“God Shows Up” 1-6-13 Lk. 3:15-17, 21-22 LMPC Dr. Sloan
For the last several weeks night time and weekend television has been consumed with college football bowl games. Each time a city hosts a bowl, they usually have special events like parades, dinners, news conferences, play contests and more. At the Sun Bowl in El Paso Texas, The University of Southern California was to play Georgia Tech. The Sheriff’s auxiliary called “The Sheriffs Posse” hosted a dinner for the two teams. The only problem was that Southern Cal didn’t show up- well they did 90 minutes late- after Georgia Tech and most of the guests left. Southern Cal’s football team began the season ranked #1 in the country and ended on a down note- losing to Georgia Tech and having a losing record. No one doubts that their crushed expectations affected their willingness to show up.
It is important in life to show up and do what we are called to do. The student who does not show up for class, may wonder why they don’t get good grades- but we don’t wonder. The employee who doesn’t show up for work should not be surprised when they are let go. The person who doesn’t show up to worship or grow should not be surprised that their faith is weak and does not sustain them in the tough times of life.
I am still amazed at the people who show up in church. I think it is a little miracle every week- when I come here and you have left your warm beds and houses to show up for God. I am grateful that the choir shows up every week. I am grateful that the ushers show up, that Sara shows up for practice as well as for the actual worship service. I am grateful to Jane Jermac who comes here before anyone else every Sunday and turns the lights and heat on. We depend on people showing up. God is dependable- He shows up too.
God on the other hand shows up. That is what Epiphany means. He manifests Himself to us. He not only comes down to earth- He publicly shows up to do His duty.
I. GOD SHOWS UP- ENLIGHTENING (Jesus the Teacher-King)- When Christ came, He teaches us- simply by His presence. Simeon could say, “My eyes have seen your salvation.” The Wise Men would learn that He, a child was a King- and was worthy of their time and worship.
But Jesus also taught us by His words- with great parables, and great teachings. He taught us to love. He taught us to care for those in need. He taught us to believe in what we do not see, and to trust in God. I believe we should trust the words of the gospels written by eyewitnesses or by people who talked to the eyewitnesses like Luke. He taught us to hold in balance truth and love; light and heart; hope and grace. He enlightens us- not simply so we may be comfortable, but so that we might pass that enlightening on. He is the light of the world- but we reflect that light.
Daniel Webster offered excellent advice, saying, “If we work on marble it will perish. If we work on brass, time will efface it. If we rear temples, they will crumble to dust. But if we work on men’s immortal minds, if we imbue them with high principles, with just fear of God and love of their fellow-men, we engrave on those tablets something which time cannot efface, and which will brighten and brighten to all eternity.”
Perhaps the best way Jesus taught us was by His example. He trusted in God throughout His life. He fully and completely lived what He taught. He taught us how to turn the other cheek and how to love even to death.
Real Enlightenment is not a recognition that we are so smart and have so many gifts. In fact, real enlightenment is recognizing the absolute truth of two things: that our gifts and life are finite and limited- but also recognizing that He is our hope and life. When Simeon held the baby Jesus in His arms he recognized he was going to depart but he also recognized His salvation and the salvation of the world. This is what we should do as well.
The elders and deacons who come before us today- they are limited yet we pray that they will trust in God to lead them and lead us into the future with hope. We pray that they will not just teach us, but lead us by example as Christ did.
II. GOD SHOWS UP- HEALING (Jesus the Great Physician and the Healing Priest)- When Jesus showed up, He didn’t just come to tell us about God and what we ought to do. He also came to show us God’s care. God came healing and helping. God in the flesh was not a mystical monk who would ask us to simply retreat from life, uncaring about real suffering and evil. Jesus was the one who visited the lepers- touching them when no one else would. Jesus would care about those who cannot hear- that they would be able to hear of God’s love- opening their ears. Jesus cared about the blind physically- not just to show He cares that we not be blinded spiritually- but also because He simply cared about human problems and physical blindness.
The greatest way Jesus showed up- was by dying on the cross for our healing. It is by His wounds that we are healed. He came to heal us for eternity- not simply for this life. All the lepers that Jesus healed, the deaf he made to hear, the blind he enabled to see, even Lazarus that he raised from the dead- died. Healing in this life is not the end all. But He came to give each one a chance at eternal life- the ultimate healing. Christ is the healer of our souls- even the souls that we thought could never be healed, who had no chance at mending- Jesus offers healing We spend so much time and money and debating over healthcare. The average American spends a whopping $7,126/ year on healthcare. Fortysix percent of all bankruptcies are because of healthcare costs. The United States spends more money per capita on health care and insurance than any other people on the face of the earth- about 15%. But what do we spend on the care of our eternal souls? God shows up to help us mind, body, and soul- and we in turn should show up for Him- loving Him mind, body, and soul.
III. GOD SHOWS UP- CLEANSING (Jesus the Prophet-Sacrifice)- We trap ourselves in western Greek thinking if we think that Jesus is only a philosopher and a teacher. Christ comes to clean things up. It’s a little bit like in an old western when the Marshall comes to town to clean things up, even at risk to himself. God shows up to clean up. Our passage in Luke 3 is about this idea. Before Christ began His ministry- He wanted to publicly be baptized setting us an example of starting off clean and claimed by God.
He seeks to clean us of our mess- our sins. Jesus was baptized to show us our need to be made clean. From a secular point of view baptism is just a little water on the head. But it is much more- it is a recognition that we are His- under His name. It is a recognition that faith has touched our lives and that prayers have been made on our behalf that we believe and are forgiven. How do you get rid of the gnawing guilt in life? It is not by ignoring it. It is not simply by stopping the thing that is bringing you guilt. We need to be cleansed. Christ came as a sacrifice to cleanse us.
You know every week there is a secret group of people who come in and clean up our mess- we call them pew pals. They work behind the scenes, but they make sure there are envelopes in the pew racks, and paper in the friendship pads- they do it for free and I am so glad when they show up. When they don’t we are in a mess. Some of the toughest work is cleaning up. It is the tough work of Christ. He came to make us clean so we can go to the clean place- heaven. The three gifts of the magi are said to point out the ministry of Christ. Gold represents His kingship; Incense represents prayers and worship; myrrh represents His impending death. The Moravian Love Feast that we will be celebrating today represents these things-Jesus as light-represented by a candle, Jesus as strength-through food and fellowship, Jesus as washing down through drink. God not only came to us- He reveals Himself publicly to us. It is not some secret appearing in a corner. It is a public appearing. Today there are believers in every nation. He has publicly come to us, and revealed Himself to us. In gratitude for that, we should come to Him.