Tag Archives: peace

Advent concludes. Christmas is over, too. One thing remains: LOVE

Hard to believe that the week is slipping away and I failed to continue reflecting on Advent.  The season swamped me and the hope, joy and peace of Advent almost got lost in the last minute push.

But, I cannot tell you how excited I am to share that the final message of Advent isLOVE

Consider this: Week 1—hope.

                         Week 2—joy.

                         Week 3—peace.

Those who walk through Advent season and acknowledge how the weeks guide us in a review of one’s belief, there is only one word that can add all these themes into one more–love.

Returning to the Oxford On-line Dictionary, the definitions of love, as a noun, helps us to understand the immensity of this final week’s theme:

1.  An intense feeling of deep affection.

2.  A great interest and pleasure in something.

3.  A person or thing that one loves.

But it is the definition of loveas a verb that pulls all of Advent and Christmas together:

1.  Feel deep affection . . . for

Once one experiences the three concepts introduced through Advent—hope, joy and peace—the need to act develops.  There is energy that comes when there is hope, joy and peace that begs to be used and when loveis a verb, that energy becomes the force that gives the noun love.

The theme of love is repeated in so often in Advent studies and other devotions putting a new twist on it can be difficult, but as we have done the past weeks of Advent, review the origin of the word:

Old English lufu, of Germanic origin; from an Indo-European root shared by Sanskrit lubhyati ‘desires’, Latin libet ‘it is pleasing’, libido ‘desire’, also by leave and lief.

Interesting that all three different origins still contribute to the understanding of the fourth week’s theme of love. The verb love takes the noun and moves it into action.

Traditionally Christmas becomes a time when love is visible through the practice of giving gifts to family and friends.  The action symbolizes the relationship that has developed between two individuals.  The relationship has so many different faces:

  • Spouse to spouse
  • Parent to child
  • Child to parent
  • Friend to friend
  • Work peer to work peer
  • Cousin to cousin
  • Grandparent to grandchild
  • Brother to Sister/Brother
  • Sister to Sister/Brother

And the list continues to grow. 

Gift giving is a tangible way society has identified to express the intangible noun definition of love.  No, the giving is not necessary, but it is a tangible way to say to someone how they fit into you life, how loved you are.

But gift giving is an event, the lovethat fills our hearts moves into action in so many ways.  As an operating system, love fuels our lives to do for others, to give to others in all types of ways.  

The verse so often referenced is I Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  (NLT)

Even though this familiar reading is so often used in reference to weddings, think about how broad its scope really is if loveis translated into an action towards anybody.  No one would have an enemy.  No one would judge another person.  No one would . . . I am sure you can fill in the blank.

This leads us right up to the end of another calendar year and the beginning of a new year.  There is hope.  There is joy. There is peace.  And now there is love for one another.

During the coming year(s), move that hope, joy and peace into the energy to love others.  Love them just as you want to be loved.  

There is no better gift than to give love to others freely, with no strings attached.  Christmas as a traditional celebration is a spot on the calendars of our lives that remind us how to loveby giving.  But giving love is a verb that does not have a box around it with gift wrap and ribbons.  Love, the verb, is a lifestyle of loving others regardless of any distinctive, identifiable quality.  Loveis living life each and every day doing all that you can for all you can in any way you can at any times you can.  Love, the verb, is a lifestyle that exudes hope, joy and peace.

Text Box: May 2019 be fueled
by love
filling your life
with hope, joy and peace

Please join me in prayer:

Dear Loving God 

     the father, the son and the Holy Ghost,

Thank you for the greatest gift of love 

     you have given to each and every one.

You knew that we did not understand

     how to love one another

     so you joined us in the form of Jesus

     to teach us how to love.

The prophets tried to prepare us over and over

     keeping hope alive in the darkest of times.

The shepherds shared the news the joyously heard

      from the angels right out in the open fields.

The wise men came and saw, too, giving gifts

      leaving in peace not wanting to sound alarms.

Guide us to know that love is all that is needed

      To live in this world, 

      To experience peace,

      To be filled with joy,

      To fuel us with hope

      So we, too, may love one another as you love us.

In the name of you the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.

Common Lectionary Readings:

4thSunday of Advent:        Micah 5:2-5a

                                                      Luke 1:47-55

                                                      Hebrews 10:5-10

                                                      Luke 1:30-45

Christmas Eve:                      Isaiah 9:2-7

                                                      Psalm 96

                                                      Titus 2:11-14

                                                      Luke 2:1-20

Christmas Day                       Isaiah 52:7-10

                                                      Psalm 98

                                                      Hebrews 1:1-4 (5-12)

                                                      John 1:1-14

December 30                          I Samuel 2:19-20, 26

                                                      Psalm 148

                                                      Colossians 3:12-17

                                                      Luke 2:41-52

December 31                          Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

                                                      Psalm 8

                                                      Revelation 21:1-6a

                                                      Matthew 25:31-46

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What happens when hope and peace come together?

Looking at the date, I realize how tardy I am into the third week of Advent and I am just now settling into my week’s blog notes. This sets off a huge warning in my head that maybe I am letting the holiday hubbub overpower my days.

Sunday the worship service included the children’s program.  As a cradle Methodist, the traditional images that greeted me seemed so familiar.  I know the story, I know the characters, and I recognize the costumes.  

Sometimes it is easy to overlook the significance of the Advent season because we become so accustomed to the entire hubbub: decorations, music, store sales, food, and family routines.  Then there are those moments when the proverbial “reason for the season” slams right into the middle of everything.

That is how I felt Sunday as I watched the kiddos putting the 2018 twist to the ancient Christmas story.  It was joy-filled.

