A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Watch Therefore

“Watch, therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  Watch, lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.  And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.” ~ Mark 12:35-37 

Happy New Year!  Where did the year go?  I have no idea.  But no, it’s not January 1; it is still November. The Church begins its new year on the First Sunday of Advent which is this coming Sunday. The scripture lessons this year are more about the Second Coming of Jesus than they are about his birth.  It’s much easier to write about birth stories, since I know something about that, than it is to write about the Second Coming of Jesus of which I have had little direct experience.

Birth stories are more about waiting and the second coming is more about watching. Waiting for birth is about preparation for new life.  Birth pangs will tell us when it’s time.  Watching has a different feel.  As I sit here, I’m trying to get in touch with that difference. Watching is about paying attention to what is going on around us as well as inside of us.  In giving birth, we know for what, even if not exactly for whom, we prepare.  Paying attention – watching – is about noticing the signs of Jesus’ coming again.  We’ve never done this before. For what do we watch? How do we prepare?  How will we notice? How is it different? Maybe the work of Advent this year is reflecting on those questions. Today, I have been looking through some books of Advent meditations.  I am trying to decide which I will use this season.  I read this from Preparing for Jesus, by Walter Wangerin Jr.

“For nearly one thousand five hundred years Christians have spent the days of Advent not in passive inaction, but in activities strenuous and profitable; they have prepared themselves by scrubbing and cleaning their lives, by examining and repairing their souls—even as people generally prepare themselves body and home to receive a visitor of ineffable importance.

“Who is coming? Who awaits him? And when will he get here? And how shall the people prepare?” 

“The Son of man, He is coming.  Jesus.  That One, Him.”

“And we are the people who await him.  You and I. Since it was for us he died, we are the ones who wait in love.  And since he ascended to heaven with promises to return, we wait in faith—for the next and final Advent, Jesus will take us as friends, as brothers and sisters into his house forevermore.

“And when will he get here?  Like any New Year’s Day: at the end and the beginning.  But that Advent to come—the final arrival of Jesus in glory—will itself cause the end of this present age and the beginning of our eternal joy.  When will that be?  Ah, my friend, I do not know.  No one knows its day or hour.  Therefore, Jesus commands us to “Watch.  Stay awake. Get ready. Prepare, prepare—and watch?”

“Finally then, how shall we prepare? In these days, while yet there are days and time, by what activity should we make ourselves ready? Why, by meditating on his first coming—for though the future may be hidden from us the past is not, and the one can teach us the other.

“The story of the birth of Jesus is open before us.  We have a spiritual and holy account of the time when God himself directed preparations for that first coming of his Son into the world.  What God ordains is always good.  Therefore, those preparations may be the perfect pattern for our own this year again, this year too.

“Behold, I bring you good news of great joy…. 

“Oh Lord, Stir up, we beg you, your power—and come.  Come even now into this season of our meditations, that by your protection we may be rescued from our sins, and saved by your mighty deliverance in order to look forward to your final arrival with the joy that cannot be uttered…  Amen.” 

Bless you in your waiting and in your watching.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Good News

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today. ~
Martin Rinkart 1636

“What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you were grateful for yesterday,” a Facebook Meme asks. Even though I have been contemplating this question, and even though this coming Thursday is Thanksgiving, and the fact that “Practice Gratitude” is one element in the Trinity Way of Life prompting Charlie Brown, I imagine, to ask, “What if today we were just grateful for everything?” that is not what has been on my mind most of this week, though there are so very many things for which I am grateful. (Diagram that sentence, St. Paul. Your turn.) 

I have been meditating on the Gospel lesson from last Sunday found in Luke 21:5-19 (NRSV). Jesus and other worshipers are standing around after the service admiring the temple and Jesus tells them that it will eventually be torn down and that all types of cataclysmic events will take place. “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. ***This will give you an opportunity to testify. *** So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.” 

There is more to that passage than I have used, but I began to think about why bad things happen to us.  There are all sorts of reasons, but I’ve not often considered that they give us an opportunity to testify.  If we pay attention to our stories, we will, most often, have some “Good News” to share. God has given much to me as I have worked out, in fear and trembling, some seriously awful events in my life.  I have, after a period of time and reflection, found new spiritual growth, new wisdom, and new understanding through these events and they have given me good news about God’s workings to share. 

I’ve never been thrown into prison, but I spent many years working with the Kairos prison ministry.  Talk about bad things happening to people – I’ve heard it all.  Most of the stories, I believed because I am reasonably good about discerning a con job.  I, by a turn of events, was the first non-ordained Spiritual Advisor for Kairos Colorado, so there were many opportunities to share Jesus’ story and the ways the “bad” things in my life had changed me with God’s help and healing.  As Spiritual Advisor, I only had about 15 minutes with each person to listen to their story, share Jesus’ story and pray for them. My personal goal was to give each person who came to me a bit of Jesus to hold on to, a bit of His love to ponder, and some hope for their story.  In. 15. Minutes. God worked some amazing miracles in that time constraint. 

An aside (I’m not making light of these programs, just wanting to share a story) – One weekend my husband, Dave, was working with Kairos and I was taking an Al-anon family seminar at Harmony Ranch in Estes Park. Someone asked one of our daughters what her parents were doing that weekend.  With a perfectly straight face, I am sure, she told them that her dad was in prison and her mother was in rehab. See what I had to live with.  No wonder I’m the way I am.  

You might want to refresh your memory by re-reading that scripture from Luke.  Questions to be used for your meditation might be: What did Jesus do with the “bad” events and hard times that have happened in my life?  What is the “Good News” story that I could tell about Jesus in my life? How has he healed me?  How has he loved me? How have I been transformed by God’s working through this event? Maybe you have some questions of your own. God does not waste any part of our lives.  He doesn’t ignore the bad and only use the good or the times we think we are good.   

