Homily for Lessons and Carols: John 1:1-14

Grace and peace to you from God Our Creator and from His Son, Jesus Christ Our Savior and Lord. Amen

How our souls suffer when we are scattered from existing, breathing, being in the warmth and healing Light of Our Creator God and plunged into an unknown, uncaring darkness. From the beginning of time, we as children of God have been afraid of the darkness whether metaphorically, physically or spiritually. There is nothing fulfilling or promising in the darkness because we are removed from wholeness and hope; we are removed from sacred relationships and connectedness from our fellow brothers and sisters and we are removed from knowledge and truth.

That same darkness seemingly enveloped an ancient people who could only exist hidden, shamed and fearful, condemned to live in the darkness of slavery by people who lived in that same darkness, away from the healing light of God; who refused to step out of the darkness to hear the Good News: that “All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being.”

But soon these African American slaves would stand at the crossroads between the darkness and the light as they gathered on a bleak and chilly New Year’s Eve, December 31st 1862. They gathered in crude slave churches, huts and cabins; they lifted their soft and strong voices in prayers and thanksgiving and waited, watched for midnight, January 1st 1863 when that darkness would be dispelled through the light of emancipation…

The Light of FREEDOM

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

Can we imagine how these people of African descent on that very first Watch Night’s Eve emerged from their impoverished huts and cabins and viewed the brilliance of the night sky with new eyes? That darkness was pierced with millions of stars that perhaps they had never truly saw before; that the Light of God was shining down upon them and no matter where they would go, where their journey would lead them, that the Light of God continued to envelop them even as they would struggle as a people, as a Nation.

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

Perhaps we can imagine how brilliant the Light illuminated the darkness of that night when the Word became flesh and ushered into this world through His Life redemption and salvation; how did those ancient people see the skies before them for the first time as a redeemed people? Can we imagine being a witness as the darkness submitted to the powerful, blinding and beautiful light of God, Our Creator? That Hope was ushered into this world through Jesus Christ, God’s Only Son?

And that is the Good News, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Logos, the Living Word of God, Our Liberator invades the darkness of fear, of tribulation and of anger and brings Freedom, Jubilation, Exhalation into the Light and into our lives. That through Jesus Christ’s birth we have the strength to step out of the darkness and into the light filled with God’s love, mercy and grace. That however the darkness is shackling your spirit, when we come to the crossroads here at the Table we leave the pain, suffering behind us in that darkness and embrace the eternal life before us in God’s Light. Through Christ’s birth we are joined forever as children of God, to live and dance and be healed, whole in the light of God.

Strange how the little things remind you of the sacred things. I had received this Book of Common Prayer as a Christmas Gift and inside was a listing of important days and Watch Night, as it is known in the African American community is mentioned. Churches of African American descent celebrate this night with song and prayer, as they are reminded of the Goodness of God who brought them out of oppression and of the darkness. We too, joining with these our brothers and sisters in Christ and in Faith must continue to be watchful and vigilant for those lost children of God who are drowning in darkness, darkness of violence, of subjection, of oppression, of fear…

…. that they are ushered, greeted, birthed into the living eternal light of God Almighty.

Thanks Be To God.

Taking Risks

Grace and peace to you from God, Our Creator and from His Son, Jesus Christ Our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Nothing seems to be the same when God enters into our lives, creating Holy Chaos. Stepping out on faith becomes a high wire act, where we repeatedly ask God “Exactly why are you asking this of me?”

We tend to be childlike in our faith when faced with an impossible task or exposing ourselves to scrutiny and humility by others.

We shrink back into the billowing folds of comfort in God, Our Father and Our Mother, remaining doubtful and hidden.

We seemingly wish not to be jarred into an unsure reality when our footsteps are planted sure, in step and in rhythm, one after the other.

What happens then, when the steady rhythm of life is interrupted mixing up our journey

especially when the Holy Spirit catches us off guard and yanking us off from the safest route,

where we avoid all troubles, catastrophes

and appear uniformed to the rest of this world.

Are we as children of God open to the uncomfortable spotlight and opening ourselves to take that first unsteady graceful leap:

opening within our very being to lift out that first, unsteady musical note;

opening our hands in taking that first risky step towards solidarity:

with those who have been left on the streets,

in that hospital room,

in that nursing home or

even right here sitting in a pew?

