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

“Ok,” Devil says, “Look around. I’ll give you power over all that you see, if you worship me.” In other words, do you really have Divine power? Can you trust God’s word on that? Jesus again refers to scripture, Deuteronomy 6:13, “The LORD your God you shall fear; God alone you shall serve, and by God’s name alone you shall swear.”

The Devil tries one last time. “Ok, Jesus. If you’re really the Son of God, nothing bad can happen to you, right?” The Devil pulls out some scripture, too, from Psalm 91. Ha ha!, the Devil says. Two can play at this game. “Go ahead, Jesus, jump from the top of the temple, and if you’re really God’s Beloved Child, the angels will catch you and make sure you’re not injured.” Jesus responds a third time with scripture, mindful both of God’s promises and of God’s expectations. Deuteronomy 6:16, “Do not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested God at Massah.”

First of all, I think it is no accident that all of Jesus’ quotes are from Deuteronomy. He uses scripture from the time before the text we heard this morning, a time when his ancestors were wandering in the wilderness for forty years. Those people certainly had doubts aplenty. I know I would—in their time, forty years was literally a lifetime, so probably very few saw both the beginning of the Exodus and the arrival in the Promise Land. But as we heard in this lovely text, God does provide, always, and does so abundantly.

Jesus knew this. I wonder, honestly, how much he was tempted in those forty days. He certainly doesn’t seem to hesitate in the least during those last three tests. If you have internet access, I encourage you to look up a video called “40” (that’s the number)—search for “Jesus 40 days video” or something along those lines and you should find it easily. Or check out our Facebook page—I put the link up this morning. It’s a video of cartoons by Simon Smith, set to various pieces of music, of Jesus’ time in the wilderness, his reflection on what it might have been like. In the end, the face of the Devil is Jesus’, suggesting that Jesus’ mightiest struggle was with himself.

“Trust me.” God says these words to us every moment of every day of our existence. The world, though, especially for those of us with more logical, science-minded, or even practical brains, tells us differently. We know that one does not live on bread alone, but we also know that about 25,000 people die every day from hunger or hunger-related causes, and 16,000 of those are children. Oh that we could turn stones to bread for them—except we don’t need to. Americans alone throw away about 400 lbs of food a year—that’s EACH PERSON, so multiply that by a population of about 314 million. God has provided, we’re just taking more than our fair share.

“Trust me.” We want to. We really, really want to. We want to let go and let God, as the saying goes. Through our hard times and struggles and uncertainties, we want to trust that God is there, and more than that, helping us. But we don’t. We are tempted by doubt. We want to trust God to lead us by the Holy Spirit, but when we think we’ve discerned where and how and why we’re being led, the trust starts to crack. There is a quote that appears in the film Akeelah and the Bee, incorrectly attributed to Nelson Mandela, that I think really captures this doubt. It’s really by Marianne Williamson, and she says,

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.[1]

We don’t trust that God actually is asking us to act. We don’t trust Jesus quite enough to pick up our cross daily and follow him. We don’t trust the Holy Spirit not to lead us astray. We are tempted by the promises of the world, yes, but much more so by self-doubt, insecurity, feelings of inadequacy, fear of failure, and that’s when those worldly promises take hold, because they promise to fix those things. Buy this, go here, act like this, wear this, and you’ll fit in, you’ll be confident and have lots of friends and be happy. Those people who are hungry? That’s because they don’t work hard enough, because there isn’t enough food to feed everyone, because their government is corrupt, because they are in this country illegally, because they’ve made bad choices, because they feel entitled to be fed by our tax dollars. It has nothing to do with you, trust me. Don’t get involved in trying to change the system, it will never change, trust me. Don’t bother writing or calling your representatives in the government, they won’t listen, trust me. What can you do? You’re just one person. You’re not famous or rich or influential, and even if you are, you should use that to your own benefit. Let other people take care of themselves. Trust me. All that stuff you have, your possessions, your money, your food? YOU earned it. God had nothing to do with it, really. Sure, if there’s a little money left over at the end of the month, I guess you could give it to the church, but don’t put yourself out. Don’t make any sacrifices or anything. Trust me. You deserve that stuff. You need it. Trust me.

