Sunday, January 20, 2019

Your Hour Has Come!

So much of our lives is about timing.
It is about being in the right place at the right time.
Who we fall in love with, what we do for work, where we work, where we live, what friends we have.
Of course there are choices within those circumstances, but we have to be in the right place at the right time.
Many times in my life things just seemed to come together.

I had not worked at Camp Calumet for a couple of years.
I actually thought that part of my life was over.
However, in the summer of 1998 I found myself living in Freedom with my parents.
I didn't have a job.
And I always wanted to be the CIT trainer.
I had applied to be the CIT trainer for the summer of 1994.
I had been offered the job of program director instead.
I hated that job, and really wanted to be the CIT trainer.
My life was a little adrift at this point.
I wasn't sure what I was going to do.
Anyway, I was at the right place and right time to be the CIT trainer.
It was during that summer that I Vicki and I started dating.
It was during that summer that I put myself on the path to going to seminary and becoming a pastor.

Jesus this morning isn't sure if this is the right time for him.
He is at a wedding, and has an opportunity to show who he is, but isn't sure if this is moment.
Luckily his mom is there to push him along.
This is his hour.
It is the right time and place for him.
He just doesn't know it for sure.

In our lives this is so important to be able to discern when it is our hour.
When it is our time to act, to make a move.
And this morning I want us to think about what makes it the right time.
What makes it our hour?

First off, we have to have other people in our lives who help us discern these things.
We need people who know us so well.
Who know our gifts and passions, who know what we are capable of to push us, otherwise we might not to do it.
We might not think that we have what it takes.
We might not see the opportunity in front of us.
I think we do ourselves a disservice when we don't use the people in our lives around us to help us know if this is our hour.

Second, we have to know ourselves.
We have to know our own skills.
Our own wants and desires.
Our own passions.
We have to know what we are good at, and practiced those things.
We don't know much about Jesus between when he is born, and when he is 30 years old.
But here is what we have to assume.
Jesus was taught things.
Jesus learned the word of God.
Jesus learned what it was God wanted from him.
Jesus learned what it meant to follow God.
Jesus learned what he was capable of.
By the time Jesus shows up to the wedding at Cana, he knows his mission, he knows it will not end well.
Because in John Jesus hour is when he is lifted on the cross.
"My hour has come"
Jesus says later in John.
Even though he wasn't sure this was the hour, Jesus knew what he could and couldn't do.
Jesus knew that he could do this sign.

Third, we have to trust in God.
This is important.
Every time we make a decision about something we have to trust that God is with us.
We have to believe that God will walk with us.
Because if this is our hour, then it is something that God has put in our path.
I believe that God put me in that place in the summer of 1998.
I believe that was where I was supposed to be at that time.
It wasn't exactly what I would have chosen for myself.
I mean I had wished at the time that I would have been more accomplished, I wish my life would have had more direction and certainty.
I wish that out of college I would have known exactly what I wanted to do and would have had a great job doing that thing.
But this is the way my life had gone, and this is where God wanted me to be.
I don't know if I thought this at the time, but in hindsight it worked out.
And I did trust God was in the midst of all of those really complicated life decisions.

I could repeat this story more times in my life.
I could tell you about how God lead me here to be your pastor.
What about you?
What is the story that you tell about how your hour had come?
When were you in the right place at the right time?
Who pushed you into seeing that it was your hour?
What skills did you learn to make it the right time?
How did God make the circumstances right?

This weekend we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King.
He was a man that was in the right place at the right time.
He was a pastor in Montgomery when the bus boycott started.
Yes he had been to college, and then to seminary.
He had been trained in leading the people of God.
And when the time came for him to act, he was ready.
But if you read about him you know that he wasn't sure.
He needed a push too.
He came to believe that this was the right time and place for our country to change the unjust laws of segregation.
In his famous "I have a dream" speech in front of the Lincoln memorial, he talked about this being the time.
He said, "We have also come to this hallowed spot  to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. 
This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.
Now is the time  to make real the promises of democracy.
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
Now is the time, to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children."
We too must know when the right time is to act, to speak up, to be bold.

For Jesus this moment, at the wedding in Galilee, was the right moment.
It was the right moment to start his public ministry.
It was the right moment to give others the first sign of what grace looks like.

I hope this morning for all of us in those times in of transition in our lives for the right place and the right time.
I hope that you have  people in your life to give you a push when you need it.
I hope you have people that you can turn to for advice.
I hope that you know yourself, know your gifts and passions.
I hope that you have spent time learning skills that will serve you well.
Most importantly I hope you know that God is with you.
The Holy Spirit is guiding you.
God is putting things in your life at the right time and place so you can know when your hour has come.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Machine!

