The Lure of the Dragon Hoard

One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea. p. 106
A collection of sea shells drying on a countertop.

When we went on family trips to the beach, one of our least favorite tasks (besides leaving!) was choosing only the very best shells to take home. It meant going over each one, one by one. Which edge was perfect? Which colors were the most striking? Which bivalve had a full hinge? Each of us had to weed down until we only had the perfect ones. Then we had to repeat the process until we filled our allotted containers.

I am sure by the time I was old enough to collect shells, my family had already accumulated buckets of them. Mom patiently waited while we sorted and agonized over the bits of shell and sharks’ teeth. Couldn’t we take them all??? No… Just this much. It was a lesson in appreciating the best we could find. On setting limits. On not making acquisition of stuff a goal in life.

It struck me recently, as I have weeded out books, materials, and other resources to consolidate my church office into my home office, that I was re-learning this lesson of sorting shells. I gave away books. I recycled boxes full of old print-outs, bulletins, and teaching materials. (Perhaps it is a sign of my generation, but keeping paper copies is like a security blanket. I don’t really need them. But I want them.)

a box of yarn

While sometimes I joke about my dragon hoard of craft materials, the truth is, I will probably spend the rest of my life using up the supplies that I have! (Of course, it does not help when someone offers me some yarn, or fabric, or other tempting items, and I respond, “Yes! Sure!” I’m still learning this lesson, apparently!)

What is enough? What is too much? What can I give away, give back, pay forward… the questions have been on my mind for several weeks. I realized where I am stuck. Because when I feel the “keep it!!” feeling come over me, much like that young girl sorting shells so many years ago, it is that anxiety that I don’t have enough. I might “need” more!

Perhaps the clue is going back to the teachings of Christ.

27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Luke 12:27-31, NRSV

What drives this desire to keep everything??? Anxiousness. Fear. Insecurity. What makes me want to keep everything the same, to be so resistant to change?? What makes me want to be controlling and not roll with life’s latest crises? Distrust. Uncertainty. Worry. And… if I’m honest… Greed. Lust. Pride.

In a time of great unrest, perhaps being willing to let go of one small thing makes it easier to cope with the bigger challenges we humans face. Perhaps not striving to hold on to power or wealth or STUFF would result in less conflict, less angst, less unrest… less war… less abuse… less violence… Isn’t that what Christ is asking us?

So as you chew on that, I offer this beautiful piece of music. It helps me focus and remember it’s what we do for Eternity that really matters.

Blessed be. sdg

————————–

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. Hosanna in excelsis!

The Benedictus from The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace by Sir Karl Jenkins

Grace upon grace

In her commentary on the Gospel of John, Dr. Karoline Lewis uses a phrase that has become a mantra of hope and encouragement to me:

“Grace upon grace…”

What does grace upon grace sound like? It sounds like when you are deader than dead and you hear your name being called, by the shepherd who knows you and loves you, and you are then able to walk out of that tomb, unbound to rest at the bosom of Jesus. Dr. Karoline M. Lewis, John: (Fortress Preaching Biblical Commentaries.) © 2014 Fortress Press. Minneapolis. p. 160.

These last few weeks I have needed extra touches of God’s Grace. With our church, Twinbrook Baptist, making the decision to sell our building, and gift out the proceeds rather than spend down our resources, there’s been a mixed bag of feelings. At times, my joy has been “deader than dead” but then God’s grace appears and restores me.

I’ve watched my friend and pastor, Jill, and our church leadership respond with honest, heartfelt feelings – but also serve with open-hearted kindness and grace. We have embraced hope. We’ve laughed. We have worshiped with joy. We have reminded ourselves that we are Resurrection people. We have hugged and reassured. We’ve bitched (a little — just human!) And we’ve cried. When I took the last boxes home from my church office on Sunday after worship, the tears flowed down my cheeks.

But grace… Grace has never been far away. God has shown up in a number of grace-filled ways.

