Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year A, The Name of Jesus, Yĕshúa

Peace Lutheran, Otis Orchards, WA

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen



These were the names that kept rolling off her tongue that night.
Joseph had long since fallen asleep.
The shepherds had left and returned to their flocks.
The midwives that had helped Mary were gone.
And Joseph’s cousins, who had given them shelter for the night, were back in the house, fast asleep with their children.
Mary lay there,
Cradling her child in her arms.
Stroking his brow.
Feeling the tender touch of his fingers wrapped around hers.
And, as mother’s do, gently caressing Jesus’ face and body, unable to stop touching him who was still so very much a part of her.


A formal Hebrew name.  Joshua.  A bit old fashioned Mary thought.  But it was Joseph’s favorite.
THE LORD is Salvation” is what the name means.
Not that Mary spent much time dwelling on the meaning of that name.
But as she lay there with her little one, she remembered the stories of her people about Yĕhôshúa
Joshua was the faithful one.
He was one of the twelve spies, Mary remembered, that Moses had sent into Canaan to survey the situation there.  This was the land God had promised to Abraham their father.
It was to this land that Moses had led the people.
Most of the spies were skeptical when they returned from Canaan.  It was not as though the country was unoccupied.  The people of Canaan were many.
Their armies were strong.
And their cities were fortified.
How would Israel stand a chance of conquering this land?
But Joshua would have none of it.
With God all things are possible. 

Yĕhôshúa, Mary thought. My little Yĕhôshúa.

The faithful One. Trust in THE LORD.

Mary remembered how Joshua had stepped up after Moses died.
It was Joshua that led the people of Israel across the Jordan into Canaan. 
“Choose this day whom you will serve.” He had said.
Choose this day whom you will serve.
“As for me and my house, we will serve THE LORD.”
As for me and my house, we will serve THE LORD.

Mary had thought about these words ever since she found out that she was pregnant.
Her first thought was “how can this be?” when that man told her she was pregnant.
“How can this be?”, she thought.
And who is this man?
But if she was pregnant it must be God’s will.
"Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."
It was her aunt Elizabeth that had convinced her that this man was indeed an angel of the Lord.
It was Elizabeth that got so excited when Mary told her what the angel had said.
“Mary, don’t you understand?”  “The Messiah!”
This child within you will be the Messiah!  Our King.


A King.Yĕshúa

That sounded better to Mary. Not as formal as the name Yĕhôshúa.  Yĕshúa, Yĕshúa, Yĕshúa
She couldn’t stop saying his name.
Yĕshúa, a shortened version of Joshua, more familiar, more endearing, Jesus, is how we say it today.
Oh my little Yĕshúa will you be a King?
Perhaps we should have named you David, the beloved One.
Could it be that her little baby would be a King like David, who would be adored by all his people?

Just then Jesus, who had been nursing, pulled away from his mother’s breast, and she looked into his eyes.
Softly, she began talking to him as though he understood.
“Let me tell you about your grandfather, David.” She said.
He was a shepherd boy, like that one who was here tonight.
She told him about how Samuel had anointed David to be King.
She told him about how David, when he was still a young boy, volunteered to go up against the giant Goliath. Just a shepherd boy with a sling, and he defeated the Philistine, Goliath.

Oh my little Yĕshúa will you be a King?

Brave and strong like David?
Mary paused and thought for a while what it must have been like to live in Israel when David was King. Every enemy David faced was defeated. Never had Israel been so proud and so strong. God was with him.
Her eyes caught Jesus’ eyes once again.
And as she looked into his eyes she began to sing a song of David.

“THE LORD is my Shepherd,” she sang, “I shall not want”.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.”

As she looked at her little Yĕshúa she sang that last verse over and over again.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord.

Jesus drifted back to sleep.

Mary laid there in silence.
Still unable to sleep.
So much had happened, and though she was exhausted from the journey, and weary from giving birth, the exhilaration she felt as she held her baby prevented her from falling to sleep.

