Advent Week One
Today is the first Sunday of the Advent season. It’s a time of expectation and looking forward to the joy that is to come. At a time when the world is rushing towards the busyness of Christmas the church starts its new year inviting you to prepare your heart for God’s joy made incarnate. Now we know that on Dec. 25th Christmas will arrive and all our anticipation and excitement will come to a head.
But, waiting for Christ requires us to prepare our hearts, and not just our homes, for when he arrives. We don’t know when that day will be. We can’t pencil it in on our calendar. But we know what to expect. We will have to wait. And as we wait, we are to prepare our hearts by living out each day in faithfulness to God’s will.
Advent is not the only time God has made us wait. The Bible is filled with stories of God’s people waiting for rescue, deliverance, and salvation. Waiting is a pervasive theme throughout Isaiah which was written sometime after the Babylonian conquest of Israel.
Their country was in ruin. The Temple reduced to dust and ash. God’s people where in tears, suffering in exile. They shouted out to God, like their ancestors had but only to find silence. They wondered had God abandoned them to suffer alone.
They wonder, like we often do today, where God is or why God let this happen to them. In that time between our suffering and salvation, we wait for God to act. And thus, Isaiah reminds us to remain faithful; to wait patiently and with purpose. God is up to something, but what?
Read: Isaiah 64-1:9
Is it strange that Advent begins with a prayer of lament and a plea for help? Or that God’s people cry out for a savior and God makes them wait?
If anything good has come from 2020, it’s that it has made us better at waiting. We’ve waited during lockdowns and quarantines. Waited for test results, and toilet paper to be restocked. We’ve waited on our orders from Amazon, Instacart, and Postmates to be delivered.
Sadly, some have had to wait for hospital beds and respirators. Or outside nursing homes to wave to a loved one. We’ve waited for election results, unemployment checks, for school’s to open and work to resume, and of course we’re all waiting for a vaccine. If we’ve mastered anything this year it’s waiting.
In this particular passage, Isaiah reminds us that the same God who makes mountains quake and nations tremble is also a God who makes us wait. It hardly seems fair, especially when we feel all alone and scared.
What does this say about the character of God who hides from us in our time of need? It doesn’t feel very kind or loving does it? What could be the reason for God to want to leave us to our pain and suffering? I doubt it’s too be cruel.
Writing on this passage, Scott Bader-Saye argues two points on this strange characteristic of our Divine Creator. And I think they are worth pondering. First, he believes God hides from Israel to remind them that God is not exclusively theirs. Think about that for a moment because this problem still persists today.
Not just within Judaism, but within the different sides of Christianity and Islam and other religions. Each is guilty of claiming ownership of God. But here’s the thing, there’s no box big enough to contain, muchless control, God. The pot does not create the potter. It merely showcases her talent and creativity. No one owns God. Instead, God owns us. All of us.
Black, brown, or white; straight, gay, or indifferent, we are God’s beloved children. Or as the psalmist wrote, we are the sheep of his pasture. we can’t ever lose sight of that. Until we stop dividing ourselves over politics, gender, nationality, or religious doctrine the fullness of God’s power and glory will remain hidden from us.
The second point Bader-Saye explores is this idea that sometimes God hides on purpose. And that purpose is to awaken us of our wrongdoing. For example, God might hide to help us deconstruct a distorted set of beliefs and practices that cause us to make God in our image. I think there’s some truth to this.
In seminary, the professors were tasked with deconstructing any preconceived notions of God that we might have brought with us. This was a long process that truly tested the strength of one’s faith. Between shedding the old and the building up the new, there is a long period of waiting in the emptiness of one’s self.
It was an active waiting, where I was preparing my heart to receive God and to see my calling through God’s eyes and not my own. In his time of waiting for God, Isaiah is able to see and understand the difference between the God of Israel and the other gods in the cultures of his time.
