What About Love? - Dec. 18, 2022
Pastor Mike (00:01):
Your righteousness. Being in right relationship with God does not give you the right to condemn others. It does not give you the right to condemn others. It does not give you the right to shame and humiliate others or to make someone feel like they’re worth nothing.
Hannah Hunter (00:16):
Hey, beautiful people. Welcome back to Sunday to The Gathering. I’m Hannah Hunter, the director of Digital Beach here at The Gathering Place in Palm Beach Gardens. As we entered the last week of Advent, pastor Mike brings us a message on love, what it means to love well, and how we face the challenges to love others with grace.
Pastor Mike (00:33):
Wow, can you believe that we are in the fourth Sunday of Advent? I mean, next sat Saturday is Christmas Eve. And, um, and while I’m so excited about Christmas Eve and, and then, you know, coming up with New Year, I don’t want us to miss what God is speaking to us during this season of Advent. Sometimes we think that Advent is like, again, this, this transitional season is like, okay, it’s just the, the transitional time and, and it just buys us some time until we get ready for Christmas. And that’s not the case. Advent calls us to look again at the promises of God’s kingdom. It calls us to examine those who waited for the Messiah and prepared themselves for the world, prepared themselves and prepared the world around them. So, in other words, you know, we don’t just look at the old stories and and say, wow, that’s how they’re looking for the promises of God.
But, but no, we, we look at it deeply. How did they anticipate the coming of the Messiah? How did they tell those that they’re living with that? Hey, get ready. God is coming. God’s gonna make things right. God’s gonna put all those things that have been wrong in this world, and God’s gonna put them back in proper order. I want to be honest with you, though, sadly, a lot of our Christmas celebrations and traditions, and I, and I love all of them, and I’m, and I’m fully into all of them, but many of them do not focus our attention on the second coming of Christ. They do not reorient our attention on the promise that God will fulfill everything that has been promised in scriptures, in the scripture when Jesus and his kingdom arrives. Because here’s what the promise is, is that when, when, when God’s kingdom fully comes, and it, and it already started with the arrival of Jesus, God will make everything new.
So as we remember and prepare to celebrate the arrival of the Christ child, Jesus Christ, our Savior, and Lord, I wanna invite you, I want to challenge you, you imagine the story and allow it to speak a fresh word for us today so that we can see ourselves in this story. And I know that’s kind of weird cause we’re going into the nativity story, but I want you to see yourself in this story. And remember your calling. You see, the big message of, of advent is a message of hope. The hope is that what we are experiencing in this world is not the final, is not, does not have the final say that there is a bright future that God has for us. It is a message of peace. Advent reminds us that regardless of where people are, regardless of what their belief systems are, whatever, that we can live in a world with real peace and be peacemakers with all people.
It’s a calling and reminder of joy. That joy is not based on our circumstances or what we have, but it’s a joy that God does in us. And today’s advent message, and you can probably get what I’m getting really excited about, because it’s about love. And I’m hoping that this message today and as we go into scripture will rekindle your sense of mission, the mission that we have as the gathering place, which is to extend God’s redeeming love. Now, many pe people ask me, you know, I mean, I talk about, I dunno if you’ve probably heard it a lot, this extending God’s redeeming love, you know, and, and I hear people say, you know, pastor, what do you mean when we say that our mission is to extend God’s redeeming love? Now, I wanna tell you a little bit about my journey. I was part of a church for, oh man, probably at least five, six years where we would, we thought that we really had it.
I mean, we thought that we really loved Jesus better than everybody else. And and I mean, this is just my own self-reflection. So I’m speaking about, I thought I loved Jesus better than everybody else, okay? And, and we used to do something that I’m so embarrassed to even say, but like we would mock other Christians who would talk about God’s love. Like, oh, God’s love. You know, we would, we, we would mock and, and kind of make a little joke about that. And the reason why is because we thought that when people talked about God’s love in that way, we thought they were wishy-washy. It sounded kind of cheap, you know, cause like, cause all they would say is God’s love, God’s love. And they, and there wasn’t really much depth I found, you know, um, I didn’t see much difference between them and other people in, in my opinion.
