Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘advent’

I have been visiting churches lately, possibly looking for a new church home. That’s almost as difficult as finding a new hair stylist. But I will say, it’s been a joy to hear new people speak and to experience a variety of worship styles again. It’s been a while. 

My most recent visit was to our local Episcopal church and the priest delighted me with his reflections on Revelation 1:8, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'” He reminded me of the timelessness of God, that great I AM, who exists both inside and outside of time. 

We have some understanding of the God “who was” by the stories and sacred texts that describe God’s actions throughout history. But, we can have a more intimate relationship with God in the current moment. If we are open to God’s Presence, we can know the God “who is.” 

But there is a third aspect that is critical to this passage: the God who is to come (hence the Advent message). And, as Father James puts it, the best way to know who comes, is to know who God is in the now. It is out of this knowing that we can anticipate the future with joy and confidence, with trust in the Truth of God and to submit to that ultimate authority who touches our individual lives with intent. 

Read Full Post »

Understanding Light

Word, God, Life, and Light. From the beginning, and yet misunderstood.

Art by Jenn Bowers

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome [or understood] it. [John 1:1-5, NIV]

Of course, the key here is beginnings. None can seem to agree when it all began, whether you are a traditional biblicist, big bang theorist, or some conglomeration of the two. But if we can simply agree that there was a beginning, sometime, then it might be easier to agree that “something” was there at the beginning. At the least: light, a manifestation of energy (but I am no physicist, so please, excuse my simplicity). I just like these ideas swimming around in my head.

Light, the spark of life then.

Now, the difference between an old believer like me and someone else is that I have made that leap of faith to believe in an intelligence at the beginning as well, an order, a motivation, or an intent from which sprang Word (or identity). For it is Word that establishes boundaries or describes a thing and thereby, gives it a name.

Most translations of this verse imply that darkness (what is that? Is it like anti-matter or the absence of light?) cannot extinguish or overcome it, as though it’s a battle of some kind. But if darkness is not light, how can it begin to understand? But I wonder, is darkness dynamic at all? I don’t think so. I believe I may have given the idea of darkness too much power and ability.

And yet another implication or long-standing interpretation of this verse is that the Word is Jesus, the son of God, the physical reflection of God, the ideal human, the template for the rest of us, present in the beginning in a form unknowable or understandable from without because, quite honestly, of the darkness. But Light is strong and the Word is astute and Life came forth all the same and whether we understand it or not, every human has the Light, for we were created from it. What we have lacked over the centuries perhaps, is the Word, the identification of Light – Jesus.

This is the time of year when the sunlight grows shorter and shorter for those of us in the northern hemisphere, but soon, as the Earth continues is lopsided rotation, the days will grow longer again. This is the time of year that we see the change in light. It’s a symbolic representation for the coming of light.

Let’s celebrate the coming of Light, God, the Word, and Life.

Read Full Post »

wake up 2I was so proud of myself a couple of months ago. I set myself a goal to wake up at 5:30 a.m. every day (even non-work days) and I did it. Someone asked me why I bothered with this exercise and I explained that I was trying to find another hour in my day. But the part I didn’t understand then (which I learned this week from Pastor Jess) was that I didn’t use that extra hour to wake up the second time.

The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. [Romans 13:11b-12, NIV]

Beginning today, we are entering a time of year called Advent, a time of waiting for the arrival of Christmas, the time the Church has designated to celebrate the birth of Christ, our long-awaited Messiah. Advent (and Christmas, for that matter) is a purely man-made time of year and yet, I’m glad of it. I need to direct some energy and preparation to my spiritual awakening. That is what the Christ was all about, that is why Jesus came into the world, to wake us all up.

But there is a challenge for believers to see past the tinsel and the commercialism and the anxious Martha-type shopping and planning. After all, families will gather and great amounts of food will be eaten and gifts will be collected and distributed (some well chosen and others not so much). It’s not that such things are inherently bad at all. It’s just that we need to balance these external activities with some inward contemplation. If we don’t . . . if I don’t, then I will make the same mistake I made two months ago and miss the point.

