Advent 2016: The Presentation of the King

Written by a tax collector turned follower of Jesus, the Gospel of Matthew stands as one of the earliest accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus. Those seeking to more fully understand Jesus and His ways throughout the centuries have found in Matthew a faithful guide. 

Over the course of the next twelve months, we have committed to exploring the depth of Jesus and His Kingdom Come by spending “A Year with Jesus” in the following five episodes of Matthew’s Gospel: (1) The Presentation of the King, (2) The Preaching of the King – Sermon on the Mount, (3) The People of the King, (4) The Parables of the King, and (5) The Power of the King. Not only does this journey lie at the core of our church’s vision, but it provides a chance for both seekers and saints to reevaluate their assumptions of faith and encounter Christ firsthand. Join us as we walk with Jesus, listen to His teaching, and discover what it looks like for Jesus to rule over our lives and this world. 

This Advent, we begin with the birth of the King. 

Long before Jesus arrives on the scene with a message or in ministry, a baby is born. Swirling around this most miraculous birth are all sorts of questions that ring from Bethlehem and beyond. Who is this Child? Why is He here? Where does He come from? What story does He fulfill? In the first two chapters of this Gospel account, Matthew answers all these questions and more as he introduces us to Jesus and frames His birth as a continuation of Israel’s story. Come behold the birth of the King!

"Immanuel: Glory in the Lowest" Matthew 1:20-23 (Advent 2016: The Presentation of the King)

When the angels appeared to the shepherds in the fields, they came proclaiming a message of urgent celebration - "Glory to God in the highest!" That message of God's glory being recognized in the highest places is the one many are familiar with. Throughout repeated scenes in the Old and New Testaments, we see God's glory in the highest - love, joy, power, beauty, and holiness surrounded by angelic company around His throne. However, the unique message of Christmas is contained in the second half of the angelic message - "Peace on earth." Or, stating it another way, "Glory to God in the lowest place." In our celebration of the Christ child, we marvel and respond to the truth of Immanuel: God with us.

"The Gospel of Egypt, Exile, and Nazareth" Matthew 2:13-28 (Advent 2016: The Presentation of the King)

This week we tackle the often forgotten part of the Christmas story. After the beauty and wonder of the manger, the angels and the magi, the darkness of human sin and evil invades Bethlehem. As the threatened king, Herod orders the murder of all male children two years old and under which leads to bloodshed and tears. His murderous plot forces Mary and Joseph to take baby Jesus to the land of Egypt for a season before returning home to Israel. As Matthew describes this scene, he distinctly points to Egypt, Rachel's weeping, and Nazareth as fulfillment of the prophets' words. And in explicitly pointing to these three themes, Matthew highlights the particularly good news of Jesus' birth. The gospel of Exodus, Exile, and Nazareth is a message our weary souls still need some 2,00 years later.

"A King, a Fool, and Wise Men" Matthew 2:1-12 (Advent 2016: The Presentation of the King)

As we enjoy our 3rd Sunday of Advent this year, we will take a look at the gathering of "kings" immediately after Jesus' birth. King Herod is visited by the "kings" from the east who come bearing news about the birth of the "King of the Jews." As Matthew unfolds this section of the Christmas story, we discover that this group of 3 kings is actually a story about a king, a fool and wise men. The fool and wise men teach us so much about responding to God's Royal Son in wisdom and worship.

"What is Love?" Matthew 1:18-25 (Advent 2016: The Presentation of the King)

“What’s love got to do with it?” Well, if it’s the second week in Advent, the answer is “everything." This week, we focus on the theme of "Love" as viewed through the lens of Joseph’s experience in Matthew chapter 1. In doing so, we hope to gain some insight into this pervasive, essential and often mysterious force called "Love" as illuminated in the Christmas Story.

"Family Tree" Matthew 1:1-17 (Advent 2016: The Presentation of the King)

This Sunday, we will kick off our time in Matthew’s Gospel account by taking a look at the hidden story found in Jesus’ genealogy. Rather than being a “throw away” passage to be skipped, this record of Jesus’ family tree reveals the heart of Jesus’ mission and the essence of our Christian faith. Come learn more about the real Jesus, the son of David,  Abraham, and much more.