Remember – Jesus loves you and there is nothing at all that you can do about that. 

This is something for which we can be grateful. 

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Meditating,

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Revolution

In Christ alone alone my hope is found.  He is my light, my strength, my song.This Cornerstone, this solid ground; firm through the fiercest drought and storm. What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease.  My comforter, may All in All.  Here in the love of Christ I stand.~ Stuart Townend, Keith Getty

Wow!! There has been entirely more than enough emotional content to process for me over the last two years and now add this. Two or three years ago – I don’t remember, I predicted a revolution in our country. I didn’t tell many people, but I kept feeling that this was going to happen. I believed it was a message from God, but I didn’t have any urgency that I should run out through the streets with this nor shout it from the housetops. I thought it was so I would be aware. I didn’t know when this would happen, what would bring it about, or how it would look, but the message kept returning. The last few days of the presidential campaign, I also had a niggling thought that the election would turn out the way it did. And there you have it – history repeats itself. Revolution!

Revolutions are most often violent and bloody. They are always messy. There is almost always an imbalance of power. There are levels of fear, frustration and anger that fuels this. There is a belief that some people are being ignored by the Power and a strong feeling that there aren’t any other ways to even things out and give balance. America has previously had its share of revolution – the American Revolution, Indian uprisings, the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, etc. Along with this, as often happens, we have civil war – brother against brother, family against family, friend against friend. All of us are somewhat afraid and many of us are angry. Revolutions are divisive.

So are you ready for the question? Several people have asked me a similar question over the past three days. It is, “What is a follower and apprentice of Jesus to do in times and situations like these?” What is our response to be?

If we are followers and apprentices of Jesus, we are to do what the master did. This comes to mind – Jesus read this aloud in the synagogue and said it was about him. (From Luke 4:18-19) – “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” If these are Jesus’ marching orders, then they are ours as well.

In the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5, 6, 7. – Jesus tells us to be salt and light, don’t retaliate, turn the other check, pray always, love and pray for your enemies, forgive, don’t be anxious or afraid. The Gospels tell us how Jesus carried this out as he modeled it for us.

Then, from our Baptismal Covenant – we, or our parents and godparents for us, promised to do these things:

“Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?”

“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”

“Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”

The answer to each is, of course – “I will, with God’s help.”

An article I read this morning asked the question, “Where are the peacemakers?” For this, we should look in the mirror. This is our calling. We can NOT hate or create violence in the name of Jesus. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

So once again, history repeats itself but God does bat last.

Whether we celebrate the results of this election or mourn, we will need to listen to one another. And that will lead to our reaching out, as the Body of Christ to all those who need us in every corner of the land. – The Episcopal Café

For His Sake – Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION -It’s Curtains

This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord – Jeremiah 9:23-24

I will be so happy when this election is over.  The campaigns are making my stomach churn and hurt. There is so much anger, hatred and fear out there and it’s hard to be inspired by any of it. Or inspired at all.  I don’t want to talk about it and, by this time next week, it will be over. Please God. How shall apprentices of Jesus behave in times like these.  These are important times.  These are life-changing times.  All of us want life to be better than it is right now.  Violence is erupting everywhere with the promise of more to come.  And sometimes a writer who tries to follow Jesus must say something.

An incident that happened yesterday caused me to pause and discover that if you can get people to talk about their fears and truly listen to the desires of their hearts, you might find that even though we are on opposite sides of the political fence, we basically want the same things. We just disagree on how to get there. To listen well, I have to put my fears, anger and even hatred – oh how I wish I didn’t have those – into the hands of Jesus.

Even though this will make Friday Meditation a bit too long, I want to share with you a bit of a meditation by Terry Hershey that I read today.

“Every Christmas I used to go home to west Tennessee. (Fred Craddock tells the story.)  An old high school chum of mine, I called him Buck, had a restaurant in town, every year it was the same.  I’d go to the restaurant, ‘Merry Christmas Buck,’ I’d say, and he would give me a piece of pie and a cup of coffee for free.  Every year it was the same. I went in, ‘Merry Christmas, Buck.’

But this year he said, ‘Let’s go somewhere for coffee.’  ‘What’s the matter?  Isn’t this a restaurant?’ He said, ‘Sometimes I don’t know.  Sometimes I wonder.  Let’s go.’ So we went for coffee.  We sat there and pretty soon he said, ‘Did you see the curtain?’I said, ‘Buck, I saw the curtain.  I always see the curtain.’

Now what he meant by curtain was this: they have a number of buildings in that little town that are called shotgun buildings (we saw them in New Orleans).  They’re long buildings with two entrances, front and back.  One is off the street, one is off the alley.  In Buck’s restaurant and other restaurants in town, the entrances were separated by a curtain, with a kitchen in the middle.  If you were white, you came in off the street.  If you were black, you came in off the alley.

He said again, ‘Did you see the curtain?  The curtain has to come down.”Good, bring it down.’ He said, ‘That’s easy for you to say.  Come into town once a year and tell me how to run my business.’ I said, ‘Okay, then leave it up.’ He said, ‘I can’t leave it up.’ ‘Well then, take it down.’ ‘I can’t take it down.’  

After while he said, ‘If I take that curtain down, I lose a lot of my customers.  If I leave the curtain up, I lose my soul.’  (Moment of silence)”

So, what to do – I remember that God told me at the beginning of this process to bless both candidates. Have I been good about doing this?  Um, not consistently, but I have a few more days.  In addition, I need to add blessings for those with whom I disagree and who disagree with me.  That is one thing that a follower and apprentice of Jesus can do. Another is to set aside my own fears and listen well. I might bring some light into the darkness and the curtains might start to come down and the love of Jesus begin to shine.