Advent readings take us through the biblical story and we learn that the ancient people maintained hope for the arrival of a messiah.  Their mindset might have been described in any variety of ways:  downtrodden, tired, exhausted, victimized (as we might call it today), depressed, perplexed, questioning.

For generations, thousands of years, they maintained hope that their plight would be relieved when some one man would step in and fix things.  They hadhope.  

Even today, we can identify with these ancient Israelites.  Not one of us can live day in and day out without times of feeling the very same: downtrodden, weary, depressed, and so on.  We struggle to manage the daily ups and downs.  Yet when one has hope, those days are placed into a perspective as one discovers the value of hope plays in finding solutions.

During the second week of Advent, the theme focused on peace.  As one discovers that hope makes daily life manageable, one begins to realize that accepting God’s grace and living within that framework fuels hope.  

But what does having hope have to do with peace?  When we accept the reality of God and the relationship we have with him, we develop hope to manage the daily trials.  Turning over our need to control to God and allowing our lives to center on God, we discover peace within our personal lives.

As the kiddos were singing and managing their time on stage, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were filling the seats anticipating a performance filled with tradition.  A tradition that reminds us that when one has hope, all the rough times in life are of little concern and we are at peace.

But back to Sunday’s program:  The kiddos turned their backs on the crowd and as they introduced the various characters in the story, the audience broke out in a joyful reaction as the sound of the current kid’s hit, Baby Shark, became the refrain:  doo doo doo doo doo doo . . . Mother Mary, Father Joseph, Baby Lambs, Shepherds, Wise Men, and Baby Jesus doo doo doo doo doo.  [Check the You Tube video to get an audio-visual of the song:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqZsoesa55w]

When we discover that we have hope and peace, we also realize that our lives are joy-filled.  We see this world through the filter of Jesus Christ and when we suddenly see the ancient story set to the music of Baby Shark, we experiencejoy.

Week three of Advent focuses on the theme joy. The season of preparation is also teaching us what it feels to be joy-filled.  Joy is an abstract noun meaning there is no way to touch, feel, taste, smell or see what it really is, but joyis real.

Returning to the Oxford Dictionary on line, joyis defined as:

     A feeling of great pleasure and happiness.

1.1count noun A thing that causes joy.

1.2British informal usually with negative Success or satisfaction.

     Origin

Middle English: from Old French joie, based on Latin gaudium, from gaudere ‘rejoice’.

Obviously this is a noun with no shape or volume, no concrete form to pick up and carry around.  But how we try.

Joycomes in a wide-range of colors, and during Advent one might think it is red and green while others may think gold and silver and some pick all the colors as the trees get decorated with twinkling lights.

Joy comes in all different scents as the ovens back those cookies, stove tops fix cranberry relishes, and the turkeys and hams bake in the ovens as meals are prepared.

Joycomes in the sounds of bells and chimes ringing, carols singing, favorite performers add their unique sounds to hymns and holiday songs, and all the laughter watching the traditional holiday movies over and over and over.

Advent reminds us that life with Christ is one filled with hope, peace andjoy.  The kiddos shared the story in a new and different way, but the joythat they demonstrated with each “doo doo doo doo doo” of Baby Sharkfame unleashed joy in all those watching and listening to the ancient story once again.

Let the Advent season rebuild all those qualities of your life that get drained down during the calendar year as we face the daily challenges of life.  

Let you discoverhopein the story of Jesus Christ.  

Let you experience the peaceas you turn over your life to God.  

Let you break out with joyas you experience God in your life, especially in these weeks of Advent.

Then be prepared for the last week of Advent to discover the next quality that the season unleashes in your life.  God’ gift is opening in your life as we return to the story of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Dear God,

As we move through this third week of preparing for Christmas, help us to rediscover the joyof the season in our lives.  

As we learn to manage our lives with hopethat you are will never abandon us through all our earthly challenges.

As we turn over our lives to you, the gift of peacesettles in, and we strive to share that gift with others so personal peace can lead to worldly peace.

Be with us as we move closer to Jesus’ birth so that we may join with the shepherds, the wise men, and the host of angels in celebrating a birth that created a world, changed a world, and continues to change the world.        –Amen

Common Lectionary readings for Week 3

  • Zephaniah 3:14-20
  • Isaiah 12:2-6
  • Philippians 4:4-7
  • Luke 3:7-18

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What can Advent teach us? Hope. Peace. Joy. Love.


Sunday began the second week of advent and all the traditional trappings are present for the season.  Christmas carols fill the air, decorations are full of red and green, glitter, lights, and so much more.  No one can escape the trappings of the season.

Yet, in all the hubbub of the holiday season, the purpose of the season becomes buried.  That triggered a question:  What can Advent teach us?  

Four weeks on the Christian calendar are to prepare one for the birth of Jesus Christ—as known as the Messiah, the Savior, Emmanuel, Son of God. The story is old and has been told and retold for over 2,000 years—according to our calendar.

So, what can Advent 2018 teach us?

I have thought about that this week and realized that maybe, just maybe we work so hard to celebrate Christmas, we ignore the significance of the four weeks before Christmas Day.  

This pushed me to think about the typical labels used within The Church for each of the weeks:  hope, peace, joy, and love.  One theme for each week, and last week I talked a little about hope; therefore, this week—if I follow expectations—I should talk about peace.

But, maybe I need to review this and think about the whole four weeks a little broader.  Why hope, peace, joy and love?  What makes these four abstract nouns so essential to the entire story?  What do these four themes teach us?

Looking at the common lectionary, the themes are woven through readings from the Old and New Testament.  Remember that reading the Bible is reading literature that deals with all the reality of human existence—the strengths and the weaknesses, birth and death, health and illness.  

So what can Advent 2018 teach us?

The answer lies in the big picture—Christ in the center of our lives makes life manageable.  Even more: 

13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (NLT):  

This scripture has carried me through many rough days.  As I look at the lectionary readings, I am reminded how the scriptures simply repeat themes.