The silence of the early morning hours was broken by a horrible memory.

The day before yesterday, Mary and Joseph had passed through Jerusalem en route to Bethlehem.

Jerusalem was a beautiful city, and the temple was magnificent. The city was bustling with crowds unlike she’d ever seen in their sleepy little village.

But all around them, everywhere they went, were Roman soldiers— a constant reminder that they were not a free people.
Their chariots clogged the winding streets.
They shouted out demands to step aside, get out of the way.
Even at the temple, they stood guard.
It was a relief, actually, when Mary and Joseph left Jerusalem and headed toward Bethlehem. 
But their relief was short lived. 

There in the valley, below the temple, were the soldiers again.
Crucifying a dozen or so men.
Mary shuddered as she remembered the screams of those men, as the nails pierced their bodies.
She tried not to remember the horrific sight of their naked bodies hanging from the crosses.  And the moaning.
There were a few that hung limp and lifeless, having breathed their last.
She had heard that these men were part of a group that had tried to fight against the Romans.  Like Joshua they thought that with God, everything is possible, even driving out the Romans from Jerusalem.

Above their head, written large for everyone to see, were the words
Your messiahs

As Mary remembered the horrors of that day, she held her little baby tight.
“Your messiahs” she thought.
And for a brief moment she was afraid.

What if her little Yĕshúa were to grow up to be a patriot like these men?
What if her little Jesus were to stand up to the Romans and try to drive out the Romans?
And what if one day he too hung on the cross?

“Never!” she thought. “Never!”

Not my Yĕshúa.

Finally, as she kissed his forehead, her heart was once again at peace.
Her thoughts returned to the blessed joy of that moment.
And as the sun began to rise in the east, she drifted off to sleep.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Year A, The Name of Jesus, Philippians 2:5-11, The Name

"God also highly exalted him

and gave him the name 

that is above every name."
The name Jesus means Yahweh is Salvation. Yehoshu'a. Yeshu'a, being the shortened Aramaic form translated via the Greek and Latin forms as "Jesus".  And we call him THE LORD.  

Actually in our translations of the Old Testament, and in Jewish tradition THE LORD, or specifically, Adonai, is spoken in place of the Hebrew name for God, יְהֹוָה‎. YHWH is considered too holy for us to speak. Ancient Hebrew actually has no vowels written, and so the actual pronunciation is lost in history, if it was ever definitively pronounced at all. The pronounciation "Yahweh", or "Jehovah", are the result of adding the vowel points of the word "adonai" to the consonants of YHWH.

This is the name that is above every name. יְהֹוָה

And this is the name that is contained within the name Jesus, meaning Yahweh is salvation.

Another thought-- the confession that Jesus is Lord, or more specifically, Jesus is THE LORD is a trinitarian statement about the Divinity of Christ.

Much is contained within that simple name Jesus.

To say Jesus, is to give voice to the confession that he is God, and the source of our salvation. And this name was given to him because he was obedient even unto death, death on the cross.

To say Jesus, is to call to mind that the Crucified One, the one who gave his life for us, is יְהֹוָה

Ah the mystery contained in a name.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Year A, Christmas Eve, Luke 2:1-20, John 1:12-14

Peace Lutheran Church, Otis Orchards

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen
There are certain things that awaken within us the deepest fears—primordial fears, fears that go to the depth of our very being. 
A friend of mine, sleeping in a tent during a safari in Africa, woke up to the roar of a lion, not far away.
Primordial fear.
A doctor’s diagnosis of a life threatening disease likewise can awaken within us that same deep dread.
Primordial fear.
Simply becoming increasingly aware of our aging also stirs those deep seated fears within us.  Especially if it involves a hard choice like going to a nursing home with little hope of ever living at home again.
Primordial fear.
Dr. Karl Albrecht, in an article in Psychology Today identifies the five fears we all share, as being:
1.       The fear of extinction, which is more than just a fear of death, it is a fear of simply ceasing to exist at all.
2.       The fear of mutilation, of losing part of our body and minds, of being less than fully human.
3.       The fear of a loss of autonomy—this may take many forms, from becoming disabled, or imprisoned, or as I mentioned above, having to move into a nursing home for the rest of one’s life.
4.       The fear of separation, the fear of abandonment, rejection, and loss of connectedness; of becoming a non-person—not wanted, respected, or valued by anyone else.
5.       And finally, the fear of humiliation, shame, or disapproval that threatens the loss of integrity of the Self.
These represent the dark side of our life.
Primordial fear.

