Category Archives: Sermons

A collection of sermons preached over the years.


SERMON Lent 5 St. Monica’s Episcopal Church, Naples 3/18/18

Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-13; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33

Dying to the old, so the new might emerge

Jesus said, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” If you have ever planted a garden from seed, you understand the concept of a small seed becoming a huge plant. In a way, a seed loses to its seed-like identity and is transformed by water and soil, into something more than it was before. However, if a seed is not planted, and if the water does not begin the transformation, it remains as it was, and never reaching its full potential.

Jesus is telling his first disciples and us that new life does not happen in a static environment, but rather it requires change. For change to take place, we must be willing to adapt and allow new life to emerge. We do not like change. We will hold on tightly to the things that we believe define us, which are often those things that make us feel comfortable. Jesus teaches us that we only experience the life he has in store for us, when die to our old selves. In other words, when we with faith let go, God makes things new. Have you ever made a decision, only when you were in discomfort, or you were forced to come face to face to new realities?

The little church that could

Two years ago, one of my responsibilities in my last call was to assist congregations, who were seeking to explore fresh ways and new mission approaches to revitalize their ministry. I was working with one particular church, located north of the Sunshine Bridge that had been experiencing decline for many years. In the late 1950’s this little community was a part of the post WWII boom of new neighborhoods springing up all around South Florida. Things changed though a few years ago, because neighborhood changed, and without the people of God even noticing. Many of the families that had once lived in this suburban area fled further out, when the landscape and makeup of the city began to shift.

This new reality and subsequent decline in membership came as quite a surprise to that congregation, and it brought great anxiety, as they saw their pews begin to empty on Sunday. Things around them had changed, but they had failed to adapt. What had once been a thriving, growing, risk-taking community was now a mere shadow of what God was truly calling them to be. This true story may sound a bit foreboding, but the truth of the matter is there is always great hope, even when things change. Why, because God promises to make things new. There is Good News, even in the midst of this kind of fear and anxiety that is, if we are willing to release the hold we have on our old selves, because the fear of change keeps us from that which, we are being called to become.

Greeks wanted to see Jesus

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” People outside the Jewish community were being drawn to the new Rabbi Jesus. The Greeks were considered outsiders to the Jewish community, but they wanted to see Jesus, which was quite shocking to his closest disciples. Imagine for just a moment being Phillip or Andrew, when all these outsiders decide they want to get in on the action. Put yourself in their shoes, when all the “Johnny-come-latelies” arrive to worship at the festival and yet, you have been with Jesus from the beginning. You become a little nervous about these strangers coming to meet the Lord, changing things, and messing with their world.

Phillip was so distraught over his fear of something new happening, which did not include the insiders, he ran and grabbed Andrew and then the two of them ran to the Lord. When they arrived, Jesus calmly and directly answered their anxiety with a parable about seeds, a story veiled in allegory and metaphor. They probably rolled their eyes, looked at each other and said, “Here we go again, another useless parable.” Jesus tried to teach them, by telling them to drop their preconceived notions about this new community of disciples, and whom they thought was welcome and who was not. Jesus said and I paraphrase, “if we die to ourselves and our own personal desires, and our own comfort becomes less important than allowing Christ to live in and through us, we will find a life that is everlasting.”

Conversion is what Jesus is talking about. Leaving behind that which we were, in order to embrace that which we are becoming is what Our Lord is talking about when he speaks of “dying to self.” Jane Tomaine in her book, “St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living” wrote, “Over time . . . conversions bring us to a different place. We become a different person.” New possibilities, never before considered experiences, personal transformation does not happen when we are immovable, entrenched, stuck in the status quo, when we are comfortable, or when we are lethargic. We usually change through discomfort.

Life and Death and Life again …

If you have faced challenges in this life, it is very likely you have emerged on the other side of that experience a new person. If you have left a place a career to accept a new position, you may have died to your old identity, and you have emerged on the other side with a new vocation. If you have left a home that you loved, you may have endured a death of identity, only to emerge in a new place and a new life. We transform when in discomfort. Being a follower of Jesus does not mean we will have a life of comfort. We have to remember that Jesus was a change agent, a transformer, a reformer, a “turn-upside down the tables” mover and shaker, and the full revelation of God in the flesh. Jesus changed things up! He made the blind see, the lame to walk, the broken hearted to rejoice, and the mourners to celebrate.

So, following Jesus is not does not guarantee arriving at a particular state of being, only to remain there unmoved? Following Jesus means we are always changing and transforming, while facing circumstances in which, we will most likely fall down and have to get back up again. When we live life in Christ, we like Our Lord, must look into the face of failure and change, and even death, and say, “Your power is defeated,” because we believe new life is on the other side, and we will walk this faith together in community.   Transformation happens in community. I believe our world needs authentic, changing, and welcoming community just like here at St. Monica’s. Like the Greeks who came to see Jesus, there is a movement in our nation, there is bubbling movement of people who really want and need to see Jesus.

Show People Jesus

People are beginning once again to test the waters of faith, and people may be dropping into our church, hoping to get a glimpse of the Master’s face, in the faces of his followers. Are we ready for that? I believe we all have friends, especially today, who live with lives of uncertainty, despair, fear, and ambiguity. If we were to truly listen to them, I believe they may be saying to us (and without words), “I want to see Jesus. I want to see alive in you this Good News of faith, in the promises of God you claim.” You see, we the church will be the only lens through which others will see Jesus today.

If we are to remain a reflection of the Master’s face, in the years to come, we must be willing to shrug off our desire for “business as usual.” Like Jesus, we must be willing to adapt, to be nimble, and to be willing to change. That little church north of the bridge that I mentioned earlier is still alive and transforming today. They have experienced a renewed hope and a new focus serving their neighbors around them.

They have partnered with a local school, a local motorcycle club, and they are exploring new mission ventures, inviting their neighbors to do mission together. They are reaching beyond their own four walls to change the lives of their neighbors. They have died to their old selves, so the new life the Spirit is infusing in them is becoming incarnate through them. Jesus is planting seeds in his church today.

Now, like our sisters and brothers 100+ miles up the road, when newcomers come to their doors saying, “We wish to see Jesus,” all the visitors have to do is look into the eyes of those inside. They have been transformed, changed, renewed, and they are bearing much fruit. Like them, we too are being transformed. When our friends come to our community and say, “St. Monica’s, we wish to see Jesus,” we can say with confidence, “My friend, he is right here transforming and making new, each and every one of us. Please join us in this wild and wooly adventure.”

