United Lutheran Church Blog

The Lord of hosts is with us

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
8Come, behold the works of the LORD;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10"Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth."
11The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Psalm 46 is our psalm of the month for October. It's the psalm for Reformation Day, and Martin Luther's hymn "A Mighty Fortress is our God" is based on it.
The psalm has three sections each developing the theme of God as refuge and strength. Each section ends with selah indicating a pause. God is a fortress against the threats of nature (verses 1-3), and against the threats of the nations (verses 4-7). The theme is that we are to trust in God and not fear that we stand alone. God is actively helping us in times of trouble.
The psalm looks ahead to a time when wars cease and the nations quit their fighting. "Be still and know that I am God." And the congregation sings for joy, for truly "The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our stronghold."
See James Limburg's full commentary on this psalm in Working Preacher: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2024


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The Work of the People

What an amazing morning at church today! Not only did we come together to sing praise to God, making joyful noises, but we prayed, we listened, we shared the peace, we welcomed fellow children of God through baptism, and we shared in a meal. Worship is truly the work of the people, a gift given to us by our gracious God.

I couldn't help but notice the many people who had particular jobs to do during worship today:

acolytes; assisting minister; reader; altar attendants; ushers; greeters; choir members; strategic planning team members; sound man; video and slide guys; musicians - including a wonderful Cuban pianist; helpers with baptism; helpers with communion; presiding minister/preacher;

who am I forgetting? It was a sight to see, to have the privilege of participating in this great gathering of the people of God at United, part of the whole Communion in Christ.

And that's just worship - think about all the other ways we serve together through our ministry at United, in the community, and in the world.

Where is God calling you to serve? What is God calling you to be and do? As Pastor Justin reminded us in his sermon today: Baptized into Christ, that is dying to the power of sin, death, and the Satan and being raised with Christ, we are new creatures, we belong to God. So when God summons us and calls us to serve, like God did Moses, we had better respond!'

When God calls, may we have the courage and conviction to say, "Here I am, Lord. Send me!"



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Psalm 100

1Make a joyful noise to the LORD, | all you lands!
     2Serve the LORD with gladness; come into God's presence | with a song.

3Know that the LORD is God, our maker to whom | we belong;
     we are God's people and the sheep | of God's pasture.

4Enter the gates of the LORD with thanksgiving and the | courts with praise;
     give thanks and bless God's | holy name.

5Good indeed is the LORD, whose steadfast love is | everlasting,
     whose faithfulness endures from | age to age.
Psalm 100 is our psalm of the month for September. We have sung it responsively, sung a hymn that is a paraphrase of it (All People that on Earth Do Dwell - the tune is known as "Old Hundredth"), and will simply say it together tomorrow during worship.
Here are some snippets of commentary on Psalm 100 from the African American Lectionary, by Alfie Wines, a pastor in Fort Worth, Texas:

"One can almost hear the outbreak of jubilation described in this summons to praise in Psalm 100. This psalm calls the entire community to lift praises to God. This psalm is the last of a group of what are known as enthronement psalms (93, and 95-99). These psalms celebrate with an understanding that the LORD (Yahweh) is God.

When LORD is spelled in all caps it signifies the personal name of God (compared to the title Lord in which capital and small letters are used). LORD is the name God used during the story of “Moses and the Bush That Did Not Burn” in Exodus 3. God’s response is a wordplay on Moses’ reaction to God’s call to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Moses conveys his reluctance to answer God’s call in Exodus 3:11 when he asks “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” God, who does not answer Moses’ question, responds by assuring Moses of his presence (Exodus 3:12). Moses, still not satisfied, asks God’s name (Exodus 3:13). God answers, “I Am Who I Am” (Exodus 3:14). The four references to LORD in Psalm 100 in verses 1, 2, 3, and 5 are a reference to God’s deliverance of and covenant with the Israelites through Moses.

The psalm begins with a notation (a superscription) that this is a Psalm of Thanksgiving. In ancient Israel, the thanks offering was a voluntary offering given as a sign of gratitude to God. Worshippers are admonished not just to praise God, but to offer praise in a spirit of thanksgiving.

The sound of joy that arises from deep within cannot be stifled. This is the sound that conveys the wonder of simply being alive. Affirming this sense of joy, the psalmist admonishes those assembled to worship and serve God with gladness. (In Hebrew, “worship” and “serve” are the same verb.) This is the gladness that breaks forth fully aware of the realities of life. This is the gladness that enables one to come into God’s presence with a voice raised to sing praises to  God.

