Posted on Mon, Dec 30, 2013
December 29, 2013
First Sunday in Christmas
Gospel Text: Matthew 2:13–23 - “For 2,013 Years — The Human Condition Has NOT CHANGED … so what will we do?”
The Escape to Egypt
13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ 14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’
The Massacre of the Infants
16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’
The Return from Egypt
19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20 ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’ 21 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23 There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’
This is such a hard text to read. Whenever I read it, I vividly recall the people of modern Bethlehem, and the houses on the hills surrounding the town. I remember taking a short amount of time while we were there to look southwest towards Egypt, and I pictured Joseph walking with Mary and baby Jesus on a donkey on a lonely road heading towards the foreign land of Egypt, and further away from the land where Mary grew up. Again, I wondered what she was thinking; she didn’t have the dream sent from God, only Joseph did; but she was faithful to God’s promise and believed the dream… even with the terrible threat Joseph was told would come, God had protected to them so far… why would anything change… God was faithful, but their hardships remained. The tragedy of the slaughter of children was not the will of God, but only born out of the fear and insecurity of a faithless king.
And while we were in Egypt, I remember one day we stopped at a small pharmacy in a village; the village was quiet, but as we were purchasing the medicine that would relieve our rashes, sore feet and muscles, there were some children playing outside. They had no shoes and were very poor. If I remember correctly, some of us bought them some treats, but Betty Schley, the always on-call nurse, took care of some of their cuts and scrapes. As a member of Calvary by the Sea Lutheran Church, some children even as far away as Egypt received care and a few hugs. I thought about today’s text as we spent a short amount of time with these kids.
The text we read, almost every first Sunday after Christmas, is hard to read, but it is very necessary for us to hear it. Just the thought of a so-called king who was so self-centered that he felt that in order to keep his throne, it was justifiable to order all the children in and around Bethlehem to be killed. Just the thought of it absolutely tears my heart apart… but this text tells us to what extent our world is broken… and still is broken… accept now, we live in a world where God has had the last Word through the Cross of Christ. We live in the promise of God’s forgiveness, God’s merciful presence now, and resurrection… regrettably until the day Jesus returns, the ‘broken’ human part remains, and it is for us to be like Mary and Joseph, and to hold onto the promises God continues to make with us.
For you see, the frame and fabric of our world has changed, even though we can look deep into the universe with our amazing telescopes and computers, the world is now framed in the form of an empty cross. Through the death and resurrection, our entire identity has changed. We no longer live striving by our own will and might to reach some promised land, God has come to us as a child, and has redeemed us through God’s Son. This is now our identity, through the cross, we are now seen by God as sanctified and redeemed Children, not only as broken or lost children.
But that doesn't mean the evil hearts like the one that beat in the chest of king Herod 2013 years ago or so doesn’t still beat in lost souls of today. Just on Saturday president Assad’s forces of Syria bombed a market in Aleppo killing 20 people (http://www.interaksyon.com/article/77618/air-strike-on-market-hospital-in-syrias-aleppo-kills-20-says-watchdog) Can you imagine the cowardice of bombing a vegetable market with families just trying to purchase food … sadly, we have heard of these kinds of bombings in countless villages and countries all through the years… The world that Jesus was born into 2013 years ago, sadly is much the same today, only our weapons are much more deadly today.
But Jesus is just as much present now, as he was in Mary’s arms 2000 years ago. Now, Jesus IS the Body of Christ, the Church, as we have been called to 1) Illumine the world to the Truth of suffering and injustice wherever it occurs in the world, 2) Proclaim boldly the Good News of our atonement and forgiveness through Jesus Christ 3) Constantly work to create and establish reconciliation between all people, no matter what their religion, culture, economic status or whatever and then 4) Act to reduce all forms of suffering endured by all people in the world.
There was a reason and a purpose for our savior to be born in humble Bethlehem; In the same way, there is a reason Calvary by the Sea Lutheran Church was called to do ministry here, and now expand to places all over the world.
From the most essential and beautiful thing we do, worship, we are called, enlightened and sanctified to do what Jesus would do right in this place.
Our church campus is a beautiful place, but unlike a ‘country club,’ we have a very serious mission, we are to: “Share the Blessings of God’s Grace with Aloha.” We do this on many levels, Sunday School and Confirmation Classes equip us with the knowledge of scripture and the church; Yoga, Hike with Mike, Hack with Jack, teach us to take care of our bodies and enjoy the blessing it is to be alive and centered; Calvary BY the Sea teaches us hands on ways to protect, preserve and learn about this amazing world God has created and we seem so determined to destroy; Stephen Ministers go a little deeper and reach out to hurting hearts and souls. Our Stephen Ministers are blessed and grow as they allow themselves to be Jesus for someone; Then there is Angel Network Charities, feeding and clothing those in need; Then we move out from our own circle, there is the Hukilau bringing all the congregations in Hawaii together, Oahu Youth Education and Activities & now the Oahu Youth Group reaching out to Middle and High School kids. Then our circle enlarges to the Pacifica Synod, with its 130 congregations or so and various ministries attached to each one. Then we expand to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with about 11,000 congregations and 230 or more missionaries all over the world. Lutheran Social Services, Lutheran World Relief, and so many organizations doing just what we are called to do, 1) Illumine the world 2) Boldly Proclaim boldly the Good 3) Constantly work to create and establish reconciliation between all people 4) Act to reduce all forms of suffering by all people in the world.
1. Pastor Qui Lin: Pastor Qui, supported by China Service Ventures of ELCA, is now an assistant pastor at a Chinese Church in Germantown, Maryland. He is still committed to semi-annual trips to inland China, where he is offering training for pastoral leaders in presenting the Bethel series of Bible studies in Chinese (translated by him with the blessing of the original author). The Chinese leaders of “family” churches often receive no formal scriptural studies, and are very vulnerable to heretical interpretations; they are also in danger from governmental harassment and persecution. Pastor Qui goes quietly to many cities in central China, where he tries to meet with local pastors to offer a full week of day-long intensive training sessions wherever he can be given an invitation. He does this for free, and has successfully conducted about a dozen such classes to 200 to 300 local church leaders. For the future, he is changing his focus to recruit and train local teachers for Bethel leaders, with key headquarters staff in China, and all printed material produced in China, so that the work can be expanded. This work is not without danger, and Pastor Qui has been detained and interrogated by government authorities on several occasions. He fearlessly insists all he does is present instructions about his faith, with no threat or subversion for civil governments. So far, he has had only a few near episodes. He tries to travel incognito, with no announced schedule, avoiding the attention of authoritaries as much as possible.
2. Dr. Jim Brown and Carolyn Brown, sponsored by the Evangelical Free Church of America, are working for the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons. They are at Mbingo Hospital in Cameroon, training African surgical residents to take the American College of Surgeons’ Board Certification. An excellent review of their work appeared in the Altantic magazine a year ago. Several of their residents-in-training, after a difficult start, have passed the initial Board Certification examinations. These trainees have agreed to return to work in the African countries from which they came.
3. Pastor John Lunn, sponsored by several groups, including the Global Health Ministries of ELCA, is now stationed in Tanzania. Pastor Lunn is supervising volunteer recruits working in medical facilities in Tanzania, Cameroon, Zanzibar, and India. As this new position becomes established, ELCA hopes Pastor Lunn will be able to expand his responsibilities to all of Africa, India, and other parts of Asia and even South America. Our Hukilau – for the first time – has just completed a joint fund-raising missionary-related campaign to donate funds for Pastor Lunn to provide badly needed sterilizable mattress covers for hospital patients in some of the hospitals in Tanzania.
4. Mary Borgman, supported by Global Health Ministries of ELCA to work among the families devastated by AIDS in Soweto, South Africa. Peggy Trout met Mary Borgman in Johannesburg, and told us about Mary's social work activities on behalf of the children from these families, and about the terrible privations these families face, who have lost their wage-earner or mother of the household to AIDS. Peggy tells us Mary Borgman is very aware of her need for further graduate training in social work, and may wish to return to further her academic studies.
5. Dr. David and Dr. Lara Narita, supported by Overseas Missionary Fellowship (formerly China Inland Mission), are working in Siem Reap, Cambodia. This charming and dedicated young couple returned to Honolulu to be with Dr. Lara’s mother for a few months, as Lara is imminently expecting the birth of their fourth child. Their third child was born in Cameroon, and died a few days after birth from a complicated illness. The gracious Christian way the Narita’s handled the death of their baby greatly impressed the local people among whom they were living, as it illustrated their unshakable faith in a loving God, without seeking to blame anyone for their tragic loss. After they talked to CBTS in October, they have returned to Cambodia, where the political and social situation is highly unstable and even dangerous. They ask for prayers for Lara’s injured hand, for their older son’s schooling, and for several new missionaries who have joined them in Siem Reap, greatly expanding the promising work they can do.
We Lutherans hold up the Good News that we have been saved by grace through faith! But then I would like to ask you to ponder for yourself, “For what purpose?”
As Mary held her baby son, like all young parents looking into one’s own child she must have uttered, “We have been so blessed… I wonder what this little one will do to change the world?” Amen
Our group in 2007 playing with children in Egypt, in front of the pharmacy, on our way to Jordan. Calvary by the Sea Lutheran Church reaching out to children on the other side of
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