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December 22, 2013

Not Picture Perfect

My Spiritual Director told me that when her daughter was little she woke up one morning and said. “She saw a movie on her eyes.” She had a dream! We all have dreams. If you are like me, there times when you wake up from a dream and you were thankful that it was only a dream. Or there are times when your dreams make no sense at all.


Joseph has had a dream that ends up changing his life forever. He is debating what to do with the situation he finds himself in with Mary. She is pregnant with a baby that is not his! He wants to save her and himself public embarrassment so he decides to break the engagement. Simply put, he wants to kick Mary to the curb and go on his way. But the angel of the Lord has a different plan. “Stay in this messy situation Joseph. It is not picture perfect but it will be okay” says the visitor in the dream. This baby will be a Savior!


We find ourselves just two days away from celebrating the coming of our Savior. We hear this age old story every year.


In this tech, savvy world that we live in where most of the things that we need are at our finger tips. All we have to do is google something and we get the answer to a question. Stores are open 24 hours/7 days a week. All of our needs are met. One commentator asks the probing question:

  • Do contemporary believers still need a savior?

    (Feasting on the Word - Year A; Daniel Harris; Westminster John Knox Press; 2010; p. 97)


    I think this is a realistic question for today’s society. It was only several weeks ago when our Prime Timers group was talking with Hal Large, who is Kelly Simpson’s father. Our congregation support Hal and his family as missionaries in El Salvador for years. His wife and he have moved back to the states and they live in Washington. He shared that it was much easier to evangelize to the poor people in El Salvador. It was easier to be a Christian there because there was so much need and hopelessness. In the United States, it is more difficult to profess the need for Christ because worshipping other gods like: greed, power, pride, control and the list goes on – actually appears to pays off. Or does it?


    In the time of the prophet Isaiah, the people of the exile needed a savior. They were desperate and they were crying out for help. It was a pretty hopeless time. It was like looking into the faces of the homeless on the streets downtown, who beg for money or the face of the father who recently lost his wife and 2 babies in the fire in Nineveh. The face of the exile was the face of the parents of Claire Davis, who was the Arapahoe High School student gunned down I the shooting in Colorado. She spend last week trying to recover but died this weekend. For the exile, they are in need of a savior!


    Do you and I need a savior? Can we be excited about what we will welcome on Christmas Eve?


    Nadia Bolz-Weber is one of my new favorite preachers. She is an ordained Lutheran minister but you would never know it by looking at her. She has tattoos up and down her arms and chest. She has a foul mouth. She is one of the pastors who I fell in love with when I heard her preach at the Festival of Homiletics. I am also reading her book Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Saint and a Sinner. If you get past the roughness, you will find a genuine truth about what she says about Jesus Christ.


    As a recovering heroin addict, she has been in exile. She has searched for meaning and a purpose in her life. Through her faith journey, she has discovered that “something has to die for something new to live. Death and resurrection – the recurring experience of seeing the emptiness, weeping over our inability to fill it or even understand it, and then listening to the sound of God speaking our names and telling God’s story – is messy business.” (Pastrix by Nadia Boltz-Weber; 2013; Jericho Books)


    Death and resurrection, isn’t that what Joseph had to do with his life after encountering the angel? He had to die or put aside his own agenda of having the perfect engagement to Mary. He had to change his way of thinking when it looked like dismissing her was the answer. He could only experience new life when he was able to accept the will of God’s plan. Can you imagine how empty Joseph’s life would have been if he had let Mary go?


    Death and resurrection – what needs to die in our life for us to receive the new life of our savior?


    A commentator shares this story:

            On a radio talk show, a recovering drug addict told the story about the day he began his road to recovery. He had locked himself in a hotel room to take care of this $600/day habit as usual. This time he finally realized that whenever he turned to chemicals to achieve a sense of happiness, he went off to be alone. He isolated himself from others.

    This is a powerful image of what sin looks life in our lives. Sin is the choice to minister to ourselves, rather than allow the savior to minister to us; and often we preclude that divine help by removing ourselves from community. Some people choose to minister to themselves through chemical dependency, others through acquiring money, shopping, gambling, addiction to work, gossiping, playing their computer games or simply going it alone. (Feasting on the Word - Year A; Daniel Harris; Westminster John Knox Press; 2010; p. 97)


    As we draw near to the stable in Bethlehem and kneel at the foot of the manger, do we need the savior? Are we willing trust like Joseph did to be changed by God? Are we willing to die of our own needs and be filled with the goodness that our savior brings?

    Thanks be to God for sending us a savior that is for all people, especially the ones with messy, not-so-perfect lives. Amen.

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John Knox Presbyterian Church
3000 North High School Road | Indianapolis, Indiana 46224
(317) 291-0308