Last week I referenced “hope” as the theme, but I am seeing how hope is a foundational piece to Christian faith.  Of course hope would be the first theme of Advent because without hope one becomes distraught, disillusioned, lost.

Without hope, one becomes frozen into a life pattern that is without purpose or focus. If life is identified as a color, life without hope is grey.  And as tradition has it, that is not an Advent color.  (I know, silver and white are popular right now, but dull grey just does not light up one’s eyes for decorations in my opinion.)

So what can Advent 2018 teach us?  

Hope becomes a driving force in our lives.  We need hope to keep us living life to its fullest.  Living with hope places us in the position to do or act. We are turned loose to live.  

Now think about peace.  Some churches celebrate peace as the theme for the second week of Advent, but again it takes understanding what peace really is. 

Consider the definition, according to the Oxford On-line dictionary:

PEACE (mass noun)

1. Freedom from disturbance; tranquility.

     1.1 Mental or emotional calm.

2  A state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended.

     2.1in singular A treaty agreeing peace between

           warring states.

     2.2 The state of being free from civil disorder.

     2.3 The state of being free from dissension.

With such emphasis on global news in our current culture, an outside observer might think the second definition is the most common use of the word; but Advent focuses on the first definition as a foundation for Christian living.

Consider this:  with hopewe are living with the expectations that trusting God will give us the strength to manage all the highs and lows our lives encounter.  Having that trust is the level of hope that leads us to peace.

Peacein the Christian context is not a political arrangement; it is tranquility—personal tranquility.  The lectionary’s gospel reading for this week is about John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus:

     Isaiah had spoken of John when he said,

“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
    Clear the road for him!
The valleys will be filled,
    and the mountains and hills made level.
The curves will be straightened,
    and the rough places made smooth.
And then all people will see
    the salvation sent from God.’”

–Luke 3:4-6 referencing Isaiah 40:3-5

The verses do not speak specifically to peace,but reading the Life Application Study Bible’s study notes adds a new perspective:

To “prepare the way” means clearing aside the baggage of the past and the doubts of the present in order to let the King come into your life.  He’ll take it from there.  

Consider the tranquility that one will experience if Advent truly “prepares the way” for a life that centers on God, the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  That tranquility is in deed PEACE.  

And yes, the color blue is tranquil, it is the clear blue skies of all four seasons.  It is the blue of the Eastern Bluebird another symbol of happiness.  

What does Advent teach us?  

  • Advent teaches us the very foundation of a faith-filled life with God.  
  • Advent teaches us hope.
  • Advent teaches us peace.

Christians take four weeks to “prepare the way” for the celebration of God’s arrival as the baby Jesus Christ.  One learns hope and one finds peace as Advent continues.

Dear Giving God,

We turn to scripture to read the story once again.

We practice all the traditions of Advent

     hoping to experience Christ with us.

We mark off the weeks of Advent 

      learning a new peace because you are with us.

We anticipate learning even more 

     from the ancient words shared in scripture

     and from those who teach us understanding.

Through the week we thank you

      for being present with us

     as we anticipate the joy of Christmas.  –Amen

Common Lectionary readings for week of Dec. 9, 2018

  • Malachi 3:1-4
  • Luke 1:68-79

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In the end, no dry bones. . . just the lion, the wolf and the lamb

This is the final sermon after 10 years in the pulpit.  Sunday, June 24, will also be the last sermon that I have threaded together the images of the Church of Resurrection’s stained glass window (Leawood, KS).  This has been such an interesting six months as I have studied the window and considered its creation as a visual sermon.  There is so much to share concerning God and his story that the ideas never seem to run out.  Ending 10 years does not mean an ending to ministry, just an ending to this pulpit at this time.  I will do my best to rest for a bit, but my mind continues to spin out ideas.  Thank you for reading and following these sermons.  I do not plan to end blogging, just the postings may be different.  Only God knows what will appear on this site at this time.  Please be patient and continue to follow.

 

Sitting at the desk with the funeral of the two KCK police officers in the background, I struggle to pick up the task of writing this final sermon.  I am reminded that evil lurks in every community and that as Christians we are to be God’s eyes, hands, and feet.

Looking at the COS window, there is one more image that cannot be overlooked:

 

#31  THE LION, WOLF AND THE LAMB—In the Restored Paradise, all of God’s creatures live together in peace and harmony.  The healing salve of God’s kingdom extends beyond humanity to include all of creation, raised to its highest pitch of existence.  (Read Isaiah 65:25)

 

I was familiar with the image of the lion and the lamb and was surprised to see the wolf included still the scripture does include all three animals.  Understanding the significance of all three broadens the message even though most religious art includes just the lion and the lamb.

The window’s image is based on the ultimate goal God has where evil is overcome by good; where all live in harmony.  God’s ultimate goal needs to be the same for each of us.  The concern is how do we reach that goal, even if just in our own church, our own community.

Reading the lectionary provides a structure for all Christians regardless of denomination, nationality, age, gender, or any other identifying label.  Even though I have used the images in the window to prepare sermons since Christmas, the lectionary provides a foundational connection to all Christians and often fits right in with the images in the window.

Reading the lectionary included Ezekiel 37 a few weeks ago, and that scripture provided me the foundation for today’s reflection. It does not connect directly to the image of the lion, wolf and lamb, but it does speak to this church family facing the next transition in leadership.

Let me share Ezekiel’s story.  The Israelites were captives of Babylonia, and Ezekiel was a trained, young priest and a contemporary of Jeremiah.  Jeremiah ministered to the Israelites in Judah, but Ezekiel prophesied to those exiled in Babylonia.

