“Mom Spoke Up!”

John 2:1-11, January 16th, 2022

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard


“Hear now these words of scripture taken from the gospel according to John, chapter two, verses one thru eleven.”

John 2:1-11

1 In the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 

2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 

3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 

4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 

5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 

6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 

7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 

8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 

9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 

11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

“Having heard these words from our scripture lesson about the Wedding in Cana of Galilee, let us consider it’s context and what it may mean for us – in this time period in which we live.”

“Mom Spoke Up!”

Chaos and stress are two emotions that most of us seek to avoid. Yet, they are usually in the mix of life’s unwanted emotions.  Each can take on different levels and can be handled or dealt with at various and diverse ways. As we consider these emotions, lets start with the simpler of the two: stress.  Simpler but now necessarily easier or less important as to how we handle or deal with stress.  Just this week I got an unexpected rebate from my dentist.  Seems my insurance career paid for more than expected of a bill last year.  With this seeming gift I headed to one of our two local banks.  Lois and I were talking in the car, and I missed my turn to my preferred bank.  Decided to turn back, then decided to go to my second choice.  We do business with both banks.  Upon arrival I learn that the bank lobby was closed, and we were back to the “make an appointment” concept of banking. 

So, I pulled into the drive-up window line.  Just one other customer at the second window.  Sounds easy right. I put my signed check, driver’s license and Bank card in the little cylinder and press the button, so it goes inside.  And then I wait.  Five minutes or more later that other customer in the other line leaves and a new car pulls up.  They are served instantly.  I wave my hands and say “hay-what goes.” I am informed that someone is processing my request.  I have a savings account and a checking account with this bank.  It was a small local check from the dentist. I’m told cashing a check takes longer.  I bit my tongue, but the stress is there.  A few minutes later we leave, and all is well.  I talk with Lois and some friends about this. 

The follow-up conversations basically said to me – pastor follow your own advice.  Did you, P. P.? Did you Pause and Pray?  I needed to be reminded.  It is so easy to do.  Allowing stress to go forward without at least talking about it with someone, putting it into perspective and moving on is a good course of action.  The pausing and praying, on the spot, at the least slows one’s emotions down and can even cause one to reflect on the importance of seeing things from a different point. Take my little refund check, it was a gift as I didn’t expect it.  Secondly, I forgot to consider the teller at the bank was probably dealing with unhappy customers all morning as the bank lobby was closed to walk-ins due possibly to a short staff, brought on because of the Virus, which we all know about.

Many things, outside our control can cause stress.  We each have our own list.  One friend talked about having to cancel a planned vacation because the Covid test was delayed and thus they could not get on the plane.  Another talked about a situation, outside their control, where a family member was dying, and they were flying to hopefully have a last visit with their loved one.  Another talked about the noisy construction project outside where we were talking. Stress is not the question.  The question is how we will handle it.  Handled incorrectly can lead to an acceleration to our stress… creating other unnecessary situations, which could lead us into chaos or create a chaotic situation. 

The key here is to nip stress in the bud when it first pops up in our day to day lives unexpectantly. This can be as simple as pausing and praying, asking God for a little direction. Once we do this we can move forward in our day with a new perspective, especially if we take time to accept that we more than likely, can not change the situation.  Accepting life on life’s terms is not always easy. Waiting a few extra minutes to cash an unexpected check ought not cause us stress.  Yet, even in the most positive of situations it does, simply because we get too focused on ourselves and forget others all around us – they are doing what they need to do as well.  Asking God for help can change our expectations and realize there is a bigger picture than our little self-made dramas.            

Our friend with a family member in a life and death situation – will take more than one prayer.  She is a strong woman, and we feel certain that she is doing what she needs to do, realizing she can not change the course of what is happening.  Her awareness of God in her life and in the life of her loved one will be an asset to others involved in this moment in time.  And she will be a comfort to her loved one.  Her faith will go a long way to helping her loved one find peace, even at the end of life.  God is with us all the time.  We just need to acknowledge this blessing.

