Monday, January 27, 2014

Is the Church Still in the Business of Repentance? based on Matthew 4:12-23 for Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 01/26/2014

Is the Church Still in the Business of Repentance?

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United Church, Aurora, CO 01/26/2014

Based on Matthew 4:12-23


        Last week I touched on the Hebrew understanding of what John the Baptizer’s phrase, “here is the Lamb of God” means, not an acknowledgement of “atonement” in the sense of a sin sacrifice, but rather an acknowledgement of a person who was going to give us a fresh contact with the presence of God.  This week we are confronted with the invitation from Jesus as he starts his ministry saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. 

        Repent!  For many people this is a red flag word.  It is like a matador displaying a red cape with a hidden sword in front of a bull, just begging the bull to charge and then when the bull is near enough, plunging his sword into the bull, killing it.  This understanding has developed because of how the word “repent” has been hijacked and misused by T. V. Evangelical ministers.  Many people when hearing the phrase, “repent” feel much like the bull who is being challenged by the matador to come forward to be slain by the sword of God in order to enter into the Kingdom of God.

        This past Monday was the national recognition of Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday.  All across this nation there were public displays, rallies, and marches that commemorated Rev King.  Not because he was a preacher, but because of the truths that he stood for.  The truth of equality, not just in how we see the color of one’s skin, but equality in pay, in sexes, in disabilities; equality in the areas where any prejudice and denial of access exists.  We had 12 or so members from Mountain View join in Denver’s Marade, which was a march from City park down to Civic Park.  For those 12 who walked, I doubt that you think of your participation as being an act of Repentance.  Yet that is what was going on.  “Repent” is an act of turning around 180 degrees.  It is our recognition that the direction in which we are traveling is not taking us closer to God, but rather taking us further away.  Racism is one of those actions or frames of thinking that takes us away from God’s kingdom.  Through the courage of people like Rev. Dr. King and all those who throughout the life of this nation who have spoken out about racism and have acted in ways that defy that philosophy, we as a nation have been in the act of repentance, which is still being worked out today.  Like a large ship that is being turned; it takes time.

        When Jesus was calling to those around the Sea of Galilee to repent, for the kingdom of God was near, he wasn’t talking about a way into heaven above, but rather was speaking about a way in which God’s dream and God’s truth was near, was within their grasp and dealing with the present.  In just a few verses following this morning’s scripture Matthew tells us how Jesus understands the working out of this repentance and how the kingdom of God looks through the story of what we now call The Sermon on the Mount. 

        Pope Francis has been embraced by the world as the peoples Pope; meaning I suppose, a person who speaks out for the plight of the common person.  There are all sorts of warm and fuzzy feeling pictures of Pope Francis holding children and of his care toward the poor and those who are suffering.  But when Pope Francis starts to speak about economic justice, he starts to receive a backlash from those who hold the power and have influence over the resources of this world.  I just read earlier this week a great commentary on the need to get back to basic bible principles, written not by some famous theologian, but from the comic strip Peanuts.  Linus and Lucy are having a discussion about biblical Christian principles that goes something like this:

Lucy says:  America should get back to biblical Christian principles!

Linus:  So we should feed and shelter the poor? 

Lucy:  No, I’m not paying for a lazy person.

Linus:  We should visit and comfort the prisoners?

Lucy:  No, they don’t deserve that.

Linus:  We should pay our taxes without complaining?

Lucy:  No, that’s my money and I want it.

Linus:  We should show love and mercy freely?

Lucy:  No, that has to be earned.

Linus:  We should avoid violence?

Lucy:  No, we have to take out the “bad guys.”

Linus:  We should be gracious to foreigners?

Lucy:  No, they shouldn’t be here.

Linus:  We should seek to end social injustice throughout the world?

Lucy:  No, that’s not our problem.

Linus:  then what principles are you talking about?

Lucy:  Opposing gay marriage!


        What Lucy is saying in the Peanuts commentary focuses around “what it will cost us”, especially in the affluent West, to drop everything and follow what Jesus was asking for – a repentance from materialism, militarism, unbridled capitalism, and classism. 