Consider the exiles.  They were forced out of their homes and living in a culture that was foreign to them.  They must have felt hopeless.  They must have felt abandoned.  And Ezekiel was a “street preacher,” as study notes labeled him.  He was a prophet who had to feed hope to the Israelites.  He had to guide them through prophecies and scripture to remain faithful to God.

Ezekiel’s words recorded in the Old Testament were written about 571 B.C., yet the words are timeless and his message is as important today as it was 2,500 years ago.  Hear his vision of “A Valley of Dry Bones”:

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”

“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

    Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

    So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.

    Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”

    10 So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.

    11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone.Our nation is finished.’12 Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. 14 I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live againand return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken!’”

 

Continuing the reflection:

Certainly we do not live in exile as the ancient Israelites did when Ezekiel was prophesying, but the truth is that we are living in a valley of dry bones.  We live in exile because evil continues to thrive.  We cannot ignore how close evil is, especially this week as we have lost two more police officers to evil and as we watched children ripped from their parents in the name of federal law enforcement.

Evil places you in exile in your own community.  And you become tired.  You become the dry bones Ezekiel saw in that valley.  You lose hope.  Yet, you return to worship each week because as Christians that is part of your lifestyle.  But, even sitting right here in your very own sanctuary, in your own spot on the pew, you are at risk of being the dry bones Ezekiel saw in that valley.

God asked Ezekiel if the dry bones could be brought back to life.  Ezekiel, the priest, answered, “O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”  He placed full faith in God.  Do you?

Today, even I feel like dry bones.  I stepped into the pulpit ten years ago with a vision. The community is not a valley of dry bones, but it is a valley of lives who desperately need to know God.  God can breathe new life into the dry bones, but it takes a community of faithful who can see the community through God’s eyes and rely on God to breathe life back into dry bones.

Ezekiel’s vision of a valley filled with dry bones did not end his story.  He was encouraged by God’s demonstration of bringing the dry bones back to life.  Can you say that God’s Holy Spirit is keeping your bones alive?  Or do you feel that you are nothing more than dry bones?

As you make the change from one pastor to another, remember that God can bring a valley of dry bones to life to continue the work he assigned to the faithful.

God told us to be good stewards of this earth.  God told us to love one another as we want to be loved.  These are not commands that can be ignored.  These are the simple instructions God has to keep evil away, to keep peace, to keep the lion, the wolf, and the lamb lying peacefully together.

As this month closes out, July brings a new beginning for this community of faithful.  God lives within each and every one of you, but you must do your part to keep it alive.  To avoid becoming a valley of dry bones, you must follow the discipline of the faithful.

  • You must read scripture.
  • You must pray.
  • You must participate in a community of faith.
  • You must remember your baptism.
  • You must serve one another in love.
  • You must see the world through God’s eyes—all the world, not just your own household.
  • You must listen to the Holy Spirit as he guides you to serve as God’s arms and feet in this community, part of God’s entire world.

If you do not, evil will win and the valley will be filled with nothing more than dry bones.

Concluding the reflection:

            In the book of Ezekiel, God assures Ezekiel that he is able to revive the dry bones:

    11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone.Our nation is finished.’12 Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. 14 I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again. . .

Today I tell you, God does reside within you as the Holy Spirit.  You do not have to be dry bones.  You must follow the discipline of the faithful and God will keep you alive.

The Church continues its work.  It depends on the entire network of congregations to serve as God’s agents defending against evil, seeing to the needs of all God’s children, and finding ways to keep dry bones alive.  In our denomination, the United Methodist Church, we have so much to do, so many tools to use, such a faith community to serve in so many ways.

Today we follow the Methodist tradition of serving in ministry, too.  We change roles as we are called to do.  We stand together to serve as we are called to serve.  We know that there are lions, wolves, and lambs surrounding us, but if we do our job the best that we can, they, too will be able to lie down together in peace.

In Isaiah 65:25, we hear these words:

The wolf and the lamb will feed together.
The lion will eat hay like a cow.
But the snakes will eat dust.
In those days no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain.

 

Each community that fails to love one another as they want to be loved needs God.  My prayer for the community, here and globally, is that with the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s work can lead to all working side by side to minister to others in need.

 

Sharing of the Missouri Methodist’s 2018-2019 mission goals:

            During annual conference, three mission goals were identified through special offerings.  I have asked Sharon, Vada and Tamera share them with you at this time. When the local church is tired and at risk of becoming a valley of dry bones, connecting with others in mission is one more way to be alive:

 

  1. Mozambique Sustainability Reboot (Sharon)

This offering will relaunch the Mozambique Initiative’s efforts to create opportunities for church-going entrepreneurs through sustainability projects. In 2012, the Mozambique Initiative added sustainability as a key component to our partnership. After reviewing projects completed during the 2012-2017 program, we believe the best way to reboot is by focusing on smaller projects ($400 or less) for individual entrepreneurs. Our goal for this offering is to provide microloans for at least 25 entrepreneurs in Mozambique.

 

  1. Pathway Out of Poverty (Vada)

Gifts shared in this offering will be distributed for the work of administering our Pathway out of Poverty initiative focused on literacy. Your gift to this initiative will help us equip local churches to connect with schools in their communities and provide them with relationship-building resources. Research shows that children who struggle to read in first grade are 88 percent more likely to struggle in grade four. And those who struggle in fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. Give generously today as we seek to break cycles of poverty by connecting with our schools.

 

  1. Puerto Rico Disaster Response (Tamera)

The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico continues to rebuild following the devastation of Hurricane Maria in the fall of 2017. Thirty-eight churches were damaged with 10 nearly destroyed. Yet, the people of Puerto Rico have remained strong. Your gift will help rebuild a Methodist health clinic on the island of Vieques. This clinic will be the primary point of care for the island’s population of 12,000 people – care that is desperately needed as residents wait a projected two years for electricity to be fully restored. Join us in standing with the people of Vieques; your donation will make a difference today!

