Welcome to the November 2006 Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
    You are welcome to use these writings or pass them on. All we ask is that in all things you remember the Author and give Him the glory, and remember this vessel which He has used to bring them to you. Peggy Hoppes


All Saints























Scripture quotes taken from the American Standard Version

A WORD FOR TODAY, November 2006

November 1, 2006

Scriptures for All Saints Sunday, November 5, 2006: Isaiah 25:6-9 or Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9; Psalm 24:7-10; Revelation 21:1-6a; John 11:32-44

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them for ever. Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his elect, and he watches over his holy ones.

Today is All Saints Day. It all began in the early days of the Church, when Christians were being martyred for their faith. The day of their death was considered their ‘birthday’ because it was the day they entered into the eternal presence of God. They were remembered on that day with a feast or a festival and honored for their faith. It began with local commemorations but eventually the feasts of the martyrs were shared and celebrated in many places. Eventually the day was used to remember all the saints – both martyrs and those who are remembered for their faith and faithfulness. Soon there were so many saints that it became difficult to honor every one on their individual ‘birthdays’ so the Church chose one day to remember the martyrs. That date has changed over time until the eighth or ninth century when the commemoration was set to November 1st.

We use this day to remember not only those that have been officially recognized as Saints, but also to remember those whom we loved who have passed from life into death. Usually we focus on those who have passed more recently, but the day is certainly a good time to recall those we have loved and lost. It is a way for the community of God to unite in our love for the great cloud of witnesses, the saints whom have attained the promise of eternal life in Christ.

Yet, All Saints Day is not only for those who have already died, but it is for all those who live in the hope of that promise, for eternal life is not only a future promise but it is also a present reality. We are part of the community of saints from the moment we are baptized into Christ, having heard the saving word of forgiveness and welcomed into the loving embrace of our Father. We are saints, just as they are saints, and this day is also for us.

We do not often read from the works that come from the deutero-canonical writings of the Old Testament which is where we would find the Wisdom of Solomon. In this reading we see the lives of the saints – including us – thanks to the grace and mercy of God. He holds us in His hands. While the world looks at suffering and death as punishment, we live in the peace that these things are only temporary and that we will see the fulfillment of the hope we have. Trusting in God means that we will know His presence among us now and forever.

There is no place we see this more completely than as we kneel to receive the Holy Supper. At Holy Communion we receive the body and blood of Christ, strengthened by His forgiveness and His grace. We kneel there outside time and space, amongst the whole body of Christ, from the saints of days gone by to the saints who have not yet even been born. We commune with the loved ones we mourn even while we commune with the loved ones who are kneeling right next to us. We partake the bread and wine with all saints throughout time in space, getting a glimpse of the feast which those whom have already passed are already enjoying, like that feast we saw in Isaiah. God has promised us His extravagant goodness in the day that we too get to go home and live in His eternal presence forever. For today, however, we still live in the knowledge of the promise knowing that God also dwells with us in the here and now. As we live out the hope for tomorrow, we live in the faith of today – believing that God is with us and that He calls us to share His love and mercy with all so that they too might be released from their death clothes and live for eternity in His presence. Thanks be to God.


November 2, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, November 12, 2006: 1 Kings 17:8-16; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44

1 Kings 17:8-16 And the word of Jehovah came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Sidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow there to sustain thee. So he arose and went to Zarephath; and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thy hand. And she said, As Jehovah thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but a handful of meal in the jar, and a little oil in the cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said; but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it forth unto me, and afterward make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, The jar of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that Jehovah sendeth rain upon the earth. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. The jar of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of Jehovah, which he spake by Elijah.

Tuesday night was Halloween, which means Trick or Treating in many neighborhoods around America. For the past few weeks I’ve noticed people in the stores wandering through the candy aisles trying to decide what kind of candy they would have for the kids who came begging that night. A great many of them were on their cell phones with someone asking the question, “How many kids do you think we are going to have?”

This is the big question of Halloween for those who are going to hand out candy. How many children will come and how much candy will I need? We live in a rather new neighborhood, a neighborhood that is still growing. The numbers of children go up each year, so the amount of candy used last year was not nearly enough for some of the parents. We were not home – we went “Trick or Treating” for canned goods as part of an International Thespian Society project. Some of the houses ‘closed down’ very early because they ran out of candy.