Foster Care Awareness Sunday

This Sunday, November 13th, is Orphan Sunday, a day that pastors across the United States have dedicated to raising people's awareness about God's heart for the orphan among us. Over the past few months, roughly a dozen churches in Thurston County have chosen to proactively come together to address one of the major issues impacting our local community: the children and families in the Foster Care system. The statistics are staggering related to these modern orphans, and we believe that God is leading His people in Thurston County to do something about it.


"God's Heart and the Gospel Rule" (Foster Care Awareness Sunday)

Jesus taught His disciples to pray, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Sometimes, discerning God's will can be a difficult and nuanced as we struggle to discover what exactly He wants. However, there are other matters that take no discernment at all as God's will is laid out in plainly in black and white through the Scriptures. All throughout the Bible, God has consistently expressed His tender heart for the poor, the widow and the orphan... the weak, helpless, and overlooked of society. This Sunday, we are going to remind ourselves of God's heart for the orphan while also taking a look at the harsh reality of the foster care needs in our own backyard. As followers of Jesus, we are not only compelled to live out the Golden Rule - do unto others as you would have them do unto you- but the Gospel Rule.

"The Symphony of Your Soul" Song of Solomon 7:10 (Psalms: Then Sings My Soul)

As we have gone through the sermon series "Then Sings My Soul", there have been several times when we have talked about how important it is for us to know what song is really in our hearts and then to sing it to God.  Sometime the song of our soul is one of joy and sometimes it one of despair.  Regardless, it is important for us to sing our song to God.  

However, I believe that there is a song that God wants to be the song of our soul all the time.  It's a song that he has designed to accompany our songs of joy, our songs of despair and all our songs in-between.  God wants to weave this song into our lives like the theme that flows through a symphony.  The song is expressed most beautifully in the Song of Songs 7:10 "I am my beloved's and his desire is for me."

The focus of the sermon is that God is wild for us.  He is passionately in love with us.  We are his, and his desire is for us.  That theme, that refrain, will shape and change every song that we sing if we let it infiltrate our soul.  So, as you consider your role in Sunday's gathering, consider the passionate, wild, incredible love of God for you and consider how you can invite those who participate in our worship gathering to consider and to experience that passionate, wild, incredible love as well.

"What Do You Want?" Psalm 27:4 (Psalms: Then Sings My Soul)

Everyone knows the power of a well-placed question. And for Jesus, the Master Questioner, there is one question in particular that He is fond of asking: "What do you want Me to do for you?" It's the question He asked James and John (Mark 10:36). It's the question He asked blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:51). It's the question He asked me at the start of my sabbatical. And it's the question, I believe, that he is asking you. This week, we are going to take a look at our deepest desires and wrestle with our answer to His question. Using these stories and Psalm 27 as our guide, we might find something that we weren't expecting.

"Sabbath Song" Psalm 92:1-4 (Psalms: Then Sings My Soul)

If, as we talked about last week, we are invited by God to do a day with pace and portions, we are also invited to do our weeks with Sabbath rest. This Sunday, we will investigate the spiritual practice of Sabbath and untangle it from the common trappings of its dreary, legal shackles. In Psalm 92, the psalmist paints a picture of thanksgiving, joy and celebration in his "Song for the Sabbath." Could it be that in our busy American lives we have misunderstood and chosen to ignore God's weekly gift? Come discover how Sabbath forms us for passionate mission in the everyday.

"Pace and Portions" Psalm 55:16-17 (Psalms: Then Sings My Soul)

After spending lots of time in the past month on themes regarding the soul, the practical question naturally arises: "How do you find intimacy with Christ in the midst of our busy world?" Or to phrase it another way, "How do you do a day?" Jesus taught us to pray for our "daily bread" and to "not worry about tomorrow." But many of us don't know how to do that in a meaningful way. Borrowing yet again from the Psalms, we discover that the people of Israel broke up their day into portions: Morning, Noon, Evening, and Night Watches. This week we will explore the portions of a day and discuss how to bring each part intentionally before God in reflection and prayer. David's anguish in Psalm 55 is brought before God "evening, morning, and noon." How can we do the same? 