 

The United Methodist Church is not a valley of dry bones. The church is an army of Christians who are equipped to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.

You are part of God’s army here in this community, but you are part of a global community, too.  Let the Holy Spirit loose to serve here, but also to join with others in any way that you can so the lion, the wolf and the lamb can live peacefully together.

Closing prayer:

            Dear God Almighty,

You created a world filled with good,

And evil found its way in.

You commanded each of us

To take care of this world and each other

Yet evil continues to exist around us.

Breathe into these dry bones

New life, new energy to do your work.

May the Holy Spirit fill up your children.

May your children see dry bones come alive.

In the name of you the Father,

the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

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Turning swords into plowshares

Sermon given on Sunday, June 3, 2018 and loosely connected to the Church of Resurrection’s stained glass window.

Leaving college and my farm life, I moved to Lexington, MO, and stepped into a new community that seemed so far away from my roots.  One facet of that new community was its historical connection to the Civil War and that of the military academy.  Through the years, I also learned that during World War II a prison camp for Germans had once been located in the area.

Now these historical pieces never really made me uncomfortable and I did teach at the academy for nine years, but I honestly never considered any connection between those pieces to my theology of loving one another.

In my mind, these facts were just glimpses into the history of the area, and working at the military academy was a teaching job about which I was passionate.  Teaching in that environment hinged on establishing relationships with students who were not living with their families.

But there is another connection between the images of war and theology that has become a focal point for me this week.  I literally was surprised to discover image #32 in the stained glass window and equally surprised at the mental picture that immediately jumped into my mind.

In Lexington, one of my church family always wore a lapel pin that fascinated me.  She had a miniature sword that was turned into a plowshare.  I was so intrigued that I asked her about it, and she explained the significance.  She was a respected science teacher in our community who always emitted a special sense of peace.

Nowhere else in my memory have I come across that image nor had anyone really develop a discussion around that concept.  As I studied the list of images in the stained glass window, I discovered that #32 was of a young person holding a sword that had been hammered into a plowshare just like the image of Pat’s lapel pin.

The paperwork for the puzzle provides this explanation:

 

Two times in the Old Testament we catch a glimpse of a restored paradise, where enmity and warfare have ceased and an abiding peace has come to stay.  In this vision, instruments once used for destroying one another will no longer be necessary, and instead will be converted into peaceful, useful, and productive tools for the sake of creation.  This image corresponds to, and signals the end of what began with the killing of Abel by his brother Cain in the first section of the window.

 

The two Old Testament references are Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3:

 

Isaiah 2:4–The Lord will mediate between nations
and will settle international disputes.
They will hammer their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will no longer fight against nation,
nor train for war anymore.

 

Micah 4:3–The Lord will mediate between peoples
and will settle disputes between strong nations far away.
They will hammer their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will no longer fight against nation,
nor train for war anymore.

 

Resuming the reflection:

 

Why would the image of a sword turned into a plowshare be included with the images of The Church?  The scripture connection is from the Old Testament, before The Church became established.  Historically, the ancient cultures fought wars to gain more land.  Battles were horrific, hand-to-hand conflict.  The outcome ended with death, dismemberment, and slavery.  The weapons included swords, spears, clubs, maces that were hand held and brought the warriors face to face—angry and fearful.

God never intended for humans to treat each other like this.  He designed a world that was to meet all the needs without conflict.  His human creation was to care for the world and all its creatures.  His human creation was to live in peace and in relationship with each other and with him. War was not part of his creation.

The Church is the tool that Jesus’ disciples created to establish relationships with one another and to care for this world through the one simple rule:  Love one another.  The Church continues to work establishing relationships that heal, protect, provide for all God created.  Swords destroy.  Plowshares cultivate.

Consider the context of the two verses from Isaiah and Micah.  The Jewish people populating the region along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea had split into two separate countries Israel and Judah.  The geographical area continues to be riddled with battling cultures. This warring attitude is far from what God teaches through his son Jesus Christ.  The swords today are so much more destructive and The Church struggles to develop peace.

One of the key words in these verses is “mediate” or “judge” as used in other translations.  God is the only one who can mediate or judge between peoples, as the scripture state.  The prophets wanted the faithful to understand that only God has that final power, humans do not.  The Church cannot judge, either, instead it is to spread the word that we are to care/love one another as we want to be loved.

Two different prophets, who were basically contemporaries, wrote these verses.  Interestingly, Micah’s role as prophet is identified as 742-687 BC while Isaiah’s prophecy began in 740 BC.  The two prophets even lived in nearly the same area as Isaiah was in Jerusalem while Micah was from Gath about 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem.

Surely the two prophets’ messages were heard by many of the same people.  But as we all know, we can hear the same message from two different people or in two different settings and not recognize that the messages are the same. Through the millions of years and the hundreds of translations the message from these two prophets are still as important as they were in the 8th& 7thcenturies before Christ’s lifetime.

The Church has continued to share the same message:

  • The Lord will mediates between peoples—not humans
  • Hammer swords into plowshares—get rid of weapons, turn to tools for feeding the people
  • Do not fight between nations—end war, do not even train for war

 

The Church preserved this message as it canonized the writings from the prophets into the Bible. The Church has turned the words of scripture into actions encouraging each of the faithful to do exactly what the prophets asked.  The Church has worked to develop the very peace-loving, nurturing practices that God asked Adam and Eve to do when he created this world:

Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.  They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.  . . . Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply.  Fill the earth and govern it. . . .”  [Genesis 1:26, 27]

 

Certainly God’s original plan was changed, and is noted in the stained glass window by the battle of the brothers Cain and Abel. Ever since creation, the battle between good and evil continues.

