God appears to Isaiah in the Temple, the holiest place in all the world to the Hebraic imagination, but all it takes to fill the Temple is the hem of God’s robe. This peculiar little line was a signal to the people about to be cast out into Exile in Babylon: God is everywhere and cannot be contained in a building. There is no “far away” in God’s world. The Irish Christians used the language of “thin places” to identify those holy spaces in the world where God seems closer to us than the breath in our lungs, but even when we feel far from God or estranged from our neighbors, God invites us to reconnect and reengage by just declaring, “Here am I, send me.”
Simeon blesses the baby who blesses them with his very presence. For Simeon, he has waited his entire life for this moment, and offers us the peaceful compline prayer which concludes the day for countless Christians across the globe. This intergenerational blessing of Jesus becomes a powerful reminder to us today that there is a blessing in our friendships across the generational divide if we but only offer our patient presence and encouraging words.
Jesus comes to bring joy and honor to humanity. In the wedding feast, not only does he allow the celebration to continue, he covers the potential shame of the host who has run out of wine. A flourishing faith life is not about obligation or regulation, but rather is about learning to lean into God’s goodness by living with radical hospitality in all of our relationships across cultural, identity, and gender divisions.
Text: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Synopsis: Like all symbols, baptism bears a surplus of meaning for followers of Jesus who follow him through the waters. Baptism is a past, present, and future act. Baptism gives us a tangible act to teach us the failures of our past do not define our belonging to Christ in the present, or our opportunity to walk into a new, hopeful future filled with possibilities.
Keywords: Epiphany, baptism, Baptist, ordinance, sacrament, Kingdom of God, citizenship, peace, justice, love, life abundant.
Text: Matthew 2:1-12
Synopsis: Epiphany is a season of discover and illumination. In Epiphany people begin to realize who Jesus is and God became flesh. These strangers from the East arrive with even stranger gifts for the newborn king. The gifts perhaps symbolize the trifold calling of Jesus as prophet, priest, and king. Gold fit for a king; frankincense offered by priests; myrrh to embalm the body of a slain prophet; strange, but illuminating gifts for the little king offered by strangers from a strange land.
Keywords: Epiphany, calling, vocation, ministry, grace, surprises, strangers.
Text: Luke 2:41-52
Synopsis: Jesus’ parents lose sight of the young savior on a routine journey to Jerusalem for Passover. Jesus startles and surprises his parents and the rabbis who are amazed by his precocious questions. As those who search for Jesus today, perhaps we can begin this new year with a renewal of spiritual practices like prayer, scripture reading, and taking time at the end of our days to remember all of the places where we found Jesus.
Keywords: Christmastide, Jesus, searching for Jesus, seeing Jesus in neighbors, spiritual formation, discipleship, New Year
Text: Micah 2:2-5a
Synopsis: The sermon preached by the prophet Micah, which we hear in Handel’s Messiah and understand retroactively as a Messianic prophesy about Jesus, is a hopeful word to the Hebrew people in their darkest hour. As the armies of Assyria beat on the doors of Zion, Micah reminds the people of God’s past promises and future plans to bring restoration, peace, and justice to the whole human family through the little town of Bethlehem. Even in the most chaotic of times, the God of Promise invites us to continue to carol and sing songs of love and liberation as we work to build the Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven. So, don’t let anyone steal your song as you carol through the chaos of life.
Keywords: Advent, Christmas, love, chaos, stress, peace, prophetic, Messiah, songs, singing, hope, Kingdom of God
On Joy Sunday, we hear a glorious Cantata from J.S. Bach and a Song of Liberation from Jesus’ mother Mary. Music lifts us from the mire of life and reminds us of the promises of God for a future where every story matters, every life has worth, and every hunger is satisfied. How can we keep from singing with such Good News?
Text: Philippians 1:3-11
Synopsis: Paul writes a word of gratitude and encouragement to the church in Philippi to remind them that the good work God has begun among them will come to fruition in time. God’s growth is gradual but also inevitable. So, give yourself the grace to know we are all God’s work in progress. God’s good work takes time.
On Christ the King Sunday, we celebrate the return of the King who will come to bring justice, mercy, and balance to a world of disparity. But, for those of us who like to judge others and decide who’s in and who’s out––spoiler alert! Jesus is the only True Judge, and his mercy is a mystery and his justice will satisfy the cravings of those who hunger, shiver, and weep.
The Apostle Paul and the Evangelist Matthew offer us two important perspectives on judgment and human destiny. Paul envisions a God of grace who seeks to reconcile and embrace the whole of humanity and tear down the dividing wall between insiders and outsiders. Paul fought against the religious practice of “works righteousness,” that idea that we can work our way towards salvation through religious rituals or purity laws. Matthew, a Jewish repentant Tax-Collector, teaches us that (while rituals and purity laws won’t save us) we have a moral obligation to be agents of peace, charity, and justice in our world.
By holding these two ideas in tension, we humbly hand Christ the King the keys of judgment and seek to live like the prophet Micah teaches us: with justice, kindness, and humility with our God.
The ancient love story of Ruth and Boaz is just like our modern love stories…messy. Here at Broadway Baptist Church, we hope in God’s vision for a world where every story matters. Life, love, and family are complicated, but the Holy Spirit dances through our stories to bring healing, redemption, and new mercies with each day.
When plans change, what do you do when you don’t know what to do? Why do bad things happen to good people? These are the complex questions which every human must ask at some point if they are to live a flourishing, reflective life. God designed creation with the free will to flourish or fail, but what happens when disaster strikes outside of your control? The story of Ruth and Naomi offers us a glimpse into the life of two courageous women struggling to survive in the face of tragedy and grief.
On All Saint’s Day, we remember the stories of our loved ones who stepped from life into Life. Moses challenges the people of Israel, standing on the precipice of the Promised Land, to never forget the story of the God who liberated them from slavery, by telling the story to their children every time they wake up, walk around, and come back home. In time, when our children will face the trails of life, they will remember the story we shared with them all along the way–of a God who loves us, liberates us, and will never let us go.
They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.” ’ He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were greatly astounded and said to one another,‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’
Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:10-11
The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said,
‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.’
Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the Lord became very angry, and Moses was displeased. So Moses said to the Lord, ‘Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once—if I have found favor in your sight—and do not let me see my misery.’ So the Lord said to Moses,
‘Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them... I will come down and talk with you there; and I will take some of the spirit that is on you and put it on them; and they shall bear the burden of the people along with you so that you will not bear it all by yourself.'
Numbers 11:4-11; 14-17
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.