Friday, December 24, 2010

Advent Fourth Friday 12/24

"It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony
for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the
bright morning star." The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And
let everyone who hears say, "Come." And let everyone who is thirsty
come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

Revelation 22:16-17

It is Christmas Eve, many folks will flock to churches tonight and hold candle light services to welcome in Christmas day.  I love Christmas Eve services but I have to admit that it frustrates me to see churches so full on this night but so empty on Sunday mornings.  The stores empty and the churches fill up as folks stop spending the money and finally draw in for worship of  Christ.  

I passed a church the other day that had on its sign "Christ is the bigger word in Christmas"...this made me chuckle "mas" in spanish is more...more, more, more that seems to be the theme of Christmas. More food, more gifts, more money, more time, more energy, and more time spent in the stores than with family.  But the sign is right Christ is the bigger word and that is worth pondering as we go into a time to celebrate the birth of Christ and the promise that Christ will come again.

"I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star." 

Come Lord Jesus, 

Come into the darkness and shed light

Come and open our hearts

Come and bring us joy

Come and light a fire within us for peace

Come and show us love

Come and bring us hope once again

Come Lord Jesus and forgive us 

Come, and remind us that this is Christmas


Peace be within you,


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Advent Fourth Thursday 12/23

Psalm 147:12-20

  Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
 He grants peace within your borders;
he fills you with the finest of wheat.
 He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
  He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
  He hurls down hail like crumbs --
who can stand before his cold?
 He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.
 He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and ordinances to Israel.
  He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his ordinances.
Praise the Lord!

The eve of Christmas eve and alongside the story of the birth of John the Baptist and the end of the last chapter of Revelation this Psalm is tucked into the lectionary and it fills me with hope and joy.  
 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
 He grants peace within your borders;
he fills you with the finest of wheat.
 He sends out his command to the earth;

The images of peace, strength, and fullness of life are scriptures of hope and provide a longing of a time when all of the world will be strengthened, when there is peace within all borders, when all are filled with the finest of wheat, and when all obey the commands that were sent out.
As I prepare a sermon on the 10 Commandments I think about what the world would be if we viewed them as a gift, as ways to live in order to have this world where all are cared for and peace reigns.  

I have heard it said many times that my generation is "morally declining" and to an extent I can't argue that the world seems to be a tough place to live in but to say that it is a generation at fault those are strong words.  But I know that there are many in my generation who are working for peace, for justice, for equality and we are doing so while unpacking a box that generations before us have place God in.  

And so I pray that as all of God's people strive to live together in a world, longing for peace, light, love, hope, justice, equality, and life that we do so not pointing fingers but striving for peace, taking care of one another, and obeying the commands set before us.  For that is what Christ was all about and what we are called to be doing today, tomorrow, and everyday.

Peace be within you,

Caption: The picture is of my 3 1/2 month old niece, Bryley.  I long for a world that is better for children like her who are coming up behind my generation.  I don't want to leave a mess for her to clean up and so I hope people hold me accountable to that.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Advent Fourth Wednesday 12/22

And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit
 rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the
lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will
 call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
 and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from
 generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he
 has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has
brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away
 empty.  He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his
 mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to
Abraham and to his descendants forever."
-Luke 1:46-55

I love these precious words in Mary's song of praise.  It often makes me wonder how in the world Christmas has become a consumer driven holiday.  
He brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly, filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away. 
My hopes and Christmas wishes are not for material things but for equality and justice for all of God's children.   I believe that that is what Christ would desire on the celebration of his birth...And I absolutely love these words from Mary.   So I let them stand on their own, praying that we remember these words and not the gifts over the next few days...for this is what Christmas is all about...
And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit
 rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the
lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will
 call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
 and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from
 generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he
 has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has
brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away
 empty.  He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his
 mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to
Abraham and to his descendants forever."

Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love to you and yours in the coming days,

Monday, December 20, 2010

Advent Fourth Monday 12/20

Do not be afraid...

I always find it interesting that every time we find an angel appearing in scripture the first words out of their mouth are "Do not be afraid."  

Now I've never had an angel appear to me with any sort of big news, but I can admit I might be terrified if it did happen.

