Reflection on the Festival of the Epiphany

Bishop Michael Rhyne

Epiphany of our Lord, 2015

Grace and peace to you in the name of God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I write to you on the day of the Epiphany. As such I wanted to share a reflection with you, through the lens of this festival, and talk about how this day proclaims the good and gracious news to us.

Now you may have learned along the way that the word Epiphany comes from the Greek and refers to the light coming into the world. We know this light is Jesus. Christ has come. If we think about that image then it might seem to make more sense if the gospel lesson for the day was the opening of John’s gospel where we hear that the eternal word and the light of the world had come. We are celebrating that the light has come – but we don’t’ get that in the text.

We hear the story of the wise men. We hear about these Babylonian astronomers following the star, being told by Herod’s scribes where the baby was supposed to be born, leaving the gifts, and returning to their own country by another rode being warned by the angel in a dream. This might leaving us wondering why this day is named for the light coming into the world. Based on the gospel text we might be tempted to think that it should be called Wise Men Day.

But the important part of this story is who these foreign astronomers are. Just about every single person that has followed God until this point in the story is a member of the tribe of Israel. That is fitting since God made a promise to Abraham to always and forever love and care for Abraham’s descendants, and God has kept and will always keep his eternal covenant with the Jewish people. In all of the stories of the Old Testament we see God interacting with, leading, guiding, and comforting (and sometimes correcting) his people.

But these Wise Men change everything. They are not Jewish and are not part of any eternal covenant God has made with them. Most likely they worship eastern gods and may know nothing at all about the God of Israel. These Wise Men may be the very last people anyone would have expected in the story. They are foreigners, they don’t know God, they don’t have the history with him, and they very likely don’t know the Bible. But we see here, God literally rearranging the heavens to make sure that these unexpected foreigners can come to Jesus Christ. God having the stars themselves sing out that something new is going on.

Let me be clear. Up until this point in the Bible – God was the God of Israel, and generally was only dealing with Israel. When we see the other people in the Bible, they are usually trying to capture or destroy God’s people. More specifically if these Wise Men were from Babylon (and most scholars point to their probably being their place of origin) then God is welcoming in people who the last time we saw them in the Bible were enslaving Israel, putting its people in captivity, and destroying God’s holy temple in Jerusalem.

So it is a weird and strange thing that God calls these stargazers to Jesus Christ. What it should show us is that everything has changed. Maybe we don’t pick up on this because we know in our Christian DNA that Jesus came for everyone. It is something that we don’t even question. But here, it was a new thing. Here we see that in Christ and because of Jesus Christ – the game has just changed. God is not exclusive to his chosen people. God is now reaching out to all of this world and welcoming all people to himself. God still loves and always will love the children of Abraham. But at Epiphany we are seeing God reveal the truth that he loves absolutely everyone, and God welcomes all of us to him in Jesus Christ our Lord.

You understand that we were the people who lived in darkness but now have seen a great light. We are the people who were in the land of deepest darkness and unto us the light has come. We are the people who that Jesus came to find and claim. Jesus mission is and was to bring all people to himself. With those wise men who brought the three gifts from afar, we see the first example that Jesus has come for all people, and that God calls all people to himself through Jesus Christ our Lord. Epiphany is God showing us that he is here for us, and for everybody.

If we were to read on in the gospel of Matthew we would see that the Wise Men head home, and then Joseph and Mary flee to Egypt and then eventually return to Nazareth after Herod’s death. What is neat (to me) about this is that after the Wise Men come to the Christ Child they return home to the East. Joseph and Mary take Jesus to Egypt and would have had to travel South and West to do this. After Herod’s death, they return to Nazareth which means they have to travel North.

Meaning that from Bethlehem this message of Jesus Christ and this life of Jesus spreads out immediately. In the course of a few verses it spreads in all directions East, South, West, and North. Just by Jesus being who he is, the news has begun to spread, and will eventually spread out to the entire world.

What Epiphany celebrates is what God has done for us. God came in Jesus Christ to call all of the world to himself. Be very clear, had God not done that you and I wouldn’t be here. Because it was only by God’s call, invitation, and action of becoming flesh and living among us that we are able to follow him. He is the one who gives us the good gift of life, the life from and in Jesus Christ. Hopefully, as we move past the day of Epiphany, we can remember that that love, and mercy, and life is literally for all people. No matter what.

May the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding be with you now and ever more.

