Monday, January 7, 2013

Sunday's Sermon: If You had A Chance to See God

What would you do if you had a chance to see God? Would you rearrange your schedule? Would you cancel any appointments? Would you sacrifice a baseball game or a business meeting? Would you skip a meal? Take a day off work? Drive a thousand miles? What would you do if you had a chance to see God?

Two thousand years ago, wise men from the east had that chance. These were men who studied the stars. A particular one had risen, and they saw it as a sign that the King of the Jews had been born. One thing consumed their thoughts, "We must meet this new born king. We must bring him honor, and we will bring gifts to show our honor." These men dropped everything that they were doing and left to see the King of the Jews.

This might not seem like such a big deal to us. We live in an age where one can travel around the world in less than a day if one has enough money and can stand being in an enclosed tube flying hundreds of miles an hour in the air. We can hop into our cars and drive 100 miles down the road in less than two hours. Our world has shrunk incredibly in the last 100 years as transportation has become faster.

Yet, despite this fact, try planning a vacation these days. For some, such travel becomes a headache very quickly. Purchasing tickets. Ensuring travel to and from the airport. Making sure mail is stopped or picked up. Making sure someone is caring for the house and pets and plants. Checking with law enforcement letting them know you will be gone. Packing enough clothes to last the entire visit and ensure you can cope with all sorts of weather. And, of course, making sure you have enough funds to purchase meals, drinks, snacks, souvenirs, and any extras that pop up along the way. Ah, and this is just for a weekend get away!!! God forbid we have to leave the house for up to two weeks. Imagine the preparation then!!!

But this is nothing compared to what those wise men endured. Their trip was much more involved. For in their travels, they were lucky to manage 20 miles in a day, and they traveled by horse or donkey or as we traditionally see in our manger scenes, by camel. If they came from the East, that could mean they traveled several hundred miles, even perhaps a thousand miles to see the King of the Jews. We are not talking about a journey of days, but perhaps months even years. Can you imagine taking off from work for that long to travel? Can you imagine the dedication and willingness to put that many miles behind you traveling on a beast of burden or walking? Can you imagine packing gifts over that distance just because you saw a particular star rise into the sky? Can you imagine trying to pack enough food and drink and clothing to manage such a feat? Would you be willing to take upon yourself such an endeavor even if it meant leaving wife and child behind?

You’d be called insane or worse. You would probably be called a slacker at work. You’d be called an idealist. A fanatic. A religious wacko.

And yet, we in the church honor the wise men. We remember their journey. We commend them for bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We celebrate their willingness to listen to God’s voice and return by a different route to avoid the terrible King Herod. We revel in this story, but most of the time we don’t think through the details of what it took for them to make this journey. We don’t take time to appreciate the involvement and dedication they had to travel mile upon mile in rudimentary fashion because they wanted to see the King of the Jews. And of course, we know they got to see God come to earth. They got to see Jesus.

And I cannot help but wonder what that meeting was like. I cannot help but wonder what Mary and Joseph thought as these men entered into their home and offered their gifts. I can’t help but wonder if those men got to touch Jesus? Did they get to hold him? Did they speak words and encouragement to Jesus and His parents? We know they were overjoyed when they saw the star stop over Jesus’ home, but I wonder what kind of joy they experienced when they left. Did they feel at peace? Did they feel any different after seeing the Christ-child? Were their lives substantially changed by their experience? I wish I knew. I wish scripture told us what happened to these men and how they were affected. It would make for good story-telling.

But what if these details are left out on purpose? What if the story of the wise men is still being written?
What if it is now we who have the opportunity to visit Jesus? What if we have the opportunity to seek Him out, find Him, hold Him, and see how that experience affects our lives? What if you had the chance to see God? To see Jesus? What would you do?

Ah, my brothers and sisters, what if I told you that opportunity is indeed available to you? What if I told you that I knew of a place where Jesus made His presence known week after week after week? What if I told you there was a place to see Him, to touch Him, to hold Him and have Him enter into you? What if I told you it was possible to travel this day and age to meet God? Would you believe me? Would you believe that such a thing was possible in this fast paced, technologically driven world? Would you believe I spoke the Truth, or would you think me daft? What if I told you that this very day, in this very place, you have the opportunity to hear God, to see God, and to hold our Savior in your hand?

Did you know God is speaking to you this morning? Did you know that when you heard the Bible read this morning, it was God’s written Word being articulated? Did you know that you were hearing His story; His teaching; His voice as it echoed through this building? Did you realize it was indeed God’s Word being spoken this morning as your sins were forgiven? Did you realize as you sung the hymns and heard their melodies and their message, God was speaking through those words bringing comfort and hope and promise? Did you realize that as we lifted up our prayers, God was hearing them and speaking to us through them? Did you realize that in the act of my preaching, God (and let me stress this, hopefully) is using me to convey His word to you? Did you realize God is speaking to you in this very building?

And did you realize, you are seeing Jesus this morning? Did you realize that in all those who are gathering here this morning–those who are suffering from grief, from illness, from hopelessness, from pain and all other such ailments are the face of Jesus? Did you realize that any time we find someone who is in need of care is Jesus clothed in human flesh? Don’t believe me, check out Matthew chapter 25 before you leave here. Check and see how Jesus comes into our midst in church and in the world around us. Check and see how you come into contact with Him on a regular basis.

And did you realize that in a few short moments you will have the opportunity to hold Jesus? Did you realize that when we come forward to take the sacrament of Holy Communion that Jesus is present in, with, and under the bread and wine? Did you realize that as you receive this meal, you are receiving Jesus–that He is entering into you and becoming a part of you? Did you realize that as you hold Him and receive Him, He is working to bring you to wholeness, to bring you joy, and to bring you the peace that passes all understanding?

Did you realize that you are seeing Jesus, you are meeting God here, this very morning as you worship? Did you realize He comes here and you have the opportunity to meet Him week after week after week? God is here. Christ is here. The Spirit is here.

And if the words I speak this morning are true, then let me ask once more: What would you do if you had a chance to see God? Would you rearrange your schedule? Would you cancel any appointments? Would you sacrifice a baseball game or a business meeting? Would you skip a meal? Take a day off work? Drive a thousand mile? What would you do if you had a chance to see God?

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