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Sermon: "Discomfort and Joy" (Advent 3, 12/15/2012)

Sermon: "Discomfort and Joy" (Advent 3, 12/15/2012)

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Sermon given by Pastor Sara Jensen at Calvary Lutheran Church, Park Rapids, MN on December 15, 2012
Sermon given by Pastor Sara Jensen at Calvary Lutheran Church, Park Rapids, MN on December 15, 2012

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: Sara Hildreth Jensen on Dec 17, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Sermon: December 14-15, 2012Advent 3: Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18“Discomfort and Joy”There is an old Christmas carol (
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen)
that includes this line,“O tidings of comfort and joy...I had planned to preach on the text from Philippians 4 about joy. This is a joyful time ofyear, right? Then Friday happened... and I was feeling anything but joyful.-28 children and adults dead in Newtown, Connecticut-22 children and adults wounded (and some dead?) in China
These events happened on the same day. Both in elementary schools. It makes mevery uneasy... as a parent of a kindergartener and the wife of a teacher. The news hitclose to home and made me feel very vulnerable.These are dark days. It’s the third week of Advent and remember, this is only mysecond winter in northern MN. It is VERY dark here. I have even had to put my 5 yearold on the bus in the dark sometimes!Advent is a time to joyfully anticipate the celebration of Christ’s birth.
And though Iam anticipating Christmas, I don’t feel joyful.Yet, Paul tells us in Philippians 4 to “Rejoice in the Lord always...The Lord is near.” Atthe moment I’m hearing this more as law than gospel, more of a command than apromise. I’m trying to will myself to feel joyful, but I am not experiencing the peace ofGod... yet.Social work researcher Brene Brown has recently gained attention for her new book andTED talk on shame, fear and vulnerability. She says that there is a social work mantra,“Lean into the discomfort.” So - today instead of preaching about comfort and joy, I’mtitling my sermon “
comfort and Joy.”Certainly John the Baptist brought up discomforting topics. He challenged the powersthat be and was even put to death. He may have preached things that were hard forpeople to hear, but underneath the message was joy. The Messiah was coming andthis was cause for celebration.
So knowing that Jesus’ birth is cause for celebration, how do we “lean into thediscomfort?” How do we keep one foot planted firmly on the hope of Christ whilereaching out to accept the uncomfortable, painful situations that face us?As an example of how to do this I’m going to read an excerpt from a letter sent to ELCAbishops from Bishop Jim Hazelwood of the New England Synod (which includesConnecticut):
There are no words available to me to adequately express theloss and sorrow I feel over this tragedy in Connecticut. It may bethe season of Advent, but it feels like the morning after Good Friday, before anyone realized the word "Good" could be added.
Our hearts are broken for the parents, siblings, family,coworkers, first responders, ministers and residents surrounding the Newtown, Connecticut community. We pray, indeed. But, thismorning my prayer is more deep sigh, than eloquent words.
From across the country, and from our partners around theworld, we are receiving offers of assistance, promises of prayer,expressions of a desire to help and be with us. Onecongregation from Colorado, who lived through the Columbineshootings of 1999, called us to offer financial support, many of my colleagues in the Conference of Bishops as well as clergy from their synods have sent prayers, and offers to help.
There is a time for compassion, and a time for outrage. I'mexperiencing both simultaneously. Suddenly, the day of the holy innocents has been brought to life, sadly, in our time once again.
Bishop Hazelwood is clearly saddened by the tragedy that happened in his Synod.He is also angry and is not shying away from his anger.
But in the midst of sadness, anger and pain there is a glimpse of joy: other bishops andChristians from around the world are reaching out to him and his synod, offering prayer and caring for their brothers and sisters in Connecticut.It is precisely this sense of connection that brings healing and hope to human beings.Brene Brown, the social work researcher I mentioned earlier, says that humans areneuro-biologically wired for connection. She spent a decade researching shame andfear and why they occur. People handle shame and fear differently and she wanted tofind out
this might be so.Shame, she says, is the fear of 
connection. We ask ourselves, “Is there somethingabout me that if other people knew, they would reject me? Disconnect from me?” Thereis an
vulnerability that underlies all shame and fear and the differencebetween people who are stuck in shame and struggle with love, belonging andworthiness, according to Brown, is that the people she calls “whole-hearted” believethey are
of love and belonging. They fully embrace vulnerability as the way toauthentic connection.Embracing vulnerability looks like this:
saying “I love you” first
investing in a relationship - with a romantic partner, friend or child - that might notwork out the way you want it to
breathing through the pain of grief with a friend
courageously walking with another as they wait for the Doctor to call with test results All these things can be avoided. You don’t have to do them. But avoiding them comeswith a COST - no relationship.Instead, as we “lean into the discomfort” and willlingly risk vulnerability, we experiencewhat it means to be human, whole-heartedly.This is the place God leads us in Jesus.I’ve often wondered
God chose a baby to reveal Godself to the world?
a vulnerable, powerless baby...Maybe it was so we could see a bit of ourselves and our experiences in Jesus’ birth.Because we live in a vulnerable world.

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