Love is Our New Law

Matthew 1:18-25

For Matthew, the story of Jesus is a way of talking about God; in Jesus—his teaching, life, and ministry—God is with us. From the beginning, it is God, always God, who is active. God is the one who is living, and God is the one who saves…so much so that Matthew’s gospel is less a store of the amazing things done by Jesus and much more a proclamation of what God has done for humanity through the event of Jesus.

Matthew’s story of Joseph and Mary reveals that serving a God who is active and alive is both a wonderful and (occasionally) terrifying truth. Joseph was a righteous man. He kept strict adherence to the scripture and traditions of his people. He was rooted deeply in strong and steady expectation of how things “ought to be done.” Righteousness and justice before God demand that we keep the laws of God inviolate.  And yet…

God’s revelation to Joseph, and to each of us, is that a new thing is being done through Jesus.  A new work of grace, based on God’s love, is being revealed through Jesus.  Jesus will reveal a way of being “righteous” that both respects the law, and also orients the heart toward love.  It will take an entire gospel to reveal this new way—including a sermon on the mount, a whole host of miracles, a crucifixion and a resurrection.  But it begins here…when a man who was struggling with the tension between “doing what’s right” and “showing mercy” toward another was visited by an angel and shown another way.

Waiting Becomes Hearing and Seeing

Isaiah 35:1-10; Matthew 11:2-11

At the very moment Jesus’ public ministry began, the ministry of John the Baptist was brought to an abrupt halt. After spending his life helping God’s people “prepare the way” for messiah, John was arrested and sent to prison. Sitting alone in a cell, contemplating his life’s work, he began to have some second thoughts and sent his friends to ask of Jesus, “Are you the one to come, or shall we wait for another?” John was wondering if he’d spent his life in vain.

From time to time, each of us may find ourselves alone, at the end of a long stretch of hard work, and wondering “Have I done any good at all?  has this been worth it?  does my effort count for anything?” The fears, doubts, and uncertainties of such moments are as paralyzing and imprisoning as any of the stones and cell doors that held John the Baptist.

Jesus’ word for John is the word for us in such moments.  We are part of a larger work from God, and God is the one who brings good things to pass.  Hear the word of the Lord.  See the good works that are occurring.  God’s salvation is breaking forth, and the joy of the Lord is our strength!

A Most Trustworthy Guide

Matthew 3:1-12

Centuries before Jesus, prophets foretold a time when God would send Messiah, the Christ who would be our savior.  They declared that he would be hard to recognize, not much to look at, and that many would turn away from him in disgust. The prophets went on to say that although the Promised One would surprise many by his appearing, he would bring about a time of great joy and peace, a time when God's righteousness would be established throughout the earth.

The prophets also declared that God would send another messenger when it was time for God to fulfill his promises, so that people might be ready to receive their King. The task of this messenger was to prepare God's people, and show them the way in which they should go.  

And so it is, at the very start of Matthew's Gospel, that John the Baptist leaps into view with startling suddenness. He is a wildman, a latter day prophet, and aesthete; he is frightening in countenance and passionate of voice, and is somewhat terrifying to behold.  But he is a most trustworthy guide for all who meet Jesus and receive salvation, for over and over he points the way to the one tiny door through which all must enter God's Kingdom:  "Repent."

Only 28 Shopping Days Left!

Matthew 24:36-44

Today begins the new year in the Christian calendar, the first Sunday in Advent. Our culture often associates Advent with the celebration of Christ's birth at Christmas. These four weeks serve as a ramp-up to the "Holiday Season" in the secular world, and the church often gets caught up in the excitement; we can't wait to see the baby Jesus and sing the Christmas hymns. However, Advent is actually a time to prepare ourselves for the final coming of Christ in glory.

Our scriptures today speak not of mangers and wise men but of the final coming of Messiah in glory, and the judgement of the world according to God's righteousness.  When Jesus' disciples asked him about these things, when they would take place, his response was "no one knows." Jesus went on to say that the Messiah's final appearing will be sudden, and it will be surprising, and it will be difficult to tell who is ready and who is not until Messiah actually appears. 

In fact, Jesus said, much of the world will behave like people did in the time of Noah. In terms we might understand they will go shopping and attend parties and give gifts and make New Year's resolutions, as if this year will be like last year, and next year like all the years before that.  Many will not be ready, and it will take them by surprise.

The point of Christ's teaching is not to frighten his followers with images of God’s judgment. It is, rather, the call to be a people who are ready and awake – expectantly living out the hope of the coming of Messiah by fulfilling his work here and now.

Tribute for Our Magnificent King

Luke 23:33-43

Today we celebrate Christ Jesus, our King. But never in all the world’s history has there been a king like Jesus. He was not born into wealth or privilege; his parents were traveling strangers, aliens in the city of his birth, and his cradle was a feeding trough in a borrowed stable. He was not tutored by courtly teachers…his earthly father was a tradesman and his parents spent several years of his childhood hiding in exile. His crown is plaited of thorns, and he has no freed hand for scepter and orb—they are nailed to an instrument of torture. His “palace grounds” sit atop a low rising hill above the city dump, and his throne is a cross.  Here is our King.

Look upon him!  Even in torment, even suffering, even amidst taunts and torture and in the face of death, he has a power like no other.  A divine power to forgive, to bless, and to save.  Even in the direst circumstances, in the darkest final moments, his mission is undeterred and his powerful grace absolute. He has the power to save. To make us whole. To show us the way of peace.  Just look at him!

It's Time for Our Testimony


Luke 21:5-19

According to Luke, when Jesus finally entered Jerusalem with his followers, many of them were in awe of the large buildings, the gleaming stones, and the shear spectacle of the Temple precincts. Jesus spoke plainly to them: the material enticements of this present age will come swiftly to an end; they are of no use to his followers. What's more, there are hard times coming, when the very best of the church will come under severe persecution.

The hard word of Jesus concerning the coming age was followed by a stirring challenge to the faithful: bear witness! Many fragile and lost souls are drifting their way through a maelstrom of fears and distraction and dissipation, and they need a clear witness to testify to them. Jesus calls his followers to listen attentively for the Holy Spirit's whisper amidst the storms of our age, and then to tell boldly what it is we hear.

The Joining of Present and Future

Luke 6:20-31

We give you thanks, O God, for all the saints
who are in your presence and care.
We give you thanks for holy hands lifted in praise.
We thank you for hardworking saints who left their mark
on the earth for you, for us, for our children to come.
Thank you, God, for the tremendous sacrifices
made by those who have gone before us, especially:


Marilyn Elberta Allen

Harry Dale Eaton

Steven Richard Gillham

Sybil Low

Alice Virginia Moffitt

Shirley Lee Somers

Albert Nicolas Coussa

Magdalena Franklin

Charlotte Marie Johnston

James Darwin McCracken

Charles E. Schroeder

Mildred Marie Templeton


Cornelia Palmer "Nena" Williams

Bless the memories of your saints, God.
May we learn how to walk wisely from their examples of
faith, dedication, worship, and love.