Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve 2014 Sermon

Rev. George Miller
Dec 24, 2014

“Where have you come from and where are you going?”

That’s the question we explored on Sunday; it is a question we return to this evening.

We are blessed to be gathered here tonight, to anticipate the birth of Jesus. It’s a joy to be away from the darkness of the world and to be bathed in the light of Christ.

We just heard a series of readings from the Gospel of Luke. How the angel appears to Mary and tells her she will bear a son.

How Mary travels to visit her cousin. How Elizabeth’s child jumps within her womb.

How Mary and Joseph journey into Bethlehem and she gives birth in a manger.

Angels appear to shepherds and sing their praises before returning to heaven. With haste the shepherds go visit this new family and make known what they know.

“Where have you come from and where are you going?”

If you pay attention, you’ll notice that each of these stories feature a journey. Mary, the angels, the shepherds, Joseph-they all make a journey. Even Elizabeth’s unborn child moves when he leaps within her.

But perhaps you’ve noticed something else: we’ve only heard from Luke’s account; we have not heard from Matthew’s Gospel. It is in Matthew’s telling that we feature the story of King Herod and the wise men.

As Matthew 2 states, wise men came to King Herod claiming they had observed a star and came to pay homage to the King of the Jews.

King Herod is scared, so he gathers his best leaders around him to get more info. Then in secret he tells the wise men to go and search diligently for the child.

Which is what they do, entering the holy city and seeing the child with his mother. They pay him their respects and offer their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Then they leave, going a different route.

“Where have you come from and where are you going?”

It is interesting to note that in every one of these stories everyone makes a journey of some kind…except King Herod.

Did you notice that? He does not move.

Herod hears the news and first he is afraid, then he gathers his leaders around him and then he sends the wise men to go and search.

What’s up with that?

King Herod, leader of Judea, most powerful man in all the land. He’s unwilling to move, unwilling to journey, unwilling to accept the fact that there may be some one, some thing grander than he.

While the rest of the Christmas characters go from here to there, he stays put; unmoving and unmovable.


What’s up with this King? What could he be so frightened of?

Here Herod is, most likely wrapped in the finest of garments with gold and rubies, sitting on a throne. And this is what he’s afraid of- a baby? A child, an infant, in swaddling clothes, placed in a manger?

Unlike everyone else, he refuses to take that journey to Bethlehem. Unlike everyone else he refuses to have anyone ask “Where have you come from and where are you going?”

So on his throne he sits, and he waits…alone.

While the skies light up with angels singing, while shepherds share what they’ve heard and the wise men follow a star, overwhelmed with joy, he stays put.

I wonder how many here tonight may feel like they can relate a bit to the King. I wonder how many here are afraid of what the news of Jesus’ birth actually means.

I wonder how many here value more the ways of the worldly kingdom than the ways of the Kingdom of God.

I wonder how many are ready for the journey- to let go of all the struggle and strife of the past year, to be willing to see and experience things in a new way.

To stop believing in lies or living in fear and to take that step of faith and cross over into the promises of our God who creates, our God who saves and our God who blesses.

Because what a wonderful journey it can be, with angels serenading us and a star leading the way!

To get off the thrones of comfort and the thrones of fear and to follow.

To step off those thrones made of prejudices and preconceived notions, abusive situations and dysfunctions.

To lose the robes of anger and jealousy, fears and falsehoods and to make that journey to be bathed in the light of a new kind of King.

To follow the star, to follow the wise men, to follow the shepherds, to follow Joseph, and to follow Mary knowing that Jesus is there in a manger and that amazing things are waiting for us.

Tonight a baby is born to free us all; tonight a baby is born to love us all.

Tonight we do not have to walk in darkness or in shadows, but we can walk in great light.

We are invited to rejoice with joy and to know that the Lord who creates, who saves and who blesses also wants to make us happy, and wants to make us whole.

“Where have you come from and where are you going?”