Sometimes it’s more than just busy-ness that overtakes us. For those who have little money, it’s a heartbreaking time in which blinders and dark glasses are a necessity to shut out the cacophony of the marketplace: “buy, buy, buy” or “lay-it-away” or “charge it.” Every sign and commercial is telling people what they want, whether they want it or not. And soon, everyone groans under the weight of wishes and wants they cannot have or cannot afford. Our eyes are not open; not the eyes that count.

Open your eyes 1It is for this second awakening that I want to engage our hearts and minds during this season. Pastor Jess talked about the ever-present armies of God surrounding us and our circumstances (see II Kings 6:15-17). Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes would be opened to see them, to actually see through and beyond the enemy soldiers camped nearby. So it must be with our Christmas season.

We must wake up and look beyond and through the difficulties, the depression, the expectations, the clamor, and the demands of others and focus on the coming (and present) Christ, whose birth we celebrate.

How often do mothers post their birthday wishes to their children and include a picture of the child when he or she was just a baby or toddler? Those were the innocent times, the days and weeks and months when the future was unknown and the child had a world to explore. Jesus came into the creation just so.

Come with me on this Advent journey. We will wait together and prepare and when we come to that day, we will see the light that broke through the darkness.

Just give a little time to your inner life. That’s all it takes to wake up again.

Read Full Post »

ImpossibleIt’s been the word of the season at Restore Church this year: impossible. And it’s a word that all believers must hear, should hear, need to hear and understand. This word is about us today and our faith. This word is about the extent to which God will do something from nothing. Thanks Pastor Jess Bousa for this word, now illuminated.

It sounds impossible, but listen—you know your relative Elizabeth has been unable to bear children and is now far too old to be a mother. Yet she has become pregnant, as God willed it. Yes, in three months, she will have a son. So the impossible is possible with God. [Luke 1:36-37, The Voice]

The concept is a simple one, that the impossible cannot be expected: it is a miracle after all. And yet these miracles are among us every day but we fail to give them their due. Isn’t it a miracle that a man, like Jess, could be transformed from full-blown drug addict to pastor of a thriving church? Or that I, a self-indulgent, pot-smoking, foul-mouthed actress wannabe could become a follower of the Christ? Or that my children, all adopted, would be “the ones” out of a million orphans to come into our family? All of our lives are filled with the miracles of impossible when God takes the raw material of “nothing” and makes something. Whether one sees the Genesis story as word for word real or symbolic, the message is the same: Creator God is a Maker God, who uses building blocks that none of us can really fathom. Something from nothing. Possible from impossible.

In Greek, impossible is adynateō with meanings that bridge the distance between weakness, inability, and powerlessness to the bottom line: it cannot be done. And God asks me, when will I see and understand the adynateō in myself? Not weakness in what I want to do, my dreams and ambitions. No. This is the weakness in the face of what God wants to do. In Corinthians 12:9, God speaks through Paul saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God is talking about the God Plan in Paul’s life and ultimately, in my life too.

God’s power manifests in doing God’s plan. 

impossible triangleOh, silly me. I have missed this obvious all along. I keep trying to get the blessing (and success) for my ideas, my plans, my ambitions, my projects. But there has been little room in my masterminding for the impossible, the unexpected, the miracles of God.

How many sermons and teachings have we heard about knowing God’s will for our lives, as though we might be able to figure out the impossible?

This is the only time I can truly say that the cliche, “whatever,” used by teens for the last decade or so, is truly the correct word in this situation. Our surrender to God is a “whatever.” That is, whatever God wants to do, whatever the Holy Spirit wants to manifest, whatever is possible in God’s cosmos, I choose to embrace today.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am sure this is not a passivity where we simply lie down on a bed and wait for a miracle. If anything, it’s a reckless abandonment of my narrow views in favor of the expansive potentialities of God.