SERMON Lent 4 St. Monica’s 3/11/18

john316For God so Loved the World

John 3:16 is a very popular scripture reference for people who, with probably good intentions, yearn to share their faith with others. You often see professional athletes, like football players who put this verse on their eye black, or basketball players’ who write it on their headbands, or other professional athletes’ who come up with unique ways to display that scripture verse. One of the most well-known “scripture bearing” fans is the guy we see on television sitting in the sports stands, with the multi-colored permed hair, wearing a white t-shirt with “John 3:16” written on it.  You have to admit, he is motivated, committed, and he wears his evangelistic fervor with great pride.

If you carry a sign with a scripture verse on it hoping to evangelize, although it may seem like a good idea, it is not very effective. Using signs to convey a message is simply advertising. It is how businesses sell their products and services and usually, the consumer is somewhat familiar with the product. Sharing a biblical reference on a sign, in a culture that is much less religious and definitely unfamiliar with Christian scripture simply does not work. Besides, the meaning of John 3:16 is so much deeper than, “if you believe in this, you can avoid a terrible place, and in along with that you can enjoy eternal bliss.” The Good News of salvation is more than, “if you buy this face cream, you will look years younger” or, “if you drive a Lincoln town car, and sit in the back seat, you too can be as cool as Matthew McConaughey.” Conveying God’s plan for salvation requires more than a simple advertisement that it happens because of something we do.

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” What if John 3:16 is not a marketing proposition to do something in order to become a Christian. What if the Good News is an announcement about the grace through which, Christ has completed the work of salvation, and all we have to do receive it and trust God’s promises.

Belief vs. TRUST

The Greek word for “believe” is πιστεύων (pis too’ own). It means “to commit one’s trust, or to put one’s trust in something or someone.” Thus, trusting in God’s grace is the key. Faith is more than a mental assent to the truth of Jesus Christ. Faith is when we put everything, every decision, every action, every thought, every desire, and every circumstance into the hands of a grace-filled God.

It is not easy for some of us to do that “trusting someone else” thing. Sometimes we “pick ourselves up from our bootstrap Americans, believe we can only trust in ourselves.” There was a time when I thought, “I built this whole life of mine all by my own doing and my own hard work.” Today, I realize that only be the grace of God and my constant reliance on Christ, have I been able to endure the difficult times that have led me to today. Theologian David Bartlett asserts, “In this Gospel, faith is above all the faith which decides for Jesus. When we believe in Christ, we choose to trust Christ, and we choose to live in the light of Christ and not the darkness. Faith chooses light.”(1)

Faith in the Light vs. Darkness: Nicodemus

The first few verses of the third chapter of John’s gospel, which we did not hear today, but are essential to understand its context.   John 3:1-15 recalls the story of a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who desired to meet Jesus. “Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.  He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Nicodemus believed in Jesus as teacher, and he believed Jesus performed signs, and that God’s presence was with him, but that’s as far as his beliefs could take him.

“Nicodemus’s initial profession of faith (“Rabbi, you are a teacher come from God”), (was) not as profound perhaps as Andrew’s (“We have found the Messiah”) or Nathanael’s (“You are the Son of God. “(3) I am not sure Nicodemus really ever came to trust Jesus, but he was pretty curious about this young rabbi. I do not even think Nicodemus was like the committed, dedicated sports fan in the stands who holds the sign with John 3:16 on it.

Maybe some of us are like Nicodemus. We believe in the truth of Jesus, but do we really trust him? Many of us have not fully come to the place in our journey of faith, where we can fully trust our very lives to Jesus’ care, but hopefully we all are on the path, trying to trust Jesus. God promises us joy, peace, and grace even in the worst of times, but even if we struggle to put our trust in that truth, we have grace because faith comes from God. Paul shared this idea with church in Ephesus, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

Life Everlasting

Today’s Psalm states, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures for ever.” That all sounds great doesn’t it, but what about giving thanks when we face tough times in life. If it all starts to fall apart in life, and if an unexpected disease invades our stability, or if a tragic accident changes everything, or if the safety net of financial security suddenly breaks, do we lose our trust in God and the truth he is with us in all things?

I know in my own life, I have cried out to God when real tragedy struck unexpectedly, and in those moments, my faith was challenged and my trust shaken. Theologian Thomas Long says, “To see (the promises of God) as applicable to us, to swallow even one ounce of this claim, we must admit … that we are captive to cultural and spiritual forces over which we have no control, that they have drained the life out of us, that we are unable to think or feel or crawl our way free, (and thus, we) are in urgent need of a God who comes to rescue.” (2) Trusting in Christ means we acknowledge and rely on the God who comes to the rescue, when all around us points to the absurdity of faith.

In a few weeks we will gather on Palm Sunday to move from the “Hallelujahs of Palm Sunday,” to the tragic scandal of the cross, to the glorious resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. Please remember that as we walk this journey with Jesus, we Christians must trust the One, who never strayed from the path of trusting his very life to the grace of the Father, even at the point of death.  (John 3:16) For God loved the world so much, that he literally gave himself to us, to show us the way, and to save us from the fear of tragedy and the sting of death. God promises God’s people life everlasting, grace, peace, and joy both at this moment, and on this day, and on every day, for the rest of our earthly lives. God promises us life everlasting now, and when we join the blessed company of all the saints in the life to come. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the living and eternal sign of that truth, and that is one sign in which, you can without a doubt put your TRUST!







(1) Bartlett, David L. “Inclusive or Exclusive Grace.” The Christian Century, vol. 108, no. 7, 27 Feb. 1991, p. 227


(2) Long, Thomas G. “Just as I Am.” The Christian Century, vol. 123, no. 6, 21 Mar. 2006, p. 18.



SERMON Lent 3 3-4-18 St. Monica’s Naples, FL

spring-cleaning            Terri and I purchased our first home back in the Chicago suburbs in 1998 (20 years ago). With our pending move to Naples, we will have bought, lived in, and sold seven homes, but we are done moving.  With each move we had to do the difficult work of “spring cleaning.” It was not always easy to let go of the things that often weighed down the moving truck or required us to pack more boxes. It was critical though that we toss out a few things, in order to make room for the new things, experiences, and treasures God had in store for us.

