Just a couple of weeks ago we were reading about two mothers— Elizabeth who was unexpectedly pregnant with John, and Mary, who was unexpectedly pregnant with Jesus. When Elizabeth saw Mary, John jumped in her womb, and Elizabeth commented on how he knew he was greeting his Lord. And if Mary or Elizabeth had written the Gospels, I’m sure that we would’ve gotten at least a few cute stories of them growing up. But in the Bible infants spring into adulthood. There are no cute kids stories. We go straight from infant to mature, radical adult in just a few verses! Here we are, just a chapter after the birth of Jesus, and John is an adult, out telling people to repent and paving the way for Jesus to begin his ministry. There’s this great big build up in Luke, with John telling everyone he isn’t the Messiah and then describing what it is the Messiah will do. John describes Jesus as the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit; the one who will bring fire; the one who will come with his winnowing fork— the pitch fork that separates the wheat, the part that’s good for eating, from the chaff, the part that isn’t any good. And then John tells us that the wheat will be gathered together but the chaff will be burned with unquenchable fire.Read More
A couple of years ago when we went to visit my sister-in-law in New Zealand, she and my brother-in-law also took vacation and traveled with us. They showed us the sights of the South Island, and I remember saying to her that I couldn’t believe she lived in such a beautiful place. Her response, however, made me laugh. She agreed with me, but then said, “Oh we hardly ever come to the South Island— we only come here when we have people to show around.” And I started thinking about how often that is true. When I think of the restaurants we like to go to, more often than not, we have found them because people were visiting. Or we have explored St. John’s or the Quarry or Munsinger Gardens or other beautiful places around here mainly when we ourselves were brand new to the area or because we were showing someone else around. So often we get stuck in our own routines that we forget the amazing places we live or the wonderful things we pass by on a daily basis.
The same is sometimes true of our faith. We may have grown up with Christianity or we may have come to it later in life, but at some point we chose this faith— we chose to respond to this God of love who revealed God’s self in Jesus Christ— and so here we are this morning. But how often we can get in a regular routine of doing the things of our faith and forget about the joy that comes in showing someone else around; or in seeing things through others’ eyes; sometimes we forget in our own religion about the wonders and the opportunities that are right in front of us. We neglect to see what God is doing right here.Read More
One of the best known Christmas stories of all time has been made into yet another movie this season, the story of “The Grinch” by Dr. Seuss. I doubt that Dr. Seuss would’ve guessed that it would be such a hit, and he might be a little perturbed if he did know, seeing as it is a commentary about the commercialism of Christmas. But this story hits on something we intuitively know in ourselves— that there are connections we can make with one another that are deeper than the giving of gifts; that there are relationships stronger than any disaster; that this life is not really about what we have, but about what we are doing with what we have.Read More
This season of Advent our theme has been “Voices of Courage.” In a variety of ways we have had the opportunity to reflect on this theme – through the Sunday gospel stories in the Bible, through the daily readings in our Advent devotional booklet, and through the messages of how God has been at work made visible on the ornaments decorating our Christmas tree.
As we reflect on voices of courage we might ask: how does a person come by such a positive orientation of life? How does courage emerge in the midst of personal adversity? In the inspiring book entitled, The Impossible Will Take a Little While, the author cites the example of the life of Rosa Parks to help us understand how the power of the human spirit prevails in times of adversity. The author writes, “The life of Rosa Parks offers a telling clue, provided we look beyond the conventional retellings of her experience…We think, because we have been told again and again, that one day Parks stepped onto a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and single-handedly and without apparent preparation inaugurated the civil rights movement by refusing to sit in the segregated section. As one noted speaker on Martin Luther King Day declared: ‘Rosa Parks wasn’t an activist. She was just a woman with her groceries who was tired.”Read More