Wednesday, December 08, 2010

 

David Stanton's debut sermon as a United Methodist Lay Speaker








Click on any image to view it in larger format and/or click on the arrow below to view the video of most of David's sermon.

video

Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25

Joseph, Father of Jesus

Good evening! I am David Stanton. I’m a local lay speaker here at Tinney Chapel.
I know what you are thinking. Isn’t that Mollie of Winnsboro’s husband? Can anything good come out of Winnsboro?

Mollie and I joined Tinney Chapel in 2000 and I have been active in leadership, Bible study and worship. This is the first time for me to deliver a lay speaker talk.

When Pastor Sue began to develop our Advent services in early November, she gave me a list of topics and I chose “Joseph.”

Several days later, Mollie and I left for a trip to Barcelona, Spain with a two-week cruise back to Galveston. I thought I would have ample time to “be still and listen” to God. I did and through the Holy Spirit, the thoughts and words began flowing as the talk took shape.

As always with me, I had time to evangelize with many people of many nationalities and faiths and “my first homily” became the focus of great, rich conversations with Christians and non-Christians alike.

I met a Muslim in Houston who was leaving for Mecca, Saudi Arabia on his once-in-a-lifetime required religious pilgrimage.

I met a Lutheran Professor from Texas Tech, a Jehovah’s Witness lady from England, and a Canadian man who has the very same Nelson New King James Bible that Joe Matthews, Peggy Boyd and I recently got for our Jesus in the Gospels Bible Study. It’s a small and wonderful world indeed.

And then I met Warren from First UMC Sugarland who offered to share their Communion Outreach Ministry with me, a ministry that I hope to champion in our church community.

The last time Mollie and I were in Barcelona, we discovered a large Gothic church with multiple construction booms as if it were being repaired. Our intention, on this trip, was to visit the church and learn about it. Turns out that our hotel was a mile or so from the church and we walked to it.

Commonly called the Sagrada Familia, or Church of the Holy Family, it began construction in 1882, and 128 years later it is only half completed.

To our surprise, Roman Catholic Pope Benedict 16th, was in the city to celebrate Holy Mass and to proclaim the church to be a basilica. We spent most of Saturday there and although we couldn’t get in for Sunday worship, I took many pictures of the Pope on the TV from the hotel. I looked at it as a God thing.

I was raised as a Catholic; yet, it was here, at Tinney Chapel, in 2000, that I acquired my first Bible recommended by my Christian mentor, my associate, and my brother in Christ, Joe Dan Boyd.

It was here that I was spiritually reborn, attended my Walk to Emmaus in 2002, led and attended every major Bible study for a decade, and here that I answered the call to lay speaking; serving in the capacity of caring and leading and
Communicating.

This Advent season we are studying the main characters that make up the Christmas story. Last week, Angela Wylie talked about Mary. This evening we will explore the character of Saint Joseph. The name Joseph has been a part of my ancestry at least for the past four generations.

The title of my talk is Joseph, Father of Jesus.

The Joseph of the New Testament, best known as the husband of Mary, and earthly father of Jesus, is mostly found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Joseph was a man of strong beliefs. He not only strove to do what was right, but also to do in the right way.

When his betrothed, Mary, came to him with the news of her pregnancy, he knew the child could not be his. Joseph decided he would break off the engagement, but he was determined to do it in such a way that it would not bring shame to Mary. He wanted to be just, acting with fairness and love. He had great respect for Mary’s character, but her story of being impregnated by God’s Holy Spirit was difficult for him to believe.

While considering this, he was visited by a messenger of God in a dream confirming Mary’s story and convincing Joseph that Mary had not been unfaithful. God instructed Joseph to marry the young woman and honor her virginity until the baby was born. Joseph obeyed the Lord.

This must have been, initially, very difficult for Joseph to reconcile in his natural mind. But Joseph had to be a very spiritual and faithful man of integrity.
It is not known how long Joseph was in the life of Jesus, but he realized from that moment that Jesus was to be very special.

When Caesar Augustus decreed “all the world should be taxed,” Joseph and Mary went from Nazareth to Bethlehem because he was from the house and lineage of David.
What a trip that must have been, but not one that was unfamiliar to Joseph, as he made his way each year to nearby Jerusalem for Passover.

