A Lutheran Says What?

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

Jesus Has Everything To Do With Us Sermon on Mark 1 January 30, 2021

This sermon was preached at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT on Jan. 31, 2021. We celebrated Reconciling in Christ Sunday. Worship can be viewed on YouTube on our channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:
Deuteronomy 18: 15-20
Psalm 111
Mark 1: 21-28

I have to be honest, there are occasionally people that I try and avoid. Sometimes it’s people I know and I don’t want have anything to do with them, but often, I also avoid people I barely know as I make quick assumptions about them based on what they look like, how they might speak or other fairly shallow exterior traits. I justify the avoidance by telling myself “well, I don’t want anything to do with them, as it might lead to trouble or drama that I don’t want.” The real trouble is that when I do this, I don’t ascribe to them their full humanity, I don’t see any connection with them. When I do that, I also can let myself off the hook and curl up safely in my own cocoon assume what’s happening to other people in other communities has nothing to do with me. I don’t know them, they don’t live here, so they’re not my problem. Well, during a global pandemic, we now know how connected we are and that what happens to other people, in other places can and does directly affect us. We feel the impact of other people’s actions on us and they feel ours. This has always been true, but we tend to ignore that truth or rationalize it away, usually in the name of independence, autonomy and self-righteousness. Such as with the HIV pandemic in the 1980’s. HIV, and the disease it causes AIDS, was at first wrongly attributed only to homosexuality, and LBGTQIA+ people were scapegoated as the cause. Some people, including those who professed to be “Christian,” refused compassion and care for those suffering, as originally many incorrectly assumed it wouldn’t affect people who are heterosexual. It was easy for many “Christians” at the time to marginalize and dehumanize a whole segment of our population based on a couple biblical passages poorly translated from ancient languages and contexts into modern English with a homophobic bias, and smugly proclaim that whatever is happening to “those people” is deserved, their suffering doesn’t impact us and we have nothing to do with them.  It’s more comfortable to focus on the parts of the Bible that we decide affirm our biases and divisions even if it destroys other people’s humanity, than to dwell on how many times we are commanded to love and care for our neighbor to the point of self-risk.

Then, as we are now, we were dealing with a virus that ironically doesn’t compartmentalize us-but sees us all equally as human hosts. Viruses don’t care a wit about how we divide ourselves, how we think that we are different, better or unique from each other. It seems that these unicellular organisms might understand more about connectedness than we do. Viruses don’t leave us alone because we ascribe to certain religions, political affiliations, are in certain tax bracket, are in particular family configuration, or because of who we love or who we don’t. We put our trust in the false identities that we’ve created for ourselves to provide us with control and safety. We reside in our insulated bubble and so bad situations will have nothing to do with us. We want to be God in our own lives. But ultimately that’s hubris and sin and doesn’t hold up. We don’t like being in proximity with the suffering, as it’s too real, too humbling. When all our labels and divisions are erased, when we can’t deny that what Paul writes in Galatians 3: 28 is true, “in Christ there is no male or female, slave or free, Jew or Greek,” we wonder “will this destroy us?” And what if our worry about ourselves is exactly what needs to be destroyed?

