Friday, March 15, 2019

Relationships, sermon at Lenten Prayer service March 13, 2019

March 13, 2019       Relationships        Pastor Carol P. Taylor

Ephesians 2 New International Version (NIV)

Made Alive in Christ

2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time,gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
 
In our Ash Wed service last week, Pastor Dave Ewing spoke about Reconciliation. Tonight i’m sharing about Relationship. We can not have true reconciliation with God or others without effective relationship.

These Beloit area Lenten services have been going on for decades. As with most things, there’s been an ebb and flow to the churches participating. Over the last few years, we’ve been able to expand the number of churches and pastors who speak so we have a broader spectrum of the community. It’s a nice way for us to see other churches, experience other styles of worship, and to hear different musicians and pastors. Thru our offerings we support two valuable local organizations. And then we get to have some nice conversation over refreshments!  
Lent being a time of 40 days which remembers Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. In the early church, it was a time of repentance and preparation for new believers, who would be baptized into the Christian faith on Easter Sunday morning! And is a time for those of us who’ve been Christians for some time, to repent of wrongdoing and to search for ways God is calling to deeper faithfulness.
My scripture lesson for this evening is from the Epistle to the church in Ephesus.  I came across Ephesians 2:10 a few weeks ago in my devotional reading.. And it just spoke so deeply to me. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
 
Let’s look at the beginning of this chapter.. It’s a very Lenten chapter, isn’t it? The Bible over and over reminds us that humans are flawed and we fail in our relationship with God. We are dead in our sin….BUT GOD!! Rich in grace and mercy, LOVES us even tho we fail over and over…… And redeems us...thru faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. This is Grace.
Found a nice explanation of Grace in my study bible..
"Grace is God's unmerited love, favor, mercy, and action in our lives.
It's by this grace that we receive new life in Christ. God's Grace is pardon for the things we did wrong and power to grow day by day in the image of Christ . by Grace we are forgiven, healed, redeemed, restored, transformed, and Made Alive. by Grace we are saved!
We may sometimes think that we are not good enough to be saved- or we need to prove our worthiness... Ephesians 2 reminds us that God's merciful action in our lives does not happen because we deserve it or earn it we are saved by grace because God deeply loves us.
as recipients of this lavish gift let US in turn be bold in extending Grace to those around us." {CEB Women's Bible}
Grace is the story of Lent. We finite humans, created in the image of God but never managing to be anywhere near as good as God, that silly free will, after all, have the benefit of Grace.
We’re created in Christ Jesus (he was present In the Beginning, was part of the creation of all things AND is the body of the church in whom we live and move and have our being! (acts 17:28)

Ephesians 2:10 The Message (MSG) Paraphrase by Eugene Peterson

God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

We created for Good works! We’re created to live our faith. To love God and Love each other. (of course that is much more easily said than done!)
Someone said “You are a child of God, and so is that other jerk you are arguing with!”

Jesus set the example. Jesus, One with God, present In the beginning, came to earth, as a human, to live as we do. Came as a baby, completely vulnerable and dependent. As an adult, Knew the aches and pains of a long day’s work...as a carpenter, not an easy job by any means! Lived and worked and traveled with ordinary people and even those not accepted by their own society...purely out of Love, to Be ONE with us, and to show us how to be in that perfect relationships for which we’re created.
I believe with all my heart that people living as Jesus did, caring for one another, promoting compassion, and equality-- The Shalom of God for everyone--will prevail. And the WAY it is will be every single person knowing they are a child of God, created and beloved exactly the way they are, the way God wanted them.

One of the main reasons we do these Lenten services is to help two local Ministries, Caritas Food pantry/Diaper bank and Family Promise homeless ministry. I’ve worked closely with both as many of us here have!
This past fall, I had a wake up call about homelessness… we know there is a perception of addictions or just poor decision making being the reasons for homeless, but we’ve heard the statistics, that many homeless are veterans, which is a travesty, that medical expenses are a leading cause of homelessness. The expenses incurred by a devastating diagnosis or disabling accident can bankrupt a family in a heartbeat.

My wake up call came from a pastor I know, who is from KC, about a year ago took a call in Northern California. Andrew’s a great guy, for a KC Chiefs and Royals fan…
One day last fall, within a matter of minutes, his church, his home, and most of his town, burned to the ground. He lived in Paradise Calif.

He posted one day on Facebook, “Never judge the homeless or the refugee, you don’t know how quickly it could happen to you.”