How, then, do we keep up our personal responsibility as Christians?  We are The Church regardless of denomination, congregation or community, what matters is whether you do all that you can do to carry out the message God has sent to us in so many different ways.  What matters is that you work peacefully to love one another just like you want to be loved.

The image of turning swords into plowshares is a concrete message to each of us.  The scripture introduced the mental picture, but the window shows us a visual picture.

Isaiah’s prophecy, written hundreds of years before Christ, includes the prediction that God was sending a messiah to teach the methods needed to shift from warring cultures to loving cultures.  And the work continues, must continue.

Creating the United Nations may be one global effort to turn swords into plowshares, too.  There is an interesting irony of how the prophets’ words have been artistically translated.  On the bulletin’s cover is the statue of a blacksmith beating a sword into a plowshare. That statue is at the United Nations headquarters in New York City; but the irony cannot be ignored.

The artist Evgeny Vuchitech was Soviet and the statue was a gift from the USSR (Russia) presented on December 4, 1959. The explanation provided by Vanderbilt Divinity Library’s website under the article “Art in the Christian Tradition” explains the bronze statue:

The sculpture, depicting the figure of a man holding a hammer aloft in one hand and a sword in the other, which he is making into a ploughshare, is meant to symbolize man’s desire to put an end to war, and to convert the means of destruction into creative tools for the benefit of mankind.

 

The irony of the statue does not end, either.  While searching for more information on the artist, one learns that a step-granddaughter is an Israel politician Ksenia Svetlova.

Add to this the timeframe that the statue was donated to the UN.  The Secretary General of the UN was Dag Hammarskjold of Sweden.  He was known for his work to develop peace, to mediate between warring peoples.  His notable quotes reflect the message behind the prophets’ words and the artists’ statue:

Our work for peace must begin within the private world of each of us. To build for man a world without fear, we must be without fear. To build a world of justice, we must be just.

 

The Church is global.  The Church is tasked to make every effort it can to return this world to God’s original plan:  a peaceful world where all is provided to meet our needs and we are the stewards of this world.  Hammarskjold also said,

We’ve got to learn hard things in our lifetime, but it’s love that gives you the strength. It’s being nice to people and having a lot of fun and laughing harder than anything, hopefully every single day of your life.

 

You are The Church, right here in this community working with this Church family.  Yes, it can be difficult, but life in God’s eyes is one that is peaceful, love-filled. You are not to judge, you are to love. Through love, unconditional love, you can do all that you can to create a peaceful world—at least in your corner of the world.

Closing prayer:

Dear God of all people,

As we listen to the words of ancient prophets,

Open our hearts to their peaceful message.

As we stop for these moments to think about The Church

Open our minds to all the possibilities God offers.

As we work together to serve all in our communities,

Open our doors to make plowshares, not swords.

 

Move us forward to share the messages of the prophets

To demonstrates Jesus’ love-filled actions.

Move us forward through these times of transition

To keep Jesus’ work alive in our community.

Move us forward to discover new, exciting ways

To hammer out swords of differences into plowshares.

 

Thank you for the guiding words of scripture.

Thank you for the unexpected messages of peace.

Thank you for the unconditional love you provide.

 

We can do all that we can through the your gifts.

We can do all that we can because Jesus teaches us.

We can do all that we can through the Holy Spirit.

Amen, Lord, amen.

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PEACE: Christmas Presents That Won’t Break

Sermon given on Sunday, Christmas Eve 2017, based on the Advent study by James W. Moore and Jacob Armstrong, Christmas Presents That Won’t Break.  Even though Advent comes to a conclusion with Christmas Day, the study will be followed for the next week or two.  Many thanks to Moore and Armstrong for publishing this study so others may find the gifts that won’t break:  Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.

Scripture: Luke 2:1-6 (NRSV)

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.

 

Luke 2:8-11 (NRSV)

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

 

Luke 2:8-11 (NRSV)

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

 

PEACE: The Christmas Present That Won’t Break

 

Life at this time of year sometimes feels like total chaos. There has been all the shopping, the baking, the extra events on the calendar and all this is on top of our typical daily life routines. No wonder everybody becomes exhausted. The idea of peace seems impossible.

Yet, peace is possible. And today, Christmas Eve, in the midst of all the seasonal chaos, peace is possible and it is a gift that won’t break.

Chaos is a permanent state around us and that is no different throughout human history.—even since creation, as John 1 reminds us:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5, NRSV)

 

At no time in our lives are we immune to chaos. The key to peace is knowing that God is with us, or as one of our members has said repeatedly this year, “God’s got this.” And that testimony has carried her through the chaos of a medical crisis.

God is with us. Since the beginning, God has existed and continues to be a very real presence within our lives. Have we opened this gift? Today is the perfect time to open this last gift, God’s gift of peace.

[Light the Peace candle.]

Peace is difficult to define especially when our world is in such chaos, but I always have hope that we can reach the ultimate goal of peace. The key is finding peace with God first, then finding peace with one’s self, and that makes finding peace with others possible.

This morning we awoke to find the magic of a white Christmas.   The snow really completes the mental image of Christmas for us in the Midwest. Seldom, though, does a white Christmas become real. I hope that as you stepped out into the natural world you heard the peace.

As I tried to figure out a way to explain what the gift of peace was to the kids, I could only come up with one idea—the way the world is when snow falls. There is nothing like it. When snow falls, there is a pureness that one experiences.

