A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

Messy Love Luke 2: 41-52 Christmas 2 Year C December 27, 2015

Holidays where gathering as family is that the heart of the activities are not always what we expect them to be. I think that naming this is the gift of our service of remembrance today at 10 a.m. But whether we lost a loved one this year or ten years ago naming that the holidays are full of mixed emotions for many of us is cathartic and healthy. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be a “Debby Downer” here two days after Christmas! Sometimes it IS absolutely what we envision: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, children and grandchildren gathered around a table overflowing with traditional favorite food, laughing, relaxing and having a great time. I have witnessed such days and I hope that you have at least one such day that you can recollect. But if we’re honest, most of our holidays or special planned days don’t go exactly how we envisioned, for lots of reasons. People have to work, get sick, are in a dispute with another family member, or simply don’t come. More difficult is when a chair is empty never to be filled by that person again because they have died. I’ve had more of those kinds of holidays than I would like to recollect and maybe you have as well. Reality is that holidays can be difficult when it seems the rest of the world is joyous and festive and you are remembering who used to be around the table celebrating with you and now they are…not. Even in the healthiest or most functional family system, holidays are a messy experience and let’s be honest, who’s all that functional? I like to say that my family has put the FUN in dysfunctional. Sometimes just owning your dysfunction is helpful and remembering that no family is perfect can be relieving!

Our Luke story today tells us that even the Holy Family, had its share of messiness. They had gone to Jerusalem to Passover, a big family oriented festival where they had spent time with their loved ones, going to Temple, eating and catching up. All seemed to be fine until the big family unit set out for home. It says that Mary and Joseph realized quite a ways down the road that their 12 year old son wasn’t with the family caravan. How can the parents of the Son of God lose him?

In a panic, I’m sure, they went back to Jerusalem to look for Jesus. Where could he be? Grandma’s house? No. Uncle’s house? No. Friend’s house? No. Surely, he wouldn’t be in the Temple? What middle school aged youth would stay for extra confirmation? Yet, after three days, that is exactly where his parents found him, with the scribes being taught and even more miraculously, teaching. Mom and Dad were initially relieved but then were upset that Jesus wouldn’t just follow directions and join the caravan home. And right there in front of the Rabbi, their nearly teenaged son, smarts off to them about of course he is in his Father’s house and why were they looking for him? Not the serene scene of mother and baby in the stable from a few nights ago. It didn’t take long for things to change.

Even for Mary, mothering the Son of God, the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Prince of Peace was not all it was cracked up to be. Those reversals she sang about when she was pregnant about the high being made low and the low being made high? Yeah, those aren’t so simple now are they? This was messy. This is not going the way she thought. Who is her son and what does this mean?

Messy indeed. Luke’s gospel isn’t afraid of the messiness, the incongruities, the complex emotions, situations and realities of our human lives. In this story Luke foreshadows the confusion and messiness of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Three days of not knowing what is going on. Three days of waiting in uncertainty. Three days of tumultuous emotions. Three days of asking “why”? Three days that will transform us and the world.

The reality is that our lives are messy. Our lives are not what we had planned. Spouses, children, parents, loved ones, and friends die and we don’t know why. We wrestle with the reality of our pain and sorrow in the midst of a season where we celebrate joy, newness, sing lullabies to new babies, and praises to a King. We might vacillate between really enjoying the season and our sorrow.  It can all feel so hallow, shallow, and inauthentic at times. Friends and family may want us to not be sad but it’s not that simple. We grieve deeply because we love deeply. If we didn’t love, we wouldn’t grieve. That’s not a consolation or a platitude, but a reality. Love is risky, love changes us, love forever binds us together and so its bonds do not break when someone dies, they are stretched and so as we grieve, we wrestle with the stretching of our love for those who have died. Mary knew from the time of Jesus’ birth that at some level that her love for her son would pierce her heart and stretch her love from life to death. Many of us can attest to loving someone so deeply that we know we have the real risk of pain.