And then there are those other things that awaken within us quite a different response.
Primordial hope.
These are the things that all people share because they are part of our true nature and essential to our very being.
Instead of a lion’s roar, it is to behold creation in all its beauty, or a lover’s tender touch, or more than anything else, I believe—a baby born, full of life and the potential of all things good.
This is what awakens within us that hope and joy that makes life so meaningful.

·         We hope for life, lived to its fullest.
·         We hope for health.
·         We hope for freedom to be all that we can be.
·         We hope for love, and a sense of belonging.
·         We hope to be accepted for who we are.

A child is born.
Hope abounds.
The dark night of our deepest fears, meets the dawn of life’s richest gifts.

I’m thinking of this tonight for two reasons:
First, because this year our life has been blessed with the birth of our first grandchild, Jasper.
And like all parents, or in our case parents, that birth had an effect.
We were awestruck by the gift of life.
We rejoiced with every word about his health.
We anticipate all that he might be.
We experience the depth of human love and family.
And with great joy, we embrace to new reality of being “Oma and Opa”.

Primordial hopes. 
The wonderful side of life that we all long for and thrive in. 
It came to us this year, as a gift of a child—our dear Jasper.

“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness--
on them light has shined.”

“For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;”

“to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord”

It’s no accident that God chose to come to us as a babe in Bethlehem.  Because babies to powerful things, for us.

A time of hope.
Not fear.

Of light.
Not darkness.

But it’s not simply about the baby, and all the wonderful feelings that are brought about by such a child. 

It is about what God was doing in Christ Jesus.

In the Gospel of John, it is written:
 “the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.”

And “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”

This is the mystery of Christmas.
God became a human child—
That we might become children of God.
God was born of the flesh, that we might be born of the Spirit.
God was born from below, that we might be born from above.
St. Athanasius, in a statement that sounds more controversial than it is, put it this way:  “God became man, that men might become gods.”

At the end of John’s Gospel, he recalls Jesus’ final prayer with his disciples:
“As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

As the Father loves Jesus, so also, the Father loves you.
Each and every one of you.

The Bible talks about our human origins, as living “according to the flesh”.
The Bible speaks of our divine origins as living “in the Spirit”.

This is the thing—
Those primordial fears that haunt all human existence, they are all the eventual outcome of living in the flesh, our mortal existence.
We will cease to exist.
We will lose our body and minds.
We will lose our autonomy,
                And we will feel abandoned and humiliated. 
There is a reason why all people fear these things—
Because they are part of this life, as humans.

However, the hope that is within us, is a hope that is ours, not because we are born of the flesh, but because we are born of the Spirit, from above.

In Christ is our Hope, our life, our health, our freedom, love and acceptance. 

Christ was born of an earthly mother,
                That we might be born of a heavenly Father.
Jesus, went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist.
When he came up out of the water, the Spirit of God descended on him, and God said:
“You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

These are the words that the Father now speaks to you and me, as children of God:
“You are my child, my beloved, with you I am well pleased.”

And the angels sang:
"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"



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"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,

to Abraham and to his descendants forever."


Oh Mary, Mother of God, who bore the Christ within your womb, blessed one whom the angels adore, and shepherd's praise-- be with us dearest one.