He remembers God greatness recalling, “When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.” He is stunned and shocked to discover that this God works for the people, and the people for whom God works are the people who wait for God. Advent is a time of waiting for God who is working for us in ways that are yet to be revealed.
John Pavlovitz reminds us, “If we cultivate a bit of faith, that in-between time can be a hopeful space for us, a place where we can welcome transformation. Rather than wanting the time to pass quickly, we can actually enjoy it because we know we are being renovated.”
At the end of our reading today, Isaiah gives us two more insights into God’s character. One as a parent. And the other as a potter. Both of these images reveal an intimate connection that God has with us. To paraphrase Richard Rohr, God is always being drawn to the image of God in us.
Ours is a God who has not abandoned us in our wait, but one whose hand is upon us; shaping us over time like a parent shapes the character of a child, as a potter lovingly molds her clay. “Just as it is with the child in Mary’s womb, there is always change taking place, always new life about to spring forth.”
And so we wait for God to do what God does. To mold our hearts to love as God loves us and to shape our hands to give as God has given to all.
As you busy yourself preparing for Christmas, I hope you will remember this: You are God’s malleable work of art, being carefully shaped into the vessel of God’s incarnation to bring forth the presence of Christ to the world. You are a masterwork whether you know it or not. And a masterwork takes time.
As we enter a time of waiting for the incarnation, we do so knowing God is shaping us to be like him.
Thus in his first letter, John writes, “All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready – with the glistening purity of Jesus' life as a model for our own” (1 John 3:2-3). By this we will not only be prepared to live in the promised realm of God when it comes, but we also get to experience what life in that realm is like today.
And so, we pray, and stick together, and love one another, and see to it that people are cared for and life is shared and peace prevails as we wait upon the Lord who is revealed to us in the incarnation of all that we do.
Bartlett, David L and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting On The Word, Year B Vol 1. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008.
Pavlovitz, John. Low: An Honest Advent Devotional. Chalice Press, 2019.
Rice, Whitney. "Waiting Upon the Lord." 23 12 2020. episcopalchurch.org (accessed on 28 12 2020).
Can we trust in God’s faithfulness to be faithful to God?
I always love to say that my two best investments were my first house and my second wife. Of course, not in that order. If you have invested money before I think you’ll like today’s parable. It’s one where Jesus talks about a risky venture; the kind that is guaranteed to multiply one’s personal investment.
Ask any wealth manager and they will tell you, if you want to grow your money it will take time. They say the slow and steady path is often the safest bet. The quicker you go, the greater the risk you have to be willing to make. And the greater the risk, the greater chance of losing it all. Keep in mind, the investment Jesus is asking us to make isn’t so much about being rich and successful, but simply being faithful. You are investing in yourself.
Read Matthew 25:14-30
When Jesus told this story, he was in the middle of his own high-risk venture. He’s left Galilee for Jerusalem where in just a few days he will be executed on a Roman cross. So they don’t lose hope, Jesus tells his disciples a series of eschatological parables; stories that will prepare them for what is to come.
Last week it was about Ten Bridesmaids. Today, it’s Three Men and their Talents. When our modern ears hear the word talent, we often think of someone who has a skill or certain ability. My wife is a talented singer. Or my son has a talent for getting out of trouble.
But in 1st Century Palestine, a talent was something different. Back then, it was a large sum of money; roughly 15 year’s worth of wages for the average laborer. For someone to give these men even one talent would mean they were entrusting them with a huge fortune.
The parable isn’t about money or ability. It’s about something even more important. It’s about trust.
The master trusts his investments with these men. And does so without giving them any instructions on what to do with it. The first guy takes it and invests in a high-risk venture. The second dumps it into the stock market. Both men do very well; doubling their master’s money.