The truth is that we are all part of the machine.
We all are caught up in the systems of the world.
The economic system consumes us.
The social system defines us.
The political system overwhelms us.
We like to think of ourselves as individuals as people who make their own destiny.
But the truth is that we are all part of the machine.

I realized this on Christmas eve day.
I was at Rite Aid buying some last minute stocking stuffers.
I had picked out all I wanted.
I had a very full basket.
I was standing in line waiting to pay when the clerk announced that the computer system was down and they would only take a check or cash.
Just so you know I don't carry cash, and I almost never write a check.
All of my financial transactions are done with a bank card, or on the computer.
I stood in line thinking about what was I going to do.
I was running out of time for the day.
I needed to get home and get ready for my family to show up.
I didn't have time to abandon my shopping cart and go to another store.
It made me realize how caught up I am in the machine.
How much of my life is dictated by other things.
If for some reason all the machines went down in the world, I would have nothing.
I would be lost.

This is the world that the wise men find themselves.
It is a world where most people are caught up in the machine.
Herod rules, Rome dictates what is to happen.
And as long as nobody ever disturbs anything Rome is happy.
This new thing that the wise people say is about to happen is disturbing to people.
It is disturbing to Herod who doesn't want anyone to take what little perceived power he has away.
Historically speaking this was Herod's biggest fear.
There was  saying about Herod.
"It was better to be Herod's pig than one of his relatives."
People said this because Herod kept having his relatives killed in fear that they were after his thrown.
So Herod is caught up in the machine.
The system benefits him, it suits his needs.
But it also benefits the people around him.
Because at least there is peace.
Herod might be a tyrant, but at least Rome leaves us alone while he is in charge.
Herod might not be a Jew but he is refurbishing the temple in Jerusalem.
The status quo works for us.

I think it works for most of us here this morning.
We would rather not make too many waves.
And yet we all still have this sense that something is not right.
It is why this time of year we make resolutions.
We make them maybe because we perceive that our lives are out of whack.
We have over consumed for the past month, and now we need a course correction.
We have bought too much, ate too much, and drank too much.
So we make resolutions to make us feel in control of things.
I see resolutions as a way for us to try and get out of the system.
We will try to make different choices this year.
I don't know if it is possible.
I speak for myself when I say that.
Because I find myself repeating the patterns all the time.
The same patterns that lead me back into the machine.

Today I think about the wise men.
I think about the visitors from another country, making a dangerous journey, following a star.
Coming upon a different system that maybe they didn't fully understand.
Not knowing who Herod was, or why he was important.
Not knowing the prophecies of old, told in ancient days, when others dreamed of a different time.
Wise men who came to bring gifts to an infant king.
They knew something that others didn't.
And then they left to return home.
They realizing the dangers of this system went home a different road.
That story gives me hope today.
It gives me hope in this new year.
A new year filled with promise and possibility.
A new year where we just might be able to get out of the system.
A new year where we just might go a different way.

I read one commentary this week about us being like the wise ones.
Being able to discern better the systems that we think are working for us but are really hurting us.
I want to say this morning that I have no hope in that.
I know that I am not wise enough to break free of those systems.
I will remain dominated by them.
In this story we see the hand of God.
It is God who puts in the star in the sky.
It is God who warns the wise ones to go home a different way.
It is God who has come to be with us in Jesus Christ that is the hope of the wise ones.
That is our hope this new year.
It is that God has set out on the horizon a star for us to follow.
And when we get to the end what we will find is Jesus Christ shining for us.
We will find Jesus who is our king.
Jesus who is worthy of all of our riches.
Jesus who is worthy of all of our time and energy.
Jesus who is worthy of our journey.
Jesus who is worthy of our faith.

Herod is only a mirage of a king.
It is Herod who wants you to spend too much.
It is Herod who wants to keep making false promises to yourself you can't keep.
It is Herod who wants you to be afraid of the future.
It is Herod who wants you to remain part of the machine.

God on the other hand is calling us forth.
God is asking us to move ahead.
God is calling us to Jesus Christ.
And there we find the opposite.
We find a God who gives instead of takes, a God who keeps promise, a God calling us into the future, and a God who frees us from bondage.

I don't know if we can ever escape the system in the world that we depend on.
I will need this year to use my bank card to pay for things.
I may not keep any of those new year's resolutions.
Next year we will show up again and be ourselves still.

What I am holding out for is a sign from above.
A star in the distance that calls us forth.
I am still looking for another way.
A way that that is filled with grace and light.
A way that is filled with love and joy.

I hope for you this year that way.
And that God may shine his grace on you all your days.
That your faith may lead you to follow the star so you too may come and worship Jesus Christ.