33 Year Wait List

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In those days…

Now in those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the Roman world.

Joseph belonged to the line of David and he went to Bethlehem to register with his wife, Mary. She was very close to delivering their firstborn son.

In those days…

It was 25 years since Octavian had been crowned Caesar Augustus; king of the Roman Empire. He declared that the entire Roman world should come and register their allegiance to him as Lord and King. But God had a sense of humor.

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In those days…

There were no hotels or Holiday Inns. Some could be found along the busy Roman roads. Small towns, like Bethlehem, would not have “inns”. People built guests room or upper rooms that were more like a modern day loft. Sometimes their guest rooms were on the roof.

In those days…

It was time for the baby to be born. And there was no room in the upper room. It was probably full of extended family members; each one who had come to pledge their allegiance to Caesar Augustus by registering their family.

I wonder if Mary told Joseph that the only gift she wanted this Christmas was a little privacy. Who wants twenty onlookers when you are in labor?

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Mary gave birth and laid Jesus in the manger. It was the best they could do for a little privacy.

Here the true Lord and King rested in a feeding trough. While Caesar demanded the people come from afar to pay him homage, the One True Lord and King volunteered to come from afar and dwell among us.

That night, there was no room in the upper room. But He would be worshipped and glorified. Thirty-three years later, there would be room in the upper room. Here the Lord and King would celebrate the Passover. But instead of being worshipped and glorified, he would be betrayed and condemned.

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Christmas is more than celebrating the coming of our Lord. It is the story that prepares us for the Good News of Easter. It points us to Jesus and it offers us hope for salvation.

Let Christmas open your eyes to the bigger picture; the story of truth and grace that is found in the Resurrected King.

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How to Eat an Elephant? We’ve Come this Far

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Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: holiness!

It’s a journey. It’s a mystery. It’s a God thing that seems to have nothing to do with us.

For the last few weeks, we have been discussing holiness in our current sermon series. In week one, we recognized that we broke God’s trust when we sinned against him. We failed. All of us. And the first step in repairing our relationship with him is to admit that we failed.

During our second week of exploring this journey toward holiness, we talked about the past and the future. We recognize that we have spent too much time, an unhealthy amount of time, lamenting the past. The best way to eat this elephant called holiness is to break from the past. We cast our anchor into the future and secure it to Jesus who draws us forward. We are no longer sinners saved by grace. We are children of God being transformed by grace.

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In week three, we were confronted with holiness beaconing us to be different.

Holiness is terrifying, overwhelming, and incomprehensible which is why we do our best to ignore it. God’s grace has given us freedom. And, while everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial. Yet, when we talk about holiness, we are not talking about preference or gray matters. God is calling us to be different; godly, holy.

St. Paul tells St. Timothy that in the last days…

“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power.”

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Paul is not talking about the world or non-Christians. He’s talking about the Church.

We [the Church in the U.S.] spend all of our time talking about those things that are “permissible, but not necessarily beneficial”. And we should be spending our time cleaning our house. Until we are walking in holiness, we have no authority with the world to comment on things permissible, but not beneficial.

Last week we left the discussion with unresolved tension. And it’s exactly where we need to be. We need to allow ourselves to feel the tension so that it can do its work in us.

On Sunday, we will work to resolve the tension. We will talk about bicycles, butterflies, and how to eat an elephant! We will work to answer the questions: what does it look like and how do we get there?

Sunday at 11AM 

Let Freedom Ring

“Even as He spoke, many put their faith in Him.  To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”.”  John 8:30-32

The 8th chapter of John’s Gospel is a very tense chapter.  Jesus and the Pharisees are having the debate of all times.  Even as I read it I see the politics of that day in full display.  And Jesus is not backing down.  He is being very candid about His identity and the Pharisees cannot believe their ears.  They want Jesus to tell them again and again because they cannot believe someone would be bold enough to claim to be the Christ.

And then these two little verses almost escape the reader.

“Even as He spoke, many put their faith in Him”.  Jesus was convincing!  We read it and we only see the Pharisees with their hate speech.  But people are watching this and believing.  Jesus is gaining disciples.

Sometimes we weigh the results of what is happening around us and we think Jesus is losing.  But people are still coming to believe in Jesus.  We hear accounts of churches closing; people turning to atheism; and Bible burning.  But Jesus is still gaining disciples.  Could I please get a witness?  Anyone?

“To the Jews who had believed…”.  As disciples, we take that first initial step of faith.  And then something happens; we are challenged to really believe.  We are called to believe when things get tough.  We are called to believe when we do not understand.  We are called to believe when we are looking like fools.  But not everyone can believe enough to take the next step.  Some stop believing.  Some get to a point where they are not ready to believe Jesus that much.  The Jews Jesus was talking to here did not make that next leap of faith.  They froze.  And then they turned back.

How do you get from here to there?  How do you move from that initial step of faith to being set free?  I want truth, but I want truth that will set me free.  I do not simply want head knowledge.  I want truth that will change me and propel me forward.  Maybe the Jews who were listening did not want that kind of truth.  Maybe they did not want truth that would change them.  Maybe they liked who they were and wanted to stay that way.  Or maybe they just did not understand they were not really free.