May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your
sight, Oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
It’s the first day of Advent!
We’ll spend the next four weeks waiting together for the joyous celebration of
While the rest of the world has decorated their spaces for Christmas:
(My own home included)
In the church:
And one of the ways that the church has done that in its history,
Is through a Jesse tree.
You might’ve heard of it before.
In the book of Isaiah:
The Messiah’s family tree is identified:
And it’s identified as the root of Jesse.
(Jesse was David’s father)
Isaiah knew that the house of David would produce an ideal king, who would
inaugurate the reign of peace, justice, and universal knowledge of God.
In art: a reclining Jesse dreams of a genealogical tree that grows out of his loins
with “leaves” in the tree that name the ancestors of Jesus.
In homes and in churches, a barren branch or bare evergreen is laden with the
Of messianic lineage until the Jesse tree blooms on Christmas day with Jesus’
Traditionally, the first “leaf” om the tree is Adam and Eve, representing the
common origins of all humanity.
And the New Testament opens with Matthews genealogy:
A list of the lineage of Jesus:
Another sort of “Jesse Tree.”
Matthew opens by saying:
“An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the Son of
He then lists many names:
Some of which we hear in the biblical stories of the Old testament.
In the next four weeks,
We’re going to make our own communal Jesse tree.
We’ll explore a different story from Jesus’ lineage.
And then you’ll be invited:
To go home, and find a common object in your home to bring to church and add
to our tree.
It’s going to be weird.
It’s going to be fun.
And it’s going to teach us more about God and each other.
So are you ready for our first story for our Jesse tree?
One of the most significant stories in the old Testament is that of Abraham and
(READ THE STORY HERE) Genesis 38:12-26
Abraham and Sarah left their own home to travel to the Promised Land.
They crossed through enemy territory multiple times,
And they had all but given up on God’s promise to provide them with a child.
They relied on Sarah’s slave Hagar to bear Abrahams son, Ishmael, on Sarah’s
In this story:
“Yes, of course, I’ll take care of Ishmael, but that is not what I meant! Sarah
herself will have a child. Go ahead and laugh.”
When Abraham, and later Sarah, laugh at the absurdity of the promise, perhaps
God laughs along. But only because God knows how the story will end.
God’s work with Sarah and Abraham is already happening. The promise is already
Like a current that will flow down through the generations.
But Sarah and Abraham just can’t believe it.
Rather than letting go and joining the current,
They struggle against it,
Trying to find their own ways to do God’s work:
Rather than trusting God to provide.
When their own son Isaac is finally born,
The joy of his birth seems to take them by surprise:
Completely out of the blue.
In the pages of Genesis, however,
God has been repeating this promise to them for twenty-five years.
Sarah and Abraham are the first generation identified in Jesus’ ancestry.
They’re an unlikely, disbelieving, and at times vengeful, and meddling couple.
They aren’t all bad, but they aren’t all good either.
God works with them.
They become the ancestors of nations and of salvation itself.
I invite you to go home,
And find something that seems impossible to understand.
Like Abraham and Sarah,
Who couldn’t begin to believe or understand what amazing things God was up to.
Whatever weird thing you find:
I hope you’ll bring it back with you next week to add to our Jesse tree.
Something impossible to understand.
Like a challenging puzzle,
A difficult book,
Or your tax return.
At the beginning of the service:
I’ll invite any of you to briefly share your found object,
And add it to our tree.
Our tree is going to look weird.
But it’s going to be ours:
With ordinary objects that might begin to remind us of what God is up to in our
In the next four weeks:
Let’s see how our tree changes,
With findings from our own lives and homes:
As we re-read a few of the stories form Jesus’ lineage.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord our strength and our redeemer.
Lately: Chris and I have been talking a lot about time.
And how time sometimes gets blurred.
How it’s not always in a linear line.
How eternity sometimes sweeps around and around.
We’ve talked about eternity before.
We know that eternity is not just in the future:
But includes all of time.
