Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a
dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and
remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy
him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his
mother by night, and went to
Matthew 2:13-15 (NRSV)
This is the account of how Joseph, Mary and Jesus
What must have gone through Joseph's mind as he
weighed the route and what he would need to take to survive? He could not even
take the tools of his trade as they had to travel light and quickly. How would
they live once they arrived in
What should US faith communities do to help these
Syrian refugees? The
Our Father who protected
Joseph, Mary and Jesus in their refugee journey and helped them accomplish our
purpose, we pray for protection and guidance for the thousands who flee
Generation to Generation
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
Psalm 78:1-4 (NRSV)
A few weeks ago, I was talking to my Aunt Lizzie, who is the sister of my mom and Aunt Peggy. We were chatting about churches, and she gave me an idea to sit down with my kids to get their perspective on our church. What a fantastic idea! We never really do an “inventory” on what we love about church, and it has been a fun task. It was incredibly heartwarming, and their responses amazed me. The church they are growing up in is a very different CHBC than I grew up in, during the 1970s and 1980s. This advent season, we are so grateful for our church family. Their responses are here:
· We love the diversity, in race and in age (Asian, American, young, old).
· The people we know and love in our church are caring, wise, influential, and kind to us.
· We have so many opportunities to do so many things together, as a church family.
· Our youth group is amazing. We have great friends, and do so many awesome things together (trips like Passport and retreats, and we get to serve our community together).
· The AMOUNT of people in our church is amazing….there are so many people that we get to look up to and call FAMILY.
· Youth group Passport is amazing, I’ve gotten close with our entire youth group, and many of them are my best friends.
· I love our retreats. We get time to enjoy campfires, and sit quietly with our friends.
· We have grown up with the family of God in our church, so they know the good and bad that has happened in our lives.
· Cultures have united at CHBC, so I have had the opportunity to learn so much about a culture that I had no clue about, without CHBC.
· I have been given the opportunity to learn to include people, and get outside of my comfort zone.
It was so fascinating to me to get their perspective. And I have to say, their reflections are not so dissimilar from those that I would have had when I went to In-The-Oaks, looking up to the Schnur kids, with Darrell still leading campfire, and Louie still striking up the piano.
God is Good. Generation
after generation. Whether that generation be American or Karen, we have
all loved the same God. And, ironically, have done so at the same place…
Thank you God, for loving us and helping us love each other from generation to generation. Amen.
Hope Is All Around
His mother held these things dearly deep within herself. And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people.
Luke 2:51b-52 (MSG)
I was moved to tears last year during Advent when I heard the song “Mary Did You Know?”. The words to the first verse are:
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know,
That your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered,
Will soon deliver you.
I was moved by the realization that each child that is born in our world is a mystery of hope. Each child has the possibility of giving in his or her own way much to make our world a better place. We need to be attentive and take notice of ways that our children bring hope in what they do and how they live. Mary must have watched as Jesus grew and became her adult child. His actions and his words made such a difference in the lives of those around him.
I have experienced hope by reading the insight of Erin Woggon in her school newspaper piece, “Muslim Students Facing Discrimination in School”; in the work of Eh Nay Thaw as he learns about peacemaking; in our church youth and their willingness to help others with mission projects, especially during Passport; in the kindness of our youth as the older ones help the younger ones; and in the young adults who have given of their summers to intern in our church’s ministry to children.
I find hope in our adult children who are making career choices that make for a more sustainable world: James and Laura with their farming, Sarah Garland with her writing, John and Jennie with their teaching of science and art, Thomas and Daniel with their activism. Hope in Andrea’s preaching, Brittani’s praying and Jason’s modeling inclusive love. The list could go on and on.
Pay attention. The possibility of experiencing hope is all around. Hold it dearly.
God, Help us to pay attention. Thank you for all we see to wonder about. May we experience hope in these gifts. Amen.
Small Star of Light
Light ,space, zest -- that`s God. So, with him on my side I`m fearless, afraid of no one and nothing.
Psalm 27:1 (MSG)
When the world tumbles in chaos
and I`m confused, sad and lonely;
When nothing seems to work and I`m lost
And everything is dark and bleak and
no one knows what to do-
There is a small star of light shining in the dark sky
lighting the way
I know his eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.
He cares for me and for all.
Dear God, help me to see the light and not loose hope. Amen.
