Monday, December 17, 2012

A Pastoral Letter to Christ Congregational Church

Dear Friends,

As part of Jesus’ birth narrative, Matthew’s Gospel quotes the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more” (Matthew 2:18; Jeremiah 31:15). In our hearing of the Christmas story, we are confronted with Rachel’s refusal. Her lamentation is part of the chorus that proclaims Christ’s birth. Until the events of this past weekend, Rachel’s weeping may have seemed discordant with the joyous songs of angels singing “peace on earth, goodwill to all.” But now, as we face the massacre in Newtown, CT, we have some questions. Where was God? Why didn’t a loving God stop this from happening? Why does God allow evil to abound? Our flowing tears and authentic questions are now part of our welcome of the Christ child.

Matthew’s Gospel story refers to King Herod’s slaughter of Bethlehem’s children, an event that we have come to call the murder of the Holy Innocents, remembered in song by the familiar Coventry Carol:
Herod the King, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day;
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young, to slay.
Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For Thy parting, nor say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Rachel represents the suffering of those who are deprived of their freedom by an oppressive power. Who can give hope to Rachel when innocent children become victims of evil? For anyone to speak cheaply or glibly in the midst of such evil is certainly to utter blasphemy. Rachel refuses the consolation of facile explanations and false reassurance. Rachel refuses to be comforted by empty words. The Gospel writer wants us to remember that there are situations in which only God may speak of hope. In the face of the killings in Newtown, we will hear all kinds of voices trying to explain what happened. Some voices are repugnant, such as the suggestion that God allowed this to happen because God is not allowed in public schools. Other answers sound benign, but to our ears are equally repugnant – that God is short of angels in heaven and needed these children. We don’t have all the answers, but we believe in our hearts that God speaks in the midst of those who grieve and hurt at this moment. If we want to hear the voice of our still speaking God, let us tune our ears to the Divine Spirit whose name refuses to be spoken unless spoken through those who have been silenced, and through the tears of those who weep for their loss.

During this season of hope, love and joy, we also affirm that Jesus knows all about suffering, evil and pain. Jesus tells his followers that they will face violence. But he also tells them that they will not be alone when evil abounds. Jesus does not stand by idly when our hearts are breaking. Jesus is our Emmanuel, God is with us, reminding us that the Divine Child comes to fill our suffering with the presence of loving light.

In times of darkness, we can be tempted to pull back from others and cocoon. But there is another way. Facing evil can lead us to become peacemakers. Peacemakers are people who heal by pulling close and building community, instead of breaking apart. Peacemakers are people who can get in touch with their own pain and disappointment with God and reach out to others who suffer. Peacemakers are those who have suffered with Christ, just like Christ has suffered with us. So, let us find those deep places of compassion, humility, and the desire to root out the weeds of evil.

Please come talk to us if you have any questions or concerns, or if you just need to share in this time of grief.

In faith,
Pastor Matt and Pastor Amy

Two Meditations for Advent 3, December 16, 2012

The Illusions of Darkness
11 AM
Listen Here

In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
    and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.
John 1:1-5

Ok, here is a brain twister for your physicists out there. What is the opposite of light? Were you going to say darkness? Don’t be too quick to answer this one. We now know that particles have anti-particles. Since light is made up of particles called photons, then the opposite of light is anti-photons or anti-light. But wait! It turns out that the anti-particle for the photon is the photon. Which means that the opposite of light is . . . light.

As it turns out, the universe is composed of light. What we call darkness is simply the absence of light. Even in the farthest corners of the universe, light still exists. It may be a small quantity of light, immeasurable by existing technology, but the light is still there. The experience of darkness just means that we cannot see the light.

We are facing some dark times right now, and we have a lot of questions as we think about the power of evil and eruptions of heart-sickening violence. For some of us, the events in the news can bring back memories of some of darkest griefs in our own lives … suffering a great disappointment … the loss of someone you cherished…the breaking off of a relationship … moving far away from family and friends … hearing the awful news of an illness … or perhaps financial distress. What do these dark hours of the soul feel like to you? Did you want to give up all hope? Was there something or someone who pulled you through? Did you try to pray? Were you too hurt to do anything?

