Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Being Tamed




The Reading:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions………  Titus 2: 11


"The Scream"   Alwy Fadhel    (coffee on paper)


Every Christmas Eve, we hear a passage from a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to Titus.  It’s a strange story to be paired with the lovely Gospel of Luke because it had nothing to do with Bethlehem or the Holy Land, or Jesus’ birth. Titus had been left on the Mediterranean island of Crete to establish a Church there and Crete was a place of wild and rebellious people.  Titus was facing a nearly impossible job, and Paul's short letter was simply one of instruction and encouragement to a lonely missionary.

How is this passage relevant on Christmas Eve? Why include it here? Perhaps it's to remind us that the world is full of wild and rebellious people and life will be full of nearly impossible tasks. Or maybe it's to remind us that with the Grace of God, we can and will accomplish amazing things. Or that, whenever we face the impossible or find ourselves on the brink of failure, God will be right there with us. In other words, this passage is a gentle reminder that God became man; that God is an Incarnate God.

So, as you attend Christmas Eve services this weekend, listen not only to Luke’s lovely story about the birth of the baby Jesus, listen, too, for the still small voice of Paul, encouraging Titus, and reminding him that God is right there with him, as he is with each one of us.

Merry Christmas.  


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Dismissed



“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child within her is from the Holy Spirit."    Matthew 1: 20



"Dream Under a Desert Sky"    Stella de Genova

Joseph resolved to dismiss her quietly. That proves he was a nice guy; not out to bring disgrace upon Mary or her family. But she did show up pregnant -- and he KNEW he wasn't a part of that. .

And then the dream. And that angel. Surely a figment of his imagination. But Joseph took the risk; believed what the angel said.  He felt in his bones that something extraordinary had occurred.  "Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, Joseph." . 

Wondering this week if God speaks a to us in our dreams anymore. Do we have the faith of Joseph? And how would the story be different if he had dismissed her quietly? 


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Fear

Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, do not fear!  Here is your God. He will come and save you."   Isaiah 35: 4



                                           "Fear"                                     Ty Agha              

There is an annual list published of things Americans fear most.*  This year, 61.6% of those polled responded that “corruption of government officials” was their top fear. Number 2 (at 41%) was “fear of terrorist attacks." Other items on the “Top 10” list include: governmental restrictions on firearms and ammunition, Obamacare, and identity theft. (It would be interesting to see a list that people living in Syria or South Sudan might compile.)

By contrast, Scripture often beseeches us not to be afraid.  In a society rife with fear, Christians are called to confront their fears with faith. We are called to accept that God is bigger than our fears; to believe God’s promises. That is our faith made manifest.
"Be strong, do not fear!  Here is your God. He will come and save you."

 C.S. Lewis wrote, "Gratitude looks to the past. Love looks at the present. Fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.”

Let us live Advent in the present.
Let us be people of Love.    





·       USAToday.com


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Shoots...... and new life




A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.   Isaiah 11: 1





A stump. You’ve seen one. What once had been a mighty oak,  a graceful elm, or a winsome ash became sick and died. And people with chainsaws came and carted away what was left, leaving only a stump. Ignorable. Inert.

But God promises us that what is dead will provide sustenance and shelter for that which is being resurrected.
              “A shoot shall come out of the stump of Jesse,                                                              and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”
In you, what has died? And what shoot, what quiet idea, is silently gestating in the deepest part of your heart?                            
What is longing to be born?

God promises all new life. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Advent

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!   Isaiah 2:4-5




This Sunday, after we eat our Thanksgiving dinners and face the pandemonium that is Black Friday, we will enter into the season of Advent.  Advent means “before the coming” in Latin and it is the season of the church year where we consider Christ’s promise that He will come again.  To dismiss Advent as simply a “countdown to Christmas” or “four candles and a wreath” would be a grave mistake.

During Advent, the Church considers how the world will change when Jesus returns. We are called to self-examination and repentance as we think about how ready we are to stand before Christ upon His return. But it’s not all about dread; Advent calls us to glorious hope as well. We wait with joy and hopeful expectation because He promises that, when he comes again, wars will stop, dissension will cease, and an era of  peace will ensue. How ready are we for a dose of peace and an end to dissension?

His Law is Love and his Gospel is Peace.  O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord! 



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Light Bearing

In the tender compassion of our God *
the dawn from on high shall break upon us, 
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, * and to guide our feet into the way of peace. The Song of Zechariah

Light over Galena       L.Meade

God promises to bring relief to the tormented, the poor, the oppressed; to “shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
Those lines, somehow, are grafted into my synapses and mysteriously appear in my consciousness when things get rough;  a balm to my soul when my heart is troubled. This week. I’ve been wondering what it might be like to be the agent of such blessing. What would be like for me to bring such light into another person’s life? To carry the lamp of tender compassion into another’s distress or grief? 

And then I realized, it is most always another traveler who brings the light to me when mine has grown dull – often someone regular and rather unremarkable; often someone just like me, being God’s agent at work in the world. God uses regular folk, folks just like you and me, to bring a guiding light to others when they’re in darkness. God’s funny that way.  

Just regular folks like us. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent-- its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.  Isaiah 65: 24-25




None of us are perfect. There is no perfect candidate, no perfect government, no perfect solution. And we have a new President-elect this day; and neither is he perfect. The letter to the Colossians reminds us that there is no perfection except in Jesus Christ.