Reminder of Hope
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
I Corinthians 15:19 (NRSV)
My cousin's only child had been
tragically killed on his motorcycle by a motorist who just didn't see
him, 4 days after his 20th birthday. He had been one of my Mother's pall
bearers 3 months to the day before his own death. His friends had organized
a little concert and silent auction in his memory to benefit a new
library in the struggling small town, just outside
Dear Father, Thank you for messengers such as this young man who, in all kinds of ways, remind us, through Jesus Christ, we can and must hope. Amen.
I’ll Dance Instead
This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand."
Matthew 13:13 (NIV)
I saw an episode called, "God Help Us", of a seven part miniseries called Belief. There was an account of a Catholic woman who had a horrible accident and had been clinically dead for two minutes. During that time she kept hearing the words of a poem by the Sufi Muslim Rumi, which she had read twenty years earlier.
I have lived on the edge of insanity.
Wanting to know reasons.
Knocking on a door.
I've been knocking from the inside.
When she awoke from a coma, the doctors told her she would never walk again. She then thought to her self, that's OK, I'll dance in stead! She had remembered that Rumi had developed a unique meditation called twirling, which became known as the whirling dervish. After three years of training, she became the only Catholic official whirling dervish.
"Know that personal power is not about changing the world around you. It is about the power to change the world within you." Deepak Chopra
"One person with a belief is equal to ninety-nine who have only interests." John Stuart Mill
"For behold, The Kingdom of Heaven is in your midst." Luke 17:21
God, Help us to change our world through our beliefs. Amen.
Sara Jo Hooper
What you have done for the least of these, you have done to me.
Matthew 25:45 (paraphrase)
Hope is as essential to my living and thriving as the very air I breathe.
Where do I find hope in a world rife with hopelessness – the refusal of the majority of Kentuckians to even bother to vote; economic disparity that has locked many in poverty; fear stalking our neighborhoods; our nation providing poorer health care and educational achievement than most developed countries, yet outranking those countries in the numbers of people incarcerated and those killed by other citizens’ guns?
Hope is the essence of my faith – belief and confidence in the “not yet.” Father William Inge: “Hope sees that which is possible, but is not yet.”
When my mind reels at the horrors in the news and discouragement threatens, I think of the confidence (faith) shown in Malala’s determination to fight for girls’ right to get an education; her insistence that she, a teen shot and terribly wounded by the Taliban, could accomplish something toward that end, has resulted in schools being built, a book being published, and her being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Hope personified.
think of the
I think of Gisela, who throws herself, every day, into the challenge of helping the 8,000+ children in Jefferson County Public Schools who are homeless. Her work spills into evenings and weekends as she meets families wherever they are.
Where, oh where, is hope? Look! It’s in the persons who spend their lives doing what one person can do to make a difference in our world.
God, forgive us when our fatigue and impatience threaten our hope. Help us to remember that we don’t know everything and cannot always predict outcomes. Help us to focus our energies on doing one thing at a time to lift someone’s spirits or meet a material need – with no fear that this is not enough. Amen.
Surrounded by Peace
For the mountains may depart and the hills may be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:10 (NRSV)
When I think of the peace of Christ, I am reminded of times in our lives when nothing seems right. Then in some unexpected way we come face to face with the reality that God is with us and His peace surrounds us.
One such event comes to mind: At the time of my Mother’s death she had been in a nursing home for almost six years. Very early in the morning prior to her death I was suddenly awakened and something seemed to say to me, “Today she will live but tomorrow she will die”. I told this to one of the head nurses. She asked how I could possibly know or even think that. I told her it was as clear as talking with her. She couldn’t understand and ran out of the room in tears.
Everything was OK during that day and night but the next day things changed. My Mother was awake and aware in a sense. My aunt and I were with her. My aunt pinched Mom’s finger in the bed rail, for which she was scolded. Shortly after that Mom told me to move that I was blocking her light. I asked what she saw in the light, and she said she saw Jesus. She only lived a couple more hours. When she passed away I felt a peace for myself and in knowing that she would no longer be suffering.
The nurse again asked how I knew. I told her I felt God was giving me time to prepare for the final moments, and I now felt everything was going to be OK with me. I will always miss my Mother but I cherish these last few hours with her and believe that we were surrounded by God’s love and peace.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in all ways. The Lord be with all of you. Amen.