I found this photo this morning, snapped unintentionally by my smartphone as I headed home from working out last night. I totally missed it at the time. I was intent on getting a shower and doing some charting. This vista, this contrast of light and dark brought hope and encouragement. The beauty is there, ready to proclaim God’s glory. Do I notice?

“Grace upon grace…”

To provide a backdrop for a sermon on hospitality by Pastor Jill McCrory, I brought this quilt, a family heirloom, to use for the communion table. Its presence on the altar immediately provoked stories and sweet memories by congregants. Who knew this “grandmother’s flower garden” would provide joy and comfort for our last regular worship service? I just pulled it out as a whim. God knew.

“Grace upon grace…”

 I tried to have a healthy snack and boost to my lunch today, so I stopped to get a protein smoothie. Banana-strawberry. Mmmmm… Except the lid was not on tightly and it decorated my white pants! The employee who served my smoothie was embarrassed because she saw what had happened. I frantically tried to clean up the splotches with napkins. She ran to the back of the store and came out with a stain remover pen. “Here! Take this!” I went to my car, mopped up the stain, and brought it back, profusely thankful. She wouldn’t take a tip. So I told her manager how grateful I was and that she needed a bonus.

“Grace upon grace…”

I’m sure there will be more examples. Now I’m more aware of what the Grace of God can do in my boring, everyday, grumpy life. Maybe yours, too?

I’m being intentional. Mindful. Looking for grace every moment. Focusing on the things that show love and joy and faithfulness. Taking a short, private cussing break when the feelings overflow. (Like I said… just being real!) Looking up to see… God. There. Always.

Lauren Daigle wrote a song that is on my “repeat” playlist right now. It’s keeping me going… a love song from God reminding me to Look Up Child.

Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled. Hebrews 12:14-15

So may it be.

sdg

In the middle of nowhere

“…Your sword can be a sermon
Or the power of the pen.
Teach every child to raise his voice
And then, my brothers, then
Will justice be demanded
By ten million righteous men?
Make them hear you.
When they hear you
I’ll be near you again!”
-Ragtime
Music: Stephen Flahert
Lyrics: Lynn Ahrens

The roof of a for-profit ICE detention center

It was in the middle of nowhere. West of Richmond. South of Charlottesville. East of Lynchburg. I would never have found it if I hadn’t had a GPS (and a map when I lost cell service!) It was hot and sticky. The sun was merciless. The stole around my neck was damp with sweat and felt so heavy.

I met up with members of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church from Raleigh, NC in Farmville, Virginia. As a sister church in the Alliance of Baptists, they responded to a challenge from their pastor, Rev. Nancy Petty, to bear witness to the incredible human suffering in these camps. I joined them and other Christians that summer morning to demonstrate the extravagant love of God. A God who welcomes. A Savior who stands up for the marginalized, who cares about refugees.

signsI had other things I could have done that day. I chose to crawl out of bed at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning. (Crazy, right?!) But with a strong cup of coffee, and the prayers and blessing of my church and my family, I hit the road.

After a short prayer vigil with the entire group, I drove with other clergy to pray at the prison’s training center. We held hands. We prayed. We asked For God’s Spirit of mercy and compassion to touch the hearts of those who decided to work there. We prayed for the Spirit’s conviction on churches who not only refused our group hospitality, but whose members are among those working at the prison.

Detention center sign

We were told that 700 people are detained in Farmville. 700 people removed from their families, their homes, their jobs. 700 people who are not criminals. They are not “illegals.” They are seeking asylum. They were forcibly detained when ICE raids scooped them up and brought them here. Many were in process with their petitions… for a safe place to live and raise their families.

No one chooses to go an ICE detention camp, except for perhaps some Christians who want to draw attention to the detainees’ plight. I made the 3.5 hour drive because I believe it is important to call out injustice. I believe my faith in Christ requires standing up “for the least of these.”

