A Lutheran Says What?

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

Good News of Great Joy!Sermon for Christmas Eve 2018 December 28, 2018

This sermon was preached on Dec. 20 at 5 p.m. and Dec. 24 and 7 pm. Both can be found on http://www.bethanylive.org

The text was Luke 2: 1-20

Children’s sermon: Bring the children forward and have a plain amazon box.

I’m sure you recognize this! It’s an Amazon box! We seemed to have many of these come to our door this week! And I’m sure you did too! Every time a box came to our home, it was a reminder that someone who lived far away in our family or from our friends was thinking of us! Now, the plain box itself is one thing, but then when we open it, the gifts inside are decorated with fun paper or bows, like this, on them. When we wrap gifts, we often think of how special that person is to us and we hope that the gift we send makes them happy. But it’s not really about the gifts. Maybe in the past you’ve received a toy that you really wanted, fun new pajamas, a new bike or gaming system and that made you happy. But toys break, we outgrow pajamas or bikes and technology will stop working. Does that mean that the person who gave you those things no longer loves you? NO! Those things made us happy, being loved never stops and that is what joy is all about. Joy is about being connected to love: people who love us: moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, friends, teachers, and that we love all of those people too.

In our Christmas story tonight we heard an angel tell the shepherds good news of great joy for ALL people. What was that good news? Jesus was born!!! God loves us so much that God came to us as baby Jesus, to connect us to God’s love and to each other and this is great joy! Everyone, you, me, everyone here, everyone in the world, is connected to God and God’s love and are filled with Great Joy! God wanted the shepherds, Mary, Joseph and us to know that we are loved, and are God’s Great Joy. We are part of God forever. And God’s Great Joy can’t be put in a box or under our tree, It’s so big that it covers the whole world! And so as people who are God’s Great Joy-our job is to tell everyone we see that they are God’s Great Joy too! Just like we put bows on presents to remind the person that they are special, I have a bow for each of you tonight to remind you that you are special, connected to God and God’s Great Joy forever!

It’s easy to feel isolated and alone in our world today. Between long hours at work, everyday tasks at home, child care, caring for aging parents, and the list goes on and on, it’s difficult to find time to deeply connect with friends, family or even ourselves. Researchers have found that we are more isolated than ever in our modern times, despite technology that can connect us instantly. The greatest threat to the health of people over the age of 65 is loneliness. But loneliness isn’t only about geography, not being able to leave your home. Life situations can also make us feel lonely. Have you ever felt alone in a crowded room such as this one tonight? Things like divorce, job difficulties, money issues, health issues, depression, can all make us feel alone and can be isolating.  I remember the loneliness of being at home with very young children who didn’t speak in complete sentences and all I wanted most days was another adult to talk to about anything. I loved playgroups and my Mothers of Preschoolers group where I could actually hear sentences that consisted of more than three words about topics besides Cheerios. I loved being with my children, yet it’s hard to be a parent in the best of situations and I sometimes struggled. Going to MOPS connected me with other moms and they shared their struggles with me and we all felt less alone.

We are wired for connection as human beings. This is not an accident or a coincidence. As humans, each one of us, created in God’s own image, God embedded in our hearts, minds and bodies the need to be together in community. This is the heart of our Christmas story tonight. I can only imagine the loneliness of Mary and Joseph as just the two of them trudged along for miles with a donkey-only to arrive in a town where no one knew them or would welcome them in. The loneliness and fear of having a baby with no mother or mother-in-law, aunt or grandma to hold your hand as a family of two became three. Or the loneliness of the shepherds out in the middle of nowhere, outcast and looked down upon from society because of their vocation with smelly animals. Yes, perhaps two or three of them worked together, but it was still lonely work.

But then, it all changed. An angel appeared out of the dark and proclaimed that loneliness is dispelled, there is good news! God has come to be with you! You are not alone! God’s love, God’s great joy connects you to God and to all of God’s people, no matter what you do for a job, no matter who you are, no matter how much money you make, how much you do or don’t struggle, how large your family is, or where you live. Go and see that you are connected with God’s great love and joy! And the shepherds went to Bethlehem, to connect with Mary and Joseph, to let them know that they are not alone either, that God is connecting unlikely people, in unlikely ways, for great purpose of sharing God’s Great Joy with all the earth!

