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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Epiphany 2013. Welcome to the Future.

2013-01-06 Mt 02 01-12 Epiphany

Hi. Welcome to 2013: "The Future."

I'm James, your virtual, robotic pastor.

Bad news. The image control app is broken, so you can't make me look like Brad Pitt.

Or Khloe Kardashian.

Now, THAT would make church interesting.


It sounds like "The Future."

Things have changed.

Remember when "coming out" involved a doorway?

When only sailors had tattoos and only pirates had multiple body-piercings?

Remember way in the past, say, 2009, when Blackberries were cool, cougars were large cats, and Netflix sent DVDs by mail?

When you watched TV on a television, Uggs were a sound your dad made, and using a tablet involved paper?

Were we ever that young?

That was only... wait... Siri, what's 2013 minus 2009?

Thank goodness we don't have to do advanced math anymore.

Things change so fast.

Kids. Kids change so fast. They grow up so fast these days.

We have daughters approaching teen-ager-hood.

I can hear my intelligence making a sucking sound as it swirls right down the drain.

Kids grow up so fast. The world is changing so fast.

In the Bible, they never had to worry about this stuff.

Or did they?

You think kids grow up too fast today?

Consider Jesus.

He was born just 12 days ago.

We've got 4 weeks before we start getting ready for Easter.

Not my choice.

That's just the way the church calendar rolls.

Some of you won't have all your Christmas decorations put away before the preacher starts talking about Lent, and death, and resurrection.

I feel like we're pressuring you.

Jesus grows up really fast.

You know how the Bible describes Jesus between birth and adulthood?

Luke 2:52 says, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature...."

Well then.

Maybe that's the way your parents describe your childhood.

"Oh, let's just say, he grew in wisdom and stature.

"And then he moved out."

Being a parent, it would have been really nice if the Bible had given us some stories of the obedient, saintly young Jesus to preach at - I mean - lovingly share as examples for our kids.

So we could say,

"See how Jesus always did what his mother told him to, when she told him to do it? Without making her repeat herself? Are you listening?"

Maybe the writers chose not to include those stories because they wanted children to love Jesus.

There's a blank in Jesus' years.

The Bible's like the Watergate tapes - uh, it's a long and ugly story, kids - with this huge gap of silence, when it comes to Jesus' teenage years.

He just grows up. Really, really fast.

But maybe that's not so bad.


The Bible's not totally silent about the boy Jesus.

We do get this wonderful story - well, wonderful if you've never driven off and left a kid at the mall.

(Pfft. Like, who hasn't?)

We get this wonderful story about the obviously "gifted child" …

"Gifted child."

You know what that means. (Chess club.)

We get this wonderful story about how Jesus stayed behind at the temple.

And he says, "Why were you searching for me? Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?

Oh, Jesus. You little rascal.

I'm sorry. I just don't think this is a relatable problem for most parents.

I mean, I almost get knocked down every Sunday by kids trying to get out of church as fast as they can.

(I tell myself it's because they're so excited to go out and tell the world the good news of Jesus Christ.)

If you're a parent, and the most memorable act of rebellion your child does... is stay overly long at worship?

Don't make that the one story you tell everybody.

For their sake, as well as yours.

But I think you also have to take into consideration the fact that the gospels were written by members of Jesus' hand-picked staff.

And that their resurrected boss had a habit of appearing out of nowhere to correct them.

"Maybe let's just tell the Temple story and leave it at that."

"And he grew in wisdom and stature."

"That's good, Luke. Write that down and go on to the next chapter."

Which is exactly what the Bible does.


Think about yourself.

Do you have parts of your story you'd prefer to leave out?

Are there episodes, maybe years, you'd prefer they didn't include in your biography?

"And then... she grew up."

"And then... he got married again."

"And then... he got his licence back."

This is why family gatherings can be so painful.

It's like they only remember the gaps you try to forget.

"Hey, remember the time when he fell off his platform shoes and knocked over the punchbowl at the prom?"

All those things you're glad didn't show up on AFV, retold in high definition.

Reunions. Wedding rehearsal dinners.

They're the worst. Nothing is scarier than a tipsy Best Man with a microphone and PowerPoint.

(On the other hand, it's very entertaining to the rest of us.)

18 minutes, 18 years, maybe even a critical 18 seconds - if you could go back and erase them, if you could remove them from history, would you?


Preachers and Sunday School teachers will tell you that the Bible's not a documentary.

It's not even fair and balanced reporting.

It's nowhere near Ken Burns quality.

The Bible's heavily biased toward its protagonists.

There are gaps.

There are times when the Bible goes out of its way to portray its characters in a positive light.

There are long periods of silence.

Sometimes that can be troubling.

And sometimes it can be grace.

Aren't you glad you don't have paparazzi following you around, 24 hours a day, going through your garbage, taking pictures of you without makeup, posting on the internet when you clean up after your dog?

You're probably thankful you're not Brad Pitt or Khloe Kardashian, in that regard.

We're all grateful that our collection of mistakes and outtakes aren't broadcast on TMZ.

There are gaps.


A lot of people don't believe in gaps.

A lot of people believe God doesn't believe in gaps.

They think God's got your whole life on DVR, and someday, God's gonna play that back, and you're gonna have to answer for all those mistakes and outtakes.

"And Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature."

If the Bible cuts Jesus a gap, maybe God's OK if you have a couple, too.

Oprah's friend, Eckhart Tolle, has a great line.

He says, "If you make a mistake, and you learn from it, it's not a mistake any more. It's a lesson."

I love that.

That's grace.

That's saying that your future isn't lockstep determined by your past.

It's saying that when you learn from the things you'd rather not remember, they're changed.

They're not sins any more; they're wisdom.

And the changes can come fast.

Which is grace.

As fast as you're willing to cut yourself a break, as fast as you're willing to let God turn a bad memory into a forgiving, new direction.

God's OK with gaps.

As long as they've been used to help you grow in wisdom and in stature.


If you woke up this morning, you're doing better than all the people who didn't.

You've got a chance to end a sentence and start a new chapter.

Life isn't a sentence.

Not if you learn.

Not if you grow.

Not if you increase in wisdom and stature.

You can get a fresh start in 2013.

You can get a fresh start right now, in this moment.

The final word on your biography isn't written, and won't be written as long as you're still breathing.

Period. End of sentence. Start of next chapter.

The Bible does it.

Why shouldn't we, we who follow the Bible, get the same chance?

The future always starts in the very next moment.

There it goes.

Oop. There it goes again.

It's 2013.

Welcome to the future.