I've been thinking about that line for a few weeks as we prepared for the children's Christmas program at church, as this line was read each time, I half chuckled and half pondered.  Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph, do not be afraid.  You all are experiencing something unusual, scary, and now here I am before you, bringing you good news in a way that is unexpected, but do not be afraid.

How is it we can not be afraid, even if we do not have angels appearing to us, the world is a scary place and there are many times when I am afraid.

Coming home late at night with no lights on, I am afraid.  When the phone rings late at night and it's my dad calling, I am afraid.  When I think about the future, where will I be in 5, 10, years? I am afraid.  So how is it these angels can say, "Do not be afraid." How is it that we can live in joy and not in fear? 

Emmanuel, God with us. 

Does this mean bad things will not happen? NO...

N. Gordon Cosby said "Anybody who tells you that if you get into the boat with Jesus everything is going to work out well forever after, just doesn't understand the faith. There is always turbulence.  Inner questions. Wondering."

Emmanuel, God with us, is peace.  Emmanuel, God with us, means we are called to fight injustice and oppression.  Emmanuel means that we are not alone in the battles of the world, but that we walk with a power greater than ourselves.  Emmanuel means we do not have to hope and long for some day that we have no idea when it will happen to come and make the world a better place, because Emmanuel means that we work for peace, love, equality, justice, and a better day today and tomorrow.  Emmanuel, God with us, very minute and that to me says "Do not be afraid" for God is a God not of tomorrow but of today.  God is with me, God is with us, God is in the world through us and with us.  

Let us live in this world and be not afraid.

Then there appeared to him an angel
 of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.
When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him.
  But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your
prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and
 you will name him John.  You will have joy and gladness, and many
 will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of
the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his
 birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many
 of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit
and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of
parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the
 righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." 
Zechariah said to the angel, "How will I know that this is so? For I
 am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years."  The angel
replied, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have
 been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But
now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in
their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these
 things occur." -Luke 1:12-18

Let us stand in the presence of Emmanuel and proclaim good news to a broken and dark world, because the good news of Christ is light and darkness does not overcome it!

Peace be within you,

Friday, December 17, 2010

Advent Third Friday 12/17

My initial goal of blogging everyday during Advent by reflecting on the daily lectionary wasn't met.  I had a feeling that once finals week hit this would happen.  At first I was disappointed, but when I reflect on this week I feel nothing but relief that I was able to finish strong on a long semester.  I would have been disappointed had I stopped reading the lectionary, but I just couldn't find the time or energy to write each night after taking finals/writing papers.  

During this week of finals I was constantly being reminded that the grades I get from this semester do not define who I am and that is a great thing to be reminded of.  When you spend hours upon hours preparing for one exam, writing one paper, finishing that last essay, deciding what energy to spend where, you feel stretched and tired.  Then you take the exam and turn in the paper and often times hope for the best.  

And so each evening when I would put aside the studying and dive into the scriptures of the day, I would find joy, I would find some hard texts, I would find hope, and I would remember how much I love scripture.  

A few weeks ago we had a student led worship service about mountaintop and valley experiences, our conclusion was that no matter where we are we have to just keep walking...from mountain to valley, from valley to mountain, and sometimes from valley to valley or mountain to mountain.  I read about how I found the mountains in the midst of valleys and these were the words I spoke, 

Life growing up was one big valley but the word of God became a mountain and oasis from the world. Gods love never fails. Gods  love reaches into the brokenness and grabs a hold of our hand to put us on our feet again. Gods word is Gods love poured out for us on paper and it is hope. It is wholeness. It is and it always will be.

And so in today's lectionary text I cam across Psalm 16, 

Psalm 16

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you."
As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble,
in whom is all my delight.

Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names upon my lips.

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
I have a goodly heritage.

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I keep the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.
For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see the Pit.

You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

As we approach this last week before Christmas may we not get caught up in the noise and busyness of the advent conspiracy, but may we take the time to spend in scriptures (even if they are those ones we would like to throw out from time to time) and may we live in the love of God, proclaiming the good news of great joy for all people.  