And in those moments when we are sitting or standing aloof and alone, it is then the Creator gets our attention, catching us off guard to where we could look foolish; it is here God takes a risk by cupping us in His hands and catapulting us out into the great unknown, whether it be through the whispers of the trees or the showers of the heavens. It was under those same night skies that my life was thrown into turmoil.

August seems to be the month of transitions, of being faced with chapters that close behind us and life’s highway evolving and opening before us. It was that August of leaving the summer camp I’d worked at and embarking on a new position in familiar surroundings that my heart was so excited for. It had felt indeed, that I had ran and leap off the highest cliff into welcoming, warm waters below me; refreshing my spirit after wandering in the wilderness. That night I would have the opportunity to experience my first meteor shower and so I stepped out onto the deck of the Administration building and raised my head upwards to the stars. I can only express that in that moment God was holding my hands, overwhelming my entire being; in that moment I experienced the freedom to raise my voice to the stillness of the night, pouring myself out at the Creator’s feet, rambling as my tears were tripping me up.

“Am I supposed to go to Seminary?

Am I supposed to actually become a pastor?

Is that what you want me to do?

 Is this my purpose?”

In that moment of quietness, the skies suddenly erupted in showers of light and life and in that moment I knew the Creator God had answered. Life, as I thought I knew it was set on a steady course with a predictable outcome.

But even as the sun rolled and curled over the horizon the next morning, there was nothing simple about this journey that God had placed me; it only peeled back layer after layer of my awareness of how truly ugly in its nakedness this world was:

People who turned away from God and rudely shoved those who ran to God

People who had turned their backs and their hearts from the cries of others clamoring to survive in quicksand of violence, of homelessness, of depression, of emptiness, of abuse and of fear

People whom we have to journey to the cross with, even when we are not able to see past the crimes which were stitched into their very skin

People and situations in which we are called to place ourselves alongside and with, stepping outside the crystal bubble, taking a risk of not aligning ourselves with everything sugar coated as acceptable and popular.

Situations birthed from the uncomfortable, in where we may have to swallowing our own pride and instead leaning, trusting on God’s direction.

That seems to be what Joseph is struggling and wrestling with in our Gospel text this morning, right? Joseph was faced with appearing foolish in forgetting his righteousness and his right as an honorable man of God to be selfish when this situation was not the norm. We are not privy to what Joseph could have thought or said; whether he was bewildered or angry with Mary hearing her news.

We are not privy to the murmurings in the streets as Joseph passed his fellow brothers and sisters in Faith by.

Can we image Joseph pacing back in forth in his little crude but clean and humble home?

God, couldn’t you just have given me a warning?

God this is not acceptable-I’m being laughed at in the streets;

I’m being pressured to discard the woman I love;

 I’m mortified and confused at the direction I should go.

I’m being asked to abandon;

Are you, My God asking me to risk?

What risks has God, Our Healer asked of us? What reality has God exposed to our vision and our gaze? How has God interrupted our lives and provoked us to step out on faith?

Dealing with situations where we are struggling to make sense of how life’s little weeds and thorns suddenly find themselves burrowed in our fragile skin is a risk;

Taking on tasks that stretch us beyond what we think we are capable of and are dumped into our laps is a risk;

Opening wide these doors to those who are not familiar to us and shatter what we thought was normal is a risk;

Opening ourselves to being in close relationship and close contact with those who have been stigmatized by society whether through disease, through mental illness, through where they came from and what they represent is a risk.

Opening up our own selves and hearing what God has in store for our own lives is indeed a risk.

Exposing our vulnerability to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in a direction toward God, Our Creator so that grace and mercy can be ushered in, knitted and weaved into the very fabric of our being is indeed a risk, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Opening and allowing the Good News of Jesus Christ in our lives can be, especially in this day and age, a risk.

And yet, that is the Good News, beloved!

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God is with us.”

God is with us!

God took a risk and sent His Son, Jesus Christ to be cradled in the womb of a mere woman of Mary and to be loved as if He was his own son, by Joseph. The Good News of Jesus Christ is that the Kingdom of God was not ushered in by force and destruction but through the unexpected and mysterious beauty of birth into this world, because God, Our Protector loved us as His Creation and wanted us to realize that God is not absent but the Loving Parent who is present through our struggles and sufferings; who lifts us up from the lowly places, washes our tear stained face and tells us that we are loved. That is what the Good News of Jesus Christ speaks to us today, my brothers and sisters in Christ-through the power of the Holy Spirit love, mercy and grace were ushered, born into this world encompassed in the tiny beating heart of a babe, that flooded our hearts and souls with the sharing of God’s unconditional Love for us, not just for some or a few but for ALL of US. We are ALL CONNECTED through the bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus Christ at the Table, through the waters, here on the Cross from our creation into eternal life.