  • The visual shows a world with no flaws as the snow covers the dulled yards, turns leafless trees and bushes into white, sparkling gardens if even for a few moments.
  • Snow even has a unique smell, almost absent of odors but also refreshing. We notice that when we go into the stores and see candles and scents with snow as the descriptors. One might think that snow should smell like rain, but it has its own unique scent.
  • And who admits that snow does have a taste. As kids, I am sure we have all ran out into the snow, stuck out our tongue and tasted it. Why snow even serves as the base ingredient for an old fashioned treat—snow ice cream (even though we always add extra taste elements to it).
  • Touching snow may begin with the taste on the tongue, but snow brings out the kids in all of us as we run and play, scoop it up to make snowmen, or fall into it to make snow angels. Even the gentle feel of the snow on our face seems to calm our very anxious souls.
  • Finally, the sound of snow is the key to knowing what peace is. Step into a world where snow has coated the ground, especially as the day begins. The sound of snow is peace. It quiets us, it soothes us, it wraps us up like a warm blanket on the coldest of days.

This mornings gentle snow fall can serve as a real example of what peace with God is like.   (I know, the cynics might try to twist the magic of the white Christmas into the negatives, but I choose to focus on the snow as an example of God’s gift of peace.)

James Moore uses the story of the angels being taught to sing the one hymn to announce Jesus’ birth to the shepherds as a one-time public event. The angels were told that this was the only time that they would sing this one song as a performance. That may seem like a silly story, but thing about how the Christmas carols delight us as we look forward to Christmas.

The story concludes with God explaining to the angels that once they perform this majestic hymn, their job was done. Moore writes God’s response: “Because,” God said, “my son has been born, and now earth must do the singing!”

The Christmas story is told and retold every year in hope that all people can find peace with God. Moore adds:

The Good news of Christmas is so awesome, so full of wonder, that it’s not enough just to talk about it. We have to burst forth in song, we have to sing it. (Moore and Armstrong 2017, 85)

The gift of peace begins with knowing God and accepting the gift of his son Jesus Christ as our savior. With that we can also find peace within ourselves even if chaos swirls around us like the tornadoes we know so well.

Accepting God’s gift of Jesus in our life makes it possible for us to find a sense of calm in our lives. Consider all those around you and that you have heard throughout history who demonstrate calm despite the chaos that surrounds them. I can list a few of the most historical examples : Mother Teresa, now Saint Teresa, Martin Luther King, and Gandhi.

Placing God first and then turning one’s life over to him creates peace within one’s own life. Moore states, “The only way we can be right with ourselves is to be made right by him [God].” (Moore and Armstrong 2017, 89)

Finally, the gift of peace expands into peace with others. By accepting God’s gift of Christ, we turn over the chaos to him. Remember our own example this year as we heard the personal testimony in the battle with cancer, “God’s got this.”

Because God has accepted our chaos, we can find peace with ourselves, and that makes it possible for us to find peace with others. Moore explains the tradition of the mistletoe to demonstrate how important it is that we find peace with others, too.

The ancient tradition of northern European Druids is far different than what we may expect. Moore explains:

They believed mistletoe had curative powers and could heal lots of things including separation between people. So when two enemies happened to meet under an oak tree with mistletoe hanging above them, they took it as a sign from God that they should drop their weapons and be reconciled. They would set aside their animosities and embrace one another under the mistletoe.

When Christian missionaries moved into northern Europe, they saw this mistletoe custom as a perfect symbol for what happened at Christmas—that Jesus Christ came into the world to save us, to redeem us, and to bring us peace, healing, forgiveness, love, and reconciliation. (Moore and Armstrong 2017, 90)

Today we can just imagine what it was like to live in the cold, frigid regions of northern Europe. The environment might be comparable to our lives without God, without peace. The mistletoe of God in our lives gives us the power to find peace with others, too.

Give the gift of peace this year. Follow Moore’s advice:

If you want to have a “peace-full” Christmas, go in the spirit of love and fix the broken relationships in your life. If you are alientated or estranged or cut off or at odds with any other person, go in the spirit of Christmas and make peace. Don’t put it off any longer. Drop your pride,your resentment, your grudges, and go set it right. With the help of God, go make peace today. Christmas offers us the gift of peace with others, but it’s up to us to accept that gift. (Moore and Armstrong 2017, 90)

Christmas is the annual reminder that God loves us and gives us the greatest gift of all: Jesus Christ. Accepting that opens us to a world that is peace-filled.

Merry Christmas to each of you. I pray that you have received the gifts that won’t break: hope, love, joy and peace.

Closing prayer: (in unison)

Dear God, thank you for the gift of peace.

Help us put peace into practice

            in our lives and show others

            the path to true peace.

Remind us to serve as peacemakers

            and to share the love of God

            with those in need. Amen.

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The Wonder of a Promise

The advent series this year is based on Ed Robb’s and Rob Renfroe’s publication The Wonder of Christmas available through Abingdon Press.  Many thanks are owed them for making this available.  The opportunity to share their work is a delight.

The Wonder of a Promise given on Sunday, December 18, 2016:  Week 4 of Advent series

Sharing the Christmas Story: Matthew 1:18-23 (NLT)

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement[a] quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus,[b] for he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,[c]
which means ‘God is with us.’”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

Reflecting on The Wonder of a Promise by Rob Renfroe

The very sight of a Christmas gift all wrapped up in pretty paper and wrapped in ribbons and bows triggers our curiosity. What is hidden in the box? The mere box suggests a promise of something very special just for you.

Wrapped gifts surround us in the stores, on the cards in the mail, and under the Christmas trees, and all suggest a promise. They also represents a relationship from one person to another, one family to another, one friend to another friend, and even one co-worker to another. The practice of giving gifts reflects the value we place on maintaining relationships with one another.

God wanted a relationship with us so much that he decided to join us in the package of the baby Jesus, born under the light of a star, announced by the angels, and named Immanuel. But, he was not wrapped up as anything special, rather he was wrapped up in swaddling cloth and laid to rest in a manger. What a wonder that God would go to such an effort to be with us, to do all that he could to establish a relationship with us.