The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow experienced a dark hour in his own life. On Christmas Day 1863, Longfellow received the horrible news that his dearly-treasured son had been critically wounded in battle during the Civil War. Longfellow’s wife had died in a tragic accident two years before. Now his faith was tested again by the war. His son returned home and Longfellow tended to his son’s crippling wounds. He saw other wounded soldiers on the streets of his city. He visited with families who lost sons in battle and he asked, “Where is the peace?” Then, picking up pen a paper, he tried to answer his own question by writing a poem:
“I heard the bells on Christmas Day,
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
The last verse is especially moving to me.
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!’”
It seems like we are surrounded by darkness. Or . . . maybe we just can’t see the light yet. It’s not mistake that Christmas comes at the darkest time of year. Jesus is born in the middle of the night of the longest night of the year in the deep darkness of the winter solstice. When the earth is the most desolate, we sing our hope. When the darkest part of the year comes, we think about what it takes to bring about peace. Light shines in the darkness. Or, to put it another way, we finally see the light that we couldn’t see before.



You Are Made to Shine
9 AM


Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:6-9
We don’t always want people to be who they really are. Our culture has a code phrase for this: “Don’t Ask. Don’t tell.” In other words, you must suppress and compromise an essential part of who you are. Chris and I are celebrating our 20th anniversary next week, and I still have not learned a hard lesson.  There are times in life when “Don’t ask. Don’t tell” seems appropriate, but that’s a false conclusion. Still, there are certain questions I avoid, like, "What color is this?" I read about a study that examined the color identification and vocabulary skills of male and female college students. Guess what? I don’t know about any gender bias in the research, but the study found that women identified significantly more elaborate colors than did the men. Apparently there is a difference between blue and periwinkle.

Some relationships have third-rail questions that partners don’t like to be asked:
“Do I look fat in this outfit?” and the related question, “Do you like my new haircut?”
“What are you thinking?”
“Would you remarry after I die?”

These are not questions. They are ambushes.

 “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is a recipe for cowardice and mediocrity. And that’s not what God wants for our community and our personal relationships. It’s not what God wants for you.  The Apostle Paul says puts it this way: whatever is honorable, whatever is pure, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, THINK on these things and DO these things. You were made for so much more than mediocrity.  “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is a denial of the essential YOU. You were made for fullness and blessing. Your life purpose is to be more fully who God made you to be. And God made you to shine. So let Divine Light shine!

Who are you to question the greatness that is the image of God’s light in you? When you are boldly and confidently yourself, you are offering your highest good to the world. And God knows we need more of that right now. In the words of Marianne Williamson,
“Who are you not to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world . . . You are meant to shine, as children do. You were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within you. It’s not just in some; it’s in everyone. And as you let your own light shine, you unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As you are liberated from your own fear, your presence automatically liberates others.” (Marianne Williamson, A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles)
Today, as we think about those whose lights have been snuffed out, the victims of the worst of what our aching world has to offer, we also have an opportunity to think about how each of us is can shine the light of love and compassion – how we can put our core faith values into practice. We have a chance to listen for God, in our times of grief and our moments of gratitude, to seek God’s highest aims for the world, to think about our connections and interconnections. And think about making some commitments.
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to destroy the life or spirit of     others.
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to take what is not given.
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to engage in abusive     relationships.
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to speak falsely or deceptively.
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to harm self or others through     poisonous thoughts or deeds
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to dwell on past errors.
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to speak of self separate from     others.
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to possess any form of life     selfishly.
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to harbor ill-will toward any     human being.
When we can work on these things, we will begin to understand the true power of Christ, love’s pure light, at work in us, around us, and through us this season.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sermon for December 9, 2012, Advent 2

Hope for Things to Come
Listen Here


“There will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” Then he gave them this illustration: “Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that the Kingdom of God is near.  I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear. Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth.  Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:25-36