So I didn’t see the transformation that I thought Christians are supposed to experience. I thought many of them were just a bunch of liberals, to be honest with you. Um, I thought they didn’t take the Bible seriously because you know what I, I, I hate to say this, but a lot of people that I encountered that talked about God’s love a lot, didn’t, don’t read the Bible, they know stories, but they didn’t really like read the Bible. So I had this prejudice against them. And, and I also didn’t think they took the lordship of Jesus seriously. So in this faith community that I was at, like our, in our mind, the right kind of faith, the right kind of redeeming love was like centered on Jesus’ two greatest commandments to love Lord God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
So in our mind, how we interpreted that, you know, it was, you know, love God first, right? That that’s the, that’s the primary thing. And so we interpreted that as this. The only way was to surrender your life to Jesus. You had a love scripture. I mean, if you, if you didn’t memorize scripture, if you didn’t really get into scripture, I mean, you were playing games, so you had to love scripture, and then you had to live a scripturally holy life. Now, I, that means I was not Methodist. I wasn’t in, I wasn’t in this Methodist tribe at that time, okay? And then, so we had the love God part, like I said, lordship of Jesus loves scripture, knows scripture, and just live this holy life as much as we can. In other words, trying to, um, replicate what we see in the scripture. And, and, and, and everything I’m saying, I don’t see anything wrong with what I’m saying with that part.
But then this other side was love others. We, we have a, a very, this is our vision of loving others. We wanted everybody to have an opportunity to, to, to receive Jesus or Lord and Savior. And we would do some works of mercy. But there was a problem with that. And the problem was, as I’m looking at my own journey, you know, I was like, if you take the commandments of Jesus, you know, love God and love your neighbor, it’s like looking at two sides of a coin, right? But the coin is one. And for me, I was very one-sided. I had a lot of emphasis on one side. And can you imagine what side that was? You know, you could prob you could probably imagine where, where I sat on things. But the loving others, I had a hard time with that because I only equated to just sharing Jesus.
And yes, absolutely, I believe that we still have to be committed that, and, and we better not ever lose that focus to, to share Jesus. But where I struggled a lot with, I never moved beyond mercy. And mercy, you know, has talked a lot, a lot about in the, in the old, in the Old Testament, and it’s mentioned, but it’s also taken to a way different degree in the New Testament. Because see, mercy is withholding punishment that we deserve. Okay? That’s what mercy is. So, so I was okay with like saying, okay, you know, like, here, here, here, I’ll, you have a little problem here, I’ll help you. I feel a little guilty, you know, I’ll help you. But, but this world doesn’t really matter. So, you know, I can give you like, like really cruddy clothes. I wouldn’t give the goodwill, but I can give it to you or I can give you some food or something like that to make me feel well and try to meet a need.
But I really, but my focus is all in heaven. You know what I mean? So if you, you came to Jesus, you know, you’d probably get a little bit more from me. But, um, but if you didn’t, you just get a little bit of mercy. I, I’m telling you, this is where my head was. This is even worse. This is where my heart was, okay? What I really lacked also on the other side of the coin was biblical grace. And you see, while mercy is withholding the punishment that we deserve, grace is this radical generosity or generously giving to us everything that we don’t deserve. It’s giving us everything we don’t deserve. You know, John one 14 says this, it said, the word became flesh and it dwelt among us. And we saw its glory, the, the fool full of grace and truth. I was always about the truth camp, but I had a real hard time working in the grace camp, living in the grace camp, and I had a, a distorted understanding of what grace was.
I’m, I’m just telling you that that was where I was many years ago. You see, because when we talk about grace, I think about redeeming love, and redeeming love brings grace and truth to every area of life. I want you to understand that, okay, redeeming love brings grace and truth to every area of life. And it challenges the basic order of things. Redeeming love is something that we all need to experience it. And once you experience redeeming love, you have this deep desire to share and to give it to everyone who you encounter that that lacks it, you know? So, um, what happens to me was I had a very, very limited understanding of what redeeming love looks like. And God, like radically is continue to stretch and, and open you up to that. And that’s what we’re gonna read in today’s nativity story. And so, Robert, you’re gonna have to bear with me on this one because we’re, we’re gonna stay in Matthew chapter one, verse 18 to 25.