Crowd at prayer vigil
Prayer vigil

We did not gain access to the detention center to talk to any of the detainees. I’m pretty sure the detainees didn’t even know we were there! But God knew. God knows them by name. God hears their cries and holds their prayers. God sees the injustice. And God will hold us accountable for not seeking justice for them.

Prison guard videotaping us.

We prayed as we marched. We sang. We interceded for the detainees and the guards. As we were leaving, walking back to our vehicles in silence, a guard videotaped us. (No doubt he was recording us for identifying us via facial recognition software!) I raised my hand and blessed that guard, making the sign of the cross. May he bear the full conviction of his actions in his heart.

On the outskirts of Farmville was “The Church of All Nations.” Since the local churches refused our group hospitality, I had to wonder… ALL nations? Or just light-skinned ones? How do these churches justify their inaction? How do they stay numb to the suffering in their midst? I made the long, sobering drive home reflecting…

I realized that in my comfortable suburban home, it’s far too easy to look the other way.  I frequently forget those who live ever wary of ICE raids. I don’t have to worry because my German-Irish roots and Midwest accent are a free pass. My whiteness means I’m not identified as a potentially unauthorized immigrant. I don’t have to carry around my passport to prove I am a US citizen.

These detainees still are my neighbors. How will I care for them? How will I support them? How will I work for change to comfort and protect my neighbors?

Pectoral cross made of forged nails

One thing I do know. Justice work is tiring and inconvenient. It is not done for attention or publicity or to create a scene. Justice work is meant to bring a voice for the voiceless, to remind us of rights we have, that others are denied. It is a Calling. And it is following the way of Christ.

Matthew 25:40 (NRSV)
And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

How Can I Know God’s Will?

In the last 6 weeks of our church’s Sunday services, we asked the congregation what topics or questions they would like the pastors to preach about. This topic was the one I chose because, believe it or not, there were harder ones!

I offer this sermon with a big dose of humility, and with thanks to the Twinbrook Baptist family for welcoming me into their community and their hearts in our years together.

soli deo gloria


angels1.jpg

How Can I Know God’s Will?
A sermon offered to the people of God
at Twinbrook Baptist Church
July 21, 2019

As I sat and wrestled with this topic in my study this week, a hard truth came to the forefront: absolutely NO ONE has a handle on “Knowing God’s Will.” Or, in the words of 18thcentury poet Alexander Pope, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

Yet I, being a fool, am tackling this topic with you this morning. It’s something we all struggle with, if we are honest. How CAN we know God’s Will? That is, if it is even possible! In the rush and reality of life, many times our decisions are our “best guess in the moment.”

What do we do in circumstances where there are two (or more) decent choices… which one is right? There are life decisions which are important: this house? this spouse? this car? this college? this treatment for my cancer? And then, there are a thousand less critical, but still important, decisions that we make all the time!

Some of the pontificating I read this week was, in a word, laughable. It’s all very well and good to write things such as, “like church patriarch George Müller, set aside time early every morning to pray and seek the Lord’s face.” Or… “go to a quiet place each day and sit in silence.” And the reality is that we are hard-pressed to find the time to pay bills, do the laundry, and wash the dishes, let alone walk the dogs, vacuum, and put out the trash. And, if you are still working, go to work. Life seems impossibly full to go “sit in silence.”

Solitude, prayer, and meditation are excellent spiritual disciplines. But quite honestly, knowing God’s Will does not depend on your doing them.

As I unwrapped this topic, there were three main ideas that surfaced for me:

  1. We can know God’s Will when we understand WHO God is
  2. We can know God’s Will when we understand HOW God is revealed
  3. We can know God’s Will when we understand WHAT God wants for us

So let’s try to unpack this, together.

I. We can know God’s Will when we understand Who God is: Jeremiah 29: 4-14

Knowing God’s Will is based first and foremost on who GOD IS. The Infinite One never changes. The promises of God are forever. The Bible helps us know the nature and character of God. The Hebrew and Christian Scriptures express the historical relationship between humans and God, between the Creator and the created.

