Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sermon for Jan 27, 2013; Psalm 139:1-18 and John 1:43-49

Jan 27, 2009
Psalm 139: 1-18 & John 1:43-49
“Profound Presence”
Rev. George N. Miller

(My entire sermon is influenced by the message Rev. Alex Molozaiy preached at Eden Theological Seminary in January 2003. To this day it is one of the greatest, most touching and influential sermons I’ve ever heard. His take on John1: 43-49 has forever left a mark on me. Thank you Alex)

Once there was a pastor who was asked to come and pray with a parishioner’s mother. The elderly woman was lying in bed with her head propped up. An empty chair sat beside her.

“I see you were expecting me,” the pastor said.

“No,” responded the woman in a frail voice. “Who are you?”

The pastor introduced himself and said “I saw the empty chair and figured you knew I was coming.”

“Oh yes, the chair,” said the old woman, with a smile. “Would you mind closing the door?”

She began her story. “I’ve never told anyone this, not even my son. But all my life I never knew how to pray. I’ve heard pastors talk about it, but it went right over my head.”

She coughed and continued. “Then one day a friend said to me:

‘Prayer is simply a matter of having a talk with Jesus. Just place a chair in front of you, and imagine Jesus sitting in the chair. Then speak to him in the same way we are doing right now.’

“So,” said the old woman, “I tried it, and liked it so much that I do it every the day. I’m careful though: don’t want my son to see me and think I’m crazy.”

The pastor was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old lady to continue doing just what she had been doing. He prayed with her and returned to church.

Two days later the son called to say his mother had died. “Did she die in peace?” the pastor asked.

“Yes,” said the son, “When I left the house for the store Mom told me she loved me and kissed me on the cheeks. When I got back, she was gone.”

“But there was something strange about her death: I found her leaning over with her head resting on the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?”

The pastor, wiping a tear from his eye said “I wish we could all go like that.”

...This is a story about prayer; this is also a story about presence.

Presence is a vital part of ministry. Presence is the ability to truly be there for another person.

Being present says “I love you”; being present says “You matter and are a person of worth.”

Unfortunately, there are far too may people in our world who feel horribly alone.

What we’ve heard today are two Scriptures which challenge the notion that anyone is ever truly alone.

Psalm 139 is called a song of “most personal expression.” It portrays human experience in all its dimensions, stating that no matter what or where, God is present in our lives, and knows us.

The Psalmist asks God “Where can I go from your spirit?...If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even then your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.”

This is a song about knowledge, that the God who made us wonderfully, who knew us even when we were yet unformed, continues to know us at all times, in all places, no matter where we are.

This is a song of comfort, stating that no matter who you are, no matter where you are on life’s journey, God is right beside you, so just pull up a chair and begin a conversation!

For further clarity, we also have the story of Jesus and Nathanael in the Gospel of John.

Philip is out and about on the town when he runs into Jesus and realizes he’s the one the prophets had talked about. Full of excitement he goes to find Nathanael.

But where is Nathanael?

Is he hanging with the guys? Is he smooching with a squeeze?

No. Nathanael is a under a fig tree.

When hearing the news about finding the One, Nathanael is non-plussed, basically stating: “Can anything good come out of such a hick town?”

When Nathanael sees Jesus and is greeted with a compliment, the only thing he can say is “You don’t know me.”

To which Jesus responds with a poetic line of knowledge and presence, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

...“I saw you under the fig tree...”

Let’s meditate on that thought for a moment.

When Philip met Jesus he was out with his friends. But Nathanael was under a fig tree, presumably alone.

What’s up with Nathanael? Why wasn’t he out with friends? Or with family? Or working? Or with a significant other?

Perhaps Nathanael was a busy man taking a much needed break, but I don’t sense that. His words have an air of cynicism that seems to reflect someone who is feeling lonely and disappointed.

His words strike me as someone guarded and wounded who thinks it easier to be in his own company then to be in the company of others.

Or perhaps, like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, he was someone who was never invited to play in other peoples’ games.

“How did you get to know me?” he asks Jesus.

Jesus states (in what I’d like to imagine a loving voice) “I saw you under the fig tree.”

Think about that statement, think about that image.