I remember one year in England we did not know how much candy to get. I had a very large bag of Tootsie Minis, a hundred and fifty pieces of candy. At the beginning I was giving two or three for each child but I quickly realized that I would never have enough candy. At one point I had twenty children standing in line waiting for one very small piece of candy. I felt very bad that I could not be more generous with the candy, but if I was too liberal I would not have had enough for all the children. I have to admit that I always buy candy I like, so I would like to have a few pieces left to enjoy after Halloween is over.

We want to be generous and hospitable with our resources, it is a natural part of the beings we have been created by our Father to be. Yet, there is an even more powerful instinct – learned by experience – to be careful with our resources. We want to share, but we are afraid that if we give too much to too many we might run out and not have enough for ourselves. In some part this is a selfish point of view because we want to ensure that we get our part. Yet, for some generous hospitality might even mean death.

That is how it was for the widow of Zarepath. She was literally working on her final meal, a small cake to be shared with her son. Once that cake was made and eaten they would have no more flour or oil to make any more. She exaggerates a little – they would not literally die at that moment. Actually, it was likely to be a slow and painful death as they starved without food for days or even weeks. Yet, that one cake would give them a few more moments together and perhaps some hope for another day.

Elijah asked the woman to give everything she had, even to sacrifice the little time she had left with her son. Elijah was a stranger and there was no reason why she should give up her food for him. Her maternal instinct was probably very strong, the temptation to reject the stranger must have been intense. Yet, Elijah encouraged her to trust, to step out of the box of fear and selfishness so that she might witness the gracious hospitality of God. To see the blessing would take courage. To receive life would take sacrifice. In the end, the widow and her son did not die, but they experienced the power of God because she believed that Jehovah could do, and would do, all that Elijah said.


November 3, 2006

Today’s WORD is an edited rerun of the posting from February 6, 2003

Scriptures for Sunday, November 12, 2006: 1 Kings 17:8-16; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44

Psalm 146:1-10 Praise ye Jehovah. Praise Jehovah, O my soul. While I live will I praise Jehovah: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being. Put not your trust in princes, Nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; In that very day his thoughts perish. Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in Jehovah his God: Who made heaven and earth, The sea, and all that in them is; Who keepeth truth for ever; Who executeth justice for the oppressed; Who giveth food to the hungry. Jehovah looseth the prisoners; Jehovah openeth the eyes of the blind; Jehovah raiseth up them that are bowed down; Jehovah loveth the righteous; Jehovah preserveth the sojourners; He upholdeth the fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked he turneth upside down. Jehovah will reign for ever, Thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye Jehovah.

Zack played basketball with a local league a few years ago. It was a really fun experience for him as he learned the rules of the game and played with his friends. He was even excited when someone he knew was on the opposing team. Zack’s coach worked with the children to help them understand sportsmanship, respect for the other players and proper technique. Unfortunately, the luck of the draw left them with the smallest players in the league, giving them a disadvantage against the other teams. There were also some coaches who were only interested in winning, willing to do whatever is necessary to go home with a victory. Fortunately, Zack’s coach was more concerned with raising these children with a joy for the game and a heart to do their. They were the underdogs, but they did well each week despite the overwhelming odds against them.

The world is filled with situations where we are the underdogs. This is particularly true for those of us who live by faith, since so many think that Christianity is nothing more than a fairy tale that we are foolish for believing. In today’s society, the whole idea of the underdog being the blessed one is rejected, even in some churches. If you aren’t healthy, rich or successful, then ‘the gods’ have not treated you with favor. You must have done something wrong, or you must not have enough faith. Achieving great things is seen as blessedness, yet the reality is quite different. Zack did not get the first place trophy when the season was over, but I am thankful for what he learned during that experience. There is blessedness in the life of the underdog. In faith this is especially true because God regards those of humble circumstances with great love.

There are those in our society who pursue success to the detriment of all else. The coach who is willing to cheat for the sake of a victory is harming the children on his team because they are not learning sportsmanship and respect. The person who is willing to destroy a family for the sake of a career misses out on the incredible blessings of being part of a loving relationship. Yet, it is possible to take ourselves to the other extreme, to pursue underdog status, which can be just as dangerous. I know people who seek persecution, who see everything as being against them. They are bound by a desire to be the underdog and they purposely set themselves up for failure just so they can wallow in their humility, but it is a false humility.

