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Journey From Bethlehem to Jerusalem

Over the past several weeks we have been hearing the stories of Jesus’ childhood from our Canon. Stories of Jesus’ birth and childhood are found only in Luke and Matthew.

I chose this path for us to learn together as we embark on our Lenten journey, because we squeeze the stories from the Gospels to fit into our Liturgical year. So we celebrate Advent, then Christmas and then right into Epiphany and then Baptism of our Lord, eventually Transfiguration and then, because of the way we need to fit Easter in around the time of the Passover, we go immediately to our Lenten readings starting on Ash Wednesday.

This year we will be looking at the whole arc of Jesus’ life and story, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. So far that arc has taken us from Bethlehem to Egypt to Nazareth and to Jerusalem. Where will our journey take us next? Come Sunday and find out!

With Joy,

Rev. Paula

PS: Last week I didn’t send out my Midweek Missive, so this is a two-for-one bonus edition. The first article below is from Feb 19’s service on Refuge and the Flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-23); the second article is from Feb 26’s service on the 12 Year Old Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52).

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Jesus, Mary, Joseph: Refugees
“Refugee”
noun
a person who flees for refuge or safety, especially to a foreign country, as in time of political upheaval, war, etc. (Dictionary.com).

The plight of refugees has been in the news lately. The heart-breaking stories of families trying to flee war-torn Syria has captured our attention. In typical American fashion, their plight hasn’t affected our lives much, but we hear a lot about it.

If our hearts were aligned with God’s heart, I am convinced that we wouldn’t be able to think of anything else. Throughout our story of being God’s people, we read that God has a tender heart for the “Sojourner” or the “Stranger” or the “Refugee.” Take a moment to peruse this partial list of times when God teaches us about the alien, the stranger, the wanderer; about offering Radical Hospitality to those who are from different places:

Genesis 12:1 Abraham becomes a sojourner.
Genesis 37:27-36 Joseph is solid into Egypt but learns to adjust to the new culture.
Exodus 23:9 “You shall not oppress a stranger, you know the heart of a stranger, for you were stranger in the land of Egypt.”
Leviticus 19:15-18 “You shall do no injustice in judgement; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”
Leviticus 19:33-34 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love himself as yourself…”
Deuteronomy 10:18-19 “[God] executes justice for the fatherless, the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore; for you were sojourner in the land of Egypt.”
Deuteronomy 26:12 The Israelites tithe to help the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless and the widow.
Joshua 20 The Israelites establish cities of refugee for those who need asylum.
Ruth: Ruth leaves Moab to join Naomi in Bethlehem and learns of another culture.
I Samuel 23-24 David hides in the wilderness (23:15) “because Saul has come out to seek his life.” (Similarly, many refugees today flee from life-threatening situations.)
II Samuel 22:2-3 “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.
Job 31:32 “The sojourner has not lodged in the street; I have opened my doors to the wayfarer.”
Psalms 2:12 “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”
Psalms 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Psalms 57:1 “Be merciful to me, O God, for in thee my soul takes refuge.”
Psalms 61:1-3 “Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to thee, when my heart is faint. Lead thou me to the rock that is higher than I; for thou art my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.”
Psalms 146:9 “The Lord watches over the sojourners, he upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.”
Proverbs 24: 11-12 “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this, does He who weighs the heart perceive it?”
Proverbs 31:8-9 “Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all who are left desolate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, maintain the rights of the poor and needy.”
Isaiah 1: 10 “…you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the rock of your refuge.
Isaiah 58: 6-9 “Is not this the fast I choose; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?…to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house?… Then shall your light break forth like the dawn…”
Isaiah 61: 1-3 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”
Zechariah 7: 9-10 “thus says the Lord of hosts, render true judgements, show kindness and mercy each to his brother, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor…”
Matthew 2: 14 Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee to Egypt.
Matthew 14: 13-21 Jesus takes loaves and two fish–and feeds more than five thousand people. (The pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Mobile, Alabama, said, “Whenever we felt overwhelmed by the urgent needs of the refugees under our care, we have reminded each other of our Lord’s promise: ‘Give them what little you have and it will be enough!)”
Matthew 25: 31-46 “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Luke 10: 25-37 The parable of the Good Samaritan. Here our Lord even chooses a stranger, a Samaritan, as our role model for actions of love.
Luke 14: 13-14 “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.”
Acts 8:26-40 Philip shows concern for the spiritual needs of a foreigner.
I John 3: 16-18 “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.”

