Foundry United Methodist Church

Rev. Dean Snyder, Senior Minister

 

 

 

“How God Get's Things Done”

Christmas Eve


Sunday, December 24, 2010

 

 

Dean

Rev. Dean Snyder

God Plants Seeds in Human Hearts

The translators of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible are the most scholarly of all the Bible translators, which is why it is our translation of preference. But even they apparently can't help erring on the side of being upbeat and sentimental when it comes to the Christmas story. And who can blame them. It is Christmas.

The verse is Luke 2:19 which the New Revised Standard Version translators translate: "But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart."

The shepherds had told everybody who would listen about their encounter with an angel and a heavenly choir and everybody who heard the story was amazed. The shepherds returned to their fields glorifying and praising God.

"But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart."

The problem with this translation is that the Greek word they translate "treasured" really doesn't mean treasured. It just means "kept" or "preserved" or "held on to." We don't really know whether Mary treasured the words or whether she just held on to them. The translators assume that we only hold on to things that we treasure, but they've never been in my basement.

A more literal translation would be: "But Mary held on to all these words and pondered them in her heart."

Except there is a more literal translation for the Greek word translated "pondered." The more literal translation is "to encounter in a hostile sense" or "to fight with."

So an even more literal translation of the verse would be: "But Mary held on to all these words and fought with them in her heart."

All who heard what the shepherds said were amazed, "But Mary held on to all these words and fought with them in her heart."

And apparently Mary did fight with them. Three Gospels tell us that when Jesus began his ministry, Mary showed up with Jesus' brothers to try to bring him home against his will. When Jesus was 30, she still was fighting with the shepherds' words about her son she could not let go of. She may well have still been fighting with them when she stood at the foot of the cross.

I think the nativity stories are theological narratives about the way the Gospel writers believed God acts in the world. The hand of God is hidden. We cannot see the hand of God moving in our world with our natural senses.

Yet we believe God does act. We believe that God is a player in human history and in our own lives. How does God get things done?   

Luke suggests that one of the ways God works is that God plants things in human hearts that we can't let go of, that will not let us go, and that we are forced to fight with.

God plants ideas, feelings, hopes, dreams, longings, and aches in human hearts that we can not let go of; and that we fight with; and that change us and that change the world.

I found a line of Scripture recently in the first chapter of the book of James that has stuck with me. It says, "Welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls" (James 1:21b).

It is words that God plants within us that save us; individually and collectively. And usually our human response to the words that God plants within us is to fight them, which is why James says that we need to learn how to welcome them with meekness.

God implants a word within human hearts that we fight with and that saves us.

The irony is that we fight it but, at the same time, we can't let go of it.  

When I can keep perspective, it is fascinating being a Methodist these days. God has planted a word of inclusion within Methodism. Inclusion of those whom others excluded is our birthright. It is what John Wesley did. It is implanted deep, deep down within our spiritual DNA. And generation after generation we fight it, we fight it, but we can't let it go either. If we can keep perspective, it is fascinating to watch. Methodists are just like Mary trying to drag Jesus home against his will. Try as hard as you will, Jesus always wins.

The implanted word we fight against is what saves us.  

If we can keep our perspective, it is fascinating to watch America. A lot has been happening up on the Hill that we are very thankful for. Our Peace with Justice folk here at Foundry are celebrating the passage of the START nuclear weapons treaty. Actually I'm not sure celebrating is exactly the right word. Hannah Senft sent me an email saying: "We should all celebrate that they finally got this done." It is sort of a celebration with an edge.

Congress repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." We are celebrating that.  

Where Congress stubbed its toe was on the Dream Act which would have created a path to citizenship for the sons and daughters of immigrants. Tell me, what word is more deeply implanted in the United States of America's heart than "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." A nation of immigrants is the very definition of America. It is implanted deeply in our national DNA. It is the word implanted within us as a nation. We fight it but we also can not let it go. If we can keep perspective, it is fascinating to watch. Americans are just like Mary trying to drag Jesus home.   

And God has implanted a word within your heart. The way you can tell it is from God is that you fight it but you can't let go of it either.

For some of us it is a word of forgiveness. Some of us have somebody in our life we need to forgive. We fight it but we can't let go of it either. There is someone here who needs to leave this place and make a phone call to someone they have not spoken to in more than 15 years. I don't know who you are but you do. You need to forgive him or her. It doesn't need to be a big drama. All you need to do is to call whoever it is up and say you wanted to wish them a Merry Christmas and see what happens. That's all you need to do. I pray for you to do that this Christmas.

There are some here tonight who have been fighting a word to fully commit your life to Jesus Christ. You know that Christ wants a deeper relationship with you. You fight it, but you can't let it go either. I pray that you would make that commitment tonight. Give one of us on staff here a slip with your name and phone number on it, we'll be standing at the doors. We can help you.

There is someone here in whom God has implanted a word, a call to ministry. You fight it, but you can't let it go either. There is always a reason why this isn't a good time. Talk to Dee Lowman. She can help you.

The most powerful thing that God does is to implant words in human hearts. We fight them but we can't let go of them either.   

This is actually what happened the first Christmas. God implanted a Word named Jesus into the heart of the universe. We fight him but we can't let go of him. He will save our souls.

 

 

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