God loves those who trust in Him. He is our help in our successes and our failures. He upholds us, gives us food, sets us free, gives us sight, and lifts us up. He guides and guards us when we are far from home or when we have lost those we love. He protects us from our enemies. He is the Lord God Almighty, and our hope is found in Him, through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whether we succeed or we are the underdog, whether we are on the winning team or the team that just does their best, when God is our helper we will be blessed. Trust in Him for He is faithful. Thanks be to God.


November 6, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, November 12, 2006: 1 Kings 17:8-16; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44

Hebrews 9:24-28 For Christ entered not into a holy place made with hands, like in pattern to the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us: nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place year by year with blood not his own; else must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once at the end of the ages hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment; so Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for him, unto salvation.

One of the biggest tasks a president has to do when he leaves office is to plan and develop a place where his term of office will be remembered. During a president’s four, eight or more years a warehouse full of things are collected from papers to remembrances to gifts that have been received from foreign dignitaries. It takes a great deal of money to build a library to hold all these things, to display them for the upcoming generations and to make them available to historians and other researchers.

Some of the presidents create a room that is specifically designed to reflect the most important room in the White House – the Oval Office. This room is where the business of the presidency is conducted, where decisions are made and where internationally vital relationships are formed. Each president, once taking office, is given the freedom to decorate the Oval Office to suit his taste. Rugs are changed, walls are painted, curtains hung. Though there may be some aspects of the room that have stayed constant over the years, each president has been given the freedom to make the office his, at least for those years. Then his choices are memorialized in his library in a replica of the Oval Office.

It might seem real. It might even seem official. The replica at the Lyndon B. Johnson Museum in Austin is even oval, though slightly smaller than the real thing. Though these replicas seem real, they are not. No one could conduct the business of state there. Bills will not be signed into laws there. Foreign dignitaries will not be received there. We can go and see what it was like, but even then we are not given the freedom to use the room in any way. The artifacts are roped off; the chairs are not to be used. Nothing lasting comes out of those rooms.

The Temple was a beautiful and very meaningful place for the Jews. It was there that they offered sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins. However, nothing that happened in the Temple was lasting because it was a place built with human hands. It was patterned after the real thing, the true holy place of God – heaven itself. The priests offered sacrifices, and these were important acts of obedience to God’s Law, but it was only temporary. Since the blood offered and the priest who offered it were perishable and imperfect, the sacrifice had to be made over and over again.

Until Jesus. He was not only the perfect Priest, but He was also offering His own perfect blood. He offered it in the true Holy Place and the affects of His sacrifice were eternal. It only needed to happen once. From that moment on, sin was forgiven.

We often see the image of Christ’s return as one of a strong warrior riding in on horseback with a sword in hand bringing down all death and sin. Yet, Christ has already accomplished this work. It is finished. In today’s passage we hear of Christ coming as Judge, but not a judge of condemnation, the Judge of salvation. In this vision, Christ comes to those who are waiting for Him, those who have been saved by the grace of God. When Christ comes again, He will receive those for whom He died and welcome them into the realm of God. The others will miss Him. The condemnation they face will not be by His hand but by their own rejection of the Gospel message. They will continue to worship in the temples made by man, refusing to see the real that has been so freely offered by Jesus.


November 7, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, November 12, 2006: 1 Kings 17:8-16; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44

Mark 12:38-44 And in his teaching he said, Beware of the scribes, who desire to walk in long robes, and to have salutations in the marketplaces, and chief seats in the synagogues, and chief places at feasts: they that devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers; these shall receive greater condemnation. And he sat down over against the treasury, and beheld how the multitude cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than all they that are casting into the treasury: for they all did cast in of their superfluity; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

There is a new independent film in the theaters right now based on the story of Queen Esther from the Bible. It is called “One Night with the King.” Though the storyline is diverts from the biblical text and the cinematography is not great, it was a good film. We went as a family and it was a good way for us to spend time together.

One of the images that stuck with me after seeing the film was the humility displayed by Esther, particularly when she was in the palace preparing for her time with the king. In the biblical story, Esther is befriended with the eunuch assigned to care for the virgins. He gives her special treatment and opportunity. In the movie this plays out in a scene where Esther is taken to the king to read to him, long before the girls are actually ready for their time with him.

In one scene the girls are given free reign in the treasury room where they were to choose the adornments they would wear for their night. Most of the girls went wild, choosing so much gold and so many jewels that it was difficult for them to even stand straight under the weight. One of the girls was given the opportunity to ride with the king and she was so heavy with jewelry that she could not even stay on the horse.

