December 29, 2013: There goes the neighborhood!

Posted on : Dec 27th, 2013 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

One of the most meaningful beliefs of Christianity is found in the words, “And the Word [the creative force that is God] became flesh and dwelt among us.”  A contemporary paraphrase of those words is, “And the Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”  What does that really mean?

This Sunday we’re going to hear the story of a friend and colleague of mine, Rev. Mary Cartusciello.   Here’s how Mary describes her experience:

You’ve heard of Christmas in July?  This past July, I had a Christmas experience, even an Easter experience, after a life-threatening event.  God’s presence lifted me up in a powerful way in the midst of the darkest of “nights.”  This Sunday, I will share with you some stories that testify to God’s powerful presence and cannot be told without community.  They cannot even be remembered without community.  They are stories that may be both uncomfortable and delightful to hear.  They speak of God coming to us and being with us whether there’s “resurrection” or not.

I have found that it is in the “face” of others that we most “see” God.  As the text from the gospel of John, chapter 1, states: the Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. I saw the face of God in all those who walked alongside me on this journey of incarnational love and healing.  As last week’s sermon noted, things are not always rosy, though.  Sometimes it seems as if God is absent.  It’s in those times that it helps to recount the gracious deeds of God (from Isaiah 63:7-9).  It is God’s presence, “resurrection” or not, that saves us.  Because God loves us, God lifts us up and carries us when neither we nor community can do so.

God’s presence transforms us.  When we’ve been lifted up, we can’t help but lift up others in their pain.  We can’t help but share what we’ve been given, as I notice the WeHo UCC does when it reaches out to the homeless in the neighborhood.  As you begin the New Year, consider the gift that other people have been to you.  Consider their faces as glimpses of God’s extravagant love.  Consider how you can be that face of God’s love to others in this New Year.  Allow Emmanuel to be with you.  There’s no place we can go that God is not with us; no where we can hide that God abandons; and there is no place of darkness that God’s light does not shine (Psalm 139)….whether there is a miraculous “resurrection” experience or not.

Thank you for allowing me the privilege of being with you all this Sunday as I “recount the gracious deeds of God” who has “moved into the neighborhood.”

Blessings,

Dan & Rev. Mary L. Cartusciello

~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

John 1: 1-18
“The Word took on human flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”

In the beginning there was the Word;
the Word was in God’s presence, and the Word was God.
The Word was present to God from the beginning.
Through the Word all things came into being, and apart from the Word nothing came into being that is.
In the Word was life,
and that life was humanity’s light –
a Light that shines in the darkness,
a Light that the darkness has never overtaken.

Then came one named John, sent as an envoy from God, who came as a witness to testify about the Light, so that through his testimony everyone might believe.  He himself wasn’t the Light; he only came to testify about the Light – the true Light that illumines all humankind.

The Word was coming into the world –
was in the world –
and though the world was made through the Word, the world didn’t recognize it.
Though the Word came to its own realm,
the Word’s own people didn’t accept it.
Yet any who did accept the Word,
who believed in that Name,
were empowered to become children of God –
Children born not of natural descent,
not of human will –
but born of God.

And the Word took on human flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.

We saw the Word’s glory –
filled with grace,
filled with truth.

John testified by proclaiming, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘the One who comes after me ranks ahead of me, for this One existed before I did.’”

Of this One’s fullness
we’ve all had a share –
gift on top of gift.
For while the Law was given through Moses,
the Gift – and the Truth – came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God,
except Jesus,
who has revealed God to us.

Isaiah 63: 7-9
Isaiah tells of God’s Compassion

I will recount the steadfast love of God
the praises of the Holy One, our God,
according to all that God has granted us,
and the great goodness to the house of Israel
which God has granted them according to God’s mercy,
according to the abundance of God’s steadfast love.
For God said, Surely they are my people,
children who will not deal falsely;
and God became their Savior.
In all their affliction God was afflicted,
and the angel of God’s presence saved them;
in love and in pity God redeemed them,
lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

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