The Wise Still Seek Him

"The Magi Journeying"  James Tissot, 19th C

“The Magi Journeying” James Tissot, 19th C

When I drive to my parent’s house my route takes me past a wholesale shingle distributor.  Outside his business each December he places a simple sign that reads:  WISE MEN STILL SEEK HIM.  It’s a true enough statement for a traditional Christian like me to believe, but it’s also in danger of becoming a cliche.  But spiritual searching in our culture also runs the danger of becoming cliche.  To be a “seeker” has even become commodified.  If you don’t believe me, just head to your local bookstore.

But what does a true spiritual search look like?  When one searches after God, what is found?  And what does a true search produce in us?  With respect to these questions, those wise men from the East (Magi) still have a lot to teach us.  Matthew records their search and their discovery, and what their search produced.

Great Humility.  It is often assumed that humility means being uncertain of what we believe or whether truth can be found at all.  Isn’t it arrogant to say that we can seek God and truly find him with certainty?  Well, no.  True humility means the willingness to search after what we do not know but also to look with the intention of finding.  These wise men went on a search but also came to a destination.  Endless searches with no goal actually are not humble because one never needs to submit to any found truth.  But when we search for a true destination, it creates true humility because when we find we must kneel.

Great Generosity.  If there is only a few things known about these men, one will certainly be that they brought gifts. Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh.  These were expensive gifts, royal gifts.  They came out of an overflow of honour and affection the wise men had for the baby they found.  Why does a true search for God in Christ produce such rich generosity?  It is a response to the immense  generosity first shown to us by God.  The Christian Gospel is one God’s grace – he came to us, he lived for us, he died in our place.  Even the faith we have for him is a gift to us.  Everything is a gift.  And upon the receiving of the gift we become more like the Giver.  God showered us with his generosity – we spend for others.

Great Worship.  When the wise men searched they were humble enough to know they had found.  When they arrived they poured out generously in response to the gift that had been given the world.  And they also kneeled and worshipped.  When we search after truth (truly search) and then find (truly find) we discover that truth is a person.  That which is ultimate, absolute, divine is not abstract ideas or an ephemeral something.  It is a Someone.  And when we seek him, find him, we will love him.  That worshipful love is the result of a true search.

Wise men sought him.  Wise men still still seek him.  May we be like them.

 

Full Sermon – Still Sought By The Wise – Matthew 2:1-12 – Week 3 of Advent

Are there Moral Absolutes?

Are there such things as moral absolutes?  Things that are truly wrong and those that are truly right?

It’s often popularly believed today that there are not.  But this is not the case.  Every great moral mind (pagan,  Christian, other…) has acknowledged the existence of objective, ultimate, and transcendent moral truth.

Here it is from one greater than I:

“But I’m here to say to you this morning that some things are right and some things are wrong. Eternally so, absolutely so.”  Martin Luther King Jr to 2nd Baptist Church of Detroit.

 

Also…   This.

God’s With Us – He Really Is With Us

 

Empty Manger

What does it mean for God to be with us?  Was he ever not with us?  And does it ever get more personal than God just visiting all of humanity?  Is God ever with us, that is, with you and me?

When Matthew gives his account of Jesus’ birth, he leaves no doubt as to the significance.  This is just like Isaiah has said, reports Matthew, the virgin’s son is “Immanuel”.  For those not versed in Hebrew nomenclature, he spells it out:  (which mean, God with us).  But what does it mean for us?  I’ll suggest three things:

God Really Wasn’t With Us.  This may seem like it goes against the Xmas story but wait, it has to be true.  Think about it.  You can’t announce that someone has just arrived home if they were never out, right?  The same is true of God.  In the various forms of paganism, God/the gods/spirits were always present in the world.  The divine lived in the rocks and trees and rivers.  Or in Eastern type religions, there is no distinction between the world and God.  But Christianity (Judaism and Islam as well) reveals something different about God.  There is a distinction between Creator and Creation.  He really is God and we, his creatures, really are not.  So for the power of “God with us” to hit you, first it must be acknowledged that he was kind of far away before.