Jesus Christ, God as a human, was God’s deep, risky, transformative and binding love for us. Jesus was God’s love stretching to earthly life, to earthly death to eternal life for us all. God’s love is so vast that it stretches to encompass us all-binding us with all of creation together with God forever. God’s love stretches to swallow up death and our Colossians text reminds us that we put on the clothes of love and eternal life with God. God’s love through Jesus transcends the reality of love in this life where love is connected with grief. God’s love promises to wipe every tear from our eyes, make us whole, united with God now and forever.

This is our hope that we proclaim in our worship each and every week, in word, in water, bread and wine. We proclaim this hope sometimes with songs of praise and sometimes with songs of lament but always with words that dwell in us richly even when we don’t have any words at all. This hope that is offered for all through Jesus Christ, is one in which we rest, even when we have a hard time understanding or believing this mysterious and unconditional gift from God. When we gather as the people of God, we do so in all of our messiness, in all of our differences, in all of our stories of “why,” in order to point to our hope in Christ for each other when we have a hard time seeing it, experiencing it or feeling it. This is the importance of a faith community for us in all seasons of our lives. I know that I have had people in my life who in hard times pointed to the love and hope of Christ for me when I needed it and I pray that I have been that light for other people as well.  We need each other on this faith journey. We gather together for the wisdom of the elder in our midst and the wonder of the child. We gather together because we need each other for wholeness, Christ binds us together in love not just for our sake but for the sake of the world. We gather to point to the hope in Christ in the messy, imperfect world around us. God, in Jesus, works through messiness, our imperfections, our sorrows, to reveal God’s promises of wholeness, peace, justice and love this day. Thanks be to God.


This Day! Luke 2:1-20 Christmas Eve 2015 Year C December 26, 2015

“In those days.” We hear those words and it conjures up the beginning of a story from the past. Many of our personal and family stories could begin that way. In those days, grandma and grandpa were still here and grandma always made us special cookies. In those days, we were so poor that we got fruit one year in our stockings. In those days, we had energy and could go to a Christmas party a night and not tire. In those days, we didn’t worry about aging, global warming, terrorism, church decline or any of the other modern chaos. In those days, we didn’t have the medical technology that would have kept grandma healthier longer. In those days, we didn’t have nearly all of the luxuries that we do today. In those days, the economy was bad, or in those days the economy was good. In those days, we had less fear. In those days we had less anxiety. In those days, those were the days.

We can get stuck in the past. We can hang on to the nostalgia of what used to be and compare it to how it is this day. This day never seems quite as shiny or satisfying as “in those days.” It seems that this day has only has fear, uncertainty and anxiety. In those days, we knew what was what. We could count on social security, family, health, or wherever we found our certainty. In those days.

Our story of the birth of Jesus begins with the words, “in those days” and we can let those words lead us to believe that this story is about what happened a long time ago and life was different, life was simpler, life was predictable. In those days, when that decree went out from Emperor Augustus and we had to go to Bethlehem even though I was 9 months pregnant? Remember how we traveled? Remember those days? It’s easy to romanticize this story of Jesus’ birth in a particular place and time and it’s easy to chalk it up to something that happened two thousand years ago but doesn’t have any relevance for us today. It’s nice story for us to hear about a new baby, young parents and peaceful, silent night. It is a story about an event that happened “in those days,” but it also so much more.

The story that opens with “in those days,” quickly moves to what is happening on “this day.” On “this day” the angel said, a savior is born. The long awaited messiah has arrived. This is the day! Whatever happened “in those days” is now transformed because of this day! This day God has come to us. This day God walks among us. This day your salvation has come. This day, this story, this baby, is not about the past at all but the present and the future. This day, God’s promises for forgiveness, grace and hope are real among us. God promises to break into the world in unlikely places each and every day-not just one time in the past, “in those days,” but today-right here right now where we are least looking!

