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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

12012013 1st Sunday of Advent

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

Have you watched kids on a playground?  Whether the activity of tetherball, basketball, playing on the slides or teeter totter.  At younger ages the children always are running in groups, sometimes chasing the person who ‘leads’ the group, at other times they follow one another whether down the slide or up the ladder or across the wobbly bridge, the kids are in constant motion.  As they mature and get older there are groups that form whether of all girls who practice cheerleading, boys who toss the football or play soccer or other smaller groups that just sit around, pick clover and wait for the outside activity to be over.  Then there inevitably comes a time where one child, whether by circumstance or blind luck is put on a pedestal.  Now this pedestal is not the kind like a beauty queen or sports athlete, but a pedestal where the child is humiliated.  Whether it is because they are not athletic, like I was, the first in the class to wear glasses, they are the smallest kid in the class and school, the clothes they wear are hand-me-downs that their parents wore in school, or even they have a cast or walk with a limp or cannot keep up with the rest of the kids on the playground.  Inevitably picking on a kid or putting them on a belittling pedestal does occur in our culture and world that this one child is singled out and humiliated.

Intentionally or not, all of us have either been this humiliated child or we have been a part of the group that humiliated our classmate and sometimes even our friend.  When this occurred, sometimes we felt guilty because we did not do anything, other times we felt powerless because if we said or did anything we would have been the object of the ridicule and then became the humiliated.  The reality also exists that sometimes we do not say anything, because we chose the path of least resistance because the person who was ‘bullying’ we have known longer than the person being bullied or we are just caught off guard and do not know what to say and cannot and choose not to defend the victim to their face, only after and when they have gone do we possibly offer some comfort.  What is even more personal for us is that this not only happens in the world by countries, in the schools with bullies that even the teachers cannot react to, because of the fear of lawsuits, bullying occurs in the workplace because the person is the bosses best friend or pet, and this has even happened here in the church, not only in years past, but even recently since my arrival.

As this reality sinks in let’s pull out our bulletin insert and join together and read together in unison the “What does this mean” sections as a congregation.  “And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The Third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.  What does this mean?  I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.  This is most certainly true.”  As the reality of Jesus humiliation for us sinks in, let us ask God in prayer to change our hearts to love Him more fully and bless us with His Word.

Let us pray, Jesus Christ our Lord, You came and took on not only our sins, but were truly humiliated for us in order to redeem us.  Enable us to truly understand Your suffering, humiliation and death are to remind us of the cost of following You.  For the gift of grace You offer to and for us is not without cost, but in our being redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God, today we can be partakers of the greatest mystery of faith in the Sacrament offered with Your humiliation for all of mankind.  This gift is given not for only a few but for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

The stark reality of humiliation that occurs in our schools, workplace, homes and here in the church is sad.  But the reality is that though this occurs we have a God Who overcame humiliation.  Jesus Christ chose to be humiliated in order that all of mankind may be set free.  And we are set free because of the free grace God offers us on the Cross of Calvary for all mankind.  This offer is not of silver or gold, not of fine gems or anything that can be bought with money.  Our freedom that we live in and experience through our baptism occurs with and because of Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection for you and me.

Jesus Christ lived on this earth, giving up His heavenly home to come and walk among us.  Teach us the greatest gift of love for all mankind, model His commitment to our redemption even to the point of death.  In Jesus humiliation, whether by His being beaten by the guards, stripped naked in front of all the crowds to receive his lashes or on the Cross as He suffered the agony, Jesus chose His own humiliation for each and every one of us.  Because He knew that only with His humiliation, would the resurrection come and not only be sweeter, but offer to each of us the greatest gift for all of mankind of our salvation.  Jesus willingness to endure this not only modelled the gift of grace, but offers it for us daily when we read His Word in Holy Scriptures, serve as His hands delivering meals on wheels and even when we come and sing songs and celebrate His gift of grace offered to and for us every Sunday.

But it does not end nor begin with our doing acts of service, for God does not expect anything.  God’s gift of grace is freely offered because that is what grace actually is, unmerited forgiveness of sins and the offer of salvation for all mankind so that we can be with Jesus Christ in His Kingdom.  God’s offer of salvation reminds each of us in many and various ways, but especially when we see the Cross.  Hence this morning, I have the cross we use during Lent and Easter front and center this morning to remind us as we come to His table to receive His gift of grace of His precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ humiliation for you and for me.

May we whenever we see a cross whether on television, in nature where tree’s cross just right, around someone’s neck that we wear as jewelry or even that we display in our homes or offices always be a reminder not just of Jesus humiliation and being stripped.  But may we always be reminded that Jesus chose His humiliation in order that we would be set free to be His children in His kingdom and experience the greatest gift of grace ever offered of His precious Body and Blood around the altar of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And may we always remember that His gift of grace is ‘given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins’ for all mankind, but especially including all of us saints here at Emmanuel who see the Cross of Christ as Jesus humiliation for each and every one of us gathered here on this First Sunday in Advent of the New Church Year.  AMEN.
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