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The Journey of Living the Dash

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Lord may your light shine through me, in the words that I have to share, and stir in the heart of those gathered here this morning, what purpose you have for each of us. Amen.

It comes as no surprise to anyone that today is known as the 1st Sunday after Christmas.

            A day that has become known as one of the “Low Sundays”

                        The Sunday after Christmas and after Easter are the two “Low Sundays” of the year

                                    With all the excitement that the high holidays bring

                                                - The follow up to that, is a naturally… a let down

                                                            - A time of recuperation

            It is certainly understandable that the Sunday following Christmas will be a low Sunday

But it is precisely at these “low days” of the year, where how you live out your life in faith really characterize your “relationship with Christ” - our Lord and Saviour

These are the days of character building

            It reminds me of a billboard that I used to pass by most days when I lived in Hamilton - it said:

                        6am practices lead to 7pm games


Not that we are not involved in “competing” where what we do results in a trophy

            But we are training

                        We are conditioning

                                    We are journeying along a path with a goal in vision

            That goal is a “life in Christ”

                        And the vision is for both the journey and the outcome

                                    As it is written in the Lord’s prayer -             “on earth - as it is in heaven”

The readings for the day are ideal for this particular day and this time of the year

            The last Sunday of the year - marking an ending

But also the first Sunday after we celebrate the incarnation - God coming as Emmanuel

- God with us

                                    Time when we think about Beginnings and endings

                                                - and how we will live…

                                                            “all the life in the middle”

This reminded me of a time long ago, grade 9 science class to be exact…

I know that we have a lot of teachers in this church, but occasionally, school can be boring

And my friend with a slightly dark humour passed a note to me during one of these boring moments

                        It was folded and the front cover read something like this:

Enclosed in this booklet you will find the whole story. The ups and downs, the triumphs and failures

The loves and the love lost. Schooling, career victories

The heartaches and pain and the great accomplishments

All to found in this booklet… please open up

                                                And when I opened up the folded piece of paper it had written simply…

                                                            Paul Tinker

                                                                        1970 – (dash) 2050

And so on these days of character building when we consider “all the life in the middle”

            Beyond my friend’s humour, maybe consider this poem by Linda Ellis titled “The Dash”

I read of a man who stood to speak

at the funeral of a friend.

He referred to the dates on her tombstone,

from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth

and spoke of the following date with tears,

but he said what mattered most of all

was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time

that she spent alive on earth.

And now only those who loved her

know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,

the cars…the house…the cash.

What matters is how we live and love

and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard.

Are there things you’d like to change?

For you never know how much time is left

that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough

to consider what’s true and real

and always try to understand

the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger

and show appreciation more

and love the people in our lives

like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect

and more often wear a smile,

remembering that this special dash

might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read,

with your life’s actions to rehash…

would you be proud of the things they say

about how you spent YOUR dash?

Today is not merely a ‘low Sunday’ a day of duty for the faithful - but a day for considering what God is calling you to be in your time marked by a dash

            With that let’s consider the readings for today

It has been observed that the entire book of Luke is structured as a journey, as Jesus travels from Galilee to Jerusalem, repeatedly, in important stages in His life

As a Baby - then young adult - finally His adult ministry

                        This is no accident, Luke arranged the material to communicate his message.

This suggests that the journey in Luke is more than just a physical journey, and the setting is more than geographical.

Our Gospel reading from Luke today tells part of the story of the greatest gift the world has ever seen

The miracle baby - Jesus - born of a virgin

Tells the story of how Mary and Joseph made an annual pilgrimage - as usual – scripture reports

                                    This time with a 12 year old Jesus who stays behind and…


After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers(Luke 2:46,47)


It is in the 13th year of Jesus life that we have only this glimpse into his upbringing in Jewish culture.

During the 13th year a boy went through a Bar Mitzvah and was considered an adult for the purposes of accountability and responsibility under the law

                        As now, a legal adult, we see Jesus learning and answering questions

Luke also plays with the word father

      For the first time Joseph is referred to by Luke as father not as Joseph

            This is done because I believe he wants to show the contrast and the power of Jesus’ statement

                        “I must be about my Father’s business”

This is a radical call ‘for all of us followers of Jesus’ to a discipleship that unfolds from being "about our Father’s business"

Let us all be about our Father’s business! 


The Old Testament reading tells of Samuel who was a miracle baby

            His mother Hannah was one of two wives of Elkanah, and she was unable to get pregnant

One year on the annual pilgrimage to the Temple, she prayed to God that if she became pregnant that she would dedicate the child to God

God bless her with Samuel and after being weaned he was dedicated to God and raised in the temple by Eli the priest

Samuel became an incredible figure in Ancient Jewish and Christian history

            As the last of the “Judges” that ruled Israel

The one that choose (guided by God) both their first King – Saul, and their greatest King – David - King David who is the patriarch of the messianic line

                                    And of course ancestor of Jesus

….Our OT reading today closes with

Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.


Also our Gospel reading today closes with

            Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in divine and human favor

In both stories we have:

            A miracle baby - a gift from God

            A devoted religious yet humble family

            An annual pilgrimage

            A child in the temple

                        - in service for others

                                    being discipled - trained - conditioned - growing

                                                both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.

Samuel, one of the greatest figures of Christian history was taught

            And grew in faith

Jesus, God in the flesh was taught

            And grew in wisdom and stature

God, through the writers of scriptures, sends us a clear message

            ….All creation is on a journey …

                        We are all in need of being taught - being discipled

                                    Even the giants of our faith were once discipled

What an incredible message for a time of Beginnings and endings

But most importantly for how we will live the dash - “all the life in the middle”

It has been said that “it takes a community to raise a child”

            And the church is the special community in which God “is the author”

                        We are all on a journey

                                    A journey disciple-ed in community


Being disciple is a daunting challenge, where shall we look to be instructed on what to do?

We can look no farther than to Colossians - our New Testament book for that answer

It is set up earlier in the letter and I will read from Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase “The Message” which I believe captures it beautifully and powerfully


From Colossians 1

      “We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen.

            We look at this Son and see God's original purpose in everything created.

For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels

                                    --everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.

                                                He was there before any of it came into existence

                                                            and holds it all together right up to this moment.


Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe-

      - People and things, animals and atoms-

            - get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies,

                        All because of his death,

                                    His blood that poured down from the Cross


You don't walk away from a gift like that!

      You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust,

            Constantly tuned in to the Message,

                        Careful not to be distracted or diverted

                                    There is no other Message-

                                                - Just this one.

                                                            Every creature under heaven gets this same Message.

And in closing let us consider God’s instructions for us on how to live a “new life in Christ” from today’s Colossian’s passage (also from The Message version)

Consider these words as I recite them to you

                        Allow them to challenge you

                                    Allow them to comfort you

                                                Allow yourself to experience what God is calling you to live… in your dash

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you:

            compassion,                kindness,                      humility,          quiet strength, discipline.

Be even-tempered,       content with second place,      quick to forgive an offence.

                                    Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.

And regardless of what else you put on, wear love.

                                                            It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.


Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other.

            None of this going off and doing your own thing.      

And cultivate thankfulness.


Let the Word of Christ --the Message--            have the run of the house.

            Give it plenty of room in your lives.                

 Instruct and direct one another using good common sense.

                                    And sing,         sing your hearts out to God!


Let every detail in your lives                words,             actions,            whatever

Be done in the name of the Master, Jesus,             

Thanking God the Father every step of the way.

It is that …..    That we are… to live…. to grow… to teach ….to disciple others into

            It is that…That we are baptized into

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.

And be thankful - Amen

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