The setting for our scripture lesson this morning is a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  Its significance is that Jesus and presumably his family are invited guests as he and his mother, Mary, are in attendance.  We also know that that Jesus’ disciples are in attendance there with him.  Surely, they are the ones recounting this historical event.  Not that the wedding itself was historical, although it was for the newly married couple.  But what occurs during the event is historical, it is a first sign as to who Jesus truly was and is.  And it is all because of the actions of his mother, Mary.  Seems that a very stress inducing moment had arrived in the event. Oh, by the way, weddings are celebrated over several days, according to Jewish customs and rituals.   The event can go on for a seven-day period.  Granted the wedding ceremony itself is usually around forty-five minutes long.  We do not know how long this celebration lasted; however, we know they had run out of wine.  Surely, this was a stress filled moment for the wine steward and the wedding planners, as it would have been an embarrassment for the family and accordingly the bride, and groom.

The core of this lesson begins to take shape as Jesus’ mother, Mary, brings this to his attention. Hear again the actual narrative. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” /John 2:3/ Wow! Big wedding and they have run out of wine. Surely, this is noteworthy. But, at first glance it hardly seems fitting for a discussion on Sunday morning.  How could this be important to the story line of the gospels telling, as to who Jesus is!? It seems, based on Jesus’ recorded response he had his doubts as to its importance to him.  His response seems a rebuttal to his mother’s wishes. And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” /John 2: 4/ Not only does he seemingly insult his mother or at least he is pushing her concern aside with his response, when Jesus say’s “What concern is this to us?”  Its as if he said, “This is none of our concern.” Ah, but what son gets the last word when speaking to their mother?

Her abrupt response to her son’s remarks bears authority and clarifies the end of their conversation.  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” /John 2:5/ It is puzzling to say the least that our narrative gives so much authority to Mother Mary.  Puzzling indeed.  Not withstanding this is how it is recorded. If Jesus said anything further, it is not written for us to critique. Rather our attention is drawn to the. “Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.” /John 2:6/ I minored in math but six times twenty equals one hundred and twenty Gallons, minimally and six times thirty equals one hundred and eighty gallons at the maximum.  Those were big water jars!  Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” /John 2:7/

The story line of this accounting is rather easy to follow.  The drama builds when the wine steward is asked to taste the water.  It becomes wine and better wine then what had been purchased. The last sentence clarifies the writer’s intent. “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” This being the first sign implies there are more signs to be revealed to the reader or the hearer of John’s gospel accounting of the story of Jesus.  This was but the first. There are seven signs: The turning Water into Wine, The Healing of a Nobleman’s son, The healing of a Lame Man at the pool, The Feeding of the Five Thousand. Jesus Walking on Water. The Healing of the Man Born Blind. And the ultimate: the Raising of Lazarus from the Dead.

What stands out for our review this morning is the power of Jesus. Absolutely! Changing water to wine, at the insistence of his mother! One might take pause and think, ponder, and mull over this event. Jesus was still your average young man. Even his male dominated social system caused the writer to point this out for us. Thank you, John! Despite Jesus’ seeming defiance of his mother’s authority over him, he honored her wishes.  Like the fifth Commandment: “Honor your father, and your mother.” Jesus honors his mother! In this first sign of the power of Jesus, a sign of Jesus’ oneness with our Creator, we are reminded that Jesus acknowledged the Ten Commandments as part of the teachings we find in holy scripture. 

Consider the importance as we listened to Jesus’ mom speaking out for their wedding hosts needs, where they were there – merely as honored guests! Consider how we might follow-suit as we seek to find new-ways to speak out, much like Mary did, for those that have greater needs than a supply of wine for a wedding, used for the comfort of their guests to celebrate. Consider how we might speak out for the truly hunger! Let us rally around those who are marginalized for the color of their skin, the accent of their voices and the customs of their forefathers! Let us consider who Jesus truly was, as we study the signs, and as we witness to his ministry here among our brothers and sisters who came before us. Let us ‘speak up’ so that ‘generations yet to be’ will fully appreciate the birth, the life, and the death, as well as the resurrection of Christ Jesus! 