Have you ever noticed that when we became a little too complacent as a follower of Jesus that we accumulate spiritual junk?  Maybe we kind of get into a soul funk, because we no longer take time to listen for God in silence, or we fail to pray, or we just muddle through our discipleship like it is a secondary to job, family, of recreation.   Maybe that is a sign that it is time to do some self-examination and allow God to enter into the hidden, broken, frightening places of our lives, and let God do a little spiritual “spring cleaning?”

Jesus’ “Spring Cleaning” in the Temple

The scene in today’s gospel reading is the well-known story of Jesus’ “Clearing the Temple” of Jerusalem.  The temple was the place where the people of Israel believed God dwelt and where their communal identity was centered. Over time the temple changed from a place of prayer and worship, to become a mere marketplace of monetary exchange and social interaction. “Part of the festival worship (of the temple) involved the sacrifice of an unblemished animal, (and) the availability of animals for people travelling from a distance was important.  (Likewise) one could only pay the annual “temple tax” in Tyrian coinage, so money-changers provided an essential service.” (1) So, the central icon of a people built as a place of prayer and worship, became a location of social and economic activities, for which it was never intended.

Jesus was appalled at the scene of animals being sold, and moneychangers doing their work in God’s Temple. Jesus said, with whip in hand, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” Many of us have heard this story, and we are dismayed that Jesus, the meek and mild obedient Savior, would actually display public anger and frustration. This story has been used as an excuse for what some call “righteous anger,” but it has been used as an excuse for unimaginable human violence. Some have said, even Jesus got mad and beat the people and animals in the temple. Many scholars assert, and I agree, there was something more than mere Godly anger happening, when Jesus cleared out the Temple. 

Violence in the Temple or Something Else?

I believe that the “Clearing of the Temple” was an act of love. “But Eric,” you may say, “He beat the people and the animals.” I disagree because that is not what scripture says. Additionally, I grew up on my Dad’s farm, and I know first hand that the only way to get cattle out of the barn, in order to clean it and make it a better shelter is to firmly prod the cattle with a stick and coax them out. My dad and I often moved stubborn Angus cows and bulls out of the barn, so by cleaning it up, their lives were better.

John’s gospel “narrative does not depict Jesus beating the animals; but instead he (actually) saves their lives from sacrificial slaughter in a monetary and religious system.” (2) Jesus’ “spring cleaning” in the temple was not an act of Godly violence or godly anger, it was an act of love, which required the firm hand of grace, in order to save the lives of the animals and in a spiritual sense, the lives of the people who were defiling the temple.

Jesus is always saving our lives by clearing out the spiritual junk in our souls, the temple of God that is, if we allow it. Jesus will upend the worldly idols, self-focused altars, and un-reconciled relationship tables of our lives, which blind us from the way of grace. In a strange way, we are like the precious animals that were readied for slaughter, and by grace Jesus’ firmly “saves our lives.” 

We are the Body of Christ.

I know you heard that the church is the Body of Christ. Theologian Joel Wohlgemut says, “(the Temple of God is) the community, which draws its identity from the death and resurrection of Jesus.”(1) He says that the church today is like “the (early) community (that) . . . sees itself as the dwelling-place of God in the present context.” (1) The church is the Temple of God, the dwelling place of Christ, in us. At our baptism, we were marked with chrism oil, and “sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own for ever,” but baptism is much more than a water bath and a rite of passage.

At baptism, and at occasions throughout the liturgical year appropriate for baptism, we make specific promises to God and each other. We promise “to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ,” “to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself,” and “o strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” Lent is a season for us to take pause, to reflect, and to take stock of how are we doing with those baptismal promises and in a way, that practice is a part of our spiritual spring cleaning.

Spring Cleaning for Mission

When Terri and I sold the home we lived in while in seminary, we spent weeks getting ready to move to our first parish in Englewood, Florida. We owned a huge storage building that was filled with boxes of “stuff” that we had carried with us from Chicago to Birmingham, AL, to Florida and back to Tennessee. In boxes long forgotten, hidden in darkness from the light of the sun, we found things we had not seen in years. There were items covered with muck and dust that no longer represented the value they had in the past. There were cards, letters, trinkets, and memories that we needed to toss out and never see again. As a result of this process of cleaning out the old stuff, our moving truck was lighter, our burdens were less, and we traveled to our new home with much less stuff, junk, and clutter.

Each one of us needs to allow Christ to clear out the temple of our lives, the old storage buildings of our souls, the place where we hide things we would rather not have light shine upon. We need to allow Christ to enter into those dark places, and sweep out those bad memories, regretful actions, and broken relationships, which need to be examined and sorted out. We need to constantly evaluate how we treat others, (yes, even in the church) and on the golf course, or in our homes, or in our workplaces. All of that must come under the light of the Christ that dwells in us. As the Temple of the Living and Resurrected Christ, Lent is a time to clean out the caverns of our souls, so grace may become visible and discernable again.

As we move through remaining weeks of Lent, I encourage us all to pray, meditate, read scripture, and practice a daily evaluation of asking this question, “how am I living up to the promises I made at baptism?” If you take on a discipline of daily examination, God will make a way to clear out the spiritual junk. When we come to God with an open, repentant, contrite heart, new life will emerge in our souls. Be advised though, this spiritual “spring cleaning” may be hard to bear, because it will include some overturned tables of worldly idols, and it may include a whip of God’s prodding and coaxing of some unruly animals of sin and broken relationships.

Ready your heart these next few weeks of Lent. Intentionally invite Our Lord to clear out the boxes of hurts and pains, to remove the containers of broken relationships, and to toss out the baskets of forgotten things done and left undone. It is a good time to clear out the junk that weighs us down and holds us back, from accepting the truth that we are joyful, abundantly grace-filled, forgiven, redeemed, and reconciled disciples, God assures us that we are already so named because of his grace, mercy, and love.


(1) Wohlgemut, Joel R. “Where Does God Dwell? A Commentary on John 2:13-22.” Direction, vol. 22, no. 2, Sept. 1993, pp. 87-93.

(2) Alexis-Baker, Andy. “Violence, Nonviolence and the Temple Incident in John 2:13-15.” Biblical Interpretation, vol. 20, no. 1-2, 2012, pp. 73-96.