Peace be within you,


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Advent Second Thursday 12/9

 If there is a favorite moment in the semester it is the day that all papers are turned, all finals are complete, and I can breathe and know that a new semester of learning and growing is on the horizon.  There is nothing like looking back on a semester and knowing that I have spent 4 months learning material and knowing this material will come in handy in the years to come.  

As the fall semester comes to a close we find ourselves at the brink of winter.  We find ourselves at the doorstep of Christmas.  We find ourselves literally in the dark (the sun is never out...well this week has been weird...but for the most part the sun is missing in action).  We find ourselves longing for the warmth to return, for the sun to come out, for the flowers to bloom, the trees to bear fruit, and the world to live again.  

At the end of this semester we are longing for life (away from our books, notes, and papers) and we are longing for light (enough to play games of Whiffle-ball and take late afternoon hikes).  

Is this an interesting parallel to the waiting and longing for Christ?  To me it is.  It shows that no matter where we are in life we are always longing for something and why not long for life and light in this dark and broken world?  As silly as it may seem to long for the end of a semester, to a college student it makes perfect sense.  And as a college student reflecting on it, I can say that the end of the semester marks the beginning of a new one...a new chance to learn, a new chance to grow, a new chance to long for life and light.  I look forward to spring games of Whiffle-ball and the sun, and the trees, and the birds, but I am thankful for the small reminders that the Saviors birth is around the corner.  The reminders that Christ did come to bring light and life, that in Christ we hope, in Christ we live.  

What from the lectionary brought me to think about this?

For the mystery of lawlessness is
already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is
 removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord
Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by
the manifestation of his coming.

2 Thessalonians 2:7-8

While studying for my Greek final today I learned the word for lawlessness, anomia, h

And so me being the nerd I am pulled out my  Bible on ipod app and decided to check and see if I were right...and lo and behold I have learned something this semester that will be useful in the future (of course this is one of many examples).  Yay for totally weird and awesome brain tangents!

Peace be within you as you long for life and light!


Caption: The picture is a mask of John Calvin over a bust of President Abraham Lincoln...two of my favorite people to study about...This sits on my desk at work!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Advent Second Wednesday 12/8

  His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
  in those who hope in his steadfast love.
Psalm 147:10-11

As this day has come to a close (it has been a long freaking day...and week for that matter)...I have come to realize just how much stuff I have to do.  10-12 pages of essays, 10-12 page paper on Roman Basilicas, Greek quiz, Greek final, Roman History Final, Personality Theory Final, and approximately 19 more hours of work in the next 9 days.  I haven't hit the panic button yet, I've been close, but this happens every semester.  We get to finals week and we feel so overwhelmed like the world is going to end (though this one has its own emotional struggles along side the academic stress) and then we get to the end of finals and somehow everything is complete and the semester went down without any major problems.  

So today I was riding to the house after a Chapel Community Christmas party and a game of Apples to Apples, and I had a text message asking me to babysit on Saturday.  I'm a college student and usually...usually...when I have an opportunity to make a few extra bucks I take it without asking many questions.  But Saturday is my Sabbath.  Not only do I have all the work above that I would really enjoy getting off my plate on Saturday but here I have this opportunity  to make a little extra cash...and then I thought to myself...wait Saturday is Sabbath...

 And so a slight connection to todays lectionary when I read through and saw the LORD does not delight in the speed of a runner, but in those who fear the LORD and hope in the LORD's steadfast love.  

Just a small reminder that the LORD does not delight in the speed of the runner or the strength of a horse, we all need our rest.  We all need to rest and hope in the steadfast love of the LORD...

As hard as it may be for me to not work on my schoolwork or as hard as it is for me to not take the babysitting job this weekend.  I know I need the Sabbath, I am thankful that I am learning to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy...I do not have it perfected by any means, but I do hope in the steadfast love of the LORD and that love is worth resting in.  
Abraham Joshua Heschel said  "The seventh day is the armistice in man's cruel struggle for existence, a truce in all conflicts, personal and social, peace between man and man, man and nature, peace within man."

My brain is on so many tangents today...this semester can't end any sooner...