But you know, we’re gonna kind of, we’re gonna read it in chunks, okay? So whatever’s on the screen, just, just try to just stick it along. But we’re gonna, we’re gonna first jump into Matthew chapter one, and we’re gonna read verses 18 and 19. This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about. His mother, Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit because Joseph, her husband, was faithful to the law and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace he had in mind to divorce her quietly. You know, that, that, that sounds familiar to us. So what, what is happening here? Joseph was pledged or betrothed to be married to, to Mary. So what does that mean? Cause like, I mean, this is a totally different understanding of what you and I think about marriage.
So in other words, in order to be betrothed, Joseph had to actually give a sum of money to, to Mary’s family, okay? And also, um, Petrova was basically the equivalent of marriage, except, uh, the marriage is only complete when, when, when the groom takes the bride into his home. And so in the interval period of, of this in between being betrothed and they’re waiting, Mary is supposed to remain in her father’s house, and sexual intercourse is not permitted. Now I look, just look how far <laugh> like what this understanding of marriage is. You know, you gotta pay your in-laws. You’re, you’re basically like Mary, but you don’t live together and no sex, okay? So, so this is what’s going on. And then in this world, infidelity, even during a betrothal period is equivalent, or is exactly, I mean, it is J is it is I, uh, adultery.
It is adultery. Now, what we know about Joseph at this, and you know, his, the laws in his world were, were pretty clear. I mean, there was some nuances, but, but I mean, like the, the large sum was very clear. And I think a lot of times when you and I approach the Bible, you know, we say, man, it’s pretty clear, it’s very simple. And, and we just gotta apply. And the scripture tells us that Joseph was faithful to the law. And other scriptures, um, other translations say it, Joseph was a righteous man. I’m understand this is written by Matthew. So Matthew’s a disciple of Jesus. And so we know that how he approached Pharisees who are also very devoted to law, he didn’t really call them righteous. But there’s something different about Joseph. They say he is a righteous man. Now, according to the law, Joseph must at a minimum divorce Mary, under these circumstances, he must do this.
He is not permitted to forgive and to forget. But what we see here in the text is that his righteousness is more than illegal righteousness, because he does not want to humiliate Mary publicly by proclaiming her adultery. He chooses not to do that. And so his plan is, you know, he wants to do a quiet divorce. It looks like to me, when I read this text though, that Joseph still thought Mary did something wrong. I mean, can you see that? I mean, I mean, he got the, he’s like, man, she, he found, she goes pregnant, their bero, she did something wrong. And he was choosing to choosing to do the, the more humane thing on the extreme end of the law. I mean, there are actually cases where women could get stoned, even women who were pregnant. And so, I mean, so this is the consequences.
And what Joseph is trying to do is to choose like the, the lesser degree or the lesser the harsher, uh, crime. And sometimes I think we Christians who are trying to be Bible believing and walking, you know, we encounter people in that are, that are not of our worldview, um, do not have the, the same norms, biblical norms as we have. And we say, okay, well, you know, I accept you. I like you, but you know, I still gotta uphold the law a lot of times. You know, um, I think a lot of us are a lot like Joseph, you know, we, we just really want to go about our business, live a life that honors God and we don’t wanna make trouble. And sometimes we just want to handle things, you know, kind of in a way of like, without any fuss or quietly.
But, um, but also there’s a caution because some people, when things come out, you know, they want to hand, they wanna make a spectacle, they wanna make a scene. They, they want to get on the soapbox. And, and if anything that we can see in this text, it reminds us that what we want to do loudly, we pro probably should do it quietly. You know, that that’s wisdom there, right? You know, don’t make a big stink about stuff, you know, just, just kind of, you know, be quiet about things. How many times has the church, you know, stood up on its soapbox and got super political and attacked groups of people? And that could be on whatever side you are on things. They attack groups of people and they see issues, they see sins, they see laws, they seem status, they see status. Instead of seeing people made in God’s image, I want you to know, if you’re a part of this church, the gathering place, you, you gotta understand this right away cuz it’s gonna, it’s, you’re not gonna be able to fulfill our missionary to, to extend God’s redeeming. Love your righteousness. Being in right relationship with God does not give you the right to condemn others. It does not give you the right to condemn others. It does not give you the right to shame and humiliate others or to make someone feel like they’re worth nothing.
