Tag Archive: Word Incarnate


“In the Beginning…”

This was yesterday’s meditation/reflection on John 1:1-18 at Community Lutheran in Sterling, VA.

 

In the beginning,

God’s Spirit, gracefully hovered,

Banking and wheeling, over the swirling chaos.

 

In the beginning,

God spoke, a voice in the darkness,

Calling forth light, seeing that it was good.

 

In the beginning,

God moved, bringing forth life,

Giving beauty, shape, and form to the void.

 

In the beginning,

God stood back, brushed off hands,

And breathed life into all creation – ev’ry being.

 

In the beginning,

God spoke and creation listened,

Praising God – a rich symphony for God’s goodness.

 

In the beginning,

God and humanity walked together,

Before we proudly decided to go our own way.

 

In the beginning,

The Word – God’s own being,

Brought all things into existence – he was light and life.

 

 

 

 

A new beginning,

Grace – the Father’s heart – took on flesh,

Now near enough for all to see, hear, and touch him.

 

A new beginning,

God pitched a tent among humanity,

Taking up refuge with those who had strayed.

 

A new beginning,

The light shone, transforming darkness,

Into daylight, spilling sunlight onto tired shadows.

 

A new beginning,

Light and life came, but still,

People were blind – stuck in their own ways.

 

A new beginning,

The gift of a new start,

Graciously and lavishly given to all who believe.

 

A new beginning,

Power to make us children of God,

A bond so strong, cross cannot conquer, nor death sever.

 

A new beginning,

A dark tomb looked like the end,

But the hope of sunrise – the Son rising – gave new life.

 

 

 

It’s the beginning,

Each fresh dawn, open to welcome,

The fragile Christ child born in and among us.

 

It’s the beginning,

Your sins and regrets washed away,

You are free to shine Christ’s light in the darkness.

 

It’s the beginning,

You are forgiven and cleansed,

Reflecting Christ’s light like sun glinting on the water.

 

It’s the beginning,

Struggles, worries, sickness cannot hold you,

The love and life of God are coursing in your veins!

 

It’s the beginning,

God’s glory has come near, seeking you,

How will you bear witness to that brilliance and truth?

 

It’s the beginning,

God has come among us,

How might you embody God’s love this year?

 

It’s the beginning,

A new year – a new call to follow;

Celebrate the fullness of grace upon grace we’ve received!

 

Amen.

© 2016. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

This was the sermon I preached on January 4th at Community Lutheran Church.

Well, here we are in 2015! Another year has rolled by and I find myself reflecting on the past year, as well as this coming year.  After the holidays, get-togethers and parties, I can at least say that I feel this much from Isaiah’s reading is true: “Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry.  I will give the priests their fill of fatness…” After so many delicious meals and wonderful treats, I can certainly attest to the last part!

In all seriousness though, we’re still in the Christmas season, even as we’ve celebrated the turning of the year and the beginning of something new.  In John’s Gospel, we hear an echo of Genesis – of a new creation.  Of the Word taking on flesh to live with us and to show us who God is.  In each of the texts for the day, God is up to new and exciting things, but they also remind us that it’s through the birth of Christ that these new things are springing up in our lives.

john-1-001This first chapter of John has come up a couple times in the past few weeks, and what jumped out at me this time around was actually the last verse: “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”  The phrase that particularly caught my attention was “It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart.”  Close to the Father’s heart. It sounds like Christ is near and dear to the heart of God.  There is an intimacy and a type of tenderness there.  Jesus, who is God, is at the very heart of God – he knows God’s heart.  As I did a little more researching, this phrase actually means “in God’s bosom.”  It’s a very maternal type of image.  This matches up with one of the descriptions of God found throughout the Old Testament – God is described frequently as Rachoom, which is often translated as “compassionate,” but literally means “having a womb” or “womb-y.”  These are images of care, tenderness, affection, connection and relationship.

Ok, so now you’re thinking, where on earth is she going with this?! All of this imagery helps to show not only who God is, but also the relationship of God and Jesus.  John’s Gospel is trying to say that while no one has seen God, Jesus, who is so intimately connected with God, has shown God to us, by becoming human and living with us.  John is trying in every which way to show that a God, unfathomable, mysterious and cosmic, has become fleshy and earthy in order to have a close relationship with us.

Not only does that mean God living among us, but it also means us becoming the daughters and sons of God.  As John’s Gospel puts it, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” And Ephesians says, “He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. … In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.”  Through our dying and rising in Christ in baptism, we have been adopted as God’s own beloved children and given the inheritance of God’s promises.