"Let it be with me according to your word."  With those words you received the gift of the Holy Spirit, a child to cherish, and were ordained of God to a ministry no one else would share.  You alone were to feel God growing within your womb.  You alone would nourish the Christ child at your breast.  You alone would share with the Father the holy  grief at the foot of the cross.  And this you did for us.

To lift up the lowly, and bring down the mighty--

To fill the hungry, and send the rich away empty--

"This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too."

Simeon too, sang your song.  To him it was revealed the pain that you would endure.  A sword piercing your soul, as the sword pierced His side.  

You it was that bore the child whose holy calling was to die.  For us.  For you.  

You must have desired another name to give, than Yeshua, Savior, dying One.  To hold his hand at your own death, is every mother's hope.  But to lay the Child whom you once nursed, within a tomb, every mother's dread. 

But the mighty and rich would have their say for at least that one dark day.  

But the Father's love that lifted up you, would open wide the door of that dank dark grave.

From Bethlehem to the garden tomb, was a brief but grace filled walk. 

And from that empty grave we walked, Christ, the Risen One within.  

You bore the Holy Child within that we might bear him too.  To a world in need of holy hope, and of life born anew. 

"Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel."

Sunday, December 18, 2016

"God became Man so that men might become gods."

It seems so wrong. These words of St. Athanasius. "God became Man so that men might become gods." Yet it is the Orthodox teaching of the Church.  It is called "Theosis, or Divinization, or Illumination, or deification.

"We become united with God by grace in the Person of Christ, who is God come in the flesh. The means of becoming “like God” is through perfection in holiness, the continuous process of acquiring the Holy Spirit by grace through ascetic devotion. Some Protestants might refer to this process as sanctification. Another term for it, perhaps more familiar to Western Christians, would be mortification—putting sin to death within ourselves."

"With the Incarnation, God has assumed and glorified our flesh and has consecrated and sanctified our humanity. He has also given us the Holy Spirit. As we acquire more of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives, we become more like Christ, and we have the opportunity of being granted, in this life, illumination or glorification. When we speak of acquiring more of the Holy Spirit, it is in the sense of appropriating to a greater degree what has actually been given to us already by God. We acquire more of what we are more able to receive. God the Holy Spirit remains ever constant."

It is also the focal point of Jesus' prayer in John 17:

20 "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

This is a mystery, an extension of the mystery of the Trinity.  That God might be One, while at the same time three persons, is now also reflected in our being One with God, united with him through the person of Christ, while at the same time remaining distinct from the Father and the very being of God.  

The easiest framework within which we might conceptualize this  mystery is that of a Divine Family, and our status of 'Children of God'.  

We contemplate this Christmas, as we do every Christmas, the miracle of God incarnate, cradled in a manger.  The Word become flesh, dwelling among us.

Equally miraculous will be that day when our flesh will be redeemed, and by the power of the Spirit we will be cradled in union with God.  

Christ was with us where we are, in order that we might be with him where he is".

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Year A, Advent 4, Matthew 1:18-25, Disobedient Faith

Peace, Lutheran Church, Otis Orchards, WA


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen

Joseph had a dream.
                And grace prevailed.
It took faith:  A lot of it,
And a willingness to disobey the law.
Apart from that, Jesus is never born.

We know very little about Joseph.
·         He was from Nazareth.
·         A Carpenter.
·         He fled to Egypt with Mary and Jesus to avoid persecution, to protect Jesus from Herod, who wanted to kill him.
·         Joseph died before Jesus’ ministry began.
·         And he is remembered as a righteous man.

It’s that last piece of information about Joseph that I find most interesting.
What the Gospel of Matthew actually tells us about Joseph’s righteousness, is that he was unwilling to expose Mary to public disgrace, and planned to dismiss her quietly.
That is, Joseph had determined that he would NOT do what the law required, but would be gracious and merciful to Mary.

Had this not been Joseph’s decision, Mary, together with the child in her womb, would have been stoned to death.