The first to hear this good news were shepherds, lowly stinky shepherds, who were out in their fields with the sheep because they didn’t even rank high enough to be counted in the census. No one cared if they were included in kingdom or not. But to God, they counted. On this day, God proclaimed that no one is too lowly or unimportant for God’s kingdom. On this day, all people and all creation counts in God’s kingdom. On this day, God revealed where love had entered into the world. This day God gave a sign that “in those days” were gone and there is only “this day” of love, grace and hope from “this day” forward.

The shepherds were the first to discover that this is a different kind of king and a different kind of kingdom. Instead of a palace, a barn. Instead of a throne or fancy bassinet, a manger where animals ate. Instead of a parade or a coronation, angels with music to a few outsiders. Instead of family with useful gifts, the shepherds who only brought with them their story of what God was doing in the world. This new kingdom that arrived on this day, proclaimed that what the world knew of power, authority and community was being made new. Power now looked like a new baby, authority now looked like love, and community now looked like all people-shepherds, teenage mothers, carpenters, refugees, innkeepers, you and me.

This king came to serve, love and gather all to the source of not just this day, but all of our days. This day a savior has been born, and this day points us to the cross and the empty tomb with the promise of God declaring power over death. This day Jesus comes to us in the bread and in the wine to declare God’s promise to over and over offer grace, mercy, forgiveness and hope to all people.

This day two thousand years ago, transforms this day, here and now. God takes all of in those days, and proclaims “Don’t miss what I am doing this day! Don’t get stuck in the past!” This day we don’t have to fear because God is with us. This day we know that God walks with us in our grief and sorrow. This day we know that God rejoices with us. This day we celebrate that no matter what we say or do this day, God promises to transform our hearts, minds and souls for tomorrow so that when “this day” arrives again, we get another day of living and sharing in the love and peace of Jesus Christ. With the angels and the shepherds we tell the whole world what we have heard, the good news of what God is doing this day to all who can hear, for this day, and every day now and forever, God lifts up the lowly, fills the hungry, and brings peace, love and hope through Jesus Christ. This day is the day that the whole world is waiting to hear: a savior is born. Amen.



What Shall I Say? Luke 1: 5-13, 57-80 December 21, 2015

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Silenced. I wonder for how long? I’ve never been good at being in silence. I mean, my whole job, reason for being is to talk to people about God, what God is doing and what I think about God. I can’t believe that God would do this to me. All I did was ask how I was to really know what the angel said was true. It’s perfectly reasonable to wonder about an old woman having a baby with an old man. Seriously, I think that angel overreacted just a bit. But now I’m here in the silence and not able to tell anyone anything that I am thinking. I may not survive this.

Well, maybe this is a good time to catch up on some of those scrolls I’ve been meaning to reread. I’m usually so busy in the temple that I don’t get to that as often as I probably should. I forget how good those stories are in the Torah about God working through all kinds of unusual suspects and what those laws might really mean for how we live. Hmmmm, when I can talk again, I need to remember to ask Elizabeth to make sure the tassels on my robes are in proper order. Where was I? Oh, yes, scroll reading. You know, maybe I should look at those prophet scrolls again. I wish we had some new prophecy about what God will do to save Israel. If we ever needed saving its now! We’re occupied AGAIN, the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. If you’re not in with the ruling class, you’re very likely to end up a slave or in prison.  People seem to not be interested in going to temple anymore. I guess they’re so busy just trying to make ends meet and ensure that they have enough food, shelter and clothes that time for scroll reading and psalms seem like a luxury. I guess I’m no better. It took God putting me in a long time-out for me to even find some time. It IS kind of nice to have the time…and as I read and silently (like I have a choice) reflect, I am noticing that I’m worrying less about myself…

God does keep all of us on our toes. God has done some fairly outside the box activities in the past: manna from heaven, water from a rock, using kings to bring the Israelites back to their homeland, wet wood set on fire, young shepherd boy made king. I wonder what God has in mind for this baby Elizabeth is carrying? I wonder how he will be part of what God is doing. Does this mean that I am a part of what God is doing as well? I’m fairly old for a lot of adventure, but I guess all of the sleepless nights coming with a baby might cure me of that!

