Java with Jack (Sermon from 12/19/10)

Joseph had a choice. That choice, along with a multitude of righteous choices, have brought us where we are today. God loves us so that we are allowed to participate (or not) in the divine agenda - love.

If you want to hear what I said last Sunday, click here. Ah, this is a text-only version of "Java with Jack" but I hope you don't mind. I have a few thoughts that I didn't get to share from this past week:

Is this text pro-choice or pro-life? All this talk about babies and choosing might make you a little queasy. Truthfully I wanted to talk about how very pro-life this text is but I thought it would detract from my whole "pro-choice" empowerment. Don't be mistaken, this text isn't about abortion. But some of the language I used in the sermon this past week might imply differently. Perspective? Yes, please:
  • Our God is "pro-choice" in the sense that our free will is based on choice. Every decision we make, every obstacle we overcome, and every sin we stamp out validates God's love. The real brain tickler is whether or not God is "pro-choice" even when we make poor choices? I believe it saddens God when we choose poorly. I also believe choosing poorly produces all the things that are not of God: sin, death, separation. But God doesn't step in and say "Wait a sec! You are choosing poorly! Stop that!" We still get to choose...
  • Our God is "pro-life" in this way then: while we were yet sinners (i.e. poor choosers) Christ died for the ungodly (i.e. poor choosers) so that we can be set free from those poor choices. Nothing can separate us from God's love - and *that* is about as pro-life as you get. Every soul, every human, and in fact, every creation is blessed because of the one who created it. The sanctity of life is so great that every decision God makes is "pro-life." Paradoxically, Jesus died specifically to bring life. And Jesus even says that if you REALLY want to live (be pro-life) you must die to yourself.
  • The text implies that while Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit, I'd say all babies are born of the Holy Spirit as all humans are created in the Image of God. I don't want to get into the particulars of how the Holy Spirit encourages us through child-birth but I will say that the text gives meaning to all babies. On the flip side, the text implies that one HUGE way God brings life is by the choices we make. Joseph chose to care for Mary and Jesus, and in that we have Jesus become the man he was. If not for Joseph's choices (participation) we wouldn't be here by the same path.
  • So really the challenge of this scripture is this... if you consider yourself "Pro-life" it means there are some tough choices you may have to make that honor the sanctity of life. You might have to do things like welcome in an unwed pregnant mother. With Christ as our model, that means we may sacrifice "life" for that very ideal. If you consider yourself "Pro-choice" it means the only "real" choice you have is to choose life. Anything else is not of God. Your choice, as much as it is a God-given right, has the power to honor life or take it.
What if Joseph had shamed Mary publicly? What would have happened to her or Jesus? It's an interesting question, even if it is straight speculation. A friend asked me this after the sermon and I thought I'd share some of my response:
  • Short answer: I don't know, but I bet God would still have worked things out.
  • Long answer: Mary did nothing wrong but be herself. That simple act is less her problem than those who can't see Mary the way God sees her. A few other thoughts:
  • Mary (and Joseph) probably still had to live with the stigma of a wedlock child. I'm from a small town and I know how they can talk. But people talking does not equate truth. Mary and Joseph both knew the truth and Jesus life (and their own) vindicated this. Hence the reason it frustrates me that Christians don't love as Jesus loves. They obviously don't believe what they say they do.
  • People choose the vindictive path all the time and God still reconciles folks. Forgiveness is one of the hallmarks of the faith after all. But its a much longer road than getting it right the first time. Doesn't mean God can't pull it off, just that we weren't on track at the time. Anyway....
  • Sometimes people choose what they (or God) want at great personal expense. Mary and Joseph is one such instance. Luke's Gospel is adamant that God continually reminded Mary that her heart would be pierced also. While Jesus was her Son, God's purpose for his life would supersede her perspective as Mother.
That is all. I hope you have a Merry Christmas and I'll see you in 2011!