It was the law of the Lord.
“So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”
In Deuteronomy 22 it is written, concerning a woman who is engaged, or married, with respect to her virginity:
If, however, this charge is true, that evidence of the young woman's virginity was not found, then they shall bring the young woman out to the entrance of her father's house and the men of her town shall stone her to death, because she committed a disgraceful act in Israel by prostituting herself in her father's house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

Needless to say, if a woman is “found to be with child”, there is no evidence of her virginity.  That kind of goes out the door with pregnancy.

Joseph chooses to disobey this law in two ways:
First, he refuses to disgrace Mary by bringing her before the elders of the town, making known that she is with child, and subjecting her to the condemnation that the Law required.
Instead he resolves to ‘dismiss her quietly’, that is, to end the engagement, and allow her to go her own way, without making an issue about her being pregnant.
Secondly, Joseph has this dream.
An angel appears to him and says:
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
So not only does Joseph not charge Mary with being unfaithful, and not a virgin,
                He does the unthinkable, and accepts her as his wife.

Of course, we might say that he did the right thing because, as the angel said, the child was from the Holy Spirit, and as subsequent tradition has maintained, Mary remained a virgin, and hence, was not to be condemned.

I knew a woman named Lillian.
She was a Jewish woman who lived in our senior housing in Sandpoint. 
Lillian was funny, in her own unique way.
And she was curious about Christianity.
But her opinion about Jesus’ birth was just priceless.
“Born of a virgin?”
“Hah,” she would say, “Oldest line in the books.  Mary got away with one there.  Of course there was a father.  Of course Mary had had sex.  That’s how you get pregnant.  Everybody knows that.”

Well, before we dismiss Lillian as a crazy old Jewish woman, we really have to admit that we would always reach the same conclusion, that if a woman is pregnant, she is not a virgin.
Imagine if it was your daughter.

“Mom, Dad, I don’t know how this happened.  It must be a ‘God thing’, because one day I just woke up and I was pregnant.  No, I swear, I haven’t had sex.  I’m saving myself till marriage.  It just happened.”
Be honest, now.
We wouldn’t buy that either.

I mean, truthfully, as the father of two daughters, had either of them become pregnant as a young girl, say, twelve to fourteen years old, or so, (that’s probably how old Mary was, because, once she went through puberty and began menstruating, she would have been considered a woman, and would then have been married), but back to the point:
                If my 12 to 14 year old daughter had become pregnant, the last thing I would think was that this was the result of the Holy Spirit. 
None of us would conclude that.
More likely, we would want to know who the father was, and would begin thinking of all the things we’d like to do to that young man. . .

But not Joseph.
There was no way that Joseph would have known that Mary was a virgin.
Dreams are just dreams.
We dream all the time.
Do we believe all that we dream.
                No.  We don’t.

And to believe that it was an angel speaking to you in a dream is quite a leap of faith.
You cannot know, that that’s the case.
But in the end,
Joseph chose to have faith.
Faith in Mary.
Faith that the Holy Spirit was at work.
Faith that grace was the better choice.

Apart from that faith, Joseph might well have done what the law required.
And Mary would have died, as well as the child within her, as the elders of the city pummeled her with stones.

Joseph made a choice that day.
Better to err on the side of grace, than the law.

Sometimes we are too quick to condemn.
And having decided to condemn someone’s actions, we are more than willing to do what the law requires.
Oh, we don’t get carried away.
It’s been a long time since an unwed mother was stoned to death.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t judge.
Nor does that mean that we don’t punish.
And when we find someone to be sinful,
And punish them accordingly,
We feel righteous.  And obedient.

And that may be so.
But this is the thing.
You won’t find Jesus in the judging and condemning.

This is what we can learn from Joseph.
If we choose to live in a gracious and merciful manner,
                We will find Jesus. 
                For he will come to us.
                He will come to us, full of grace and truth.
And he will come to us in the most unlikely of ways.

According to the Law, Mary should have died, and the child within her too.
According to the Law, Jesus was crucified.