When I was growing up in the 1970's and 80's, I was sure we were all going to die a slow death from the fallout of a nuclear war. There were two superpowers: the Soviet Union and the United States. Both had nuclear weapons. Each nation held back from launching a nuclear holocaust because of the certain knowledge that the other superpower would launch its warheads . . . but we feared that such restraint could not last forever. By mistake or intention, a foreign government would launch its weapons, we launch ours, and the world would end -- fire, followed by ice, with famine and unspeakable global destruction. As children, my friends and I asked ourselves whether it would be better to try to survive a nuclear blast, or just be at ground zero during the attack. We decided it would be better to be near the blast, so we wouldn’t live to see the aftermath. Maybe I worried too much, but that anxiety provided the backdrop to much of my childhood and adolescence.

I have put aside the fear of nuclear war, for the moment, but I am no less am concerned for the future of humanity and the world in which we live. Now my fears center on global warming and the growing possibility that we are making our planet uninhabitable. The World Bank just took the unprecedented step of making a comment about climate change. The World Bank said that unless serious action is taken, warming of 4 degrees Celsius or more is unavoidable and the consequences will be dire. We are facing a crisis as human beings, a crisis borne of the over-population of our planet and human beings’ insatiable desire for more.

Worries do not have to be on a global scale, though. The toughest distractions are the personal ones. For instance, sometimes I become so focused on my work, I tend to lose sight of my place in the big picture. I can spend hours before the computer, and then rush to get ready for meetings and then rush to them, that I forget what it is that I am proclaiming. I can miss my family’s joys, and my moments of personal happiness and what it is that God is actually doing all around me.

The world is filled with problems. There will always be something that challenges our faith. Jesus warns us that things like warfare, floods, famine and our crumbling creation are always a prospect. And he reminds us that personal worries can be more distracting than global threats. Personal problems are perilous because they are subtle and sneaky. We can feel trapped, feeling sorry for ourselves, tempted to work harder to fix it, focusing on one part of life so much that we miss the bigger picture.

What about you? Do you ever feel lost in today -- lost in the concerns that this moment brings? Has your life been taken over by one worry or another so that you can’t appreciate the wonderful things happening around you?

In today’s reading, we get a sense of how Jesus calls his faith community to respond to calamity. I hear three responses: Stand, Watch, and Pray.

First, Stand. In the face of catastrophe, Jesus says, “Stand and look up, for your salvation is near.” The Greek implies that in the face of hard times, the disciple should lift and straighten one’s self up. Don’t shrink back in fear. Jesus is so stoically matter-of-fact in today’s text one has to wonder if he’s being driven by faith or fatalism. Some commentators wonder the same thing. They tell us that when the end of days comes, when we stand up and lift up our arms, Jesus will grab us and pull us right up and out of that mess. But wait . . . that’s not what Jesus really said, is it? Swoop in and take you out of it.” Jesus actually says, “Stand up and lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near!” It’s not about fatalism. It’s not about Jesus plucking us out of danger. It’s about us having hope, strength and perseverance in the face of the worst that life has to offer. Straighten up. Lift yourself. Make a level path and go to the intersection where life’s pain and God’s mercy meet. We can live our lives puzzled by anxiety and weighed down by a crushing load of pain. But that is not the life that God wants for you. It is not purpose for which Jesus came and is coming again. That is not redemption.

The promise of Christ is that the future is not going to be like the present. On that day, evil will perish and that a new heaven and a new earth will come upon us – a heaven and earth of everlasting peace and justice, joy and love. So stand up and prepare to accept the dawning of a new and wonderful reality.