Yet it’s still hard for us to wrap our heads around.
Because too often, our modern minds force us to think in a linear fashion:
To think of stories and time on a continuum: a line.
As we’re taught to strive for the ultimate goal:
To finish to the end.
But real time:
Real time: is God’s time.
And God’s time is beginning, middle, end:
all of it wrapped up together.
And we catch a glimpse of it today.
Today is a strange day in the church.
Because today the lines seem blurred
Time is kind of blurred.
And everything seems to run together.
It’s Christ the King Sunday.
A special celebratory feast where we celebrate Christ the King.
Pope Pius the 11 th instituted Christ the King Sunday.
In order to celebrate the lordship of Christ in an increasingly secular world.
Pope Pius wanted people to remember that God’s power and majesty is radically
different from the reign of human monarchs or presidents.
Originally, Christ the King Sunday was celebrated on the last Sunday of October.
But when the Roman Catholics proposed the three year lectionary:
After the second Vatican council:
Christ the King was moved to the final Sunday of the liturgical year.
Which is today.
The last Sunday of the Church year.
The last Sunday before Advent:
Is the Sunday we particularly focus on Christ the King.
And it’s brilliant, really:
Because that’s part of why the lines get all blurred.
Where everything runs together: Even time.
It all runs together today.
Today: On the last Sunday of the Church year:
The story is no longer linear.
The last isn’t really the last.
And we’re reminded that next week’s beginning isn’t really the beginning.
Today: The story is blurred all together:
Where the beginning, the middle, and the end of all things merges and time
appears to stop:
if only for a moment.
Let’s see if I can explain what I mean.
Our lessons today show God’s intention to send a king who will set the world
Each of those lessons has a linear place in the larger Christian story.
And yet all together, they’re no longer linear.
The lines become blurred:
And they embody they fullness of time through the fullness of Christ.
Our first reading from Jeremiah speaks of the coming of Christ.
Jeremiah tells the people that a new and righteous shepherd will be sent by God.
This follows a common ancient near eastern metaphor of the king as shepherd.
And even further:
This idea that Kings nourish and protect their people.
In near Eastern texts: like Jeremiah:
such rulers were likened to the tree of life:
As if the king was the center and source of life for the nation.
This is why Jeremiah says that God will raise up for David a righteous branch:
A tree: growing through David’s line.
This reading from Jeremiah is an Advent reading.
A foretelling and prophecy of Jesus’ birth.
But here we are, on the last Sunday of the Church year:
Still in the season of Pentecost:
With the lines blurred.
But here we are:
Not in advent:
Not in Christmas:
But still in the season of Pentecost:
With the lines all blurred.
The Gospel reading from Luke,
Is perhaps the most fascinating as we think about the blurring of time and story.
This lesson enters the linear story near the end:
At the crucifixion.
As Jesus: “The King of the Jews”
hangs on the cross: executed next to two criminals.
It’s a Palm Sunday reading, about Good Friday.
And yet here we are:
On the last Sunday of the Church year.
Still in the season of Pentecost:
With white frontals, and vestments:
White: The color of the resurrection:
And we’re reading a passion reading from Holy Week.
Right next to Advent and Christmas readings.
Today the lines are blurred.
Today is not Palm Sunday.
It’s not Good Friday.
It’s not Advent.
It’s not Christmas.
It’s just the last Sunday after Pentecost.
Maybe that is exactly the point.
That Christ the King blurs the lines.
That Gods time is eternal.
It’s beginning, middle and end.
It’s Alpha and Omega.
It’s Advent, it’s Christmas, It’s Holy Week, It’s Easter.
Christ the King is King eternal.
And we see it all come together in the second lesson from Colossians.
Let’s hear it again:
He—as in Christ the King--
Is the image of the invisible God:
The first born of all creation.
For in him all things in heaven and on earth were created:
Things visible and invisible:
Whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers--
All things have been created through him and for him.