We have been invited to participate in a journey that will lead us to a child who has come in the name of peace and justice, grace and eternal love.

We can be like Herod and be scared and angry and remain where we are. Or we can be like the others and embrace the chance to make that move. We can take that chance and be transformed.

Where we are now is not where we were last year. And where we are now is not where we will be the year next.

This journey into Bethlehem, our Christmas journey, is one which we can travel with courage and conviction, with trust and faith, with dignity and the knowledge that in Jesus Christ the Lord is waiting to meet us.

Waiting to bless us with radiant light, with unending love and with sheltering shalom.

“Where have you come from and where are you going?”

We are ready to see the beautiful baby born in the manger; we are ready to see the face of God.

Amen and amen.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sermon for Dec 21, 2014; Luke 1:46-55

Rev. George Miller
Luke 1:46-55
Dec 21, 2014

“Where have you come from and where are you going?”

This Advent season we’re celebrating the fact that we have faith in Sebring while joyfully waiting for the Lord.

We’ve talked about being fantastic failures; we’ve talked about holy interruptions. In our Lectionary Bible Study we talked about how Mary is not the first person to be visited by an angel, nor is she the first to be told she will have a child.

Looking back upon our Old Testament scripture, we read one of the earliest such stories in Genesis 16:1-16.

It’s the story of Hagar, the slave-girl who gets dragged into the soap-opera like drama of Abraham and Sarah.

After being used like an object and mistreated by her mistress, Hagar runs away into the wilderness. Although she is pregnant, she sees it as a better alternative than being caught up in their dysfunction.

While resting by a spring of water, “kapooya!”, an angel appears to Hagar and says “Where have you come from and where are you going? have conceived and shall bear a son; you shall call him Ishmael…”

Last week we pretty much covered the idea of interruptions; today let’s embrace and explore this idea of “Where have you come from and where are you going.”

That’s a rich theological notion, the idea that we are each on a journey and that often times we are at pivotal places in which we can look back and we can look forward.

Sometimes we look back with relief, glad that our past is behind us.

Sometimes we look back with melancholy, afraid that the best days are long behind.

Sometimes we look forward, excited about what’s to come: a new job, a new home, a new love, a new opportunity.

Sometimes we look forward with dread: worried about our health, worried about our bills, worried about the future of the world.

Sometimes we’re not even aware we are in an in-between state. Sometimes that reality is so clear we can feel, hear, see and taste it.

Just around the riverbend…something’s coming who knows what, who knows when.

“Where have you come from and where are you going?”

I believe the same sentiment could be said to Mary at this moment of the story. Not too long ago she was just an ordinary girl in an ordinary world, from a nothing family in a no-count town when…

“Kapooya!” the angel Gabriel interrupts her life with the news that she will become pregnant, she will have a child named Jesus and he will be called the Son of God.

Holy reality break.

Mary questions the possibility, but once she’s given all the facts, she says with great strength and fortitude “Here I am, the servant of the Lord.”

For reasons no one really knows, Mary then makes a journey to her cousin’s home; a journey that would have taken a minimum of 2 days.

When there, she discovers her cousin Elizabeth is pregnant as well and she is greeted with these words “Blessed are you among women.”

And as if following a divinely written script, Mary breaks into a song of praise in which her soul magnifies the Lord, she acknowledges her lowliness, thanks the Mighty One for what has been done and she celebrates, in advance, what God will accomplish.

It’s a powerful prayer; don’t be fooled by the images of pop-culture or the presentations of docileness, because Mary sounds like a prayer-warrior, speaking words of social-justice and mercy, anti-establishment and feeding the hungry.

She ends her prayer in a wonderful way that belies her Jewish background, for she recalls the promises God had made to Abraham and Sarah.

By lifting up their names, she is mindful of how God is personal and active in human events and history; how God acts to create, to save and to bless.

Genesis 16:7- “Where have you come from and where are you going?”

