Monday, November 24, 2014

Sunday, November 30th, 2014---Advent: Prepare the Way

This Sunday begins the Advent season!  This is the season of waiting for Christmas, for Christ's birth. 
I must admit, it's not always fun to wait. We seem to want to "jump the gun" to Christmas, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. We should be excited for Christmas to come because of what that day means to us!

In our culture, with all the Christmas decorations, Christmas commercials, and holiday shopping deals rolling around as the calendar turns to November and December, we face the temptation to bypass the necessary and hopeful waiting that Advent brings us. 

We are invited to wait with the hopeful anticipation and nervous excitement of a child. We are reminded that in the waiting, God gives us this hope for Christ's birth. Along with it, we receive the peace, joy, and love of God that eventually satisfies our waiting. 

During this Advent season, we will be exploring how we may prepare the way for Christ as we wait, anticipate, and hope for Christmas. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Inherit the Kingdom---Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

As we have marched through this month of "Tough Love," which has included some of Jesus' words of judgment, I have found it rather difficult to dig out some of the more positive, encouraging, loving words of Jesus. Last week, you heard me say that the parable of the talents is not all about judging the third servant for burying his coins, but a story about how generous God really is.

The Scripture for this week is the passage that follows the parable of the talents, Matthew 25: 31-46. It is titled in my Common English Bible "Judgment of the Nations." Friends, this is another tough passage, but we are all challenged to find out who God really is here.

"Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began."

God, through the love of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, wants to share the kingdom with us. We have the ultimate, life-giving opportunity to inherit the kingdom of God by serving the "least of these," our neighbors. 

We need to remember this as we approach the Advent season.

See you Sunday!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Serve Without Fear---Sunday, November 16th, 2014

God has created us uniquely.

It is by God's design that no one is quite like us. (even my twin and I have major differences!) We live, love, and walk with God, all in different ways. 

And we serve God and neighbor in different ways, too. 

No one has ever lived the life you have lived before, and no one ever will. It is this fact that sometimes makes us fearful for doing the wrong thing, making the wrong decisions, and not loving others "correctly." 

If no one has ever been you before, how do you know if you are being you "correctly?"

A hint comes in the parable of the talents, found in Matthew 25: 14-30. The man who gives each of his servants talents (a unit of money equal to about 15 years of earnings by a day laborer) was very upset with the servant who hid his talent out of fear. 

The other servants went out and doubled what the master gave them and then were entrusted with more. They did this instinctively; they were not told what to do, they were just given the money. 

God does a similar thing in us. God has entrusted us with much (gifts, skills, resources, etc.) and we are to faithfully respond to that trust. We need not, and shall not, live in fear of what God has given us, God trusts us too much.

So live into what God has given you, you don't have to be afraid.

See you Sunday!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Be Prepared!---Sunday November 9th, 2014

I think that God loves it when we expect God to show up. Call it a "holy expectancy" of God's presence, if you will.

Matthew 25: 1-13 struggles with this notion, as it portrays ten young bridesmaids as they take their lamps to go and meet the groom. 5 were "foolish" and forgot oil for the lamp, while the other 5 brought oil, thus they were "wise." The groom was late to arrive, but they were all excited when he showed up, and they prepared their lamps. Because the groom was late, the lamps burned oil, so the 5 "foolish" bridesmaids ran out and asked for the "wise" bridesmaids to share theirs. They would not share because then theirs would run out of oil, too. So they suggest that they go buy their own oil. When they did this, the groom came and the 5 "wise" bridesmaids went with him to the wedding without the "foolish"ones. They came later and the groom would not them in, saying "I don't know you."

Then Jesus closes the parable by saying "keep alert."

So this parable is about preparedness and alertness for God. It is not enough to expect God, although that is a necessary first step. Holy expectancy must meet holy preparedness. The result could be a divine encounter, which is what we all strive for.

I admit that I attempt to make nice and neat equations, formulas, and strategies for even such things as this (a divine encounter). Life does not work out to nice and neat formulas, let alone our spiritual life with God. But this helps me see that merely expecting God to show up is not enough, I must be ready, I must be prepared, I must be alert for God. I think expecting God is a declaration of faith in God, but then what happens when you notice that God has shown up? What happens when you notice God moving in some way?

If we are not prepared, our light may burn out.

God is not present in our lives to simply show up, to make appearances. God is not a celebrity, and we are not God's paparazzi. God is here to change lives, and God shows up in our lives so that we can bring about the kingdom of God in this world, in this life.

See you Sunday!