Trans Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016

There are things in the bible I just don’t get. That raise all sorts of questions for me. Like, what’s the big deal with Moses’  
shining face? Why did he have to wear a veil? And what kind of a veil was it anyway? Did he have to borrow his wife’s—as women in some cultures wear veils. Was Moses the Bible’s first transvestite? Or did they make something special for him like a man-purse, but a man-veil? Or did he just pull his robe over his head? How did he see where he was walking? How bright was he? It had to be more than just shimmer or afterglow? Was he like spotlight, a high-beam, as bright or brighter than the shining sun—so that when Aaron and the people looked at him, they saw those you know spots in their vision? Maybe it’s just me, but those are some of questions that swirl around in my head. Whatever it was Moses’ veil was meant to cover up that Godly afterglow Radiating from his face. His veil was meant to save the people’s mere mortal eyes from the divine dazzle.
I wish I could say the same thing about the robes I’ve worn. Like the robe I wore in college when I sang in the Wittenberg Choir. These were not the height of fashion, these floor length wide red robes with a white stole made of 100% polyester.

We wore these robes every night on during our Spring break which we spent singing our way through Lutheran churches in the midwest, the south, and even one year in Florida, and unlike our wonderful Village building here, as you well know most of those old Lutheran buildings, even I’m sad to report in the South–are definitely not air conditioned.
So as it happened on one particularly warm, no hot evening, as we were standing there with the lights on, singing one sacred song after another, one of my fellow alto’s started to feel a bit woozy. During the applause between songs I started walking her down a side aisle. She made it to the door, and down she went–fainting in the narthex and lobby. We got her to the floor, somebody started fanning her, and a helpful older member of the congregation/audience, said, “take that robe off”.
“No, no don’t.” I said quickly.
Because under her robe well there was nothin, no clothing, nothin but skin. You see, the Wittenberg choir had this curious tradition each year of having one night declared “Naked Night”, when we singers would wear nothing under our robes, and someone would put a slip of paper in Dr. Busarow’ (our director)’s music, saying something profound like, “there are 55 naked bodies in front of you.” That night was Naked Night.
So unzipping her robe would not just cool her off, but reveal–let’s just say way too much about this young woman.
Robes, albs, veils are there to cover up and conceal, save us from glimpsing, or getting too much exposure, or maybe from seeing what’s really there. And in the church, we haven’t wanted that. We haven’t wanted to be distracted from our devotions, our holy reverie.
 But then along comes Jesus and our story for today when Peter, James, John, and us (by way of the gospel writer Luke) on the mountaintop see Jesus’ appearance changed — transfigured—his face, body, clothing shinning, glowing. His disciples transfixed by the divine glory and hearing God’s command to “Listen”. It is fabulous. Finally they can see Jesus for who he is; no more guessing, no more wondering—the veil of the mundane is replaced to reveal Jesus eternal and ethereal self. We shouldn’t berate and criticize Peter for his comment about building something up there on the mountain for Moses, Elijah, and for Peter. Because now we are getting to see who Jesus really is, in his glory, and isn’t it just heavenly.
But remember what comes next?

The bible doesn’t give us the details, but Jesus is transfigured again, transformed back. Does all the earthy dust and dirt float back up to cover him again—onto his not so bright robe and cloak, to coat his skin his sandaled feet, his pores, his wrinkles and his beard. I wonder if Peter, James, and John, if we can ask is this normal for Jesus? Which is he truly? What is he deep down inside himself? But they don’t, they don’t say a word. They come down the mountain.
Just the very next day, after being told by the divine loudspeaker–MC to listen to him, what does Jesus say?
 let’s out these words “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?” These are not the words of a genteel, and soft spoken, meek and humble Holy man. These words display Jesus’ frustration, exasperation, exhaustion, impatience.
I don’t know about you, but if I’d been there I’d be like Jesus, just choose who are you? Which are you? We want our Jesus to be good guy of godly glory who happily heals our every woe. Who is just so spiritual, he sneezes God’s blessings—with his emotions under control and his spirit at peace—any of our mortal, human nature, tendencies, and failings well hidden, sublimated, and under control. But that’s not the Jesus we see, the Jesus we get, the real Jesus is both the one of Godly glory on the mountaintop and the guy who just mouthed off. With Jesus, we can not cover up or try to ignore the parts we don’t like. 
That’s what we like to do, we like to cover up those things that confuse us, that do not fall neatly into one category or another. That’s why some in our country have such a hard time with trans people, with strong women, with powerful black young men, with sensitive you men. Our scripture for today shows us that God’s not afraid of ambiguity. It is ok to explore who we are, to walk a journey where one day we are one way and the next another. With God there is no hiding, there is no covering up. Jesus allows us to reveal and revel in God’s presence God’s love–which isn’t always glorious, but sometimes is dark, dirty, and even bloody and terrifying and horrifying as execution on the cross. Real faith isn’t forced to choose. Today God pulls the veil away between holy and mundane, between divine and dirt, confession and forgiveness, between bread and body it’s all there mixed together for us to taste, for us to hear, for us to see. God in the flesh with all our ugliness, In all our beauty, with our sin, brokenness and death–Jesus lives a real gory and glorious life for us, for all people. God loves us where we are on our journey, no need to hide, to cover up–no exceptions, no exclusions. Amen