The man in the synagogue with the unclean spirit, is seemingly ignored by everyone present, including the supposed religious leadership. But Jesus sees the man, and the unclean spirits recognize Jesus as well as he presents a threat to their comfort. They (and note that this is plural) ask him “what have you to do with us? Have you come to destroy us?” Why don’t you just leave us alone Jesus? Everyone else is! We like things just the way they are. But Jesus is clear that he has come because leaving things as they are, is not the desire of God. Jesus proclaims that God’s kingdom is all about destroying what is harmful, what divides, and what kills abundant life. Jesus commands the unclean spirits to leave the man and we read that the man convulses; sometimes it’s painful to have the status quo disrupted in our lives.
It’s tempting to think of the man as the “other” as “them” and to rationalize the unclean spirit away as mental or physical illness or some other malady. But Mark offers this story at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry because the man with the unclean spirit is us. Jesus encounters us and we wonder what Jesus has to do with us? Sure, Jesus is great but we don’t want things to change, we’re comfortable with the uncleanliness that we know, versus the wholeness that we don’t. We’re afraid of everything we know and who we being destroyed, and that’s more frightening than the pain of the status quo. We’re comfortable with our own bigotry and biases, we’re comfortable reading the Bible literally when it suits us and ignoring what makes us uncomfortable. We’re comfortable thinking that the Bible and Church is the same thing as God. (It’s not.) We’re comfortable ascribing our successes and security to our own cleverness, assuming anyone who doesn’t have our successes must simply be less clever than we are. We’re comfortable assuming that it’s all about us and what makes us well, comfortable. To have these unclean spirits driven from us will cause us to convulse, as we will fight to keep status quo and we will question Jesus on why has he come to make us uncomfortable, is it really better to include and love all people more than a few misconstrued passages in the Bible, is it really better to worry about people I’ve never met who make me uncomfortable more than myself? Is it really better to stand against economic and political systems that are harming my neighbor if they are benefitting me?
The good news is that Jesus comes and sees us, sees our unclean spirits that divide, scapegoat and harm, and Jesus says “Guess what, I have everything to do with you. And yes, I have come to destroy evil, sin and death in you and in the world.”  Jesus came as God’s word made flesh to reveal that we are all connected in God’s love, and anything that disconnects us from God or each other, is not God’s will. God created us all just as we are in great diversity to reflect God’s love for diversity. Jesus came because God wants us all to be free from the unclean spirits that we harbor, God wants us all to see that God has EVERYTHING to do with us. God wants us to see our interconnectedness, to see the love and mercy that have everything to do with God and us. God won’t leave us alone, because God wants us. We are wanted. We are wanted so much that Jesus comes right at us and it scares us, because we recognize that nothing will be the same again. On this Reconciling in Christ Sunday, this is what we proclaim: that God wants us and every person. God wants each beautiful LBGTQIA+ person, God wants each Black person, God wants each indigenous person, God wants each person whom the world says they don’t want. We proclaim that in his death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus came and destroyed evil, sin and death and in that new reality we now want what God wants: to create the beloved community, to want and welcome each person as God’s very own. We want to work with God to reveal to the ends of the earth that Jesus has everything to do with us, and will destroy what disconnects us from God’s love. Amen. 

 

Unhooked Sermon on Mark 1 January 22, 2021

Filed under: sermon — bweier001 @ 11:27 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This sermon was preached at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT, on Jan. 24. Worship can be viewed on our YouTube Channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:
Jonah 3: 1-5,10
Psalm 62: 5-12
Mark 1: 14-20

My grandpa Emmons loved to fish. He had a fishing boat and took us grandkids out often. I was three years old the first time I went fishing with him. I actually caught one, probably with a lot of help, and was made to hold the slimy thing for a picture. My look of confusion says it all. Fishing takes patience and a bit of fortitude. Once you catch a fish, you have to get it off the hook. It’s not as easy you might think as the fish fears it’s dying and is fighting you. It’s flailing around trying to get away while you pull the hook out of it’s mouth to put it in your bucket or catch and release. All the fish know is that one minute they’re swimming around looking for their daily meal and the next thing they know they are hooked. I kinda feel bad for the fish. Maybe I’m anthropomorphizing fish, but it must feel helpless to be hooked and know that you can’t unhook yourself to get free or to be afraid of even being unhooked. I know that there are times that I’m innocently swimming through my day, and without even realizing it, I get hooked into something that isn’t the best for me, isn’t life-giving, isn’t the best use of my time of time and gifts. And I can’t unhook myself. So, I flail around trying to figure out what comes next. In so many ways, I’m not in any more control than the fish.

Being hooked isn’t just about fishing. As people, we DO get hooked fairly easily: hooked on tv shows, on books, internet shopping, social media, our own opinions and viewpoints, and the list goes on. Being hooked is part of being human. We’re all hooked on or to something, and it’s so much a part of our everyday life, we don’t even realize that we’re hooked until someone comes along to unhook us. And then we fight them, as unhooking can hurt, we’ve become so used to the hook that it doesn’t occur to us that it might be doing us harm. And if we’re unhooked, or off the hook, then what? What happens next?