Sermon 1-21-18 Epiphany 3 Lamb of God Church Fort MYERS FL

Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

Watch Online: Click Here


Today, we are going to explore Mission, God’s mission, our mission.  (MUSIC) How many of you remember this tune?” That is the theme music the Mission Impossible movies, based on the 1960’s TV show. The main character is Ethan Hunt, a super spy that leads the missions of the IMF’s (Impossible Missions Force) main field team. This team of people work together to thwart the threats of many super villains. The team used incredible devices, superb intellect, and special forces like skills.

The premise of this great movie series and television show was this: “a small but effective group of people come together, as a team. They bring their many gifts and talents together, as a team. They possess a clear focused purpose, and amazingly, they were able somehow, with the help of a greater outside support system, to accomplish an impossible mission.” Sound familiar?

Mission is radical and life-changing, and it tests our loyalties.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus said to Simon and Andrew, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” Later he found James and John and gave them the same mission call, “And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Have you ever wondered why these four people would just leave their lucrative family fishing businesses, and follow this young, “new on the scene” Rabbi?

Maybe “when Jesus comes along, then, and calls the four Galilean fishermen to follow him, he is essentially saying: “You’re working for me now, not Antipas; you’re fishing for the kingdom of God, not the Roman-Galilean empire.” (1) Maybe it was “perhaps they already sensed in Jesus the prospect of a new way of doing business, an alternative kingdom.” (1) Maybe God’s call on their lives was so radical and life-changing that following Jesus gave them the pprospector an alternative way of being and doing life, to partner in work of the Kingdom of God.

Simon, Andrew, James, and John left family, business, and promises of financial security, to follow a new way of being. They re-prioritized their ultimate loyalty to God. The church has a mission in the world and it requires us to re-prioritize our loyalties, our commitments, and our time/talent/ and treasure toward the ultimate loyalty; God. These four disciples and billions of disciples throughout the ages have re-aligned their priorities to the Jesus Christ, who is the source of our very lives. in other words, would you drop everything, if Jesus said to you, “come follow me.”

I want you to try something. Breathe in … hold it … now, breathe out. Everything we have, even that very breath you just took is a gift from God. That breath from God enlivens the body, so that we might go and do the mission we have been given to do. Our time, talent, treasure and our very lives are gifts from God, and we should be ready, willing, and able to return a portion of that to God to further the work of God’s mission of love.

As we breath out the life giving Pneuma (breath, Spirit) of God given to us, we through our words, our hands, and our feet make possible the mission of the Kingdom, the Good News, and we become instruments of God’s love that flows without delay to all the world. God is calling us to drop our nets and follow him on a mission of grace, and we need to know that Mission is radical and life-changing, and it will test our loyalties.

The Church’s Mission – Change the world

SO, what is a mission? Webster says mission is “a body of persons sent to perform a service or carry on an activity.” The ELCA defines mission as: Together in Jesus Christ we are freed by grace to live faithfully, witness boldly and serve joyfully.  The Episcopal Church defines mission as: To restore all people into unity with God and each other in Christ. Combined, both mission statements clarify what mission we are to focus on together: faithful living, bold witnessing, joyful service, all to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

So, how do we accomplish that mission? We gather to be fed and prepared; We grow together in our love and commitment to Jesus Christ and each other; We go out into the world and serve and restore what God set in motion. Our mission as the Body of Christ is to change the world toward the Kingdom of God. With all that is going on in the world today, it seems like the church’s mission is a “Mission Impossible”, but it is POSSIBLE.

Mission Impossible becomes Mission POSSIBLE

Bringing about God’s Kingdom, changing systems to bring about justice and right relationships among all people is a huge mission. Thwarting the powers of racism, bigotry, misogamy, and any other power that threatens the dignity of all people seems a Mission Impossible. Bringing dignity to EVERY human being, sharing Good News by word and deed all seem like an overwhelming task. Mission Impossible becomes Mission POSSIBLE, when we choose to rely on on God, when we are focused on God, partnering with God, and when we realize that we do not need to do it all ourselves, then it becomes possible.

We have neighbors to help, and each has its unique part. If you look at a map of this city, you will see that it is dotted with hundreds churches, each diverse in its worship expressions, different approaches to theology, and different ways to serve the local community. The multiplicity of denominations and churches does not exist because one is right, and others are wrong (although some might claim that concept). Lamb of God is unique because in your very corporate structure (Lutheran and Episcopalian) you serve as a witness of what is possible, when two denominations come together in mission.

Some churches miss that they are part of a bigger mission, and they inaccurately measure their mission effectiveness, by comparing themselves to one of their neighbor churches down the street. Some say, “well, Local Cool Church of ‘what’s happening now’ is growing and we are not, they must be doing something right and we are not. Hogwash! Each church is uniquely gifted to share in God’s mission, just like each individual is uniquely gifted. Comparing to our mission partners is futile and a waste of time. We need to understand that numeric growth is situational, cyclical, and it happens in God’s time, not in ours.

Growth in the church happens when a community is clear about who she is, when she is focused on following God’s perfect mission plan for that community, when the people are growing in a deeper love and commitment to Jesus Christ, and when the people invite others to experience spiritual transformation. That is when growth happens.

Mission Possible – Lamb of God

Lamb of God has a unique mission, but what is it? I can tell you that it is most likely not what it was ten years ago. Yes, some things that set this community in motion, like your awesome fellowship gatherings, your incredible outreach to the community, and your upbeat, blended, and welcoming worship are all the core values and key mission gifts of this community. Even so, you have changed incredibly in the last five years, and even ten years, but that is what makes this place so wonderful. You are open and nimble, always ready for change.

I bet that God has even more changes in store for you in the coming years. Your mission has changed and it will change again. Your work now is not to look backward and try to return to the good old days, but to discern what your mission will become. Your greatest challenge now will be to practice discernment and discover God’s mission for you going forward.

Discernment begins by understanding and committing to the mission of the church (universal church), and then prayerfully listening for what Lamb of God’s part is in that mission. To do that effectively and with God’s guidance, you need to be grounded in the ultimate loyalty to Jesus’ mission of reconciliation. “Our families, friendships, political agendas and churches may be appropriate centers of loyalty, but not of ultimate loyalty.” (2) Never forget that our purpose is to further God’s Kingdom and not our own.

Remember, the church is “a small but effective group of people that comes together as a team. We bring many gifts and talents together. We possess a clear focused purpose together, and amazingly, with the power of God’s Spirit, we are able somehow to accomplish what some may say is an impossible mission.