Joseph was a child of God but he was also human, and so he struggled. But when he heard the Good News, he was willing to take that risk! And so because we are children of God and we hear that same Good News, we too, have the freedom to take risks!

Taking risks by picking up the phone or knocking on the door to repair a broken relationship

Taking risks by pausing in our daily chaotic lives to conversation and a cup of coffee with a homeless youth

Taking risks by opening one’s home to those who are alone, especially in this holiday season

Taking risks by opening oneself to those who cannot see God’s mercy, love and grace through Jesus’s commandment that we are to love one another as God loves us all.

Taking a risk to be vulnerable to the Holy Spirit when She calls, to be open to what God places in our fragile hands.

 

Life would be much simpler only if God would knock on our front door, ring our doorbell and give us His sales pitch with no risks attached right? We would be willing then to leave everything behind us and follow Jesus Christ because we would know the risks involved and the holy chaos to follow. But the Good News is that even in all of life’s risks, God Our Healer and Redeemer is right there as we hesitate at the top of the cliff even with the breathtaking view before and surrounding us; even as we curve ourselves into the fierceness of the winds God is right there, cradling us with the Holy Spirit and saying, “I am here, I am always here. Follow me.”

 

Thanks Be To God

The Power of One Voice

Grace and Peace to you from God Our Creator, and from His Son Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen

How eerie does the chanting sound from the streets of Soweto on Thursday, as people gathered in the darkness, moving and swaying not in sadness but in celebration of the life of a man who raised his voice against the injustice of a people, of his people. These voices were raised as one, as if Mandela could physically still hear their praises. These voices, have been raised too, in protest and agony of the injustice within the wilderness of a land that almost had become foreign to them. These crying voices who had been ignored and almost silenced. These voices whom we had not been listening to.

Voices that were crying for repentance

Voices that were mixed with different flavors

Voices that rose and fell with song and with chanting

Voices that were calling out for redemption

Voices that sometimes were harsh to hear, because they stung at our core

Voices that shook loose the static nature, ripping up stakes that had been stubbornly hammered by humanity deep into the ground, refusing to budge.

Voices that jolt and urge us, challenge and confront who we truly are as people of faith

We struggle for the balance between the tormented struggle in our own journey and our mission that God has given to all of us, whether we accept it willingly or whether we continue discerning our ministry.

Sometimes we do not hear the voices crying out in the wilderness.

It is here where John dares to invades our hearts and minds by thrusting the Gospel into our lives, crashing his feet into the coming revolution, refusing to budge, calling to our souls…to.Wake.Up!

John called for repentance, for a changing of purpose, to returning to the Divine because the people of God have retreated from the Goodness of God.

John, this strange disheveled voice crying out in this wilderness is calling for in our Gospel text this morning.

He preaches not softness, but roughly grabs those who have been sleepwalking through life and demands

“Repent!”

These ancient, chosen people of God have been struggling with staying the course and continuing the path of righteousness and faithfulness that God laid out before their naked, worn feet. These ancient people have strayed from the will that God had given to them; they have lost their sense of purpose and direction as a people of Faith.

We too, as people of Faith are wandering just as they in this same wilderness which sometimes seems to be abandoned too by God, Our Creator to be left in ruin and run over by humanity running wild. We who sometimes revert to destructive behavior, wandering aimlessly. We who sometimes remain in our own waywardness from God’s commandment of caring for our neighbors as we feel, through our birthright God should care only for us.

John brought the Good News to the people, “for the kingdom of heaven has come near” ; That God had been faithful even when these ancient people had grown forgetful about the Goodness of God’s Love; which remained a constant in their lives even when they were not aware, or were thoughtless towards their fellow brothers and sisters. Deep throughout this wilderness of the world, in places which are unforgiving, these ancient people ever so often would be reminded of who they were and whom they belonged to, as they stumbled over hidden places where perhaps they did not realize the kingdom of God flourished and blossomed, giving them pause and giving them hope.

It is those same places that call us back too, from the haze of humanity which traps us and trips us up; that shakes the debris and dust from our awareness and our spirit and focuses us once more on that one voice, the voice of God.

God calls us through John’s voice to change direction in our lives, because the coming of the Kingdom of God rains down upon us wholeness and hope. The air should be filled with songs of devotions and of thanksgiving.