“There’s No Place Like Home”

Sermon for a Slightly Oz Sunday, worship on January 31, 2016

First of all, a thank you to Pastor Matt who put me on this path.

Secondly, this is an oral event; I write it as I may speak it (not even close to grammatically correct).

“There’s no place like home” (Tap shoes)Smithsonian_National_Museum_of_American_History_-_Dorothy_Ruby_Slippers_(6269207855)-2, there’s no place like home (tap shoes), there’s no place like home.

That’s how in the movie Dorothy is supposed to return home to Kansas from her travels and travails, her adventures in the land of Oz. I’ve never really understood why she would want to return home. Kansas is grey and harsh, her Aunty Em and Uncle Henry are not terribly affectionate folk. Why does she want to go to that home, after flying off to Oz with it’s colors yellow brick road, emerald city, befriending the scarecrow, tinman, and lion, exterminating two wicked witches, and freeing the little people. But she does.

Dorothy wants to go home. It is what she knows best; she feels loved; it’s where she belongs So, for some people there is no place like home. (Tap).

For others–let’s say not so much. Or put another way, There is no place, like home. For some of us our relationship to home can be problematic and troubling. Home isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be–just ask Jesus. At the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus’ hometown has the distinction of being the first (but not last) first place to judge and reject him. Of course, not right away. We heard about that last week. Oh yes, they liked what he had to say—sight to the blind, good news to the poor, freedom for the oppressed. Who wouldn’t be pleased as punch to get some of that. And, of course as Jesus’ hometown, as his old neighbors and friends, his peeps so to speak they are probably raring to receive all the goodies he’s got in store. But then “there’s no place like home” and Jesus tells them. There’s no place like home for a prophet, there’s no place like home to be rejected and almost tossed off a cliff.

Because, well when it comes to God’s mercy, forgiveness, healing, love–the really is no place like home. There is no special perks, no bene’s, no special reward. God ignores our walls, the boundaries we build, the who’s in and who’s out. The good stuff that God’s got going on isn’t just for the citizen, the Christian, the tax payer, the landowner, but for the immigrant, the refugee, the foreigner, even for our enemy. All of them. Basically it’s as if Jesus strolled on in here to Village church and stood here and said God loves you, and God loves Samy Mohamed Hamzeh, and God loves Donald Trump.

There is no place like home for God’s grace. I know it’s hard hear, but it’s also good to hear.

For those of us for whom there is no place like home. Those of us who know and have felt real pain, grief, and disappointment and hurt “at home”. When our family, those who should make a home for us can not accept our sexuality, our politics, our faith, our personality, our identity. When those who should have made home a safe place, but instead build a house of lies and abuse. For too many of us, “there is no place like home”. For those who wouldn’t even dream of clicking our heals three times to go back. We don’t have to. God’s love doesn’t have to live there. We don’t even need to look somewhere over the rainbow. For us home is where the heart is, and Jesus tells us God’s heart is with us, God’s heart is for us. God’s home is with us. Amen.




Cannonball Jesus – sermon for Baptism of our Lord

You might not recognize me at the pool. I know come across as real high energy fun loving jump right in kinda gal.

But around water that is totally not me. I’m more like this (take of shoe pretend to dip toe very reluctantly & tentatively into water).

This is me at any pool, and don’t even get me started about a lake or a rive1r – Uh. If it’s not fully chlorinated and chemically treated — no way.