This threefold call to praise (make, serve, come) is followed by an explanation of the reason behind this outburst of praise. The community is to give praise to God simply because God exists, simply because God is. With this admonition, the psalmist acknowledges that life begins with God. God created us. God is to be worshipped because God is the Creator who calls Israel into covenant. 


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4 + 1 = 40

Our youth ministry launched a new program for college freshmen this school year.  It's called, "4 + 1."  Last fall, I (Lisa Hawe,) attended a workshop called, "Sticky Faith."  United Lutheran will be hearing much more about "Sticky Faith" in the months to come.

Research shows that almost half of graduating seniors struggle deeply with their faith.  Recognizing the ramifications of that statistic, the Fuller Youth Institute conducted the College Transition Project to identify the relationships and best practices that can set children and teenagers on a trajectory of lifelong faith and service.  One of the findings that came from this research was the importance of a congregation to maintain a connection to college students, especially in their first year.  It was suggested that our high school ministries adopt a "4 + 1" approach.  Instead of ending our youth ministry to students after 4 years of high school, a "4 + 1" approach continues a connection for another year, helping young adults through that difficult transition to adulthood & taking ownership of their own faith.  This can be a challenging time of loneliness, new temptations & pressures, successes and failures.  Sometimes, young people feel like their home church has forgotten them.  Some freshmen lack the courage to seek a new place of worship. 

I'd like to share with you our attempts to reach out to college freshmen this year.  In the fall, I contacted our freshmen to check in, get their addresses and ask them if they had any prayer concerns.  Next, our church staff took the names of the class of 2013 to our morning meeting.  We prayed for each young adult by name, and prayed for their specific requests, if given.  A card was sent from the church staff letting them know they had been in our prayers.  I was very encouraged to hear back from some of them that they had found places to worship or had at least been looking around.

In November, we asked for donations of homemade cookies.  Parents of college freshmen gathered to package the cookies and get them ready to send.  Along with the care package was a letter from me and an invitation to gather for United Lutheran's soup supper prior to Thanksgiving Eve worship.  Those who attended were warmly welcomed home.

In December, young adults were invited to participate in leading the worship services the week after Christmas.  They participated by preaching, singing, praying, reading, greeting and playing instruments.  This service has been a tradition at ULC for years and it is always a joy to see these young people sharing their faith and gifts.

Lastly, and here's where the number "40" comes in, a card was sent to our freshmen on Ash Wednesday.  The card was for checking in and encouraging students to take advantage of any opportunities in their schools and communities to go deeper in faith during Lent.  Along with this, I sent 40 passages of scripture, one for each day of Lent, that could be a thought for the day, to help them focus on Jesus in this deeply meaningful season of the church.

1.  Psalm 139:1-18,  2.  Philippians 4:13,  3.  Philippians, 4:4-9,  4.  1 Timothy 4:12,  5.  Romans 12:1-2,  6.  Zephaniah 3:17,  7.  Jeremiah 29: 11,  8.  Psalm 103:8-12,  9.  Hebrews 10:19-25,  10.  1 John 3:1,  11.  John 3:16,  12.  Romans 8:31,  13.  Isaiah 40:28,  14.  John 3:17,  15.  Romans 3:23,  16.  Romans 6:23,  17.  John 14:6,  18.  Isaiah 40:30-31,  19.  Matthew 11:28-30,  20.  Psalm 27:1,  21.  Hebrews 13:8,  22.  2 Peter 3:7,  23.  Lamentations 3:22-23,  24.  2 Corinthians 12:9,  25.  2 Corinthians 4:18,  26.  Proverbs 3:5-7, 27. Galations 2:20,  28.  Colossians 3:23,  29.  James 4:7,  30.  1 John 4:7-8, 31.  Galations 5:22-23,  32.  Hebrews 12:1-2,  33.  Romans 12:1-2,  34.  1 Thessalonians 5:18,  35.  Psalm 119:105,  36.  Hebrews 4:16,  37.  1 John 1:9,  38.  James 5:16,  39.  Micah 6:8,  40.  Matthew 5:16.

Maybe you would like to remember our young adults in prayer this Lenten season and join in seeking God's Word together.

