Luke 1: 68-79 Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III
Jeremiah 23: 1-6 November 20, 2016
“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”
Prayer: O God, may we truly bring you into our lives in such a way that clarity comes to our faith. In the name of Christ whose reign shall be forever. Amen.
In our worship of God today, thus far we’ve recognized that God has blessed us immeasurably! We have a lot that we’re thankful for in our lives, in our faith, in our church, in the blessings that come with living in this great nation of ours.
We also gave thanks for those servants of God who have gone on to the Church Triumphant—we recognized their lives and ministry among us, the gifts that were brought in their honor, and their loved ones who are here. We affirmed that our loved ones who have passed are in Christ, our Savior who reigns with God and the Holy Spirit forever and ever! Thanks be to God! Amen? Amen!
Pushing further, we now come to the part of our worship where we affirm Christ as our Savior and Redeemer, as the one who reigns forever. Today is the “Reign of Christ” SundayAfter all; it’s the last Sunday of the Church year, and what better day than the last day to say, like Georg F. Handel says in his Hallelujah Chorus “And he shall reign forever and ever!”
The prophet Jeremiah speaks God’s words to the people of Judah and Israel who are incarcerated in Babylon, and predicts that the days are coming when God’s righteous Branch shall reign and shall execute justice and righteousness for everyone. This word comes becauseshepherds of Israel did not keep the flock of Israel very well.
Shepherds are a common metaphor for leaders. The leaders in religion, the priests and scribes, and government, the kings, the satraps, the viceroys did not take care of the people or government, thus making them vulnerable to foreign powers, like Babylon and Assyria, who had ransacked them almost to the point of oblivion. There was a lack of spiritual and national cohesion. And, the people were scattered about all over Babylon with no sense of identity, no sense of connectedness to God, to each other, to their faith, or to their homeland.
In fact, one could say that these so-called shepherds were pseudo-shepherds; in other words, fakes. They were shepherds in name only.
In today’s world, if something is fake, it can lead to big time trouble, right? If a news website company puts fake news on social media, it might lose its right to be there or to advertise. Both Facebook and Google and other social media sites are just now recognizing the severity of this problem. If you make counterfeit money, it’s jail time if and when you get caught. If you pretend to be someone you’re not, it’s likely that your friends will eventually see through all that and not want to be your friend anymore.
Jeremiah had problems with fakes: people who were passing themselves off as genuine shepherds but were in fact phonies. But, God saw through all that and promised that one was coming who would be the real thing. One was coming who would not just be a shepherd caring for the flock, the people, but that one would be God’s representative, and more… that one would re-present God.
There is a difference. A representative is one speaks on behalf of others’ ideas, values, viewpoints. They reflect their constituency the way a politician is supposed to represent his or her district, or constituencies. So, a representative of God might be a pastor, a committee leader, a Consistory member, a youth mentor, a Faith Formation teacher, a homebound visitor, reflecting God’s values, speaking about them, and so forth.
But, if one re-presents God, then God is actually seen in that person. God’s ways are revealed, God’s words come from that person’s voice. God is re-presented, or present again, in the moment as God’s values are replicated in that person, as God’s ways are visible in the present moment, as God’s values are right there for all to see and understand.
We believe that Jesus was and is the greatest example of one who re-presents God. He is the one who lived a life of God’s love. He is the one who role modeled justice. He is the one who deals wisely and
executes righteousness. He is the one whose ways and words were God’s ways and words.
He’s the one who does exactly the opposite of what the pseudo-shepherds do… instead of scattering people, he draws them in. Instead of holding sins and faithlessness against people, he forgives them and shows them the way to God’s gift of salvation. Is it any wonder that we affirm Jesus Christ reigns today?
He is the one who breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He’s the one who promised to send the Holy Spirit to be with us so that we might receive it as well.
We’ve always affirmed that God’s Holy Spirit has come and lives in each of us. Paul asks it this way, “Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6: 19)? A part of God loves in each of us.
So, if God lives in each of us, then aren’t we called to re-present God, too? Granted we cannot be the Savior or the Redeemer, that is not our bell to ring. Jesus already rang that bell. But, do you believe that our lives have the potential to re-present God right here? Can we let God’s power influence us deep within so that more and more, we can re-present God to others, right in the present moment? So that the presence of God comes through us all the time?
I think we can. In light of the events within our nation in the last two weeks, I can’t think of a better time for people of faith to re-present God, right here, right now, the present moment. The onus is on us to replicate what God loves. All across this nation, the onus is on us. The time is now to live God’s love more than ever. It requires faith. It requires a conscious choice to be a person who re-presents God.
In just a few seconds we will be retiring our “Growing in God’s Love” mobile. Each octahedron represents what ministries we’re striving to do. It is my hope and prayer, not that we will be successful in doing these ministries, but that we faithfully re-present God as present others as we do them.
So, as we do mission work, we’re re-presenting God to those in need. As we serve on Consistory, as we lead or participate in committees and projects, as we mentor youth, as we teach our kids, or visit a homebound person, as we do any of our ministries, we re-present God!
And later, as we think about and pray about how we receive and use our resources, let’s ask ourselves, does our budget and ministry spending plan enable us to re-present God in our church community and beyond? I invite you to think of these documents not so much as a budget and spending plan, but more of a theological document that shows how we can re-present God in the ministry God does through us.
May God’s presence always show through us as we do God’s ministry.
Thanks be to God! Amen.