If you read and learn about God from the past, and hear what God will do, you have a basis for understanding what God’s Will is. And though Scripture expresses historically God’s will, we are a part of discerning it in the present. It takes time, yes. It takes reflection, certainly. It takes a conversation with the God who knows us. Not some esoteric God off in the clouds somewhere.

In our first scripture this morning, Jeremiah 29, we are eavesdropping towards the end of a conversation with God and God’s people in Babylon. Though they feel like outcasts, carried off from Jerusalem to Babylon, God is still intimately involved and engaging them. Thanks to Jeremiah, they are hearing God’s words to them. Specifically. Personally. Prophetically.

We often zero in on the latter verses in this passage. They are certainly verses that comfort me:

“For I know the plans, I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11, NLT)

BUT – if we take these words in context (always a good thing) and go back to the earlier verses in the chapter, there are words of challenge and correction before these words of comfort and hope. God tells them to put down roots, to invest where they are, to work for the prosperity of all. God tells them to avoid those who would mislead them or (bluntly) to avoid those who tell lies in the name of God! And God promises that God will deliver them.

I want to speak for a moment about those who lie and mislead in the Name of God. It is a terrifying thing for me personally to be a preacher and make bold statements about what God wants, or who God is. Far too many preachers and pastors have sold a “cookbook Christianity” that claims everything in our lives will be “in God’s perfect Will” if one does these 7 Steps of Godliness (or whatever it’s titled.) (And that you can buy their book in the lobby after the service.) It’s one of the reasons that many people have left the Church and Christianity. A life of faith is not that simple. It is a life-long pursuit of knowing God more fully, more deeply, more passionately. It’s not a fill-in-the blank book. Sorry. If you were looking for that kind of answer… I will disappoint you.

Jeremiah’s words pull no punches. It is a clear slapdown to false prophets and teachers. (Again.  A moment of reflection and self-examination for this pastor.) It is a smear on the word “Christian” that there are “Christian leaders” who support elected officials who are racist, homophobic, xenophobic and power-hungry. There are so-called “Christian” clergy who hold our government in higher esteem than the God of the Bible. There are self-titled “Christian” churches who claim homophobia as their Gospel. There are businesses who claim they are “Christian” (because they are closed on Sundays?) who discriminate on the basis of sexual and gender identity. Jeremiah would call them “fortune-tellers” or “diviners” – people who use their place of privilege and preferred way of life to speak for God either by implication or by what keeps them in power. You’ve seen them on the news or in advertisements. You know who I mean and I won’t give them credibility by mentioning them by name. But they are not speaking for God!

In the broadest sense of knowing God’s will, you have to know God. Despite distractions and confusion and disappointments. When we know who God is – truly – then we can see our way through the underbrush of decision-making.

A.W. Tozer in The Knowledge of the Holysuggests there are times where God has an “emphatic no” and an “emphatic yes” — and then there are times where we need to use our own “sanctified preference” and wisdom to make a decision. A decision that is made by beginning with Who. God. Is.

Like Abraham and Sarah, Jeremiah, Elijah, Moses, Solomon, Miriam, Deborah, Mary, Martha, Priscilla, and a host of other God-listeners from the Bible, we can know God’s Will when we know Who God is. The God of every generation.

Day by day,

dear Lord of Thee
Three things I pray:
To see Thee more clearly,
To love Thee more dearly,
To follow Thee more nearly,
Day by day.

– St. Richard of Chichester

II. Secondly, We can know God’s Will when we understand HOW God is revealed. Matthew 6:25-34; Proverbs 3:5-6; 1 Kings 9:11-12

Knowing God’s Will is clearer when we understand how God reveals it.  As you heard in our text, Elijah heard the voice of God not in a thunderclap nor in the windstorm nor fire nor earthquake, but in the “still, small voice of God,” or as the New Living Translation phrases it, “a gentle whisper.”