In our story of Mark there are many remarkable undercurrents and luckily, I don’t have to preach them all today, we’ll have this passage again in three years, but the one that resonated with me this time, is how willingly the new disciples were unhooked from their everyday lives, livelihoods and families by Jesus. Jesus, fresh from 40 days of temptation in the desert where Satan tried to hook him with worldly powers and status, comes to the Sea of Galilee, a fairly unassuming location. He walks the shore and sees these young men doing an important job in the ancient near east culture, fishing. Fish were a staple of the Mediterranean diet and fishing was a decent income. While no one in this profession got rich, they didn’t starve either. And it tended to be a family business, so generations worked together, and the expectation was that the sons would take over the family business.  It was an identity, as most professions were in the ancient world, and unhooking from one’s identity, from your family, expectations and profession was not a small feat.

But Jesus is undaunted by the social expectations and climate and calls to Simon, Andrew, James and John and unhooks them from all that they know. The writer of Mark doesn’t indicate that there was any resistance or flailing against the unhooking and writes that the four young men are willingly unhooked and go with Jesus. Really, this is the first miracle in Mark’s gospel and everything else flows from it. I mean the heavens tearing open at Jesus’ baptism is nice, but these four people hear one sentence from Jesus and unhook from everything they know to this new way of living? It’s as incredible as the Ninevites trusting in Jonah’s one sentence of condemnation and unhooking themselves from the violence and harm they were perpetrating. The newbie disciples had to know that the people in town would talk, rumors would fly and they would lose whatever social status they had. I have personally never changed my own mind after hearing only one sentence, nor have I ever witnessed anyone changing their minds after one sentence. I dream about that honestly, where one sentence, just the right wording, would unhook people from harmful ways of thinking and acting towards themselves and other people.

I dream about being unhooked myself, unhooked from worrying about what other people think of me, unhooked from my own ego, pride, unhooked from everything and maybe even everyone I know. I need Jesus to come and remove the me from the hook so that I can follow and unhook others. People around us are begging to be unhooked from the rat race of materialism, or unhooked from the reality of unequal and inadequate wages, unhooked from inaccessible housing costs, food costs, education costs, unhooked from worry of becoming ill with little to no health insurance,  unhooked from dysfunctional family systems, unhooked from fear of change. God’s desire is for us all to be unhooked from the injustices and lies of the world. God’s promise in Jesus is that we all can be unhooked; we don’t have to stay on the hook that is killing us. We are hooked, and Jesus comes and says, come, follow me. Jesus removes the hook that connects us to fear and death, and offers us freedom, peace and life. We are called, unhooked, liberated and brought into Jesus’ sea, where we are washed, claimed and loved. We live unhooked and free for true life. Amen.

 

Don’t Lose Sight Sermon on John 1: 43-51 January 15, 2021

This sermon was preached on Jan. 17, 2021 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT. It can be viewed on our YouTube channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC

The texts were:
1 Samuel 3: 1-20
Palm 139: 1-6, 13-18
John 1: 43-51

In my preaching classes in seminary, we studied and listened to several renowned proclaimers of the gospel, including Martin Luther King Jr. We spent a whole class session on King’s infamous “I have a dream” speech. In listening to the speech in its entirety, our professors pointed out something that most of us hadn’t heard before. About half-way through his speech, when King paused, a woman in the front row could be heard shouting, “tell us about the dream Martin, tell us about the dream!” You see, this proclamation that King had written for that day, didn’t originally contain the “I have a dream” rhetoric. He had used the theme at other times in his preaching, but that had not been his intent for this speech. But he took seriously in that moment the urgency of the woman begging to be reminded of a vision, she wanted to see what was possible, and she wanted all the people listening to catch a glimpse of the vision that King and the Civil rights movement offered in liberation, equality, and justice in God’s kingdom and kin-dom. Kin-dom means humanity gathered as one community in the promises of God. Our professors wanted us novice preacher to not lose sight of what matters, one, sometimes you have to let go of what you had envisioned for proclamation and allow the Holy Spirit’s vision to come to fruition, and two, don’t underestimate the power of offering God’s vision to people. People are hungry for a vision of what could be despite what it seems to be. People are always looking for vision, are they going to see God’s or the world’s? Will they lose sight of our life together and themselves? And more frightening…will God lose sight of us?