2 Thess. 3:16
Everyone is Special
And yet not one of them (sparrows) will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:29b-31 (NRSV)
This past year has been a challenge for both Eileen and me. I had emergency back surgery in September, 2014, while on vacation, and within a year required a more extensive back surgery at the same vertebrae location. Eileen had a rescheduled shoulder surgery in November, 2014, which had been postponed from October, and before the sling was discarded, she required an emergency elbow and kneecap surgery in December, 2014. Fortunately, we were not disabled at the same time. When one of us completed physical therapy and was able to get around (particularly driving), then the other could consider surgery.
This could have been a time of high anxiety and fear about life in general by being dependent on the other for all things done during a day’s time, and being independent about getting around (driving) without requiring a chauffeur. I can only speak for myself, but I did not experience the fear about how life was affecting our family, even though our celebration of Advent was delayed. Maybe my self-assurance has been affected by my work career, which included responding to emergency situations and staying calm during a crisis to make decisions. However, I firmly believe that God supports everyone during a stressful time of our lives, and I particularly felt God’s peace during this past year’s disabilities. I was able to chauffeur Eileen to meetings, physical therapy, and appointments when it was required. Eileen was able to do the same for me when she completed her physical therapy.
Everyone is Special!
Thank you Father for the peace you offer us during our lifetime, particularly during our crisis times. We do have greater value than the sparrows. Amen.
They found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.
Luke 2:16 (NRSV)
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
Matthew 18:20 (NRSV)
Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ He took the bread and gave it to them and the same with the fish….’Feed my sheep.’
John 21:12, 14, 16
Perhaps the first church happened in the stable where the shepherds found Mary and Joseph and bowed down to worship the new born baby Jesus. “Two or three gathered together in His honor” is the essence of the church whether in a stable, a tent, a rented hardware store, or a cathedral.
Jesus, who had “no place to lay his head,” moved around through his brief three years of ministry meeting with people in their homes and synagogues teaching his truths and performing acts of kindness and healing. When Peter suggested they build a shrine on the mountain of transfiguration, God told them instead, “This is my son, Listen to him.”
Each morning after sweeping and mopping our office floor, I sit down at my desk with a cup of coffee and a pastry of some sort and imagine that time long ago on the shore of Tiberias when Jesus, after his resurrection, met again with some of his disciples (“two or three together”), fed them breakfast, and gave Peter the command to “feed my sheep.”
That command is ours today as well as we continue to gather within or without walls and “feed the sheep” by loving and praying for our neighbor, teaching the stories of the Bible, worshiping with one another, glorifying God with art and technology, and walking in the way of Jesus.
Lord, help us to follow your simple ways and teach us how to “feed your sheep.” Amen.
The Peaceable Kingdom
The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The scene described in this passage was painted
many times by American folk painter Edward Hicks (1780–1849) as the “
The whole passage of Isaiah 11:1-9 is an outline of the personal characteristic of the coming messianic king. Verses 6-9 give a poetic description of the complete harmony and peace of the coming messianic age. Humans and animals would live together in a paradise-like relationship (see The Broadman Bible Commentary, vol. 5, Isaiah 11:1-9, pp 231-332). This is a parallel to the Garden of Eden before sin caused disharmony.
Peace in Hebrew is “shalom.” The root meaning is “well-being.” There are other meanings in the Old Testament. It can signify bodily health, a nation enjoying prosperity, and stability in a relationship (see Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. II, p 402). Shalom is being in harmony with God and all of God's creation.
Gracious Lord, calm our human nature, so your Spirit may allow us to live in peace with all of your creation. Amen.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
When I was in high school, our youth minister took us on a retreat to French Lick, Indiana where we stayed in an adorable little lodge with some cottages in a farm-like country setting. My closest friends came on the trip and we were quickly in love with our surroundings and enjoying the time together. The first day there, and for the rest of our time in youth group, we nicknamed that experience “The Best Retreat Ever.”
As youth minister, I have recently reintroduced the practice of having a spiritual retreat for our youth. Often in preparation for a retreat, I have felt like that man who knows where the treasure is and spares no expense to make it his. There is a certain amount of marshmallows, firewood, sleeping bags, guitar strings, glow sticks, shaving cream bottles, hay bales and pizza that will purchase the treasure. Every year we hide it again and go looking for the treasure that is The Kingdom. I am never sure whether we will actually find it after all the hours and expenses that go into our preparation.