Th this is a non-negotiable in this church. Let us continue. Matthew 11, verse 20 to 23. But after he had considered this, so Joseph took some time and Angel, the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She’ll give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he’ll save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet. The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they’ll call him Emmanuel, which means God is with us. Now, you’re all people of faith, right? And try to put ourselves in Joseph’s shoes where, you know, you wanna follow God’s ways, God’s laws, right?
Y’all wanna do this, this is why you’re here. You know, you’re, you, you wanna love God, but you wanna learn how to live out your faith into, into tomorrow, right? And, and can you imagine being in Joseph’s shoes and then all of a sudden an angel’s saying, Hey, even though the biblical law says this, you just gotta overlook the fact that you know that she’s pregnant. Because actually the the pregnancy is, you know, it’s a good thing and you gotta take her as your wife. And this is gonna fulfill God’s plan. Um, that will be really hard for me to swallow. I mean, I mean, that would be really hard for me to accept, but a lot of times, okay, you’re not put in that situation, but I do believe that you’re around people and you’re in situations where it’s not all crystal clear. One plus one does not always equal two.
And there’s a lot of other complexities to these stories and circumstances that you’re interacting with people and you, and you wanna honor God and you wanna do the humane thing and you’re not sure what to do. And you know what? Fear comes up inside of us, you know? And when fear comes up inside of us, you know what? Fear is the opposite of love. It paralyzes us. It gets us stuck. And the first thing that we have to remember is that, you know what, if God is calling us to love and extend God’s redeeming love to an uncomfortable place, do not be afraid. You see, fear comes when we are challenged to have faith when God is leading us into an unknown territory. So when God is leading an unknown territory, I mean, there, there’s this temptation to, to resort, to fear and say, whoa, whoa, whoa, I’m not going there.
I’m not crossing that line. You could cross that line, but I’m not going there. Faith says, you know, you just gotta keep walking even though you don’t know what’s going on. Cause you gotta trust that God is leading us. So Joseph receives this message from the angel. And, and here’s the thing that, that this, that I wrestle with, um, that really provokes me in my faith, is it challenged his traditional understanding of, of the law and also the social conventions of his time. How many times we get stuck in the, in the social conventions of, of our time, even when it comes to religion. You know, we think we have to dress a certain way so we can be welcomed in these doors. We think we have to talk a certain way in order to be valued or, or taken seriously. But what we see here is that it causes us to rethink what we think is the law and what we think is normal.
And, and look, if if this is a barrier to fulfilling God’s mission, we gotta be willing to move forward. And here’s the thing I I really like, intrigues me about Joseph, you know, because the Israelites at his time, I mean, they were under the Roman government and they, uh, Roman empire and they hated the empire. And there were people that said, man, we gotta resist the empire. We have, we have to, we have to fight it. And so you have these religious zealots at, at, in Joseph’s time, who, who, you know, thought that the way to fulfill God is to go to war sometimes. We have a lot of Christians today that think that the way to honor God is basically go to war with culture, to go to war with people, to fight the government, to fight everybody. But Joseph did not violate any of those social, social conventions by being politically rebellious. But here’s where he broke all the rules. Joseph challenged society. Joseph was countercultural by choosing to be faithful to Mary and trusting that God intervenes there. You see, redeeming love calls us to be faithful to people, to specific people. People who, um, the stand, the, the, the, the, the norms of society have left out.
That’s who God calls us to be faithful to. So let’s, let’s get very specific. I mean, again, we, we Christians like to be around people that talk and think like us. And we don’t, we don’t like to be around people that have problems because we got our own problems, right? And, but the faith calls us to be faithful to people that are, that are not measuring up to whatever standard we have. The, the, the gospel calls us to treat, especially these people that are in your life, that are really screwing it up. I mean, do you know that I know somebody’s really screwing up at times and the gospel says to be faithful to them, to see them. And even though they, they reject and they, and they fall down and they screw up. Every good piece of advice you give them, the counterculture thing is to be faithful to them. Because we know that God is working behind the scenes. And what that angel tells Joseph, and I think some of you need to hear this cause you’re struggling, like, man, should I just give up on that person? I’ve done it, I’ve done it, I’ve done it, I’ve done it. You know, and it’s just, it’s, they’re constantly just screwing it up. And the angel says, you know what? It’s gonna be okay. Do you hear me? It’s gonna be okay.