You know, as I look at the Torah, the writings and the prophets, God has always looked out for those on the outside, on the edge and the vulnerable. What if God is continuing that work? It’s been so hard in the past couple of hundred years as it seems that God has quit speaking. Or maybe we quit listening. You have to be quiet to listen…oh I see what you did there God! Did I need to stop talking to hear what you’ve been trying to say? Sigh. I guess it’s not always about me as a priest is it God? It’s easy to forget when you have some privilege, when people listen to you, when you can essentially take care of yourself without much input or help from the rest of the community, we can forget that our whole reason for being is to love God and neighbor. Maybe those 10 commandments aren’t so restrictive after all. Maybe God’s trying to tell us that we are most whole, filled with joy and peace when we are connected to and love God and neighbor. Hmmmm I’ll have to ponder that one some more…

If we need to be connected to God for wholeness and peace, what are we to do and say then? What does that mean for not just my child about to be born but for all of us? What if my baby is not just about Elizabeth and me but about all of God’s people? I mean, not to make a mountain out of a molehill, but what if we all have a role to play but only some of us actually participate? That’s very frightening really, what are we missing about God if not everyone speaks about their experiences with God? Why are we afraid to do that? What if our words could heal, love and give hope? I wonder if I’ll ever get to speak again. If  I do, I’ll remind us all of what God has done, how God has always been there, saved us when we needed saving, and that God promises to always be there and to always come to our rescue no matter what. I’ll speak words that remind not just others, but myself, that God is the center of all we do and who we are.

Wait, what’s that? What shall we name him? It’s a boy? But I still can’t speak!! Oh I never liked the naming the son after the father stuff, seems redundant and limiting…John…well, not a family name at all but that is the name that I’m hearing….from God. Yes, God, I’m listening. If I’m allowed to speak once more, what shall I say? Oh, these months have changed me. These months have allowed for your word, your tender mercy, your deep compassion and your unending love to live in my heart, in my mind and in my spirit. Your spirit fills us all, reminds us that you do live in and now really among us! What shall I say?  I hope everyone is listening and not caught up in their fear of the unknown, of uncertainty and fear of not having enough. That angel Gabriel was right: don’t focus on fear! Focus on God! Ah Hem!! Here goes nothing: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.”





Garages and Loving Our Neighbor Philippians 2: 1-8 December 14, 2015

Have you noticed the change in house designs over the past 30 years or so? It’s a subtle and yet interesting phenomenon that has many nuanced pieces to it but it’s one that makes me wonder. I have even bought, in my life, two of these kinds of homes. What change is that you wonder? The placement of the garage and the front door. Garages are now prominent on the front of the house in most newer neighborhoods (although interestingly there are a few places where garages are moved again to the rear of the home) with front doors with little porches off to one side and larger patios out back in a private yard (where garages used to be). As I said, there are probably several reasons for this change, such as we now have two cars in a household so we need a bigger garage, you can place living space on top of the garage for a smaller footprint on a lot are just two that come to mind. But whether this is an outcome or a culture change, we now can drive home from work, drive into our garage, put our garage doors down and enter our homes all without ever making eye contact with a neighbor. When you BBQ or have friends over-there is no space out front, so you are in your fenced backyard. You know the old saying “Good fences make good neighbors.”

If we think about it, we have a ton of control over who we let into our daily lives now. We don’t even have to know our neighbors. We get to pick and choose who we make contact with, who we meet, who we enter into relationship with and who we even casually bump into. We can choose to only have conversations with like minded people. If we are honest, this is about fear. Fear of who our neighbors might be. Fear of being used by them (you know that one neighbor who ALWAYS needs something?), fear of not getting along, fear that our neighbor might be not share our values, fear that they might be different than us, fear that they might be a serial killer, fear that they might be a terrorist, or even the fear that WE might need them, be a burden or end up in a deep and lasting relationship. How many times on the news do we hear a neighbor saying, “I had no idea what was going on next door.”