Today is the first Sunday of Lent. Reflecting Jesus’ time in the wilderness, it is 40 days (not including Sundays) of prayer, penitence, fasting, and alms-giving. It is a time to practice our faith at a deeper level in preparation for the event at the center of our faith, the resurrection, which we celebrate on Easter. Maybe you’ve already chosen a practice for Lent, and started on Ash Wednesday. Maybe you hadn’t even thought about it, or had no idea what Lent was. Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle. Either way, let me suggest that this Lent, we all practice trusting God. We trust that we are God’s child, and that God wants the best for us. We trust that our voice is as powerful as anyone else’s—and that others’ voices are important as well. We trust that we have a say in how our world is run, and whether people go hungry or are oppressed or exploited or not. We trust that God will provide enough. How will we do that? Here are some possibilities, some suggestions to get the ideas flowing. Pick one—two at most. Do not try to do them all!

Don’t buy anything new during Lent. Only eat food that is already have in your cupboards and refrigerators and freezers. Educate yourselves on the political status of a cause which speaks to you and contact your representatives to give them your opinion. Take one of the scripture texts we’ve been learning or one that Jesus used in this lesson or even the Lord’s Prayer, and say it each time you hear that other, tempting voice. Pray each day to be led by the Holy Spirit in all you say and do—and then actually follow where She leads. Each day or each week write down one area of your life where you’re struggling to trust God—a financial situation, or a relationship, or a gift you may have—and pray about it, and try to let go of your doubt. Make a point to give away more than you ever have, whether by buying extra food for the food pantry, or making a daily small donation to one charity or forty different organizations over the course of Lent, or fasting from some other activity in order to create time to volunteer or read scripture. Lent can sometimes have a bad reputation, but it does not have to be about guilt or making life painful or difficult. It should take a little effort, yes. Most practice does. But that’s how we get better at things, with practice. Trust me. And above all, trust God to lead you through whatever wilderness lies ahead. You are not alone, and you are God’s beloved. Amen.

[1] A Return to Love, Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, Harper Collins, 1992, p. 190-191

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lenten Practice or New Year's Resolution?

In case you've missed it, Lent begins today. The six weeks leading up to Easter are meant to be a time of penitence, reflection, prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. When baptisms only happened on Easter, Lent was the time for almost-Christians to prepare for the sacrament. Luther didn't really like Lent much, I don't think, which could be why practicing Lent has until quite recently been mostly for Catholics. But now the Protestants are getting into it, and whether it's because of my profession and related circles of friends or evidence of a growing trend, Lent seems to be everywhere. My Facebook feed is filled with people sharing what they're "giving up" for Lent, including those saying good-bye and signing off Facebook for the next 40-46 days (depending on how they're counting Lent).

Last Sunday I preached this sermon, in which I posited that Jesus telling us to take up our cross to follow him was a way of saying "It's not all about you." As it turns out, that same day, a colleague of mine posted this on her blog, with a similar theme.

Maybe we've both been seeing the same thing. See, I'm noticing (and I fully admit I'm guilty of it myself) that Lenten practices are starting to sound a whole lot like New Year's resolutions. I'm seeing very little fasting from something people enjoy for the sole sake of fasting (ie enduring a little deprivation) or even fasting to give way to something more spiritual. Instead, people are doing things they think they SHOULD be doing, or giving up things that have become too important or distracting in their lives, like not checking the phone after a certain time of night or eating healthy or reading before watching TV. Many, it seems to me, hope to continue these practices after Lent; it's as if they're hoping the 40 days provide the discipline enough to make a practice a habit.

As I said, I'm guilty as anyone else. Past Lenten practices have included daily prayer time (stuck for a while, now still a struggle), giving up the word "should," giving up television, saying grace before eating or drinking (I still forget), giving a small amount of money each day to a charity, and doing a carbon fast in which I analyzed my carbon footprint and tried to decrease it somehow (most suggestions I was already doing anyway). This year I considered a whole array of possibilities, most of which sounded remarkably close to what I thought about changing in my life 6 weeks ago, on New Year's Eve.

I think I've settled on something, but am still not sure. It's something that does involve reflection and prayer, and an attempt to repent and change a way of being which I believe blocks part of God's call on my life. But I'm not confident it's not just a delayed New Year's resolution. Tonight in our Ash Wednesday service, I'll be opening up space for silence and prayer inviting those gathered to ask God to show us how we might best experience this Lenten season. I'll be paying attention, waiting for God's answer. Somehow, I bet the words of Isaiah 58 will ring in my ears.

5Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to theLord6Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

May God grant each of us a sense of how She would wish us to experience Lent this year, which may have nothing to do with our own desires for self-improvement.

Sphere: Related Content

Talk of the Cross--Sermon based on Luke 9:18-36

I preached this sermon on Sunday, February 10, 2013, Transfiguration Sunday.