The third guy takes a very different approach. Instead of taking a risk he buried the money in the ground, a common security measure in ancient times. Given the volatility of the market these days, and the way this pandemic is affecting the economy it might seem like a wise investment plan. But that’s not the reason he gives. Instead he confesses he was afraid of the master. Because he had zero trust in the one who trusted him, he took zero financial risk. And as a result got nothing in return.
Again, this parable isn’t about money or one’s ability to acquire wealth. It’s about trusting God who first trusted us. To be prepared for Christ to return, we need to trust God by doing God’s will.
That’s what the first two do. They take a chance in their faith and as a result they both receive the same praise. And the same invitation: “Well done, good and trustworthy servant…enter into the joy of your master.” To be fair, I think the master would have responded just the same had they risked it all and come back empty handed. After all, he doesn’t commend them for their profits, but their faithfulness.
The master made it clear that he would have accepted anything – even the measly interest you get at the bank – had the intent had been motivated by faith rather than fear. This is a good lesson for us all. Fear has no value, other than it drives us to our downfall like it did to this man. As someone once said, “The God we face is the one we imagine.”
Faith on the other hand is invaluable. In giving his fortune to these three men, the master reveals his faith, and trustworthiness. He’s not terrible and appalling like the fearful man saw him to be. Given his response to the first two, it seems the master is more interested in the well-being of his workers than making a profit for himself.
That’s the portrait of God that Jesus paints for us. The first two men see this and take the risk without any promise of gaining anything in return. They have some faith and run with it. The third guy has none, and loses out.
This parable is about our trust in God just as it is about God’s trust in us. It’s about our faithfulness to God who has faith in us. This begs the question: Can we trust in God’s faithfulness to be faithful to God?
This parable makes it clear in that if you focus on your fears, allowing your worry and anxieties to make your decisions then your fears will be realized. If you focus on your faith, stepping out of your comfort zone, knowing and trusting in God’s faithfulness then your faith will only increase.
I don’t think Jesus is telling this parable to his disciples to scare them. I think he wants to know if they can trust God enough to carry on his ministry when he is gone. Will they invest in the kingdom of heaven by investing their hearts in the gospel? Will they risk it all to care deeply and profoundly for all of God’s children? We must ask ourselves this same question. Are we willing to invest and risk it all – trusting the one who first trusted us?
Like Jesus points out, and will further explain in the next parable, this is how we too enter into the joy of God. Risking your life by loving and caring for the least of these our brothers and sisters. Faithful living is not static. It takes getting involved and taking risks. It’s easy to claim faith and to bury it in the ground... doing nothing to increase it.
This past presidential election revealed to me the fear of so many Christians, who claim to follow Christ, who seem to know what faithful living looks like, and yet hesitate or refuse to live it. Instead of trusting Christ faithfully, they put their trust a person who has nothing to do with him.
Today is a good time to look at your own actions, and ask yourself what are you investing in?
Faith is a high-risk venture. It’s not some insurance plan you take out for the hereafter. Faith isn’t so much believing ideas about Jesus as it is about following him and doing what he did. And the only way to really do that is by trusting God so completely that you can go all in faithfully and fearlessly as you carry the presence of Christ everywhere you go.
As the disciples will soon discover, living the gospel out loud is a risky venture. But it does pay out in abundance.
Jesus gives us the choice. You can choose to be like the fearful servant who gets exactly what fear has to offer: Nothing. Or you can choose to put your trust in God’s faithfulness, and reap the rewards that come with being like God’s most faithful child.
Jesus risked it all by going to Jerusalem and living faithfully to the will of God. He taught us that life is a risk one must take on faith, and not fear. Moreover, what turns out to be important is not our ability to make sound financial investments but our willingness to invest profoundly in our soul.
At the end of the day, life is not about what we accomplished but whether we learned to trust God enough to be faithful with our love.
It’s a high-risk investment where the only ones who lose it all are the ones who dare to put nothing in.
Bartlett, David L and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year A Vol. 4. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011) pp. 308-313.