        We see in this morning’s text, how Jesus moved north from Nazareth to Capernaum as he starts his ministry.  This happens once John the Baptizer has been arrested.  Capernaum happens to be near the crossroads of trade between Egypt and Damascus, but more importantly, it is located in an area where there is more freedom of thought.  In other words, Jesus has gone to an area that isn’t stifled by traditional sets of values or bogged down with dogma, but has exposure to multiple points of view.  I think this is a significant message to us in the church today, that in order to “repent” we need to be looking beyond what is currently comfortable and acceptable.

        When we see Jesus walking along the shores of Galilee and inviting Simon and Andrew to “follow him” and then giving the same invitation to James and John, we are seeing four people who seemingly stop what they are doing to turn to a new life.  A life of discovery, of uncertainty, of not knowing where they will end up.  Jesus says to them, leave what is comfortable and known to you and take a chance to grow in ways that would be uncomfortable and unknown to you. 

How well have we been able to turn loose of the “old” ways, the traditional ways, in order to share the good news with others?  How many marches have we undertaken to protest or support change of human conditions in our community?  How many letters of protest about unjust laws have we written?  How often do we chat with our elected representatives and ask “why”?    Latin American church leader and theologian, Dom Helder Camara, said “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist.” 

John Buchanan wrote: The world and the church are changing more rapidly than we can comprehend…some things are the same: the world and the church desperately need our energy, imagination, passion, impatience, intelligence, and love…one of the great biblical themes is that God calls…all of us to walk into the future without knowing exactly where we are headed, to let go of old securities and certainties and trust the God who promises to be with us wherever we go.”Sermon seeds, UCC Jan 26,2014   This is the call to repentance and the building of Gods kingdom not in heaven, but here on earth, today and for tomorrow.  Amen

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What good is a Truth that doesn't change our lives? by Rev Steven R Mitchell, for Mountain View United Church, Aurora, CO

What good is a Truth that doesn’t change our lives?

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 01/18/2014

Based on John 1:35-42


        This coming Monday  is Martin Luther King, Jr’s official birthday.  This past Friday, I attended a breakfast lecture hosted by the Aurora Faith Community, where I listened to not only a reflection on Dr King’s life and how his life was influenced by those he grew up around.  I speak specifically about his father Rev Michael King, who was also a civil rights activist.  In fact, after studying church history and learning about a variety of faith leaders throughout the centuries, the Rev Michael King took the bold step of changing his name to reflect the significant change in his life by taking on the name of church reformer Martin Luther.  Not only did he change his own name, but since his son was a Jr. to begin with, had his son Michael King, Jr. name changed as well to Martin Luther King, Jr.

        Dr King grew up in a family where civil rights was more than just a concept, more than just a dream, it was a home that lived out the responsibility to work for the truth that each person has the right to live their life with dignity no matter what the color of skin.  The need to be able to live life with dignity was so powerful that it propelled Rev Dr. King into acts of civil disobedience and brought upon him and the African American in general along with whites who also believed in this truth the wrath of a society that did not wish to recognize this truth.  This nation fought a civil war over this truth and yet war did not provide for the dignity of millions of citizens in this country.  Yes it freed us as a nation, were no man could own another, but it was damped with a new philosophy of “equal but separate.”  Battle lines had to once again be drawn and fought in the courts and on the floor of Congress, but even that wasn’t enough to change the hearts of many people to the truth of living side by side and safeguarding the dignity of all our citizens.  Even the assignation of Rev Dr King has not moved us to change deep seeded racism.  Which leads me to ask this question: What good is a truth that doesn’t change our lives?

         Two thousand years ago, a man by the name of John the baptizer, understood a truth that lead him to live in the wilderness and baptize people who wished to change their lives because they had received a truth.  John understood himself as only an agent who was to prepare the way for the truth that was to come.  Then one day Jesus came and was baptized by John.  In that baptism, John recognized that Jesus was the one who would was the truth incarnate.  When John saw Jesus passing by him one day, he turned to two of his disciples and said of Jesus, “here is the lamb of God. 