Let us pray: Gracious God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, our Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

For today and for the next few weeks, I’ll be drawing our scripture texts from the lectionary, but the reading we just heard actually starts well before the lectionary passage. Today is the celebration of the Transfiguration, the last Sunday before Lent, when we hear again the story of Jesus on the mountain with Moses and Elijah, transformed with the glory of God before heading back down to do the work of his ministry. That’s the lectionary story. However, for a reason which escaped me as I tried to write this sermon, I decided to start a little earlier, eight days before the Transfiguration. I think maybe I was struck by the fact that Jesus mentions the cross, although he had only just moments before declared for the first time that he would be killed. Given that the Gospels were written well after Jesus had in fact gone to the cross, perhaps no one thought much of it. Here we are, about to start our Lenten journey in a few short days, and the cross already looms in front of us.
Not only does it loom in front of us, we’re apparently supposed to go ahead and get our own to carry along the way. Here’s where my “why the heck did I pick this passage again?” question really kicks in. I have been wrestling with this passage, and particularly the line I selected as our memory verse, all week. If it wasn’t for that memory verse and the fact that it’s printed in your bulletins, I might have ditched the whole idea and just done a lovely Transfiguration story, something fun and exciting and shiny before we hit the seriousness of Lent next Sunday. But alas, it was not to be, and so here I am, preaching on Jesus telling us to take up our own cross to follow him.
To begin with, let’s get some potential misconceptions out of the way. First, taking up the cross does not simply mean to carry a burden. It is now a common term of phrase to say, “That’s my cross to bear” in reference to something painful or troublesome, whether it be a chronic illness or a difficult family member. That is not what Jesus is talking about. He is talking about something very intentional we choose to pick up and carry. Second, we need to remember what the cross represented in Jesus’ time. It has become for us a symbol of hope and faith, something with which we decorate the church and wear on jewelry. Back then, however, it was an instrument of not only death, but torture and humiliation. It was a means of execution, but more hangman’s noose or guillotine than electric chair because it was so public.
So what does Jesus mean, then, when he tells those who wish to become his disciples to each take up her or his own cross each day and follow him? Well, ask me again after another year or twenty of wrestling with it, but here’s what I’m thinking today: It’s not about you. That’s what Jesus is saying. Get over yourself. It’s not about you.
We live in a culture obsessed with self-improvement and self-esteem and self-help and self-everything. It’s all about the individual. Rugged individualism is what we called it in my anthropology classes in college. The Marlboro Man-type. Then there’s the “Me” generation. We can have just about everything personalized just the way we want it. The American dream is for a single person to overcome the obstacles and pull him- or herself up by the bootstraps to success—success, of course, being defined usually as personal wealth or achievement or status—and those who can’t do it without help are lacking somehow. We are supposed to take every advantage we can, even pushing moral and ethical limits, to come out on top. We’re also supposed to be strong, show no signs of weakness, give no one else dominance over us.
Then there’s Jesus, saying, you want to be my follower? Really? Then realize it’s not all about you. Deny yourself. Forget what the world tells you, because what good will it be to have everything in the world but not what I can give you?
We want so badly not to hear this message. We want so badly to believe those who preach the prosperity gospel, who tell us that Jesus wants us to have whatever we want. We hear the Good News that Jesus loves us and that grace can’t be earned by good works and we start letting ourselves off the hook, telling ourselves we can be self-sufficient and self-serving and still call ourselves Christians. We start looking at Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior and assuming that means we can personalize his message to make it something that works for us each as individuals.
Jesus says no. Jesus says to save our lives we must lose them. We must deny ourselves, and follow where he has led, cross and all. We must be willing to be vulnerable, like he was. Willing to offer our whole selves to God, no matter what anyone else says or does or how inadequate we feel. That’s what the cross is, I think. Vulnerability, accepting that to follow Christ is to open ourselves up to being hurt and misunderstood and ridiculed by others. It is comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Speaking truth to power and grace to brokenness. Taking up our cross and following Christ daily means loving as he loved. Forgiving when we have every reason not too. Working our tails off for people and causes which most people ignore or have forgotten or say aren’t important. Offering our time and money in ways that will not benefit us at all. Making time and space for growing our relationship with God when we really want to just do what we feel like: hitting the snooze button, zoning out in front of the TV, shopping. It means doing things that scare us and make us uncomfortable and anxious and are just not “our things” because they are the things that we should do for the least of these among our brothers and sisters just as we’d do them for Christ. Realizing that we are not rugged individuals but parts of a whole Creation and community, in relationship with one another. Acknowledging that our actions do not occur in a vacuum but affect others, and that inaction does the same. Taking up the cross means every day trying to become the person God is calling us to be, exposing more and more of our truth and light in everything we do, and in turn revealing each day a bit more of the realm of God.
Carrying the cross and following Jesus’ Way leads to death, to be sure. Death of worldly expectations, death of self-interest, death of that which holds us back from fully living into God’s desires for each of us and for all of Her creation. But that cross, that cross. An instrument of torture and humiliation and death, transformed. Transfigured by God’s glory, as Jesus was on that mountain. To carry the cross and follow Christ is to die, yes, but also to be resurrected. To be given new life. To see the realm of God.
It is not an easy task. It is a call on our lives with which I know I will continue to wrestle, which I will question and doubt and probably even grumble about. Maybe you will too. But that’s one good thing about church. We can do it together. And when those crosses we pick up each day do feel a little heavy, do begin to feel like burdens, we can help each other carry them. Even Jesus had help carrying his cross. Amen.

Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Aint No Party Like A Jesus Party- Sermon based on John 2:1-11

I’m going to go ahead and blame the Puritans for the poor reputation of the church, and even Christianity at large in our country. It’s boring, some say. Too strict, claim others. It’s all about what you can’t, shouldn’t, or mustn’t do. Perhaps we’re a little bit beyond that, but I would guess there are at least a few of you in here today who hesitate to share your faith background and practice with people for fear of the assumptions people will make, that all of a sudden they will look at you and see a dour, straight-laced Puritan who is eyeing everything they do with righteous judgment. Or maybe you hesitate to invite people to church because, well, it is a little…sedate. And serious.

Sometimes that’s a good thing. Our world is busy and noisy and full of drama. Sometimes we need a break from that, a place to come into quiet, to rest and have a few minutes of peace to actually hear the voice of God.

And often we need to deal with serious issues that can’t be left outside the church. We can’t come into worship and pretend that the world is not broken and that God is not calling us to be part of its healing.

However. We do not need to always be serious. We do not need to always be quiet, or still. While we need to be careful not to make the goal of worship entertainment, as I think has happened in some churches, that does not mean it can’t be fun.

Jesus, as we see in this story, knows about fun. There’s a wedding going on. Weddings in those days were not one evening and done as they are now. No, weddings occurred over an entire week, and it was the host’s job to keep everyone fed and happily imbibing. Running out of wine meant scarcity not just for the couple’s family, but symbolically for the marriage itself, and would certainly mean the end of the party after only three days.

At first, Jesus is dismissive. What business is it of his if there’s no wine left? But Mary is confident, and tells the servants to do what he tells them. He has them take large stone jars, which people use to ritually purify themselves in the Jewish custom, and fill them with water. The water then is transformed into wine. And not just any wine. Good wine, the stuff you’re supposed to serve at the beginning of the party, when people actually care what they’re drinking.

Jesus not only approves of the party and celebration, he’s overwhelmingly enabling it to continue! This is not the image of Jesus we usually see. We know righteously angry Jesus, and meek and mild baby Jesus, and patient “ok, Disciples, let me explain this to you one more time so maybe you’ll understand” Jesus. But fun Jesus? Not so much.

And why not? Because we limit ourselves to what we feel is good and proper. Maybe it’s not just the Puritans. Maybe it’s New England. We’re Yankees. Reserved. Don’t get our feathers ruffled too much. Maybe. Although I’m going to bet that will not be the impression made this evening at Gillette Stadium. So why can’t church be fun?

We put limits on what church is “supposed” to be, and we do the same with God’s grace. We act as though we will need to settle for what God gives us, as if sacrifice and discomfort are what make us better Christians. Yes, sacrifice is called for. But sacrifice of what, exactly? Pleasure? Enjoyment?

That’s not the way God works. We turn to God and expect crumbs, and God gives us the entire loaf of bread. We ready ourselves for a bottle of cheap wine, and God pours out six 25-gallon jars of the best there is.

The jars in this story represent the old ways, old practices of purity that Jesus transforms with his new wine. Maybe we should think about what rituals and practices we’re holding onto that limit the abundance of Christ’s grace. Maybe we should reconsider what church and Christianity are supposed to be, and open ourselves up to what they could be.