You don’t see that solution yet. It’s gonna be okay. Because even according to the Jewish customs and traditions of the law, even when you’re in an unacceptable situation, maybe you’re in that unacceptable situation. I want you to know that, like, to, to answer this call, to love. It’s rarely easy. And it’s almost always complicated because it challenges everything that we think to be normal and easy. And then, you know what I, I have, I hate to say this, but that’s not appealing to a lot of people. I mean, like most people like the normal and easy kind of gospel, you know, where you just, it’s, it’s great. It’s gonna be okay. You don’t have to change much. You’re good, God’s great and all that. But, but redeeming love calls us to do something more. So let me tell you a little bit about where I’m personally struggling and, and it’s been for several months.
Um, and it started with, um, Russia’s invasion on the war of Ukraine. Um, that affected me in so many ways, affected me personally. Um, you know, I’m Ukrainian heritage. It affected my, my family, it affected my wife’s family. And as I, um, you know, I’m watching the news and I’m very, I mean, I’m, I’m watching a a lot of plugged in a lot of different ways. Not just like mainstream American, uh, news, but I mean, we see this, we see the, the realities of war and war is horrible. We see the, the violence, we see the un I mean just innocent people just being killed. We see destruction against Ukraine and, and we’re now we’re seeing that we’re coming into winter and um, you know, here we are having like the infrastructures of water and electricity and heat just being just torn up. I mean, it, it, it’s, there’s, there’s nothing acceptable in this, in my view.
So this will probably be one of the few times I will get political in this way. I don’t think it’s acceptable. And I, and I believe the church, church has to rise up and be, and be a part of, of, of standing for what is right. And, and I want you to know, I want to thank every single person that has been, um, that is called the Gathering Place, the home. And that you have supported the, the mission of the Gathering Place because of your faithful, supportive mission. Here’s what we were able to do this week. We were able to send, you know, a thousand dollars, um, to, to kyiv and, and to help. I mean, I, I’m talking to a lot of pastors on the ground. I mean the head pa um, superintendent that’s over the whole Methodist church in, in Ukraine. You know, he’s a, a friend of ours and, and he’s like, this is what we need.
We need, we need money for generators. And I’m like, bam. You know, we got it. And, and, and we’re, and we’re responding to that right now. Um, this week we’ll be sending another, um, thousand dollars to, to Western Ukraine, to Lavi, which is like, uh, the largest city that’s just before Poland and Ukraine side, both places. I mean, they, they need power because the power is unstable. And, and these are places where a lot of refugees are being held, you know? And so I think this is awesome that the gathering place, I mean, here we are a a new church start, you know, uh, little over a year into this that we’re, we’re answering this call even though we got our own problems and our own issues and all those things, but we’re saying, Hey, when things are going wrong and things are not, um, acceptable, we have to step up and do something cuz this is what extending God’s redeeming love looks like.
But now there’s this personal struggle I have, and, and here’s the personal struggle, is that because I believe that there’s no excuse to justify what Russia is doing. And I, and I hate trying to convince people that think otherwise, it just drives me crazy. But I will want you to know, you know, part of my ministry, um, I answer the call to ministry in Russia. I speak better Russian than I do Ukrainian, and I have a lot of friends who are living in Russia right now, and we have a very different opinion. And, and, but the opinion, you know, is, um, at first there was a place in my head space where I was literally like a black and white, you know, I was like, you’re either on the right side of this thing where you’re, you’re supporting what’s going on or you’re on the wrong side.
And those are on the wrong side. I mean, on the extreme wrong side, they believe that everybody in Ukraine is just, um, you know, they’re a bunch of Nazis. And so Russia’s gonna defend the world against Nazis again. But I know it’s not that simple. And, and I know that, you know, depending on where people are, they have limited information. And so they can only respond to them information that’s given to them. And the government over there controls a lot of things. There are people that have power, and people that have power can do stuff and they can speak up, but most people don’t have any power. They’re just trying to live and then, and, and yes, they’re trying to live and, and all they’re hearing is this is bad information. And, you know, the more you hear bad information, eventually it does get into your soul. It does, it does affect you. And then also there’s this thing called privilege, because only people with privilege or who have somebody who knows something with privilege can get out and escape and do something. But everybody else is kind of stuck. And so here’s my been, my dilemma is like, okay, what do I do with these people that I’ve had a relationship with that I don’t really know where they stand on things?