I confess that I sometimes lose sight that God sees me, sees all that I do, all that I say, all that I think and all that I don’t do, say and think. Everything. Well, maybe I don’t forget, maybe I live in denial that God sees me. If I were to always keep this fact conscious, I would probably be appropriately paralyzed in fear. I mean, the God of all creation is watching me? That can’t be good. But God does see me, and thank God, sees beyond my failures, my cynicism, my temper, and my shortcomings. God sees me, the one whom God created in the divine image, proclaimed as beloved, having worth and value. God sees not just who I am to God, but who I can be for the world. God’s vision for me is, thank God, beyond what I could ever envision for myself. I lose sight of who I want to be. I sell myself short and figure that nothing good can come from me, as I am too flawed.
The real tragedy in this, is the fact that I then limit my vision of who others are, as well. If I can’t envision myself as God sees me, then I’m not seeing people though God’s vision either. I make assumptions about people and situations, always through my dim and limited human view and not through God’s imaginative and broad vision. I assume that nothing good can come from people whom I only see in one dimension. I forget and lose sight that God can and does see fully, not only me, but all people and that God’s vision is always about goodness and life.

Like Eli and the new disciples in John 1, we don’t look hard enough at ourselves and others. Eli refused to truly see or act on the harmful corruption perpetrated by his sons, and so had to endure the consequences, being held accountable by God and removed as a priestly family with authority. Eli lost sight of his responsibilities and role in the community as healer and proclaimer of God’s grace. Nathanael couldn’t see past his own prejudice of Nazareth, a town no better than a bump in the road that produced nothing of value, which led him to dismiss Jesus out of hand. Despite human failures, God’s vision won’t be clouded. God called the boy Samuel, to be a prophet who would anoint kings for Israel and offer a new vision for the Israelites. God’s own son, Jesus would see through Nathanael’s cynicism and invite him to see beyond what he thought he knew, and beyond his own life to what God was offering the world. In God’s vision, things are not as they appear and good does come from hard situations, hard conversations, and from the least expected people and places. In God’s vision, the question shifts from “what good can come from this?” to “what good does God see in this?” God doesn’t lose sight of the vision of wholeness, love and mercy.
It doesn’t mean that we wear rose-colored glasses or deny hardships, to the contrary, God’s vision requires us to see reality, to see our own guilt and complicity, to see the harm we’ve inflicted, to see our own flaws, as well as to see the divine spark in all people that is begging to be seen, as the woman begged King to tell her the dream again. She knew that God’s desire was for this spark to be seen in the world. There is something liberating about being completely seen. When we know that we can’t hide, we’re exposed, then we can give up the façade, and live into the truth of who we are, and who we are to God. Martin Luther King, Jr. offered people, Black, white and brown this God sized vision of liberation in the truth. He never lost sight of what was important and what mattered, liberation for all. When we face the difficult truths, when we can see ourselves and other people clearly, we can then see God’s kingdom at work in us all, together, not as an “us vs. them” but as a collective community of beloved people of God revealing God’s vision for creation. Jesus called Nathanael to see this vision, and Jesus calls us to see it too. Jesus calls us to do the hard work of setting aside biases, being in relationships with people whom the rest of society shuns, to speak the truth, especially when people are being harmed, and to live in a way that honors creation. God’s vision can’t be dimmed by anything we do or say but we can illuminate God’s vision when we join with God for love, hope, mercy and forgiveness. We will see that good does and will come from what God is doing in our midst through the love of Jesus Christ. We will see God’s kingdom and kin-dom come. We won’t lose sight that God never loses sight of us. Amen.


 

Pastoral Response on the Events of Jan. 6, 2021 January 9, 2021

*This will be available to be viewed on the Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC YouTube channel. It follows the worship service on Jan. 10, 2021.

