Sunday, December 14, 2014

Joy Fills

Isaiah 6:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

         After the first few days beginning the exploration of joy, we read scriptures that revealed the anticipation of the coming of the Lord truly cut both ways. Anticipation can possess both worry and relief. Those with worry recognized the coming as due date for a debt they could not pay. Those who anticipated with a sense of relief knew the coming of the Lord would free them from the injustice of the leadership. With his arrival, the covenant they had with God from Abraham and Moses would again rule and the land would again be just. In         Isaiah we get the promise of a new covenant that will be for eternity - because it relies on God, not human reliability.

         For that reason we turn away from our focus of mourning for and looking to the past. On this Sunday, in particular, we look to the future with great excitement because of the promise of the new covenant. We do not carry the anxiety of judgment, we look forward to the chance to spend eternity in a world that is guided by justice. After a lifetime of botched justice as we try to understand and live a God character, experiencing pure justice gets me excited.

         The lesson of turning away from a past that cannot be changed toward a future of promise is a lesson we should take away from the season and use all year long. Living as God would have us live and focusing on the future that comes with it gives us many reasons to celebrate. How different would our worship and daily lives be if we lived in perpetual joy instead of mournful reflection?

         The most exciting part of the joy described in Isaiah is its composition. It is not a head joy. It is not a heart joy. It is a joy that overtakes the entire body. The image of a garden in the spring sending forth its shoots helps us see the totality of its nature. We should be vehicles of joy. Little else does to us what joy can. Fear paralyzes. Grief consumes. Love confuses. But joy - joy fills!

Joyful, joyful we adore thee! Let's mean it when we sing it.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Advent: December 11

Psalm 126
Habakkuk 2:1-5
Philippians 3:7-11

         The tone changes as we begin the week pondering the joy we expect at Christ’s return. Also common across the passages this week, though, is a sense of dread for some at the accompanying calamity that is sure to come for them.

         In Habakkuk, a watchman stands guard at his station, anxiously awaiting the coming one, actively anticipating the coming one. If there were any action he could take to make it happen sooner, he would do it.

         Why is the experience so different for the watchman and the others, the ones never satisfied? It is all about the relationship to the one coming. It is all about the relationship. The watchman waits for one dear to him. The others wait for someone with the hopes of what they may get from him.

         How are we waiting? With exuberant anticipation? With resigned disappointment? The way we wait may determine the Lord we encounter.

Advent: December 10

Psalm 27
Malachi 2:10-3:1
Luke 1:5-17

         Why then are we faithless to one another?

         Malachi goes there, finally, on the last day of the week examining peace. The bulk of Bible text serves two purposes: 1) telling us how to get along with one another and 2) telling us how to get along with God – which usually involves us getting along with one another.

         God made our differences just as he created us all in his image. The prophet’s plea rings as strong today as ever. Throngs take to the streets against injustice. Revolutions topple abusive, privileged dictators. Around the world violence rages as the people seek peace.

         We, the faithful, have our role in it all, but we also know that after the cleansing purge, peace follows.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Advent: December 9

Psalm 27
Isaiah 4:2-6
Acts 11:1-18

         Isaiah presents one of the various pictures in the Old Testament of the eternally restored Jerusalem, with the people resting in the shadow of God’s presence. There is no need, no distress, only one of the purest depictions of peace found in the Scriptures. But before that peace rules, it goes through a violent, fiery purge erasing all trace of wickedness ever in the land. No memorials remain, no landmarks to remind, only the ever-visible, sheltering presence of the Lord to keep His people at peace.

         Such a pretty picture – eventually.

         But why does God have to park Himself over even these, the best, the ones written in the book of life as the Great Chaperone in the Sky? How weak? How flawed are we that only His unfaltering presence keeps us from harming one another.

         Lord, help us know peace. A better peace. Help us become a better peace.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Advent - December 8

Psalm 27
Isaiah 26:7-15
Acts 2:37-42

         Dictionary definitions indicate that [i]peace is the normal state of affairs for nations and peoples. Headlines, social media, day-to-day live seem filled with disturbance. It may not be war, but it certainly is not peace. The call for justice from Isaiah rings especially true following events of the last few weeks. We too long for your justice to restore order to out land

[i] peace. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. (accessed: December 08, 2014).