Jesus also tells his followers to Watch. The Greek means to be alert, even to the point of sleeplessness. Think of the prayer vigil we had here last month for Question 6 where we stayed awake, and prayed, and watched for the presence of the Spirit. Jesus tells us about the signs of his coming so that we might watch for it. We are great at noticing what we want and ignoring what we don't. There are things happening right now that we aren't noticing but will someday demand our total attention and immediate response.  Our children or grandchildren are growing up while we are preoccupied with adult responsibilities and anxieties. Soon they will stand nearly grown before us, and we'll wonder where the time went. We might ignore physical symptoms in our bodies that will one day, will demand our attention.  A relationship may be fading due to lack of attention. One day we may face its loss with surprise, because we didn't see it coming. Climate change, economic crises, the rise of religious intolerance — things are happening, and it shouldn't just be the professional futurists who are taking note. There will come a time, if there hasn't already, when these developments demand our immediate and full attention. On the positive side, there are relationships that beckon us and opportunities that are open to us that we may not be noticing.

Third, Pray. Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view. Prayer is about joining God’s aims for the world when tragedy destroys our cities and our families are scattered or destroyed. Prayer is about keeping alert for signs of God’s loving presence when we get bad news and don’t know how we will go on. We pray even when we don’t always see God’s face or feel God’s presence. Jesus encourages followers to be at prayer so that we can live productive lives.  He says that prayer produces in us something like sprouting leaves and branches laden with figs, as good fig trees should do at the end of summer. A withered life, a prayer-less life, can be filled with destructive vices. A prayer-less life can shrink away in fear and get caught up in paralyzing anxiety. Life is short. Seasons are short. So do things that make a difference. Stand. Watch. Pray and see that happens when shriveled hopes bloom.

There is an old Advent hymn entitled, “Wake Awake.” It was written by Philip Nicoli in the year 1598. Nicoli was a Lutheran pastor in Germany. In six months, 1300 of his church members died. 1300 members! It was the time of the Bubonic Plague across Germany. Can you imagine if CCC had 170 funerals this month? Or thirty funerals this afternoon? To help himself live with the tragedy around him, Pastor Nicoli wrote meditations. Refelcting on this time in his life, he wrote, “There seemed to me nothing more sweet, delightful and agreeable than the contemplation of the noble, sublime doctrine of eternal life, obtained through Jesus Christ. In my heart, I dwelled on this day and night and searched the Scriptures as to what eternal life meant. Then, day by day, I wrote out my meditations. I found myself wonderfully well comforted in heart, joyful in spirit, and truly content.” 1300 funerals. 1300 deaths. 1300 moments of mourning. In the epicenter of suffering, at one of the worst moments in history, Pastor Nicoli composed a hymn based on his thoughts about everlasting life. He wrote, “Wake, awake, for night is flying, the watchmen on the heights are crying, Awake Jerusalem at last.” 

Welcome to Advent 2012. In the face of the worst life has to offer, “Wake, Awake!” We put our hope in God’s Reign of love and compassion. When life has us feeling trapped and unaware, we remember that Christ comes to make all things new;
barriers can be broken,
communities can be formed,
opposites can be reconciled,
unity can be established,
disease can be cured,
addiction can be broken,
towns can be renewed,
cultures can be reconciled,
hope can be established,
and people can be blessed.

Stand. Watch. Pray. God is up to something.
discouraged folks, cheer up,
dishonest folks, ‘fess up,
sour folks, sweeten up,
closed folks, open up,
conflicted folks, make up,
sleeping folks, wake up,
lukewarm folks, fire up,
dry bones, shake up,
and pew potatoes stand up!

Life is short. Time is short. So Wake up! Be alert! Don’t you fall asleep on me! There are so many awful events surrounding us. And so many miracles all around us! Stand up! Wake up! Eyes. Ears. Minds. Hearts. Watch! See the world around you! Pray! Know the blessings of God surrounding your life!

