Rev. George Miller
“To Rise and the to Fall”
Jan 8, 2011
Here we are; the Christmas season is officially over; Epiphany took place on Friday, we are acknowledging it today.
The wise men have come to visit Jesus; they have brought their gifts; they journeyed one way to meet the baby boy; they have now left to go another way, hopefully changed for the better.
Today we go to the Temple to be with the Holy Family, to witness and participate in the presentation of Jesus to God and in the process an elderly man finds peace with his soul and a prophetess offer her praise.
Today we gather, not in the temple, but certainly in a house of the Lord to mark an important day for our church: the day in which we install our council members.
Some are returning, some are brand new. One thing I can say for sure is that we have no idea where this year, this ministry will take us.
Ministry is an odd, sometimes frustrating endeavor. I say frustrating because as any church leader can tell you, no one, no thing can prepare anyone for what lays ahead, the work that will be done, the meetings to attend.
Those who sit on council and our various committees can plan, discern, pray, hear the Voice of God, go in with the best laid plans…and then witness as they go astray because of concerns over finances, time, talent, distance, perceived age of the congregation.
Arrive at a meeting with the best idea ever had the whole wide world over, and you will be asked who will do what, when and how.
And because we are all human, there are critiques, criticisms and disagreements.
For those who take on any kind of church leadership there is the initial thought that since we are one body, since everyone is working together for the Lord and using the same guidebook, then we must all have the same set of ideas.
But as the Book of Acts and the letters of Paul can attest to, church has never been that way even from the very beginning, even amongst Jesus’ own men.
Being a follower of God is funny that way; the Holy Spirit gives us each unique gifts, speaking and moving differently with each person and not everyone agrees on just which set of Jesus’ footprints we should follow.
It’s like what Simeon says to Mary, “This child is destined for the rising and falling of many…and a sword will pierce your soul…”
A sword will pierce your soul: ouch!
Really? So soon after we celebrated Christmas and opened all of our presents God wants to give us such a harsh message?
I think this reading, as beautiful as it is, has some components that are hard to hear, but they are true.
It takes place during the light drenched moments of the Christmas/Epiphany season, but it also points us toward the upcoming dark reality of Good Friday.
How can that be? Because you can’t cast light without it creating a shadow.
Jesus Christ is indeed a light that has come into our world, the Son of God, a Savior, who is a light for revelation and a glory for the people, just as Simeon says.
But think about what light does: it reveals; it shows was has been hidden. Secrets, negativity, abuse, that which is wrong.
For those who have been victimized by the darkness, Jesus is indeed good news; for those who perpetuate the darkness, Jesus, well Jesus calls them into accountability. That can feel like a sword for some.
For others, the piercing of the sword comes from the truth that Jesus does not always call us to do what is popular; Jesus calls us to do what is right.
What is right is based on compassion, it’s based on truth, and it’s based on concern for others.
As human beings we are broken, we are lost, we are wanderers trying to figure things out, but we are sinful and can’t always figure out what is right.
And sometimes what is right we can’t even agree on; but we try our best…
But there is Good News. As the song goes, there is a balm in Gilead. And even if we sometimes feel discouraged, there is still a phenomenal journey ahead of us if we let our great Redeemer guide us and if we try our best to not go it alone…
…so, after sharing some soul piercing truth with our soon-to-be council members, let us get to that Good News.
Imagine what will be possible this year.
Imagine what it will be like for us as we continue to grow in the Lord. Imagine what it will be like for us to continue to learn.
Imagine what it will be like for us to continue to reach out.
Imagine how it can be done. Imagine what it will look like. Imagine what it can feel like.
To strive for the Lord. To see with our own eyes.
To help others to see, to know, to sing, to celebrate, to experience the fact that there is a place they can go, a place where they can be.
As difficult as it can be, for those who are called, there is nothing as exhilarating as serving the Lord, as doing the acts of ministry that are laid before us, as being a witness to God’s unbelievable love.
Because although today’s reading casts both light and shadows, there is a truth that it tells us: that there is a Savior who can deliver us.
That there is a Spirit that can set us free.
That there is a God who is not done yet, not by a long shot, not with you, not with me, not with all of Creation.
A Holy Trinity who still speaks, who still creates, who still comforts.
Who still surrounds us with grace even when we face rough seas, even when we want to run away, even when we end up in the belly of the whale.
Even, council members, when things do not go as we envisioned or hoped they would be.
That when we are weak, Christ is mighty.
In conclusion, today we are still surrounded by the light of the holiday season. And there is no reason for that light to not continue.
But with the light comes shadows, with the light comes times in which our souls will feel pierced.
But as we embark forward, we do not embark alone, but with Jesus Christ who will help us navigate the paths our ministry will take and, oh, the places we will go.
Imagine what will be possible, what wonderful things our eyes will see what wonderful things we can help usher in.
May it be a light of revelation and a glory for God’s people. For that, let us say Amen and amen.