Inspiration taken from a sermon by Charles H.Hoffacker entitled Trust, Not Fear. https://episcopalchurch.org/library/sermon/trust-not-fear-proper-28-–-2014 (accessed on 11-12-2020).
What a roller coaster it’s been. Filled with highs and lows, sharp twists and unexpected turns. I feel as if I have whiplash from refreshing the news feed on my phone. But here we are. We are alive. Although we might be stunned and numbed. There is light at the end of this tunnel.
I did not watch the election results on Tuesday. I had a feeling it was going to turn out the way it did. A waiting game. And if there is one thing that all Americans can agree on, it’s we don't like to wait.
Whether it’s waiting for mail in ballots to be counted, or being left on hold to speak to a customer service representative waiting makes us anxious, and frustrated. And sometimes angry. That’s the problem of living in a fast-paced world. We want faster technology, faster service, faster food, faster answers to prayers.
It drives us nuts to have to wait. Unless of course we’re waiting with a purpose...you know waiting to see how the film will end or waiting until you complete the next level in a video game before you take out the trash. I’ll ask my son to do something and it’s always, “In a minute.” I swear if we set our clocks to his time, we’d never grow old.
Although Joe Biden is the projected winner of the 2020 election, he has to wait until Jan 20 before he can move into the White House. We all have to wait to see what will happen in between. And like Tom Petty sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.”
As we will see in today’s reading, Jesus tells a story about a belated celebration and what happens in the wait.
It’s a parable on faith, where he tells us to “keep awake,” always ready for the future by being ready now. That’s because faith is all about active waiting.
Read Matthew 25:1-13
If I rewrote this parable for today, it would be about ten pundits in a room waiting for the election results to come in from Nevada. Wisely, Jesus chooses a theme for his parable that is more universal to tell us about the kingdom of heaven. It’s about a wedding that doesn’t go quite as planned.
I know from experience that even the best-planned wedding has the potential for mishaps. The weather can turn on a dime, catering can be delayed or simply not show up, or as it was in the case of my wedding, the organist plays “Here comes the bride” seven times before the bride actually comes...leaving the poor groom to wait at the altar while everyone stares at him.
Weddings were a bit different back in the day when Jesus told this parable. The groom would be escorted by the bridal party into a home where the bride was waiting. They would consummate the affair, and then when they were ready come out and the party would begin. It was a big celebration, but one that wouldn’t have had a definite start time. You knew it would happen on that day or the next at the latest. SO guest knew to come prepared for the wait.
It was custom for the bridesmaids to escort groom to the place where the wedding would occur. But it was also the custom for the groom to delay his arrival as a practical joke! We’re not sure what happened here in Mathew’s gospel other than these girls, dressed in their bridesmaid gowns, wait, and wait, and wait.
The sky grows dark, the evening hours pass. And before they know it, all of them are asleep. Suddenly, someone awakens them! And they quickly attend to their lamps. Five of them have enough oil, and soon their lamps are glowing in the darkness. The others five do not. They ask to borrow some, but there is none to spare. They run out into the darkness looking for oil, which I imagine wasn’t that easy to do. While they are gone, the bridegroom arrives - escorted by the light of the remaining bridesmaids to meet his waiting bride.
There’s something about this story that doesn’t sit well with us. The last are not first in this one. When the other five return, it’s too late. They are left outside. All dressed up, with no place to go. The story ends like a bad dream, with them begging but to no avail.
It doesn’t seem fair that the so called “foolish” bridesmaids take the blame in this story while the bridegroom faces no consequences for making everyone wait for so long or for not being considerate enough to wait for the oil-deprived bridesmaids to return. And the ones who had enough oil don’t catch any flack for their lack of generosity.
It’s a rather confusing explanation of the Kingdom of Heaven – one of hoarding, and a lack of compassion; a kingdom where one gets blamed for someone else’s carelessness. This is far from the things that Jesus has shared and shown up to this point. It makes me wonder if we’re reading this parable the way we’re should.