He himself is before all things:
And in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body: the church:
He is the beginning:
The firstborn from the dead:
So that he might come to have first place in everything.
For in him ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD WAS PLEASED TO DWELL:
And through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things:
Whether on earth or in heaven:
By making peace through the blood of the cross.
It should sound kind of familiar.
Kind of like the creed that we recite together every Sunday.
This ideal king—Christ--
Holds all things together:
Time, space, and story.
Through him all things were made.
Christ the King was present at creation:
And is reigning eternally:
Blurring all of the lines of time and story.
Christ is king when he reigns at the beginning of creation.
Christ is King when he reigns as the tree growing through David’s line.
Christ is King when he reigns in the womb of his mother.
And Christ is king when he reigns from the cross: Forgiving our sins, and hanging
between two criminals.
It wasn’t the cross that made Christ the king.
It wasn’t his crowning as King of the Jews.
Christ IS the King of Creation.
Christ IS the King in the manger.
Christ IS the King on the cross.
Christ IS the king resurrected.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…
The fullness of all eternity:
Of all seasons,
Of all years.
And we catch that glimpse every time we gather.
The glimpse of the mystery of blurred stories and blurred time.
Because every Sunday is a mini-Easter:
Whether it’s the last Sunday after Pentecost:
Or Palm Sunday.
All of time is wrapped up together in Christ the King.
And Every time we come to the table:
We PROCLAIM Christ as king.
At the beginning, at the middle, at the end.
In the fullness of all time:
For all eternity.
And our lives:
Are no longer a series of linear events.
We are no longer a series of separate individuals.
Instead: our lives and ourselves are made full:
By Christ the king eternal.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always
acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Did you know that there’s a stewardship drive in the Bible?
I don’t mean that there’s stuff in the bible that touches on stewardship,
Or that there are teachings about money.
I mean—there’s an actual fundraising letter:
In the Bible.
You wouldn’t know it because it also happens to be one of the most influential
and meaty treatises in the New Testament:
It’s Paul’s letter to the Romans.
I’m not bringing this up to make some point about how everything is about
Because it’s not.
What’s really interesting here,
Is that there’s an actual biblical stewardship drive:
And yet: Paul’s letter to the Romans is not primarily focused on money.
This book of the Bible starts out by scolding everyone in the Roman church:
Because people were judging, and holding onto stereotypes about each other.
And then Paul just throws it out there saying basically:
“I hope you support my mission:
Because my mission is your mission.
We’re in this together and we’re going to have some hard conversations too.”
It’s not exactly the sort of best practices you’d get from professional fundraisers.
There’s not personal stories, or flattering of the audience.
Of any sense of: “If we don’t get our money, our mission will fail.”
Paul trusted that he didn’t have to flatter his audience.
He didn’t have to speak manipulatively,
And he didn’t have to butter anyone up because he trusted in the call from God:
And he knew that his faith was going to be rewarded.
And part of what this tells us:
Is that Christians really shouldn’t do money the same way that the rest of the
It actually shouldn’t be any surprise that Paul would approach fundraising
dramatically different from how we would often approach it in our world today.
And that’s not just because we’re separated from Paul by 2000 years.
In fact, if anything,
The people of the ancient Roman world knew the value of trying to get in
someone’s good graces.
If you wanted to move up in that world:
If you were looking to make it:
You found yourself a patron who would support you and that meant going out
and selling yourself:
Making the case that the patron would get something out of the exchange.
Paul knew what that kind of hustle was like and that just wasn’t what he was up
to in his letter to the Romans.
Paul was fully absorbed by the kind of weird,
Countercultural relationship to the world that Jesus talks about in the end of
today’s Gospel lesson.
The world is not going to “get” us,
Not only is it not going to get us and find our practices weird:
It’s going to be a bit hostile.
We hold on to the fact that our highest purpose comes form outside of the world
as we know it.
It’s rooted in Jesus:
In the resurrection:
In the end of death and evil and violence.