Now, of course, we are all of many generations and backgrounds and personalities and interests. What is enjoyable to one may be intolerable to another. But that’s part of being the body of Christ, right? We also need to consider those who aren’t yet part of the body.
But we need to be open, to others and to our own desires. Are you feeling moved by a prayer or song and want to raise your hands? That doesn’t happen much in our church, but that’s ok. Do it! Is there an upbeat hymn that makes your hands itch to clap or your hips beg to sway? I was just swaying to that last hymn. Go for it! Do you agree with something I’ve just said in my sermon or with the beauty of a choir anthem and want to affirm it with a vocal “Amen?” Why not? It is, in fact, ok, to laugh and smile and have fun in worship—and not just during the Time for All Ages! God is awesome, so let’s make the worship of God that way too! We are sharing the GOOD news, right? Yes, sometimes the Holy Spirit moves us deeply to tears or to consider action in response to a prophetic word, but hello, it’s the Holy Spirit, and She likes to be mischievous and active, too, so we should let her!

Living as disciples of Christ can be serious business, but we also must be careful not to take ourselves too seriously. For everything there is a season: a time for reverence and a time for irreverence; a time for reflection and a time for action; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to be still and a time to PAR-ty!! How many of you have seen the movie Sister Act? This group of nuns sing in a choir in a mostly empty Catholic church. They sing with love, sure, but without a whole lot of passion (and, at the beginning, not a whole lot of skill, either). Then Whoopi Goldberg arrives, acting as a nun to hide in the witness protection program. Her previous profession was as lounge singer. She is assigned the task of coaching the choir, and all of a sudden these staid nuns are not only sounding better, but they’re having fun. In one scene, they begin with a traditional arrangement of “Salve Regina,” sung very sweetly. “Hail, holy queen enthroned above, O, Maria…” Maggie Smith, who plays the head nun, looks on approvingly. Then, the piano picks up and they are rocking out and clapping, “Hail holy queen…” Maggie Smith is not amused. The sound brings in people off the street to see what’s going on. The priest waves in these inner-city kids who are peeking in to see what’s going on. In subsequent services, they sing “I Will Follow Him” and “My God (My Guy).” “Nothing you can say can tear me away from my God…”

That’s mostly about music, but it’s also about an attitude, that loving God and serving Christ does not have to be boring. “Ain’t no party like a Jesus party, ‘cause a Jesus party don’t stop!”  Now, we’re not in an inner city, so the chances of people coming in off the streets of Francestown because they can hear us outside are slim to none. But what if people heard of us and decided to take a peek? What if what we were doing—in worship, in mission, in the entire life of the church—were so exciting we couldn’t hold it in and had to share with others? What if it wasn’t just our congregation? What if that started happening all over the Church-with-a-capital-C? It makes me excited and joyful just thinking about it! Forget about church membership numbers or attendance or pledge amounts; just imagine how many more people would hear and know the Good News of Jesus Christ—the power of God’s love and the abundance of God’s grace; the feast God has prepared for us, the river of delights to which we are invited. What might our world look like, if that’s the message people heard about Christianity? It would be amazing! And all because of fun Jesus, who kept the party going.

In that spirit, we’re going to do something a little fun. Who here has played MadLibs? [Explain if necessary]. So we know how this works? Ok, let’s try this out.

On the third day there was a _BIRTHDAY________ (special occasion or event) in __CHURCH______ (place), and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his __COWS________ (plural noun) had also been invited to the (_____BIRTHDAY same special occasion or event). When the _WATER______ (liquid) gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And ___MARK_____ (name of person in the room) said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My __SKI_______ (noun) has not yet come.” His mother said to the ___PEWS______ (plural noun), “Do whatever he tells you.” Now ­­­__SINGING______ (verb ending in –ing) there were __3____ (number) ___BEAUTIFUL____ (adjective) water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding __24_____ (number) or __6______ (number) gallons. Jesus said to them, “___PLAY_______ (verb) the jars with ____BEER______ (liquid).” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the __TEACHER_______  (profession) tasted the __CIDER_______ (liquid) that had become __WINE______ (liquid), and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the ___DOCTOR_____ (profession) called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone __WALKS_____ (verb) the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become __LOVELY_______ (adjective). But you have kept the _HAIRY________ (adjective) wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his __PEOPLE________ (plural noun), in ___FRANCESTOWN_______ (place), and revealed his __COW________  (noun); and his disciples believed in him.

Having had this fun, remember it. Remember the abundant joy God wishes for you. And when we sing “Joyful, Joyful” after Communion, let’s do it with gusto! 

Sphere: Related Content