Adjusting Our Sensibilities to Hope

Message for December 18, 2011: Fourth Sunday of Advent (B)

2 Sam 7:1-11,16; Luke 1:46b-55; Luke 1:26-38

 Regardless of our expectations, participations, anticipations, God is bringing Hope into the world. We can accept what God is doing or we can overlook it.

Regardless of our philosophies, biologies, or theologies, Jesus Christ is the Hope God brings. We can believe God or we can ignore God.

Regardless of our activities, proclivities, or serendipities, Jesus–God’s Hope for the world–comes among us. We can adjust our sensibilites and follow, or we can or we can brush off the invitation.

Mary hears the invitation. She is trusting her life into God’s direction. She is risking everything. This young peasant girl is taking a huge chance, an enormous leap of faith. She is trusting that God is acting and moving in the world—and in her life–in this unusual way. She’s trusting that God really is entering creation to save it, and is doing so through the child she is bearing.

What if it had been different? What if Mary overlooked what God was doing? Ignored God? Brushed off the invitation? What if she had chosen to live as if God would only act in ways she could understand and approve of? What if she had chosen to live within the confines of her sensibilities? The salvation of the whole world is at stake—and Mary risks everything to be part of what God is doing.

But what if she was wrong? What if she risks her whole future—her marriage, her reputation, her family’s reputation, her security, her standing in the church and community, perhaps even her life—and turns out to be wrong? What if this wasn’t an angel from God at all, but merely the result of a little too much garlic on her kosher pizza?

Mary takes the risk and accepts God’s invitation. She’s an Advent prophet, not because she’s so smart or religious, but because she risks everything in speaking and living in the hope that this child will save the world. God called her to participate. She accepts what God is doing. Believes God. Adjusts her sensibilities and follows.

I wonder how often God invites us to participate with God in the world. I wonder how often we listen to the messenger of God. And even if we hear, I wonder how often we would speak it to the world (Magnificat), much less trust our lives to it. God’s invitation can seem impossible, beyond reason, is outside our sensibilities. And so, even if we hear it, how much are we willing to risk for it? We receive God’s invitation to be part of something big, something real, something that brings hope and comfort to people. We are invited by God to into that which seems impossible, non-sensical, something that would be so much easier to ignore. And often we do. We choose to live in comfort, we choose to live in our own security, we choose to live avoiding risks or looking stupid, we choose to live a life clinging to our possessions and sensibilities. We choose to live as if God weren’t really doing much of anything that makes a difference in the world.

We who live on this side of Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection already know the commitment of God. We know the direction of God. We know that God works in unlikely ways. We know that God is moving to calm our deepest fears, to cast aside our anxieties, to heal our wounded hearts, to alleviate our loneliness. God is directing reconciliation and forgiveness among us and among communities—even nations. God is acting to overcome addictions, establishing justice in the world, bringing peace on a global scale, creating an end to poverty and hunger.

Seem too far-fetched that God would invite you and me to participate in these plans? Seem too big for little ol’ us to be involved? If you knew that God was inviting you to change lives, to bring the hope that is Christ to a community, to proclaim this life-saving gospel to those who need to hear it, would you?

The easy answer is yes, but Mary’s prophetic voice and life tell us it is risky; it will cost; that it will make us uncomfortable—or even look silly.

And yet, God’s messenger is sharing with us even now God’s invitation—an opportunity for us to be a voice, a congregation that reveals the power of Jesus Christ in the world. Dare we take the risk of accepting that invitation? Dare we live as if we really believed that forgiveness, mercy, and generosity were the most important things?

Confessing to be Christians means we are willing to risk our comfort, our our sensibilities, our current lives for the sake of putting flesh on the gospel. Would you be willing to let your life be changed? Would you be willing understand forgiveness so deeply that you were compelled to forgive the same way? Would you be willing to have your finances adjusted to put the proclamation of the gospel at the center? We hear and we watch Mary, who when she heard God’s outrageous plan, moved her entire life to participate. That’s what happens when hope is real, when God invites, when Christ comes among us.

Regardless of our expectations, participations, anticipations, God is bringing Hope into the world. We can accept what God is doing or we can overlook it.

Regardless of our philosophies, biologies, or theologies, Jesus Christ is the Hope God brings. We can believe God or we can ignore God.

Regardless of our activities, proclivities, or serendipities, Jesus–God’s Hope for the world–comes among us. We can adjust our sensibilites and follow, or we can or we can brush off the invitation.

The point is, with us or without us, God is about the business of bringing hope to the world—and Jesus is the way God is doing it. Hope has come! We’re invited to be part of it.

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Categories: american christianity, church growth, Sermon, suburban church | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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