Came across a story about one person living as Jesus did.. A man in Ohio named Keith Wasserman who works with homeless. He periodically becomes “homeless by choice’ as he puts it, to better understand the situation of the homeless in our society. Every few years, he spends several days at a time on the streets and in shelters, in various cities.  His story is fascinating. {good-works.net}

He wrote “I believe that since Christ incarnated himself into our world in order to be a bridge for {people} to have a relationship with their maker, we too then, must incarnate ourselves into the world of those whom we care about in order to understand how they think and how they feel in order to really love and help them.”

He is striving to understand and re-evaluate the experience and treatments of homelessness, to serve in ways that are safe, meaningful and truly helpful.

He has, in these various stays, found that he may be treated as an alcoholic or drug addict. Staff may assume he is lying. He has witnessed staff being verbally abusive to clients. He has been made to sign long lists of rules without being given time to read them. He has experienced an utter loss of privacy and loss of identity. He wrote that "living in these situations, and the constant hopelessness and Fear changes one’s personality and affects a person’s life choices. Prolonged fear can turn you into someone you don’t like and don’t want to be with. Could it be fear that prompts some people to lie in order to survive?"

"I am aware more than ever before how these experiences have helped me to more fully understand that those who experience homelessness are people; human beings made in the image of God; people who in many ways are not much different from myself. Over the years, I have learned that for any of us to understand and help people who are suffering, we must learn how to leave the comfort of our own security and reach out, perhaps incurring some personal risk and pain. As a Christian, I now more fully understand what Christ Jesus has done for me. I am grateful and I want to continue to turn my gratitude into a godly activism."

Eph 2 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Now i am not saying that we all need to go live in a shelter for a while. But we can determine to prayerfully serve better, with more compassion than judgement, and to spend time with our neighbors in need in a grace-filled way. You know, sometimes the best talk you can have with someone is not to talk.. But to listen. To say only, “thank you for telling me. I care for you. We’re praying for you.”  This is living in grace.

Grace is God's unmerited love, favor, mercy, and action in our lives.
Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. (John 15)
 
Shall we pray! Holy Lord God, this Lenten season, draw us ever closer to you, so that we recognize your powerful Grace. Let us take action to more completely live out the relationships chosen for us, to share that unmerited love, favor, mercy, and action with our all of our neighbors, especially those in need. Thru the Name and Spirit of our Lord Jesus we pray, Amen.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Meeting Jesus, the Prequel Sermon at United Church of Beloit March 3, 2019


Meeting Jesus, the Prequel           

Proverbs 8: 22-31 NIV
“The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,
He began, In the beginning… to be absolutely clear that Jesus was indeed God, the Son of God, one with God and yet “Dwelling with us” also fully human.

    before his deeds of old;
23 I was formed long ages ago,
    at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,
    when there were no springs overflowing with water;
25 before the mountains were settled in place,
    before the hills, I was given birth,
26 before he made the world or its fields
    or any of the dust of the earth.
27 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
    when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
28 when he established the clouds above
    and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
29 when he gave the sea its boundary
    so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
30     Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
    rejoicing always in his presence,
31 rejoicing in his whole world
    and delighting in mankind.


Sermon Series “Meeting Jesus Up Close”
So why should we need to meet Jesus? We come to church, we give, we volunteer here at church and for other organizations. We are nice people who say please and thank you!
But… we can always do better. We can always be better. Our faith can always be deeper, stronger. And for that to happen, we need to be up close and personal with Jesus. Jesus is and was and ever shall be..the embodiment of God, who lived among his very own creation, died and was raised from the dead, to give us eternal life.
And by spending time examining the life of Jesus, we can live as He did, sharing, caring, being even more kind, more generous and nicer…as He was.

The various stories in the bible tell us about the life and love of Jesus. How he interacted with the disciples, and everyone he met. And no one who met him was the same afterwards!
The Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) Book of Proverbs, written by Solomon, the great and wise king, son of King David. Proverbs is a compilation of teachings, called “lady wisdom”  Yes wisdom is female.

(Author Warren Wiersbe) -- book of Proverbs, we are given access to a perspective similar to that of a brilliant teacher, offering her insights on a wide range of subjects from relationships to wealth to spirituality. Proverbs shows us that there is an aspect of God, wisdom, that can guide us through our lives. Proverbs personifies this wisdom as "lady wisdom" and attempts to show us that anyone can access this wisdom and make an incredible life for themselves out of the gifts that it freely offers, so long as they are careful to respect the source of this wisdom—God.  Through hundreds of short pieces of insight, the book of Proverbs distinguishes wisdom from foolishness.