Peace be within you,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Advent Second Tuesday 12/7

 Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. The LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.
Psalm 85:8-13

I have been looking forward to the time I spend blogging each night.  Tonight I was especially looking forward to this time (probably because I knew it would be a break from studying Greek and writing a paper on psychoanalytic theory) where I stop and retreat to my room to read scripture (to read it out loud) and to reflect on it and write some thoughts. 
I realize that the passages I have pulled out recently have mostly if not all been about hope and peace but I guess that is where my mind is right now.  And I think it is worth pointing out that peace is mentioned more than we think in scripture. Besides it is Advent after all.

So with that being said, as I was reading through the 85th Psalm I noticed that it is translated (oh how I cannot wait to learn Greek and Hebrew...and people think I'm a nerd now, just wait) that these thing will happen.  God will speak peace to God's people, love and faithfulness will meet, and righteousness and peace will kiss each other. The LORD will give what is good.  

So I started thinking, what if (crazy idea)...what if God is speaking peace to God's people?  What if love and faithfulness are meeting? What if righteousness and peace are kissing each other? What if the LORD is giving what is good?  Are we really looking for these thing or are we too caught up in the days political maneuvers, the darkness of a troubled world, and the problems in our own life to even think that God could possibly be doing these things?  

We humans are not the best listeners in the I am going to spend the next few weeks listening, looking for, observing, and trusting that God is at work doing a new thing in our midst...that God is speaking peace, that love, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace are being achieved in our world.  It is worth hoping for, it is worth looking for.  What would the world look like if we were looking for and making these things happen?  

In Advent it is easy to get the warm and fuzzy Christmas feeling...what is difficult is looking the world in the eyes and saying that darkness does not overcome it because Christ came to bring life and light, and that life and light are still alive and burning today.  

Peace be within you,

Caption: The picture is of my Chrismon tree...Living out on your own has its being able to decorate your tree however you want!! :-D

Monday, December 6, 2010

Advent Second Monday 12/6

I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.
Psalm 40:8

I've noticed something the past couple of weeks, and that is this emphasis on peace from within, the law being within, and how these ideas are not just words on a page.  Rather these ideas are internalized by us as believers.

Before I looked at todays lectionary I was talking about this deep love of scripture that I have, and it is not a love from the surface.  It is not that I read scripture and feel all warm and fuzzy.  It is that when I am having a rough day, or week I catch myself not only quoting scripture in the things I say but I live scripture in the way that I place my trust in God and believe the words of scripture.  The law and the word of God are within my heart and because of that I delight to do the will of God.  

This internalizing of scripture, of peace, of hope, of joy, of love, of life, and of light makes us (well makes me at least) not only long for these things but I want to do everything in my power to be these in the world.  When we love and internalize scripture we begin to live the scriptures.  

I challenge you to not just memorize scripture so you can spout it off at the next person who challenges you, but I challenge you to internalize and live these scriptures that are a gift to us from God.  When you do, no one will be able to challenge you because you are exemplifying the fruits of the spirit and you are exemplifying Christ in the world around us.  God has given us this text and this law not to condemn us, only Christ can condemn us and Christ came for us, Christ died for us, Christ rose from the grave for us, and Christ will come again for us...We have this law so that we may live and delight in doing the will of God in the here and the now.  

I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.
Psalm 40:8

Peace be within you,

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Advent Second Sunday 12/5

He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears
 hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide
with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with
the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill
 the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and
 faithfulness the belt around his loins. The wolf shall live with
the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the
 lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together;
 and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall
play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand
 on the adder's den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy
 mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 11:4-9

This is one of my favorite Bible verses.  It preaches itself for the most part. 

What I love about this passage is that describes a world that is peace.  I talk a lot about God being a God who created and loves this world but at the same time a God who yearns for this world to be whole again, to be at peace.  

This passage from Isaiah paints a picture of a world that is at peace.  A world that has peace from within (going back to one of my favorite passages from Psalm 122 and my soon to be new tattoo).  This passage paints my deep hope for the world.  This passage paints my prayers for the world, my cries for the world.  This passage not only portrays the way the world should be but it also points that our world has a long way to go in order to be at peace and therefore calls us into action.

This passage gives me hope that wars will cease, that children will be abused no more, that violence will have no place in this world, that oppression will end, and that peace and love will reign.  