As I have done too many times this year, I am obligated address the brokenness that has devastated us this week. Forgive me for my late and most likely inadequate response, as it took me some time to order my thoughts coherently. We all watched as foundations of our national life together were violated in words and violent deeds. I will name this for what it is: a sickness. It’s a sickness that has been running rampant in our country not only in the past few years, but for over 400 years. It’s easy to trace how we have arrived at this moment, where we now watch horrified as the cancerous cells of white supremacy, nationalism and hate masquerading as religion burst through the healthy cells of our lives together to metastasize. We watched our president refuse to defend our nation, or the people, but only defend himself and his own interests. Make no mistake, this was a coup attempt. And make no mistake, how these white terrorists were treated by the policing agencies is very different than how those protesting on behalf of Black Lives Matter were treated. This is not up for debate. It’s power pure and simple. Power is always dangerous and this week we know now how dangerous unchecked power can be.
We mourn not only for our nation but for the lives lost to this senseless violence. We mourn for people harmed in body, mind or spirit. We mourn for us all. But we will not simply sit in sackcloth and ashes. We will take our tears and turn them into necessary actions of God’s love and God’s justice. You see, as God’s people, we know that conflating our egos, our pride and our religious notions only brings destruction. Jesus didn’t come to affirm self-aggrandizing religion, he came to bring life, abundant life to all people and all nations. This is who we are and must be in the world. If our religion is causing us to hate, sit idle, be comfortable and worry about ourselves, it’s not of God. Following Jesus means that we move, we go straight to the discomfort, the brokenness, even if we’re afraid. We go, because that’s where Jesus already is, and it’s where our neighbor is. We must amplify the voices of the too long silenced, we must speak truth to power, to not allow lies, cover-ups, or violence to overcome the light of Christ’s love in our community or our nation. We, as a white congregation, must do this.
Let me be clear, this nation is not now nor ever was a Christian nation. We are nation that comes together in our diversity to be one in the most radial way, in love and trust. We are stronger in this diversity and God smiles upon us. We come with our own perspective, but never with our own arrogance, agenda or might. We enter into our damaged and fragile relationships with hearts of humility and a longing for lasting peace.
We must come together, we must see the truth of who we are and what is happening, even if we don’t like what we see, maybe especially if we don’t like what we see. We must go forward and build a better way.
You are loved, you are beloved, go and be love. Amen.

Pastor Brigette Weier

 

We’re Torn Apart: Sermon for Baptism of Our Lord Sunday

This sermon was preached on Jan. 10, 2021, at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT. You can view it on our YouTube channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:
Genesis 1: 1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19: 1-7
Mark 1: 4-11

I’ve been torn this week. Torn about what to say. Torn about how to feel. Torn about my own weariness. I’m torn apart. The events of this week nationally, congregationally, and personally have left me torn. Frayed edges of my heart, spirit and soul that need mended, that need put back together, that need smoothed somehow. I’m torn and you need to know that. I’m torn and yet convicted. The events that we witnessed this week, of this year, and of the past 400 years of white supremacy are leaving us all frayed and in need of repair. We witnessed the very tearing of the fabric of our lives together as peoples of this nation. But we have to be honest, that this tearing isn’t new. It’s the final ripping apart of a small tear that began long before us but now it’s up to us to stitch back together. For decades, centuries, we watched as we’ve torn ourselves apart with words and actions of fear, hate and bigotry. We’ve torn ourselves apart with racism, sexism, nationalism, and yes, our very religions. And yes, you might be thinking, “well this is the story of humanity. We tear ourselves apart.” It’s as if we’d rather be torn apart than do the harder work of being the needle and thread, the patch that brings us back together.

God has been watching us tear ourselves apart and it tears apart God. God loves us, all creation and it simply tears God up to see how we treat each other, treat the earth, and treat ourselves. But God acts though being torn up. God tore open the heavens at Jesus’ baptism to send the Holy Spirit to Jesus. The word in Greek for “torn apart” is schizo, where we get our word schism. God has witnessed the schisms of the world, of humanity from the first schism where humans thought that they knew more than God. All of history is God at work in this schism, sending angels, prophets, and judges with words that called God’s people to see the schism that they have created, to repent, to have courage to do and say what needs to be done. Repairing the schisms of our world, where we are tearing ourselves apart is not for the faint of heart, it’s why God had to come and be flesh in our midst. Only God has that kind of courage, strength and power that was culminated in Jesus. Jesus’ baptism inaugurates him for the vulnerable and courageous work of repairing the schism between the world and God’s kingdom. Jesus shines a light on it, and says it can be mended, but it might hurt as when our own flesh is torn open and a doctor stitches us back together.