In Christ,

+Bishop Michael

(this post is scheduled to appear in the Jan. edition of the Allegheny Synod Lutheran Letter)

Bishop Michael’s Christmas Greeting

Merry Christmas (or Christmas Eve) to all of you in the name of God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I pray that as you celebrate this Christmas season, you are surrounded by the peace of Christ and know his presence in your lives.

Christmas is a season of hope. We have hope because Christ has come, and because our Lord Jesus is with us now and always. That is what makes all the difference.

Why? Because it makes a difference that the one who is God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, has come into this world, claimed you in the waters of baptism, and promises to never let you go. Evil, and sin, and death will not overcome you, because you belong to Jesus and he stands with you now and always. Yes we all will die, but we know that Jesus has the ultimate victory of sin, death and the devil. In short sisters and brother, be not afraid because Christ Jesus has come.

Consider this as well. Heaven and eternal blessedness is much more comfortable than this world we live in. Yet Jesus Christ came here among us. He lowered himself, taking on a human body, and he allowed himself to be subject to and experience all those things that we have to deal with in this life. He was born into poverty, he knew rejection, he knew loneliness, he experienced betrayal at the hands of his friends, and he even knew death – a horrible death upon a cross.

When we consider all that Christ did here it shows us something. We cannot think that Jesus doesn’t understand what we go through. No matter how bad it gets, I can’t think that Jesus doesn’t understand how hard this life can be. Jesus is God, yet he came and went through all those things that we have to face, and when we look to that cross, we should understand that he went through some things much worse than we will ever experience.

He did that because he loves us. He did that because God loves you and cherishes you so much, that he would not abandon you to the evils that this world tries to throw at us. But he stands with us and holds us in the midst of our struggles. Our Lord is the one who reassures us that whatever may come “This too shall pass,” and no matter what we have the certainty of his presence and the promise of eternal life with him.

That is why we have Hope. Because when we look to that little baby lying in the manger, we see the promise of God that he is always with us and will never let us go. We see the Lord of Heaven and Earth who loved you and me so much that he came here to save us.

The Hope for us is that no matter what evils this world throws at us we know that Jesus is with us.   We know that Jesus never abandons us. If he was going to abandon us he could have avoided the cross, or gotten off and saved himself the trouble. But no matter what pain, what suffering, what evils were thrown at him – Jesus went to all lengths and held back nothing to save us.

That is the one who has come, that is the one who we celebrate in this season. God has done this amazing thing. He loved you and me so much that he held back nothing of himself to make sure we could be with him forever. In the season of Christmas, we therefore celebrate the hope we have because Christ has come, and Christ is here, and that makes all the difference.

May God bless and keep you now and always.

In Christ     +Bishop Michael Rhyne

ST. NICHOLAS, MORE THAN WE USUALLY THINK

On December 6th we celebrate the Festival Commemoration of St. Nicholas of Myra, also known as St. Nicholas the Wonderworker.   Of course when we hear St Nicholas we most often think of “Santa Claus”. This is fit and right since the name Santa Claus comes from the Dutch for Saint (Santa) Nicholas (Claus). However, though many have fond memories and images of the red suited, reindeer driving, ‘jolly old elf’ the story of the St. Nicholas is much more fascinating than the one whose belly ‘shakes when he laughs like a bowl full of jelly’.

Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra, which is in modern day Turkey, he lived in the fourth century and during his lifetime had many great deeds and miracles attributed to him. Stories of his being a person filled with the power of the Holy Spirit go back to shortly after his birth. Tradition holds that Nicholas’ mother was delivered from the pains that come after childbirth, and at his baptism the still infant Nicholas was said to have stood for three hours, unaided, in the baptismal font thus honoring the Holy Trinity – even as an infant. To be clear the point of the story was that this miraculous standing happened long before the baby should be able to stand.

As a youth he was known for his piety and his devotion to the Lord. As a young man he was granted the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There are many tales of Nicholas performing miracles along the trip – such as praying the life back into a sailor who had fallen from the mast and lay dead upon the deck of the ship – and the doors of the holy places opening unaided for the young man to enter the sacred sites of Jerusalem.

There is even a miracle associated with his becoming Bishop. At the death of the previous Bishop of Myra, there was a council of Bishops to pray over who should be called to the office. One of the Bishops at this conference had a dream/or vision in which God told him that a young man named Nicholas would come and he was God’s chosen one to be Bishop. According to the story, right after this dream/vision Nicholas walked into the building, or into the room the gathering was happening. The Bishops saw this as a sign from God and the young man named Nicholas became Bishop Nicholas.