Our job is not to sit idle and keep praying for these things, our job is to be peace, to be love, to work as Christ in this world because we are the body of Christ.  The world is a dark place, the world is a broken place, the world needs life and light that Christ brings.  

I long for the day I get to preach on this passage.  I long for the day when this passage is a representation of the world around us.  

Until then...Peace be within you.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Advent First Saturday 12/4

A wise soul once said "Speaking of the 10 Commandments, you know the fourth one is a commandment not an option right?"

So Saturday's have become Sabbath.   And in keeping to that my Saturday Advent posts will simply be posting one of the lectionary texts.  

Psalm 72

Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king's son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor.

May he live while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish
and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
May his foes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust.
May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles
render him tribute,
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
bring gifts.
May all kings fall down before him,
all nations give him service.

For he delivers the needy when they call,
the poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
and precious is their blood in his sight.

Long may he live!
May gold of Sheba be given to him.
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all day long.
May there be abundance of grain in the land;
may it wave on the tops of the mountains;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
like the grass of the field.
May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun.
May all nations be blessed in him;
may they pronounce him happy.

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may his glory fill the whole earth. Amen and Amen.
The prayers of David son of Jesse are ended.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Advent First Friday 12/3

Today I stray from the lectionary. I am spending the night in Louisville with my family. After hearing of my brothers desires to enlist in the military I thought I should come home and talk to him and be here with my family in a rather difficult time.

While talking to my brother I realized he is doing this. He has thought it through and feels like this is where he is going in life. Bible verses started running through my mind and I started sharing them with my brother.

I have to say that I am 100000% anti-violence, anti-war, and 10000000% prayer warrior for peace in our world.
BUT Knowing that this is what my little brother is going to do I want to be supportive so I shared with him these two verses...

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. -John 15:13
We know that all things work together for goodGod makes all things work together for good, or in all things God works for good');" onmouseout="return nd();"> for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28

In the John passage Jesus is giving a reminder of his commandment to love one another and says that there is no greater love than laying down your life for a friend. My brother whether I agree with him or not is doing something very noble, very loving for the sake of his country. He is willing to risk his life.

Before he finishes his enlistment we are going to get a tattoo together. Romans 8:28 and I'm going to remember him every time I see it. I will remember that God does work all things together for the good of those who love God and who are called according to God's purpose...My brother (again whether I agree or disagree) is doing what he feels called and led to do. And I believe 100% that my brother will be turning to God as a rock and as his salvation.
My brother is one of my best friends, he always will be. I love him and as much as I really...really...really don't want him to do this...I have to trust that God will work all things together for good, I have to trust that my brother will be okay (whatever that means) I have to trust that this is what is right for him, I have to...I have to.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Advent First Thursday 12/2

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.
 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
 On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.

Psalm 62:5-8

I'm having a rough day today.  I found out that my younger brother wishes and plans to join the military and wants to be in basic training by spring.  This is a complete shock to me and I can't help but worry.  I'm sad, I'm frustrated, and I don't want him to do this.  I spent most of the day pondering his decision, the decision to leave, to risk his life, to take a chance that he might have to take the life of another human being, and what for?  
I'm still frustrated and upset, but I'm going to be supportive.   My brother is someone I care about deeply.  Our relationship has grown since I've moved away to college and I respect his decision making...I don't like it one bit, mostly because he's my baby brother, but I love him and I will support him.  

So with my frustration I turn to today's lectionary.  I know that in all things I will be praying for my brother from the day he signs papers until the day he retires.  I know that God hears my prayers, God hears my cries, and God is still God.  My hope is in God.  My hope for peace, my hope for safety, my hope for life, all lie in God.

I've always kind of chuckled when I come to that line "I will not be shaken."  Mostly because on days like today I feel like the world has been shaken, but then I remember that my faith is not shaken, my hope and my trust are always in God, my roots are firm in Christ and nothing on this earth will shake that.

My refuge is in God. In realizing that today was a struggle, and that this week has been long and rough, I look forward to Saturday because it is my Sabbath.  It is the time where I stop and rest, it is when I take refuge where no one can get to me, I go to God and stay there.  I look forward to Sabbath this weekend more than ever because my body, my mind, my soul, they need it.  