Esther, on the other hand, chose nothing from the treasury except a necklace that had been hers but was lost during the struggle when she was taken to the palace. When it came time for her night, she was simply dressed with a lovely dress and her necklace. If she were placed side by side with the other girls, she would most likely have been lost in the crowd – invisible. Yet, it was her humble appearance, and heart, that won over the king.

The scribes in today’s story liked to walk around in long robes, beautifully adorned for all to see. They made a big deal about being noticed, about standing out in the crowd. They were, perhaps, some of those who were casting money into the temple treasury that day when Jesus was watching. We see by the text that the rich cast in much money. I wonder how many did so just so that they would be noticed?

Yet, in that very crowd was someone who was invisible. The poor widow was a non-person, of no worth because she had nothing to give. She was unimportant and unnoticed by most that were present that day. Only Jesus saw her and her humble appearance and hear won over His heart. He pointed her out to the disciples saying, “…she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” Though she was invisible, she gave all that she had out of faith.

Now, we are very quick to dismiss the grand gifts of the others, thinking that they were all giving simply out of a sense of important and to be noticed. Yet, we all know people who are quite rich and very generous with their resources who do not wish to be visible. We all know people who would rather be invisible when it comes to their gifts. So while there is a story here of an invisible woman who should be noticed for her faith, there is also a story of stewardship that might remain invisible. Jesus does not use this as an opportunity to diminish the gifts of the rich. He instead is using this opportunity to lift up the invisible and bring down the haughty. There is a stewardship message here. We are reminded that our great gifts are out of our wealth and welcome in the treasury, but we should not hold our gifts with a sense of haughtiness and pride.


November 8, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, November 12, 2006: 1 Kings 17:8-16; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44

This Sunday is Stewardship Sunday for our church. We can easily take this text and throw it into the faces of our congregations as proof that God is calling us to give everything, sacrificially giving even unto death. After all, we see two examples of such faith-filled generosity in the widow of Zarephath and the widow in the temple. Are these scriptures given so that we might all live a life of absolute trust in God for our daily life? If that were true, we should all become monks, giving up our entire lives and families out of faith that God will provide for our every need.

That is neither good stewardship nor is it the responsible choice for most of us. We do have families which are gifts from God, homes and jobs that require a portion of our resources. We have vocations through which God is touching the world in very real, very practical ways.

While there can be a focus on issues of justice in this, we can’t assume that the widow in Zarephath was poor and that she was hungry because of injustice. She was living in a time and a place that was in the midst of drought. No one had any food. Have you ever tried to go to the grocery store in the last hours before a hurricane hits? Or a blizzard? You might have all the money in the world, but you will not be able to buy any milk if there is no milk to be bought. The widow had nothing because there was nothing to be had. She was not the only one dying in Zarephath. It is even possible that she lost her husband because of the drought. She was simply blessed by God with the grace to share her last and the faith to trust that this living God would take care of her needs.

We don’t know anything about the widow in the Gospel lesson, except that she was a widow with only two small coins to her name. We assume she is a beggar because she is poor, but perhaps those two small coins were the last of the money left to her by her husband when he died. Though there is no real connection between the two, what if that woman was the same one whom Jesus healed in chapter five of Mark? That woman had been bled dry by the charlatan doctors trying to heal her, so she may have had little left on which to live. It may have taken everything else for her to go to the Temple to offer her thanks to God for His healing. Out of faith and trust she, whatever her circumstances, gave her last coins to God.

Sacrificial generosity is a God-given spiritual gift, one to which very few are given. We are not all called to such faithfulness. While it is very easy for us to look at these two women and assume this is the example we should use for Stewardship campaigns, it is neither useful not appropriate to this text.

Jesus was not putting down those rich folk who were giving out of their wealth. He did not say that they were practicing injustice by not giving their wealth to the widow. He simply said they were giving out of their wealth. I think it would do us well to notice that those 'rich folk' were giving 'out of their wealth' for the sake of the Temple and to remember that it is the 'rich folk' who are doing so in our own congregations that are keeping our doors open, our salaries paid and our ministries running.