So yup, this is me at a pool, sticking a toe in to test the water, to see how cold and uncomfortable I will soon be. Then next goes the foot till the water is at my ankle, after a minute or two I’ll keep inching in till the water is at my shin, my knees, but then I have to stop because it takes a lot longer to get acclimated and on the off chance I have taken just too much time, and my family is busy swimming and splashing around without me, maybe I can turn around and hide under my towel. But if not the slow, cautious, painful process continues till the water touches my midsection, only then when a good 3/4’s of my body is already wet can I just slip and dip the rest, my head under the water, and it is has only taken me between 5 and 10 minutes to get into the water. And then of course, as my kids can testify, with mommy there is no splashing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-water. We need it to stay healthy, to grow our food. I do understand that it can be fun, but it is also dangerous. According to a report from 2014 by the CDC (Center for Disease Control): in the US, every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional death in the United States.

So, although we love to play and spray in it, build fountains, and ride tubes down slides, float on lazy rivers—water can not be trusted, it can’t be controlled, we don’t rule it. In the first story of creation in Genesis it is the chaotic waters—the deep, the abyss—the tofu wabohu — Hebrew for the formless void. This is what God contains to make creation.

Our spiritual ancestors carried this apprehension into the stories of the waters of the flood unleashed to cleanse the earth, and then again to drown the armies, the horses, the chariots in their armor the Egyptian army as they chase down the runaway Hebrew slaves. Floods and shipwrecks testify to the danger lurking as water, because it doesn’t take a Peter to tell us we don’t walk on water.

And in our gospel for today, neither does Jesus. Today we remember that Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan, and we use this Sunday often to remember or since some of us can’t remember the actual baptism, to acknowledge it—this cute ritual with a baby and just dripping a few lukewarm drops of fully treated water from a font. Everything under control and cute.

But, that’s just not the kind of Jesus (I) we need. In all the complexity of life, the messiness of each day, the fear of violence— I need a Jesus who does more than get a little wet. We (I) need a savior who does more than just dip a toe into my life. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who needs Jesus to, well plunge in like one of those cannonball jumps, leaping from the safety of the shore, jumping all the way in and making a really big splash. Jesus right in there completely in the world and utterly soaking up life to be there with us in the risky, rolling, roiling, unruly waters of life.

Church let us use this day to claim a baptism that throws us into the unsettled places, that immerses us in risk, that overflows with opportunity because that’s exactly where Jesus is. As the the prophet says,
1But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Thom, O Sandy,
he who formed you, O Michael, Micah:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you Diane
I have called you by name Bob, you are mine Isaiah.
2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you –insert name here
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.
Let’s not let allow our fear to hold us back, tentative on the safety of the shore, we can’t just hope to float along on the top, skimming the surface of what’s going on around us. We, the baptized join Jesus to take the plunge, and jump right in. Amen.

Wish upon a star – sermon for Epiphany,  

Star light, star bright,The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might, 

 Have the wish I wish tonight
Full moons and eclipses, constellations and even wishing upon the first or a falling star, we humans have been gazing up into the night sky to see more–to make connections between earth and sky, between the mundane and the heavenly.
That’s what the magi have done in our story from Matthew’s gospel for today as we observe the feast of the Epiphany. This story of the Magi, which church tradition using the three gifts, the church imagined the magi to be three men with the names of Melchior, Caspar, and Balthasar. But according to Matthew, the magi are not kings, but more like astrologers who look into the night sky and see the star.
But of course, it’s not just a star; it revealed something else, something important, something momentous happening right here on earth. We have wanted to believe that it’s all connected and that somehow we can do something, that we can impact something. We have been trying to make sense out of what otherwise might be a purely senseless, chaotic world subject to mere luck bad and good. Instead of happenstance we want to be able to look up at the lights in the dark night skies and fashion some order
To the magi the light reveals the birth of a new king, and so they travel, journey to see the child so important, so noteworthy, that it caused a change in the night sky and a change in their lives. 
A change that is very unwelcome for some like King Herod. King Herod doesn’t want to, he can’t see his connection to his people, to his faith. Herod only wants to hold on to the good stuff he’s got now, his throne–his power, and so he conspires to destroy the child king. And so in Matthew’s Gospel what follows are words for today is the Christmas story that often gets overlooked, the slaughter of the innocents as Herod orders the murder of the children 2yrs and younger.  
It doesn’t take an epiphany to see the evil we wreck upon this world–evil that we do when we loose our connections–cut our connections, ruin relationships, create divisions. Republicans, Democrats, Muslims, Christians, urban, rural, rich and poor, immigrant and citizen, humanity and our planet. The damage we do, from our beginnings in the garden till today happens when we cut ourselves off one from another and from our God.
But, conspiracy theorists and children are not the only ones who want to connect the dots, looking for and making connections. God over and over and over again is tying us together.
Christmas and Epiphany is seeing that Jesus connects heaven to earth, God’s chosen people to all God’s children of earth, Jews and Gentiles. Epiphany shows us once again that Jesus is connected to all those who are threatened, to those who are vulnerable. Magi from the East, astrologers, people who don’t know Moses, the ten commandments, see God born into the world as an insignificant little child. It’s all connected, not that we can wish upon a star, not that we can devise some great plan, or pick the most auspicious day–we don’t get to game the system to pick the lucky numbers in some celestial or even local lottery. Instead, faith in the God we encounter on Christmas and epiphany helps us to join Martin Luther King Jr, in saying that… “all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”