At Jesus’ baptism the Holy Spirit falls through the rip in the heavens and lands on him, God’s very voice booms with the words, “you are my Son, the beloved.” And then the very next thing that happens, which we will read in a couple of weeks, is that Jesus is driven out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, for his ministry to begin. Jesus is sent right out to the edges of the frayed fabric of society, right to where flesh was torn and bleeding, right to where violence of minds, bodies and souls were ripping through communities. Jesus spoke words of healing, not just of ripped bodies but of torn hearts. Jesus words of healing and love also ripped open the truth of powers and principalities, the truth of following along with status quo where some lives did indeed matter more than others. Jesus, as God’s beloved, acted for healing, lifted up those whom were being sacrificed to keep schisms justified and normalized. Jesus refused to do any tearing but only sought to mend, through concrete actions of solidarity for those on the margins and with God’s mission of life, wholeness and abundance for all. Jesus’ baptism sent him right to where his own body would be torn and ripped, on the cross, as a testament to what we can do to one of our own. If we’re honest, we tend to sentimentalize this gruesome act and we move directly to the “yes but then God raised Jesus and everything is ok!” Well, for a long time, things were not ok and what was real was the tearing and ripping apart.

My beloveds, everything is not ok. We live in that time of tearing and ripping. In our own baptisms, we proclaim that we are baptized with Jesus, and we proclaim that the Holy Spirit rips through the heavens to land on us too. As God’s baptized people, we are called to go to where the schisms are, we are sent to the frayed edges of our world, we are pushed to the places where we are tearing ourselves apart as humanity. We are called to be courageous, and in our Lutheran tradition in the theology of the cross, to call a thing what it is. To say no to violent actions and words that are tearing our nation and society apart. To leave the comforts of our privilege behind. To stand up to would be tyrants and rebuff words that incite violence, hate, and destruction. To point out the disparities in how people of different skin colors, genders, ethnicities, religions are being treated by the government and governmental agencies. If you ever wondered what you would have done during the rise of Hilterism in Germany or in the civil rights movement of this country, you’re doing it right now. This is our baptismal moment. We promise in our baptismal vows to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. We must be willing to go the schism. We are being torn from our comforts, our privilege, our egos, our status and driven out into the world. I am beginning to think that there is grace in not being in our buildings right now. We are not baptized to sit in a building, we are baptized to go out into the world as menders.
I’m not naïve, although I’ll admit to being idealistic. I know that many of you right now might be uncomfortable or even angry with me right now for being “political.” Yes, I’m very concerned about how we live together. Jesus was too. I know that this is asking a lot.  This will mean that we speak and act in ways that will be much like the speaking in tongues that occurred in the Acts 19 passage-for when the Holy Spirit lands on us, we are torn from our old selves and our old ways and are made new, and we will be strange to the rest of the world, as Jesus was strange and that is why the world nailed him to a cross. Anything different than the ways of the world must be denied. But here’s what I believe with my whole heart, dear ones and why I became a pastor: I believe that when enough of us stand in the truth of the gospel, the gospel that only has words of healing, reconciliation and love, then nothing, nothing, can stop God’s wholeness from mending what we have torn. God’s power to mend, is greater than our power to tear apart. I want to be a mender, I want to mend myself and be wholly and made holy with Christ. I want to go to the frayed edges and do whatever is necessary, even if it’s unpopular, to heal you, to heal our community, to heal our nation and to heal the world. I believe that we don’t have to continue to tear ourselves apart. I don’t. I believe that Jesus gives me this courage, this strength, this conviction, because I surely don’t possess it on my own,

While we live in a time of tearing apart, we do know the end of the story. We do know that in the tearing open, Jesus comes. We do know that God’s words and actions only bring life, and life abundant for all. We do know that the tomb is empty and that wholeness, for us to be stitched together in the promises of God, is real. We do know that we will not always be torn apart for Jesus mends us together. Amen.