God’s Really With Us.  But now God really has come – in the person of His Son, Jesus.  When that newborn baby was placed down in that manger, God was truly in the house.  In the world in a way He’d never been before.  That’s why it is such a big deal.  God has always been involved in His creation, acting in it and sustaining it by his word.  But now his feet had really touched the dusty ground.  God’s perfection isn’t sullied or lessened by entering the world.  There’s no hint of negativity that he shows towards the material, the physical, and the ordinary.  This world was good from the beginning, and even though it’s been broken, God has come into it.  He is really with us in his creation.

God Is Really With You.   Really.  God in the world and with humanity is a great truth but does it get more personal than that?  Is God really with me?  or with you?  To really grasp and enjoy his nearness we must acknowledge that he really has cause to be far away.  As sinners, we are estranged from God and have no right to come before him.  He really was far away.  But now, through the Gospel of his son, he has near to us.  Not counting our sins against us, not withholding his presence from us, he is with us.  If you believe God is at your service, easy to stroll right up to, you’ll never grasp that incredibleness of his grace and his condescension to us.  In Christ, he is really with you!

 

Full Sermon – God With Us – Matthew 1:18-25 – Week 2 of Advent

 

God’s Extraordinary Ordinary

Jesus GenealogyChristmas time (or more specifically Advent) is filled with many other concerns.  But not least should be the remembering of God’s greatest gift – Himself coming into the world and takig on human flesh.

Christianity makes extraordinary claims – miracles, existence of God, uniqueness of Christ.  But we’d be making a mistake if we were to believe that it is all extraordinary.  We’ll be disappointed tif we expect it to be.  This is because God often works through the ordinary.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the opening passage of Matthew’s Gospel, which is the opening of the entire New Testament.  It is just a long list of names – generations of those who form the family line of Joseph, Jesus’ legal and adoptive father.  If you were going to write the most important story in the world, would you go for an opener like that?  Not very catchy.  But it shows us something profound about God’s work in the world.

God’s work is ordinary.  Nothing is more ordinary than baby-making.  In fact, the most significant thing most of us will ever accomplish is to reproduce and continue the species.  That’s a pretty humbling thought.  But God entered the world, began His greatest work, and took on humanity precisely through the ordinariness of being born.  But that within that ordinariness He was doing something extrordinary.

God’s does something extraordinary.  Matthew shows us that even though this genealogy is about human reproduction there is something far more significant going on.  The entire history of Israel is contained here.  The origin of the nation with Abraham.  The high point and golden age through David.  The greatest humiliation through the Exile to Babylon.  There is a far greater significance going on even though it appears just as a long list of names.

There’s an extraordinary ordinary.  Most of us will never accomplish anything more lasting than carrying on the species.  Most of us will be nothing more than dust under a tombstone one hundred years from now.  But yet, we can find the greatest and most extraordinary significance by embracing God in Christ.  Every other religion/philosophy offers a sort of ladder up to heaven – through spiritual enlightenment, through good deeds, through ritual, etc. But the Christian message is that God has come down to us, into this world, so that He might lift us up.  He entered the ordinary, so that we might be saved into the extraordinary promises of God.  That means that even our lives may seem mundane, they can be filled with God.

 

 

 

Full Sermon – The Extraordinary Ordinary – Matthew 1 :1-17 – Week 1 of Advent

The Most Outlawed Prayer

magnificatIf you had to guess which was the most outlawed prayer in the world, what would you guess?

In fact, it is the prayer of Jesus’ mother, Mary, from Luke chapter 1.

Mary prayed this upon visiting her cousin Elizabeth.  She had realized the magnitude of the promise that had been given her and the significance of her unborn baby.  It is a beautiful expression of worship and a profound declaration of truth.  But why has it been outlawed?

The public praying of this prayer has often been outlawed (mostly in Latin America).  It is because it proclaims the Lordship of Jesus over every other authority.  This makes tyrants nervous.  It is about the coming of a different kind of King – one who will scatter the proud, and bring down the mighty.

We must never forget that the Gospel proclaims that Jesus is a King.  Those who resist His rule will hate that fact but it is a glorious truth.  As we head closer to Christmas, let’s not forget that it is not all about warm fuzzy holiday sentiments.  It is also the celebration of the coming of our King.

 

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”