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
  God is a refuge for us.

Pour out your heart before God...I think I've done that a couple of times today and I'm trusting in God, that my brother is doing what he should be doing, that he is thinking clearly, and that he remains safe.  God is my refuge and I am thankful for that.  

During this Advent season while I am waiting for Christmas, while I am anticipating the birth of my Savior...I will be thinking about my brother.  I will be thinking about his future and I will be doing my best to be supportive of him by being there for him, praying for him, and loving him.  Cherishing each moment we have together in the here and now and looking forward to his future with him (and throwing in a few prayers for world peace of course).

Peace be within you,

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent First Wednesday 12/1

Today we finally made it to December.  When I crawled out of bed this morning I looked out the window to see it snowing.  This made me happy and sad at the same time.  Happy because in one sense I really love the snow and how it covers the earth with this pure (well white, we wont talk about all the minerals and what not in snow that are bad for us) blanket of fluff, and sad because about this time every year it gets too cold to hike, the sun goes away, and it gets dark and gloomy.  I share this because as I pulled into my driveway this evening, it was dark, I was tired, maybe even a little cranky, but the Christmas tree in the front room was lit and it brought a deep joy to me to know that no matter how dark and gloomy it gets, no matter how tired and cranky I am, no matter how cold it is, the light of Christ shines on in the world to pierce the darkness and bring life to the world.

In today's lectionary I pulled out the verses from Isaiah 2 and then the beginning of the text from 1 Thessalonians 2...

Isaiah 2:1-4

  The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and

   In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be
established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above
 the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall
come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the
house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we
may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
 and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between
the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat
their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they
learn war any more.

1 Thessalonians 2:13

   We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you
received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not
as a human word but as what it really is, God's word, which is also at
work in you believers.

"They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."  I think I have heard more than a handful of sermons on this text, and yet, even so each time I read this passage from Isaiah I feel as if I could listen to twenty more sermons.  Today as I reflect on issues of oppression, on issues of justice, on what in the world is going on in North & South Korea, as I look for hope, peace, joy, and love in the world, I look at this text and I see hope.  I see a future of peace. I am overcome with joy, and I can feel the love of God for the world to desire this peace for God's creation.  

I had a conversation early this week about this passage and was reminded at how our words can often become swords. Our actions can feel like spears when we attack others.  I was reminded that as a follower of Christ I too am called to turn my swords, my words, into plowshares or something that is used in planting a harvest, a tool that is used in providing food for a community.  My words should cultivate a love for Christ, my words should reflect my beliefs as a follower of Christ, and my words should be used to build others up in love not to declare war on others.  My actions should be more like a pruning hook than a spear.  I shouldn't be making stabs at people but I should be like a pruning hook that leads to the bearing of fruit.  My actions should bear the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control...I hope you just sang them like you learned them as a kid).

It is when we learn to be plowshares and pruning hooks, that the world will see peace at work and learn war no more.  I don't believe that we are to sit back and wait for world peace to happen, I believe that God is working in, through, above, around and in between us to use each and every one of us to work for a world that lays its weapons down.  And I love that the passage from 1 Thessalonians 2 is in the lectionary alongside the Isaiah passage because Paul is getting at this notion of working in the here and now.

We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you
received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not
as a human word but as what it really is, God's word, which is also at
work in you believers.

Paul uses this idea of accepting the word of God as God's word not human word more than once in scripture, and this is important.  It is important because when God's word is at work in us as believers it holds power. When God's word works in us we are able to do more than we could ever imagine.  Because God's word is at work in us, we become plowshares and pruning hooks today instead of years from now.  Because God's word is at work in us we live the Gospel of Jesus Christ bearing light and life to the world.

I love scripture.  I love scripture because each time I read it I learn something new and I see that God is working in the world, I see that God created and loves this world and yearns for it to be peaceful and whole again.  I love scripture because it brings the hope of unity and reconciliation to the world.  I love scripture because it is the word of God which is at work in me.  

Peace be within you,


Picture: PAX is the Latin word for peace.  This is an ornament on my Christmas tree!