 

What I Know About 2021: Sermon on John 1 January 3, 2021

This sermon was preached on Jan. 3, 2021 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT over Zoom. It can be viewed on our YouTube Channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:
Jeremiah 31: 7-14
John 1: 1-18

There’s a cute song from about five years ago called “Say Hey” by Michael Franti that was popular for a while as it was good dance song. The refrain of that song contained the lyrics, “It seems like everywhere I go, the more I see the less I know. But I know one thing that I love you.” Boom, right in the middle of this seemingly innocuous and frivolous ditty, some deep human truth is laid down. It turns out the more we know, the less we know. Just living life can call into question what you are certain of and the realization that you don’t know as much as you thought. For this singer, he’s only certain of the love he has for this other person.

2020 has certainly been a year where everything we thought we knew was called into question and trying to learn, discern or just keep up, felt like a being in a pool of quicksand. The more we struggled and tried to stay on top, the more we sank. So here we are on the cusp of a new year, 2021, and it’s tempting to look forward and project what we think we know will happen and how this year will be. I know that I so desperately want this new year to be one where I can say that I know that we will be together in person again soon, where I know that people will stop getting sick, dying, losing jobs, losing relationships, or being marginalized. I want to know that everything is going to be ok. I don’t want to face the unknown, I want some certainty. But I’m aware that the more I search for certainty, the more truth I miss.  It’s like when you’re looking for your phone only to realize you’re holding it.

On this second Sunday of Christmas and the first Sunday of our new year, we are regaled by the Prologue to John’s gospel, a beautiful piece of poetry that was perhaps a hymn in the early Church, that uses imaginative language to offer the Truth of what we know, what we don’t know and what God knows. The gospel writer brings us all the way back to Genesis 1, to the beginning of creation when the truth is that there was only God. We are brought once again to the power and wisdom of God for creativity, expansive imagination, and endless possibilities. If we listen to this prologue as poetry, we notice the repetition of naming God. God is at the heart of this passage and at the heart of all the cosmos.

But we often miss or ignore that truth. We might not recognize God at the heart of everything. Or we don’t want to know, this as if God is at the heart of everything, then we are not. This is the truth that John the baptizer names as he proclaims that God is in our midst-the light of the world has come. But the world didn’t see Jesus or didn’t want to. As a matter of fact, the world spent much energy trying to hide or deny God as the center of creation and the universe. Jesus, as God with us, showed us what the world, our lives could be like with God at the center. People with diseases are healed, people are fed, people on the outside of society are brought into community, people in poverty are given their share, people imprisoned are set free, people told to be silent are given voice, people who are dead are brought to life. Not a life of emptiness, ego, greed or self-centeredness, but a life that is shared, a life in the fullness of God’s abundant love that knows no bounds or end. But the world tried to bury this truth, literally. The powers and principalities were terrified of a world that they didn’t know, one where they were not in the center and in control. But the more they tried to bury the truth of God as the center of it all, the more God loved, the more God’s life abounded, the more God promised to not let us sink into our own mess but to hold us.

I know enough to know that there’s so much I don’t know. I’m guilty of not wanting to know more because when I do, it decenters me. When I know that black lives matter, it means that my life isn’t worth more for my skin color. When I know that people are sliding into poverty and homelessness because of unjust systems that privilege me, it means that I have to speak out. When I know that people are hungry and I can order take out anytime I want, I have to change my habits. I know that I try to hide, build a cocoon of comfort around myself so that I don’t have to see, but when I do that, I miss Jesus. When I don’t see my neighbor but only see myself, I miss seeing Jesus, God with us in the world. I miss the truth of my life that God is at the center of it all, and I am not.

I don’t know what this year will bring, and that’s a good thing. It’s all unknown to us as it should be. But what isn’t unknown to us is God’s love for us and all creation. What is true is that God will be in our midst, at the center of everything as God always has been. God will continue to make Godself known to the world, for the sake of love, life, grace and mercy in all the universe. May we know this truth, live this truth and be this truth. Happy New Year. Amen.