This year we retreated to Cedar Ridge Camp near Fisherville. It rained almost the entire weekend. We rearranged schedules to fit our outdoor activities in between the rain showers. The shaving cream fight (a CHBC tradition) was low on my priority list but we managed to get it going during free time. It was great fun, but afterwards, there was the mess. Three tired, foamy young people were left with the task of carrying a cooler full of partially used shaving cream bottles up a hill to the cabins. Barefoot, constantly dropping the cooler because of the slippery foam-covered handles, one of the middle school girls who was helping me stopped, looked up at the cloudy, gray sky and exclaimed, “Ms. Brittani, this is the best day ever!”
I couldn’t believe
my ears. She’d found the treasure. She discovered it in the most unlikely of
circumstances. One minute she was complaining about the pain and the next
minute she had been overtaken by something bigger. I think that’s how Jesus
must have come to Earth that night in
God of the Best Things Ever, We know the treasure of Christmas is worth the long wait and sometimes painful preparation. We know it takes hope, peace, joy, and love to bring your Kingdom into being. Let us not be afraid to lay down all we have in pursuit of the Christ Child. On gloomy, gray December days, help us to stop struggling for a moment and recognize the treasure we are carrying. Amen.
Flowers and Candles
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Matthew 5:9 (NRSV)
though a vast ocean separates us, the attacks in
was fearful that Friday evening. As I watched what was happening in
couple days after the attack, I came across a video online in which a French
father was speaking to his seemingly four or five year old son about the
attack. The father and son stood near where one of the attacks took place. The
son was visibly upset. He asked his father if they would have to leave
Peacemaking is dangerous, risky work. It demands faith that flowers and candles, love and grace, hospitality and kindness, are more powerful than guns and hate. Hearts full of peace and people extending hands of help in the midst of their own fears, however, is how peace will prevail and we will all know that we are God’s beloved children.
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, when fear swells within us, help us to remember that our world is too small for anything but truth and too dangerous for anything but love. May our lips speak your truth and our hearts be filled with your love so that all your children will know peace. Amen.
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
In Sunday school, we have been reading a book on the Beatitudes. The author explained how seeing the
Then I saw the cover for the Children's Sabbath, with upside down printed in a unique way! I had an epiphany, instead of seeing the world upside down from the adult perspective of overturned. Suddenly, I imagined a child hanging upside down on monkey bars, amazed by how different the world looks from that perspective. Hanging upside down, people are miraculously walking around on earth but in the sky (heaven) and if you look down you see sky.
From an adult perspective, if you turn a bowl of fruit upside down, fruit will uncontrollably and chaotically go everywhere. If you look at the bowl of fruit from an upside down perspective it will amazingly be held in place suspended by gravity.
Just as amazingly, the hope of heaven came to us as a little baby, and gave us a new perspective.
God, help us to see upside down. Amen.
The Joy of Going Through Home Again
L. Lee Whitlock
I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” (T.S. Eliot) I understood Eliot when I returned to CHBC after an absence of almost four decades. I joined CHBC in 1968 while a student at the SBTS. SBTS was deeply influential in my intellectual and theological journey, but it was CHBC that taught to put those elements into practical use.
detour from CHBC and SBTS in 1974 took me to three pastorates in
In February 2012, I took a seat in what has become “my pew” at CHBC. I joined the full fellowship four months later. In November 2012, I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, and this fellowship showed me the spirit and joy of Christ acted out and the joy of fellowship in full bloom. The result of all my exploration had led me to know this fellowship for the first time.
Dear Lord and Parent of all,
forgive our foolish wanderings and accept our gratitude for the fellowship you have
created through your Son, Jesus Christ. The
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Those Magi from the east set a high bar, bringing the Christ child gold, incense and myrrh! Ever since, gift giving has been part of the Christmas story. Of course there is the third century Nicholas who sold his inheritance to assist the needy and dedicated his life to serving God. He even threw three bags of gold through a poor family's window to provide a dowry for three poor girls, thus he was known as a gift giver. Seems we have strayed a bit from this example and now Christmas is a consumers' frenzy. Our children write letters to St. Nick underscoring how good they have been and how they NEED more new toys.
As a teen I watched a Christmas segment of The Rifleman in which Mark, the son of Lucas (aka The Rifleman), had been saving his money for a new rifle. But then he encountered a family that had nothing and decided to use his money to buy presents for the children in that family. He put the presents by their door, knocked and then hid behind a tree to watch the wonder and happiness of those children. It was a very satisfying (and joyful) Christmas for Mark.