We can not as people of faith sit idly by while others go hungry, while others are shot, while others are threatened, while others dehumanized and denigrated. The Spirit has brought us together, to this place–a space of worship this morning to hear these ancient words of truth the world would hide from us–that all are God’s children, that all are loved, that the true ruler of this world doesn’t pander to donors, doesn’t stoke up fears, doesn’t try to fix things with guns and bombs. The Spirit of God bring us here to feed us with the food of forgiveness and the food of travelers searching for hope. It is here that we feel that we are not alone, that we are connected to one another and to something so much bigger, something much more present and powerful. We no longer need to look up to the heavens to see God, God is here with me with you, we don’t need to make a wish upon a star to make our dreams come true. Amen.

The sky is falling – sermon for Advent 3, Luke 3.7-18

Dec. 13, 2015

The sky is falling.The sky is falling.  
Anyone remember that? Chicken Little or Henny Penny.
This fable is old, very old–a version dates back to the teachings of the Buddha, some 500 years before the birth of Jesus. Some stories are worth telling over and over again.
You might remember that Disney made a Chicken Little movie about 10 years ago. This summer when my family and I traveled to California we stopped at the Walt Disney Family museum. It was there that I learned that Disney had also in the 30’s and 40’s produced some anti-Nazi short films. One of them being Chicken Little. In this 1943 version of the story, instead of breaking into the protected chicken yard, evil Foxy Loxy devises a plot (using lines from a book on Psychology or actually straight from Mein Kampf) to get the chickens to come out. Foxy Loxy drops a little piece of blue wood onto Chicken Little’s head and whispers, “the sky is falling”. Eventually Chicken Little and rest of the future plates of poultry, run out of the yard and into Foxy Loxy’s tummy–not so happily ever after.
All because they were afraid–afraid of the falling sky, and because they were afraid of that they were tricked into ignoring the very real danger of the fox. Of course as in all fables, the warning is not to be wary of foxes instead Nazis and more generally to be wary of those who manipulate peoples’ fears.
Sound familiar? It sure seems to me that no matter how technologically developed we may become, no matter how advanced in thought and reason, we are still merely human. People driven our emotions. A primary one is fear. Now a days there seems to be an abundance of things to fear–in addition to disease, climate change, violence, addiction– Donald Trump and other personalities are exploiting the very real tragedy and threat of terrorist attacks. 
Of course logically we could argue that in our country in a decade (10 years) there have been less than 100 people killed by terrorists compared to about 300,000 deaths by firearms. That the majority of killers in this country are not foreigners and are not Muslim. Those are the facts. But when fear rules the roost, reason and logic lose.
As the wise, well-known, and practically other-worldly sage Yoda famously said: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
I think what is really at work here is feeling powerless. Fear makes us feel powerless. We can’t ensure 100percent safety. The Trumps of this world want to harness our fear; they want to give us an enemy to focus on so that we just keep worrying that the sky is falling–the sky is falling.


Too often, I think we people of faith try to walk some higher ground, to counter the emotion of hate and fear with reasoned arguments. However, the answer to fear-filled hate is not debate. Instead we must fight fear with faith.  

