Blindfolds or Blinders

Isaiah 42: 1-10a
Matthew 2: 1-12

January 9, 2022

Since the new year started, I have been focused on the music of my life, songs that have touched me since my youngest days through today. If you are on my social media then you will know that every day since New Year’s I have posted a playlist of songs, which have also then been incorporated onto Spotify as ‘Dave Delaney’s 2022 Playlist,’ which the world is free to listen to. Songs from every genre and I am really enjoying revisiting songs I haven’t heard in years. Last night it hit me though, I won’t be able to squeeze in every song into just one list … 1825 songs are too many for a single playlist. So, there will be monthly lists.

Speaking of not squeezing in songs; you do realize that today … EPIPHANY SUNDAY … is the last Sunday on which we are ‘officially’ allowed to sing what we refer to as Christmas carols in church until Christmas Eve. Some rule setters back in some dusty closeted offices decided that would be a good legalistic rule to establish … limiting songs celebrating God’s love through the birth of Jesus Christ to just a few scheduled worship days of the year. Hahaha … well, as you know, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come” will spring forth from these lips at any time of the year and for the second year in a row we will be having Christmas in July culminating in a Christmas in July Vacation Bible School! And, yes we will sing the carols in our summer season! Now … that should be pretty awesome and those ancient rule determiners of church rules, which have no relationship to God’s Word, will be rolling over wherever their last resting locations are.

As we look forward to the days of hope that are ahead of us … as we continue to “forget about the things behind us … focusing our thoughts on all that is true and holy from God … as Paul suggests, “pursuing the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus,” it is essential for us to continue to focus on the Light of Jesus Christ.

The light that first shone from the star directing shepherds and magi to the Son of God.

There are so many out in the world and sadly also loud voices within the larger church who want to redirect people who have aligned with Jesus away from Jesus’ teaching. They want us only to consider Jesus as a baby focusing in on saying MERRY CHRIST MAS rather than living as Christ taught. They want to be the controlling opinion makers rather than allowing God’s Holy Spirit to do its work within us. Basically they want to block out the light of Christ.

God’s pretty clear about God’s Christmas gift to us. We heard from the prophet Isaiah, “The Lord says, “Here is my servant the One I uphold; my chosen, who brings me delight. I’ve put my spirit upon Him; and He will bring justice to the nations.”

God repeats those very words as John baptizes Jesus in the Jordan as Matthew reported, “Jesus saw the Spirit of God coming down on Him like a dove and resting up Him. A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I dearly love, I find happiness in Him.”

The magi saw His star … the magi sensed God’s call and even after coming face-to-face with the one of the most powerful evil leaders of their time, Herod, they knew who they were to obey … they knew whom they were to follow. They were not blinded by Herod’s personal desire to be raised higher than other humans into an almost god-like state where he would be worshiped … they disregarded Herod’s directives listening instead to God’s directions from their dreams and they “fell to their knees and honored Jesus.”

Ironically, the official day of Epiphany was January 6th. The day the global Christian church pauses to honor the magi who chose to dismiss the idea that a human leader was somehow above God. We are now into the ninth day of 2022 and this church family has already lost 3 special people who have worshiped with us, laughed with us, and even taught Sunday School in these hallways. Many if not most of you have already put away your Christmas decorations readjusting your homes to their pre-Christmas state but have you allowed this Christmas season’s lights; this Christmas season’s telling of God’s loving gift through Jesus Christ to initiate a real change in you and in your relationship with God? Have you determined to make walking with God the key to you future?

It is so important for each of us to consider our need to grow closer to God … to let the Holy Spirit in … and to let Jesus’ teaching lessons be the ones that direct how we live our lives. If we just let God sit back in our lives … amidst the clutter … how can we be the difference makers … following God’s directions … the people of faith who impact the lives of other people? If God is around merely for the holiday’s and for only one of the 168 hours of each week … are we really considering God to be God? Do we believe? The prophet teaches in today’s lesson, “I am THE LORD … that is my name! Sing to the Lord a new song!”

A new song … this reading from Isaiah reflects on the reality of time. “The things announced in the past — look —they’ve already happened. But, I am declaring NEW THINGS, says the Lord God!”

