Someone recently asked me if I was 23 and about to enter into this ministry in light of all the things that have happened in the past year and knowing what I now have come to understand about the church and the world, would I still want to enter seminary to do this work. I emphatically said yes, especially today at the age of 53, knowing what I now know, there is no other answer. As Christ considered the world in its state at the time of his ministry, I have the gift of his “yes” in his time, to thank, for my desire to say “yes” in mine. For many reasons, it’s not just a wonderful birthday, it’s a wonderful life!
Saying Yes to God is like saying yes to Love. Today – as we see Christmas approaching, let us consider the importance of our saying Yes to God’s love and how our saying yes to that love is able to bring to birth new and marvelous things, and how it prepares us and others not just for the coming of the Messiah but for everything God has in store for us.
Saturday’s Meditation – Psalm 138:1-3,8
I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down towards your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
for you have exalted your name and your word
On the day I called, you answered me,
you increased my strength of soul.
The Lord will fulfil his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures for ever.
Sometimes joy is hard to come by. In fact for some it’s down right impossible. Many people become depressed during this time of year over loved ones too far away or passed away. Or perhaps their finances are low and buying that special gift is more of a burden. With all that has been going on in our own lives and the life of our communities over the past few weeks, how do we get to the joy of this season? First we have to let go. We must let go of the past actions, the past losses and past choices. God is greater than the pain, the loss and the choices. Second we have to learn to seize every opportunity and third we must be ready and willing to say yes. Rejoice, always pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstance.
Saturday’s Meditation – Psalm 30:4-5,11-12
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment;
his favour is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever.
As I sat this morning preparing for this third Sunday of the season of Advent. The word of the day was joy. I began to think of all the things to which I was joyous and of course the usual came to mind, family, friends, life. Then I remembered the opportunities to do small things like buying paper towels and toilet paper. Yes, I know it seems crazy but for many such items are luxuries. The consumers of St. Mary’s food cupboard occasionally ask to use the bathroom and occasionally upon the close of distribution, items go missing. You guessed it! Toilet paper, paper towels and even the pump hand soap. I was quite dismayed and disappointed because if they would ask, we would gladly give it to them. Yet, I’ve never had to ask for those kinds of things and I realized that if a person is in real need, how difficult it might be to have to ask for such personal items. On the night when Jesus was handed over to authorities, he reminded the apostles that “The Kings of the Gentiles lord it over them… But not so with you; rather… you must become like the one who serves. (Luke 22:14-30)“ In my menial “authority” over the situation, what right do I have to expect what could be embarrassing or humiliating for someone to ask for necessary things, which for St. Mary’s, are often donated. I thought of many solutions to what I thought was the problem, that being people taking things. In reality the problem is simply that people are in need. I believe that most know that they only have to ask, and I also know that in this situation it’s not necessary, nor am I called, to expect them to oblige. Let us focus on the joy in the opportunity to provide necessary things, and for God’s grace as we strive to encourage God’s kingdom and not our own, with every situation including paper towels and toilet paper.
Image: Google – Bill Plotkin
If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all. That’s it in a nutshell. We have to have faith and hope. We have to believe in the power and authority that is above because those human battles we fight can not be won on our own. Without faith we are swayed every which way. We find ourselves going in every false direction wondering why we haven’t reached our goal or destination. There is in fact one true direction. It is the one that leads us to our true selves, honoring those things that can not be seen by wandering eyes and yet very visible to the discerning heart. Therefore, do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid. Trust and know that God is God (John 14:27).
Every planting season has its time of harvest. Although it’s up to the sower to nurture and care for the planted seed, sometimes weather conditions affect the harvest. However, we know that over a certain period of time, with the right attention, care and nurture, something will be produced and because we’ve invested our time we wait for it. It seems not one day goes by, that I don’t hear via social media of yet another incident of excessive use of authority by police. We must begin planting a new seed. Protests will draw attention to the need for the planting of a new culture in our society and that’s good. However, we must nurture it with our votes and expect commitment and accountability for the authorities we put in place. Today, Christ warns us to “Be on guard.” After the protests, let us all begin focusing on registering our voices with our votes, in order that everyone become a part of the constituency for change in our communities. Know the issues, determined no longer to be caught unaware, with our backs up against a wall, our heads pressed to the hard surface of a pavement, or our necks constricted of God’s free gift of air that we breathe. As we continue to invest our voice in this new culture, we wait for the expected harvest of a changed egalitarian society.
Rarely do we see ourselves as the voice of John the Baptist. And yet in many ways that’s exactly who we are; the messengers before the coming of Christ! We are the voices crying in today’s wilderness, preparing the way for those who come after us. Our voice matters! Without it, how could our children know what and whom to look for? Without it how will they know which way to go? Without it how will they discern the ways of this world. We’ve heard the cries before. Where there is no justice there is no peace. In this season of hope and expectation, peace is the furthest thing from our minds. So how do we get peace back in our lives? How do we get to an undisturbed freedom, a freedom from violence, abuse and disrespect, a freedom to be whom God has created us to be? How do we get to that civility that is the responsibility of both the people and its elected authorities. How do we get to that peace reflected in God’s kingdom – here on this earth, in our country, in our community? We need to be that voice to remind us and particularly those in authority that the freedoms for which all of our ancestors fought was first given by God to all of God’s people, that God’s law came before man’s interpretation of it and no where does it separate or segregate it’s application to the people of God.We have an obligation to not only be conscious of those keepers of injustice but we must name them out loud. Call it for what it is. John cried in the midst of abusiveness and so should we. As we continue to pick up where John the Baptist left off, not one individual will ever be able to say they could not, – did not hear that voice urging us to “make the path straight” and do what is right! Let the protestors protest. Our voice matters. With every moment of injustice, the cries of John the Baptist becomes our cries, to prepare the way for true justice, and prepare the way for true equality, in order that we too may live in the way of true Peace.
Saturday’s Meditation – Psalm 10
Prayer for Justice
Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
do not forget the oppressed.
Why do the wicked renounce God,
and say in their hearts, ‘You will not call us to account’?
But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief,
that you may take it into your hands;
the helpless commit themselves to you;
you have been the helper of the orphan.
Break the arm of the wicked and evildoers;
seek out their wickedness until you find none.
The Lord is king for ever and ever;
the nations shall perish from his land.
O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek;
you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear
to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed,
so that those from earth may strike terror no more.