But by grace, that Child was born.
And by grace, Jesus was raised.

The choice Joseph was faced with was whether to live by grace, or the law.
And he chose grace.

Likewise, the choice Jesus was faced with was whether to live by grace, or the law.
And Jesus was grace.

And I will be so bold to say that each of us must make the same decision that both Joseph and Jesus had to make.
Will we choose the law?
Or grace?

In choosing the law, we choose death.
In choosing the way of faith, and grace, we choose life.
And there we will find Jesus.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Advent 4, Year A, Matthew 1:18-25, Spirit Child

"She was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit."

That Jesus was born of Mary emphasized two major theological points about Jesus, points which set him apart from all others.

First, that this One we confess to be God, nevertheless was born of Mary, a human mother, and was fully human as we are.

Second, that this One we confess to be human, nevertheless was born from above, conceived by the Holy Spirit, with God as his Father.

The Church has maintained in this way the absolute uniqueness of who Jesus is, Son of God, Son of Man.  And  yet there is another truth.  He is our Brother.

Not a half brother.  A Brother.  For this reason we too are called "Children of God."

This is not blasphemous.  For each Child is in fact conceived of the Holy Spirit, that breath of God apart from which there is no life.  And though we have earthly parents, God, our Creator, is in truth our Father.

I believe that this relationship with our Father begins in creation, not redemption.  In spite of the use of the image in certain passages of scripture, and often in our Baptismal theology, we are not adopted by God.  We are created by God.  Born of the Holy Spirit.  Children of God.

And of us, it can also be said that we have two natures.  We are both descended from Adam, according to the flesh.  Fully human in every way.  But also, our lives are rooted in God, born in his image, with divinity's spark the very source of our life.  

"Child of God, you are sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked with the Cross of Christ, forever."

Jesus, born of the flesh, and of the Spirit.  Absolutely unique?  No, our Brother.  

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Year A, Advent 3, Matthew 11:2-11, Shall we look for another?

Peace Lutheran, Otis Orchards

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen
John the Baptist had devoted his life to delivering the message that the Kingdom of God was at hand.
He called on the people to repent.
And, then his moment came when he looked up, saw Jesus, and declared
“Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
“This is the one!” he cried out.  The one we have been waiting for.  The Son of God.  The Messiah!
The next we hear of John he is in prison.
He would be beheaded for having criticized King Herod’s relationship with his wife, Herodius. 
But first, as he waited in the prison, John had his doubts.  And so he sent his disciples to ask Jesus

 “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he had stood up before the synagogue in Nazareth, and read from the prophet,
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
(Luke 4:18 &19)
Those words from the prophet, Jesus said, were fulfilled in him.  He was the Messiah.
There is a difference between what Jesus told the people in Nazareth, and how he answered John.
In both instances he declares that the poor have Good News preached to them, and that the blind see.
But as for the words,
“He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and to let the oppressed go free.”
These words were specifically not mentioned in Jesus response to John.  It’s as though Jesus backed away from a campaign promise.  John hadn’t been released.  He was not set free.  And he wouldn’t be.
Perhaps this is why John now has doubts about whether Jesus in is fact the Messiah.
If you are the Messiah,
                If the Kingdom has come,
                Then why do we still suffer so?
And why would someone like John, lose his head as entertainment for Herod’s dinner guests?

“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
Implied in those words are another question:
“If you are the One, the Messiah,
Then when are you going to do,
what the Messiah does?”

John isn’t alone in asking the hard question.
Maybe, for one brief but shining moment during Jesus ministry, the blind received their sight, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, the deaf heard, the dead were raised, and the poor had good news brought to them. . .
But for the most part since that time:
·         The blind don’t see
·         The lame still limp
·         The lepers die with their disease
·         The Deaf don’t hear
·         The dead aren’t raised
·         And of late, there has been little good news for the poor.
And as for the Kingdom of God, where is it?
Where is it that God’s will is done, on earth as in heaven?