It sounds like one of profound sadness and loneliness, where one feels left out or forgotten.

Have you ever had a fig tree moment? A time in your life when you felt abandoned or forsaken?

I certainly have. Mine was June of 1982.

I was graduating from 6th grade. People were having and going to parties. I had only been invited to one.

One day I was playing ball with Scott and Matt. After a while, Scott abruptly said, “Well, I gotta go: I’m having a party this afternoon, and it’s going to be a great one. We’re having ice cream and watermelon and everyone’s coming.”

That was the first time I had heard of the party. Matt was invited. So was our neighbor Dawn. But I wasn’t.

That afternoon I spent alone, while everyone else was in Scott’s backyard, having a great time.

And as if that wasn’t enough, I added insult to the injury by walking past his house. I could smell BBQ, the pool was full of kids, jumping in and climbing out, laughing.

I was alone, under my own fig tree, standing on the street.

That moment will always stay with me, and has shaped me in more ways then I can imagine.

Because of that moment I get a thrill when invited somewhere because it means I’m worthy enough to be invited. And I feel hurt when someone has a party and I didn’t make the list.

When was your fig tree moment?

When did you feel all alone in the world? When did you feel that no one cared if you were alive? Was there a time in which you felt like you’d be better off dead?

We all have. Those feelings are natural, and they are real. The Bible is full of stories of people who have their own fig tree moment.

Hagar runs away into the wilderness. Jacob has only a rock to rest his head. Gideon is left by himself to clean out a wine press. Mary Magdalene comes to the garden alone.

But they were not alone, where they?

Hagar is met by God who promises to care for her and her offspring. Jacob has a dream of angels and God pledges to be with him wherever he goes. The Lord calls Gideon to be a mighty warrior. Mary hears the voice of Christ.

Nathanael sits under the fig tree wondering what for. And Nathanael meets the Messiah, who lets him know just who he is.

And not longer after, the disciples are at a wedding in Cana in which Jesus performs his first miracle.

Nathanael goes from being all alone under a fig tree to witnessing first hand the abundance of God’s heavenly kingdom!

In these two scriptures we discover that no matter what, no matter who, no matter where, God is present with us.

God speaks to us saying, “People will disappoint you, economics will go belly up, and at times you’ll have to fight to stay alive. But you are not alone. I am with you.”

“I know your hurts, I know you pains. I have seen every single fig tree you have ever had to sit under, and I was with you.”

“I saw you the day you went to the doctor and the prognosis was not good.”

“I saw you the day you became widowed, divorced or single and you felt like your complete identity had changed..”

“I saw you all those days when you could not get out of bed because the pain was so great.”

“BUT, I saw you on the day you were born, and when it is your time to die, I will be there to greet you into my kingdom, into my heavenly home.”

All those moments of sitting under the fig tree, feeling alone, wondering “what for” and “how so”?

God was there, present, even when you did not realize it. And God has been working on ways to get you up and out from under that tree.

In conclusion, there will be times in our lives in which we will be, and we will feel alone.

Psalm 139 serves to remind us that there ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no river wide enough, ain’t no valley low enough to keep us away from God.

We can also recall Jesus’ words to Nathanael and know that when we have a fig tree moment, Jesus is right there, seeing us through, knowing us so well.

In Jesus, we are completely known.

Jesus invites everyone to the party.

And through Jesus we get to rejoin the human world, taking part in fellowship, sharing both the good times and the bad with those around him.

All thanks and praise be to God who has searched us and known us, to the Spirit that will never leave us and for Jesus who lights our way and knows us by name.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Sermon for Jan 13, 2013; Luke 3:15-22

Rev. George Miller
Luke 3:15-22
“Clouds of Prayer”
01 13, 2013

Once upon a time there were two men stranded on a dessert island. There was nothing to eat and no chance of rescue, so with nothing left to do but pray, they prayed.

One of them, Andy, was a gambling man so to make a game of it he said “Let’s see who God answers.”

So the men pray, each going to their own corner of the island. That night they each go to bed, hungry and alone, with no chance of rescue.

The next day Andy wakes up to coconuts at his feet. He gets up, cracks one open, drinks the juice and eats the meat.