Amen.     

“The Gift of Baptism”

Luke 3:15-18 & 21-23, January 9th, 2022

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard


Read the Statement of Faith

“Hear now these words from the gospel according to Luke, chapter three, verses fifteen thru eighteen and continuing on with verses twenty-one thru twenty-three.”

Luke 3:15-17, 21-23

15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. 

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

“Having heard today’s lesson with our ears, let us now open our hearts as we reflect on their intended meaning.”

“The Gift of Baptism”

It is now January 9th, even the twelve days of Christmas have passed.  Time to take down the tree, put all of holiday stuff away till next season.  All that is left is the cleanup.  Who here loves to clean up after the party is over, after everyone has gone home?  Most of us are adults now and the odds of our mothers and fathers cleaning up after us has probably passed.  Our children, many are already adults and prayerfully they learned from us how to clean the house, wash the dishes, and make the beds.  Perhaps they even learned how to keep their cloths clean and cared for; simply speaking, everyday things that adults are expected to know how to do; and ‘actually’ do.  Yet, at times we may need help with some of these things, especially if we are ill, or simply too busy because of careers or jobs.  Thus, we hire someone to help.  Also, some of us older folks may need to enlist help with basic choirs, simply because we can no longer do all that we know needs doing.  Most of us already know all this and we are effectively passing on these simple pieces of knowledge to those we are responsible for, through our words and our examples. 

What about our personal faith journeys; including, of course, our relationships with God.  Have we been dusting off our meditation books and our Bibles, being sure we have the up-to-date versions so that we can understand more easily what is written?  If not, perhaps it is time to do so.  If you need help with that ask me or any leader of this congregation and they ought to know the answer.  It is a great time of the year to start new habits and or routines, especially if the old ones from years gone by have stopped working.  Take for example: we are feeling disconnected from our family, our church or from God.  Let’s start reflecting on our relationship with God first, as… if we are not grounded in God’s love then we probably will not have a lot of luck reconnecting to our church family.  And without this underpinning of our faith and consequentially our faith journey, our personal relationships, including that of our families will suffer. There are numerous ways too begin correcting these connections that have become less efficient than they use to be, or less than we would have them be.  It would be sad to think that some of us are heading into the new challenges of a new year without all our available support networks – in good working order.  

As your spiritual leader, your pastor, I too need a tune-up now and then.  In fact, just this past week I had lunch with my personal spiritual director. He made some simple suggestions, even gave me a Bible verse to reflect on, which I have been doing; Psalm fifty-five verse twenty-two. “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”  Basically, my advisor was urging me to trust God with even more of my burdens, which I foolishly thought I could handle on my own.  Are there things that you may be trying to handle on your own; without asking God for a bit of help and direction with?  When we allow ourselves to trust God more, allowing God in more and more areas of our lives, thereby trusting the power of God’s grace, into our lives, the burden will at the least seem lighter.  It sounds so simple when someone else says it.  And it is, just turn to God in prayer, earnest prayer, and keep at it on a daily or hourly basis, if necessary, until you have let go and let God handle it.

Let us look at today’s scripture and see what we can learn.  The scripture is about Jesus, the son of Mary, going to the river Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist, as he was called. Baptism, in that time-period was seen as a cleansing ritual.  John would immerse people fully into the water, after calling upon folks to repent their sinfulness and give up their evil ways.  Then John would allow the waters, to fully cleanse their bodies as John called upon God to forgive their sins.  In this gospel account’s retelling of the Baptism of Jesus, we hear how the Baptizer responds to suggestions that he, himself is the Messiah. John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” /Luke 3:16/ The excitement that we ought to all feel as we read and hear this passage is to realize that we are reading this passage long after the time of Jesus’ active and earthly ministry.  Therefore, we who have been baptized have received the baptism to which John the Baptizer spoke of that day! We ought to be well please just as the voice of God spoke to being well pleased with the presence of his Beloved Son that day at the Jordan river!  “The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” /Luke 3:22/