At the turn of the year, we make resolutions and, yet, we don’t often keep them.  Maybe they are only halfhearted attempts at changing and that’s why they often fall by the wayside at some point early into the New Year. Habits are hard to change and new habits difficult to implement, but maybe it’s a mindset that needs changing.  As children of God, when it comes to thinking about resolutions for our faith and our lives as disciples, maybe it’s helpful to think about continually growing and maturing in our faith.  Maybe it’s more helpful to reframe our thoughts in terms of children growing in God’s grace rather than checking the box for a completed resolution.

Think about being in a loving relationship with a parent who has our best interests at heart.  When you’re a child, you take delight in being with your parents, spending time with them, and learning from them.  Prayer, reading Scripture, and service do take effort, but they are also activities that bring joy and delight because we encounter God in doing so.  In a relationship with God, the loving parent, we receive joy, support, care, affection, encouragement, but also gentle correction and forgiveness.

Growing and transforming are difficult.  Maybe we really don’t want or know how to change.  Maybe we don’t even know what changes we need.  Perhaps we don’t really want the kind of intimacy with God that Jesus has – being close to the Father’s heart.  That can sound wonderful and yet also a bit threatening or uncomfortable to us and our independence.  Maybe we worry that that kind of relationship with God will put us out of sync with those around us, our culture, or our world.  I have wrestled with these questions – wanting to grow in my faith and yet wondering what changes might need to occur.  Wondering what others might think.  Wondering what I might have to face about myself.  But that kind of loving relationship is what we are called to as children of God, as disciples of Christ.  It’s interesting, but the only other time the word “bosom” is used in John’s Gospel is when the disciple whom Jesus loved leans on Jesus at the Last Supper.  We, too, are the disciples whom Jesus loves.  We, too, are being invited into a deeper relationship with God, this year and every year.

We make resolutions – I should eat better, exercise more, spend more time with family, watch less TV, spend less time online, devote more time to my relationships, pray more, spend more time serving others, etc.  And it all seems so overwhelming. We want to make better choices and form healthy habits, but we think it all needs to come at once.  We want to grow up and have our lives together.  Maybe we think that when we reach a certain age or time of our lives, things will suddenly fall into place.  But I think what we actually learn as we grow is that change happens over a period of time.  We slowly begin to understand that we are always a work in progress and, maybe, we begin to extend more mercy to those around us who we know are also works in progress.

Jesus is born as a human child, experiences the growing pains of childhood, and lives life into adulthood.  Yet he does it as the divine Word of God, succeeding where we fall short and revealing at each step the overwhelming love – the face and the grace – of the Father.

And even when we fail at our resolutions or fall short of who we are called to be, we remember that, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”  We are in God’s grace, forgiven and strengthened to keep trying and doing our best, calling on Christ and other disciples for help.

Because we can’t do it alone.  Maybe part of the reason our resolutions fail is because we try to do them by ourselves.  But we have been given the gift of the church – the gift of relationships with other disciples.  In the community of faith, we help one another as we grow in grace.  We, too, bear the love and the face of God to one another as we stumble and stagger, fall and succeed on the bumpy road of life.  We need encouragement and insight from each other, and we need people to challenge us to help us grow and to take the next steps.

So thinking about being close to the Father’s heart, how do you hope to grow in your faith this year? What keeps or holds you back from pursuing or entering into a greater intimacy with God? Over the coming weeks, I invite you to spend time in prayer, listening for what God might be calling you to.  Find a friend, talk it over with them and test what you’re hearing.  Pray together, encourage and support one another.  And if you feel inclined, let Pr. Joe or me know what you’re thinking so we can help support and pray for you, too!

Just as Jesus is close to the Father’s heart, we have been invited through him to be close to the Father’s heart.  To experience the love, care and tenderness of God, while continuing to grow and mature as children of God.  To receive grace upon grace through God’s outrageous love.That is part of the mystery and promise of Christmas.  That is the promise that we can cling to no matter how many resolutions we break or how many times we fall short.  Thanks be to God! Amen.

© 2015. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

When Words Collide…

This is the sermon I preached this morning at Christ Lutheran Church in Washington, DC.  The texts for the day were Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Luke 4:21-30:

Jeremiah 1: 4-10
4 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
5 ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’
6Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ 7But the Lord said to me,
‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you.
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.’
9Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
‘Now I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.’


Luke 4:21-30
21Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ 23He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.” ’ 24And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. 25But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ 28When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

I preached sitting in a chair in the chancel and holding a binder (so it’d look a little like a storybook) with the title When Words Collide…  (© 2013. VicarBelle Publishing House)  😛  Enjoy!

 

Come, gather ‘round, Christ Lutheran Church!
I’m going to leave my normal perch,
And sit up here and tell you a story,
So sit back, listen well and don’t you worry!

I read these texts and hear an emphasis on words,
Or maybe that’s just because I’m a language nerd,
But there are some important themes running through,
And so I chose a word-laden poem to bring them to you.

