Luke 3:21-22; 4:1-2 - Heartstrings at First United Methodist Church
Excited for adventure
When I returned from my trip to Israel in 2019, there was a congregation member here, Liwliwa, that let me know she was going to come with me next time we went. Of course I was going to go again! Of course she cold come with me! The Bishop had taken a trip to Israel two years in a row, she had already said she would probably go again….and if I could get 7 people, I could go as a host, paid for by the travel company… I was in!
When the Bishop announced her next trip, it was not Israel, instead it was a Wesley Heritage Tour in England. We were going to go see where the founder of Methodism John and Charles Wesley grew up! We were going to go tour the house where little John Wesley grew up. Did you know, when was 5 he was pulled from his second story bedroom window seconds before the blazing roof collapsed? (More info HERE).
We were going to Oxford, to explore the area where Charles and John went to school, experimented with a new small group, earned the name Methodist, and tried with all they could to earn God’s love by being without sin… (Hey, they weren’t perfect either!)
We were going to go see the New Room… this is the first building the small groups called Methodists would meet. It is here you will find some of the earliest Methodist roots in how we “love our neighbor.” John encouraged the religious society members to offer food and clothing to the poor, run a school for children, arrange visits to the nearby prison, and help the sick by running a free medical dispensary. (More info HERE.)
We were going to walk Aldersgate Street, where John Wesley experienced a moment that changed everything, where his heart was strangly warmed and he understood so clearly that he could never, ever earn God’s love, because he already had it. God already loved him, God already loves each of us. Setting us as individuals and as a movement up to orient ourselves to respond to that love. We, get it wrong, all the time. But if we aren’t headed in that direction, where are we headed?
We would go see where the Wesley’s often worshipped, and where they lived, and where they were buried.
I was excited for this trip. It was set for April 2020. The trip did not happen.
Have you ever been so excited for something, so focused, moving full on towards it… and then, it was gone?
I wonder, what Jesus was looking forward to at the beginning of his ministry? When he come up out of the waters of baptism, was he looking forward to the people he would see? The places he would see? Was he excited like he was looking forward to a new trip? Or did his heart beat with excitement like he was getting ready to head out to his first day on the job?
Listen now, to how Jesus’ ministry began… Luke chapter 3: verses 21 and 22 and chapter 4 verses 1 and 2:
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” […] Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.
May God bless the reading, hearing, and doing of this word.
Have you ever been so excited, dreaming about that first moment, that first step, the next thing… and suddenly, your life was interrupted?
Every single time my son sees a certain truck, from a certain company, he uses some choice words. I always just assumed it was because they were the rivals of the company he worked for or something. But boy was I wrong! He had applied for, and got, a job at the company. Put his two week notice in where he was working at the time. He was pumped for the new job, excited, full on go to the new thing! And they never called him back to let him know when to start. Nothing. Nada. Full stop. You can still hear the disappointment and frustration in his words and the lack of trust he carries with him for that company.
I wonder, if that is how Jesus felt? Coming out of the waters of his baptism. Excited about his new ministry, hoping beyond hope. Destined for this new path. Ready to call together the leaders of his new church plant. Imagining that first day when he would say “come follow me.”
We are starting a new sermon series, Life Interrupted. We are going to spend some time in the gospel of Luke looking at some moments, big and small, when Jesus’ life was interrupted. We will look at moments, like this one, when, at the very beginning of his ministry he was driven out to the wilderness, to face temptation and hunger. We will talk about little moments, when the meals he was sharing with friends were interrupted…
The first question I had to ask when I was deciding if I could do this series was, “was Jesus’ life ever even interrupted?” It didn’t take very long to see that yes, it was, constantly. From becoming a refuge as a child, hiding in Egypt. To healing the sick as he enters towns. To friends tearing off the roof to lower their friend to Jesus while he was speaking. To meals interrupted by a woman with anointing oil. To heading to the wilderness instead of beginning his ministry. Jesus life was not a straight shot from birth to the Easter. His life was driven by detours and side paths and interruptions… life interrupted…
And what I know about you, and about me is that we understand, in a whole new way, what it is to have our lives interrupted. Just over a year ago, I was walking from my old office to the front desk, I was going through the sanctuary. I said hi to Lorenzo, one of our facilities people, as I passed. He said to me “see you April 11. Governor Polis just shut down the state.” I looked at him like he had lost his mind. “No, we aren’t going to do that,” I told him. But he was right. The rest of Lent set aside. Easter postponed. The sanctuary silenced. The streets, quiet.
Where were you when your life was interrupted? What plans did you give up? Did you set travel aside? Did you have to shift goals? Avoid people you couldn’t wait to see, and meetings that would have gotten things done, and classrooms with your friends… How long did it take you to realize that this wasn’t for a week or two? But things were changing for awhile? When did you realize that we weren’t going back to normal, but instead there will be a new normal? Have you realized that yet?
I think of Jesus, coming out of that water. Water dripping still dripping from his nose, goosebumps on his flesh from the chill of the Jordon. Seeing the heavens open up, and experiencing goosebumps from the Holy Spirit resting on him. Hearing God’s voice claim him as God’s own. Excited for the ministry he was about to start, the ways in which he could make a difference in the world… and the crushing disappointment to have his dreams postponed as he was led, not to the Galilee but to the wilderness. I can feel the human emotions of shock, doubt, fear, uncertainty as he heads to temptation.
When I think of the moment, standing there in the sanctuary, life suddenly interrupted, I know I do not stand alone. I stand with you, I get it. I know you get it too. Jesus stands with us too. Jesus gets it.
We so often look at Jesus and ask ourselves who God is by looking at the life of Jesus. Jesus is loving, God is loving. Jesus is forgiving, God is forgiving. But what if we allow ourselves to look at Jesus, just for a moment, and believe that God was right there, water dripping off of God’s nose, goosebumps from the chill and the Spirit… what if we allow ourselves to believe that God in that moment experienced the disappointment and uncertainty of life interrupted?
You know what that would mean? It would mean that I get I stand with you, I get it. I know you get it too. Jesus stands with us too. Jesus gets it. It would mean that God stands here, by our side, that God gets it too.