Sermon – December 29, 2019

Christmas 2 December 29, 2019 Psalm 147, Isaiah 63:7-9, Matthew 2:13-15, Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:10-18 ********************************************************** Our reading today from Matthew is a reminder… These twelve days of Christmas are not always merry for everyone… This year (and every third year), our lectionary bible reading schedule leaps chronologically over the arrival of the Magi (where I expect we’ll be next week on Epiphany Sunday…) into the story of Jesus and his family fleeing King Herod after the Magi’s visit. Traveling in haste down to Egypt, narrowly escaping murder by Herod, who hears of the birth of a rival king from the Magi… We’re skipping over the most awful part of this story, where Herod orders the massacre of all the male babies of Bethlehem. Partly because it’s horrible. Partly because I don’t think we need to be overly reminded – the kings and rulers of the world are often dangerous to infants and other living creatures… And partly because I’m trying to do as the prophet Isaiah says – and focus on the gracious and praiseworthy deeds of the Lord – as told especially today in the letter to the Hebrews. A letter written for difficult and dangerous times much like ours. A letter full of deep hope and enduring grace. We hear in the first four verses of Hebrews – which are traditionally read on Christmas Day – that Jesus is the exact imprint and likeness of God. (In other words – ) When we see Jesus – we see what God looks like… in human flesh. And now the huge implications of Christ born in human flesh are sketched quickly in our last reading today. Here, in just a few verses, we have a concise outline of New Testament mega-themes to be developed throughout this letter. Here, as bible scholar Craig Koester notes, Jesus is described four ways – first as the pioneer of our salvation – second, as our brother who is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters – third, as the one who frees us from slavery to death and fear of death – and fourthly as a high priest, whose sacrifice of atonement is powerful and effective for our salvation… Four over-lapping views of Christ, whose sacrificial life, death, and resurrection equips him to thoroughly identify with all our human trials, temptations and sufferings. I will say here up-front… I’ve struggled at times over the years with Hebrews – which is one of the most eloquently written books in the Bible – and one of the more difficult to understand in certain places… In particular, I’ve struggled with Hebrews saying Jesus was made perfect through suffering – partly because I don’t like suffering – and don’t like hearing that suffering makes anyone perfect. (Just because it’s true doesn’t mean I like it…) Partly also because I have had a hard time accepting the thought of Jesus as ever less-than-perfect. Though with the help of several good commentaries (FF Bruce, Hugh Montefiore, William Barclay and others) I think I’m finally getting it – that the author of Hebrews isn’t saying Jesus was ever less-than-perfect as the divine Son of God – or ever less-than-morally-perfect as the human Son of Man. What Hebrews is saying (and which commentaries say is clearer in the original...

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Sermon- December 22, 2019

Advent 4 December 22, 2019 Psalm 85, Micah 5:2-5a, Isaiah 52:7-10, Luke 2:1-20 *********************************************************** In one of our family photo albums there’s a couple pages of pictures from a roll of ancient pre-digital photographs, from days of old, back when film had to be developed – and depending on exposure-to-direct-light and depending on our camera’s exposure-settings, sometimes you’d get double exposures. We have a whole roll of film full of double-and-even-triple-exposed pictures – over-and-under-exposed at the same time and overlaid over one another – pictures blending together, multiple images showing through at-once. I think it’s a parable. Here we are with our youth group, in a barn at the Heifer Project’s Living Nativity display in central Massachusetts with live animals – and there, in the same picture, underneath, in the background – our church (at the time) Bethany United Methodist in Roslindale-Boston, doing our annual Christmas pageant – and – here’s Reah teaching kindergarten students in her classroom at Parkside Christian Academy – here’s all these multiple images, all merged into one another, in a series of pictures – all-as-if-all-happening-at-once-at-the-same-time. Here’s we three kings (I was one of them that year), home-made tin-foil crowns on our heads, parading as young shepherds watch their flocks by night, and a very young Mary and Joseph admire their infant child in a manger. And parents sip coffee after church together… All these beautiful images… remind us of so many things at once… in spite of the rather strange mix of over-and-under-exposure at the same time… And this is a parable… of how I often feel… as I reflect on the birth of Jesus as told in the gospels – and the Christmas story we experience here and now, live – like split-screen Living Nativity. It’s hard for me to sort-out all the images and all the feelings that come to mind in this season… Yet – how awesome the story still is – when we take, make or find time… to look closely at all the story… Including details that may seem a bit out of focus… Details of the story like Emperor Augustus sending forth the decree that all people must be registered through an imperial census for tax assessment. A detail Luke’s gospel mentions no less than four times – to make it clear – God’s people are not in full charge of their destiny. A reminder the Empire wields power over all Rome’s conquered peoples. (Much like today – the empires of money, power, violence and selfishness wield their dark power… over so many subject peoples.) Another detail we notice but which may at times seem under-developed… Is Joseph, fiancee of Mary, descended from the royal line of King David who ruled in Israel a thousand years earlier – returning now to the home village of King David…to a rather un-royal-welcome… After a four-to-five-day-80-plus-miles-long-journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, here’s Mary and Joseph, bone-tired, trying to find a place to lay weary heads. No cars, trains, buses (of course) in those days – and the gospel never mentions a donkey to ride. (It’s only artistic imagination that has us envisioning Mary riding a donkey.) We’re familiar with Mary and Joseph arriving only to find all local inns and rooming houses famously full. Best we can do, sorry folks, is out...