Many simply just don’t see it.
If Jesus came to save the world, then shouldn’t the world, look a little bit more ‘saved’?
And what about Christians?
If Jesus is the Messiah, then shouldn’t his followers look and act a bit differently than the rest of the world?
If you are the One, Jesus, show us!
And if you’re not the One, we’ll look for another.
We live in a time when the younger generation is indeed, looking for another.
David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons, wrote a book titled "unChristian, What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity...and Why It Matters," based on extensive research into what the younger, unChurched generation actually thinks about the church.  What they found is that the vast majority of young people believe that we are
  • (1) Hypocritical
  • (2) Too focused on getting converts
  • (3) Antihomosexual
  • (4) Sheltered...old fashioned, boring, out of touch with reality
  • (5) Too political AND
  • (6) Judgmental"
In short, what the research found was that though the younger generation finds much appealing about Jesus and his message, they see almost none of that reflected in the Church.
And so with their choices, they are basically asking,
“Are you the one, or are we to wait for another?”
The vast majority of them have simply resolved to wait for another. 
You see, many outside the Church have simply concluded that as good a man as Jesus was, his mission failed to make a difference in the world. 
God’s will isn’t done on earth as it is in heaven.
What are we to say, to the John’s of our generation, who are asking if they should look for another?
One message that we’ve given over the years is to quote Jesus’ comment that he made to Pontius Pilate during his trial:
"My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here."
The reason we don’t see the Kingdom of God on earth, is because it was never intended to be an earthly kingdom in the first place.
To one extent, this lets Jesus ‘off the hook’.  We can continue to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, because, though we don’t see the signs of the Kingdom here, we believe that it is fully revealed in heaven.  Just wait, when the time comes, you will see it. 
When you die, then, and only then, will you see the Kingdom.
There is another more uncomfortable reality.
And that is that Jesus did indeed do everything necessary to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
He was the Messiah.
But we, as his followers, have failed to do our part.
This was the belief of the Social Gospel movement of the 1800’s.  That is, it was our job, as Jesus’ disciples, to do the work of the Kingdom.
One of the things that they believed was that if we just educated people about the Kingdom of God, we could establish that Kingdom here and now.  Their lasting contribution to the Church’s life was Sunday School.
Sunday School actually was established with two purposes in mind:
1.       To educate the working poor.
2.       And to teach people about Jesus, so that they might live into the Kingdom of God.
They also launched a massive missionary emphasis, and sent missionaries throughout the world, in the hopes that the twentieth century might be the “Christian Century”, and that in our time, we might see the Kingdom of God with all its promises fulfilled. 
Two world wars, however, crushed the movement.
Instead of seeing the Kingdom of God, what they saw was the nations of the world at war. 
They were disheartened, like John the Baptist.
This is the tension:
On the one hand, the Kingdom of God is to be now—
                And we are to work diligently to establish it.
And on the other hand, it is not yet—
                And we are to wait patiently and faithfully for it.
 Paul writes in 1 Corinthians:
“If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
And then Jesus says:
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Now, but not yet.
Martin Luther expressed this in his explanation to the Lord’s prayer, found in the Small Catechism:

Thy kingdom come.

What does this mean? The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.
How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.
St. Augustine said:
“Pray as though everything depended on God, work as though everything depended on you.”

And perhaps this is the way we must follow:
God has done his part in Christ Jesus in establishing the Kingdom—
But now it is our responsibility to live into that Kingdom, by conforming our lives to Christ.
This we can do, but only with the power of the Holy Spirit. 
“Are you the one, or are we to wait for another?”
Yes, Jesus is the one.
But rather than simply waiting for the Kingdom, we are called to work for the Kingdom.
We are not to simply hope for that day when God’s will is done, on earth as in heaven,
                We are to live our lives according to God’s will.
Now, but not yet.
Everything depends on Christ.
And everything depends on us.
Such is the Kingdom of God.