Luke 1:46-47- “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Mary’s song is a song for everyone this morning. Mary’s story is all of our stories, because we’ve all had moments of holy interruptions, we’ve all had moments of drastic before and after, and except for the very rare 1% born into extreme wealth and privilege, we all have places of lowliness we can look back upon or are experiencing now.

Genesis 16:7- “Where have you come from and where are you going?”

Mary, in her own words, acknowledges that she has come from a place of lowliness.

The way Luke frames the story, we can see how this is so. First, Mary is a girl; the lowest rung of the social ladder, right above a slave. Women were not regarded with high esteem and children were seen more as property then persons.

Mary is both, a double whammy of lowliness.

Not to mention, she comes from a no-count town in a no-count place. Sure, we know all about Galilee and Nazareth now, but back then…no, no, no.

Back then no one boasted of being from Galilee; no one planned a vacation in Nazareth. They were like the Lorida of the state. They were like the relatives you knew of but no one talked about.

And as we talked about last week, Mary is engaged to be married; which means she may still be living at home with her Dad, but she legally belongs to Joseph. She’s not really a girl but she’s not really a woman.

“Where have you come from?” Mary is the epitome of lowliness, especially…especially now that is she pregnant and she is unwed.

“And where are you going?” That’s an interesting question, because we know where Mary is going.

We know that soon she will journey to Bethlehem, we know soon she will give birth in a manger, we know soon she will be greeted by shepherds sharing their stories.

But for now, none of that has happened yet. For now she is just an unmarried, pregnant girl who has taken a two day journey to visit her equally pregnant cousin, but it is clear that the journey has already made a difference.

Because listen to what Mary says “Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me.”

Here we have a woman who sees her lowliness, who understands her humble roots, who is fully aware of her situation, and yet here she is able to look ahead, who is able to name and claim what God will do, how she will be transformed and how the world will be a better place.

“Where have you come from?” Lowliness.

“Where are you going?” Blessedness.

“Where have you come from?” Being hungry.

“Where are you going?” To having enough.

“Where have you come from?” Promises made.

“Where are you going?” Promises fulfilled.

But don’t be fooled into complacency. Don’t be falsely warmed by the glow of the story.

Because although where Mary is going will lead to Bethlehem, to a manger and to Jesus being presented at the Temple, we are to also be aware that Mary will learn what it means to have a sword pierce her soul, as any parent will experience.

Be aware that in about 33 years Mary will go to the place in which she’ll be in the shadow of her son’s cross.

That Mary will most likely be among the women who see the tomb where her son’s dead body would lay on a Friday.

Nor can we forget that according to Luke, Mary was among the woman who went to the tomb that Sunday morn to discover the stone had been rolled away and that she was amongst the first to hear the Good News that Christ had been resurrected.

What this means is that as Mary moves from lowliness to blessedness, as she goes from Nazareth to Bethlehem, as she goes from manger to temple, from cross to empty tomb, we go to.

We are mindful of where we have come from and where we are going.

Sometimes we are moving from sorrow to joy, from joy to sorrow.

Sometimes we are joyfully moving towards, sometimes we are sadly moving away.

Almost all of the time we are in some sort of transition, some kind of change, some kind opportunity.

We can deny it, we can fight it, we can be blind to it. We can embrace it, we can name it, we can claim it.

But we move, we travel, we transition, hopefully mindful of where we’ve been, mindful of where we are going.

As we do so, may we recall that we do not make those journeys alone, that we are not completely in the wilderness by ourselves, that at most times we are probably not as great and superb as we feel, nor are we as lowly or despised as we may think.

But that we are the Lord’s and that the soon-to-be-birth of Jesus the Christ is to remind us of how much we matter, how much we are loved.

To remember that God became incarnate so we can go from place to place, we can move from past to present to future with the knowledge that we are blessed, we are recipients of mercy and grace and that God is indeed acting from generation to generation.