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December 22, 2019 – Cataumet

ANNOUNCEMENTS Christmas Eve services will be in Cataumet at 7 pm and Bourne at 9 pm. ADDITIONAL ANNOUNCEMENTS Bible Study resumes in January on Thursdays, 1pm, in the Perry Room at the Bourne church. EVENTS EVERY WEEK Sunday 7:45 am Choir practice Sunday 9:00 am Worship Sunday 7 :30 pm AA Meeting Monday 7:30 pm NA Meeting Tuesday 7:00 pm AA Meeting Thursday 7:00 pm NA Meeting Saturday 9:00 am Osteo Exercise

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December 22, 2019- Bourne

THIS WEEK IN THE LIFE OF THE PARISH Sunday, December 22nd:       11:00 AM   Worship Service                                                       2:00 PM   Piano RecitalMonday, December 24th:          9:00 PM   Worship ServiceSunday, December 29th:         11:00 AM   Worship THE PIANO RECITAL will be Sunday at 2pm. THE THRIFT SHOP WILL BE CLOSED from 12/24/19-1/1/20. Will reopen on January 2nd 2020. THE OFFICE WILL BE CLOSED Thursday and Friday next week. BIBLE STUDY will resume the first week in January. PRAYER GROUP meets on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month in the downstairs nursery at 10...

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Advent 3 December 15, 2019 – Sermon

Advent 3 December 15, 2019 Ps 113, Isaiah 35, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:39-56 **************************************************************** Long after the United Kingdom of Israel under David and Solomon a thousand years earlier – long after Israel the Northern Kingdom and Judah the Southern Kingdom were divided by civil war and foreign conquests – long after the fall of Jerusalem and the burning of the temple and exile in Babylon – then six long centuries of colonization by Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome – long after many, many years of waiting for a Messiah-King like David of old to restore Israel to its former glory… In a humble hill country home… God’s revolution begins to be revealed… *** Having said yes to the angel Gabriel’s promise of a son to be born to her by the Holy Spirit, Mary has journeyed in haste to the home of Zechariah where his wife Elizabeth, her relative, greets her. We’re not told the details of their kinship. Maybe it’s aunt Beth and niece Mary; perhaps it’s second cousins twice removed Liz and Mary. But here’s where we begin to see the outline of God’s heavenly revolution… From below… No bombs bursting in air, no parades of conquering armies. All is quiet, as Zechariah, man of the house, is having a sabbatical of silence. Yet the house is pulsing with heavenly energies, as Mary enters and greets Elizabeth – and it’s as if live wires have been crossed – as Elizabeth’s baby leaps for joy in her womb as he hears Mary’s voice. And Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cries, “Blessed are you among women. Blessed is the fruit of your womb… Blessed is she who believed there would be fulfillment of what was spoken by the Lord!” A not-very subtle reference to her husband Zechariah – who, when the angel Gabriel appeared to him in the Jerusalem temple (two weeks ago our time) – forgot to trust God’s promises – flubbed his lines – and was struck speechless by the angel. But Elizabeth believed enough for both of them – and the one who was thought to be barren is now in her sixth month of pregnancy. Then the same angel Gabriel appeared to young Mary – engaged, not yet married – in the far North Country province of Galilee. And Mary said “Let it be with me, according to your word.” And Mary, pregnant now by the Holy Spirit, arrives for a visit with Elizabeth. St Luke offers no explanation of how young Mary made the seventy-miles-long and at least three day journey from Nazareth to the hill country near Jerusalem. But somehow Mary and Elizabeth are together now. Zechariah’s somewhere in the house, but unable to speak. We don’t see or hear any words from Mary’s fiancee Joseph, or know where he is. We don’t know if Mary’s visit comes before or after Joseph’s dream in which the angel persuades him to change his mind about breaking up with Mary. Perhaps he’s traveled with Mary, then gone back to work. But our focus isn’t on who’s not here – but on who is here – as baby John the Baptist leaps for joy in his mother’s womb, and the Holy Spirit sings through Mary. And I imagine baby Jesus in her womb singing...

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