He looks over at his island mate and says “See, God has answered my prayers.” The other man nodded his head, smiling at him.

That morning the two men go about their day, seeking shelter from the sun, saying their prayers, going to sleep.

The next day Andy wakes up to find a beautiful woman has washed up on the shore and she’s everything he could hope for.

Andy looks at his island mate and says “See, God has again answered my prayers.”

The other man nodded his head, smiling.

They go about their day, finding shelter from the sun, continuing their prayers. They go to sleep; Andy no longer so alone.

The next morning Andy wakes up and lo and behold, there is a rescue boat ashore, saying they have space for two people.

Andy wraps his arm around the woman and says to the other man “See, God has answered my prayers yet again!”

Sure enough, the other man nodded, smiled, and continued to smile as Andy and his mate walked up to the boat.

But Andy was a bit troubled.

He can’t figure out why, when having received absolutely nothing, the man was smiling, and continued to smile.

So before getting onto the boat he turned around and asked: “I don’t get it. Why are you smiling? You didn’t get food. You didn’t get the girl. And you’re certainly not getting rescued.”

To which the man responded “Because God has answered all my prayers.”

Andy was confused. “What do you mean by God has answered your prayers. You don’t have a single thing to show for it.”

“That may be true,” said the man, “But what I asked God for was that he would answer all your prayers…”

…Christianity is a most mysterious experience…

A few weeks ago we celebrated our belief in an incarnate God who would dare come to us in the form of a child.

In a few months we’ll celebrate our belief in a God who could and would resurrect the man that child became.

Then, a few weeks later we’ll celebrate our belief in an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that was likened to tongues o’ fire.

Let’s be honest here: fantastical and mysterious is our faith indeed.

Who? What?? Why??? How???? Really?????

Among the mysteries is the notion of prayer.

Unlike bread and wine, unlike a cross or an empty tomb, prayers are not tangible. They are not something you can see or touch.

Prayers are not made up of mortar or stone: things you can hold and physically build with.

Prayers are not a type of currency, a coin or a check or a credit card you can use to get what you desire when you desire it.

Prayers are invisible and abstract. Some would even say the concept of prayer is illogical.

Yet others would say that prayers are…transformative…

Prayers are mysterious, but just because we don’t know how they work, if they work, it does not mean we have to let go of them.

After all, Jesus, who we are called to emulate, followed a life that was rich with prayer.

We got a taste of this in today’s story. The crowds of people have come to John to be baptized in the wilderness.

Jesus is among them. After he is submerged in the water, he prays. As Jesus prays the heavens open, the Spirit descends and God says “You are my son, in whom I am well pleased.”

…Like I said- mysterious…

Last week we discussed how Matthew means “Gift of God” and how that knowledge can enhance our reading of Matthew’s Gospel.

Today we have some more information to share. Luke is the Gospel that contains many “mosts.”

Luke shows Jesus at his most hospitable. There are more scenes of Jesus eating a meal and talking about a meal then any other Gospel. (Good thing Jesus did all that walking!)

There are almost more scenes of Jesus being radically inclusive: children, foreigners, the lame, outcasts, Samaritans and women.

Not to mention Luke features Jesus talking the most about the poor, either in his giving of the Beatitudes or the stories he told.

So in Luke, Jesus does the most meal sharing, he does the most class-line crossing and he is shown at his most socio-economic conscious.

Anyone here wish to guess what else he does more in Luke then any other Gospel?


In Luke we witness a Jesus who not only teaches about prayer, tells stories about prayer, but also spends a lot of his time in prayer.

Before he breaks bread, he prays.

Before making difficult decisions, like who to call as his disciples, Jesus prays.

While facing difficult experiences, like his night in the garden or being left for dead on the cross, he prays.

With all this information, what can we surmise Luke is trying to tell us?

One guess is that a fully-realized Christian life is a prayerful life.

Look at how Jesus lived. He prayed and he prayed and he prayed. He supplicated, he begged, he communed, he asked with confidence.

If Jesus, the Son of God, Emmanuel, takes time to pray, so should we.

…Now, I have to pause right here and be honest with you, because in many ways I feel like my own prayer life is next to nil.

Sure, I say prayers in church and before meetings and in hospital rooms. But in my own life, in my own space?