Sources:
http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=2298&C=2258
http://revplockhart.blogspot.com/2012/11/advent-and-eschatology.html
http://greeknewtestament.com/B42C021.htm#V25
http://www.sermonsfromseattle.com/series_b_wake_up.htm

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sermon for December 2, 2012 / Advent 1

Advent is Like a Prison Cell
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:3-11
Sounds upbeat from a man in prison, doesn’t it? Conditions in ancient prisons were harsh. Prisoners were often chained to a post or perhaps to a guard. Poor ventilation and cramped, rat-infested quarters only added to the misery. And then there was the waiting – waiting for one’s case to come to trial, waiting for possible release, maybe waiting for death. In one Roman cell waits a messenger and theologian named Paul. His crime, preaching the destabilizing Gospel of Christ. While he waits, he writes a letter to his friends at the church in the city of Philippi. The letter gushes with love and gratitude. Paul says, “In all circumstances, in good or in bad, we learn to give thanks and live in peace. This prison is a gift. Since I have been in chains, Christ has given not only the gift of faith but also the gift of learning about suffering.” Paul knows that everyone is going to suffer, even God. If God can’t escape suffering in Christ, then no one is exempt. And so, we connect in our pain, just as we stay united in our joy. Instead of being self-absorbed or self-seeking, Paul encourages the church to be joyful, to be humble and to serve the needs of others.

Kind of reminds me of another prisoner of the Gospel. Just two days after Adolf Hitler had seized control of Germany in early 1933, a German minister named Dietrich Bonhoeffer delivered a radio sermon in which he warned Germans that “the Führer concept” was dangerous and wrong. Thus began a twelve-year struggle against Nazism, with Bonhoeffer ultimately getting arrested in 1943. For Bonhoeffer, waiting was a fact of life during the war: waiting to be released from prison; waiting to be able to spend more than an hour a month in the company of his young fiancée; waiting for the end of the war. There was little he could do except pray and wield a powerful pen.  All of this waiting left Bonhoeffer with a sense of helplessness. In December, 1943, Bonhoeffer wrote these words from his cell: “Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent. One waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other – things that are really of no consequence – the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.” But the prison door never opened for Bonhoeffer. As the Third Reich crumbled in April 1945, papers were discovered confirming Bonhoeffer’s involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler. Bonhoeffer was hanged on April 8, 1945, just ten days before German forces began to surrender and less than three weeks before Hitler’s own death. Bonhoeffer was thirty-nine years old. Was Bonhoeffer’s waiting in vain?

Waiting is built into the natural order. We wait for seeds sown to grow and bear fruit. We wait nine months for the baby to be born. We wait for children to grow up and take responsibility for their own lives. We wait for promotions and new opportunities. We wait for investments to mature. We wait for healing after surgery. We wait for transitions to retirement communities, assisted living and nursing care. Waiting can be full of anticipation or it can be full of dread. If we believe, like Bonhoeffer, that God is in charge of history and comes to earth to fix up our lives, then we might wait with hopefulness and helplessness. If we are waiting on God to free us from life’s confinements, then what can WE do except hope, pray, and wait. Because in this scenario, deliverance – salvation – must come from an outside rescuing force. And something about this troubles me.

Here’s what bothers me -- most all of us, at one time or another, turn to God as a sort of divine, benevolent superhero in flowing white robes. The Brave-Redeemer breaks down prison doors and bends human will like an iron bar in the hands of Superman.  In the words of John Donne’s 14th Sonnet:
Batter my heart, three-personed God; for You
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow burn, and make me new . . .
People pray and plead that SuperGod will make up for our human weakness by using heavenly super-strength to make us better. Like prisoners waiting for release, we were taught to put our hope in the One who will intervene in our human experience and save us. I think this theology is a serious misunderstanding of how we are to live with our God. God is not a caped superhero who flies to our rescue. The God whom we see demonstrated in Christ came not as a triumphant dictator or a magical hero, but a humble servant. God in Christ reaches out to us, patiently and gently calls us to produce a harvest of righteousness. Do you remember that line from the end of the passage we read in Philippians? The phrase can literally mean the fruit of justice. It comes from a legal term referring to a judicial verdict of approval. Paul thinks that God, as judge, gives approval to certain behaviors we see in Jesus – actions like honesty, truth, generosity, kindness, meekness, goodness.