Unfortunately, depending on how you view this, after we repent and are forgiven, we are still human and subject to going against God’s wishes; you know what I am saying… some of us sin again.  Consequentially, we may need to again ask for forgiveness with a sincere heart, thereby seeking to not do so again.  Because of our human condition, just like our homes and such, we need to be vigilant and clean house again and again and again. I have had folks, over my years in ministry, asking if they can get re-baptized.  Theologically, we are baptized only once, but we can renew our baptism at any time.  The ritual is cleansing and can give oneself a feeling of renewal. Just like when I went to my Spiritual advisor this past week, I knew the answer, but it helped renewing it out loud with another.  My wife and I have hired a house cleaner. She comes once a month.  She does the floors and the bathrooms in a way that is healthy and good; she also dusts all the shelves and bookcases, including everything on them which we have; and there are a lot of items that get dusty easily!  We need the help, plain and simple.  There is no shame in this. Neither is there any shame in asking for help or guidance in our spiritual lives.  In this context spiritual refers to our personal relationship with God as we understand God to be. Each Sunday as we gather, it is my fervent prayer that everyone, you folks sitting in service live on Sunday morning, the on-line visitors that watch us on Facebook, and those who read my sermons, or listen to the audio tape on our website, it is my prayer we all glean a sense of renewal of our spirits.  Prayerfully, we all feel closer to God in whatever form God takes in our hearts.

There may be some here, within our collective gathering, who have not been formally baptized.  If that, is you, or a member, or a child in your family needs or wishes to be baptized it would be a privilege to work with you in the process?  Baptism is considered a sacrament in our understanding of theology, and it is our custom and tradition to offer it to those who understand its meaning.  In infant baptism, an adult helps the child by providing them the opportunity to learn about Christianity and the life and ministry of Jesus and his role as the Christ child in their faith journeys.  Likewise, we, the members, and friends of this faith community commit to offer children that opportunity to learn the faith through our Christian education program.  At the time of John, the Baptist, we know he did not yet have the full understanding of a Christian baptism, as the fullness of the long-awaited Savior’s ministry had not yet been revealed.  Yet, Christian baptism does offer the cleansing as part of the sacrament.  Going deeper into this, the bringing of a child and or an adult into the community of faith, is an important element in the ritual; central actually: as it is the heart of the matter.  For it is through baptism that we join in the full fellowship, the wholeness of Christ and the universal church of Jesus Christ. Most importantly, baptism is a gift, a gift which I personally have never denied anyone seeking it, for themselves, or a loved one, and most certainly a child brought to me by a parent, caregiver, or guardian, has never been denied this sacrament. The only requirement ever sought has been for those who seek it for themselves, or another – is their desire to be a part of the universal body of Christ. 

The time of celebrating the birth of Christ has passed, yet we know that this was simply a celebration and a reminder of the fullness of God’s grace; as we systematically, go through the church calendar of events each year.  Every morning when I awaken, I give thanks for the gift of life, the gift of God’s forgiveness for my humanness in the past.  It’s a gift. Christmas can be celebrated every day.  As a new day begins and I ask God for guidance and direction, knowing how easy it can be to get lost within the busyness of life. Ultimately, every day is the eve of a new opportunity awaiting us.  However, my experience suggests that there can be much to be learned from our recently pasted history, which can help us grow while maturing in our faith and thus – we can do better in our current day. When we live fully in today, correcting our mistakes as we go, asking God, through even short moments of prayer for a little guidance – can make a huge difference in the fullness of our today’s. When we fully live as children of God, we shall begin to realize there is a lot of hope for our tomorrows; and when we get there our today’s will have become our historical yesterdays – as our tomorrows become our today’s.  There is a lot to be thankful for, and the celebration of Thanksgiving can be ours to enjoy – every day!

Amen.     

“Turn on the Light”

John 1:1-5, January 2nd, 2022

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard


Communion

“Hear now these words from the first five verses of the Gospel according to John, Chapter one, verses one thru five.”