Our very creator desires an intimate relationship with us. For generations God worked through the faithful in an effort to deepen the relationship; but then decided to be with us. Rather than waiting any longer, God joined us as the gift of the baby Jesus to demonstrate how to be in an intimate relationship not only with God but also with each other. What a wonder that God’s gift continues to be unwrapped generation after generation, by one people after another.

Have you unwrapped God’s gift to you?

Have you shared God’s gift with others?

The wonder of Christmas is that sharing gifts with one another is one more opportunity to affirm relationships we have with one another. Yet, God asks us to live our lives in such a loving manner that our relationships with each other reflects the behaviors demonstrated by Jesus Christ.

The wonder of Christmas is that God’s love is infinite and available to all people. For those who accept God’s gift, unwrap it, and use it, the transformation is truly wonderful. The gift of a relationship with God evolves into the one true gift that keeps on giving and gives us a new name—Christian. The wonder of the name Christian transforms our lives.

God’s gift of Jesus Christ wrapped up in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger is the promise that God is always with us. It is a promise that establishes a relationship with God that we demonstrate in all the relationships we experience in our own lives. Accepting God’s gift turns us into a gift too.

Opening up God’s Christmas gift comes with instructions how to give that gift to others. We just have to follow God’s instructions on living in relationships with people rather than live as though we are against each other or above each other or simply living among others. As Christians we are to live with each other just like God did as Jesus.

Stop and consider the importance of that one small word ‘with.’ The Old Testament stories tell us how the ancient faithful understood the relationship of God to man. In the Advent study, The Wonder of Christmas, Rob Renfroe explains:

The Old Testament reveals that God’s people ‘believed in God.’ First and foremost, they believed in God above us. When they sinned, they believed in God against us. And when they thought they were doing everything right, they were able to believe in God for us. But they did not believe in God with us—at least not in the ways we need most. Not with us as a mother or father is with a child. Not with us as a person who understands what it is like to be human—a tiny being in a monstrously large universe. Not with us as one who knows what it’s like to give your best and see it do no good, to give your heart only to be rejected, or to cry at night because those you love are hurting and you can’t take their pain away.

 

Even today we can know those same perceptions. We can understand how the Israelites and even so many today still express those same beliefs that God is above us, against us, and even for us. Yet, God made a promise through the prophet Isaiah:

The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). [NLT]

 

In that promise, there is that small word with. In the wonder of a name, God promises that in the birth of a baby, God is with us not above, not against, and not simply for us. God promises to be with us.

Unwrapping God’s gift at Christmas we must read the instructions in order to make sure that Isaiah’s prophecy is a reality. We find the instructions in the scripture, especially in the New Testament that records Jesus’ ministry, the teachings, and the modeling of God being with us. The instructions are quite simple: Love one another, as you want to be loved.

First to live in a Christian relationship with God, we must understand the people with whom we live—not only just our own families but in our community.   We cannot be in a positive relationship unless we live with others. We cannot live as though we are above, against or for others. Maybe we do not co-exist in the same circumstances, but as Christians we have the capacity to with others through empathy.

Secondly, remember that we, too, had to accept God’s gift of Jesus Christ. There are times in our lives that we allow something or someone to separate us from our intimate relationship with God. Once we are separated from God, we slip into the mindset that God is above us or against us. We might be able to say that God is for us; but at those times we are separated from God, it may be difficult to even see that. The wonder of God’s promise is God is with us at all times.

Even as Christians, there are times in our lives that we become separated from God: God does not separate from us, but we make decisions that do separate us from God. Remembering our own human stories gives us the compassion to relate to others who have not accepted God’s gift.

The third set of instructions that comes with God’s gift is that we are to care about others. God knew that living with us as Jesus Christ establishes the intimate relationship that creates a bond of trust. Renfroe states:

When we tell people that God is with them and they can trust their lives to Jesus, we are asking them to trust us. Essentially we are telling them that we can show them how to create a different ending to their story. We are saying and promising, “Trust us with your lives; trust us with your stories. We will take you to the One who loves you. Trust us; we will not disappoint you.”

You don’t earn that kind of trust by telling people how badly they have lived or by acting superior. You earn that kind of trust by caring enough about their stories that you want their hopes and dreams to be redeemed. You earn that kind of trust by demonstrating humility and compassion as Jesus did—who was willing to leave the comforts of heaven and be born in a manger, disappointed by friends, rejected by the masses, and crucified on a cross—so that you can make the lives of others better.

. . . What enables people to trust us is our genuine care for their lives and their stories. And most often, what changes people is love. Most people are not argued into the Kingdom, lectured into the Kingdom, or guilted into the Kingdom. Most people are loved into the Kingdom.

 

The wonder of Christmas is as exciting as all the pretty packages sitting under the tree promising new and wonderful things. As Advent season begins, we experience the hope of God’s promise. Then we get busy in all the preparations and we seek relief from the hustle and bustle of the holiday, and ask for peace in our hearts and in our world. In the third week of Advent, we practice love in all that we do with one another. Each week of Advent we sense the joy of the season as we wait to unwrap God’s ultimate gift—a son to show us how to be in an intimate relationship with one another and ultimately with God forever.

Closing Advent prayer:

Lord Jesus,

Today I stand in awe with a heart full of gratitude at the wonder of your promise to be Immanuel—God with us today, tomorrow, and forever.

You are a God who truly understands our struggles, because you lived in our world and experienced life in the same ways that we do. You have compassion on us, recognizing that we are sheep in need of a tender shepherd.

Help me to have that same compassion for others, reaching out to love them just as you have loved me. With your help, I will seek to “keep” the promise of Christmas—not only this season but all of my days. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

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