This separation also allows us to judge our neighbor without really knowing them. We see the sign in the yard of who is remodeling their kitchen, the sign where a high school student made the varsity squad, the bumper sticker of their honor roll kid, and we can judge that they have it all together and wouldn’t want to be friends with us anyway because we have none of those things going on. Not knowing our neighbor can affirm our assumption that we are not enough by the world’s standards. We can feel what we call humiliated; lesser than and not worthy. Or we can see the junk pile in the front yard, all of the beer cans or wine bottles in the recycling bin, hear the children fighting, the adults fighting, see the un-mown lawn, the newspapers piled up on the micro-porch and think or even say, “well at least I’m not that” and humiliate our neighbor. Not knowing our neighbors can also allow us to feel fairly good about ourselves and doesn’t require any self reflection either. If we never are confronted with our neighbors’ messiness, then we don’t have to deal with our own.

So, culturally we have found ways to separate ourselves, give people just a passing glance of who we may or may not be, garages where we can hide just being one of many. Yet, we yearn for something more. Our hearts and souls stir for connectivity, for intimacy, for deep and authentic community. We know that we feel most empty when we are isolated. Ask any of our older members who yearn to come to worship but health or mobility challenges keep them at home alone. We live in the tension of the fear of who should we let in and our need for community. We live in the tension of looking out for our own best interests under the guise of staying protected, and the emptiness of division that we attempt to fill with new cars for those garages, larger homes, more material possessions, busy jobs, or hobbies. None of those things are inherently a problem, unless they are where we think we are finding our primary worth and identity.

While we’re today simply able to structure our buildings to support this tension, this is not a new challenge. Apparently, the ancient people of Philippi were trying to figure out this community thing in light of what they knew about God through Jesus. The Philippians were living in the tension of diversity, of who to let in to their lives, who to be in community with, what rooted them and bound them together and how the gospel moved them from the cultural norms of making sure you have enough for yourself, and protecting what you have… to seeing each other as God sees them.

Paul pleads with them to get off of the “either/or” treadmill of either someone is for us or against us. Paul reminds them that the gospel of Jesus Christ pulls us into a completely different way of being in the world. It’s not the either only be in relationship with those exactly like you and then afraid of everyone else or being isolated and alone so that no one can hurt you. The gospel lights the way for another possibility. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection models for us the truth of who we are and “who’s” we are. Love, unity and sameness are not about assimilation, safety, and easy relationships but the deep, messy, risky relationships where we reveal ourselves to our neighbor and discover that they struggle with all of the same challenges that we do. Hearing someone else’s struggles, loves, sorrows and joys often elicits a heartfelt, “ME TOO!” While we have different lives, we all share falling short, not feeling like enough, having days where we seem all together followed by days of feeling very human. This common humanity binds us together in ways that we can’t ignore; we are created for community with one another and with God.

Jesus, God incarnate, was God’s “Me too” to humanity. God saw the separation between each other and from God and chose, desired to come and live in the tension with us and to draw us into life with God and each other. God calls out our false sense of control of who is our neighbor and reveals that when God chose to come to us, to be our actual human neighbor, God chose all of us together. Jesus’ life among us proclaims another way besides isolation, judgment, self-protection, ambition and fear. Jesus’ very human life points to unity in diversity. Same love, same mind, and full accord isn’t being a clone of each other, but it’s knowing our neighbor, seeing our neighbor, loving our neighbor, allowing our neighbor to really see us,  seeing Christ in them and saying, “me too.” God sees our common struggle with sin-which is anything that separates us from God and declares that this separation is no more. Through the humanity of Jesus, God came to be in our mess. God wasn’t afraid of really being with us and seeing all of the pieces of ourselves that we try and hide. God wasn’t afraid of the risk of getting hurt, being used, suffering or even dying at the hands of a neighbor. Relationship with us, God’s beloved children, was worth any risk, any hurt, any inconvenience.