Our text from Proverbs, read by Stephanie, echoes Genesis 1, the creation of heaven and earth.   

Wiersbe: One of the lessons of this paragraph is that the power and splendor of God, seen all around us in creation, are evidence of what God’s wisdom can do.
Many of us find we catch a glimpse of God in the beauty of nature, in a sunrise, in the V shaped flight of geese overhead, in the stars and moon shining brightly on a clear night. When we take a moment to enjoy this natural beauty, we are enjoying God! Next time you see beauty in nature, whisper a ‘thank you” to God!
(This passage) is an explanation of the wisdom of God at work in the creation of the universe. While it isn’t a description of Jesus Christ, for the eternal Son of God was never created, it does foreshadow Christ as the creative Word that brought everything into being.

The same God who worked in the “old creation” also wants to work in our lives in the “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10; 4:24; Col. 3:10). The Lord Jesus Christ, who holds the universe together and causes it to fulfill His will, can hold our lives together and accomplish His purposes for His glory.

Let’s look at another beautiful passage that tells us of Jesus being present with God…
John 1 New International Version (NIV)
The Word Became Flesh
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all HUmankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.


 This is called the Prologue.. John’s gospel was written several years after the other gospels. Mark’s was first, written roughly 30 years after the death of Jesus. Matthew and Luke wrote about 10 years or so later than Mark, and John’s gospel came probably 20 years after them.

Why were these written so many years later?  They initially believed that Jesus’ coming back to take all believers to heaven once and for all, would be very soon after his death and resurrection. When it got to be a few decades, and the original disciples and followers were getting old, and being martyred, they began to compile and write down all these amazing stories. There was also beginning to be false teachings that the original followers wanted to be sure to correct. John’s gospel in particular was written to correct many wrong ideas. 
Gospel writer John tells of another John—John the Baptist. The forerunner of Jesus who proclaimed that he would be followed by one for whom he himself was not fit to unlace his sandals! John baptized Jesus in the Jordan river, God spoke, this is my beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit (present with God at the beginning hovering over the waters of the deep) descended upon Jesus like a dove.

Writer John then explains his use of the imagery of Light, (in the beginning God said let there be light) saying that the darkness could not understand..
This is one of those words in the original Greek that has several layers of meaning. It means to Understand, comprehend, to hold onto..as we hold onto an idea or concept, or to overcome or extinguish,..to put out the light.
The darkness can not fathom, nor extinguish it! Or as the epistle to the Romans states, NOTHING in all creation can separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus!


In the Proverbs text, did you notice the verbs? Lady Wisdom, coexisting with God
I was filled with delight day after day,
    rejoicing always in his presence,
31 rejoicing in his whole world
    and delighting in mankind.

Wisdom, created by God, sharing with God and delighting, rejoicing, celebrating all of creation, including humans!

Now if all you know of humans is what’s on the news, there may not seem to be much that’s worth celebrating?! Humanity as a whole would seem to be less like a beautiful ocean shoreline and a lot more like a road filled with debris and potholes! But there must be hope for us, because Wisdom delights in us!

And that hope is of course the one who lived, died, was raised from the dead and will indeed come back for us…and we will be together for all time in heaven, the New Jerusalem, the holy city, where there will be no suffering nor pain, and God’s very own self will wipe every tear from our eyes!

Author James K. Smith
In Jesus we hear God saying to us, “What you cannot do for yourself, I myself will do. Your sin stands between us, and you cannot remove it, so I will do it for you. {I} will cleanse your sins, and I will remember them no more. Nothing will stand between us. I will rise from the dead so you can live. My love is too strong for death to conquer. Once alive, I will invite you to die and rise with me. Eternal life is now available. It is in my Son.”