We also had a family like that in my town so my younger brother and I took Mark's lead and pooled our money and bought the two children toys and goodies for Christmas. We also put their gifts on the porch, knocked and hid and watched those kids have a good Christmas after all. I still remember my feelings of satisfaction and happiness as we watched this unfold. That brought home to me the true meaning of giving gifts at Christmas--much more significant than trying to find "just the right gift" for someone who already has too much.
Our Father, source of all good things, help us to experience the joy of using our blessed abundance to bring happiness to others. May we gain perspective between what are "wants" and "needs" and live our lives and spend our money as disciples of the King who was born in a manger and who even now teaches us to open our hearts and our wallets. Amen.
What’s in a Name?
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Ruler God,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for God has looked with favor on the lowliness of God’s servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is God’s name.
God’s mercy is for those who fear God
from generation to generation.
God has shown strength with God’s arm;
God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
God has helped God’s servant Israel,
in remembrance of God’s mercy,
according to the promise God made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Mary rejoices, and her joy shocks the socks off of me. She knows that Jesus, literally, is “God my Savior.” Yet I always found it a name to protect. I grew up first with not-a-second-thought about calling any kid Joshua, but… the name, Jesus? It was reserved for the long-haired, strawberry-blond man in the pastel prints. I later matured to laugh at the exaggerated way unsophisticated preachers elongated the name -- gargling it in crocodile tears – as “JEE-EZUHS .” I was still protecting that name, but not realizing that I was really protecting myself from that name. Now how I hear it makes all the difference.
Christmas in July
Up on the housetop, the sweating Mayan man
ducks in the shade of the chimney stack, slips
the blade of his shingle-shovel under the curling
asphalt edges bent in the
in December on children’s faces.
He flakes them off and snows them down
to gathering drifts at the foundation’s ground,
then grabs the new ones from his broken bundle
to slap upon the deck. Now give him a hammer
and lots of tacks, and let all mortal flesh keep silence
about Jesús, born to save us from such tasks.
My God, I am rich and proud and seated on my throne. The rest is clear. Help me accept in Joy your advent in a new accent, for by such intrusion you save me from myself. Amen.
So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Luke 2: 16-20 (NRSV)
two, our oldest son Todd would stand on a chair to reach a plastic nativity set
on top of a music case. He would move the figures around for what seemed like
hours. Through the years we probably
added more than 50 sets from around the world to our collection. Our first special set was from
I don't have one favorite nativity, I do like the tin Mexican figures who
"sleep" in a tin box until the next Christmas. The set from
It is interesting how each country portrays Jesus in their own nationality and dress--so we have the ponchos and dark faces on many. We all seem to want a Jesus who "looks like us" and therefore can understand our joys and tears.
we lived in
Dear Lord, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas, help us to remember the hope, joy, love and peace that were all wrapped up in a tiny baby in the manger. Amen.
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Isaiah 60:1-3 (NRSV)
When my nephews and niece were young, I made advent banners for them. Each 4-foot felt banner had 25 ribbons sewn to it. I used the ribbons to randomly affix 25 small, wrapped, numbered packages to each banner. On the outside of each package was a small card with a Bible verse. Inside each package was a small gift. It might be a piece of candy, a small toy, a dollar, or something as mundane as a toothbrush or a comb.
My nephews and niece, now adults, still remember their advent banners. They reminisce about the pleasure of anticipation. They recall knowing that as the days on the banner dwindled, the “big day” approached. They remember that whatever gift the day brought, there was joy in the mystery.
Our lives are something like those advent banners. Each day is a gift as we remember the first advent of Jesus the Christ and look forward to the second one. Sometimes, the blessings are obvious and the pleasures clear. Other times, we may not immediately understand the purpose of the gift. Whatever each day brings, we know that “All things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28 NRSV). The days, both dark and bright, are preparing us for the joyous coming of the Lord.
God, I know you are my loving parent and teacher. Help me to learn, grow, and experience the joy of mystery. I know that all of it is to prepare me for the brilliant day when your glory is fully revealed. Amen.