This time, however, with Mary on a donkey, and at near term, it probably took them 8 to 10 days to travel the 80-plus miles.

Chances are that Joseph chose to go east, down the mountain to the river Jordan and follow it south to Jericho, then back up the mountain to Bethlehem.

Joseph functions as father and protector of Jesus during the journey and birth of the Child in the manger. He cares for Mary, and is thereafter the one who, together with Mary, is responsible for the Child being brought up in Nazareth.

Although not specifically mentioned, Joseph could have been the one who circumcised Jesus. Matthew’s Gospel clearly states that Joseph named Jesus as commanded by the angels in the dream.

And, once again in a dream, Joseph was instructed to flee to Egypt to avoid Herod’s wrath to kill the male newborns.

When Herod died, yet another dream told Joseph to return to Israel, but he was afraid of Herod’s son who succeeded him as principal ruler over the Bethlehem area, and Joseph decided to go to Nazareth in Galilee.

Each one of those moves that Joseph made fulfilled prophecies, the last of which was that Jesus shall be called a Nazarene.

God’s instruction left Joseph room to be flexible while still being obedient.

A word about Joseph as Jesus’ father:

If I were to ask you who Jesus’ father was, most of you would say, God, or, God through the Holy Spirit.

Let us consider that there are at least two types of fathers: a biological father and a legal father.

Here, God is the biological father and Joseph is the legal, earthly father who completes the lineage of Abraham and David to Jesus listed in Matthew, Chapter 1, and from Jesus back through David to Adam and God in Luke, Chapter 3.

Joseph’s role as father is important here. In Luke, Chapter 2, we are told that together with Mary, he brought Jesus to the Temple. First, on the 8th day when Jesus was circumcised, and Joseph named Him. And then after 40 days of purification of the mother, Joseph, likely paid for the animals to be sacrificed to fulfill the law.
Joseph was there when Simeon, the God-receiver, a righteous man of well over 200 years, who was waiting to behold the Christ before he died; and Anna, the prophetess, who literally stayed in the Temple, day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer.

Joseph presumably fulfilled the fatherly role of parent, teaching the Torah to Jesus, helping him to increase in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Mark’s Gospel ties two facts together: That of Jesus coming from Nazareth and that of his profession as a carpenter. Joseph of Nazareth, the carpenter, taught his son, Jesus, the profession as was the custom of the time.

John’s Gospel mentions Joseph by name twice, once as Jesus was gathering His Disciples. Philip acclaims Him as the one “of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph (where Nathaniel replied, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” John’s interest is to show that He who was raised as son of Joseph of Nazareth was the one and same Son of God before the world existed.

Joseph and Mary continued fulfilling their parental obligation to the Temple by an annual Passover trip to Jerusalem. We remember the time when they left Jesus and returned three days later to find Him in the Temple conversing with the teachers. He informed His parents that He “must be about My Father’s business.” They accepted his response without question, just as He patiently returned with them to Nazareth, and remains “obedient to them” for the next 18 years up to the appointed time of His baptism and His divine mission.

When the Son of Man is ready to begin His proclamation that “the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,” Joseph’s role is completed, and he is no longer mentioned in the Gospel.

The Son of God obeys obedient Joseph as earthly father in preparation for faithful obedience to the mission entrusted to His heavenly Father.

Joseph, in my life, was my father’s father, my grandpa, Joseph Raymond Stanton. He named his first-born, my father, Joseph DeWayne Stanton. My father named his fourth son, my brother, Joseph, who died at age 19 in a vehicle accident. After his death, my youngest sister, Susan, named her first-born Joseph...and in 1996, my son, Scott, named his son Joseph Stanton.

Just as in Jesus’ time, fathers, brothers, nephew and grandson named Joseph proved to be God-fearing, obedient and just.

AMEN.

Let us pray: Oh, most mighty and awesome God, we thank You for Your Son’s earthly father, Joseph, and for his setting the good example of an obedient father and parent of Jesus, a protector, spiritual director and vocational teacher. In Your Son’s precious Name. And, let all God’s people say, AMEN.


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