John the Baptist in our gospel for this morning does this so well. He knows the people coming to him are desperate, are lost, are wondering, are afraid. What does he say? Does he say, “Oh no, there’s nothing to fear, don’t worry be happy.” No He says “Hey you chickens, I mean hey you bunch of snakes”. Don’t just rely on someone else, don’t rest on your spiritual inheritance. Do something yourselves. And when they ask, “What should we do.” Does John say think and pray? Nope. You know what he does, he says give. He says share–food and clothing. He says do what’s right even if it will hurt your bottom line. Don’t rely on some bankrupt system.
He says the one who is coming wants us to face down our fears—not with more guns and spears, not with laws and walls but with an open hand. I would love to say that we have nothing to fear. But that’s just not the case. There are terrorists, there are criminals, there is racism, those who want to “take back” (whatever that means) our country.
Don’t just talk about love–practice it, live it, tell it, show it. In this room that we can decorate and use for worship, prayer, and singing–we had about 100 refugees (men women and children from Burma and from Iraq). They were here for a party–Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims. Sharing a meal of curry, rice, and some delicious like rice tortilla thing. There was a magician whose tricks lifted the spirits. There was laughter and smiles, and lots of cell phone pictures. Then the morning ended with Christmas gifts. This truly was a moment of answered prayers–of laughter, smiles, fancy clothes, when the joy of living overcame the fear of death.
 Yesterday, I posted on Facebook: Yoda, Chicken Little, and the John the Baptist walk into a sermon, but they aren’t the only ones here today, because you walked in here too.. You are here and more importantly, you will go back out there to where we are being told the sky is falling–John and I have done our jobs–now its up to you to do yours. And people it’s not to run around saying the sky is falling. You must use love of God that is in your hearts, use all the creativity of your mind, and the peace within our souls to fight fear with faith. Yoda, Chicken Little, John the Baptist may be in my sermon, but the true messengers of God’s love, the ones who can be faithful in the midst of all this fear are you (you and you). Amen.

Put on Christ – sermon for Dec.6, 2015


You’ll never guess what I’m wearing under my robe? Of course, that is one the reasons to wear robe—to keep whatever I’m wearing from being a distraction during worship. Because you never know [take off robe to reveal Christmas sweater] what I’ll wear.  

  This morning it’s just this Christmas sweater. Some people might say it’s an ugly Christmas sweater, but that’s not really fair is it? This red and shiny colorful shirt may have made that person who bought it, it may have made them feel good to put this on. All these colors and sparkles making or showing how happy they were. Clothing can do that. Fashion says something about us. how we feel about ourselves and others can be reflected in our fashion.
Lauren Winner in her book: Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire and other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God notes: [that] “fashion” is also a verb. It means “to mold or to shape.” We fashion dough into the shape of a bread loaf; we fashion clay into a pot or a bowl. Indeed, the word “fashion” had that meaning—the action of making or shaping something—before it became a noun designating clothing, and “fashion” came to designate apparel precisely because clothing shapes us.
I think that is why the writer of our first reading, from Baruch says to the people:

Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,

   and put on for ever the beauty of the glory from God. 

Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God;

   put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting; 
I’m not sure what a robe of righteousness would look like. What Baruch is actually saying is that, God’s promises that they, that the people would return from Exile, return to Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem this promise is really real. And if they believe in that God, if they really believe in that promise—they had to look like it. Now perhaps this wasn’t actual fashion advice about what the people should literally be wearing. The point is that what we believe on the inside should be shown on the outside.
The church talks this way as well. Paul in his letter to the church in Rome tells us to “put on” Christ and that this is what is happening at baptism. In baptism, what will happen with baby Everett in a few minutes, is that we are enfolded in God’s love. God says to us that no matter what God is going to be closer to us, than even a cute little onesie that baby Everett will wear. We know living up here in Wisconsin, that clothing isn’t just for show; it keeps us warm, safe, protects us from the elements. And in baptism we are protected from the powers of death for we know that no matter what God loves and forgives us all–little Everett, you, me.
You know, we’re not very different from this little baby here. We need to be told, reminded again and again that God is outfitting us to live in this world. Just as everyday we get up and get dressed to face the world, because we are baptized we get to put on Christ.
Which sounds really good to me this morning, you see I don’t know about you but I’m tired, so tired about having to “put on” the clothes of mourning, wondering when our country will put on sack-cloth and ashes repenting our addiction to violence and guns. Jesus’ way is different. He’s not about presents, not even about shiny decorations. Instead we are being fashioned to bring peace, joy, and love in this world. Everyday as we pick an outfit–imagine the Spirit with us. We can pull on the love of Christ. We are wrapped up in forgiveness. Just as we would pull gloves on our hands, we can imagine pulling his peace onto our hands. Whether it’s a fancy dress, a work shirt, sweatpants, or a red sparkly Christmas sweater, boots or sneakers. It doesn’t matter much what we are seen in, what we have on. What matters most is that Christ everyday we put on Christ, and Jesus is seen in us. Amen.

