Sermons are preached. They are not writing. So, above is the sermon. Below is the sermon “plan”. (Unedited, all my mistakes kept!)
Advent sermon on perfecting grace
and falling down stairs, raising kids, Mary’s moment, and God’s wild extravagant love….
Luke 1:46-56 - December 20, 2020 - Heartstrings at First United Methodist Church
You are messing around in the most beautiful, priceless place you can think of, messing around, and you break something… standing there, broken and bleeding with broken bits and pieces… what would Jesus do?
Would he do nothing, wait for a prayer? Would he cover you up, so God cannot see your brokenness? Would he give you a list of things to do, confession, prayer, weekly worship?
My oldest son has always been really rambunctious! Years and years ago, when he was just a wee little thing… maybe two, two and a half, that kid fell down an entire flight of stairs… bump, bump…bump, bump… all flopping around, down he goes… as a mom I am terrified as I watch him fall, I was so helpless… at the bottom of the stairs, he gets up, laughs, and squeals “again! Again!” (I saw the next 18 years laid out before me in that moment.)
Of course, it didn’t always turn out so joyful for him. About the same age, he was terrified of my younger brother. He would see him and hide behind the nearest leg he could find. Once, in an attempt to get away, he pulled an entire door off it’s hinges… I remember him standing there, baffled by this door in his hand, no longer attached the wall. Another time, he was racing by the bathroom, afraid my brother was in there, he spooked as he went by, jumped back, hit the back door which wasn’t latched all the way, and he tried to catch himself as he fell, but when he did that he swung to the side and hit his head on the door frame… did you know head injuries bleed… a lot?
There is my rambunctious, precious baby boy, his head gushing blood… You know what I did? I did the exact same thing I believe Jesus does when we are hurt and broken and bleeding, I did everything I could to stop the bleeding as we got him to the emergency room for stitches. Once the emergency was over, we kept the wound clean while it healed, we fixed the door latch so it wouldn’t happen again, we have loved that kid, guided him, worked with him to find fun, productive outlets for his rambunctiousness, and we’ve let him wander, make mistakes, get hurt, and we’ve been there to love on him when he breaks things.
For 23 years I have had the opportunity to walk through life with this kid. It has been hard, and challenging, and amazing. And there are moments with him, that take my breath away. Moments that are so beautiful, so Holy… as his mom, I hope for him. I hope that one day he has many moments, so beautiful, so Holy, that he could truly say his life, his soul magnifies the lord. That the love and light and truth and beauty of God shine through him and his life. In the commentary for today’s text, I read a quote that I need to share, “when eternity touches time, real events take place, but they go far beyond our poor power of understanding.” I pray that eternity touches Devan’s life. I pray that real events take place that go far beyond his understanding.
I hope, for both my boys, for this congregation…that we magnify God’s love in this world, that light breaks into the darkness through us…
When I read Mary’s words in the Magnificat, I am reading about such a moment, a beautiful, Holy, powerful moment with a courageous, strong, insightful, brave woman.… eternity touching time in a way that is beyond our powers of understanding…
Here these words form the gospel of Luke 1:46-56.
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
God was at work in Mary’s life long before she knew it. Long before she could see it, before she could respond or accept it. Words spoken hundreds of years before her birth hint towards God’s work in her life. When the angel Gabriel showed up, she was confused and uncertain, she didn’t think she was enough to be all he was telling her she would be. She didn’t think she was enough to do what he was telling her she would do. But she listened and agreed to living a life of courage and hope even though it meant the life she had planned was left laying in shambles at her feet. She took steps towards becoming the person God was calling her to be, with haste going to see Elizabeth. Where God used Elizabeth to see in her what Mary could not yet see in herself. That moment bathed in life and love and peace and joy… joy so fully present that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy…
It is in this context that Mary stands in strength and courage. God’s nudging and calling and guiding bringing her to this moment. A life of hardship and doubt and raising this kid, and seeing him die on a cross in front of her… but in this moment, eternity touches this moment… something happens far beyond Mary’s understanding… God’s love is so present in that moment that Mary can sing out, “my soul magnifies the Lord.” There is a hope beyond understanding in her words… the promise of her faith lived out in the promise of light breaking into the world through her, though her a hope that the world can be right, can be beautiful, can be all that God created it to be… In the United Methodist Church, we call the moments when eternity touches our time, “perfecting grace.”
What would Jesus do?
I believe your LIFE is the most beautiful, precious, place there is. Not just YOUR life… but our lives. The lives of your family and friends, of the baby born today and the life of the homeless man on the street, and the lives of the prisoners that will never experience freedom again. Your life is the most beautiful priceless place you will ever be.
I believe in prevenient grace. From the moment you take your first breath, until the air escapes your longs for the very last time, God is working in your life in ways that you cannot see, you cannot know, much less respond to. God is right now, nudging you, calling you, guiding you in ways you cannot see, in directions you are not yet aware of… from wherever you are, there is a step that you can take that brings you closer to God, to God’s will for your life. In every moment, there is a Holy Path God is inviting you onto…
But like the rest of us you are a broken, flawed being, living in a broken and flawed world… we encounter pain and brokenness in our lives for a million different reasons. Sometimes life just happens, people are hurt, economies crash, worldwide pandemics force us to pause everything. Sometimes we make choices out of fear instead of love. Sometimes we just don’ have any good choices… Whatever the reason may be, throughout our lives we find ourselves hurting and broken, others hurting and broken, our world hurting and broken…
I believe in justifying grace. God is there, nudging us, calling us, guiding us towards a Holy Path. There are these moments where we listen, we trust, we doubt… we are uncertain… but the deepest part of our being sighs with relief…. Yes, yes this, this is it…
I believe in sanctifying grace – We get to choose a thousand times a day… to stay on the Holy path God would have for us or wander off… if we stay on the path, we are choosing to do the hard, sometimes painful, Holy Work of bringing healing to our lives, to the lives of the, people around us and to the world. It is not easy, but it is the most beautiful, most true, most abundant life you can live.
I believe in perfecting grace. I believe that there are Christmas moments in everyone’s life. Moments, sometimes the darkest moments, when light, and love, and life become so clear so true that you know without doubt or hesitation that God is right there. That the world is not something to be feared but to be loved. That in the short priceless, precious life we live, there is an eternal abundance, a love beyond compare… I believe that eternity touches moments in our lives, real events take place, but they are so much more than we can grasp onto or understand…
What would Jesus do?
I believe Jesus is in relentless pursuit of you without limit or boundary. I believe the one we are waiting on, the one that was born to Mary in a manger… the one that died on a cross and walks with us today would… does… love us with a perfect, unconditional, extravagant, wild, love.
Thanks be to God. Merry Christmas…