Happy New Year
Today we hear of another one of Joseph’s dreams – Joseph – through which the scripture writer traced Jesus’ lineage to King David – Joseph who protects the young child – first by not abandoning Mary who was pregnant during their betrothal – and secondly by keeping him from being murdered by Herod as was mentioned in the verses left out of today’s reading
The writer of the Gospel attributed to Matthew used these stories to speak to his audience and compare Jesus to Moses – thus his fleeing to avoid death was like the babe Moses floated down the Nile – His return from Egypt – like Moses coming out of Egypt – all these stories are to set the legitimacy of who Jesus was in the eyes of writer’s community – for the community from which this Gospel arose was traditionally thought of as a primarily Jewish community rather than Gentile one like the other three Gospels
Today we hear these Gospels as histories – in our modern view of what a history is – we even equate the word Gospel with the word truth – if something is true it is Gospel – when actually the Gospels are stories and act as the sign posts to a God centered life – living a God centered life is the Good News – the Gospel
So – What are we to make of this story this week? – Where is the Good News in it? – Do we need the reassurance the community of Matthew needed to pay attention to the life and teaching of Jesus that they did? – After all these years does Jesus’ progenitor from 1000 years before his birth make his life and teaching more meaningful to you? – So what is the Good News in the reading today?
The Good News in this story is the story of Joseph’s faith – here we have a man who changes his life based upon his interactions with the divine through his dreams – Now we all dream – some dreams we remember and some we don’t – today we don’t put as much mystical stock in the messages we receive in dreams as they did in Joseph’s day – but that begs the question how do you? – How do we all interact with the divine? – Where do we hear the angels speaking to us? – How do we experience something 80% of Americans believe in? – Angels – And if you believe in whose name do these angels speak?
Now this might be a better sermon for the Feast Day of St. Michael and all Angels but the divine figures in the Good News of today’s scripture are the angels of Joseph’s dream – these angels tell the story not about what Joseph should or shouldn’t do but that God communicates with us – God is still speaking to us.
In a world of business and turmoil – in a world of sickness and stress – a world of seemingly endless mundaneness – God can still speak to us – and does still speak to us – Are we listening? Joseph listened in our scripture today – saw peril played out in a dream – we too can listen
Now we in the Episcopal church have some beautiful and well written prayers – Our Book of Common Prayer is a gift and a resource for us to communicate with the spiritual – yet we do not have a tradition of pausing and listening for a response to our prayers – The angels in our scriptures had an impact not by what they said but by the fact that they were listened too and their message was acted upon – We can’t know who and how God will communicate with us – it might be hidden in the comment from a friend to slow down – or from a loved one to help another – it might be in the nagging feeling that you need to look for another job – or put down that extra drink or cupcake – It might be in that instant thought – that it would be kinder not to give the unsolicited advice – or to speak the truth as you see it – we can’t know unless we listen – listen with intention
In a way it’s harder for us today than it was in Joseph’s day – we’ve analyzed dreams – we know or think we do about the unconscious mind – we don’t see the divine in the world around us as readily because we know more about how things work – yet knowing the how and whys of a thing doesn’t make it less divine – doing what is right after hearing the message from multiple sources don’t make the messengers less divine – your spouse or your sibling could be an angel today as hard as that is to imagine sometimes
Jesus in all his teachings tried to tell us to look at the world not through the filter of our selves but through the filter of the divine – to see God you need to look – but first you need to change your consciousness to understand that it is possible for you – for all of you to experience a communion with God – to act as God’s messengers – God’s angels in the world
This new year in addition to any resolutions you might be making let’s try something as a community – let us listen really to what the Spirit is saying to God’s people – I like that we say that after our scripture readings – I’ve heard others say the closing the readings with “the Word of the Lord” is more meaningful – yet I find that saying to be a sort of deifying the scriptures – These were words written by men – yes men – who filtered the what was written through their own theology and agendas – I don’t believe them to be a transcription of the sayings of the creator – but a way of the Spirit speaking to us – all of us – for we are all God’s people in this God centered creation.
Let us try this year to pause after the prayers we say and listen – let us try if but a little bit to hear the still small voice in the tumult – perhaps it will be an Angel speaking – as they spoke to the father of Jesus – perhaps too we can for a moment have the faith Joseph showed and act upon the message they bring