Lisa Hawe, Director of Youth & Family Ministry


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John 7

In the wilderness, God's People found themselves dying of thirst.  They turned to Moses who turned to the Lord.  Before we know it, Moses is hammering his staff into a boulder and out comes a stream of water.  In the midst of despair, God provides hope.  In the wilderness, the Hebrew People learned to trust God to provide for all their needs--not their wants but their needs.

Fast forward a couple thousand years.  Jesus, standing in the city of Jerusalem says, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink." The implied claim of Christ's proclamation is that God's People can find our needs--not our wants but our needs--met in the person of Jesus.

Lord, enable me to find what I really need ths day...You....Your Mercy, Your Passion, Your Hope in Your Son.  Amen.


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The Call of Samuel

(Sermon from Wednesday Night on the Call of Samuel from I Samuel 3--our Wednesday Night Theme is about being called into service by God.)

Shhhh….Are you excited or are you nervous?  As you walk into this sacred space, lit only by candles, are you excited?  Or, are you nervous?  We look around and see the single flame burning on top of the altar of the covenant.  Slowly we wait for our eyes to adjust to the darkness.  Sitting next to the Altar is the Ark of the Covenant.  The home of the Ten Commandments, the most holy object in all of Israel….suddenly we realize it isn’t 2014 AD….it’s 800 years before the Birth of Christ and you are sitting in Red Wing but you are standing in the temple of Israel.  Can you see the Ark of the Covenant yet?  It is right there sitting next to the burning candle.  It really is the only thing we can see for certain in the darkness except, there is something else there.  Right there lying on the floor next to the Ark, there is something there…..it almost, well it almost looks like a body.

Cautiously, we approach it.  Step by step, slowly, you never know what danger awaits in the darkness.  As we draw closer to the light, we find ourselves hiding behind a large wooden pillar.  If whatever it is lying there really is truly alive, then it could be dangerous and yet, it doesn’t sound like a wild animal does it?  In fact, it almost sounds like a person…like a person sleeping.  Can you hear it yet?  Still cautious but with a bit more courage, we emerge from behind the pillar to get an even closer look.  It’s a child!!  A little boy curled up in the sanctuary!!  You were scared of a little boy!!  Seriously, how embarrassed are you?  Maybe we should just let him sleep and first thing in the morning, return him to his mother’s home.

Shhh…we should just let him sleep.  “Samuel, Samuel.” Who said that?  I know you heard it.  It was clear as crystal.  The boy heard it.  The little boy is waking up.  Hurry, get behind the pillar.  Whoever called must be coming.  Who do you think it is?  Who would call a little boy like this one?  Who call someone sleeping in the darkness?

We watch as Samuel slowly stands up.  He doesn’t wait for whoever called him to arrive.  Instead, he walks down the aisle of the sanctuary as if he knows where he should be going.  What do you think?  Should we stay here or should we sneak down the hallway to see who it was calling Samuel by name?  I thought so…you are a curious bunch.  Quickly and quietly, we sneak down the hallway following Samuel’s steps.  We peer around the doorway to discover a familiar old man.  Why that’s Eli, the priest!  We know him.  He used to lead worship every week.  In fact, Eli was the priest who told faithful old Hannah that God had heard her prayers and she was going to give birth to a baby boy.  The faithful woman said she would bring this son to the temple to serve in God’s House.  I guess that makes this Samuel her son.  It is starting to make sense.  We know why Samuel is here but why did Eli call for him in the middle of the night?  Oh look, Eli…oh poor Eli has grown blind in his old age.  He cannot see.  Now I get it.  Blind Eli called Samuel in the middle of the night to get him a cup of water or something.  But wait, that’s not what happened at all.

“Here I am” Samuel says.  But Eli seems surprised, I didn’t call you Samuel, go back to bed.  Now, what in the world is going on here?  If the Priest named Eli didn’t call the boy named Samuel then who did?  Sure, it is kind of exciting to walk around a dimly lit sanctuary in the middle of the night if you are alone but it is a little spooky thinking someone is out there.