        As the church has matured over time, the meaning of what John was saying has been lost from the original Jewish understanding to our current interpretation, meaning the “lamb of God” to be the sacrifice for sin.  However, lambs were not used for sin sacrifices in Jesus’ day, but rather only for Passover sacrifice, which remembers the liberation and deliverance of the Jewish people out of slavery by God.  So what John was telling his two disciples is that Jesus is the one who is to liberate the world from slavery to sin by bringing the world into new and fresh contact with the presence of God, so that human alienation from God can end. 

        As the story unfolds, the two disciples who were told by John that Jesus was the “Lamb of God,” leave John standing in place and start following Jesus.  Jesus stops, turns around and asks the timeless question: What are you looking for?  Or in some translations: What do you seek?  Is this not truly the eternal question for all of us?  What are we looking for?  Are we looking for riches for our lives, or for peace; not just for the world but for our heart?  Do we long for justice, or yearn of violence to come to an end?  Do we still ask this question for ourselves or have we become so busy with living life that we have become too tired to ask this question?

        The disciples were not prepared for this question I think, for they had no deep theological question to respond to Jesus.  They simply asked, “Where are you staying?”  This may seem like a simple question, but think about the questions we ask when first meeting somebody.  Often we will ask questions like, “Where do you live?” “Are you from around here or do you live in another city?”   We ask these questions in order to learn something about the person.  What the two disciples are really asking of Jesus is “can we come and get to know you?” 

        When I was a teenager, a very popular song I use to sing had a chorus that said, “Just seek and ye shall find.  You gotta knock and the door shall be open.  Ask and it shall be given, and a love comes a tricklin’ down.”   These two men were seeking a truth and they had been told by their teacher John that Jesus possessed the truth, so they asked to learn more and Jesus responds with, “Come and see.”   Andrew is named as one of those two men wanting to learn more about Jesus.  After spending all day with him, Andrew has come to understand that Jesus had a truth that was earth changing and acts upon his conviction by running to his brother Simon and tells him that they have found the Messiah.  Simon then follows Andrew to where Jesus was staying and has a conversion experience, as he allows his name to be changed to Peter.

        As a church, we are confronted with this age old question of, “What are we looking for?  Are we looking for Jesus or something else?  When we actually take the time to sit quietly and think about our deepest longing, we might ask ourselves, “What am I doing with my life?  What and whom am I really seeking?  What am I really hoping for?  When we sit in Worship with several minutes of silence do we take that opportunity to center ourselves and ask “What am I looking for?”  Is it a truth?  Or is it something else?  Jesus responded with “come and see”, a response that is relational. 

We talk so much in church circles about how people are consumers of religion.  We go to this church or to that because of what it offers me.  I go to this church because I like the music that the organ makes, or I like going to that church because of how the choir sounds.  I like this church because it makes me feel good but doesn’t ask anything of me. 

In one of the Christmas movies that I was watching this past Advent, there was a struggling church, the Senior minister was plagued with declining membership and attendance and was constantly looking for the latest “in” thing that might bring in visitors.  The younger pastor was given “honey do” type tasks to do around the church and not able to do what he felt he was called to do as a pastor.  In a conversation with a stranger who was willing to work for a place to sleep (who looked suspiciously like the traditional picture of Jesus) was chatting with the younger minister about the declining rolls.  The drifter then asked, “Are you speaking the truth in worship?”  This took the young minister by surprised and asked what do you mean?  The drifter again said, “Are you speaking the truth?” 

We hear the cliché so often, The truth shall set you free.  Yet, what good is a truth that doesn’t change our lives?  Are we really set free?  Moses heard the truth and lead his people out of slavery.  Martin Luther King, Jr spoke the truth and helped move us toward desegregation.  What truth do you hear in your heart this morning?  And more importantly, how are you going to respond to that truth?  Amen               

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Whose Footprint is in the Sand? by Rev Steven R Mitchell for Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 1/12/2014

Whose Footprint is in the Sand?