When things are going good, you’ll hear me give God a quick “Thank you.”

When things are not so good…well, you’ll find me curled up on the couch watching the Cooking Channel.

So I will be the first to admit that my own personal prayer life could be much more…prayerful.

Perhaps a key in doing so, is to look at Jesus’ own example in Luke.

There are at least three things we see.

First, Jesus’ prayer life allowed him to have greater communion with God. It opened up their relationship, making it more… relational.

He isn’t afraid to call God “Poppa” and to approach his requests like a child to a loving parent that he trusts.

Perhaps having this kind of loving, trusting relationship with God is what allowed Jesus to live a life of radical hospitality that was so extravagent and welcoming to all.

Second, Jesus’ prayer life gave him a sense of direction. Like a compass it helped point him towards where to go, what to do, who to make his disciples.

Perhaps having this kind of guidance-seeking relationship with God is what allowed Jesus to be so socially conscious, to reach out to and speak about the poor and marginalized.

Third, Jesus’ prayer life gave him strength. How else could he have faced all the ridicule and opposition?

How else could he have found the courage to consummate his calling on the Cross?

Perhaps having this kind of empowering relationship with God is what prevented him from worrying what others thought and from trying to please everyone.

Perhaps it is what allowed him to pray, as he was dying, “Father, forgive them. For they don’t know what they are doing.”

In conclusion, referring back to the story you heard earlier, in some ways it can be said that we are each shipwreck survivors on the island of life, trying to get by.

My guess is that Luke would tell us to do what the men in the story did: to pray.

Not just for ourselves, but also for the sake of one another.

How do prayers work? Well that remains a mystery.

But if Luke goes out of his way to show us a Jesus who is not only the most hospitable, the most inclusive, the most socially conscious and the most prayerful, there has got to be something to it.

If Jesus Christ could pray, then we as Christians are to pray too.

Who knows? Just as his prayers opened up the heavenly clouds to made a way for the Spirit to descend on down, perhaps so will ours.

Amen and amen.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sermon for Jan 6, 2013; Matthew 2:1-12

Rev. George Miller
Matthew 2:1-12
“Gifts of God”
Jan 6, 2013

Every year we gather and celebrate Christmas the best we know how. We send and receive more then enough cards.

We decorate our trees with more then enough decorations.

We gather to eat more then enough cakes, cookies at more then enough Christmas feasts.

We sing more then enough Carols. Holy songs like “O Come let Us Adore Him”, silly songs like “Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer.”

Then there is the one song we all seem to collectively like and dislike at the same time: “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

Sure, it starts pleasant enough: “On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.”

Then on and on it goes: two turtle doves, three French hens, four calling birds.

Could you imagine being the one who has to clean up all that mess?

It continues: five gold rings, six of this, seven of that, eight of another, and so on.

Do you realize that if we added everything up it comes to a collected total of

12 Lords a leaping
22 ladies dancing
30 pipers piping
40 maids a milking
43 swans a swimming
42 geese a laying
40 gold rings
36 calling birds
30 french hens
22 turtle doves and
12 partridges in 12 pear trees???

Too much stuff. Where is someone supposed to put all that stuff?

Not to mention all that leaping, dancing, and swimming going on. Enough to make one dizzy!

Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and it is also a time of gifts. Of giving, receiving and sharing gifts.

Today is Epiphany. The day the wise men came from the east bearing gifts, following a star until it leads them to where baby Jesus rests.

It was not the religious scholars of Israel or the scribes of the Temple, but pagan foreigners who came from far away bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Sometimes it takes those on the outside to appreciate what God is doing on the inside.

It’s interesting that in Matthew’s gospel the next time we see Jesus being offered a gift is when he is tempted by Satan.

As we are told in Matthew 3, when Jesus grows into an adult he is led into the wilderness for 40 days.

There the devil tempts him. Jesus is told by that he will be given all the kingdoms of the world if he falls down to worship Satan.

Of course, Jesus declines this kind of devilish gift.

Matthew’s Gospel then ends with a different kind of gift giving. The resurrected Christ meets with the disciples and tells them

“All of heaven and earth’s authority has been given to me. So go and make disciples of all people. Teach them to obey what I have taught you and remember: I will be with you always, until the end of time.”