A Righteous Branch

Thanksgiving is over, sales are on, lots of presents have been purchased. The Christmas trees in our city and in homes are up, decorated and lit. It all makes me want to just skip this whole Advent thing and start singing: O Tannenebaum O Tannenbaum,

Wie treu sind deine Blätter

Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,

Nein auch im Winter wenn es schneit.

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,

Wie gruen sind deine Blätter!
But did you know that song really didn’t really say anything about Christmas? The song was originally written comparing the faithful evergreen tree to an unfaithful lover. Tannenbaum is German fir tree. The word Christmas in German is Weinachten as in Frohe Weinachten (merry Christmas). There is not a word about Jesus or Christmas, but we sing in English: 
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree

Thy leaves are so unchangeing

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree

Thy leaves are so unchangeing
I think this is just one more example of how we people can take what’s all around us, we can take what is right in front of us, and we change it, turn it, make it into something special. We are just creative, we people that we can even take things that are negative and destructive, change them turn them into something full of hope and promise.
Just 3 as the holidays and holy days season was getting started, some people on the East Coast were still trying to recover and clean up from Superstorm Sandy. Evidently, one New Yorker whose neighborhood had been hit and hit bad. His own home had been smashed by a 30 ft pine tree, but when the clean-up crew came to cut it up and haul it away. He saved the top 6, 7, 8 feet. Stuck it up in his front yard. He started decorating it with some ornaments he found. Others soon started putting other things on the tree– coffee cups, surgical masks, and things that were significant to that disaster. And this tree that had been tossed around by the hurricane winds became a sign of hope.
That is what the prophet Jeremiah is talking about in our first reading for this morning. He was under house arrest for his continual criticism of the king and of the nation, knowing that the armies of Babylon were marching to Jerusalem, that this weak king could not save them, the prophet Jeremiah says: 14The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”  
Jeremiah, with all the fear and despair all around him, isn’t exactly predicting the birth of Jesus. However, with a king, and military that will falter, fail and disappoint, with his world collapsing all around him, Jeremiah holds on to a God who would not run or turn away–a God who is faithful even in the midst of destruction and despair. Jeremiah ties his hope to that God. The thing is the prophet Jeremiah does not live to actually see see that righteous Branch. In fact no king in the line of David ever does again sit on a throne and rule in Jerusalem.
Instead God does one bigger and so much better. From where we sit and look today, we hear of this righteous branch who practices justice and faithfulness, and we see Jesus. We see salvation but not just for Jerusalem, not just for the house Israel and the house of Judah, but for all people. This is who we tie our hope to. When our world seems to be collapsing all around us, violence abroad, violence from with–gun shots at clinics, on our streets, and in our homes. When the ones we love are sick and struggling, with yet another diagnosis of disease of cancer for someone who is way to young. As we struggle with addictions every day, and know that it will steal the lives of someone we love. When money seems to flow and only float upward to the wealthiest. When we hear and see so much hate. This is the time when we could feel like our lives our world is being tossed around–goodness smashed and obliterated, disconnected and hopeless. This is when we need to come together, hear these ancient texts, hear these promises again and again.That is when we need to hold onto hope in our God. To tie our very lives to that righteous branch.
Perhaps that is what we are really doing when we decorate our Christmas trees. It is certainly what we do in a few weeks as we gather to celebrate Christmas dinner and worship to feed and be fed together with any all all who will come–believing and proclaiming that God doesn’t stay away in the highest heaven but comes into our world, into our lives. This is no Christmas tree,  

 but for us this morning this may be for us a reminder, a symbol of the righteous branch that we are promised–a symbol of the peace and love of Jesus the Christ. He is the one we are, that our lives are tied to–our joy, our salvation, our peace. I invite you to take a moment, perhaps write a word, a simple prayer, a name–write this prayer of hope and tie it this branch–to remind us, to ritualize our hope in Jesus who is the true righteous branch. Amen.