"Weaning and Limitations - Part 2" Psalm 131:1-3 (Psalms: Then Sings My Soul)

This week we will tackle part 2 of our sermon on Psalm 131:1-3. Out of all 150 psalms in the book, this is one that the Lord has used the most to challenge and calm my soul during my summer sabbatical. Utilizing the picture of a weaned child with his mother, David offers a portrait of the two faces of pride: arrogant ambition and demanding dependence, both of which cut us off from an easy yoke and light burden. This week we will take a look at what it means for us to take the posture of the weaned child in the lap of God. As David discovered and articulated so well, God calls us all to discover the beautiful shift into maturity when we move from demanding from God to delighting in Him. In our weaning, we will find unmatched delight.

"Weaning and Limitations - Part 1" Psalm 131:1-3 (Psalms: Then Sings My Soul)

As we continue in the Psalms this fall, we will be spending time in Psalm 131:1-3 for the next two weeks. Out of all 150 psalms in the book, this is one that the Lord has used the most to challenge and calm my soul during my summer sabbatical. Utilizing the picture of a weaned child with his mother, David offers a portrait of the two faces of pride: arrogant ambition and demanding dependence, both of which cut us off from an easy yoke and light burden. This week we will explore the gift of our limitations that challenge our ambitions before looking at the process of weaning next week.

"Sing the Song" Psalm 118, Mark 14:26-41 (PSALMS: THEN SINGS MY SOUL)

Last week we looked at some of the ugly and uncomfortable psalms.  Ones that express emotions and desires we’d prefer didn’t exist.  This week, we continue in that vein as we ask two simple questions: good or bad, beautiful or ugly, what is truly the song in your heart today?  Are you singing it?  We will look at the life of Jesus as we ponder those questions and reiterate the invitation to honestly express the cry of our hearts be it joy or heartache.

"Honesty & Lament" Psalm 58:1-11 (Psalms: Then Sings My Soul)

This week we will look at some of the psalms that often leave us scratching our heads and wishing they weren't in the Bible. With graphic words, strong emotions, and pleas for violent vengeance, Psalm 58 and other Lament songs are honest expressions from deep within. But when David asks God to "kick in the teeth" of his enemies or make them "like a stillborn", we often turn the page and in embarrassment look away. Why are those songs in the Bible? And how do we use them? As we work through a few laments, we will discover an invitation to the type of honesty that few actually know. And, instead of looking away, we may actually find them instructive for great freedom in our souls.

"Health & Maturity" Psalm 16:2-6 (Psalms: Then Sings My Soul)

As we continue our time in the Psalms, this week will serve as a study of comparison between two very different scenes and situations. On the one hand, we will listen to David the psalmist express profound delight, joy and satisfaction both in God and His people throughout Psalm 16. Then we will hold of all that in contrast to that expression of Martha's soul in Luke 10:38-42. In our quest to understand what our souls are saying, we will consider the interplay between duty and devotion and the emotions in between.

"Intimacy & Pursuit" Psalm 25:14; Song of Solomon 1:4 (Psalms: Then Sings My Soul)

This week, we will lay the foundation for our series by introducing some of the interplay between the psalms and the soul. Then, through the lens of Psalm 25:14 and the first two chapters of the Song of Solomon, we will explore the idea of intimacy between God and one's soul. This vulnerable exchange is a mysterious thing that we are made for and yet often missed in the course of life's hectic way.

Proverbs: The Way of Wisdom

 More than just simple sayings, Proverbs orients us on how to live wisely, with God’s intended flow for the universe.  As Eugene Peterson says, wisdom is the “art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves in.”  But what is wisdom?  Where do you get it?

For the rest of the summer we’ll be seeking to understand what Proverbs has to say about how living a wise life informs our character, our finances, our work, rest, friendship, sexuality, and how we use our words.  Proverbs aids us in pressing the big truths we believe about God into the day to day lives we live.

"Friendship" Proverbs 17:7; 27:5-6, 9 (Proverbs: The Way of Wisdom)

This week our journey through Proverbs takes us to the topic of friendship.  So, to prepare for the sermon, I just went and checked my Facebook account and Mark Zuckerberg tells me that I have 420 friends.  Now, I am sure that most of you will agree, that Mark’s definition of “friend” leaves a bit to be desired.  In fact, I have Facebook friends, that I’ve never met and don’t really know at all. 
So if Facebook isn’t the last word on friendship, what more do we need to know?  Do we need to have friends?  If so, why? How do we develop them and how can they impact us? 
This week we want to listen to Lady Wisdom as she calls us to pursue friendships that go well below the surface and actually change who we are and how we experience the world.