If we are honest, we prefer a God who is loud and clanging. It’s just easier. Yes. Or no. Black. Or white.

Should I go kill someone?                         
DING DING DING NO!!!!!!

Should I take some of my earnings and support God’s Work in the world?          DING DING DING YES!!!

[THAT WAS EASY]

Our coffeemaker recently died. (I know. Tragic.) Did we play “the hand of fate” and pick one at random from the shelf at a Big Box store? Did we search the scriptures in He Brews? (ha ha) (sorry not sorry) No… Ken did a cursory review of the options and we then picked one and bought it. We used, as Tozer said, our “sanctified preference.” We are among the caffeinated. Thanks be to God!

I’m making light of decision-making, but in reality, there are important decisions that can set off a course of other decisions. Sometimes, our decisions are based on availability and opportunity. Many times, our decisions are based on our wealth, our education, and the color of our skin. Sometimes decisions are made based on reasons that we cannot control. When we buy a house (and where). When we downsize. What kind of car, where we work… Which doctors we choose… And so on. Many times, God is not in the decision-making process at all. At least, not consciously.

But when you are faced with more than one option, how do you choose?

When we are facing multiple decisions, the stress mounts. We resort to a quick fix decision with a sort of “Magic 8 Ball” mentality.

Should I buy a Volvo? “Better not tell you now.”

Should we sell everything and move to Canada?  “All signs point to yes.”

Kevin DeYoung in his book “Just Do Something” says:

“God is not a Magic 8 ball we shake up and peer into whenever we have a decision to make. He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for him.” (p. 24)

The problem is that the popular practice in Christianity is to look for a sign. And we sanctify chance and opportunity as God’s will. We need to use the brains that God gave us.

Have you ever said or heard any of these phrases? Truth telling here — I have!! Let me poke some holes in these common ways we seek God’s Will…

  • Well, I’m looking to the Lord to give me a sign… (um… you have a brain!)
  • God has given me a feeling about this… (only one feeling? and you are basing your decision on a feeling?)
  • I prayed for God to take away this opportunity and God didn’t, so I guess it’s God’s Will…  (Or… maybe you are supposed to resist the temptation to do it?)
  • Please pray with me that I will be able to…  (instead of “please pray that I will know and hear what God asks of me related to…”)
  • I was reading in my Bible and it said, “Go and do likewise…” (I call that Bible Bingo)

Whenever we rely on just our circumstances, and just our intellect, and just our opportunities, we are leaving God out of the picture.

More often than not, God is the waiting companion in our decision making, not the loud air horn. The still, and quiet Voice, the whisper, the faithful One.

It is not easier to know God’s Will if you are a pastor, trust me. Particularly when I am tired and face a tough decision, there is frequently neither a “yes” nor a “no” … just… silence.If you, like me, have been in this journey of faith for a while, you might get a case of “the shoulds”.

…I should know what God wants, but I don’t.
…I should have had an answer by now, but there isn’t one.
…I should spend more time in silence and fasting and prayer, then I’ll know…

Don’t “should” on yourselves!

As a friend of mine rightly commented to me when we were up half the night, “is insomnia God’s way of getting our attention, or is it the result of our late-night run to Taco Bell?” Well… clearly, it was bad choices on our part. That time, anyway.

Knowing God’s Will is not a transaction where you deposit 6 prayers and get an answer. (THAT WAS EASY)

In SEEK YE FIRST – it is the seeking that is important. Not expecting that because you made an attempt to “seek” that you can have what you ask for! We get this idea that it is a contractual agreement.

It’s TRUST in the Lord (despite all my doubts) and keep depending on God…

It’s knowing your beloved-ness in God’s eyes. Your place in God’s heart. You are more valuable than sparrows. You are cared for more than the flowers of the field.

