Thursday, December 8, 2016

How Many of Ya'll Know the Tate Family? Sermon for 12/11/16; Matthew 11:2-11

Rev. George Miller
Dec 11, 2016
Matthew 11:2-11

Last week we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of our Sanctuary. January marks the 27th Anniversary of our congregation.

April marks my 7th year of being here; July will mark my 12 years of being a pastor.

During all these years we have all had our share of leadership, volunteering, being part of a team, and not just here at church.

It’s safe to say that we at Emmanuel UCC have an active congregation in which people have been members of other churches, sat on other boards, held other jobs, and volunteered at other non-profits.

And we can all, unequivocally testify, that each and every one of us, no matter where we have been, no matter what we have done, have come across the Tate family.

Ya’ll know the Tate family- they are everywhere.

There is old man Dic-Tate; he likes to run everything and tell people what to do.

While Uncle Ro-Tate tries to change everything.

There’s Sister Agi-Tate who is sure to stir up plenty of trouble with the help of her favorite cousin Irri-Tate.

Lord knows if your organization, board, church, or group try to do something that benefits the good of the community you’ll come across Mr. Hesi-Tate, along with his spouse Vega-Tate, both who like to keep postponing things or creating committees that’ll put things off for another year.

There’s Imi-Tate who tries to be like the popular kids, and the dramatic diva Devas-Tate who is the voice of doom and gloom.

And don’t get me wrong- it’s not that the Tates are a bad bunch.

After all Dic-Tate has a way of getting things done. Ro-Tate keeps things fresh. Agi-Tate can keep people sharp and alert.

Hesi-Tate and Vegi-Tate can prevent others from foolishly running into things.

And let’s not forget the other Tate family members, such as Facili-Tate who is helpful in matters that need clarity and redirection.

And Medi-Tate who is always available to think things over, lend a helpful hand, breath in, breathe out…Namaste.

Yes- we all know the Tate family. They have been around since the beginning of time.

No doubt we see a bit of the Tate’s in the family of Adam and Eve. The Tate’s where right there with Moses and his mob of folk.

And the Tate’s where surely there while John the Baptist and Jesus were doing their separate ministries.

In today’s reading Jesus has been busy doing his thing. People are hearing and seeing things that make the heart proud.

Blind are regaining their sight, the lame are walking, and the lepers are being made clean. Surely a successful ministry of healing and kindness if there ever was one.

But John, who had spent time in the countryside encouraging people to repent and be ready for the Lord, is not so sure Jesus is doing what his job description says.

John had people in the Jordan River being baptized and confessing their sins. He called out the Pharisees and Sadducees as vipers who think they are better than others.

John is expecting the Messiah to come and cut down those who are not bearing good fruit. John is expecting a Messiah who will arrive like a Lion and bring fire and destruction with him.

John in waiting for a Messiah who is more like Dict-Tate or Devis-Tate, who will infiltrate and annihilate…

…but, instead, the Messiah he sees in Jesus, the Messiah that emerges from the waters of baptism, is one who gives sight to the blind, mobility to the wheelchair bound, and clearer skin to those with bad acne.

It’s like John was hoping for General George Patton, and instead he got Doctor Oz.

John expected a Messianic Lion; instead he got a Good Shepherd.

So John is understandably confused. He is in jail because of his actions and the things he has said and done, and with nothing but time on his hand, he sends word to Jesus.

John has his people ask a very simple question: “Are you the one we’ve been waiting for, or are we waiting for another?”

Now, the Gospel writer does not tell us what Jesus’ reaction was. We know nothing about his body language or tone of voice.

But if we are to see Jesus as fully human, as fully one of us, I think it would be fun to imagine Jesus being like….

“…Dude!...Really? I’m going from city to city teaching and proclaiming and telling these really awesome parables and John wants to know if I’m the one?”

Just picture this- Jesus with his hands and feet dirty from all the walking he’s done. He’s surrounded by people he’s helped. He’s probably been so busy he skipped breakfast and is having a late lunch.

And Jesus, after experiencing a bit of Agi-Tate in John’s question, looks around and points to all he’s done. “The deaf can hear, the poor have good news, and even the dead are coming back to life. What more can John want?”

When read this way, there is great humor and realness in this story. After all, how many of us have had a boss or co-worker question what we are doing.

John’s people go away, and Jesus turns to those around him. In his typical style, conducive of a teacher and religious scholar, Jesus deepens the dialogue by providing his own questions.

“What were you all expecting? Did you go into the wilderness expecting someone who was wishy-washy, who would flip-flop like a reed in the wind?”

“Were you expecting someone in a tower wearing luxurious clothes who is all about pomp and pop?”

“Or,” states Jesus, “Were you expecting a prophet? I tell you, John is amazing. There is no one like him, and there never will be.”

“But the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom that is already here and yet to be, has a new way of measuring greatness, and it is not how humans sees things, but how things are seen through Heaven’s Eyes.”

Jesus has an encounter with the Tate family, and instead of caving in, instead of losing faith, he has another way of expressing to the people what his ministry is…

Today we are one step closer to welcoming the birth of the Lord. We have experienced another week of waiting.

We have welcomed the lights of HOPE, PEACE, and JOY. We have talked about the promise of COMFORT, and the truth that life goes on.

Today we are reminded of the radical nature of Jesus Christ. That he was and is the Messiah that was promised. But he did not necessarily arrive as one expected, and he did not always do what people thought a Messiah does.

Advent Season reminds us again and again, and again and again the very freedom of God, the surprising ways in which the Lord enters into our lives and defies what we think, or expect, or demand.

That Emmanuel, God With Us, can enter into our world as a defenseless baby boy.

That Emmanuel, God With Us, can be more focused on healing and restoration than damnation and devastation.

That Emmanuel, God With Us, is not wishy-washy or looking down from a tower, but is right with us, in the midst of our existence.

Tending to our needs. Teaching us how to grow. Telling us that we are loved, and that we are lovely.

How much more could we possibly need?

Yet how much more does God, through Christ do for us?

No matter what the Tate family may say, no matter the wilderness we are in, no matter what we expect or assume, God is with us.

God is ready to do something new. God is ready to surprise us in ways we cannot even begin to expect.

For that we can say “Amen” and “Amen.”

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