The story of Christ is a hard one to tell chronologically when you try to fit it in the church year. It would be nice if we had a way to fit Jesus and the Gospel into the traditional form of a story: beginning, middle, and end. But when we hear of Jesus throughout the year it just doesn’t work that way. It’s all jumbled up.
The year begins with Advent – great. We are awaiting the birth of the King, the Messiah, Jesus. But we are also looking toward the return of Jesus – the second coming of the King. We also have John the Baptist proclaiming the Messiah – so Jesus is already born and an adult. The timeline is all out of whack here. Okay, let’s start at Christmas. We go along good for a bit: baby in the manger, but closely linked to his is the story of the Magi at Epiphany – which is really three years or so after Jesus is born.
This could be very frustrating if we are hoping to see the Gospel as a story, like some novel, but it is not. It doesn’t begin at Christmas and end at Easter. Jesus does not “ride off into the sunset” so to speak. It doesn’t end at the Ascension, because Pentecost comes and Jesus – though his earthly ministry is finish – remains with us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Be God’s grace he comes to us physically in the Lord’s Supper.
The story never ends. It is ongoing AND IT IS ONGOING IN OUR LIVES. The “book” is never closed and put back on the shelf, and we are not simply readers but participants. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 and Jesus admonition to “Go, Make, Baptize, and Teach” calls us into the story with Jesus. We are in this together.
Lord God, by the power of your Holy Spirit help me to always remember that I am part of the Gospel story and that the Gospel is really not a story at all. It has no beginning, middle, or end – it is eternal, just as you are eternal. Help me to participate fully with Jesus in making the world know your grace and mercy. AMEN.
People really are full of themselves and, sadly, Christians are often overflowing with this fullness. Somehow Christians – and what I really am speaking about are church members, as opposed to disciples- think that faith and following God ends after Sunday worship or at some self-appointed age of retirement. They think they have somehow made the mark, earned the points and can now coast along. You have probably heard this is some form or another, “I am too old to…” or “I have done … long enough. Let someone else do it.” I do realize that as people age there are things they cannot do or not do as well, but ministry never ends. There is no retirement party and no gold watch. There is always something to be done for the Kingdom.
How interesting it is that many Christians can muster the time ,strength and effort to do things for themselves and for their friends and family but are completely devoid of time, energy, ability and talent when it comes to helping others. They can build and fix at home but will not fix a stranger’s porch. They can bake and cook for family and friends but will not prepare a meal for the homeless.
Often people fall into the habit of living their Christian life vicariously through others – often their pastor. However, as John the Baptist said to the Pharisees and Sadduccees , “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.'” People must produce good fruit and not rely on the fruit of others.
It is all a matter of faith and motivation and to be honest a pastor cannot give you faith, cannot strengthen your faith and cannot motivate you. As one of my faithful and very energetic parishioners said the other day, “that has to come from within” and “God is talking to you but are you listening.”
So, are you listening? Can you hear God calling you to greater faith and motivation? Will you respond?
Holy Spirit, increase our faith and empower us to do the work of God’s Kingdom in this world. Help us to not be lazy or self-centered but motivate us to do for others the things we would gladly do for ourselves. Help us to never think we have earned the right to do nothing or think the nothing we do is something in the eyes of God. AMEN.