So a while back, our church did another incredible thing. Uh, we had an invitation to help the, the Methodist Seminary in Moscow. And that is one of the, the, the, the main places where some really good solid bounce theological education is given in Russia and in, it’s not only in Russia, but it’s a lot of the former Soviet, uh, states of the Soviet Union. And it actually trains and teaches pastors how to look at different sides, not just, you know, be legalistic with the bylaw, actually know how to care for people. And, and it was still a challenge because I questioned myself. I mean, once I even had discussion, it’s like, is it even right to support something that has an name Moscow into it with all that’s going on? And at that time, I felt like, you know, yes, you know, it is. But then as time go went further, you know, my connection with some of these people, you know, we didn’t talk as much.
And so, you know, there was like this divergent opinions and I said, God, you know, what am I supposed to do? And the Holy Spirit started convicting me and said, you know what? You still have to be in relationship with these people and, and, and you gotta reach out to them. And so my journey has been not only supporting, um, the, the National Ukrainian Church of Methodists and Baptist and Pentecostals, I mean they’re all my, my, my deep friends, but also still reaching out to the faith leaders in Russia and just saying, how are you? And, and they, and they all, all the ones I’ve in contact with, they, they feel very isolated. Um, they’ve shared that the church over there is very divided. And, and it just really depends on who the pastor is. Doesn’t it sound kind of familiar? Like, you know, <laugh>, you know, the church could either be united or divided and, and, um, and so it depends on these pastors and, and these leaders, even though, um, I know if we were to kind of line up everything up, we do have some different opinions of what causes the war and why and all that kind of stuff.
But majority of the ones that I’ve been talking to and the ones that have a lot of power in these kind of situations, they are challenging both sides and, and getting people to try to see different perspectives. They are trying to work for peace. They are, you know, even though maybe their starting point is different, the end goal is still the same. And, and for me it’s an ethical and it’s a faith challenge. Cause sometimes I feel like by doing this, am I betraying myself? Am I betraying what is good? But the gospel calls me and says, no, you gotta push further. So for me, that is my unacceptable situation. You know, I I, I don’t have a, I’m not betroth to somebody that that has a child of a, you know, and, and we’re questioning the parents. My thing is about, you know, uh, loving people that are politically, um, are living in a nation that is, you know, doing all this horrible stuff to another nation that fundamentally goes against who I am as a person.
I, I, I feel like, you know, and the gospel says you love them. Anyways, my question for you is, when was the last time you chose to love someone in an unacceptable situation? When’s the last time you did? Where, where are you wrestling and struggling with this? Where, where, what we know of the law and where they are there, there’s some conflict there and you can’t, it can’t be just literally just a black and white situation. When was the last time that you chose to, to love someone in that unacceptable situation, Matthew 1 24 to 25, when Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife, but he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son, and he gave him the name. Jesus, to me, I think Joseph models outrageous grace by taking Mary as his wife.
And here’s something that, that to me, I think is even more outrageous. And, and, and we don’t, in our world, we miss a significance. It says that Joseph named the baby Jesus, like the angel told him, why is this a big deal? Because in Judaism when the father names the child, it, it’s a very sacred act when the father names the child, that father is claiming the child as his own. So not only did Joseph choose to marry Mary, but he, when Jesus was born, he claimed Jesus, essentially, he, I mean, Joseph knew what was going on. He didn’t make it a public spectacle, but he claimed Jesus as his own, thus legally incorporating Jesus into Joseph’s royal genealogy. Cuz remember Joseph was called the son of David. And here’s what we can see from the text. And this, I mean, man, it’s hard to, to let things go, right?
It’s hard for me, okay? But what we see that Joseph does is that he never brings up the question of who Jesus’ father is. And the reason why we can see this biblically is because we see that that Joseph’s family is free to go into the temple without Anne Mary’s able to go into the temple with Jesus without any issues. If there was a question about who Jesus’s daddy was, there is no way that they could have full access to the temple. I mean, I mean, like, there, there Jesus’s level of society would be this totally diminished. And even in the gospel, when, when we see the who is your Father thing? I mean, you look at the text, really, it’s an attack of like, okay, do you are, are you wor doing idolatry or are you worshiping our heavenly Father? It wasn’t a question of who Jesus’ father was, but what we see is that Jesus, Joseph did this radical thing of taking Mary in, even though he had the questions, he put those questions aside, he chose to honor and love her and be faithful to her and to claim Jesus.