Read Full Post »

Schutzengel (English: "Guardian Angel") by Bernhard Plockhorst depicts a guardian angel watching over two children

Schutzengel (English: “Guardian Angel”) by Bernhard Plockhorst

Clarence from It's a Wonderful Life

Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life

Angels are a challenging topic since they have now developed a following of their own. It is no longer just Christians who speak of angels but all kinds of folks are communing with them, protected by them, and traveling with them in some other dimension. Angels are the subjects of books, both nonfiction and fantasy, and they are even seen in stories doing battle with demons and vampires. Angels are no longer like Clarence in the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” or mere messengers who play harps all day or hover over sleeping children at night. Angels are hip.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. . . . Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” [Luke 2:9-10, 13-14]

Fantasy Angel wallpaper

Fantasy Angel wallpaper

Aggelos in Greek means messenger or envoy, someone who is sent. This role seems to have lost its significance in all the angel lore of recent years. In truth, if this meaning is true to their nature, they are merely brokers of information. They do not really operate with a lot of free will. At least, I don’t remember any examples in scripture of angels having a negotiation with a human outside the intended task assigned by, well, that is the question, who sends them: God? Jesus?

Angel of the Lord by Bill Osborne

Angel of the Lord by Bill Osborne

In the Old Testament, the term for angel(s) is malakh (or malach) and malakim for plural. The word also means messenger or ambassador, although a hierarchy appears in Judaisms angels that is not as prevalent in the New Testament. In fact, there is a reference to “angel of the Lord” that seems to be more deity than angel and in many circles, some have claimed it was an early representation of the Christ. Of course, no way to validate that, not really. In the Old Testament, these angels are referred to as masculine in gender. A summary discussion of the many angel roles in Jewish history is on Wikipedia.

In the New Testament, the hierarchies seem to be delineated by arenas of responsibility and strongholds or spheres of influence. I turned to Wikipedia for this review as well. It’s all more than I can relate here or want to.

Angels of Peace by Marlina Vera

Angels of Peace by Marlina Vera

So, let’s return to our original story: an angel appears to the shepherds, gives the “down-low” on the birth of the Messiah and where to find him. Then, it goes from one angel to a multitude. What would that look like? I can’t really imagine it or perhaps, whatever I do see in my mind is proscribed by the various artist renderings of the “Angels we have hard on high” variety.

I’ve been watching consecutive seasons of Dr. Who starting back about five years ago. In so many of the episodes, alien vessels appear in the sky, sometimes huge, sometimes fast and small, sometimes pointy crystals, and sometimes dark and forbidding. But in all cases, people run out of their houses and gape, looking up. Who else saw the multitude that night? If they really filled the sky, then there were other witnesses. Would they have explained it all away the next day?

I’m also reading a new book by Mitch Albom, The First Phone Call from Heaven. The reactions of people are fascinating, from disbelief to total belief to manipulation of the situation for profit. People are funny in the face of things they don’t understand. Even messengers from heaven.

crying angelI wonder. Have I seen angels, really and just not noticed or remembered because my logical mind could not process it? That would be a shame, to miss an event of pure wonder.

So, do I believe in angels? Sure. But I think they have a unique and limited role in the workings of reality. We are living in the age of the Christ within. Angels do not operate in that place. My faith is not extended by the presence of angels; but they would be key to unlocking my ability to see/process multi-dimensionality. They aren’t people/human and don’t look like them. imho.

Read Full Post »

Fountain 15 by Woonkey

Fountain by Geoffrey Platt

Joy is a big word in the enormity of its meaning. Appearing 58 times in the New Testament alone, as chara in the Greek; it is a particular kind of gladness, happiness, and delight that comes to us as a result of something or someone. It is our response, but not just a momentary moment of laughter or grins, it comes with an understanding. Joy carries knowledge with it.