Maybe it’s not about the wedding, or these wise and foolish characters. Maybe it’s about something else in this story. There’s only one other thing in this parable that Jesus talks about...the oil. Some have it, others do not, or not enough. What does Jesus want us to have but not all of us possess? The way I see it, Jesus is talking about oil as a way to talk about our faith.
For example, the wise come prepared with enough faith to get them through the wait and uncertainty of tomorrow. The foolish don’t. They want the faith of the wise, only to discover it can’t be shared like that. My faith is uniquely mine. And yours is yours. What this parable is teaching me, is that it’s up to me to always be actively filling my spiritual reserves so that I will always be prepared to get through the long night of waiting.
I know what it’s like to wait; especially for God to reveal where I am supposed to be. And I know what it’s like to have your faith stretched thin. By the time I fell asleep Tuesday night (which was really Wednesday morning) my faith in our country, and in Christianity, was nearly all but gone. I had just enough oil in reserve to trim my inner light to get me through the night.
I had just enough faith left to know I can wait for God because I knew God is already here – working out the path that leads us to the celebration. In the midst of life’s joys and pain, in the uncertainty of what tomorrow might bring, it’s our faith that keeps our inner, personal light shining. It’s our faith that helps us be prepared for when the time comes to enter into the wedding banquet.
Like oil in a lamp, we can run out of faith if we stop refiling our supply. Which is why Jesus issues a stark warning to stay awake. “Keep Awake!” Don’t let your faith fall asleep. Jesus is calling us to participate in the kingdom of heaven always. Actively engage in our faith – especially during this expectant period of waiting – by having mercy, offering forgiveness, walking humbly with our God; spreading the peace of Christ in the world.
Faith is our oil that allows us to shine the light of Christ into the darkest of days. What good is it if you don’t use it as we wait for God’s redemptive plan to be fully revealed.
Unlike when you put gas in your car and drive all over town, the more we practice our faith by being God’s love in the world, the more faith and love there is. The more you let your light shine on the Kingdom of Heaven, the brighter and longer your light will last.
Being prepared to wait isn’t about stockpiling – like many did with ammunition before the election. The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t a doomsday story. It’s God’s redemptive plan for all of us. To be prepared is to keep your faith awake, and to put it to work while you wait.
We’re all invited to the wedding, but only some of us will get in. Later in Matthew 25 Jesus lays out what this means. But it boils down to this: those whose faith is focused on doing the work of the kingdom will see the kingdom. Those who do not will be left in the darkness.
Faith takes work. We can’t sleep through it. We have to keep awake, stay active. We have to exercise our faith if we want to build up the muscle. The more we use it, the more we have.
As we wait for a new dawn to arrive in this moment of darkness, as we wait, unsure of what others might do or not do, as we wait with anxious hearts for God to come lead us home, Jesus says keep awake. Do not let the light of your faith fade.
It’s up to us to use this time of active wait to be active disciples – taking up our cross and following in the footsteps of Jesus.
There’s no better time to shine than now – when hatred and anger and brokenness need to the light of Christ to see a way to love and kindness and reconciliation. Every moment we let pass is time ticking off the clock before the doors are shut. For the real tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait too long to begin it.
The kingdom of heaven summons us today to build up our reserves of faith that prepares us to weather the unexpected timing of God. I also believe we’ve been given this time today to wait for God, so that we can let our faith shine brightly for others to find their way.
Today, we have been given the time to wait for God, so that God can work in us and through us for freedom, justice, and compassion because world is still crying out for help.
Today, we have been given the time to wait, to find our own unique way to be the heart of God, the light of Christ, and the very presence of the Holy Spirit in this moment.
So, I invite you to let your faith shine brightly today, light up the darkness so all can see the way of truth and righteousness as we wait to walk with the bridegroom who leads us towards God’s open arms for the greatest celebration ever.