John 1:1-18

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

2 He was in the beginning with God. 

3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

“Having heard these five short verses, let us now grapple with them to see their significance in our understanding of God.”

“Turn on the Light”

When we were young children, we struggled when darkness came.  We outgrew this as we matured and got older; yet not all of us did. That is why night lights and flashlights have become so popular.  In the beginning of this process first came the invention of electricity.  Then it was the first light bulb.  It took time before batteries, and such were invented.  But human kinds’ appetite for artificial light caught on quickly and our current lifestyles cannot imagine being without. Ever since the first ‘reliable electric light bulb’ came into being which led the pack of inventors and inventions that have taken part in this revolutionary concept – artificial night lighting – which we now take for granted.  We get home after being at the office or visiting family or out to dinner, or a vast number of other things we do, which bring us home, in the evening as night fall comes.  The first thing we do as we enter our homes is to turn on the light! Our children speak out in the evening, “Mommy please turn on the light.” Dad sits down to read the newspaper, or your older daughter studies for tomorrow’s economics exam well into the night because of the availability of lighting after the sun goes down. We live in a truly fortunate time in history. Back in the time of Jesus the sun, the moon and the stars were the only natural lighting, therefore they relied upon fire, in the form of torches, candles, fireplaces and such to light up the darkness. As we technologically advanced, electricity became part of major discoveries toward the middle of the Eighteenth-Century, which changed how we viewed darkness. We tuned on the light.

As we ended our annual Christmas celebration, just last year, we celebrated that the Christ Child brought forth the Spiritual Light of God to all humankind. To turn on that Light all we need do is believe. In our modern Twenty-First Century understanding and usage of artificial lighting, operated by electricity, powered by various avenues of fuel, we envision the concept of Light differently than did early Christians in the First Century. On Christmas Eve, we needed to turn down the lighting in our sanctuary to experience the symbolic beauty of our individually lit candles – lighting up the sanctuary.  When we each light a candle in the darkness, symbolically, we are proclaiming that when we each accept the Spiritual Light from Christ, we also light up the world.  Thus, to truly “turn on the light” we must become vessels for the Light which the Christ Child symbolically brings to humankind. Pastors, such as I, seek to explain this idea of Light metaphorically when talking or instructing the children. In our time with the children, we used a bit of artificial light powered by electricity which we can not see, just as the Spirit of Christ turns on our Spiritual Light, to symbolized show how the Life of Christ offers us new lighting opportunities!

Now that we have at least a vague understanding of the ‘Light’ of Christ, from the writing contained in the gospel of Luke, we move forward to the writings of the gospel according to John.  John, written decades later than Luke, brings us into the early attempts to understand the full concept of the trinity of God, thus the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Libraries of books and writings have tackled this subject, our discussion draws only the simpler concepts. (Smiling.) It would take far longer than fifteen or twenty minutes to go much deeper now. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” /John1:1/ John begins his writing like that of the writings of Genesis one, verse one thru three. “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.” /Genesis 1:1-3 adapted/ Here we see how Genesis connects to the Jesus imagery of “Turning on the light”.  The writer of John’s gospel is speaking of a new beginning, as the era of Christ begins; however, he draws on a new concept when he sets the word, “WORD” into his writing.  This leaves us needing to understand first, who or what is the Word to which John speaks of.  Our lesson becomes clearer if we simple replace Word with the name of Christ Jesus, the Son of God.  “In the beginning was the Son of God, and the Son of God was with God, and the Son of God was God.” /John1:1/ Wow!  What a transformation!

When did the ‘Word’ first come into being? Our writer of today’s scripture lesson says that occurred in the beginning. Verses two and three bring in the pronoun ‘He’ and then 4 “In Him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” /John 1:2-4 adapter/ Now we have reconnected one personality in our understanding of God back into the personality of ‘Light’ just as the gospel of Luke caused us to view the birth of the Christ child as the giver of ‘Light’ upon humankind that accept the light of Christ. Where does this leave us? Is Jesus the Light of the world or the Word of God? Yes, the Light of Christ is the Word of God. We know this because the Spirit of Christ opened our hearts to the teachings (the Word) of Christ, the Word of God within the scriptures through our baptisms. So, to recap. The Word of God was there in the beginning.  And the Birth of the Son of God in human form brought forth a human vessel for us to hear all that was meant for us to hear, as the ministry of Christ blossomed in human form as the gospel stories clearly express.  