“Where have you come from and where are you going?”

Each of us gets the chance to answer that question, may we also know that in Christ we do not make that journey in vain; in Christ we do not make it alone.

Amen and amen.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sermon for Dec 14, 2014; Luke 1:26-38

Rev. George Miller
Luke 1:26-38
Dec 14, 2014

Today I am going to give perhaps the most knowingly hypercritical sermon of my life. I’m going to talk about the theology of interruptions.

My thesis is that there are times in which God interrupts our lives for the benefit of all and we could do a better job of realizing it.

Hypercritical, because I am perhaps the last person in this sanctuary who can handle interruptions. But they say that often times preachers preach for themselves, and today is going to be one of those days.

I don’t know why I’m not so good at handling interruptions. Perhaps it’s the way my brain is wired.

Maybe it’s a guy thing. Men aren’t the best at multi-tasking.

A woman can answer the phone, duct tape a leaky faucet, and address the 4 needs from 3 different people all within 5 minutes of walking in the door.

Guys have a hard enough time remembering to wash their hands after using the rest room.

Maybe it’s a New York thing; maybe it’s a maturity thing; maybe it’s just a George thing.

Regardless, the ability to deal with interruptions is a life-long learning edge for me, which is part of the appeal of living here in small-town Sebring.

In a land where children are raised to say “ma’am” and “sir” there are still elements of that old-time southern style of doing things in such a way that you don’t fret and you don’t frown, you just go along with it all.

I think of Miss Mona who’s been cutting my hair for nearly 5 years. The first time I met her, the salon was busy with girls getting their hair done up for the prom, yet Mona found the time to cut my hair.

She offered a glass of wine. We talked about this and that. 3 weeks later I was back at the salon.

As Miss Mona cut my hair, we’d talk. The phone rang, she’d answer it. Someone came in, she stopped cutting to acknowledge them and chat. Her daughter stopped by; an employee brought in salads for lunch.

It was very quaint and down home, until the 3rd time when the novelty wore off. I wasn’t used to this particular style of pleasantries and interruptions that took place.

Up north a haircut took only thirty minutes, but with Miss Mona it took an hour.

Miss Mona talked and talked; about her church, about her family; she asked questions, “would I like anything to eat?”, she answered phones, she greeted people.

It was too much- an avalanche of interruptions. I thought I’d never go back.

Fortunately, I did.

But the next time it was with this revelation- I had to accept the fact that it would always take an hour for Mona to cut my hair.

I had to accept the fact that there would always be phone calls, there would always be people stopping in, there was always going to be drinks offered and food being shared…because that’s the way it was.

So I gave in…and I’m so glad I did, because a hair cut by Miss Mona is something I look forward too. It’s therapeutic and joyful.

I’ve learned how to schedule my day accordingly. I’m no longer surprised when the phone rings; sometimes I even know who she’s talking to.

People come in; I say hi. Mona will introduce us and in that small-town sort of way we discover what our connections are.

Through Miss Mona and her salon of interruptions I’ve made some great connections: I met my friend Dominick, was invited to attend a function at the airport, was asked to volunteer for 12 Hours and her family has had me over for the holiday.

Of all the people in Sebring, Miss Mona is perhaps the most happy, content, and fully realized person I know. People love to be around her.

Here’s something else-there are now times in which it is I who stop by Miss Mona’s just to say hi, and I am the interruption.

I am greeted with the best sense of hospitality and I get to hear the stories and jokes from whoever is in that chair.

At Miss Mona’s the interruptions are not the exception, they are the rule; and I would not have it any other way.

When you think about it, isn’t the Bible a collection of interruptions? Holy interruptions you might call it.

Those out of nowhere, “where did that come from?”, jee-whiz-you’re-really-intruding-in-my-day kind of interruptions.

Think of Abraham and Sarah. Here they are, a long-term married, lifetime childless, ready to settle into a lifetime of retirement kind of couple when- “kapooya!”

