Saturday, December 15, 2012

Saturday, Second Week of Advent – December 15

Something ironic about the fact that today, in 1791, the Bill of Rights became law.

So much attention is focused on the 2nd Amendment today after what happened in Connecticut. It’s evident that in the wake of this unspeakable tragedy - all we can do is argue. Gun control THIS! Right to bear arms THAT! Demonize anyone who doesn’t agree with you! YELL LOUDER AND MAKE SURE YOU GET HEARD.

Meanwhile we neglect to mourn with the two dozen families who are going through today with a huge hole in their lives where there shouldn't be one. We're so quick to rally to our causes that we forget their cause. Let me be clear – God does not forget.

God hears the cry of the suffering and the mourning. God enters into pain and suffering in a way that no other can. My God, as a parent, knows what it’s like to lose a Son. My God is well acquainted with grief and sorrow. God’s heart, God’s eye, is focused on Connecticut today. And also on Birmingham. Wherever there is suffering, loss, and pain – my God is there.

This was NOT God’s will. God’s will is life and health and wholeness and peace. This was not God’s will. This was human frailty and free will at its worst.

We can yell and scream about issues another day. Now is not the time for that. Now is the time to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who are afflicted. Now is the time to be with those who are wondering “Where is God” in all of this.

Let’s be clear. God is right here with us. That eternal message of Advent hasn’t changed. Emmanuel. God is with us. Moved into the neighborhood. Taken up residence. With us.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday, First Week of Advent – December 3

I chose today to retreat a bit; to work from home and venture out just to enjoy the 60+ degree weather and the sunshine. It seemed a shame to waste the day inside when we were given the rare gift of an almost 70 degree day in December.

I don’t do that very often, but now and then feel like I need to. It’s partially that I just needed a break. But it was also a way to escape and search for something deep inside of me that I wonder and worry is growing smaller and smaller.

In today’s reading from Jesus Blessed Son, Nouwen talks about living at a place of innocence. There’s a sense that we need to trust God to take care of us, but there’s also something here that means letting go of control and security. Something that makes me think back to yesterday when Jesus talked about worry.

When we think of innocence we think of children because they live in the moment. They are focused on the immediate and they are so “un-self-conscious". They don’t make a decision to go there, they just do because they just are. Innocent.

I can’t just “go there” anymore. Over time things have changed. It takes thought and intention to choose innocence. Jesus said, “Unless you become like little children …” as though he were giving us a choice. I don’t think that’s a one-time decision. It’s a choice we have to make all the time.

Innocence is acknowledging that on my best days, I’m far less in control than I believe I am. And admitting that doesn’t have to mean that my insecurity gets the best of me.

Innocence is understanding that my worry and insecurity are sure signs that I’m trying to do God’s job. And certainly not doing it well.

If I’m not a child as I stand before God each day; I am not as I should be. But innocence lost can be innocence found.

Dearest Lord, help me overcome my insecurities and discover what it is you want for me. Amen.


First Sunday of Advent – December 2

This Advent we (First Saints Community Church) are reading together from an Advent Devotional booklet called Jesus, Beloved Son. It contains scripture, prayers, and excerpts from the writings of Henri Nouwen. nouwen

For those unfamiliar with Nouwen, he was one of the most powerful & beloved spiritual writers of the 20th century. He wrote over 40 books before he died in 1996. They often focused on his experience of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. After teaching at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard, he walked away from teaching to work with mentally challenged people at the L’Arche community in Toronto, Canada and served their for many years as he continued to write.

On the First Sunday of Advent we read Luke 21:34, “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with … the worries of this life."

In worship on this Sunday we talked of peace, recalling the words of Micah 5:5 – and he shall be their peace. I hear echoes of that longing for peace in Jesus’ words. If our hearts are weighed down with worry, we will not be able to find peace.

Nouwen says, “Jesus has to be and to become evermore the center of my life.” In worship Sunday we said that “Jesus is our peace.” Not that he brings peace, but that He is peace. If we want peace, what we need is Jesus. For that to happen, Jesus has to be and to become evermore the center of our lives.

That is the journey of our Advent this season. A journey that I pray will lead us to only one place – to the feet of Jesus.

Lord Jesus, the fire of my life, be my companion, my guide, my all. Amen.