Christ has been given authority by God and in turn Christ gives authority to the disciples.

So in essence, Matthew’s gospel begins with people traveling across the world to bring Jesus gifts and ends with the resurrected Christ commanding his followers to share his gifts with the world…

You may not know this, but Matthew literally means “Gift of God.”

Read it with this viewpoint and you’ll discover the ways in which Matthew’s gospel is about the giving, receiving and sharing of gifts, and not just the kind that come in a pear tree or a treasure chest.

But gifts of life, gifts of mercy, and gifts of “enough.”

Throughout Matthew we witness Jesus giving people the gift of healing and wholeness in spite of their illnesses.

He gives people the gift of new life. He gives them comfort. He gives them forgiveness.

He gives the disciples the ability to cast out demons. He gives them the gift of wisdom in regards to heaven’s secrets.

When it comes to those who are hungry, Jesus gives them bread, he gives them meat, and he gives them drink.

He gives them himself.

And yet…we don’t really hear that much about other people giving back, do we?

Yes, there is the woman with the alabaster jar who anoints is head.

But outside of her and the magi, we don’t really hear about Jesus receiving anything, at least not the good kind of gifts.

In fact, more often then not, what Jesus receives is a perversion of gifts.

What does Judas give Jesus? A kiss that betrays him.

What do the people give Jesus when they have the chance to grant him freedom? Angry voices that yell instead “Crucify him!”

What do the soldiers give Jesus on the last day of his life? A scarlet robe and a crown of twisted thorns.

It’s a shame because God is the Original and Ultimate Gift Giver.

We witness this through the Holy Scriptures. God gives us the gifts of Creation.

God gives us the gifts of covenant and commandments.

God gives us the gift of land, good land flowing with milk and honey.

We even hear how God gives to the animals and birds streams and trees and mountains to thrive and survive.

Less then 2 weeks ago we traveled to Bethlehem to experience the gift God gave us of Immanuel.

How do we respond?

Should it be like Judas or the crowds or the soldiers in the shadow of the cross?

Or should it be like the magi in the glow of the manger?

…It has been the season of gifts. Gifts to our family, gifts to our friends, gifts to our mailman and beautician.

What about our gifts to God?

I’m not talking about our material gifts. I’m not talking about gifts that require reaching into our pocketbook or pulling out our wallet.

What about the gifts the prophet Micah called us to do? To do justice, love mercy and to walk humbly with the Lord?

What about the gift we saw Jesus give again and again? The ability to believe we have enough and to break bread and to feed those who are hungry, those who are feeling broken or without?

What about the gifts we all naturally possess? I’m talking about the spiritual gifts we have been given at birth.

For those who have been given the gift of singing, to sing.

Those who have been given the gift to fix and create, to create and to fix.

Those who have the gift to teach to teach.

Those who have the gift to inspire and cheer, to cheer and inspire.

Those who have the gift to pray, to pray.

Not everyone has an alabaster jar filled with expensive ointment or treasure chests filled with gold, frankincense and myrrh.

But we all do have our own wellspring of gifts, right here (point to head)…and here (point to heart)…and here (hold out hands).

Our gift to God can be the sharing of our gifts with God, for God, for all people, no matter who they are or where they are on life’s journey.

In conclusion, the Christmas season comes to its official conclusion today. But it does not mean the spirit of Christmas has to.

As wise men traveled to Jesus bearing gifts, we can too. And we get to leave bearing greater gifts, ready to share them with all.

What are the gifts you are ready to share with God this year?

Will you trust that your gifts, whatever they may be, are “enough”?

Amen and amen.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sermon from 12-30-12; Luke 2:22-40

Dec 30, 2012
Scripture: Luke 2:22-40
Sermon Title: “Guided by the (Christmas) Spirit”
Rev. George N. Miller

All this month we’ve featured sermons with one word titles that were designed to celebrate a specific concept of the Advent season: hope, joy, peace and love.

Today we will add another concept: wisdom.

We have witnessed the pregnancies of both Elizabeth and Mary. We have experienced the births of John and Jesus.

Now we have this scene in which Jesus is brought to the Temple to be presented, and while there we encounter two elderly people who have a life changing experience.