But the angel said to them [the shepherds], “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. [Luke 2:10-11, NIV]

The angel is promising the shepherds them the experience of joy because of the import of the message and the opportunity to see the promised Messiah in the flesh. Very few were given this experience. Joy came from revelation!

I remember the first time I went to a wedding (it seems to be more common now, almost as a matter of course) when the bride and groom were introduced, that everyone exploded in cheers and applause because we all knew the difficulties the two had faced to get to this day. It was pure elation shared. It came upon me in a flood and I didn’t have to search for it or do anything to achieve it, merely allow myself to feel it.

Joy cannot be chased down like a fox in a foxhunt. It cannot be bought or traded.

In essence, joy comes from within, based on the big picture, not on circumstances. True joy is not the product of some success or or the avoidance of failure in the skirmishes of our lives. Joy is part of the rock upon which our faith is built.

I wish I could say that I walk in joy. I am even more frustrated to have this head knowledge but not the full grasp of what the plumb line of the Holy Spirit could mean in my life. I am distracted. My ego continues to be unyielding. I am still sorting and labeling and controlling my day to day experiences.

If I look at my time in quiet meditation or worship or praise or contemplation, I can see the fragmentation. Is there any wonder I cannot sustain joy? But I have had those moments, perhaps, as above, in the blessed good fortune of others or while singing a particularly meaningful set of stanzas in church or the burst of love toward a friend or child or other loved one. I have experienced the joy of nature in its beauty and majesty and in the power of the sea.

But deep inside, I know that there is a well of joy from which I have barely drunk. Oh human, we, will this fountain flow free?

Read Full Post »

shepherdsHow many of us know a shepherd. Honestly? At best I may have met a 4-H person at the Farm Fair. Oh, and one of my library colleagues used to raise a few sheep for the wool which she sheared and spun and created beautiful things. But she wasn’t exactly Little Bo Peep. And although nativity story shepherds have been romanticized, the truth is they were on some of the lowest rungs of the ladder. They were a necessity for the economy, the protection of the sheep, but their jobs were B-O-R-I-N-G. In modern day, I might compare them to a rent-a-cop on the graveyard shift of a storage unit.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. . . . When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. [Luke 2:8-9, 15-16, NIV]

I’ll look into angels tomorrow but for now, let’s look at shepherds. Back in the day, the shepherd metaphor was a good one. The Greek word poimēn word means herdsman or shepherd, but even then, it was seen metaphorically, the one who watches over the flock, the one who protects the herd from outside danger, the one who seeks for lost ones, the one who heals the sick. For these reasons, many have compared shepherds to pastors in a church. And certainly, even Jesus himself, allowed this comparison [John 10:14-16].

What’s funny about shepherds to me is that despite their humble station, the critters they guarded appeared to be quite stupid and over the years, and this has stuck. Despite some contrary information in recent years about sheep being able to recognize faces of other sheep and human caretakers, build relationships, and possibly know how to eat certain plants to make themselves feel better. But mostly, we find sheep to have such a strong flocking instinct and “follower” genes that they will do themselves harm based on who they follow. That metaphor has never been complimentary to the church or people who follow leaders blindly.

But no matter how much we imagine this shepherd/flock relationship, it’s not really in our modern ken or culture. We don’t have a modern counterpart to the stinky, smelly sheep workers who were more comfortable alone with their animals than they were with other people. They were undoubtedly loners and nomadic by nature. They often endured taunts for unappealing acts with their ewes. Was it true? I really don’t know. And yet, these most lowly of men were, according to the story, visited by angels in such a large number that many shepherds (scattered over the fields) saw the spectacle and responded.

It is so often the case that the poor and “least of these” type folks get the message. They have nothing to lose, having little to begin with. The grassroots campaign for the Christ began with them. Come see–go tell. The Messiah has come.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: