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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Jesus Breaks In - 11/27/2016

We're going to reflect on God's Word a little differently today. Doing things a little differently sometimes keeps our ears –  and our whole selves really –  open to the transformative power of God's word in our lives.

So, first we have a very brief  skit that will hopefully take us into Matthew's reference to Noah's Ark a little more deeply.

(Skit … introduce players)

As I mentioned last week – and probably last Advent too – our church year begins at the end. That start to our church year is fitting. We know the outcome of these stories, after all, no matter which Gospel we are reading. The truth is, the poor and vulnerable refugee baby born in a into a manger, that child we are getting ready to welcome at this time of year stays a baby for only a minute before getting on to the rest of his human-history shaping life … his ministry and teachings, his death on a cross and his victory over death.

I admit that I did look at the texts appointed for today with a little unsureness of how they would speak into this particular weekend for us here at Eden on the Bay when we are not only preparing our hearts and homes and worship space for welcoming the newborn King, but also when were are welcoming our little sister Willow through the waters of baptism.

I began to look around to see exactly how God was breaking into our world here … to see what God was up to with in this story of the “coming of the Son of Man.”

That started to take shape on Monday when I got a phone call. The person was calling to tell me that a local homeless man we had tried to help before had died the night before. It was particularly frustrating and sad news because although we had filled his belly a few times and helped him out when he was tried to connect to social services and the like, there was never an apparent way of helping this child of God. You may have seen the article in this week's paper about the issue of homelessness in Alger County and how we lack resources here to help people who are without basic necessities.

In this case, however, it was far more complicated than that because this man was very ill and needed health care that truthfully isn't even available because we haven't really figured out how to best help people in his shoes. And because of that, even if we had all the services in the world to address homelessness in Alger County, they probably wouldn't have helped him very much because his behavior, his substance abuse, his brain health prevented him from accessing shelters and food programs and training and employment services and anything else that may have led to wholeness and independence.

After that terrible-news phone call ended, I went back to preparing for this sermon  and what I am going to share with you next is what I read just minutes after hanging that phone up.

It moved me immensely. It was where God was breaking in through this story of the Son of Man coming into this world, our lives, the life of this under-served man, of Willow and her family, of each of us sitting in this worship space on this first weekend of Advent, and of everyone and everything else in God's creation.

We don't know when Jesus will come again into this world, as promised in our Holy Scriptures. And these stories we have about Jesus' return let us know pretty clearly that is it not our place to know when any of that will happen – either for all of creation or for us as individuals.

But what we do know and what we do carry with us throughout these lives of ours – the truth that we put on during our baptisms – is that God has already broken into this world and our day-to-day lives in Jesus. In doing so God has changed things forever in that way and for every single person in creation – for Willow, for you and me, for the homeless man who died here in Munising this past week.

In baptism we put on the armor of light we hear about in Paul's letter to the Romans today. “For salvation is nearer to us now,” Paul writes. This is what we celebrate with Willow and her family today as she enters into our Christ-centered family through the waters of another kind of unexpected flood, as she is marked by the cross of Christ and adopted into the family of God forever … period, end of story – no matter how many times she ends up grounded, no matter how many times she makes mistakes, no matter if she wanders away from God at times in her life. Through these waters – through this flood – she is a permanent resident of the Kingdom of God and is always welcome.

As one reads this Walt Wangerin piece, one realized that this Kingdom is home for all of us – for Willow, for the homeless man, for you. As Christian people we are confident that we put on this armor of truth and light in our baptisms. And as God's people we are filled with faith to trust that God is working this healing balm for all of creation in ways beyond our understanding as well.

And for that I think we can be truly grateful in this season of thanksgiving. Because of that I think we can truly be forward-gazing with confidence and hope in this season of Advent. With that faith we are freed to live our lives boldly and generously, blessed to be a blessing to others.

And so with that, I give you a final reading for reflection as we baptize Willow this morning, and as we begin to live into another Advent Season and prepare space in our lives for the poor and vulnerable little refugee baby who changes everything.

(Walt Wangerin, Jr. excerpt - The Manger is Empty [1998])

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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