Surprised by Joy
Sharleen Johnson Birkimer
The angel Gabriel announced to Mary: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God”.
had heard about the Kentucky Derby as I grew up as a child and adult, but I did
not realize how important it was to
Watterson was almost empty that morning and I was afraid that I would get lost
and there would not be someone to help me find my way home. Suddenly, I came up behind four State Trooper
cars and a strange looking trailer. Two cars were ahead of the trailer and two
were behind it; there was a gun sticking out of one of the car windows. I
considered getting off at an exit to avoid a possible crime situation. I later
mentioned it at church and discovered I had seen the
I think Mary felt fear, and then joy, when Gabriel told her she was to be the mother of the Messiah. I remember this experience when I am afraid and before joy comes from feeling the relief of God’s presence.
God, thanks for your presence of joy after the scary experiences of our lives. Amen.
Goodness and Mercy and the Magnificat
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. …
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me;…
Surely goodness and Mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Having been born in a Christian nation, into a Christian home, with a loving and supportive family, having received a good education, having food on the table and a warm home, I have never been in true want of anything considered to be the necessities of life. When I lie down at night, I am not worried about bombs or rockets entering my home. I lie down in peace to rest.
As an adult I have worked with young women who have been rejected by family, have little education, few job skills, a job which pays poorly (if they even have a job), little income or a dependence on welfare to provide for themselves and their children. Many are now touched by the scourge of drugs, making daily functioning even more difficult. For some, it seems there is too much “wanting” in their lives, too little education, too little knowledge or belief in a God to whom they can turn and upon whom they can depend.
the Magnificat of Mary, she referenced the Psalms, saying that the Lord has
filled the hungry with good things, and that his mercy is upon generation after
generation. Mary was so young, and while
she was with Elizabeth, she may have had the best of times, but she probably
had no real idea of her future and the difficult circumstances including the
travel prior to the birth, the lack of a room and privacy for the birth, or the
addition of the heavenly hosts, the shepherds, townspeople and eventually the
wise men. I wonder if Mary ever thought
again of the words she had spoken to
Mary’s emotions ran the gamut from the life of exultation as expressed in the Magnificat, to her walk through the valley of the shadow of death with her son. Surely Goodness and Mercy followed her all the days of her life and she now dwells in the house of the Lord.
Dear Heavenly Father, We pray for Goodness and Mercy to walk with us and to follow us all the days of our lives, whether we seem to have a life filled with goodness or a life of want and despair. We pray for your presence to guide and encourage us in times and seasons of joy as we realize that not all are experiencing the same joy that we have. Amen
Love and Hospitality
Later, when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them.
Matthew 9:10 (MSG)
We know meals were important to Jesus and his ministry. We often read of his eating with friends, with Mary and Martha, but also with Simon the Pharisee and with Zacchaeus, and we find him feeding 5000 (men) then another 4000, and of course with his disciples at the last supper and, post resurrection, fixing a breakfast of fish on the shore for disciples who had been fishing. Meals served a variety of purposes for him, including showing that people were more important than following rules and ritual. But I am convinced they were partly about love, love and hospitality.
My maternal grandmother (Mom Johnson) had two daughters and seven sons. Most had children, so I grew up surrounded by Mom, my parents, and many uncles, aunts, and many, many cousins (no truly disreputable characters, but several who would have been welcomed to the meal). Drop-in visits were common, along with more formal visits. Food was often involved; hospitality was second-nature to those good folks, love included offering food to those who were loved. Johnson family reunions were a wonder for a growing boy: tables piled with sandwiches of several sorts, fried chicken, roast beef, potato salad, green beans, deviled eggs and beet-soaked eggs, more good things long forgotten, and desserts beyond description. Late in my mother’s life I shared with her my memory of wonderful dinners at our home following midnight mass on Christmas Eve with uncles, aunts and cousins. “Oh John,” she exclaimed, “It maybe happened once.”
None-the-less, each Christmas Eve I recall with great fondness all those reunions and, yes, all those Christmas Eve dinners. Love and hospitality, friends and family, and wonderful Christmas memories.
God of Christmas love, please continue the love and hospitality you have so graciously extended to us with all your creation and with your gift of Jesus. Amen.
Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect someone else?
On November 1, 2015, Rodney Beck died at age 89. In the early 60’s he had joined Wayne Craig, Tom & Pat Scott, Clara McCartt, Betty Cook, Jim & Keyes Tate, Fay Woody (later Leach), and others in some small group retreats to Spring Mill and Earlham College. Rodney’s daughter, Barbara Sholis, gave me permission to share this poem that
was posted at the visitation.
Long have I wandered
Searching for one
Willing to join in my quest –
This yearning to know you.
Once, I anxiously hoped,
“I’m getting there.”