God’s mission to some, sounds like MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, and it would be impossible, if we were merely relying on our own power and resources alone. But it really is God’s mission in the world, this so called MISSION POSSIBLE, and this work of being a lighthouse of love in this neighborhood is your mission Lamb of God, that is, should you choose to accept it.

(1) Spencer, F Scott. “‘Follow Me’: The Imperious Call of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels.” Interpretation, vol. 59, no. 2, Apr. 2005, pp. 142-153.

(2) Bartlett, David L. “Conditional Responsibilities.” The Christian Century, vol. 108, no. 2, 16 Jan. 1991, p. 43.

SERMON Lamb of God Church, Fort Myers Epiphany 2 (1/14/18)

hopeWe all have a Calling from God

Watch online:  click here

“Can anything good come from Nazareth,” said Nathaniel, after Philip invited him to “Come and See Jesus.” Nazareth was a very poor and troubled village, which is the place Our Lord Jesus Christ called home. It was a town of only two to four hundred people, who lived in small stone homes, where poverty, filth in the streets, and terrible living conditions plagued the area. Now imagine for a moment that God, the Almighty Creator of all we perceive, identifies with and calls home, the same places where we find the poor and desolate people of the world. Imagine that.

If you turn on the news these days and listen to some of the comments being made, you may not like what you hear. We live in times that are changing faster than many of us can keep up. The social development we thought we had made as a nation is being recast by a resurgence of racism, bigotry, and xenophobia. We thought we were passed all that, but once again, the dignity of some of God’s children is being threatened and diminished.

We live in a time when words and actions of hate and bigotry are becoming normalized. We people of faith must hear God’s call for justice, and stand up for all of our sisters and brothers. We are all God’s children, and we all bring to the tapestry of the Kingdom of God, a great diversity that is the very beauty of God’s creative plan. Christ has given the church his ministry of reconciliation and healing to be carried out into the world, and each one of us has a part in that ministry today, especially when it seems to be needed the most. One of our promises at baptism is to respect the dignity of every human being, and our call as the church is to lead the way to bring justice and love for all God’s people. That is a ministry we share.

You do know that you do not have to be a clergy person to be called to ministry right? As a matter of fact, and as I said last week, by virtue of our baptism, we all are called to gather, grow, and go out into the world as ambassadors of Christ. We all have a calling on our lives, a job to do, assigned to us by God. In today’s Old Testament reading, we hear how young Samuel was serving in the temple, and while asleep one night, he heard a mysterious voice from God. “Samuel, Samuel,” God called out and eventually, Samuel did answer the call. We all have a call from God.

 Answering God’s call requires Faith and Hope.

Answering God’s call to ministry requires us to first have faith, and then to be obedient. Wise Eli told Samuel that when God calls, he should say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” We need to live in expectant hope that God will show us our ministry, but in times like these we do not have to look very hard. When we say, “Lord I am listening, I am waiting, and I am ready. Tell me what you would have me do,” we are living in expectant hope that our gifts will be used for justice and restoration. Now, you may say, “Eric, I don’t have any gifts for ministry.” I disagree, because all of us were given talent, time, and treasure from God, a portion of which is to be used for furthering God’s Kingdom. We just have to discern what are those gifts, and to be willing to give them back to God. Remember, “God does not call the equipped, God equips the called.” God gives the gifts, and we return them to God for ministry whether, time, talent or treasure.

God invites us to ministry in many ways, but God’s bidding may not come to us through a voice late at night. Often God’s invitation to serve comes through the voices of our sisters and brothers in Christ. Have you ever had someone say to you, “you sure have a passion for caring for others; would you consider joining our outreach team?” Have you ever had someone say to you, “you sure have a passion to teach and lead children; would you serve as a teacher in our Sunday school?” Have you ever had someone say, “You have a heart for people who are suffering under the hand of injustice, would you join me as an advocate and supporter of some social justice initiatives in our community?” I think you get my drift. Often, others see gifts and talents in us that we cannot see in ourselves. Somehow God’s Spirit is calling you through the voices of other people. So, what is the ministry for which you hope?

Webster’s defines hope as the “inherent desire for something to happen or be true; or to expect with confidence; or to trust.” Hope requires us to externalize the desire given us by God, to expect with confidence that God will lead and direct us in all that we do, and finally, to trust that God will give us what we need to do it. We Christians are a people of hope, who expect and trust that God is with us, God will guide us, that God has a ministry uniquely designed for us, and that we are strengthened and empowered to do that ministry. So, how do we live in hope, and how can we be ready for service to God, each other, and most especially, the world?


Living Our Calling

First off, following Jesus is not a spectator sport. For some folks, we may proclaim Jesus as Lord, but we also may fail to commit to the hard work of discipleship. That work requires us to know Christ, to grow in Christ, and to continue Christ’s mission in this world. Being a Christian takes hard work, but so does any journey on which, we embark. As a pilot, if I do not fly often enough, if I do not study the regulations and new technological advances in the aircraft, and if I do not practice takeoffs and landings frequently, my piloting skills become rusty, I become complacent, and for my passengers and students, I become a danger. Like anything we do, walking the path of discipleship requires us to practice our faith.

We need to be in prayer every day, so we might discern how God wants us to engage in the ministry of Christ, especially in these tumultuous times. We need to read, study, and inwardly digest scripture daily, so we can discern what justice, peace, and reconciliation is really about, and how we can bring love to bear in these times of trouble. We need to frequently fellowship and serve with our sisters and brothers in Christ in the church, so we might grow together and mutually discern our mission together. We need to practice our faith daily, so we can be strengthened and prepared for the ministry we are uniquely gifted to do.

I am convinced that when we are ready to answer God’s call, when we live in an active and engaged hope that God will lead and guide us, and when we obediently respond, we will see God “do something new in our very lives, in our churches, and in the world.” I believe that Lamb of God’s people must be a people who hope together. I believe we must live in expectation that God is doing now, and will continue to do something amazing in this community, and beyond.

Despite the difficult roadblock this community is moving through now, God will continue to do something new and wonderful here. God is calling us to be ambassadors of justice, peace, and reconciliation in the neighborhoods around us. If we merely respond, “Yes Lord, I am here,” but we do not take our part in that response, we are missing the point of being a disciple. We must stay focused on our personal discipleship and practice our faith, but we must not lose sight of our mission in the local community, and we must invite others to come experience all God has to offer in this place.