Out of nowhere and without warning God interrupts their life and says “Go, pack up your stuff, say goodbye to everyone so you can move to a foreign land and have a baby.”

That’s an interruption of life that involves family, land and history.

Think of Moses- a dude just tending the sheep, minding his business, enjoying the hill-country view when out of nowhere “kapooya!”-his work-day is interrupted with a burning bush and a voice telling him to remove his sandals, speak to the Pharaoh and free the slaves.

That’s not just a work-place interruption, but a call to challenge the politics of the day and to perform an act of social justice.

Then there is the boy Samuel. If you recall, he was just trying to get a good night’s rest when “Kapooya!”- God disturbs his sleep by calling out his name not once but three times.

Samuel’s sound sleep is interrupted so he can be a prophet and speak words of judgment against the Eli, the priest.

In these three examples alone we encounter situations in which out of nowhere God interrupts someone’s life and places upon them an opportunity, a burden, a task, that they had no heads-up about.

And yet each of them rises to the challenge and they each step up on faith. Ultimately they, and we, become the better for it.

Today we heard about another holy interruption, a monumental kind.

Here is Mary, a regular ordinary girl just doing her thing. She’s listening to her iPod, checking texts on her phone, posting messages to Facebook.

She’s chilling and spending some time alone when out of nowhere “Kapooya!”- an angel appears and says “Greetings favored one, the Lord is with you.”

Talk about a holy interruption!

The angel goes on “So here’s the deal- you’ve made God happy so you’re going to have a baby named Jesus and he’s going to change the world and be a blessing to all.”

I don’t know about you, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how Mary was able to handle this interruption.

I can barely handle someone coming into the office to ask a question, much less an angel coming out of nowhere with a “Your whole life is going to change forever” kind of deal.

For a young girl who is engaged to be married, who’s still living with her dad, who’s not really a child but not yet a woman, this is a big deal.

This is an interruption that will forever change her life. Hard to join the school basketball team or attend your prom or go on a double date when you’re pregnant.

When an angel intrudes upon the mundane aspects of your day and says the Holy Spirit is going to come upon you and your child will be called the Son of God that’s about as holy of an interruption as you can get.

Yet scripture tells us that Mary not only seems to welcome the interruption, she says “Here I am Lord, let it be with me according to your word.”

Think about it. In the others stories the people had different reactions.

Sarah laughed when she heard she was going to have a child. Moses used every excuse he could think of to get out of doing what God asked. Samuel had to be woken three times and told by Eli what to do.

And yet, here is young Mary, alone and unprepared, yet willing to say “yes” to God’s holy interruption.

And if you notice, with the examples given of Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Samuel, and Mary, each of these holy interruptions resulted in events that aided in God’s acts of creation, salvation and blessings.

These holy interruptions resulted in family, in freedom, in prophecy and ultimately, they resulted in our Savior.

None of these holy interruptions could have been planned ahead. None of them seemed to happen at the most opportune time.

But all of them occurred for the benefit of God’s kingdom.

In conclusion, the Bible is full of stories about people being interrupted by God, about how the Holy One broke into their lives unexpected and uninvited.

I’ll be the first to admit it’s hard to be interrupted and to allow those interruptions to take place, especially when it’s a busy time of the year.

But perhaps just for this Advent Season, perhaps just for this week, perhaps even just for this day, we can find our own way to welcome those interruptions when they occur.

To not be so focused on our holiday planning and tasks on hand that we end up missing the holy that is right in our midst.

To realize that sometimes it is the interruptions that are the real opportunities and tasks at hand.

To celebrate that if they are indeed God’s holy interruptions, they are there to serve a purpose to create, to save and to bless.

And perhaps by welcoming in these moments, we are also welcoming in the chance for Jesus to become a little bit more real to a world that seems so rushed, a world so scared and a world so far removed from who we were created to be.