We follow Samuel back to the Holy of Holies where he lies down again but no sooner has his head hit the pillow, we hear that voice again calling, “Samuel, Samuel.”  The entire scene repeats itself…Samuel wandering down the hallway, waking up Eli, saying “here I am” only for the priest to say, “I didn’t call you.”  It happens not once, not twice, but three times this way leaving us excited and nervous all at the same time.  But after the third visit, the old, blind priest realizes what is happening.  No, this isn’t some elaborate trick on a dying man.  No, nobody is hazing little Samuel.  Someone really is calling Samuel.  “Next time you hear the voice calling you Samuel, don’t stand up.”  Eli says, “Just say, “Here I am Lord.  Speak, for your servant is listening.”

So once more, we wander into the dark building hoping to hear the words “Samuel, Samuel” uttered.  We watch—with a twinge of fear and excitement—as the child replies, “Here I am Lord.  Speak, for your servant is listening.”  And finally, finally in the darkness we discover who it is.  “Samuel, I am the Lord of wind and flames and I am about to do something that we will make the ears of anyone who hears it tingle.”  Little Samuel is called.

When I say, “Samuel is called!” do you know what I mean?  “Called” means that God has placed a claim on your life.  God has summoned you to do God’s Will through your life….which means you aren’t really free to do whatever you want or choose….you are bound by this call.  Often times, pastors and people who work in the church will use the word “call” to describe how we came to be where we are.  In my case, God—in a long story I will share some other day—called me to be a pastor and at a specific time in my life, Jayne and I became convinced that I was called to be your pastor here at United.  However, I don’t want you leaving here tonight thinking that only pastors and youth directors are called by God.  We are all called by God.  In Samuel’s case, the miracle baby of Hannah, grows into a prophet and a judge and an anointer of kings.    

As much as I like Samuel’s story, do you what is even better?  If you sit here—not in the Holy of Holies three thousand years ago in Jerusalem—but here, in this sanctuary, in this time, lit by candles….if you sit here and listen, you will discover Samuel is not the only person God is calling.  “Shhhh”…can you hear it in the silence, the Lord of Sea and Sky whispering something.  Some of us hear God here (mind), some of us hear God here (heart), and some of us hear God through our neighbor….but make no mistake, God is calling you….all of you.  What is God calling you to do?      



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John 6 A Brief Reflection

5,000 people follow Jesus.  They have heard of him healing the sick and now they want to see Jesus with their own eyes.  Of course, after a long journey, the people are hungry so Jesus turns to Phillip and asks, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?"  Phillip responds, "Six months wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little."  Meanwhile, a little boy walks up with five barley loaves and a couple of fish.  Peter, looking at the boy's offering, says, "But what is this among so many people?"

Some people--myself included--are like the disciples.  We look at the needs of the world: the people in need of food and shelter, the kids in need of love and support, the elderly in need of compassion and time, the thirsty who long for water, the disenfranchised who longs for an opportunity, the penitent begging for a second chance.....we see all that the world or the nation or the community need and it feels so overwhelming.  Like Peter and Phillip, we shrug our shoulders and ask Jesus to turn them away because what could we do in the face of such need?

And then there are so who are like the little boy in story.  We call them naive, or silly, or maybe even foolish but they see the overwhelming needs of the world and somehow think they can make a difference.  These people bring their loaves and fishes....or maybe their extra mittens and snow pants...or an extra twenty and a box of cereal...and they place it at the feet of Jesus.  Of course, it is foolish to think such a little offering can make a difference.  And yet...

Jesus takes these meager offerings, blesses them before offering them to the world. What do you know? By the time the story concludes, the disciples--the reasonable, wise, overwhelmed--disciples are picking up leftovers while the crowds sits content with bellies full of food all because of a naive boy who thought he could help and a Savior who can turn a snack into a banquet.

God, in the face of difficult situations, some people shrug our shoulders and wonder why is there so much pain in the world?  And others, faced with these same situations, roll up their sleeves believing they can be part of your solution.  Lord, I confess I am too much like the disciples....but with your help, maybe today I can be more like the little boy in the story.  Amen


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A Brief Thought on Scripture--from John 5

There is an interesting little disagreement happening in the early chapters of John’s Gospel that is relevant for us.  Jesus and the Religious Leaders are essentially arguing about authority at the end of the fifth chapter.  Jesus is claiming God’s authority as his own by teaching and healing on the Sabbath.  The Religious Leaders are generally accused of being jealous that Jesus is infringing on their territory which to be certain, explains part of their frustration.  But, if we are to look at them in a slightly more positive light, then their resistance to Jesus is a valid religious one.  “Who gave this guy authority to speak and act in this way?!” they might have uttered.  The religious leaders—again, assuming we can give them the benefit of the doubt—have tried to base their beliefs, actions, and traditions on Scripture.  In fact, Jesus seems to acknowledge this when he says, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.”  Again, Jesus is acknowledging that they are building their faith upon the Scriptures.  The problem, Jesus points out, is that they are missing the point of Scripture—that is, Scripture is pointing to Himself!