By definition, words are little carriers of meaning,
They can be straightforward or need some sense-gleaning,
For two holy prophets were words crucial tools,
Even though some may have thought them fools.

First we hear about a young Hebrew fella’
His call to be a prophet made him turn a little yellow,
Jeremiah said, “Ah! Lord! I’m just a boy”
And the Lord said, “sorry, kid, you’re now in my employ!”

“I’ve been with you since before you were born,
And I’ll be with you from the dawn of each morn.’”
So now I’m putting my words in your mouth,
So you can go speak to the kingdom in the south.”

The young prophet Jeremiah was none-too-thrilled,
I mean, can you blame him, he might have been killed!
God had charged him to go forth to all the nations,
To tell them about all of God’s frustrations.

He was given the job without pay or pension plan,
Only the promise that he was God’s appointed man.
God told him, “do not be afraid of what lies before
I will deliver you as I did your ancestors of yore.”

So out he went and performed his role,
And though at some times it took a toll,
Jeremiah knew he couldn’t do anything different,
He was called to be God’s wandering itinerant.

Fast forward to Nazareth’s local synagogue on Shabbat,
A young man who’s been coming since he was a tot,
Steps up to read and opens up the Isaiah scroll,
He’s reading well – you might even say he’s on a roll.

It’s a Torah portion about bringing amazing news –
For the poor, the oppressed and all singing the blues!
He tells the congregation that today it’s all fulfilled,
And, naturally, they’re all super thrilled!

They love the words they’ve just heard from his lips,
“Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” one of them quips,
All are astonished at the skill of this homegrown lad,
All are excited and couldn’t be more glad.

But then this young man named Jesus gets upset,
Saying things that make the people start to fret.
He says, “you’ll want me to do miracles like in Capernaum!”
And “no prophet is accepted where he comes from!”

It’s almost like he knows their attitude will change,
And that’s why he starts speaking so strange.
He brings up Elijah and Elisha from the past,
Who went to people who should have been outcasts.

In this it seems he’s saying the news he brings,
Is going to be a boundary-pushing, daring thing.
It’s going beyond where we’re comfortable going,
It’s going far past the love and mercy we like showing.

That’s when people really become filled with rage,
It’s so palpable in the gospel, it leaps off the page!
Over a cliff this hometown hero is nearly thrown,
But he escapes through the crowd to become better known.

You see, words have the power to move us to tears,
They can calm our doubts and assuage our fears.
They can stir up within us feelings of joy,
Or they can make us slap our foreheads and say, “oy!”

Those who wield words can hurt or heal,
They can cause scandals or make business deals.
Words can draw us closer to family and friends,
Or bring short or long-term relationships to an end.

Tyrannical leaders can stir up people to harm others,
Or lead people to oppress their sisters and brothers.
Silence can be crushing when you need an answer,
Or a word can break the heart when you hear, “its cancer.”

But words can call forth God’s vision for the world,
And urge others to work toward the kingdom unfurled.
Others’ words can give voice to our prayers,
Hearing a kind word shows that someone cares.

But there’s one word that shapes the others we use,
One word that embodies powerful good news,
One word that seeks out and transforms humankind,
And if you’ve guessed it, you’ve got a sharp mind!

It’s the Word of God, the Word enfleshed,
God on earth, in human form dressed.
Jesus, the Word, who came to love all people –
The one we worship under this steeple.

We’ve experienced the tremendous power of a word,
But what about the Word of God, our Lord?
How does this Word shape how we talk?
Does this Word shape our life-long walk?

So my question today for all of us,
Is therefore, hence, as follows, and thus:
How do we use our God-given voices
or speak up when there are so many choices?

What words do we choose among all the commotion?
How do we follow Christ in our speech with full devotion?
Sometimes it’s difficult to speak against opponents,
But it can be important to do so at the right moment.

Perhaps there’s something you’re called to say,
But you’re hesitant to toss your hat into the fray.
What injustices weigh on your heart and mind?
How can you advocate while being honest and kind?

Jeremiah and Jesus also found it hard to speak up,
Neither of them wanted to drink from that cup.
But they did anyway knowing that God was with them,
And would stay with them even amidst opposition.

Or perhaps you’re being called to use words of love,
To forgive as you’ve been forgiven from above.
How does Christ’s love transform your reactions,
And build up ties rather than cause fractions?

Our words can help others glimpse our God,
The Word incarnate who dwelled among the flawed.
The Word of God who sets all people free,
who graciously forgives the sins of you and me.

So I suppose what I am trying to say,
Is “take this Word with you as you leave today.”
Carry the Word of God within your hearts,
And see what wisdom to your words it imparts.

© 2013. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

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