Jesus transforms our common human ambition, common human judgment, common human self-interest, common human struggle with self worth, and common human fear into deep community and joy through the love of God that is for all people in all times and in all places. Connecting to this love pulls us into deep relationship with each other, as we share the same love, grace, mercy and hope in Christ Jesus. This love banishes all fear of our neighbor as God’s love transforms our relationships to not being about us, but others. This love banishes our fear of who we are as God’s love transforms us because it’s also all about us. This love banishes all division as God’s love transforms our separation into true community.

Jesus comes to us today and every day in ordinary and extraordinary ways for authentic experiences of Jesus’ love and love of neighbor. In ordinary bread, wine and water, elements that all of humanity needs for physical survival, the living Christ gathers us all as one, connects us and transforms our fear of others into openness and common ground. Jesus comes to us to open our garage doors, open our hearts and open our lives to show us a new way to live in hope and not fear, a new way to live in community and not isolation, a new way to live in abundance and not scarcity, a new way to live with others, for others in the form of Jesus’ love. Thanks be to God.


What You See Depends Upon Where You Sit

Luke 14: 7-11 *This was a homily for the XYZ senior gathering Tuesday morning worship as well as for the Executive and Ministry joint council meeting worship on Dec. 8th at Bethany Lutheran Church, Cherry Hills Village, CO

When I was in seminary I took a class in Chicago where we experienced congregations that had significant community organizing and outreach as part of their ministry model. Many were in impoverished areas of Chicago and dealt with the social justice issues of the context: poverty, joblessness, homelessness, elder care, gang violence, etc. Our professor or spiritual guide as she referred to herself for the two week class as Dr. Yvonne Delk. She had marched with MLK, she had rallied with Jeremiah Wright, and protested with Malcolm X. The phrase that she kept using with us to get us out of our comfort zone and to orient us in our experiences was “what you see depends upon where you sit.”

11 out of our class of 12 were white, middle class students. People of privilege most definitely, so this phrase helped us to gain insight that where we’ve been sitting in society gave us only one view of the culture and of the world. We had only seen the world and ourselves from the position of power, if we were completely honest. Had we really ever sat with the homeless? Or the racially oppressed? Or the undereducated? Or the lonely? Or the abused?

“What you see depends upon where you sit.” In our Luke 14 story, it seems that where one sits is of primary importance and risky all at the same time. Jesus notices where people were sitting, he tells this parable. Now it’s easy to hear these words through a self-righteous or a self-denigrating lens but I don’t think that either of those lenses is what Jesus really had in mind. Yes, we can think too highly of ourselves and think that we deserve a more honorable place than we do and often get our comeuppance when that happens (pride goes before a fall as they say). And yes, we can think lowly of ourselves and put ourselves last. In worse case scenarios allow ourselves to be a doormat. But what if those were not the two choices that Jesus had in mind?

“What you see depends upon where you sit.” Jesus is perhaps inviting us to reflect on ourselves and our role in community in a through a different lens. When we sit in a new place at church or anywhere what happens? We might see someone new, notice a room or building differently, think about ourselves in relationship to new people or new spaces differently. What if we were to sit on a street corner in our neighborhood? What about a street corner in a different neighborhood? What if we went grocery shopping in a different neighborhood? What would we see with new eyes? How would we view our own lives with new eyes? How might we view our neighbor with new eyes?

Jesus came to sit, to dwell with us. God wanted to sit with us on earth and let us know that God really sees us, really is with us and really cares for us by being in relationship with us. Jesus, fully divine, didn’t have to sit with humans in our suffering, in our mess, in our brokenness but knew that sitting with us would reveal how much God cares, would reveal how loved we are, would reveal that we are never alone. Jesus wants us to see ourselves and our neighbor as God sees us-connected to one another, bound by love and grace. God sits with us now and always to see us for who we really are: created in God’s very image and created for unending love. Amen.