It was not so.
Of our planet
I found others who,
With their love
Led me to know
That we must
Become as one.
Let me grow
In love with you
And other seekers
As we continue
Toward that time beyond
Known as “Not Yet.”
God and Jesus, as we look toward December 25 during this season of Advent, may be develop the habit of seeking to know you and your way throughout the remaining years of our lives. Amen.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:7
Due to the schedule of hours that my parents worked, I stayed with my grandmother who fed, clothed, sheltered me, and saw I had a good education. She was a widow at the age of 53 and managed a good size farm near our hometown of Perryville. She was very active in our church and her homemakers club. Her compassion and understanding of who I was, made our relationship more of a mother and son. I truly looked up to her, and respected her love, and devotion to me.
After trying to help a dear friend who had a alcohol problem I felt that it was best for us not to be friends. This was hard for him to accept, and in the process, our story came out to his parents, and his mother felt she needed to have a conversation with my grandmother. This story, brought me out of the closet, that I was gay.
She told me one Sunday after church about their conversation, and how she was an older lady who couldn't understand our friendship, but, made it very clear that she loved me unconditionally. I have always been sad to the fact that my mother tried to have a conversation with me, and I didn't want to at the time, and she died a few years later.
life brought me to
Dear Lord, thank you so much for your love, and how you have blessed me with family that loves me unconditionally. May I continue to show your love and grace to others. Amen.
Cooking and Hospitality
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Hebrews 13:1-5 (NRSV)
I wish I had bought the platter with that inscription when I saw it in the gift shop. I don’t usually display quotes or bible verses decoratively but I hold dear these verses from Hebrews.
Cooking is something that brings me great joy as a way to show hospitality: when we visit our son James’ farm and I can contribute to the work project by providing meals for the group of friends and family workers; when we invite friends for shared meals in our home; family holiday meals shared with more than just family; and when preparing and taking food to friends in need. The time of meal planning and food preparation is a time to reflect on those for whom I am cooking. What do I know about their likes and dislikes? What brings them joy? What is bringing us together? That time is prayer.
As a church we enjoy regular meal times together. Our suppers on Wednesday nights are a time to share the food prepared for us by Bobbe and also the fellowship of prayer, learning and growing together. Our Thanksgiving meal is such a wonderful time to “be the Family of God.” Such care goes into the room preparation and hopefully our efforts speak our welcome louder than words. We share our favorite dishes and eat some things that are new to us. We have communion around the tables and include all.
In the words of Carrie Newcomer:
“There is room for us all,
And no gift is too small,
There is room at the table for everyone.
There's enough if we share,
Come on pull up a chair,
There is room at the table for everyone”
Dear God: Help us welcome and share your love with those around us. Amen.
He told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments . . . , so that nothing may be lost.”
Mary Martha and Fishermen class were studying the building of Solomon’s
After the class, on his way out, Sam Blythe stopped to tell me that his mother, Louise Dohrman, had indeed come to the church soon afterward to see how it had weathered the storm. She found shattered windows in the tower, and further damage to those in the balcony. Mrs. Dohrman set about gathering up fragments of the stained glass. (In my mind’s eye I could see her bending down, and carefully picking up those pieces one by one.) She took them home, and made them into Christmas ornaments to give to her friends.
There are many other stories of Mrs. Dohrman’s love for this sacred place, but none quite so winsome. I have learned recently that she was the donor who gave us our carillon, and she also made possible the repair and refurbishment of the organ in the Chapel. I never met this generous woman who loved her Lord’s house, but I feel that I know her because she gathered up the fragments, re-purposed them, and would not let them be lost.
Prayer: Father, we live in a throw-away world where built-in obsolescence is the norm. Help us to recognize what should be kept, re-purposed, and used. Amen.
The Gift of Friendship
I thank my God in all my remembrances of you…
Which describes my friend
When my day gets tense – I call her for one of her
special prayers, and her encouragement. You see,
When my days seems “blue” – I call her for a gentle reminder of God’s love and a good laugh, as we plan our heavenly reunion – which will include roller-skating down the golden streets.
When I just need a “fan” – I call
At this time of giving, I reflect and thank God for the gift of a special friend and her gentle influence in my life.
Thank you, God, for the blessing of your Son and the gift of relationship he modeled for, and gave to, us. Amen.
CRESCENT HILL BAPTIST CHURCH
2800 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, Kentucky 40206