In my view, Christians have a mixed history in producing the fruit of justice. Let me give you an example of what I mean. World AIDS day was yesterday. World AIDS Day began in 1988.  In the 20 or so years that have followed, more than 25 million people have died from AIDS. 33.4 million currently live with HIV/AIDS – nearly 95% of whom live in the developing world. Grim statistics. They cause me to ask, “Where do we see God in this?” HIV is a preventable and so, theoretically, there should be fewer new infections. With over 23 drugs to treat HIV, the number of deaths should be decreasing dramatically. Although the number of new infections has decreased and people with HIV infection live longer, more productive lives, there has not been a sea change in the epidemic. One reason is that getting drugs to HIV infected people in resource-poor countries is not easy. Many governments, where needs are greater and more urgent, are slow to respond to the needs of their people. I would argue that another reason why there has not been a huge change is that the Church has not gotten involved. As the HIV epidemic took off in the US and in resource-poor communities, the Christian church in The United States, with few exceptions, chose to stand on the sidelines. Issues of sexuality and blame took precedence over compassion and mission. The teachings of Jesus were largely ignored. Jesus, and his forerunner John the Baptist, whom we heard about in our first reading, preached Good News to the poor and announced freedom to those who were wounded by human indignity and oppression. Christians have a special responsibility to produce a harvest of righteousness – the fruit of justice – to act with integrity and virtue and to speak prophetically in the name of a just, righteous and compassionate God. So, where was the Church in the face of AIDS? Silent. Instead of taking the opportunity to reflect on our identity and mission, the overwhelming religious response to AIDS was fear and callousness. What were we waiting for? What ARE we waiting for? SuperGod to fly in and fix it? To judge? To restore? To mend? To bust open the prison doors? Are we waiting in hopefulness and helplessness?

It’s not just about AIDS. The world is filled with so many problems, both global and personal. There will always be something that challenges our faith. There will always be moments where life feels like a prison cell and we are just waiting for help. But in all the waiting, I don’t want us to miss a chance to know God. I don’t want us to miss seeing what God is doing. I don’t want us to miss out on participating in what God is doing. I don’t want us to be so distracted with hoping and waiting and doing this, that, and the other, that we fail to recognize the presence of Christ.

Church, what are we waiting for? Are we waiting for God to do something new without calling ourselves to fully immerse ourselves in the pain around us? Are we waiting for God to keep an Advent promise without keeping ours?

Faith, hope, love, peace, confidence, friendship, memories, courage; everything depends on sustaining these graces, in our own lives and especially in the lives of our brothers and sisters who suffer. So, no, I’m not waiting on God. If anything, maybe God is waiting for us.  Maybe God is waiting for us to intervene. Maybe God is waiting for us to open doors. Maybe God is waiting for us to offer a healing touch with words of tenderness, love, and forgiveness. Maybe God is waiting for us to declare the way of God in the desserts of life. Maybe God calls us to produce the fruit of justice --  the tender empathy that motivates us to action.

I leave us with some words that were written on a square on the emotionally gripping AIDS quilt – perhaps a reminder of the fruit of justice we can produce . . .
[AIDS] cannot cripple love
It cannot shatter hope
It cannot corrode faith
It cannot eat away peace
It cannot destroy confidence
It cannot kill friendship
It cannot shout out memories
It cannot silence courage
It cannot reduce eternal life
It cannot quench the spirit
It cannot invade the soul or the love we have for you
Our confinements cannot suppress love – not just the love we receive but the love we share. Let’s not miss out on being part of God’s bigger plan – that your love may overflow with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Sources:
http://aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/global-statistics/
http://www.ameliachapel.com/docs/past_sermons/2010-11-28.pdf
http://akma.disseminary.org/images/FleshBones.pdf
http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20051128JJ.shtml
http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1929
http://www.liguorian.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=152:pauls-epistle-to-the-phillipians-letter-froma-roman-jail&catid=23:scripture&Itemid=30
http://biblesuite.com/greek/1343.htm



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