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 01/12/2014

Based on Isaiah 42:1-9


        The book of Isaiah is sometimes referred to as the Fifth Gospel, as much of its content tends to point to messianic activity and easily can have Jesus plugged in as the person referred to as “my servant.”  Scholars across the spectrum argue as to who the author was referring to in the phrase “my servant”; was it someone who was soon to come into power, was it Isaiah himself, or was it speaking of a person who would be born in the distant future, possibly like Jesus of Nazareth?  When Jesus first announced his ministry to those leaders in the synagogue as recorded in the Gospel of Luke, he chose to read out of Isaiah chapter 61, a verse that was very much similar to this morning’s reading. “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…

Within the second part of Isaiah, there is the reoccurring theme of “my servant”, which explains the reason for Isaiah being referred so often along with the four gospels.  Jesus obviously took the understanding of “my servant” to be the primary call of his ministry and is the building block to what we call Social ministry.  Because of this morning’s reading being the corner stone of Jesus’ understanding of God’s desire for his creation and ultimately the meaning of “restoration”, I would like to reflect on some specific verses and explore how this affects those of us who strive to follow God’s intent.

So, who is “the servant” and what does the servant do?  Isaiah says that God is the one who has chosen the servant and supports him to the point that God’s very soul delights in him.  This servant of God has been given God’s spirit.  Today is recognized in the church year as Christ’s Baptism Sunday.  We can read in all four Gospels that when Jesus was baptized the heavens opened up and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus.  I was so moved by the story’s of Jesus’ baptism, that at the age of fourteen when I was being baptized I was sure that as I would come up out of the water (I was baptized by immersion) that I would have a vision of the clouds of heaven opening up and I would get to see the gates of heaven or something very special.  I was truly disappointed when all I saw was the face of my pastor, Rev Bill. 

The servant of God will not harm a bruised reed, or extinguish a dimly burning wick, and will faithfully bring forth justice.  These are marvelous metaphors of being wounded; so wounded that you feel as if you can no longer live, or so wounded that “hope” no longer exists.  I think that most of us try to live our lives in a way that we would never intentionally harm or try to cause pain to someone, yet even in an unintentional act of being dismissive way toward someone because we feel we don’t have time to acknowledge or listen to them – is that not breaking a bruised reed or not supporting a dimly burning wick? 

Take just a moment to think about the kind of reaction most of us have when we stop at a street light and a person is standing on the corner with a sign asking for help (usually in the form of money, but it’s a request for help none the less.)  How often do we look that person straight in the eye?  Usually, we tend to look straight ahead, maybe time to time glancing over to see that person, but never doing anything that might encourage that individual to come over to your car window.  That is being dismissive of someone who is a dimly flickering light.  It’s dismissive because we don’t even recognize their presence.  We may justify this behavior by saying, I don’t wish to give any money to this person because I don’t know what it will be used for or maybe we don’t have any coin with us, but would a more probable reason for not looking that person in the eye be because we do not want to be confronted with the reality of what it means to be without hope?  Yet when we do take that leap of courage and look eye to eye with that person, the spirit of servant swells in us, we often call it our humanity.  Even if there is no money exchanged, when we look eyeball to eyeball with that person, we have given them the gift of “existence”, we have justified that they are not invisible in a world that so easily can dispose people that are deemed inadequate.  

We in this country are so eager to make sure that there is procedural justice (the proper and unbiased understanding and application of legal factors in courts and human relations.)  Yet there is another way to look at justice, which is distributive justice (the equitable distribution and utilization of resources and responsibilities in non-legal contexts.)  Here is where the church starts to vary in its willingness to participate or define as part of the job description as being a “servant.”  When we see someone on a street corner with a sign for help, we are seeing a breakdown in distributive justice.  Yet this was Jesus’ major call in ministry to make accountable those in leadership and power for distributive justice. 

Scripture like this one in Isaiah, realizes that there are times in our lives when we are so beaten up, so low with despair that we believe that not even God is there with us; that living in exile in Babylon and we like the Israelites can believe that God has abandoned us.  This is surely how it must have felt for the average Jewish person during WWII living in Europe, as Hitler’s mandate exterminated of over 6 million lives, just because they happened to have Jewish blood.  But the promise of God is, “I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon.”  God is saying, “no matter what life is throwing at you, no matter how low you feel, or how hopeless a situation may look, I am with you.  And out of these despairs you will be able to be the light for others.