And perhaps by welcoming in these holy interruptions we too can find our own way to say “Here we are, Lord. Here we are.”

Amen and amen.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sermon from Dec 7,2014; 2 Peter 3:8-14,18

Rev. George Miller
2 Peter 3:8-14,18
Dec 7, 2014

We’ve all heard of “Christmas in July”; today we’re going to have July in Christmas.

If you subscribe to Highland’s Today you may have read the article by syndicated columnist Roger Simon titled “America’s Glorious Failures.” It ran on the 4th of July…of 1976 and was so well received that they’ve run it every 4th of July since.

Roger writes about spending three days with the contestants of the Miss Wisconsin Pageant in Oshkosh, WI.

He observed how they practiced 18 hours a day in evening gowns and swim suits, wobbled in high heels and always smiled…until the last night.

The finalists were announced and the eight losers ran offstage into a large, bare room.

For the past three days Roger got to know them, their names and the towns they represented. Now each of them was riddled with sorrow and a sense of shame.

“I just feel bad for my town…I feel I let all the people down,” said Miss Watertown.

“I don’t know how I will face the people who came here to see me,” said Miss Sheboygan.

According to Roger they had branded themselves as failures in a nation in which success is worshipped as a religion.

As dreamers of the American Dream they were paying for their failure.

Roger wrote “I wish I could have told them then what I know now…America was a country founded by failures who could not get along in the Old World and who came to a wilderness because they simply had no other place to go.”

He continues: pioneers settled the country because they failed at adjusting to the crowded life on the Eastern Seaboard.

Folk who failed at owning their own businesses were the ones who built the country by holding jobs in which their lives were ruled by alarm clocks and factory whistles.

History books may recall the great deeds of great women and men, but America was really shaped by the great deeds of ordinary men and women.

But “America has always been better than its government, that its people have always been more decent than their presidents and that the strength and greatness of this nation lies in them, the men and women who are not great and who never will be.”

“So,” states Roger, “on this Fourth of July- for Miss Watertown and Miss Sheboygan and for all the other glorious failures who have made and sustained this country-on this day, I stand for you.” (Roger Simon, July 4, 1976)

Glorious failures.

That is perhaps the single best term that can be used to sum up today’s reading.

What we just heard was a letter written to a group of people dealing with a crisis of their own. For approximately 30-50 years they have been living with the belief that Jesus was going to come back real soon.

That’s what the Gospels recall Jesus saying in the 30’s. That’s what Paul writes about in his letters, dated around the 50’s.

But now it’s somewhere between the 80’s-90’s and a whole generation of original believers have passed and Christ has not returned as promised.

This creates a theological dilemma. This new community of believers have been living out their lives and living out their faith with the understanding that they have been living in the Final Times and the Day of God’s Righteous Judgment is going to happen at any time.

This focus on the near future has shaped their understanding of who they are and how to live. Thinking Jesus is going to come back any day now they have done their best.

They have done justice, they have loved kindness, they have tried their best to walk humbly with the Lord.

Slaves tried to stay obedient to their masters; masters have tried to be better to their slaves. Virgins have tried to stay unwed and not give into their passions.

Men and women have found some ground of equality. Merchants have tried not to cheat their customers or to have faulty scales.

People have joyfully come together to share what they have, to not be so focused on material things and to act like the best versions of themselves they could possibly be.

Which is easy to do when you’ve been told (and you believe) that any day now Jesus is going to come back; any day now all the suffering is going to end; any day now you are going to be rewarded for all you’ve done.

Go to bed knowing “any day now.” Wake up trusting “any day now.”

Stick to your wedding vows and put extra money in the offering plate because “soon, very soon Jesus will be here.”

But one days turns into two. Two days turn into a week. A week turns into a month. A month turns into a year. A year turns into a decade, and still- no Jesus.

Soon one decade turns into two, into four, into five. The first generation has come and gone and still no Jesus to be found, arriving in the clouds or in the quaking of the hills.