We now know who the ‘Word’ and the ‘Light’ of God the Father is meant to identify, and that is Christ Jesus, the Son of God. To better understand the meaning of this let us look to a writing from Matthew Henry’s Commentary, where we learn a bit of what was in the mind of early religious scholars.  “The plainest reason why the Son of God is called the Word, seems to be, that as our words explain our minds to others, so was the Son of God sent in order to reveal his Father’s mind to the world.” This certainly sheds some light on our conversation.  And turning on the lights that clarify our pathways of faith… is surely what we are discussion this morning.  As a preacher I seek to open our eyes and ears as we study the scriptures.  I often fervently pray to our God that my words will suffice and help us, one and all, to fully grasp or at the least understand the points of the lesson that I am seeking to open-up and illuminate for our use.  Surely all preachers are seeking this end as well as good writers and public speakers in various venues. When we view our lesson from this vantage point our author of John’s gospel is simply telling us that God has always know what the message needs to be.  It has been there with our Creator since the beginning.  Therefore, when Jesus, the Son of God came to live amongst us in human form, he became a vessel for his Father in heaven to speak plainly, in human form, all that needed to be said.  God also directed his Son Jesus to live by example the heart of our Creators desires for us and all of humankind.    

Author and writer, Peter Woods, wrote for our discussion, the concept of “Jesus being re-incarnated in every Christ follower – as his word of love, compassion, forgiveness, healing, peace; all of it comes and takes flesh in your life and mine.” These words may help us understand why Christ came to live among us.  So often we jump to the Easter story to understand the why of Jesus.  Woods, gives us a more practical application to consider.  And his concept directly connects us with this whole Word and Light aspect of Jesus being the bringer of Life, to all who follow in his example and teachings.  Are we not always talking about the love of God, which we freely receive, being passed on to others? As disciples of the teachings of Christ we are surely directed and pointed toward the fullness of God’s love.  We view the sacrifice of Christ as the gift of salvation, even though we theologians continue to debate the full meaning of some of the details of the scriptures.  Even the Lord’s prayer speaks to how we are forgiven, under the condition that we pass forgiveness to others who may have wronged us.  Yes, it seems clear that to be fully involved in the ministry of Jesus we are meant to follow his example, through acts of forgiveness, compassion, while seeking to bring the peace and healing of the Living Spirit of Christ into the lives of others – just as the scriptures teach us how Jesus did!

What is it that we are meant to learn from the Word?  What is it that we still need to learn? For if we ourselves have not learned the lesson, how can we endeavor to teach it to another? When we walk into a room we frequently, turn on the light first.  Why?  Because we are taught from our youth how to illuminate a dark room with light.  As adults we pass this on to the next generations through word and deed.  When we are struggling with an application of the newest electronic gadget or computer device, we often joke amongst ourselves, especially if we are over sixty, that we need to ask someone under thirty!  Why do we say this?  First it is true; secondly, they are closer to the teachings of these devices and their minds are not cluttered with our older teachings. Take for example the counting devices many of us learned early in life.  For example, back in 1965, we taught the “Baudot Multiplex System,” to would be electronic technicians that needed to keep the state-of-the-art communications equipment like the teletype device behind Walter Cronkite’s news desk back then. If you are under thirty you possible don’t know anything about the ‘Baudot system. However, when we older folks need help with new technology, we ask a younger person! 

How is all this discussion important to us?  How does it pertain to our lesson?  When someone asks you how you connect with God and the Christmas story of the baby Jesus, you will need to speak of it from your current understanding and knowledge.  Where has the light of Christ, the Word of God been most prevalent in your life?  You may need to do as the writers of Genies and the gospel of John did. They went back to the beginning. And remember as you seek to pass forward the story of the Light of God, you may need to invoke the “Words” that you understand, if you hope to “Turn on the Light” of understanding for another.  Bear in mind always, you can only ‘Pass-On’ to others what you have!

