Sermons

Last Sunday after the Epiphany 2019

The story is told of a carpet layer who had just finished installing carpet in a home. He finished one room and stepped outside for a smoke only to realize he had lost his cigarettes. After looking around he noticed that in the middle of the room, under the carpet that he had just installed, was a bump. Ah, he thought, my cigarettes. “No sense pulling up the entire floor for one pack of smokes,” he said to himself. So he got out his mallet and flattened the bump. Later as he was cleaning up, the lady came in. “Here,” she said, handing him his pack of cigarettes. “I found them in the hallway. Then she said, “Now, if I could just find my pet parakeet.”

You know sometimes we think we know; we think understand the situation, but later we find out that we were mistaken. In our gospel reading today for just a short time the God in the God- man broke through his humanity. God burst through his skin and his disciples were amazed and terrified. This is the last Sunday after Epiphany and each Sunday we have seen another example of the divinity of Jesus, the God-man. Just how significant was it that Jesus was divine, that he was God in a human body?  Because that is the point of the gospel lesson this morning isn’t it?  How significant was it? It changes everything. It shows us that things are actually much different than we think. In particular it shows us two very important things. First, it shows that we are loved far more than we could have ever imagined. And second it shows us that we are in a lot more in need than we ever imagined.

First God loves us more than we had ever guessed. Certainly there were hints of God’s great love in the books of the Old Testament. But we really see his love in the Incarnation. God comes to earth, is born of the Virgin Mary, grows up in an obscure, poor Jewish village, works with his hands, gets hungry, thirsty, and tired, all for what? Why does he go through this? God is God! He is the Lord of all the universe. Why would he do this?  How does mankind matter that much to him? Comparisons fail to set up the scope to which God stooped when he became a human. We could say it is like a man becoming an ant to go and live among them in order to help them. That comparison doesn’t work very well, but the distance between the human and the ant approaches what we can understand anyway. Not any more than an ant can understand a human, can we understand God. God is the being who designed, put together and now holds the entire universe together. We are unable to comprehend a being that has this much knowledge and holds this much power. We are unable to understand a being that is self-existent. We struggle to comprehend life stretching on forever, no death, no ending but it is even much harder for us to comprehend a being that has had no beginning, a being that has always existed.  We are beginning to approach understanding some of the secrets of the universe in physics and biology but what scientists are finding out is that we are just beginning to scratch the surface. The most basic laws of the universe like gravity or speed of light we are unable to replicate. God created these laws and put them into motion.  Think of how much intelligence and power he has! We tend to equate extreme intelligence with people like Spock, or Sherlock Holmes the more intelligence people have the less emotion they will have. Brilliant people are more like machines with no feelings. But this is not the case with Jesus, the God-man. We see Jesus feeling compassion upon people. He looks at the widow who just has lost her son to a terrible accident or sickness, and we are told he feels compassion for her and he turns to the dead body and because he is God, he reanimates the body; the heart begins to pump, the brain begins to function, the internal organs start working again. He brings the soul back from the dead. How is this possible? He is God! We are told again and again that he felt compassion for people in need around him and he mends bones, organs, drives out bacterial and viral infections, heals the mentally ill and those struggling with demons. How? He is God. And he came to earth; he came to us, a broken, lonely, and hurting humanity! This is the great God of the universe. We look out at the heavens at night and see the stars and realize how tiny our little earth is and how insignificant our short lives are and then we think about this being that created and holds it all together and this being, this God of all, loves, feels great affection for us, for you and for me!

How do we know? How do we know He feels affection and love for us? We know because he let himself be crucified. And this brings us to the next point which is we are in far great need than we had ever imagined.  Many people in our society today have no worries about what will happen after they die because they think of themselves as pretty good people. They think, ‘I am a better than average sort of guy. I am not like some of the drug dealers or sex traffickers or murderers. No, I am not perfect, certainly, but all in all, I am pretty good.’ But you see we are comparing ourselves to the wrong standard. For example, I could tell you that I am a really good bowler, that in fact, I have bowled a 300 game. (For those of you who aren’t bowlers, that means a perfect game! I got a strike every time I threw the ball down the alley.)  And it is true. But the fact is, I was not at a bowling alley, I was in my living room playing on the Nintendo Wii. In other words, the standard was not the real standard. We do the same thing. We compare ourselves to people who are worse than we are and then grade ourselves on the curve and pat ourselves on the back. But God’s standard is different than our standard. God’s standard is very easy to understand. It is simple. He doesn’t have grades; it is simply a pass or fail.  To pass we are to love God with all our hearts, our minds, our souls, and our strength and we are to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. That’s all. But those standards are the minimum requirements to get into heaven. When we look at those standards and compare them to how we actually live in our day to day life none of us, not one of us comes even close to making it into heaven. We were in far greater need of help than we had ever imagined.

And so what did God do? He himself came to help us. Scripture tells us, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. He lived among us, lived out those standards set out for humanity since our creation and then he allowed himself to be killed for us. God Almighty allowed himself to be nailed to a cross and be crucified. Crucifixion was the most shameful and painful death that had been devised by a cruel humanity to that point in time. Does God love you? Does God care about you? Yes, he loves you far more than you have ever realized. Humanity was in such a deep hole that it took God Almighty to reach down to pull us up out of it. Understanding how much we are loved and believing in Jesus is what changes us and brings us new life. We are told it makes us a new creation. It is through having this new life and becoming new people that we are able to begin to love God as we are supposed to; it is through having this new life that we are able to love our neighbors. God loves you and me even though our lives are so short and seem insignificant in this incredibly big universe.

Things are different than what we realize. Just like that bump in the carpet was different than what the fellow thought it was; that bit in the Scriptures is more significant than you suspected it was. You see, it is really important that Jesus was God in the flesh; it is a game changer; it is a life changer.  Amen