First, there is Simeon, a man who had been promised by God that he would not die until his eyes had seen the glory of the Lord.

Then there is Anna, a widow who spent all her time in the Temple, taking on the moniker of prophet.

Simeon speaks of revelation and glory. He blesses the family.

He tells Mary that although her child will achieve great things, she will experience some suffering. A truth that any parent knows too well.

Anna praises God and speaks to all who will listen.

In some ways, Luke has completed his introductory cycle of relationships.

We’ve had Zechariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary representing the parents of the world.

Jesus and John are the children.

We’ve experienced the presence of neighbors, relatives and co-workers.

Now, Simeon and Anna take on grandparent-like status.

By doing so, I feel like they are also meant to represent the notion of wisdom and knowledge, the kind that gets passed down from one generation to the next; the kind we soak in from our elders.

Just before, we heard Judy share the lyrics from one of her favorite Christmas songs. I’d like to now share the words of one of mine: “Ava Marie.”

“Take my fear replace it with knowledge divine
though I am weak, make me strong.
Each day I’ll be more understanding
each day more patient and peaceful within
and faith will lead me closer to wisdom
let wisdom deliver me closer to Him.”

These lyrics, which call upon God to show the meanings of love and contentment especially fit this season, especially in light of all that happened these past few months.

Due to the events in Connecticut, due to the events of Hurricane Sandy, due to the events surrounding election season, there has been a sense of fear, and with fear, confusion.

Fear and confusion are powerful emotions to mix that can lead to dangerous decisions and malevolent mistakes.

What I like about “Ava Marie” is the emphasis it places on knowledge, on the ability to think.

In other words: wisdom.

Wisdom is a smart theme to discuss as we close the year, after witnessing the birth of Jesus and rediscovering all that Jesus can be to us.

Trying to figure out who Jesus is has been the task of Christians throughout the ages.

In many ways, our faith is based upon our continued attempt to understand Jesus in new times, new places and new ways.

Way back, when Jesus’ ministry first began, people had various responses when they personally experienced him.

Some people were enraptured by his presence, his charisma, and his spiritual gifts.

Others were indifferent or negative: “Oh, he’s just the carpenter’s son” or “Oh, he must be possessed by a demon.”

Others had a positive response: Jesus was the answer they had been looking for, fulfilling their expectation about how they would meet God.

Those who were waiting for a prophet called Jesus “the Prophet.”

Those who were waiting for the Anointed One called Jesus “the Christ.”

Others came to see Jesus as Healer, Shepherd, Meal Provider.

Then there were those who delighted in discussions and dissertations, who desired to use their brain and were not afraid to faithfully think for themselves.

Read the Bible closely and you’ll discover just how large of a role wisdom and knowledge play.

How the Jews valued study and knowledge. How the New Testament writers, influenced by Greek thought, embraced wisdom, calling it Sophia.

Some of these people, those who prized wisdom, believed that it dwelled within Jesus.

So when Jesus walked past them or stopped to have an engaging conversation, they would say to one another “Behold the Wisdom of God.”

I think back to life lessons I have learned over the years. One that has stayed clearly in my mind is something that happened back in 2004.

I was helping my friend Cari to move. With her father and two friends we moved tables and chairs, books and potted plants, until only one thing remained: her couch.

It was not a simple, small couch; it was a huge, magnificent couch that took up the length of the wall. We tried to get it out the door, but no luck.

We pushed and we pulled, we turned and we flipped. We gritted our teeth and we shoved, but no good.

We took Cari’s front door off its hinges. No help.

We had her neighbor open up his door to create extra wiggle room. No wiggle was had.

We took the neighbor’s door off the hinges. Not a thing happened.

Nearly an hour passed and we had done everything we could do to free that couch from her apartment.

But freedom could not be had.

With nothing left to do, we did the one thing we hadn’t done: we prayed.

We joined hands, bowed our heads and simply asked God to send us some wisdom to figure out what to do.

After the “Amen” was said, we went back to work.

We tilted the couch, we grabbed an end, and somehow, some way (no kidding), the couch came right out of the apartment!

To this day I think about that moment, and if I wasn’t there, I would say it never happened.