Dr. Renita Weems, Hebrew scholar, and a womanist and feminist theologian, wrote in her book Listening for God:

I had grown so accustomed to believing in a God who spoke thunderously and in spectacular ways that I didn’t think I could survive when it came time to stumble in divine silence. Just as noise cannot always be helped, neither is God’s silence always our fault. It is just part of the journey. I had to learn how to pay attention. I had to learn how to perceive the divine in new ways and in new places. I had to stop peeping behind altars for epiphanies and learn to let the lull between epiphanies teach me new ways for communicating with God, for reverencing the holy, and for listening to God. (p. 22)

Besides the seeming silence of God, there is a problem. The world is getting louder. How do we filter out the 24/7 news cycle or the daily responsibilities that distract us? If you can, turn down the volume on the background noise. It does not guarantee that you will know what God’s will is, but you will have a breather to re-set and listen some more.

I am a social media hound. I admit it. I tweet. I’m on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Tumblr. I blog. Sometimes in reading social media posts, God gets my attention. Sometimes it brings needed humor to a bleak news day. Other times, I am off on rabbit trails and diversions. Taking a moment to hit the “mute” button helps me get back my equilibrium.

Now I’m an extrovert. How God leads me will be different for many of you.

How does God lead you? How is God’s Will revealed for you?

It may be in any of the ways I’ve described. It may be something else. It may be in the thunder. It may be in the whisper.

But know this, friends… if we seek, if we ask, if we listen… God will lead us.

III. We can know God’s Will when we understand WHAT God wants for us. Romans 8:18-28

So we’ve talked about how

  • We can know God’s Will when we understand WHO God is
  • We can know God’s Will when we understand HOW God is revealed

Now – let’s think about how we can know God’s Will when we understand WHAT God wants for us, individually and corporately. We frequently get caught up in our OWN questions and prayers. We forget that big picture – what does God want for humanity, as a whole?

The Romans passage that was just read for us sets out the premise:

We are waiting for the day – the day of a future glory, a promised day of redemption. The day God’s people receive their inheritance, and we are released from sin and suffering. We sit in this tension of the present reality and our future hope. The Apostle Paul certainly understood what it meant to suffer, to wait for God’s promise of freedom to be revealed. He describes a longing for release like groaning in childbirth. As pain after pain of childbirth does its job, preparing a woman’s body to deliver a baby, so the suffering we see and experience is a part of our waiting. Absolutely no woman who has given birth will tell you, “oh that was fun! Let’s do that again!” I mean, unless her drugs were awesome!

No, she will more than likely tell you, “it was worth it!” The pain. The recovery.

I was worth it because she is now holding this new life in her arms and marveling at the promise of the future. There is nothing more life-affirming than holding the next generation and seeing all the possibilities of God ahead for this new little person. And, coincidentally, for you, too.

The problem with this Romans passage is that we take a verse out of context and hang onto that as if it were the whole Gospel. We memorize it in Sunday school and cross-stitch it on pillows!

Romans 8:28

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

That does not mean, “God will take all of my stubbornness, meanness, and stupid mistakes and somehow make them all work out OK.”

But that’s how we see this. Am I right?

I think a better take on it would be, “in spite of my stubbornness, meanness, and stupid mistakes, God loves me, and groans with me as I stumble through this life with God’s love and care supporting me.”

What if God doesn’t answer my prayers (the way I want God to?) Did I not pray enough? Did I say I was going to pray for someone… and then I forgot? Is it my fault that someone’s prayers weren’t answered? Am I such a bad person that God doesn’t listen?

When I was stressing about this one time, my mentor Diann looked at me, smiled, and said, “Deb, your prayers are not that powerful. And you are not more powerful than God!”

Sometimes, maybe we are really praying, “Dear God, please make everything nice for everyone.” We make God the “Trouble Exterminator” – removes all fears and crises in 7 prayers or your money back! That’s not how it works, friends!

It also doesn’t mean that you are praying the “wrong” way, or somehow missed the “bullseye” of God’s will. There is no “center of God’s will.” There is freedom and hope and an infinite number of ways that will honor and please God. So instead of worrying about whether or not you are praying the RIGHT way, start the conversation. Ask God to help US see what God will do in a given situation.