In contemporary culture, where we argue about a host of topics and invariably look towards the Bible to support our views, there is a temptation for people like me to become like the Religious Leaders—flipping through the pages of my Bible in order to win an argument.  As Jesus proved long ago however, there is a temptation that in doing so, I might be missing the point of the entire Gospel Narrative. Scripture points me to Jesus.  If it does not do this to me first, everything else I gleam or learn matters not.

Lord, let me pause in my reading today.  When I open the pages of Your Story, stop me for looking for verses that support what I already know or points that may strengthen my argument against another.  Instead, help me to discover You in these pages.  Amen. 


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Jesus or the Dread Pirate Roberts?

I worshipped with most of my family in Iowa this weekend.  This experience—in and of itself—was worth the trip.  There is something specil about sitting in the same pew with my parents as well as my children.  In addition to just being together,  the pastor said something that has stuck with me.  “If you know the lines of the Princess Bride better than you know the words of Jesus, you have a problem.  If you can quote the words of Dumb and Dumber better than you can quote the words of Jesus, then you have a problem.”  It is true….hard to hear since I REALLY like both of those movies but it is true. 

As a Christian, I need to consistently find a way to put myself in the presence of God’s Word in order to be shaped and formed.  As a pastor, I need to figure out ways to help people in this congregation do the same.  This is why I am excited by how many people have kicked off the New Year by committing themselves to reading through the Gospel of John.  I will try to blog about my own reading on occasion as a way to encourage those of you who have made this commitment.  As for those of you have not….well, there is no time like the present to get yourself into God’s Word.


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Joe's Story


I know you have met the parents of John the Baptist already.  You met Zechariah, the great priest who was left speechless by the angel Gabrielle.  What a colorful figure he is!  Everyone remembers meeting Zechariah—I mean a priest who cannot speak?!  Who can forget a guy like that?  Last week, you met his wife Elizabeth, that remarkable woman of faith.  Sweet and kind Elizabeth—everyone loves Elizabeth.  Zechariah and Elizabeth of course, became the parents of John the Baptist—the most memorable prophet ever.  Who can forget about a man who wear camel’s hair, eats bugs, and lives in the wilderness?!  And next week, you will get to meet my beloved bride—the beautiful, young Mary—one of the most beloved people in the entire Bible.  Oh yes, you have met and will meet some of the most amazing people of faith…people whose trust in the Lord seems to know no boundaries, people whose stories serve to inspire.

Just so we are clear, I am not one of those people.  I’m not inspiring.  I’m not a person of great faith.  I’m just….well, I’m just Joe.  You can call me Joseph if you like, if that makes you more comfortable but there is really no need to be fancy on my account.  I’m just Joe and this is my story. 

I worked as a carpenter.  I paid my share of taxes and spent my weekends playing cards with the guys.  If it sounds like an ordinary life, well then you are getting the picture.  When you first meet me in the Bible, I am….well, I am sleeping.

There I was, in my favorite lazy boy, Big Ten Highlights on the television, head off to the side, eyes shut, mouth open, drool just starting to trickle down my cheek a bit.  (I know, it isn’t an inspiring look but like I said, I’m just a normal guy…ladies be honest, how many men have you seen fit exactly what I just described?  So there I was sleeping.

As you might have heard, I had a lot of things on my mind.  A few months before I had asked Mary to marry me.  While true love was certainly the ideal, marriage in our days was understood as a business relationship.  In order to marry Mary, I had to present her father with a sizable gift in order to receive her hand in marriage.  I worked lots of overtime to purchase Mary’s hand in marriage.  Once this transaction was complete, Mary (Pardon the expression!) essentially belonged to me.  To be sure, this arrangement probably didn’t come with the same sweaty palms as getting down on bended knee and asking for a person’s hand in marriage that happens in your day, but it was still plenty stressful.  But that’s not why I was so tired.