This is why we meet Jesus again, up close, in the Bible, in prayer, in community, and at the table. In the Lord’s Supper, Holy communion, we unite with God and each other exactly as we were created to From the beginning!
AMEN

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sermon "Lost Treasure"

Stained glass window in balcony at my church


January 27, 2019      Lost Treasure Pastor Carol P. Taylor
Proverbs 2:1-8
New International Version (NIV)
Moral Benefits of Wisdom
2 My son, if you accept my words
    and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
    and applying your heart to understanding—
3 indeed, if you call out for insight
    and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
7 He holds success in store for the upright,
    he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
8 for he guards the course of the just
    and protects the way of his faithful ones.
Luke 2:41-52 (NIV)
The Boy Jesus at the Temple
41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
NRSV "and in divine and human favor."
Sermon Series Meeting Jesus Up Close
JOKE Delivering a speech at a banquet on the night of her arrival in a large city, a visiting minister told several anecdotes she expected to repeat at a conference the next day.
Because she wanted to use the jokes again, she requested the reporters to omit them from any accounts they might turn in to their newspapers.
A reporter, in commenting on the speech, wrote: "The minister told a number of stories that cannot be published."
We’ve met Jesus in his early life, with stories (that can and have been published) of his birth, the 2 prophets Simeon and Anna proclaiming that the 8-day old infant was indeed the long-awaited messiah, the visit by the Magi, the escape to Egypt made by Mary & Joseph to protect Jesus. These Gospel lessons from Matthew and Luke told their listeners 2000 years ago and us today, that Jesus was God’s treasured Son, our savior, from the very beginning. Today we’re looking at the story in Luke’s Gospel of Jesus as an adolescent. We see a glimpse into Jesus’ family life, assuring that the family closely followed the customs of their day, regularly going from their home in Nazareth to Jerusalem for the special religious feasts!
In this story from the Gospel of Luke, we meet Jesus up close, partly through Mary and Joseph.
The Message Version
They Found Him in the Temple
41-45 Every year Jesus’ parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up as they always did for the Feast. When it was over and they left for home, the child Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents didn’t know it. Thinking he was somewhere in the company of pilgrims, they journeyed for a whole day and then began looking for him among relatives and neighbors. When they didn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem looking for him.
46-48 The next day they found him in the Temple seated among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. The teachers were all quite taken with him, impressed with the sharpness of his answers. But his parents were not impressed; they were upset and hurt.
His mother said, “Young man, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been half out of our minds looking for you.”
49-50 He said, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be here, dealing with the things of my Father?” But they had no idea what he was talking about.
51-52 So he went back to Nazareth with them, and lived obediently with them. His mother held these things dearly, deep within herself. And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people.
The annual Passover festival was, and is, the most important of holidays for Jewish people. The Passover commemorates the escape from enslavement in Egypt. Going to Jerusalem for the Passover was one of the things that a devout Jewish family did every year if physically possible So we see from this story that Mary and Joseph followed their faith, raising Jesus in their traditions.
In Biblical times, travel could be a challenge. Ordinary people walked most places. And when making a lengthy trip, they traveled in groups.-extended families, neighbors. A trip like this, going to Jerusalem for Passover, would have had a lot of people going at the same time. Women and children traveled together, the men together. We can see that Mary and Joseph were not bad parents for losing him! Each would assume that Jesus was with the other part of the group. Mary perhaps thinking Jesus, a young man of 12, was traveling with the men. Joseph, possibly thinking Jesus still a kid at only 12, thought he was with the women and children, helping with younger kids. Families traveled during the daylight hours and made camp at night, so they didn’t discover Jesus missing until then.
So - the Passover festival was over. at the end of a day's travel towards home, they realized that Jesus was not with them at all. He was lost. So the next morning they hurried back. But not till the 3rd day, did they finally find him at the Temple! They find him talking with the rabbis. The rabbis, teachers of the Jewish faith, would welcome men to join them in the Temple courtyard. The rabbi would sit to teach, the men could stand and ask questions and discuss points of doctrine. So here is Jesus, 12 years old, sitting with the rabbis, discussing and answering! And they were all astonished at the depth of his knowledge.
The next piece is why scholars believe that Luke got this story right from Mary. We see her reaction is very much the parent of an adolescent!
“Young man, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been half out of our minds looking for you.”
He said, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be here, dealing with the things of my Father?”
But they had no idea what he was talking about.
this story of Jesus’ life is the last mention of Joseph in the Gospels. Scholars believe that he died some time before Jesus began his ministry. Most likely Joseph was older than Mary. In this time, men followed their father’s trade and generally would marry when they were able to support a family. Women married soon after reaching child bearing age, so usually the husband was older than the wife. So, we know that Jesus grew up in a typical family. They were parents who were anxious about their child.
And after this, Luke states that “as Jesus grew up, he increased in wisdom and in favor with God and people” This shows that Jesus grew intellectually, spiritually, and socially. Jesus already showed great wisdom and it grew! And that he grew in favor -or as the MSG says, Blessed by God and people…. Luke said something very similar at the end of the story about Simeon and Anna with the infant Jesus, “...The child grew strong in body and wise in spirit. And the grace of God was on him.”
Luke is stating beyond any doubt that Jesus was indeed human and divine. The qualities of God’s perfect savior.
Hearing this story, most of us who are parents or spend lots of time with kids, may find ourselves thinking about it from Joseph or Mary’s perspective. As a mom I certainly could relate to Mary's feelings! Once of our sons walked home from kindergarten instead of to the sitter’s house, and the hour or so that we didn’t know where he was I was terrified! That awful lost feeling… It was…30 years ago and i remember it as if it were only weeks! I can only imagine how lost Mary and Joseph felt searching for 3 DAYS!! Their treasured son…
And their reactions were very much the parents of adolescent! How could you do this to us?!  They seem to have forgotten-for the moment- the prophecies of 12 years earlier!
No doubt the business of raising a family, Joseph working his trade and by then training Jesus in carpentry, all the stuff of day-to-day life, just crowded out the amazing things they experienced early on.
Our lesson from Proverbs reminds us that we need to actively seek out God’s word and guidance. And when we do, it’s like finding a treasure! God’s wisdom and understanding will fill our hearts. But it doesn’t happen automatically. The text says
“if you call out for insight
    and cry aloud for understanding”  
call out, and cry aloud…we can PRAY for God’s guidance and comprehension when we sit down for our personal devotion time. This is the reason I work on and promote devotional materials. I have been blessed using them and I pray that you will be too!  The treasure of God’s guidance is why we begin and end meetings with prayer. It’s not a formality, we are recognizing God’s presence thru the Holy Spirit and we ask for that guidance. I often pray, “We commit this meeting to You”. We need to be deliberate, intentional. We need to keep making time for God. We need to really treasure God’s word and worship. it can be challenging! there can be any number of reasons we don’t spend time with God. but we find treasure when we do. We find comfort, and compassion.
We know that Mary and Joseph followed their traditions, but it seems that the day to day stresses overwhelmed some of their faith. That can happen to us too! They were very typical!
but Luke tells us at the end of the story, Mary ‘treasured all these things in her heart.” When life settled down, she was back home and took time to remember...she held these things dearly, deep within herself. She treasured this story, this terrifying story of her lost son, and his words, that spoke of His Father in heaven, not his earthly father...she treasured them deep within her very heart.
And I think I know why she told Luke about this. She remembered this treasured story years later, on another trip to Jerusalem for the Passover. Another morning when she had to go to look for Jesus, on the 3rd day. But this time the women were going to a borrowed tomb, to anoint his lifeless crucified body. What anguish must have been in her heart that morning.
But it's not the end of the story.
Because of course when the women went to the tomb, they found it empty!
Jesus had risen! The birth, death and resurrection is THE treasure. God’s gift to the world, God’s own treasured Son is our treasured Savior Jesus the Christ. Fully human, fully divine. Jesus brought the lost treasure of God’s mercy, grace and salvation for all, even if we feel as though we are lost! Let us share this incredible treasure with everyone we meet.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