Amen

“All Were Amazed”

Luke 2:41-52, December 26th, 2021

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard


“Hear now these words as recorded in the gospel according to Luke, chapter two, verses forty-one thru fifty-two.”

Luke 2:41-52

41 Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43 When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44 Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” 49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

“Having Listen to our morning lesson let us consider how amazing it is to watch our children grow up.”

“All Were Amazed”

We come together this morning in the hush of Christmas. The lights of our Christmas Eve candle lighting service still burn in our hearts. The birth of the Christ Child has transformed the lives of millions, including our own and those who have come before us for over two millennia!  Now in the twilight of our annual Christmas celebration of Christ’s birth, our scriptures from the gospel of Luke swiftly move us forward in the accountings of his life story.  We move past his visits from the shepherds that followed a star that led them to the shelter where he was born.  The account of the three wise men, from the East, gives way to Jesus’ dedication at the Temple, when he was eight days old, where old Simeon gives thanks to God for the privilege of performing the ritual for this child, the salvation of Israel.  The prophet Anna also praises God for the Child Jesus, the redemption of the people. In verse forty we learn that “The child (Jesus) grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”  On this platform of historical knowledge according to Holy Scripture we come upon Jesus, with his parents Mary and Joseph in Jerusalem.

We learn that they had traveled to Jerusalem within a group of fellow travelers, to attend a festival with their son Jesus, who was now twelve years of age.  Having attended the festival, Jesus’ parents prepare to head home with those with which they had come.  Our narrative begins as Mary and Joseph join with the caravan when it leaves.  It was a large group, and they had assumed Jesus was with them.  Astonishingly, based on our assumed norms in our current society, it took a full day before Mary and Joseph realized Jesus was not with them, which causes them to go back in frantic search for his whereabouts.  On their return to Jerusalem, after searching the marketplace and other popular places, they finally went in search for him at the Temple.  To their astonishment, they did find Jesus in the Temple.  “After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” /Luke 2:46 & 47/ When we reflect-back into our earlier lives, back when we were but lads and lasses, around twelve years of age, it seems unlikely that we would have picked a synagogue or church to hang out in; certainly not a cathedral or Temple, to talk with the elders and the teachers of the church! 

My brother often wandered out in the woods down by a stream hidden in the heavy wooded areas.  But he almost-always came home the same day, just dirty, hungry, and tired; trust me when I say there were consequences.  But of course, if he brought home a string of trout from the stream forgiveness came swiftly!  Me if I was late for supper… it was big, and there were consequences, as I never caught any fish!

Can you imagine this scene from Mary or Joseph’s perspective as parents?  Three days!  How could there have been that much-time past.  One scenario, which is highly likely, Mary and her family traveled with other relatives like her cousin Elizabeth who had children of similar ages.  Mary easily could have believed the children were all together and thus safely within the group. How long, in our society, would a parent go without laying eyes on a twelve-year old?  A day, like a Saturday, as they may be on a one day outing with a scout troop, or with friends, or dear old dad took them fishing and did not tell you.  Overnight when they stay over at a friend’s house.  So, half a day or an overnight are reasonable in our current society.  Three days they searched for young Jesus.  Well, I suspect that a twelve-year old had more responsibilities and such then we may imagine.  Traveling in a caravan, it may have been he had responsibilities and not being-seen, for a day may have been common.  Yet, it still seems, that his staying behind in Jerusalem was a form of disobedience to his parents Mary and Joseph.  His disobedience seems much like any common adolescent we might easily identify with from our own lives.  Either way, it makes the boy Jesus more human.  As we move forward from this accounting and from Christmas we shall grapple with this whole concept of God, being incarnate, alive, within this young boy.  As we look to the conversations, which we will undertake come Lent and then Easter, his youthful ‘humanness’ becomes even more striking!