The story of his good deeds are many but the most widely known and repeated is of his giving money to help a family that was down on its luck. There are several versions of the story. Usually the story goes that there was a citizen of Myra who had lost his fortune and was generally destitute. The man had three daughters. The story then varies that either he was so poor that he didn’t have enough money to pay for the daughters to be married. Or, the more sinister version, that he was so poor that the family was starving and therefore he had chosen to sell the girls into slavery (or at least one of them) so that he and/or those left over would be able to eat.

The story then goes that when Bishop Nicholas heard of this he went to the house by night, and threw a sack of money in the window. When the family arose the next morning they found the money they needed, and through this surprise gift (again depending on the story) either the girls were able to marry – or they were saved from slavery.

This story of the saint who comes at night and leaves presents is most likely the tradition from which our modern day Santa Claus arose.

There are numerous other stories of miracles by Saint Nicholas. We previously mentioned him praying the sailor back to life as a young man. He also is said to have saved Myra from famine. He did this by apparently appearing in a vision to an Italian merchant asking him to please fill a ship and bring food to Myra. Though it was a vision the merchant apparently was left with three gold coins as down payment. The merchant set sail for Myra and the famine was broken. He was known to be a negotiator who could bring peace, he was known for healing, he did a lot. Google him – it’s a pretty neat story.

Council of Nicea:

What is probably the most important contribution of Nicholas to the life of the one holy catholic and apostolic church is that he was present at the Council of NIcea (where we got the Nicene Creed). Nicholas was a champion of orthodoxy and was vehemently opposed to the heretical teachings of Arias.

Quick note: Arias was a teacher from Alexandria, Egypt who taught that Jesus was not one with God, and was not God. Instead Arias taught that Jesus was the first born of creation – that Jesus was made and therefore he was not divine. According to Arias, Jesus was not eternal. Or as the Arians were apt to say “There was a time when he (Jesus) was not”.

This may not sound like a big deal – but if you think about it such teaching undermines the unity of the Holy Trinity, the love of God, the reality of God becoming flesh to save us in Jesus, the fact that God loves us so much that the eternal one would come and save us. Arias teaching was heretical – but Arias was charismatic and people followed him.

The orthodox position was the Jesus was (as later codified in the creed) God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made. Nicholas and the vast majority of the Bishops of the church, led by St. Athanasius held up the orthodox opinion. Jesus is God, an in Jesus Christ we meet the fullness of who God is.

The problems came when Nicholas had finally had enough with the heretic Arias. As you know we follow the Lord of peace, Jesus Christ. He calls us to turn the other cheek, to pray for our enemies, to never take and eye for an eye, but to respond to evil with love.

Well, on this particular day, our brother Nicholas had had enough of Arias. Accounts vary but apparently Nicholas began by berating Arias, then he got in Arias face, and at some point Nicholas either slapped, or punched the heretic Arias upside the head. Christians, and especially Bishops, are just not supposed to do that.

The Council stripped Nicholas of his Bishop garments and either confined him to his quarters or locked him in a cell – accounts vary on the specifics.

However, during the night (again there are differing accounts of this story) either the Bishops of the Council had a vision of God returning Nicholas’ vestments to him, or when they went to retrieve him the next morning, Nicholas had all his vestments with him. The story is that an angel returned his Bishop clothing.

Either way the point of the story was that even though Nicholas shouldn’t have struck Arias, God apparently forgave Nicholas and reinstated him to his place as Bishop.

After his death

Nicholas died on Dec. 6, 384 and was entombed in Myra. His remains stayed there until 1087 when his bones were stolen by a group of Italian sailors and taken to the town of Bari, Italy. The excuse for the theft of St. Nicholas was that the Italians were protecting the saint. Myra was endanger of being invaded by the Selucid Turks at the time. However, once the danger of invasion passed the remains where not returned. Over 900 years later, St. Nicholas’ bones still reside in Italy.

Shortly after his death stories began to circulate of people being healed by visiting his tomb. Today, his bones are said to secrete an oil or substance that is referred to as holy chrism. This fluid that secretes from St. Nicholas bones is belied to have healing powers.

So as we approach St. Nicholas day, and approach the celebration of Christmas, I hope that this little reflection gives you a little more information about Saint Nicholas. There is much more to him than we usually know. He was a person of deep and abiding faith, who God used to show God’s power and who God used to bring healing, and hope into the world.