In February, we are going to talk about renewal but today and then over the next few days I want us, you and me, to focus on whether we are wearing blindfolds or blinders. There is a major difference you know and there is a challenge for our lives in determining how we relate to God or perhaps if we are even in a relationship with God or again is that big bad world out there is sucking us in and bringing us down.

I am reading an interesting novel full of intrigue, spies, and excitement. Recently, one of the heroes of the novel is challenged when an awesome stallion escapes his fenced enclosure during a storm. He is kicking and charging at the people in the story who are cornered and afraid. The hero manages to get a cloth bag over the horse’s head blindfolding him from the flashes of light … calming him down and leading him back into his pen. He cannot see anything.

Some racing horses wear blinders that keep them from being distracted during the races that they are in. They have been trained to run their races but the world’s many options so often get in the way; their trainers learn that to win they need to close off those other options and so blinders focus their eyes on what is ahead of them.

Frankly, the world would like to put a bag over our head when it comes to following God’s Word. The world wants to diminish the need to open up our Bibles suggesting it is not worth the time or effort to read <<say the 35 pages of Matthew or a Psalm that is less than 20 paragraphs long>> … many church-attending people no longer even have Bibles since books have gone out of style and their social media and games get in the way of reading their Bible apps on their phones. The EVIL powers of the world want everyone to forget about loving others instead emphasizing that we need to line up on one side or the other and than attack attack and attack again. Forget the poor … forget the struggling … choose to name call the strangers in the land … always hiding from the discussion the lessons Jesus provides for us … telling us we must love our neighbors, care for the poor and the struggling, welcome the prisoners, and the strangers in the land. Jesus hide him away except for a Christmas greeting …

But, friends … we are here today because we are Christians. We are here today because we have found this awesome church where love is the message and worship is the energizer. We are witnesses to the fulfillment of God’s call to serve when we look at our Food Pantry, we remember how we have helped the people on the streets of Camden including those recently released from prison, we have reached out into the world feeding He people of Liberia and rebuilding lives and homes in our nation’s poorest corner. We have seen children’s lives as they experience Jesus … the smiles on their faces sensing the truth God has for them.

We see it … we live it … but the world keeps trying to get to us and I don’t know what your weeks are like … I don’t know where you go when you disconnect from St. Paul’s but God does … God is aware of whether God truly matters … God knows whether the world’s attractions and distractions pull you right into the sewage stream of those rejecting God’s directions for living so my suggestion is we all need to put on blinders to the world so we can get back in the race … Paul clarifies the goal … “The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.”

I spoke to family members of a gentleman named Wayne who passed away this week. Wayne was a member of the Almonesson church, which lost two members this week while I was backing up their pastor. His sister said “Wayne’s spirit was so much in Christ’s light; everyone loved Wayne because Wayne’s love for them was always there.” Wayne apparently was like my Megan in that he had some developmental disabilities … Isn’t it remarkable that people we claim have developmental disabilities have the greatest ability to accept and then live out God’s call in their lives? They somehow are blessed to have blinders to the world’s voices who contradict love … young children have this same ability until they hear over and over again that some are less and others are more valuable to the world’s eyes. Imagine the children not getting any God-time … their little minds will be completely blind to God’s lessons through Jesus … the bag will be over the Bible for them … no Christmas carols in July … no ‘My God is an Awesome God’ in January. No celebration of Jericho’s Zacchaeus and his strategy to get some Jesus time because even though the world despised that little man he sensed God’s love through Christ.

Friends … before the world totally blinds us from the lessons of God … from the love of Jesus … from the directions of the Holy Spirit don’t you think that it is time we put on blinders to block out the world’s efforts while again focusing in on God? Are you ready to embrace the real reason for Christmas and each day search for the light of Christ to follow as you venture out into the world either in person or through technology?

King and God and sacrifice; Allelulia, Alleluia, sounds through the earth and skies” is what we sang moments ago ….”When the magi saw the star again after leaving behind evil Herod, “they were filled with joy!” The Lord says, “Sing to the Lord a new son! Sing his praise from the ends of the earth!”

So where do you fit in … blinders to the world singing joy and praises or blinded from the light of Christ because the world wants it that way. Your choice and mine … something to consider this week as we move towards renewal in this messed up world. AMEN

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