Come and See – Inviting others

In the Gospel reading today, after Jesus found Philip, he invited him to “Follow Me.” Philip was so overwhelmed by his meeting with Jesus that he found Nathaniel and invited him to “Come and See Jesus.”  Part of our call as Christians is to invite others to “Come and See Jesus.” We have to move from mere spectators and fans of Jesus, to fully engaged ministers in the world.

Our calling begins when we are so moved by God’s outpouring of grace, his compassion, his love, and his healing in our lives that we have to share that joy with others. God invites us to “come and see” what it is like to be the people of God, but it is not merely enough to proclaim Jesus as Lord.  I know, I am talking about evangelism again, but is it really that frightening a concept? Inviting others to experience this incredible community called Lamb of God does not require us to stand on the street corner and yell, “Hey, let me tell you about Jesus.” Evangelism is simply being faith practitioners every day.

When we love all of God’s people as Jesus loves them, people will see that. When we serve all of God’s people as Jesus serves them, people will see that. When we are joyful, even in the difficulties of life, people will see that. You see, the most effective gospel anyone will ever read is the narrative of your own life. You will know that you are an effective evangelist, if a friend ever says to you, “Why is there joy and peace in your life?”  If that ever happens, tell them it is because you are a part of a wonderful community called Lamb of God, which shows you every week God’s love, through the many ways we accept without judgment, all who enter the doors, and all with whom we encounter every single day. Then, invite that friend to, “Come and see.”

So as a people of hope, you can trust that God is already doing a new thing here in this place. New life is emerging, and God is doing something new in each one of you. The world is changing rapidly, and God’s reconciling love is needed now more than ever. We Christians literally are the outstretched arms of love that God needs today, in order to bring about justice, peace, and dignity to every human being. So be ready, because God is calling us out into the mission field. God is calling, “people of Lamb of God Church, people of Lamb of God Church.” Be ready, because we need to bring love, peace, dignity, mercy and healing to this very anxious and troubled land. When God’s call comes, and it already has, let your answer be, “Here we are Lord, your servants are listening.”

1/7/18 Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord – First Sunday after Epiphany at Lamb of God Lutheran-Episcopal Church, Fort Myers, FL

Genesis 1:1-5; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11

Mission-fieldWatch online: click here

Today is the First Sunday after Epiphany, but it is also the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, which is a day that we remember and celebrate the baptism (by John the Baptist) of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in the River Jordan.  It is an appropriate occasion to explore the nuances of baptism.  For instance, the World Council of Churches, in its 1982 “Faith and Order Paper” made an ecumenical statement about baptism listing these three active elements of grace in the rite: Conversion of life, bestowing of the Gift of the Holy Spirit, and Incorporation into the Body of Christ.

As the Christian ritual through which, we experience conversion, “those baptized are pardoned, cleansed and sanctified by Christ, and are given as part of their baptismal experience a new ethical orientation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”(1) Through the waters of baptism, we are forever changed and forever made free from that, which could keep us from God’s intent for our lives.

As the Christian ritual through which, we receive the Gift of the Spirit. “God bestows upon all baptized persons the anointing and the promise of the Holy Spirit, marks them with a seal and implants in their hearts the first installment of their inheritance as sons and daughters of God .” (1) Baptism is our outward guarantee of God’s promise that his Spirit will guide and direct our lives, and it becomes real. God is with us both individually and corporately in all we do.

As the Christian ritual through which, we receive Incorporation into the Body of Christ, baptism is “obedience to our Lord … a sign and seal of our common discipleship. Through baptism, Christians are brought into union with Christ, with each other and with the Church of every time and place.” (1) You know, being a Christian is not something you can really do all alone at home. Jesus formed a community of people that began with twelve, and now it includes over two billion. The very nature of being Christ-like is to be in community. As Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry says, “We all are a part of the Jesus movement.”

Simply stated baptism is when we experience a shift in our lives and we begin to follow Jesus’ example and identify with him, when we receive God’s grace through water and Spirit, and when we become a fellow follower of Jesus, alongside other Christians.   Baptism is not merely a rite of passage. It is not “fire insurance” when we baptize children because we fear it is necessary for their entry into heaven, and we just forget the need to have them nurtured through involvement in the life of a congregation.

Baptism is intended to be Initiation into the Body of Christ, the Church, when Parents/Godparents/Sponsors and the entire church make promises to God and the child (or adult candidate), and to each other, to help the candidate grow in the faith.  Notice, I said the Church makes promises to the child or adult candidate, because as a community, we have a mutual obligation to help one another grow in Christ.

The Baptismal Promises

On this feast day, or other feast appropriate for baptism, the community typically renews their baptismal promises through the liturgy. Today we will replace the Nicene Creed with that baptismal renewal liturgy. We will today, as a community renew our promises, which are our response to the following questions: (1) Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers? (2) Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? (3) Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? (4) Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?   (5) Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

Simply stated, we will renew our promise to God and each other to as Christians we will gather, learn, share communion, and pray, to grow, transform, and follow Jesus, to evangelize, to serve others, to engage in mission, and to love our neighbor. I don’t know about you, but I don’t take promises lightly.  Baptism is a commitment and a new way of life. It is more than a mere ticket into heaven, or membership into a church group, or just a rite of passage, like graduation from high school. Baptism is a serious, soul sanctifying, and life changing experience.

We are a community of baptized people, the Body of Christ

Our sharing of the waters of baptism with Jesus and one another, along with the promises we made at baptism, defines who we are as a worldwide community. These promises clarify our common mission, and they direct our future. More importantly, these promises are about more than just us.Paul asked the church in Ephesus, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?” God got inside our lives at our baptism, for a purpose beyond just us.   God is involved, because God’s grace is active in this work of our lives, in service to others.

We baptized folk do gather together for growth and fellowship, but we are not a clubhouse. We do not gather merely for our own benefit, edification, and sanctification. The Body of Christ serves as a beacon of hope, a city on a hill that lights the way for the world, struggling in the darkness of despair. The Church is a lighthouse that guides, moves, and goes out to serve.

From Font to Table to Mission Field

We baptized folk are born into the community by the waters of the Baptismal Font and the Holy Spirit, but our journey does not stop there. We move from the Font to the Table, to the Supper of the Lord, or Holy Communion, where we are fed and filled with Jesus Christ but again, our journey does not stop there. We are sent out into this world as emissaries, ambassadors, witnesses, and evangelists of the Good News of Christ. Our call is to represent Jesus Christ in the world, by continuing God’s mission of love, mercy, grace, and peace. We are a people gathered to be sent out, both as a group, but also, as individuals, all to serve in ministry.