Bartlett, David L, Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year A, vol. 4. (Louisville, Westminster John Knox) 2011. pp. 284-289.
Kelley, Shannon. Be Prepared. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/lessons/2014/09/21/be-prepared
Joy In Philippians Pt. 5
We spent the month of October talking about joy. In that time LA Lakers and the LA Dodgers both won the National Championships. For me, that’s reason alone to rejoice!
But today is also November 1. And that means…KNOWvember is here. If you are not familiar with this little tradition, it’s a challenge I made up that forces me to meet 30 people in 30 days. The goal is to look for things that connect us instead of focusing on the stuff that divides us.
On a spiritual level KNOWvember helps me stay focused on the Divine image that dwells within all people. And at the same time allows the Divine to shine through me. It’s in this simple action, I’ve come to discover that joy can be experienced in a way I think God originally intended – being in community with one another. Often a city can become united when their team wins the World Series.
But Christ calls his followers together on a much deeper level and for a much greater purpose. So we can “Rejoice in the Lord always,” a phrase Paul wrote to his friends in Philippi. Before we jump into our final look at this letter of joy let’s remember Paul is writing it from prison where the threat of being executed constantly looms over him. And yet, so too does his joy.
This is a perfect reminder to us all, that joy is not about having everything perfect. Joy is not, “Every cloud has a silver lining” kind of happy emotion. Let’s face it, some clouds are dark and thunderous. Joy is also not about having all together. Being rich and successful doesn’t mean your life doesn’t unravel or that someone can’t steal your joy. It just means you can cry in a nicer car or a bigger house.
It makes me wonder if we all have to suffer at some point, if only to grasp the fullness of Paul’s idea of rejoicing always. Tom Holliday notes, “Joy is applying God’s truth and power to our imperfect and sometimes terrible circumstances and realizing that God is right there,” in the midst of whatever life throws at us.
Like I said a few weeks ago: when life kicks the joy out of you, God kicks it back in. No matter what obstacle you’re facing, or struggle you’re dealing with, you can still find joy because joy first found you. And loves you no matter what. All because true joy begins with God, and when God is at the center of your life you can experience the fullness of God’s joy. And always have a reason to rejoice.
READ: Philippians 4:1-9
In this final chapter, Paul hints that there’s some tension happening between two women. Perhaps this is why he was writing the letter in the first place. But Paul doesn’t give us details about their dispute, because the details are not important. It doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong. What’s important is this tension is making their joy incomplete. They’re not being of one mind with Christ Jesus.
This is not to suggests we have to be the same or think the same. Christianity isn’t a robotic ritual. But there’s plenty of commonality to focus on. For example, Jesus calls us into a way of life built upon the strong bond of God's love which has been poured into us. If we want to find real joy, the kind that allows us to fully rejoice in the Lord always, then we have to be of one mind, and one heart. That is to be in oneness with God.
Recently, a disagreement happened between two friends it was over something as trivial as politics and led to one of the friends cutting the other out of her life. This kind of stuff is happening all over our country. Families are split, friendships are broken, and even churches are losing people because they’ve chosen politics over love.
I suspect in a couple of days half the country will be gloating from the outcome of our elections. That means others will be left gutted. How can we rejoice, muchless find real joy if someone we care for is hurting? Abraham Lincoln knew, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
We might not always see eye-to-eye. That’s okay. Some of us are liberals. Some of us are conservative. In our house, some of us are Giants fan. While others are still enjoying the Dodger’s World Series victory. Yet we still manage to love one another.
Here’s what I want you to know: In spite of our differences, when we love as God loves us, we become one instrument of God's joy. Moreover, if God’s love is at the center of all we do, then we can confront and reconcile the things that steal our joy. The Bible tells us that Christ came to reconcile us back to God. This tells me that reconciliation leads to joyful living.