But it did. How?

We were trying for an hour and did nothing different in those last five minutes but pray. Yet the prayer worked.

Somehow a combination of wisdom, coincidence, miracle and sheer luck all came together to accomplish what needed to be done.

All I know is this: when we stopped trying to do it by ourselves, when we paused for prayer and specifically sought out God’s wisdom, we were able to get the couch out of Cari’s apartment.

My prayer life would never be the same again.

As stated before, Wisdom is throughout the Bible. Proverbs 8 states that wisdom was present during the creation.

Wisdom is there with the likes of Ezra and Nehemiah when it came time to rebuild the city.

In Luke’s Gospel, wisdom is referred to abundantly. Look at today’s reading.

Words that refer to Simeon being guided by the Holy Spirit or having things revealed by the Spirit are just other ways to speak about wisdom.

Look at Anna who is called a prophet and said to be a great age; again, just other ways to hint about wisdom.

Then, to make it clear, Luke tells us Jesus “Grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”

Read a little further and we’ll see 12 year-old Jesus sitting in the temple, listening and asking, amazing all who hear.

To make sure the point is driven home, verse 52 states how Jesus increased in wisdom as he grew older.

Throughout the Gospel of Luke, wisdom overflows.

The teachings of Jesus.

His sayings such as the blind should not lead the blind.

His speeches which did not always make sense but forced one to think, such as calling those who weep blessed.

There was something about the stories he told featuring beggars and lost children which caused people to say, as Jesus walked by, “Here is the Wisdom of God”.

People who met Jesus felt as if God’s wisdom had come down to them and was in their midst.

In fact, the earliest records we have of Jesus did not highlight his healings or miracles, they highlighted what he said and the lessons he taught.

The very earliest of Jesus’ followers gathered his sayings and stories. They celebrated his wisdom, even if his teachings often sounded peculiar, or undermined the official view of the world.

So…throughout this month we have talked about hope and joy, peace and love.

What does all this about wisdom mean for us, especially during this Christmas season?

For on thing, it means we have yet another way to “see” Jesus.

We heard Judy share a song that presented Jesus as black, Hispanic, Asian and white.

We each have our own ways of seeing Jesus. As Savior, Healer, Counselor, Friend.

Now we have another way, as Wisdom Incarnate.

What does this mean?

It means that when it comes to our own personal spiritual life we have another way to pray, inviting Jesus to share with us his wisdom.

It means that when we are faced with a difficult choice or a hopeless situation, we can pray, asking for wisdom on what to do and how to face our situations.

When loved ones go into the hospital, we don’t just ask for healing. We ask for the medical staff, the doctors, the surgeons, to be filled with wisdom.

At council meetings, at congregation gatherings when making a difficult decision, we can ask for wisdom.

Believing that Jesus is indeed wisdom incarnate, we can began to realize how anything which involves education and learning can become an act of prayer.

Teach your son or daughter how to change a tire: you’re sharing wisdom.

Teach a grandchild how to make their bed: wisdom.

Teach a child how to make homemade pasta: you’re sharing wisdom.

Sign up for a new class, learn a new trade, sit down with a loved one to read together: you are sharing wisdom, you are experiencing God.

I believe that anytime you embrace, share or seek out wisdom, you are embracing, sharing and seeking out the Divine.

In conclusion, since that day when I helped Cari move her couch, I have found that praying to God for wisdom takes me out of my world, and helps to move me away from my biases and worries.

It moves me closer into the realm of God, in which different realities exist, in which wisdom, not fear rules, and the Spirit of God, not the spirit of my ego dominates.

I invite you this week to take some time out, to engage God’s Wisdom in your own way.

The next time you face a crisis, or have a difficult decision to make, invite Jesus to become a partner in your situation by asking for and seeking Wisdom.

See what happens.

You may find yourself moving from helpless to an active participant.

And just like Anna, Simeon, and Jesus you will be guided by the Spirit, opening up doors and conquering things you never thought you could.

In the words of “Ava Marie”, may God take your fear and replace it with knowledge divine.

May each day make you more understanding, patient and peaceful within.

May faith lead you closer to wisdom, may wisdom deliver you closer to Christ.

Amen and amen.