The pain of unanswered prayer is that sometimes, in this broken world we live in, the unwanted happens…

  • A collision on the Beltway
  • A freak accident at the beach
  • A cancer treatment stops working
  • A job is given to someone else
  • A mass shooting rips apart a community, a school, or a workplace
  • A government policy is in place that is horribly wrong

When we know God, when we understand how God is revealed, we have a better understanding of what God wants for us. The three are inter-connected. We grieve when we see terrible things happening because we know it is out of sync with the God we have come to know. We are groaning!

Henri Nouwen, author and Catholic priest, wrote that instead of trying to figure out what God wants, we have to cultivate a listening heart. He says:

“…praying is not only listening tobut also listening with [God].”

and…

“We tend to present to God only those parts of ourselves with which we feel relatively comfortable and which we think will evoke a positive response. Thus our prayer becomes very selective and narrow.” (pg 83-84) (Henri Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life.)

In the person of Jesus, we see the full embodiment of God. We find full acceptance in God’s Love. We know forgiveness. We are embraced as children of God, not strangers or immigrants who have to earn our way inside. We are brought to the Welcoming Table, to remember and celebrate together that we are beloved, we are claimed, we are to be living examples of the God we worship.

Jesus lived among us as a testimony of God’s faithfulness. Jesus turned upside the idea that doing “good thing x” means you get a place of favor in God’s eyes. The revolutionary Jesus saved us from ourselves, and sees us with eyes of compassion and full acceptance. We are Beloved. We are claimed, cherished and saved through Christ’s sacrifice and Christ’s advocacy for us.

What does God want for us? To be fully loved, fully known, and fully God’s own.

So may be all be. By God’s Grace.

Amen.

BENEDICTION

20 Now may the God of peace—
    who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
    and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
21 may he equip you with all you need
    for doing his will.
May he produce in us,
    through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him.
    All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.

Hebrews 13:21-21 (New Living Translation)

For the least of these

Children
“Children of the world” stole. Holy Communion at Twinbrook Baptist Church, Rockville, MD.

The King will reply,
‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did
for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for me.’
Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

For the least of these, Lord,
You taught compassion and inclusion.

But the least of these, Lord,
are forgotten, mistreated, dehumanized, and jailed.

For the least of these, Lord,
You gave your life.

For the least of these, Lord,
You expect that we will follow your example.

For the least of these, Lord,
we speak out in protest and amplify their voices.

For the least of these, Lord,
we go boldly into places of Power and demand change.

For the least of these, Lord,
we proclaim our Nation’s myopia and stigmatization
of the least of these…

…but have we done enough?

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

In the in-between

Advent. That season in Christendom where we wait. Wonder. Yearn. Dream. Pray. And then, we live with the fact that we do not have the answers we so desperately long to hear.

It’s true in my Hospice work. Knowing that death is coming (or not). Wishing there were absolutes and clear prognostications (and being shocked or disappointed). Wondering “how much time…?” When we do not know, and can never know.

In times like this, in the in-between, God uses pictures and moments to remind me… that the Divine is intricately involved in my life. That my short life is cradled in the span of Infinite wisdom. That it’s in the waiting that God Calls and leads me.

Tonight I needed reassurance. I needed hope. I needed encouragement. I needed a reminder of my relational and caring God. And then, this song came across my desktop. It’s by Kina Grannis, and is called “In The Waiting”. I think it’s the official heart song for my Advent season this year. Take a listen… the video is as powerful as the lyrics.

May we each know peace and LIFE in the waiting…

O Come Emmanuel.

 
“I’ve been working on patience
trying to trust in the timing of my tiny existence
I come alive
I sat still in the twilight
I found peace in the quiet things
How could I wish away all the in between?


And all this time
Ive been staring at the minute hand
Oh what a crime
That I can’t seem to understand that life
Is in the waiting.”