Perhaps you know what it’s like to work out your differences with a friend or a loved one. There’s a sense of joy and happiness that makes your bond that much stronger. Through Christ, God’s love and joy are given to us so that we can do the same for one another. As Paul wrote in Ephesians, “Be imitators of Christ, as beloved children. And walk in love.” When we do that for each other, we become not only closer to one another but closer to God as well. That alone is reason enough to to “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
Like Paul mentioned, you are able to rejoice and find our joy when you “let your gentleness be known.” It seems to me that God works best through our compassion; in the kindness and love that Christ put in our hearts. Jesus was gentle. He did not push people away, but instead drew people to him through love. He didn’t put up a wall or separate people from who is worthy and who is not worthy of his love. Instead Jesus crossed over social and tribal boundaries to share God’s love and show God’s grace to everyone who needed to feel it or receive it. It didn’t matter what they believed or how much faith they had Jesus showed gentleness and compassion to all, because that’s how its done in the kingdom of Heaven.
That’s how joy is given and received with God in Christ Jesus. That’s how Paul is able to rejoice always in the Lord knowing that God is always present and always one step ahead of him to receive him with open arms at the finish line. This is our assurance as well when we chose to walk in the footsteps of Christ. Instead of hurting people, Jesus comforts, heals, and forgives no matter what. And he calls us to do the same, to be little Christ in the world, sharing the love of God to all.
Once again the acronym for joy is Jesus Others and You. This is an invitation to be like Jesus who served others so that you can find your everlasting and eternal joy. We see this throughout the gospels. For example, on the night Jesus was handed over to his death, he gives his disciples one final lesson. After washing their tired and dirty feet, Jesus told them to “Love one another as I have loved you.” Everything Jesus did was based on this one simple yet profound sentence. As Sara Miles poetically noted, “(Jesus’) human body was God’s language, as much as his human speech.”
Jesus revealed God’s glory in the way he loved others. He continues to do so today , in the varied ways he shows his love to us. It’s in this love, in the receiving and in the giving, we are one with Christ who is one with God. Just as we share in God’s love we also share in God’s joy. And when we share God’s joy, the world can help but rejoice always!
I can’t overstress the importance of this love ethic; especially as we struggle to find joy in our lives. Our nation is divided. People are hurting. The pandemic and the politics behind it are not helping. Too many of us are allowing these things to steal our joy. In his final commandment, Jesus gives us an important clue to God’s nature: Love and Joy cannot be separated.
Without God’s love at the center of our life, real joy cannot and will not ever exist. Not in you. Not in me. And not in the world. If you are lacking in joy in your life, if you are angry with someone or if something is causing you pain, look within yourself, look for the divine who is inside you (whether you know or not God is in you because you are made with God’s DNA) and you will find a divine light flickering in you.
And be like the light that shines in the darkness of the world, be the joy of Christ who gave his life so that others could live life, a life eternal. This is what it means to love one another as God first loved us.
Therefore, "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable" go and do those things for others by being like Jesus who humbled himself – not for his glory, nor for his need to be right, but for the righteousness of God’s glory.
I will leave you with a quote from Herni Nouwen who wrote, “When God’s love is at the center of all we do, then we are able to offer our joy and peace, our consolation and reconciliation to others; especially in moments of crisis or conflict.”
Once we start living intentionally with this kind of conviction, then our joy can never be defeated. No matter what the world can throw at us, we remain as God's beloved children. For that alone, let us "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice."
Let us pray: Holy and Merciful Creator and Lord, we lift up our hearts with thanksgiving and praise for all that you have done in our lives today. For that we say thank you. Amen.
Holladay, Tom. Philippians: The Eight Places Joy is Won or Lost. El Toro: Saddleback Church.
Miles, Sara. Jesus Freak: Feeding, Healing, Raising the Dead. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010.
Nouwen, Henri. Bread for the Journey: A Day Book of Wisdom and Faith. New York: HarperCollins e-books, 1997.
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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