God’s Great Joy is good news for us all tonight. God’s Great Joy through Jesus connects us, to God and to each other. We matter, our neighbors near and far matter as we are all connected to God’s work of love in the world. This Great Joy is pure gift, it doesn’t depend on what we do or don’t do, because like the angels came to the shepherds, this Great Joy finds us no matter where we are.

This Great Joy is so expansive that it can’t be contained to a manger, to a stable, to the shepherding fields, to the skies filled with angels, to a cross or an empty tomb. God’s Great Joy can’t be contained to you, me, this building, Denver or Colorado. God’s Great Joy blankets the earth and connects us all so that loneliness, darkness, despair and death are no more. Jesus, who is love, light and joy made flesh to be with humanity, is God’s promise that nothing disconnects us from God, or each other. This is grace. This is indeed Great Joy. This is for us all and it is for you.

Like the shepherds, we can’t hold this Great Joy inside, and so we go to glorify and praise God with our whole lives. We share this Great Joy when we offer a smile to a stranger, write a note to someone who needs affirmation, collect food for a those in need, say a prayer for those who suffer, take time to listen to an opinion different from our own, lift our voice for those who are voiceless in our world, or simply say “You are loved” to someone who needs to be reminded.

Good news of Great Joy: God came to us, to connect with us and to connect us to each other. Great Joy is from God and overflows and for all people. You are part of God’s Great Joy, now and forever. Glory to God in the highest.

 

How life has changed November 29, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — bweier001 @ 11:47 pm
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One of the joys of this week for me has been spending time with my wonderful, smart and adorable nieces. They are ages 5,4, and 20 months so we have been busy and on a schedule. We have to feed them at the same time every day, all day. We have to schedule activities and outings around naps and said eating schedule. We have to allow for melt downs (they don’t very often as they are really good girls but they are little) and for just plain old preschool behavior. After a couple of days of this, I realized how much of this sort of parenting I have forgotten and how much I take for granted the wonderfulness that is having teenagers.

As someone who has a degree in elementary education and early childhood, ran a preschool and LOVED having little children, I honestly was concerned about the teen years as a parent. You see, I was a pretty good mom of little ones: we made our own playdough and ooblik, had a sand and water table, every art supply you could buy, cooking projects, rain walks, weekly trips to the zoo or children’s museum, and the list goes on. But then Kayla turned 13. Now what?

Turned out, all kinds of things. My kids still love art, but now we can take them to art museums and get more sophisticated art projects going. We still cook, only they can do almost all of it and it’s really tasty! We can go for longer walks, we can go to nicer restaurants, we can go to history museums and the kids sometimes know more than Mike and I do! We don’t have as many meltdowns (ours mostly revolve around needing to keep teenagers stomachs full) and a bathroom break no longer involves me. We talk about real literature (now don’t get me wrong, I love a Sandra Boyton book as much as the next person) and have inside jokes about novels such as “The Old Man and the Sea.” We can talk about politics and watch the same tv shows-and I don’t mean Dora or Barney.

Traveling is most definitely where I notice the difference. I no longer worry about two year old Andrew running off and trying to board a plane for London (happened at Sky Harbor in Phoenix pre-9/11, sigh) or making sure that we all sit together. Heck, I checked us in for our Southwest flight this morning and Andrew is even in a different seating group and Mike and I just laughed about how he will have to board after the rest of us. Pretty funny when you think about how he tried to board a plane without us 12 years ago.

I always thought I would miss having really little children because I loved that phase of parenting so much. But I have to admit that I am really loving this phase as well and it has so many perks as compared to having young children. Such as I am writing this blog post at 3:30 in the afternoon and can do so uninterrupted while my brother in law deals with crying preschoolers. Life has definitely changed and I think it’s awesome and wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