For Ever and a Day Sermon at United Church of Beloit Dec 16 2018

Isaiah 12:2-6
12:2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.

12:3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

12:4 And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted.

12:5 Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth.

12:6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Reference: Isaiah 9:BULLETIN COVER!
For to us a child is born, 
to us a son is given, 
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called  
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
 Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

This is of course one of the most famous prophecies of Jesus. The prophet Isaiah wrote approx 700 years before Jesus’ birth. The assumption was that the prophecy was of a king, who would free the Hebrew people from oppression. This would surely be a very special king, a Messiah or anointed One, ordained by God’s own self!! A Wonderful Counselor, who would have unparalleled wisdom, more so than even the revered King Solomon! Mighty God -having immense strength and power, Everlasting Father--one who creates, provides and protects! The Prince of Peace, who would bring an end to wars… This prophecy is a tall order of course! Only One sent from God could fulfill it! These qualities. are all aspects of the perfect peace of God, Shalom.
This 3rd Sunday of Advent we’re thinking about the prophecy of Everlasting Father. That phrase is pretty deep isn’t it? There are many references to God as “Father” in the bible, but also motherly references too. Birth and nurturing, -- covering the young with outstretched wings for example. God is more than Father and Mother. We are language in some ways limits our ability to fully describe God. God is Father and Mother and more than those!