Peace Follows

Isaiah 40:1-11
2 Peter 3:8-15
Mark 1:1-8

         This week I have had very little [i]peace (D6) as I sought peace in the scripture passages for the week. Close examination was not getting me there, and neither was any word analysis. I finally figured it out. The passages this week have been leading to peace which is what happens after a restoration to a right relationship with God.

Peace follows.

         We prepare the roads and clear the paths for God’s arrival and then peace follows.

         We level some hills and fill some valleys and then peace follows.

         God does not demand that everything be right and perfect in our lives; no one is capable of meeting that standard. We need to provide the access point and then God follows.

[i] peace. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. (accessed: December 07, 2014)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Advent: December 6

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
Ezekiel 36:24-28
Mark 11:27-33

         The verses in the prophet made me wonder what I was saying when I made statements about being God’s agent in the world to see that God’s kingdom plans were achieved. Sometimes we get caught up in the notion that since we are living, sentient beings and God is, but is not, but… we are the ones who do things. As faithful believers we do have responsibilities; we do have a part in the work. Problems arise when we inflate our role and we find ourselves in the role Israel often found for itself in the prophet stories. Leaders and certain aspects of society were elevated over the rest of the people and to the detriment of the rest of the people.

         God handled the problem.
         God restored the nation.

         Action verbs and God: still together.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Advent: December 5

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Acts 11:19-26

         Jeremiah picks up where Hosea left off. Hosea reminded the people of the power of relationships and that God was calling them into a relationship with him. The opening of Jeremiah recounts his appointment as prophet by the Lord. The scene presents God in one of the most human-like encounters with the familiarity toward the prophet. The knowledge God shares from the earliest moments of Jeremiah’s existence, to the physical contact as He placed His words in His messenger’s mouth, to his assurance of protection; how can that not bring a sense of peace in the midst of turmoil.

         I frequently have to remind my students that their words have power. What they say and how they say it can wound another for years. Today’s passage reminds me that wounding is only part of what words can do. As God explains when he appoints Jeremiah. His words can be used in construction or for destruction. The verse points out both the good and the bad that can come through speech. In the case of the prophet, none of it is bad, it reflects different ways to get things done.

         Each time I read this passage from the prophets something different strikes me about it. Often I connect to God having a plan for Jeremiah from the beginning. This time though, the relationship between God and Jeremiah hit me as remarkably human. I am a bit jealous now, but I know that I have the same thing. If you want to know a definition of peace: that is it!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Advent: December 4

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
Hosea 6:1-6
1 Thessalonians 1:2-10

         Today we begin to prepare for the second Sunday, Peace Sunday. By the nature of their job, often when we look in the prophets, we confront graphic violence and epic destruction. Yet, we still find peace because we come to realize that peace is more than the absence of conflict, it includes the presence of confidence.

         Hosea embraced the confidence that he found in the relationship he had with God. He was able to hold that confidence because he recognized the power of relationship with God. As he and other prophets earlier and later delivered their message from God, the ultimate lesson reminded the people to keep and nurture their relationship with God and He would be happier than any rite could make Him.

         An all too common complaint from people is that there is too much conflict and not enough peace in their lives. The world is just so busy it lends itself to conflict. How easy though would it be to embrace the Person who wants more than anything to be in relationship with us?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent: December 3

Psalm 79
Micah 5:1-5a
Luke 21:34-38

Surfers have their own vocabulary to describe the waves, and though it is unique to them, almost everyone understands it. What they say is not what they are saying. I think Micah would have been a great surfer or at least talked like one. What he said was not always what he was saying, yet it is both descriptive and beautiful.

In verse two, his statement, “from of old, from ancient days” uses Hebrew constructs to give the listener context: from of old = before any of us were around, and from ancient days = before even Abraham. He does not say “from the beginning,” but that is what he is saying.

So much around us is temporal. For a time we celebrated the impermanence of items around us. Something new and better was coming soon. Yet there was something attractive about antiques. Sturdy. Dependable. Beautiful. In a world of turmoil, Micah offers the assurance of the antique God who would be with his people from ancient days until the ends of the earth. Always and forever would have made the point, but I’ll take Micah with what he says and what he’s saying.