And then also the other thing, um, you know, like my, my, my dad was, um, was adopted by his stepfather. And as much as he loved his stepfather, um, there was always this, I don’t know, there was a little difference between the, the bloodborne kids and the adopted kids and the family. I mean, and that happens, right? But what we can see about Jesus is that Jesus being fully God and fully human, we can see that what, by the council of the Gospel, that Jesus had a good relationship with his family and thus he was able to, that the human Jesus was able to love people fully. Because we see that Jesus had a healthy relationship with his parents. He also had a healthy relationship with God the Father. I know that’s my cue to wrap things up. Um, but also, um, what I, what I love about this is that Joseph chooses to love Jesus fully as both his son and the son of God.
I want you to know, if you’re sitting here, I don’t, you know, we’re, we’re not gonna be this perfect picture, perfect people, so get that myth outta your head, but right where you are, God is calling you to extend God’s redeeming love to others. And, and here’s what I want you to, to, to listen to this, this is really important. This is a call that God has on your life. There are people that you know that right now, according to the law or the the cultural norms, they, they should be pushed out. They should be left alone. They, I mean that, I mean, there’s like, like the Russians, you actually just be cutting ’em off. That’s what society says. But we’re called to extend God’s redeem love. And here’s what the poet David White notes, he says, the call will not come so grandly, you know, you’re not gonna have angels that’s dumping on you. It won’t look so biblically, but it’ll be intimately in the face of the one you know, you have to love. So when you look at that person in the face and, and inside your heart, everything inside says, I have to love them and show them kindness. I have to, to go beyond status quo. That’s what it means. Let’s just take some time to, to get into our quiet space to pray.
You know, some of you have everything. And when I say everything, you know, you have the, you have the job that, that meets your needs. You live in a safe home and you have a loving family. But I believe that everyone is facing right now, a person or situation that is challenging your capacity to love and you’re a bit conflicted. You’re not sure what to do. And when you’re really honest about the situation, it’s not black and white. Here’s the good news that I want you to hold onto unexpected things or those things that are outside the convention of normal. So if you’re in that, if you have like this, this really just screwed up situation and it’s just outside of normal and it’s unexpected, you don’t know what the new, when you have those situations, those are signs that God is at work. And when things are going out of the ordinary in your life and they’re not as perfect as you’d like them to be, this is a sign that God is doing something new.
And so the advent call for us today is to wake up to that, to rise and to follow God’s call. And this call, it beckons us to reconsider and it, and it calls us to, to challenge the basic order of things. And you’re not gonna know where the journey’s gonna take you. I want you to know that you’re not gonna know what it’s gonna look like. You’re not gonna know what it’s gonna take you, but it’s a path that you must follow. Justice Joseph did because of the Messiah is coming again. We have to do the same. Joseph did it cuz the Messiah was coming. We have to do it because Jesus is coming again. We have to answer that call. So heavenly Father, we give you thanks that you are in our midst and in our lives, that you see us, you see everything. And Lord, that your love is so outrageous.
It, it, it, it breaks all our conventions of normal. It breaks us out of the status quo and comfort. And even though we feel like we’re such a screw up right now, or, or there’s somebody in our life that we feel like they’re just throwing it all away, God, you’re saying in that unusual, unexpected circumstance, you are doing something new. So Jesus, we just claim that your love is doing something new and we don’t wanna get in the way, but God, we want to be a part of that. Help us this advent to welcome Jesus Christ again into our lives and into every circumstance, so that you can do new things right here in our lives, in our personal lives, and our families in the workplace, in Palm Beach Gardens and beyond in Russia, Ukraine, and around the world. Come Lord Jesus,
Pastor Mike (39:59):
Hannah Hunter (40:00):
Hey, you beautiful people. This is Hannah Hunter. I’m the director of Digital Reach here at the Gathering Place in Palm Beach Gardens. Thank you for joining us this week. We love getting to share our journey in Christ and community with you. And if you’re in the Palm Beach area, we’d love to get to connect with you in person at our Sunday Worship service at 1115. For more information about our community in faith, check out our website at the gathering place fl.org. Thanks for listening.