As we continue our critique of our lesson, can you imagine how the Temple teachers felt, how the elders of the church saw this event?  And consider how strikingly different this is then when he becomes an adult and his relationship with the Chief Priests and Sadducees becomes strained.  Was the child Jesus unaware of his future?  Or did he need to exercise his knowledge with these instructors within the Temple system?  Whatever the full answer is – we shall never be sure.  But, as an instrument to move us toward the importance of his birth is surely in play as this writing takes form!  The purpose of these writings from the gospel of Luke are meant to, as stated so clearly in the Gospel of John, is to strengthen our faith as to who Jesus truly was.  It is meant to be a vehicle for both Jew and Gentile alike to come to believe in Jesus as the true Messiah.  Look to the gospel of John, chapter twenty, verses thirty-one which clearly states why the gospels exist. “These (accounts) are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” /John 20:31/ Therefore, taking this into account, the effort to tell us of this incident in Jerusalem is meant to reaffirm the life of the Christ Child and his adolescents as he moves toward adulthood and his ministry as the long awaited Anointed One! 

But most importantly, in our discussion this morning, how would you respond if you were any of these characters in this whole Temple drama?  This event was clearly a drama!  Imagine the headlines in the local news.  “Boy left behind for three days!” As the story unfolds the drama over young Jesus gone missing for three days, fads into the background as this new Drama unfolds! “Temple teachers mesmerized by the brilliance of a young boy.”  “The carpenter’s twelve-year old son astonishes church elders!”

“How did this young lad become so knowledgeable about the depth and meaning of the scriptures?” As these headliners draw our attention, the deeper question begins to take shape.  The Christmas celebration just past, what was it truly about?  More importantly, as Christians, what is the true significance, in all this fuss, regarding our personal faith journeys?  Surely, it was more than the month long build-up of the commercially driven push for everyone to go out and shop till we drop attitude!  Was it not simply that we Christians wished to make the birth of Jesus, the Christ Child, as being significant!  Was it not a great way to get the message of the story of Jesus into wider circulation!  And was it not a wonderful way to introduce the principles of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love as we seek to bring to light the true meaning of it all; that the Jesus story, the Christ Child narrative is all about Jesus being God incarnate and thereby brings the Light of God into our lives, our families, and our churches!  Are not our true motives for the celebration and now the story of Jesus as a lad to reaffirm this truth which is the very essence of why we follow the teachings and the life of Jesus; from cradle to grave!?

The closing verse of our lesson this morning raises up the importance of Mother Mary as our writing speaks of how beloved and cherished Jesus was to her and how events in Jesus’ life reinforced her love for him.  “Jesus’ mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.” /Luke 2:51b & 52/ Soon enough the scriptures will reintroduce the stories of Jesus’ adult life and his ministry here among us.  Jesus’ birth, the star that led the to the stable in Bethlehem, the shepherds the wise men, his encounter at age twelve with the Temple teachers, all this and the love of his birth mother Mary, they lead us to the mystical identity of the man Jesus.  His life story leads us to our faith journeys as Christians.  Let us, ponder all this in our hearts, as did Mary.

On Christmas Eve, the stage was set.  The Carols reached out to the heavens, invoking our commitment to faith: “O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!”  The candle lighting ceremony silenced our hearts.

“Silent Night, Holy Night, Christ the Lord is born.”  As we lit up the sanctuary by lighting our individual candles one by one, the illumination of our combined lights reached out to heaven!  Our faith filled emotions soured as we sang out for all to hear!  “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!”
Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing, And Heaven and nature sing, And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.”  Jesus said to Mary and Joseph, “why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  But they did not understand what he said to them.  Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and the young Lad that Jesus was, he was obedient to them.” /Luke 2:49-51/ Thank God for the scriptures which ‘were written’ – to enhance our faith.  Thank God for our traditions, which ‘were passed’ to us through the generations.  The Christmas narrative opened the beginning of the story.  Today’s lessons reach out to us, as young Jesus begins to explore and open our hearts to his place in history.    

Amen.