Yet, there is a shift in the atmosphere when these are nothing more than hymns of empty praise.

The division ran deep within some ancient people as it does for us today, when heeding the call to be counted but ignore the waves of righteousness that should be swelling and stirring in our spirit. John wrestles loose the mantle of entitlement from their almost perfect hands and shocks their speech into silence. How embarrassing it would be too, if we approaching the baptismal font in haughtiness instead of humbleness, suspicion instead of serenity, thanklessness instead of thankfulness and John called out as he called out those Sadducees and Pharisees “You brood of vipers. Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” How exposing John’s words cut away at the masks and the armor that these ancient, entitled people protectively wrapped around their very being, dragging out the truth into the stark, pointed, clear light of God; that the Word of God was absent from their hearts.

John’s words come as a warning to us today, my sisters and brothers in Christ, because God already knows our brokenness! That there is nothing that can be hidden from the presence of God. That in order to “bear fruit” we must be willing to go through a radical transformation and restoration of our soul when this world turns us upside down and inside out, emptying us of any mercy and grace we have for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and in Faith. We wander then on automatic pilot, going through the motions of living and absence from what the Good News of Jesus Christ can mean for our lives. That in the moments of pandemonium where this world scatters our sanity; when we struggle and strive all at once to fulfill the called mission and ministry that God has laid out in every aspect of this life; wherever we are, the Good News of Jesus Christ is that not only is the Kingdom of God near, but that it has firmly rooted itself in this world, and will never go away! The Good News is that Jesus Christ is coming to rain down upon all of us, cleansing baptismal fire not to scorch our very being but to erases and remove the chaff in our lives. The chaff, the sin that continually clings sorely to our spirits; that contributes nothing but emptiness and rings hollow; that yields no fruit worthy of our connection to God, Our Healer. Free from sin, cleansed to be made whole, we are fueled through the power of the Holy Spirit to be driven to be a presence into this world, which fuels the flames of our faith to raise our voices to go and tell it on the mountain what the Good News of Jesus Christ is: That we are not forgotten because God, Our Creator and Healer has sent His Son to be a gift and through the power of the Holy Spirit to eradicate anything that would keep us, from the Light and the Love of God.

The Good News of Jesus Christ echoes in John’s words, giving our ancient sisters and brothers and us too, hope in this wilderness that Jesus is coming. This Good News intertwined in the cleansing waters of baptism fills our spirits and leaves us shouting, testifying that Freedom is coming, because Jesus is coming. It pulls us into the streets marching and singing that Freedom is coming. We remain in these streets chanting, waving our flags of freedom because that is what the power of God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness does for us as God’s People. We remain in these streets calling out the desolate, the forlorn, the forsaken, and the neglected that regardless of what seems beyond our control that Jesus Christ stands in the center calling us back to life! We are reborn in the cradle of Jesus Christ of the cleansing fire that neither harms nor scorches who we are and destroys the sinful hold that this world can have on our lives.

Our voices too, are calling and crying for repentance from an injustice world. We are raising our voices for people to come out of the wilderness and back from stagnancy, from useless greed, from painful domination, horrific occupation and towards action and advocacy. We are raising our voices and calling for those who have been abandoned and are wandering the wilderness blind, frozen where they stand, for fear of falling into the vipers den.

The voices that reverberated over the radio, the television and the internet have been crying out for a millennia. They have been crying out for justice and for repentance from a people who have too, been wandering in the wilderness and away from the light of God, Our Peacemaker. There have been other voices too, raising awareness and calling to the nations, to those leaders reminding them of their commitment of being a light in the wilderness, being servants to the people. These voices belong to children in Johannesburg; to women in Haiti; to men in Egypt; to civil rights fighters and freedom fighters; to teachers fighting for education right here in Austin; to chaplains and pastors fighting for equality and care in prisons; to seminarians fighting for social justice on the streets of Chicago, Detroit and near the Borderlands; for Native Americans fighting for recognition wherever their paths may trod; to you and me fighting for peace and mercy for those who are homeless and forgotten.

Listen!

These voices, our voices will not be silenced!

Listen to what we are proclaiming!

“Repent! Rejoice for the Kingdom of God comes in a renewing fire! See, the Revolution is at hand because the Son of Man comes to cleanse the damaging sins from our lives! We are released from death through the waters of baptism, and covered through the flames of the Holy Spirit!”

Listen! Jesus is Coming!

Thanks Be To God.