I would like to share a modern day rendition of today’s scripture.

The Footprints Prayer:  One night I had a dream... I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord, and across the sky flashed scenes from my life.  For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; One belonged to me, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of my life flashed before us, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in my life.

This really bothered me, and I questioned the Lord about it. "Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you would walk with me all the way; But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why in times when I needed you the most, you should leave me. The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child. I love you, and I would never, never leave you during your times of trial and suffering. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.

It is pretty easy to see Jesus as the “my servant” in this morning’s text.  My question is: Do you see the commission or the covenant between God and the servant as including you?  Do you see yourself called forth to bring justice, to open the eyes that are blind, to lead out of darkness those who live in the shadows?  If the church is the extension of Christ, then this is our basic call; we too are chosen by God and have had God’s spirit placed upon us to bring about hope and justice, not just legal, but distributive justice as well to all nations.  We are called to help those who do not understand God’s justice to see and when we encounter darkness to be a light.  This is how we remember our baptism; this is how we become footprints in the sand for each other.   Amen

Monday, January 6, 2014

Excuse Me Sir: Where do we deliver our gifts? by Rev Steven R Mitchell for Mountain View United Church, Aurora, CO 01/05/2014

Excuse Me Sir: Where do we deliver our gifts?

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 01/05/2014

Based on Matthew 2:1-12


        For many the decorating of a fir tree symbolizes the beginning of Christmas.  Most churches have a hanging of the greens on the first Sunday of Advent.  As such, the un-decorating of the Christmas tree indicates the end of Christmas.  As a child, our Christmas tree tended to stay up until New Year’s Day.  I think it was more for the spirit of celebration and had less to do with the idea of Christmas Tide being over.  As an adult, I leave our Christmas tree up until the actual end of Christmas, which from the view of the Church calendar is tomorrow, which is known as Epiphany. 

        Epiphany sets the stage for Lent and Easter.  It is during the season of Epiphany that the birth of the new Messiah is shared with the non-Jewish community, and this comes in the story of the visit of the Magi of the East.  Last week we saw how the fear of losing privilege and power caused great pain and suffering for the innocent, as King Herod learned about a new King of the Jews birth.  Herod was not only a cruel king, but a puppet ruler for Rome, as well.  If any major civil unrest were to occur under Herod’s administration, he knew that Caesar would remove him from his power.      If we look at the visit of the Magi only as a story about some “wise” men traveling across the desert to see the new born king and bring him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, following a star that they had seen in the East, then we are very much missing the meaning to this story.  Dr John Pilch, former Theology Professor at Georgetown University states: These magi of the East represent a long-standing resistance to Western (at that point, Roman) imperialism, by traveling a long way to pay homage to the new king of the Judeans.  In doing so, they‘re poking their finger in the eye of Rome itself, and all its puppets, which include Herod himself.  (The reason why Pilch and other theologians talk about the threat of Jesus being seen as “the son of God” is from the fact that Caesar was also seen as “the son of god”, so there is a natural political rivalry between Caesar who was seen by the Roman state as the prince of peace and Jesus as the new Messiah,(the Jewish bringer of peace.)  Pilch says that the wise men were men of stature and importance back home, advisors to the rulers of ancient empires in the East.  The East also invokes images of former conquers of Israel, like Assyria, Babylon, and Persia; it is no wonder that Herod was feeling very uneasy about their visit.  I can just hear him thinking, “Why are these men really here?  What do they know that I don’t?  Are they spies trying to scope out our defenses so their kings can once again attack us?”

        Quoting from Kathryn Huey on her reflections of this text: This text at the beginning of the New Year gives us pause, to ponder the meaning of visitors from the very places we seem to fear most in the world right now.  Perhaps we would get a better sense of the reaction of Matthew’s earliest audience to this text about Magi from the East if we imagined a visit to our local church by religious or political leaders from religious faiths or countries that we fear. UCC Sermon Seed, 1/5/2014  How comfortable would we feel if we had a visit from Russia’s President Putin, North Korea’s President Kim Young-nam, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas?  These three men represent the philosophies of Communism and Islam.  Would we be open armed and totally embracing, or would we view their visit with at least a small amount of suspicion? This is what Matthew’s hearers had to deal with in this story of the Magi.

        Another aspect of this story talks about a contrast between two ancient and holy places, Jerusalem the seat of power and prestige, and Bethlehem a humble little town, literally just 9 miles down the road.  One represents the idea of where God dwells, while the other represents the hope of a new messiah, a new king whose reign will be of justice and peace.  The magi go to the logical place, Jerusalem, the city where the Temple that houses the Holy of Holy’s is, to seek this new born king, but find Jerusalem lacking.  I wonder about the “holy temple” that Paul speaks that is our body, which would include our heart and mind, and if at times we find it lacking?  And if it is lacking, why?  Have we filled ourselves with the hope that is found through what Jerusalem say’s it has to offer and not putting our hope and trust in what Bethlehem represents; vulnerability, meekness, forgiveness?

        So we have these wise men that recognize the new, but do not know where to find it.  They have missed their mark by only 9 miles.  Even though they were able to utilize the signs that were familiar to them, they still lacked information that would lead them to the new born king – information that could only be found within the Hebrew Scriptures.  Matthew is telling us, that with all of our human wisdom available to us, we still need the guidance of the word of God to help us fully understand.  With the help of the Hebrew religious leaders the Magi were able to learn that Bethlehem was the town they would find the child. 

        Lastly, and possibly the most important message from this story about the visiting Magi, again isn’t found in the gifts that they bare, but rather in their actions.  Matthew three times states “to pay him homage.”  The Magi inquire at the palace of the new king, “so that they may pay him homage”; Herod tells the Magi to return with the location so he too may, “pay him homage”; and then upon their entering into the house where the baby Jesus lives, they with great joy, fall to their knees and “paid homage to him”, and then presented the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

        It is within this story that the sequence of how a person in search of something to fill the void within them follows.  They first recognize that there is something more than what they presently experience.  Next they go on a journey seeking what they hope is to be the answer.  Then when they find that truth for them, they are filled with joy and give thanks or pay homage.  For Matthew that truth is found in the person of Jesus; the person who embodies God and brings peace to those who are in turmoil. 

        The magi represent the non-Jewish world, we gentiles.  This story represents a group of outsiders who saw the signs of change and wanted to be a part of that change.  Through the star in the sky that appeared at the birth of Jesus they set out on a long journey seeking this new king of the Jews.  They find themselves in Jerusalem, which is the capitol city of the Judeans.  I think that they were just as surprised to not find the newborn king not at the palace, as was Herod to hear about Jesus’ birth. 

The religious leaders had the answers at their finger tips but failed to see the signs.  I wonder why after discovering that the prophecy of the new messiah had been fulfilled, why neither the chief priests or Herod accompanied the Magi to Bethlehem in order to find the child?  One would think from Herod’s perspective, it to be prudent to go and see where Jesus actually was, so he could dispose of him in a more timely and efficient manner.  Maybe the reason was that the religious priests no longer took their scriptures seriously?  Had they lost the “hope” that scripture promises?

More directly, do we miss the miracles of God because we are not searching for them?  Is it possible that we do not feel the “Joy” that Christmas speaks to because we do not have the “hope” that the scriptures speak of?  Are we guilty of putting our security in the temporal things of life?  Have we bought into an imperial gospel that is promised by Wall Street?

The magi came bearing gifts, but before they presented them, they bowed down and paid homage, with joy in their hearts.  On this second Sunday of Christmas, don’t we want to find ourselves in this story, too; to hear what happened so long ago, and to connect our own lives with it?  I believe that we travelers from a distant time want to kneel with the Magi from the East, in awe and joy for the gift before us.  And we want to know how God is still at work in this world we live in now.  So let us be the Magi asking, “where do we deliver our gifts?”  Amen