Glorious Adult Dialog November 22, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — bweier001 @ 2:58 am
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One of the joys of having older children is real conversations. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the baby talk of my toddlers and some of those words have found a permanent place in our family vocabulary. (Andrew called elephants “eppies” and we still do today.) But lets face it, unless you find Dora the Explorer fascinating and think that toileting details are the end all and be all of the day, as an adult you can go a little stir crazy if cooped up with little ones for too long.
As a director and teacher of a preschool for many years I developed coping techniques. You learn to have coded dialog with co-teachers of more adult topics that the children will never have any idea what you are talking about. In a world of “Mary had a little lamb,” positive reinforcement, never being crabby, using only the cleanest of clean language, tea parties and lego buildings, you have to have an outlet before you snap and either start swearing at kids like a sailor or worse yet-becoming as squeaky clean as a “Step-ford wife.” We’ve all met them: the syrupy sweet preschool teachers who say “gosh darn” and love their assortment of child made jewelry that they wear ALL THE TIME. Annoying and in my opinion, extremely scary. I think one of the reasons why the school I led was so successful was that I hired teachers who were real people, who occasionally messed up, as in inadvertently teaching a four year old to say “sucks,” not knowing that Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” was maybe not an appropriate ring tone, had a few personal issues, would never wear homemade jewelry but always loved the children and the parents. Parents could relate to us and we were no different than they were. We were just gluttons for punishment to hang out with little children all day while their moms went to a coffee shop. I know, right?
While I loved being a teacher and a director of a school, it could be particularly maddening when you are preschool teacher all day and then you come home to your own young children. It’s like watching Barney 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Some days you can completely understand why some species of animals eat their young. Anything to get to use the bathroom by yourself.
I sometimes miss those days of simpler parenting but the trade off is glorious adult dialog. I picked my daughter up from work two nights ago and as she got into the car, I asked her how her job went. She regaled me with the typical co-worker stories and issues and how she was handling it, how she did something new for the first time, a conversation with her boss (that I thought she handled extremely well for 17) and other quite grown up topics. Now, don’t think that I am one of those parents trying to be my teenagers friend, I am not, but it was nice to converse in a grown up way with her and hear her thoughts and musings. Both of my children now have opinions on politics, religion, the environment, philosophy, literature, military conflicts and popular culture. They also share with me their relationships, inner wrestling, longings and dreams. It feels like quite a privilege to be allowed into these places in their lives and I try and relish every moment and conversation because all too soon these talks will be over a phone and not in my living room every night.

 

Letting Go-kinda November 17, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — bweier001 @ 4:00 am
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Today my daughter and I stood in line at the post office for an hour and a half to get her passport for the band trip to Italy in the spring. Don’t worry this is not going to be a rant about the inefficiency of the government, although I can MOST certainly go there. (Seriously, line out the door and one person working the desk. Sigh.) But when the woman at the post office told me that Kayla’s passport would be good for 15 years and renewing it would never be my problem. While I understand, intellectually, that my daughter is almost 18, the thought of not doing stuff like this with her felt like the rug being pulled out from underneath me.

Now every parent of a teenager has the fantasy of when their teen will move out and go to college and see that mom and dad might actually know something but when that time has a real date to it, that’s different. She is gone a lot now, with school, work, her boyfriend, band, etc. Yet, she is home every night and I see her every day. Soon that will not be the case and that causes me to catch my breath.

How can it be that this tiny little baby who was failure to thrive, cried all the time and was a late walker, is ready to be on her own? How can it be that I am no longer that young mom? (Again, seriously another blog.) What will it be for her to have her own space, her own life and for me to come visit?

She is intelligent, caring, compassionate, creative and ready to go. I trust that she will make the best decisions that she can and knows that her dad and I are always here. I trust the parenting we have done so far (I don’t think you ever finish) and I trust that God is with her as she learns to navigate this next chapter of her life. But I don’t always trust the world I am sending her into. I watched the news last night and saw that one of the colleges she has applied to seems to have someone on the loose giving young women the date rape drug. I decided on the spot she will live at home forever. I will likely lie in bed and wonder if she is safe in her dorm room each night. I am reassured that we have unlimited texting and I will just have her text me her every move. Every 18 year old loves that about their mom, right?

This simple act of getting a piece of paper from the government stirred up in me the reality of letting go, loving without smothering and knowing that I will suck at it. All I can do is pray daily for both of my children and the world that we live in. I pray that everyone’s sons and daughters are safe, healthy and happy while knowing that is not the case. I can pray. And install the tracker app in their phones.