Did Jesus lie? Was Paul wrong? Did they hear or remember incorrectly? Had they been deceived?

So despair creeps into the Christian congregations. They feel like losers. As a faith, they are failures.

Christ has failed them, the Holy Spirit has failed them, God has failed them.

The people think that perhaps they should go back to worshipping Zeus, or Baal or perhaps no god at all.

They have failed, so why not go back to injustice, to being bad neighbors, to acts of lust and gluttony and idolatry?

They have failed…

…but if that is what failure looks like, how glorious it is, because 2,000 years later we are still gathering, we are still worshipping, and we are still believing.

If this is what failure looks like, then it must not be such a bad thing, as we ourselves give testimony to what it looks like when people gather from the north and the south, the east and the west.

If this is what failure looks like, then it must not be such a bad thing as we come before the Lord bearing stockings overflowing with gifts to give to those in need.

If this is what failure looks like, then it must not be such a bad thing as we paraded along the streets of the city, showing that we have faith in Sebring.

If stocking a food pantry and feeding hungry folk is a sign of failure, then so be it. If gathering with those you’ve grown to care about around a table filled with bread and juice is failure, then let us say “amen.”

If gathering each Sunday in holy space and holy time to recall the life of a man who healed the sick, taught the masses, loved and welcomed all, fed the hungry and treated men and women as co-partners, then put a huge “F” by all of our names.

…if failure is waiting for the Kingdom of God to be realized with the sincere belief that somehow, someway, someday it’s going to happen, so therefore we sincerely do our best to play our part, then I say call us all failures….

…better yet, I say call us “FAITHFUL.” Call us one of the “FLOCK.” Call us “FEARLESS.”

Perhaps you may not have realized it, but the Bible, like our nation, is founded on failures. Abraham and Sarah never did get to see their own family become as numerous as the stars in the sky.

Moses never did make it into the Promised Land. Paul never did get to arrive at the church he had promised to visit. And Jesus’ ministry was cut short by the controversy of the Cross.

In the real world not a-one-of-them would be considered a success.

Yet here they are, in the pages of our Holy Book, reminding us of who we are and what being a Christian gets to mean.

Today’s letter was written to give hope to people who felt that if Jesus did not come back, then it means everything had been a folly and that they had failed.

But that’s not the case. The author encourages them; the author empowers them, to stay on track.

Now- if they were to go back to their old ways, if they were to go back to ego-driven lives, if they were to go back to unhealthy behaviors that hurt themselves, hurt another and hurt their neighbor, then they truly would have failed in a much different way.

And…as the author writes, perhaps it is a good thing that Jesus had not come back so soon, as he had promised.

Because what that means is that the Divine Judgment has not come.

That means we each have yet another minute, another hour, another day, another week, another month, another year, another decade to get things right.

True, Jesus has not returned, but perhaps that is actually a sign of grace: that as much as we have fallen and sinned and made mistakes we have another chance to get back up, to seek forgiveness and to do what is right.

According to columnist Roger Simon, the country was founded on failures.

In pop culture I think of how it’s because Disney’s “Fantasia” failed that “Dumbo” was made. Because Lucy could not succeed in movies she branched out in TV.

Because my 1st church closed, I am now here.

Failure isn’t so bad. Failure can actually be the fruit that a mighty tree grows from.

Perhaps Jesus did not return as promised, but still we wait.

We wait with trust, we wait with light, we wait with joy. We wait knowing that God does keep promises. We wait knowing that God is still working in this wonderful world.

We wait knowing that God is Still Speaking.

While waiting, we stand with all the others, knowing that even amidst perceived failures or flops, our God is still one who creates, one who saves and one who blesses us all,

regardless if you are Miss Watertown or Miss Sheboygan, regardless if you are Moses or Miriam, regardless if you are Mary, Peter or Paul.

We stand and we wait.

Amen and amen.