Have you heard this phrase, “where your spiritual gifts, given to you by the Holy Spirit at your baptism, meet the world’s greatest needs; that is your ministry.” What gifts at baptism were you given, when the Holy Spirit brought the grace of this sacrament in your life? Are you a teacher gifted to share God’s word? Are you a speaker gifted to read scripture to the church? Are you a singer gifted to sing and lead others to song? Are you a leader gifted with insight, wisdom, and vision? Are you (Fill in the blank) gifted to do ministry in this church and in the world?. You see all of us, by virtue of our baptism (not just clergy) are called into ministry to take what God has given us, and to go out there in the local Mission Field, which is just outside of the church doors.

The purpose of the community gathered is to teach us, prepare us, help us unpack our gifts, feed us for the mission, and then send us out to carry out God’s work in the world. In the weeks, months, and years to come, I encourage you to explore together how and where God is calling you individually and corporately, to make the Kingdom a reality in the neighborhoods all around you.

As you continue to keep the promises you made when you became a member of the Jesus movement, continue the mission of Christ in the world. Keep bringing joy, peace, love, reconciliation, grace, and mercy into the lives of your neighbors. And when we hopefully each day consider these questions, these promises we made at our baptism, let our answer be, “I will follow Jesus faithfully, I will serve my neighbor faithfully, but I can only do it with God’s help.”

1 “Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry,” World Council of Churches Faith and Order Paper No. 111, Geneva, 1982, p. 2

SERMON – First Sunday after Christmas 12/31/17 Lamb of God Church Fort Myers

rublev27siconontrinityIsaiah 61:10-62:3; Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7; John 1:1-18
Watch online
click here


When we describe the relationships we share with one another, we often have to use words that are imperfect. Terms like Father and son, Mother and daughter, husband and wife, spouses, partners, siblings, and cousins are all words we use that provide some abstract meaning to familial relationships. Boss and employee, pastor and parishioner, commander and soldier, doctor and patient are words that provide meaning for other types of relationships. Realistically, not all of the words we use to describe these relationships are all encompassing, because sometimes relationships are complicated, and sometimes we have our own biases about what these relationships mean.

For instance, have you ever been shopping in Publix and noticed a nice older couple holding hands? Maybe you assume how lovely it is that those two have been married for so long, and they are still in love. In fact, they may not be husband and wife at all, but they may be just two friends, who are merely assisting one another to walk and to shop. You may never know that until you actually have a conversation with them, until you, in a way, enter into that interaction.

Often times, in order to understand a relationship, we have to interact with folks, in order to learn more about them. Sometimes we need more of the relationship story, in order to understand the connections people share. Sometimes we need to have more of God’s salvation story, in order to understand the connection, the divine plan, the love and grace God has for us.

RELATIONSHIPS: GOD – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In today’s gospel reading we hear about God, the relational nature of the inner life of the Divine (God and Word and Spirit). The Greek word for “WORD” is “Logos,” and it is used to describe the characteristics of God’s divine plan, reason, and the ordering of creation. Christian theologians refer to “Logos” as the word used to describe or “define the role of (God the Son) as the principle of God active in the creation and the continuous structuring of the cosmos, and in revealing the divine plan of salvation to (humanity) man.” (1)

Now, if you listen closely to the first few verses of John’s gospel, you may get a glimpse into what theologians call the inner relationship of the Trinitarian God. For instance, paraphrasing the first verse, “In the beginning was God and Word (logos) and they were one.”   Father and Son, God and Logos, (and Holy Spirit) are one. We use human familial terms to describe a God ( Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Some folks use words like “Lover, the Beloved, and the Love they share” to provide meaning to God’s inner nature. Why is having an understanding about the relational God so important for us?

Because we need to know that scripture, tradition, and reason teaches us, that the cosmos sprung forth from a relationship of love, found within the mysterious inner existence of God. Love was, is, and will be the essence, purpose, and plan of God from the beginning, and the purpose and plan inherent in the very nature of Godself; it is a relational plan.

In the beginning, at the moment in which, the universe sprang forth, it was God’s plan that set it all in motion. Throughout history, God has whispered that plan of reconciliation and love through prophets and sages. At a particular moment in time, the Word became flesh, the plan became manifested in a person, Jesus of Nazareth. This is the Good News that we Christians proclaim and yet, we sometimes turn a deaf ear to the Spirit’s beckoning call, for us to be in relationship with God.


God has been calling creation back into perfect relationship with Godself, but it is a relationship we need to try and understand in our feeble human nature. The icon projected on the screens is called Rublev’s Icon, written by Russian artist Andrei Rublev. It has often been described “depict(ing) the three angels who visited Abraham at the Oak of Mamre, but the painting is full of symbolism and is interpreted as an icon of the Holy Trinity.”(6)

Notice how the two figures to the right are leaning toward, in loving gesture, to the third. Notice how each character’s facial features are exactly the same. Notice the middle character’s hand gesture is the same Jesus’ uses depicted in ancient art. Notice that there is a table at which all three are seated. Now, notice that there is a place at the table, in the middle of the picture, a place for you. Imagine that we are being beckoned to participate in the divine relationship, the divine love of God. Rublev’s icon gives us a window into the possibility of sharing in the loving relationship with God, but do we accept that invitation?

John’s gospel states, “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet they did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.” God beckons us, and yet “the most common responses are that people reject God’s revelations as lies, they disbelieve in them, they deny them.” (2, pg. 89) Yet, God continues to call us to Godself.

God’s message was one of love, forgiveness and reconciliation, and I believe we can all recognize …. that these concepts are demonstrated better by “body-language—our gestures, our actions, our vulnerability— (which) speak much more clearly than the finest of words.” Thus, the Word of God revealed in “Jesus is not a series of directives that need to be unambiguously stated in clear terms.” The Word of God was communicated in flesh, as one of us, in a language and action we can understand and to which, we might relate. God’s message of love requires the embodiment of love. It requires action and it requires us to share the message.