Everlasting ==eternal…. The One who was and is and ever shall be (Revelation)  God’s own name, as told to Moses, I AM
In the original Hebrew-- is literally I am who i will be..so that sense of eternity is right there in God’s own name. Jesus is God’s Son.. and he consistently refers to God as “My Father in heaven” or Abba, which is “Dad” Yet we know from John chapter 1 that Jesus was present at the creation of heaven and earth, and Jesus refers to himself as One with the Father, so he does indeed fulfill this prophecy.

THe verse Pastor Steve read for us is one of the texts for today from the Lectionary, the prescribed texts for each week. THe Prophet is speaking to the Hebrew people and for them as well, singing praises to God. In prepping for today i was struck by the beauty and comfort of these words, written and spoken to people in exile. Reminding them that the Holy One was still present in their very midst.

And one line especially sort of jumped out at me: especially for this Sunday when we light the Candle of Joy:

Verse 3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

I immediately thought of a story from the Gospel of John:
Jesus and the disciples are traveling thru Samaria and about noon, the hottest part of the day, Jesus sat down at a well known as Jacob’s well (yes the Jacob of the Old testament who wrestled with God!) the text specifies that Jesus was tired from the journey.

John Chapter 4  
7 A Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me some water to drink.” 8 His disciples had gone into the city to buy him some food.
9 The Samaritan woman asked, “Why do you, a Jewish man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (Jews and Samaritans didn’t associate with each other.)
10 Jesus responded, “If you recognized God’s gift and who is saying to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would be asking him and he would give you living water.”
11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you don’t have a bucket and the well is deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are you? He gave this well to us, and he drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here to draw water!”

Jesus asks her for a drink. He humbles himself to speak to a woman, which wasn’t done in their culture, to speak to a Samaritan. He lets her know that he is in need of a drink of water.  She is at a well at the hottest time of day, clearly she is in need as well!!

She and he are not quite on the same page at first. He speaks of Living Water and she says “sir you don’t have a bucket”.  
I love that her response is to then refer to their common forebear “Our father Jacob”.  They’ve got something in common despite all their differences. (we talked about this at Women’s Fellowship last Spring! The traditional take on this story is that she is an outcast for having 5 previous husbands, and is living with a man now.) yet, when Jesus chooses to speak to her, to share in his need, she chooses to refer to what they have in common.

Then Jesus says “whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.”

Her response sounds pretty joyful don't you think?
“Sir, give me this water, so that I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here to draw water!”
She may well be still thinking in practical terms, not the metaphor of ‘living water’ that Jesus uses for Salvation. It would certainly be nice to never again carry a heavy jar back and forth at all hours!! But in just another moment, she will recognize Jesus as a prophet and ask him about the differences in the beliefs of Jews and Samaritans. She is knowledgeable and curious about both religions! Could it be possible that she recognizes the Isaiah reference “with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Certainly by the end of their conversation she did!

This story in the gospel of John is the longest conversation Jesus has with any person. It is also the first time he says outright that he is the Messiah. How interesting that he chooses someone so different from himself!

And what was this woman’s response? She ran back into town to share the news!
Verse 39 tells us. Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

The Savior of the world is coming...not as a King, or a military master leading an army. But as a baby..born for one purpose. When the choir sang “Were you there? Did you think of the Good Friday song "Were you there?” Good! Because this baby will be born to go to the cross...for the forgiveness of our sin and to give us eternal life.

Just like the woman at the well, we too are called to share the Good news of Jesus Christ! The prophecies and promises all thru the Bible are of God Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for all eternity!! We are called to tell about it, And we are called to do even more. To be a disciple and to make disciples is to live as Jesus did. To share the promises of God-the promises of Eternal Salvation, the Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

Closing Prayer: (from Walter Brueggemann)  Holy One, we give thanks for the gift of Jesus. We ponder the meaning of one who is the Son yet fulfills the role of Everlasting Father. By your Spirit, give us the joy and assurance of your everlasting presence. Empower us as the church to carry forth your promises as we partner in your mission for the world. Amen.

NOW let us do as this woman did and the shepherds did on the night of that first christmas, Go Tell it On the Mountain, Over the Hills and Everywhere! Please stand in body or spirit…