I was tired because a few months after the engagement became official, Mary came to me with some ‘news.’  “Uh, Joe, I have something wonderful to tell you.  I am pregnant.”  Now, as I told you before, I am a pretty average guy.  I wasn’t the smartest person in Nazareth…I wasn’t the valedictorian at the Nazareth High.  But I didn’t need a 4.0 to realize there was a problem.  “Uh Mary, how can you be pregnant since uh, you know…we haven’t….you know?!?!”  I don’t want to tell you the rest of the conversation.  Mary told me a story that was unbelievable and let’s just say my reaction was less than supportive.  I left Mary standing there in tears and returned home pondering my decision.  I had two choices.  According to the Old Testament, the Law of our people gave me two choices. 

Since the transaction between me and Mary’s father has already taken place and Mary essentially belonged to me now, I was fully within his rights to do two things.  Since Mary is with a child that most certainly didn’t belong to me, I could have her arrested and stoned to death for her infidelity.  Harsh – to be sure – but according to the Old Testament, I had this right.  Or, I could be merciful. I could sign a certificate of divorce, dismiss Mary and her child, find someone else and move on with my life.  It was such a stressful decision.  Looking back, it seems like the right answer is rather obvious but at the time, I was angry.  It wasn’t an easy decision but ultimately, I tried to be a good man.  I decided to dismiss Mary as quietly as possibly.  No stoning, no public shaming, I would quietly have a certificate of divorce written and I would move on with life.  It wasn’t an easy decision but once it is made, I finally began to relax.  And there is no better place to relax than in one’s favorite chair, with your legs up, head back, and eyes shut.  I went to sleep that evening confident that my decision to dismiss Mary was the right one.

And then it happened…I began to dream.  As I lay there snoring, an angel of the Lord appeared to me.   The angel said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid of taking Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus.”  Then the angel quotes from an Old Testament passage claiming that Jesus will be Emmanuel which means God is with us.

It would be easy for me to spend the rest of our time focused on how grand this promise from Almighty God really is but you will get to do that in the days to come.  Instead, I would like to notice just one thing about this promise.  Notice what the promise does to me.  Notice what the promise of Emmanuel does to sleepy old me.  The promise of God wakes me up!  When the angel declared the Good News to me, he wakes me from my slumber.  I woke up from my nap, went to Mary, and took her as my wife.  And when the time came for her to give birth in the village of Bethlehem, I named the little boy “Jesus” just as the angel told me to do.  The promise of God woke me up…and once I was awake, I did what God commanded me to do.

Please don’t misunderstand what this story means.  Don’t leave this sanctuary this morning talking how super faithful that Joe is or what a saint Joe was.  I don’t want to see any, “What would Joseph do?” T-shirts being sold in the narthex.  The truth is that I didn’t go on to become one of the great pillars of the early church or the great example of faithfulness that generations of Christians will want to imitate.  I’m just Joe…I didn’t part the Red Sea or raise the dead…when God woke me with the promise of Emmanuel, I simply stood up and did what God told me to do.

I tell you my story today because I am guessing that some of you can relate to me.  You may not know what it is like to be a priest like Zechariah or a Saint like Elizabeth.  But you know what it means to be normal…to live what most would call a normal life.  And I am guessing that some of you know how it feels to lay your heads back, close your eyes, and rest easy in the decisions and the judgments you have made.  Judgments and decision you have made about yourselves, your loved ones, and the world around you.  The problem is that those judgments we make about ourselves, about our loved ones, and the world around us is that they can be wrong.

Too many times we normal people fool ourselves into believing that there are things average people such as ourselves simply aren’t capable of doing.  There are times we fool ourselves into thinking that relationships with family and friends can never be changed or transformed.  There are times we fool ourselves into believing that the world doesn’t need or want the gifts only we have to offer.  So we lay our heads back, close our eyes, and choose to snore our lives away.

People of God, I tell you my story today in the hopes that maybe, just maybe God would use it to wake you from those same foolish thoughts and beliefs I once held.  Because the truth is that you are capable of extraordinary things.  The truth is that relationships with family and friends can be transformed.  The truth is that the world does need the gifts we have to offer.  It is time for us ordinary people to wake from our slumbers and be the people God has commanded us to be.  The Good News is that if God hasn’t used my story to wake you….be patient.   Because if my story hasn’t stirred you from your slumber, in just a matter of days you are going to hear the cry of the Christ Child and I can assure you….Jesus will wake you up and your life will never be the same.



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