So whether you are celebrating or grieving today, let us remind ourselves that the goal is God: relationship with Jesus Christ, love for one another, and that we are all beloved of God. Perhaps the greatest challenge will be to live into the prophesy of Isaiah: the promise that the wolf and the lamb will come together, perfectly, in Jesus Christ. That is my prayer. 


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Praise

Hallelujah! Sing to the LORD a new song; *
sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful. 


Psalm 149:1





An abbreviated Whispering this week, because I am on vacation.

As I've been traveling through the Rocky Mountains and the desert Southwest these last two weeks, I've seen God in many faces and in many skies and I've whispered "Hallelujah!" many times.  We're called to that; called to praise and sing songs to the Lord.

What does praising God feel like or look like to you?  What are your songs? And do you have any NEW ones?

Thanks for your prayers. May the peace of God bless each one of you this week.
Liz+ 


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Invited Guests

Jesus was passing through Jericho. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him   Luke 19: 1-2



Zaccheus -- Cover Art for the groups Day Four


A CHIEF Tax Collector!  Big, powerful, rich, but short in statre. Oh, how I love this story!  The crowds knew Jesus by this time. He was famous; a traveling celebrity. And even those who were not particularly religious, even those whose temple membership dues had probably lapsed wanted to get a glimpse of the traveling Galilean, Jesus.

Zacchaeus has become the darling of Sunday School lessons because the he was short. So short, he had to climb up in a tree so he could get a decent look at Jesus. It’s almost comical, and yet youngsters are captivated by Zacchaeus because they can relate to being short and they can relate to climbing trees.

What we don’t remember from Sunday School, however, is that Zacchaeus was very rich and he was a tax collector and it is those details to which we must attend.  A rich tax collector: despised by the locals, shunned by the religious authorities, and envied by all. And this is the man Jesus stops and talks to. This is the man Jesus chooses to eat dinner with. Scandalous! Can you imagine the rolling eyes? The murmuring? The belligerent sniffles?

That’s how it is with Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t just pay attention to those who are sitting right in front of him, clamoring to walk right next to him. Jesus looks around – up into trees even – to spot the ones who might not deserve an audience with him. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Jesus Prayer




God, be merciful to me, a sinner.  Luke 18: 13


                     "Mercy"             Jackson Jim-George
There is a prayer going around retreat and spirituality circles over the past decade or so. It’s called “The Jesus Prayer” and it goes like this: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” You may have used it on a retreat, or when trying your hand at the Anglican Rosary, or whenever you’ve needed a quick centering prayer, but the genesis of this prayer come from Luke’s Gospel. And in its original form, it did not address Jesus at all; it addressed Yahweh. It is the simple prayer of a Jewish tax collector who has become aware of how far he has strayed from his Creator. His prayer is simply this: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

It is in that closeness, when we sense the presence of the Divine, that we realize our own brokenness and our need for God’s mercy. It is in facing Love Itself that we realize how deeply our attachments to worldly things have confiscated our attention. The Celts call these encounters “thin spaces” where the veil between the heaven and earth is lifted, if even for a moment. And it is those times when we simply must face Love Itself and whisper, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”


Use it. Use it at the communion rail. Use it when you notice something beautiful or something disturbing or something that angers you. God longs for us to utter these words. Draw close.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Anger as Sad's Bodyguard


For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.        2 Timothy 4: 3-5

"Anger"           Aaron Paquette

I am sad today. Sad that truth is so often swept under the rug. Sad that our country is in such distress that we are all angry with each other, calling each other names, and showing intolerance for those closest to us. The phrase “accumulating for themselves teachers to suit their own desires” – while true – is less problematic for me than the phrase which follows it, “they will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.” Therein lies the sadness I feel.

When we stop listening, we are on dangerous ground. We gather up all sorts of “spiritual books” and accouterments to prop up the lies we chose to believe, but doing so only pulls us deeper into mythology of untruth. Untruths become one’s truth, one’s reality. Perhaps that is what makes me so sad today.

And yet, we have Paul’s sensible advice to Timothy to cling to. We may not change the mindset of those who fabricate truths for themselves and wander away.  We must simply be sober, endure the suffering these myths bring upon us, do the work of Jesus, and carry on.  And so we will.

Pray for us. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Seeking Joy

Be joyful in God, all you lands; *
sing the glory of his Name; sing the glory of his praise.  Psalm 66:1


Joyful Noise             Nii Teiko Aryeetey - Ghana

As the long days of summer shorten, and the leaves on the trees begin to change colors, and the night air begins to feel crisp, we know we are facing change. The fact is, some people cannot bear this beautiful time of year and the gorgeous fall colors because they live in dread of the onset of winter with all its associated inconveniences. But the Psalmist reminds us to keep the rite of joy in our hearts always.

“Be joyful in God, all ye lands,” the Psalmist pleads, for God has created this mysterious cycle for us. Embrace all aspects of it. Look with wonder as the leaves transform themselves into the brilliant auburn colors without dread. For if you live in dread of winter, you will miss the show of fall.

Be joyful in God when the snow encapsulates us in our homes and brings us close together before the hearth, because we are made for each other. Be joyful in God when the ice begins to thaw, and the first tentative crocus reveals itself as a testimony to God’s plan: that new life will always emerge from death.

Seek after joy and it will surprise you. And in that instant, that instant where you discover it, look up, and thank God for this unfolding, ongoing, eternal joy that God has created for our pleasure. It is there. It is there waiting for us, inviting us into the eternal embrace of the Holy Trinity.

Be joyful in God.