May God bless you now and always.

ELCA Conference of Bishop’s – Statement on Immigration

As most of you know, on Thursday night President Obama made an Executive Order which will affect the lives of thousands of people who have been in a relative ‘no mans land’ or ‘pergatory’ while dealing with  the US immigration process.  Yes, I am fully aware that anything that our current president does is going to cause people to have immediate reactions (especially in the area where I call home)  some will love it – some will hate it.  But I from my point of view this move is trying to help people.  I believe that trying to open the process for people to apply in a legal way that will not immediately mean they need to leave and or be separated from their families is probably a good thing.

With this is mind, the ELCA Conference of Bishops has put our a statement in light of the President’s recent actions.  I am a member of this group and I support this statement – I have signed on to this statement – and thus I am sharing it with you.  The main thrust of this document is to remind all of us that God continually calls for us to care for the “sojourners”, “wanderers”, or “strangers in your land”.  These are all ways different translations of the Bible deal with the concept of the immigrant.  We are called to be hospitable and realize that all people are created and loved by God.

The statement is below.

 

Immigration Statement
November 20, 2014
Conference of Bishops Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

As people of faith and leaders of the church, we support public policy that protects children, reunites families, and cares for the most vulnerable, regardless of their place of birth.

The treatment of immigrants is a core religious value. To welcome the stranger is to welcome a child of God.

In the New Testament, Jesus tells us to welcome the stranger, for “just as you did it to one of the least of these… you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:40)

Each day in our congregations and in our service to the community, we see the consequences of this broken immigration system: separated families, children returning home to find their parents have been deported, and the exploitation of undocumented workers.

By removing the threat of deportation for many people, we are showing compassion for people who have been here for years, working hard to provide for their families, obeying the law, and contributing to the fabric of our community.

While today’s action addresses a pressing need, it does not provide a path to citizenship, establish policies that prioritize family unity, or create more efficient channels for entry of new migrant workers. Our hope is that congress will address these and related issues, including the practice of family detention, which undermines our values as a people of faith and a nation of welcome.

The Scriptures consistently show a significant concern for immigrants:

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

The positive role of immigrants in our history, economy and our community is unmistakable. We support this compassionate first step toward reforming an immigration system that is flawed and requires many of our neighbors to live in the shadows in fear.

The ELCA Conference of Bishops

Called to serve, Called to Follow Jesus

This entry is taken from my remarks at the Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries annual dinner where I was the keynote speaker, Oct. 23, 2014. 

Grace and Peace to you in the name of God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

A reading from Matthew the 25th chapter:

31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.”

There are people in this world for whom we need to pray. These are people who are lost, hurt, broken. These are people who are destroying themselves and being destroyed by the world they, and we live in. Now as I say that you might think that I am referring to the hungry, the sick, the homeless, the lonely, the forgotten – and all the people that our Lord Jesus is talking about in the passage I just shared with you. Yes, these are all people who need our prayer and our love and our support.

But the ones that I want to start with tonight are the people who are lost in this world. The people who have swallowed the lie of the world, the temptations of selfishness and self interest, the people who live their lives only looking out for number one and looking out for themselves. These are the people who live by the creed that ‘she or he who dies with the most toys wins’ or that life is about getting all you can, grabbing all you can, living your life for oneself and for no one else.

This world is full of people who believe life is for the taking, you step over who you have to, and that you can excuse any bad behavior, any disregard for neighbor as ‘looking out for number one’.

You know people like this. I hope you can feel sorry for them. They have been consumed by the lie that their safety can only be found in looking out for themselves and getting and grabbing and gathering all they can. The unfortunate truth is that they are gathering for themselves treasures on earth where moth and rust consume – and the harsh reality is that no matter how much stuff we gather to ourselves – it all goes to somebody else in the end anyway. At best, or maybe at worst, such people –consumed with grabbing and getting for themselves, end their lives like Ebenezer Scrooge before the three ghosts showed up, sitting on top of a pile of money – miserable and alone.

Do you know why? Because when you place the things of this world above all else, when you think that there is something out there that will fill the emptiness inside of you – then you are deluding yourself. Stuff will never fill the hunger in our hearts. Things which pass away will never suffice for that which we truly need.

We need God. We are creatures built and created to live perfectly in communion with our Lord. We are people designed and created to live a life like our first parents did before the fall – to see our Heavenly Father face to face and to walk with him in the garden in the cool of the evening. Even since we – our human selves turned away from our Heavenly Father – we have had an emptiness inside of us. We humans try to fill that void with all kinds of things which aren’t God. We try to pour stuff, and accomplishments, and money down the hole in our hearts, but the only thing that will ever make us whole or satisfied in the Lord who created us. So pray for these lost ones. They are all around us, maybe closer than we can imagine.

So – the world is lying to you. But in Jesus Christ we see the truth.

Jesus Christ though – shows us a still more excellent way. Jesus shows us that our lives do not have to be about getting all we can, but about giving all that we are. Think about it for a second, in Jesus Christ, God has come. God showed up and walked around us. Doesn’t it make complete sense that when God takes on a human body, when the Word becomes flesh and lives among us in Jesus – that he would therefor live life the way that we should live life? When Jesus comes he shows us what our lives are to be, how we are to live them. There is one thing that Jesus continues to do, and should be the leading and guiding example for us;

Jesus lives a life by completely and utterly giving that life away for the sake of us, for the sake of the world, for the sake of all. Compare those for a minute – the world which is passing away says take all you can, get all you can. Jesus Christ, God from God, Light from, True God from True God, comes into this world so that he might offer up his life for the sake of the world. He even died on the cross, because the cross the only way someone can die with their arms outstretched to the entire world – even in death Jesus was giving himself away – offering his life, to us. So who do we want to put our hope and trust in and who do we want to follow – do we follow the world that is passing away – or do we follow the creator, the Living God who says my way and my life looks like blessing and sharing my life with all of the world. I hope you hear that and say – I am going to follow Jesus.

The question then for us is HOW do we do that. Well our Lord gives us a pretty good place to start in this passage today. It may be important for us to note that in Matthew 25 – this is Jesus talking about the coming of the Kingdom. What it is going to be like when the King (meaning Jesus) comes and judges the world. According to Jesus Christ the standard we will be judged by is what we did, to what he calls the Least of these. Jesus says when the sheep, the righteous did his will it was when they fed the hungry, clothed the naked, gave water to the thirsty, visited the prisoners. Jesus says that when they did that they did it unto him – because Jesus Christ is the one who stands always with the hurting, the tired, the broken, the lost, those in need. Jesus’ life and blessing is not therefore dependent upon what we do or what we achieve – but it comes from his grace mercy and love. He stands with those in need and he stands with us when we have absolutely nothing to give in return. Christ is always present with us especially with those who are in need of him.

Likewise, Jesus is saying – if you want to follow me – do likewise. If you want to follow Jesus Christ, if you want to be like him – then the easiest thing to do is to be about works of mercy, grace and love to this hurting world. Our Lord calls us to be people who because we follow him – help, give, serve and love not because we can expect anything in return – but because there are people out there who need it. The greatest acts of mercy and goodness we are called to do to those who cannot repay who cannot return, who can offer us nothing back.

What I want you to remember this evening is that Jesus Christ calls you to be people of mercy, grace and love. Think about this – what does it profit you to have all the stuff in the world. If you gather all of that stuff to yourself – in the end you will be sitting on your big pile of all you grabbed and got and scraped and nabbed for yourself. And you will be on top of it dead, dead, dead. You can’t take it with you. What you take then stays here, it becomes what serves you and your needs and desires. So that in the end the great and grand result of your life is – you brought all this stuff together. If you keep it to yourself then that is the end of the story. A big pile of stuff.

But Jesus says and shows us to make our life about giving it away for the sake of others. God has gifted us with skills, talents, and abilities. We are given these gifts to use them and to use them for the sake of the world. The stuff you take dies with you – that which you give goes on beyond and past you. What you give and share, especially that done in love – not only affects you but can scatter the seeds of mercy and love into the lives of others. God gave you all that you have for the purpose of giving it away. God has blessed you with all that you have so that you can be a blessing to others.

Sort of like when Jesus says, Those that save their life will lose it, those who lose their life for my sake will find it. Maybe what Jesus is saying is that if we hold on to all we have, if we consider it ours to be saved and held and kept then we will get our reward. A great big pile of stuff that will rot and decay just like us. But if you take the stuff of this life, the things you gather and give them away – share them for the sake of neighbor and the world – there is where true life is found. In giving ourselves away for the sake of the world in being a blessing in looking out for the needs of others.

Jesus is calling us to be other than this world. He wants you to be better than what the world expects. Jesus calls us to follow him. Not to take but to give, not to hoard for ourselves, but to gather to scatter the seeds of blessing love and mercy to all of this world. May this work be seen in us.

Amen

Do we consider what it means that he is THE WORD

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being” Gospel according to St. John 1: 1 – 3a

 

I wanted to reflect here on what it means that Jesus Christ is the Living Word, the Word made flesh. You most likely know this opening passage from St. John posted above, and many of us know this by heart. But I would put forward that we often underestimate just who Jesus is. We know and confess that he is the Word made flesh, but we don’t usually grasp the full meaning of that, and the implications of what it means for us in our lives.

So John is telling us very clearly that Jesus is God. Or more specifically he is the word that is with God, from the beginning, and through him, the Word, (Jesus) all things came into being. Those of us who follow Christian traditions that use the Nicene Creed as a statement of our faith would recognize that the church picked up on this idea in the creed when they came to confess Jesus Christ as “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father, through him all things were made”.

What John is telling us is that our Lord who became flesh is the eternal Word of God that we encounter in the first sentences of the Bible. When God said, “Let there be light” that word that went forth, that creative power that moved from the heart of the father to bring all things into being was the one who is eternal with the Father. That great power that formed and shaped all that is, the one who brought all things into being and who holds all of creation together – that eternal one – was precisely the enteral Lord who took on a human body and came to save us.

It is important for us to hold onto this idea of who Jesus is because all too often we (I believe) underestimate who Jesus is. Yes he did become flesh and live among us – and therefore it is fitting and right to think of him as the sweet little baby asleep on the hay. He did walk with us, feed the hungry, heal the sick and call people to his life – so it is good and right to think of him as our healer and teacher. He did call all people to himself, and he did call us to his life – so if you think of Jesus as your friend – that is okay too, he loves you and I think that would be appropriate.

But what we have to make sure we don’t do is limit who Jesus Christ is in our minds. We don’t want to think of him as only the sweet baby, our comforter, our friend. He is all things and much more – but he is also the great Lord of Heaven and Earth through whom all things came into being. He is the God of glory, he is the Lord of all and all will bow to him.

St. Athanasius said it right in his book On the Incarnation of the Word of God – and I am paraphrasing here – but he said that we must always remember that even as our Lord Jesus was walking around this world with us, even as he was laying in the manger, he still held all of creation in the palm of his hand and even while he was on the cross he kept all of creation together. The creation that he made.

So when we talk about Jesus Christ being the incarnate word – we are saying that the power of God that brought everything into being out of absolutely nothing but his will and his desire to create and to bring forth life – that is the one who has come. Jesus Christ is nothing less than the one who made everything – God has come – Emmanuel.

WIJD – What Is Jesus Doing

WWJD -‘What Would Jesus Do?”. Many of us have seen this on t-shirts or sometimes on bumperstickers, though maybe not as much as we once did. I think the height of the WWJD movement came about 10 years ago – though I am sure it will come back any day now.

But the idea behind WWJD was to ask oneself – what would Jesus do if he were faced with the particular situation I am dealing with. What would be the path Jesus would take. Now admittedly this assumes a lot – like you being able to read the mind of the Living Word of God through whom all things came into being. But at it’s best this question WWJD is trying to get people to do the right thing, to reach out in love and mercy to the world around them. At it’s worst it gives ego maniacs the ability to think that just because they think they know what Jesus would do in a given situation (and you usually find that in such people Jesus agrees with exactly what they were thinking) it gives them permission to just do what they want and consider Jesus is condoning their behavior – good or bad.

But I would offer that there might be a better way to think about this idea of WWJD. That instead of thinking about What would Jesus do if he were here, we might actually think about it in the sense of WIJD – WHAT IS JESUS DOING.

WWJD assumes that Christ Jesus isn’t active and with us. That is a completely and totally wrong way to go about thinking of things. Jesus Christ is alive and moving and active and is actually involved in the lives of regular old people like you and me. Jesus is actually here and maybe JUST MAYBE, if instead of charging ahead and doing what we think is right – but sat still and listened for the still small voice of our Lord speaking and calling to us – then we might hear, or be nudged in the direction that we need to go.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wondering what Jesus would do – but such a question pushes our Lord to the borders of our lives and assumes that he is out there, somewhere – other than where we are. WIJD, is recognizing that Christ is here, and active, and alive and involved in our lives. If we stop and listen and turn to him, we might not just have to wonder what he would do, but our eyes may be opened to what and how he is already at work around us.

The Lord is present, he is here, may we be able to see him and know him.
In the name of Christ
+ Michael