Pope Francis recently tweeted this phrase, “Let us free Christmas from the worldliness that has taken it hostage! The true spirit of Christmas is the beauty of being loved by God.” (Twitter – Pope Francis) God communicates God’s plan for humankind as a relationship of perfect love.   God spoke that love in the act of bringing about creation, in the ongoing sustaining action in the lives of God’s people, and all for the relational restoration of creation.

Now, we the church, followers of Jesus, need to be more than mere spectators of God’s divine plan of love. We need to be more than mere bearers of words like, “I love Jesus” or “Jesus loves you.” Our actions must do all the talking. We have to show up in the world. We must stand for the least among us. We must work to bring about justice. We must be God’s love enfleshed, by all we do and say. Theologian Brian Blount asserts, “God’s Word translates the truth and reality of God’s intention for humankind. We, as God’s own, translate that same intention.” (3)

This relationship of love we share with God begins with God, and continues through our work in the world. By our words, our actions, our giving, and our response, we become the gospel enfleshed today. That empty seat at God’s table In Rublev’s icon is not merely for us, but for all of creation. In a few moments we will gather around God’s table to be fed with heavenly food, which all are invited to partake. The place at the table at which, we all will dine this morning is one available, so we might share in the divine life of God. Our challenge as Christians in the 21st century is a simple, and at the same time difficult one, “Are we really ready and willing to take a risk, the same risk God took for us, to invite our neighbors to join us at the table, the table of love set by God?”




2 Madigan, Daniel A. “People of the Word: Reading John with a Muslim.” Review & Expositor, vol. 104, no. 1, 2007, pp. 81-95.



5 “Is Science Enough”, John Polkinghorne, Sewanee Theological Review 39:1 (1995), p. 12.

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SERMON 12/24/17 Christmas Eve – Lamb of God Church Fort Myers

mary_jesusWatch online: click here

“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people. Good news indeed, but you know, the true story of Christmas seems to be overshadowed by some of the classic stories about Christmas such as: “Miracle on 34th Street,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Home Alone I, II, and III,” “Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol,” but please don’t forget those wonderful Lifetime Channel Christmas specials.

Most of us remember “A Christmas Carol, the story of Scrooge, the 19th century curmudgeon that received visits from three ghosts on Christmas Eve. In one solitary night his bad attitude and angry spirit was transformed by the experience of new life, changed not only him, but everyone in the town with whom he came in contact. These stories all may seem to compete with the true and original Christmas story of the Birth of Jesus of Nazareth, but I believe these stories re-tell the basic theme of the story of the Incarnation of Jesus; hope, celebration, and new life in the midst of the trials and tribulations of life. The story of God in Christ being born among us is the “Greatest Story Ever Told,” not because of good writing or acting, but because this story is the true story of God’s embodied love for creation.

The stories we see on television this time of year echo the themes of hope and peace.  “It’s a Wonderful Life, a tale of a family caught up in the greed of a wealthy spinster, who tried to destroy their family’s beloved Building Savings and Loan. Even so, the family, as a result of the generosity of their neighbors, overcame the evil that beset them, and lived happily ever after.   My favorite tale is  the Charlie Brown Christmas special in which, Charlie Brown as director of the kid’s Christmas play could not seem to find a decent Christmas tree for the center of the play.  When he finally found the last little (nearly dead) tree, Charlie tried to place an ornament on it, and it collapsed, and fell to the ground. As Charlie became distraught and lost hope, Linus stood up among the kids, and re-told the story of the Birth of Jesus.  Hearing the true meaning of Christmas re-told, all the kids re-discovered what the true meaning of the holiday meant, and the little tree became a symbol that love and care can overcome adversity.  These stories have great meaning for us this time of year, but the one we often miss is the “Greatest Story ever Told.”

This story of Jesus’ birth begins with the account of a young mother’s miraculous conception, her betrothed spouse’s faithfulness and commitment, and the central character, the baby who was born in a manger, an animal feed trough. Imagine for a moment that the ultimate source of creation, God, mysteriously came to us as a child without political or social power and without financial means. God entered time and space as a poor, common, penniless baby. This story is no mere fairy tale, which we share each December.  This story is the mysterious narrative of our individual and communal experience of a life-changing, world-changing event that really did happen over 2000 years ago in a small Palestinian village. The details of this story are recorded in scripture as evidence of the event, but the mystery and truths of the story are found in  the life-changing impact it has had on billions of people throughout the centuries.  The truth of the Incarnation is both historical and mysterious.

With today’s technology, we can access facts, figures, data, and commentary on any subject.  If you wish to learn the origins the Christmas tree, not only can we read about the historical Celtic practice of bringing greenery into the home in winter, we can research, which retailers have Christmas trees at the best prices. Just go to Google and type in angels and you can discover the history, origins, names and details about angelic messengers.  Type in Caesar, and you can learn all there is about the historical character of Caesar Augustus the ruler who at the birth of Jesus, declared a census of the known world .  Do you want to know about how shepherds tended their sheep in ancient fields?  Just go online and do a search. Even though at the touch of a finger, we can find research all the characters in the story of Jesus’ birth, the truth found in the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ cannot be found in a searchable database.  So, where do we search for mystery, ambiguity, and paradox?

Some folks are a bit skeptical about mystery, but even scientists must rely on it to explain some of the new discoveries of the vast and unexplored cosmos. Scientists often hypothesize about the origins of the universe, because science has yet to lift the veil on all that is unknown. For example, we cannot measure, photograph, or even perceive “Dark Matter” but physicists are developing theories and ideas about how “Dark Matter” exists, and science claims that this mysterious substance makes up much of the universe. Even when it comes to science, there is still mystery.

The mysterious Good News the angels proclaimed on that fateful night over 2000 years ago, was this, “somehow, in some mysterious way, God the source of all, was no longer outside of time and space, no longer, somewhere other than here. God was and is now among us as one with us, not coming in power, but coming among us as a vulnerable baby.” The good news of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is that we no longer have anything to fear; for you see—this story brings great joy for all the people (not just some).   “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

God the Creator, who brought all we see, touch, smell, feel, and hear into being; and those things mysteriously outside our five senses and in ways we cannot fully fathom, came to be with us through a real, historical event.  God was and is among us in Christ.  That is good news. That is a story to be told. That is the greatest story ever told; God with us as a child in a manger over 2000 years ago.  God dwelling in our hearts today.  That is good news.   May God bless you and your families on this night, this very special night on which, we celebrate the mystery of God’s tidings of great joy for all people.