So it isn’t surprising to me that the story of our very own savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, contains a reference to a perilous flight to Egypt by Mary and Joseph in their attempt to find refuge and safety for their beloved Jesus. The story in Matthew 2 offers this interpretation, “This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’” Of course we know the author of Matthew reminded his reader repeatedly about the fulfillment of scripture found in the entire story of Jesus.

On this particular Sunday, we were privileged to also be celebrating the baptism of one of the CEH family. Eight-month old Elden Martin was a welcome addition to our growing number of baptized members, and his parents Kelly and Earl, and big sister Raelee, grandparents,and even more aunts, uncles, cousins — all of them joined together in professing their faith in Jesus Christ, and made an agreement to help Elden grow in his faith. The entire congregation made that same pledge — to walk with Kelly and Earl and encourage Elden in his own faith journey.

I celebrate this baptism as I do every baptism — with an immense sense of gratitude and joy. Somehow, with the Grace of God, parents have found CEH to be a place of refuge, a place where they can bring their child for safety from this crazy world we live in. Let’s continue to work together to make CEH a place of refuge for all families, all of God’s Children, and especially to those lost souls who are looking for a bit of safety.

With the Hope of Christ Eternal,

Rev. Paula

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Sassy Jesus; Worried Mother
The story of Jesus in the temple from Luke chapter 2 is wonderful. In this story we see every bit of Jesus’ humanity shining through his divinity. Sometimes we focus so much on the divinity of Christ, that we forget he had a very human side. A human side that sometimes was a little sassy (like any 12 year old boy!).

Here’s the story, right from Luke 2:41-52:
Now every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travellers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.

After three days Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, ‘Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.’

Jesus said to them, ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’

But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour
(NRSV).

We see here the very human reaction of his mother as well. Can you just imagine how angry Mary and Joseph must have been? That anger/relief feeling that only the most terrifying of situations can arouse within the heart of a parent. My friend Rev. Heather Scherer, of Living Water United Methodist Church in Glenpool, OK says it’s that mother’s expression she’s uttered many times before, “You’re okay! OH! I’m so mad at you I could kill you!”

And then we hear Jesus’ response — the one I call kind of sassy. Here’s my version: “Mooooooooom! Daaaaaad! Why are you so freaked out? Seriously! Didn’t you know I’d be here in my Father’s house? Jeez.”

Sassy. Human. Jesus. Sometimes we focus so much on the Divinity of Christ that we forget he had his human frustrations too. But here is our God-made-flesh, just 12 years old, teaching the teachers themselves through his questions — so it is easy for us to recognize his Divinity. Did his parents not notice it?

That might be a fault of human parents. They fail sometimes to see the great gifts in their children, which is one of the things that makes being a part of a church family so important. At CEH our children are surrounded by loving adults, who (because they are not the child’s parent), can see the wonderful gifts in our children and youth. They recognize those gifts and point them out to the child and to the parents. That is a wonderful and holy thing. I get to see it every week at Service Station, and it makes my heart so happy.

With that in mind, I’ll share one last funny for you to end this missive. It happened at this week’s youTHursday during dinner. One of the sixth graders at youth group exclaimed, “Pastor Paula, you have lots of white hairs popping out of your head.”

Quickly, a seventh grade boy came to my rescue. “Didn’t you know?” he asked. “Pastor Paula is so holy her body can’t contain it. That’s her holiness popping out!”

With Joy,

Rev. Paula

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