What Fits? Homily on Matthew 21: 1-9 December 7, 2015

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*The text for this homily is Matthew 21: 1-9 and Romans 13: 11-14. This sermon was part of a vespers Bach cantata worship service at Bethany Lutheran Church on Dec. 6th, 2015.


We live in a world where things don’t always seem to fit. I often feel this is highlighted in this season of Advent or what our culture has been celebrating since October: Christmas.  We are told by Lexus, Target, Walmart, and every other retailer in the world that this time of year is magical. Christmas is magical. All around is a Silent Night. Idyllic scenes of snow, peaceful and happy families gathered around a fireplace sipping coffee or hot cocoa, laughing and opening just the perfect gift. This is the picture that we are all sold in this season and we buy it hook, line and sinker.

But it doesn’t jive with our reality. Reality where in-laws don’t always get along; children don’t play nicely together, expensive gifts are not possible, beloved family members are missing for a variety of reasons, disease makes it impossible to feel hopeful, people are killed while at a work holiday party, or at school or while at a concert. Things just don’t fit how we think they should. The season seems off, not quite what we have built it up to be in our minds or what the world wants us to think it should be.

The Matthew 21 reading struck me as not quite fitting in with this season of Advent, or really almost Christmas and our other winter festive themes. You see in our modern Church year, this reading comes on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. It’s Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem right before Passover, right before he is killed on a cross as an enemy of the state. This is not the pastoral scene of young parents welcoming their sweet baby boy that we are used to hearing in December. But you see, this gospel reading was the scripture that Bach would have heard at Advent. This would be the biblical passage for those in attendance in worship. The people would be expecting the juxtaposition of Jesus final coming to the holy city as they prepared for Jesus’ coming to the world-God incarnate, made flesh, Emmanuel, God with us.

The crowds in Matthew 21 shouting Hosanna, which means “Save us now!” are not the cries of Merry Christmas or caroling choirs that we expect. But I wonder if the words “Save us now!” shouted to Jesus as he rode in on a lowly donkey are exactly what we need to hear today-even if it seems to not fit. Unlike other worldly leaders, Jesus was entering Jerusalem amidst fanfare but not as a typical celebrity or king. Jesus, as God dwelling among us, didn’t fit what the Jewish people thought of as a messiah and certainly didn’t fit the Roman Empire’s version of a leader. Unlike a worldly king, Jesus came to humanity not to demand service but to serve. Jesus entered into the world not to point to himself but to God. Jesus entered the world not to conquer the world with violence but to conquer our hearts with God’s unconditional love. Jesus entered the world not to judge but to forgive. None of that fit with what the people knew of a messiah and a king.

But they also knew that how they were living, didn’t fit, either. They were broken, lonely, stressed out, sick, hurting, oppressing one another, killing one another and the only words they had were “Save us now!”  We also know today that how we are living, doesn’t fit. We know that we are created for more than what the world tells us. We are created to be more than consumers, more than taxpayers, more than medical patients, more than lonely people, more than political affiliations, more than whatever label others try to put on us. We are created in God’s image, we are created as God’s beloved people and we know that doesn’t fit with who we are today.

So maybe the words “Save us now!” are the perfect fit for this Advent season. Maybe the words “Save us now!” are exactly the prayer and the cry of our hearts as one people of God. Save us now from brokenness, save us now from fear, save us now from isolation, save us now from division and save us now from anything that separates us from you, God and your eternal and unconditional love through Jesus Christ.

Jesus entering the world didn’t fit the world’s plan, but it fit God’s plan. God promises to enter into our daily lives no matter how broken or how much we think we don’t fit into God’s plan. Through Jesus’ entering into the world through human birth, human suffering, human death and divine resurrection, God proclaims to us this Advent season that we all fit. We all fit into God’s very life and heart. We fit into the work that God is doing to save not just us but all people and all of creation. We fit into God’s plan of life and love forever. Hosanna, save us now, are the very words we need this Advent season. Amen.