And we aren’t ultimately beholden to the structures of this world:
The structures that say we have to decide between helping ourselves and helping
Or the structures that say that we should love our friends and punish our
Or that we need to get ours before someone else does.
And so this whole thing about us giving our money to the church is going to seem
suspicious to the world outside the church.
And think about it:
We’re asking for a strange thing.
Ito potentially give a large amount of money:
To an institution that:
From a material standpoint gives us back very little.
Not only that:
But we’re being asked to give a good amount of money:
To an institution that the more you are invested in it:
The more it asks of you!
Can you imagine if the YMCA, or Netflix started asking you for 10% of your income
for a more imitated range of services?
Would you keep you subscription or stay involved?
I don’t know about you: but I’ve been on the verge of dropping Netflix for months
when they upped their prices.
I can’t imagine I’d stick with them if it started costing thousands of dollars a year.
And that’s how we might look to the outside world.
The world can only ever look at things like “a return on investment.”
Like bringing tremendous euphoria, or a sense of social superiority or wealth, or
And the church just isn’t going to bring us those things.
Actually, if we follow the example of most of the saints:
It’ll probably take us in the opposite direction.
Because here’s the thing:
When we give to the church:
We’re not really giving to make sure that a certain set of services or rewards or
goods are given.
We’re giving as a sign of faith and hope and love:
Not in the church per se,
(Although the church IS God’s imperfect sign and place of God’s mission in the
We give because we have faith and hope that this is not all that there is.
That God is the ultimate source of our life and light.
We give, and give enough to kind of feel lit:
To be reminded that we are not the source of our own blessings:
And that we ultimately depend not on ourselves:
But on the grace of our God.
And we give in faith that we do not have to be too dependent on the things of this
That we do not have to define our success on our wealth:
That it does not have control over us.
We give in love:
Love for God, and love for the people around us who we want to see reconciled to
God like we have been.
There can also be a lot of talk about giving joy fully.
And the bible does say that God loves a joyful giver.
But let me level with you here:
Giving isn’t always this euphoric experience where you have this great mountain
top experience every time you write a check.
I had long struggled with giving.
And it was really only last year that my husband and I decided that we’d give 10%
of our income.
We finally realized, that all the “we’re waiting for the right time.” (like… when we
don’t have credit card debt, or our kids are bigger, or whatever.)
All of this thinking would mean that we would never actually bring a change.
We’d never be right enough for it because we could always find other things to do
with our money.
So we took the plunge.
And honestly, sometimes it’s been a bit of a stretch.
(I’m actually slightly behind on my pledge right now.)
But at the same time:
We make it work.
We’ve never overdrafted:
And we’ve never run out of money.
The Spirit has rewarded our meager attempt at faithfulness:
Not with an over abundance of extra cash,
But with the grace to make different priorities:
To be more intentional about our spending,
To teach that to our kids:
And to have a stronger connection to the church and it’s mission in the world.
All of that’s to say that there is a joy that comes with giving:
But sometimes it’s a joy that comes from the faithfulness and the hope:
But there’s always a deeper abiding sense:
That the peace that passes understanding:
That we’re doing the right thing.
We give out of a sense of gratitude:
To the God who is bringing us into something insanely better than what can be
brought or built in this world around us.
We are already brought into the coming kingdom,
Where there is not pain or illness or suffering or enmity or hunger or sorry.
And while we certainly can’t buy our way into this world:
We believe that we an begin inhabiting it through the same kind of faith and hope
and love that our giving helps us to cultivate and reinforce.
The reason someone like Paul could write with such honesty:
And seeming unconcern about meeting his financial goals,
Even as eh asked for money:
Was that his hope was rooted in something much deeper than hope for the
generosity of strangers:
And his faith was fully founded in the God who could bring new life out of death.
And the opportunity we have before us today is to give out of that very same
faith, hope, and love. Amen.
Enjoy the weekly sermons at anytime.