Pr. Jaynan Clark

March 2, 2015

photo of Pr.As I write this today, January 24th, I do so gazing at my 20 foot Christmas tree that is still shining here in our little home, architecturally small but tall. This weekend may be the time we need to finally pull it out but up until now it was only the calendar that said it was time for it to go. I'm tired of the calendar or the clock dictating what is appropriate, timely, functional or not. Death and life are not on anyone's clock or calendar other than the One who is time and eternity.

So daily I've checked it for dryness and a sign of being a fire hazard and it has miraculously stood very tall, very green and very shiny here in the living room for about 7 weeks. It has done its job. It has fulfilled its calling. It has provided light and beauty and housed the ebony nativity scene from Tanzania better than any family tree we have had in the past. This small, tall house has been a warmed, enlightened home, reminded daily of the ongoing celebration of Jesus' birth way beyond the 25th of December or the 5th of January, the 12th day. This tree shines on reminding us of how Jesus came as the light in the darkness of this world. This huge, magnificent tree has brought beauty and light and fulfilled its calling---but it has been dead since December 10th when Asher sawed it down in the woods with me by his side. It was the first time he had been the one to do the honors. How timely it was considering what 2014 had meant in his young life. One second alive and cruising through his well planned, highly motivated life and the next lying in a pool of blood that would be the beginning of a very long journey 'back.'

He stands, Asher--which in Hebrew means 'Happy'--alive, whole, healthy and as a witness to God's continuing work in the darkness. He is a miracle. This fact nobody can deny. Saved from, saved for--alive, not merely dead and decorated. He lives on a calendar and clock that is not in our hands or of our choosing. Maybe that is why it is so hard to pull out this particular Christmas tree. It is a huge, inconvenient, messy but a beautiful reminder of life and death in Jesus. This One, born in a barn, was the Christ from before birth, before time (as John reminds us) and because that is true He was hunted down by Herod and all other evil from beginning, to end, to present tense. That is what always happens to God's goodness, light and Word in this world groaning in travail. It is opposed. It is plotted against. It is resisted, confronted, betrayed, denied and snuffed out. Look around, have ears to hear the news of the day, every day, and try to deny the reality of the darkness that encroaches. The face of good and evil, light and dark, life and death appears on every calendar and clock.

It is into this real, daily battle that Jesus put on skin and was born. He came not to fix it but enter into it and change the rules of engagement. His tree of life was also the tree of death and the tree for eternity. His cross stands within every Christmas tree. . . it may take a little trimming to reveal it but there it is sure enough. Death and life and darkness and light all tangled up in One.

Churches, ministries, institutions, disciples can become like Christmas trees. Dead but beautiful, shiny, still doing their duty just until they become a hazard or somebody pulls the plug or notes what the calendar or clock says to do. Some are even more like the artificial trees, fake. They are pretty and shiny and look perfect, fooling lots of people but they aren't even dead because they were never alive in the first place. Without the Word, and only the Word of God, they aren't anymore a church than the fitness center is or the therapist's office. Witnessing to self improvement, worth, value, and potential to sinners, is like trying to replant this 20 foot tree out front so we can use it again next year. Though I believe in miracles, that would just be tempting the hand of the Father and plain stupid.

The self and the sinner must die. The me, me, me of our contemporary world must give way to the Thee, Thee, Thee; the my, my, my to the Thy, Thy, Thy of the Word. Jesus was born to die so we can live, now and forever on His clock as His own. He alone is the Light. . . all else is darkness. He alone is the Way. . . every other path is a detour. He alone is Truth. . . the rest are just lies adorned to be attractive and misleading. He is the Word of God, there is no other.

Rest assured, the true church of Jesus Christ can never be cut down. . . but in this world we live in it will always be sought out for destruction. To not conform to this world but be transformed by the Holy Spirit posts a wanted poster to the door of that church, that home, that life. Witnessing to the One light in this dark world sets the calendars and clocks ticking for your removal. This is how it is---it ain't pretty but it is so. The world and the Word are in opposition to one another and no adornment or make-over or fast talking or entertainment or keeping of the rules will change that. Just death of the old and life in the New--the Forever One-- breaks the vicious cycle. Jesus' calendar and clock are always set to Now and Eternity. His church stands as out of place and out of sync as a 20 foot Christmas tree on the 25th of January, but it is never a fire hazard because even the flames of Hell cannot prevail against it.

May Jesus, God's Holy and Precious Word reside among all of you at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, now and forever.