The issue we face in this text is not a call to eradicate poverty – it was God who provided for the widow in Zarephath. We are reminded that our giving is not something which we should use to bring attention to ourselves. The scribes walked around the temple in their fancy robes seeking honor and respect. The people giving to the temple treasury were pilgrims that had traveled to Jerusalem to honor God with their offering. Were they doing it all for show? Perhaps there were a few, but I would imagine most were there because of their faith.

What about the people in our congregations? Are they all doing it for show? Perhaps there are a few who walk around with fancy robes and haughty attitudes, but my guess is that most folk in our congregations are giving as they are called to give, joyfully and faithfully according to God's call, being good stewards of their resources – giving generously to the church and other charities while still caring for their families. Let us never forget the ‘rich folk’ who give out of their wealth because of their own faith to serve God with their resources through His Church.


November 9, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, November 19, 2006: Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] 19-25; Mark 13:1-8

Daniel 12:1-3 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

It has been an interesting week in American politics – historical, transformational, upsetting for some and elating for others. It is a week that has been predicted, previewed and anticipated by many. No matter what people thought, there was no way to know for sure the outcome of this year’s elections – some of the contests were too close to really call. Though there were many – on both sides – who talked with great confidence even into the late hours of Election Day about their victory, it was impossible to know until the last vote was counted the final outcome.

Every generation has found some need to look into the future, to determine the ways of things long before they happen, to predict how things will come to be. All too often, this type of prediction has a sense of self-fulfilling prophecy. The hope is that if it is spoken in a way that means just what the speaker wants it to mean, then it will happen as that speaker says. It happens in politics all the time. I suppose for some it is the power of positive thinking – if I say it, it will be. Yet, this is not always true. There are some things that are simply beyond our control, some things we can’t make happen with our own hands.

This passage from Daniel is a difficult one, though not because it has something difficult to say. It is difficult because generations of Christians have read these words and interpreted according to their desires, defining the times and the places according to desire for fulfillment. There are others who would like to take the mystery out of the passage, to relieve us of the prophetic nature of these words.

According to the experts, the writing has the language and flavor of a text that might have been written in the 6th century B.C., long before the events found within the book happened. It is written like a prophetic, apocalyptic text, with visual images both frightening and strange. Yet, it appears to be dated much later, in the 2nd century B.C. after most of these things happen. There are experts who stand on both possibilities, so we may not know for sure if the book was really prophetic or whether it was a historical accounting of the supernatural happenings with God’s people. Yet, even at the 2nd century B.C. some of the prophecies had not yet come into being. Perhaps we ought to consider what Daniel was told immediately following this text – that Daniel should “shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end.”

Yet, the dating of the text is not necessarily what matters to us today. Though it is valuable to understand the historical significance of what was happening to Daniel and the nation of Israel, we have to wonder what these words mean to us today. Should we be interpreting the words to fit into our time and place? There are politicians and politicos who spend months discussing the possibilities, so also there are many spend their time discussing and interpreting the possibilities of these apocalyptic texts. Yet, perhaps our task is not to look into the future to guess what is going to happen, but rather to embrace the grace of God that is found in the words today.

Daniel was writing to a people suffering great persecution and his language hides the meaning from outsiders of that which is given to those of faith. In this case, the words summarize the writers vision of what is to come in the end of time, at the revelation of God and the coming of His kingdom. It is a message of comfort for those persecuted, that they will be raised up out of the dust and into everlasting life. This is the promise we receive in Christ, the promise that came at the end of the ages and the promise that was fulfilled, is fulfilled and will be fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord.


November 10, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, November 19, 2006: Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] 19-25; Mark 13:1-8

Psalm 16 Preserve me, O God; for in thee do I take refuge. O my soul, thou hast said unto Jehovah, Thou art my Lord: I have no good beyond thee. As for the saints that are in the earth, They are the excellent in whom is all my delight. Their sorrows shall be multiplied that give gifts for another god: Their drink-offerings of blood will I not offer, Nor take their names upon my lips. Jehovah is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: Thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; Yea, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless Jehovah, who hath given me counsel; Yea, my heart instructeth me in the night seasons. I have set Jehovah always before me: Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth; My flesh also shall dwell in safety. For thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol; Neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: In thy presence is fulness of joy; In thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Have you ever known anyone that came to you for advice, but then never did what you suggested? This is an image of a person that might be found on a sitcom. The character needs help making decisions but can’t find someone they can trust to give them the right answer, so instead they go to a character that always has the wrong answer. Then, whatever the person suggests is definitely wrong so the choice should automatically be the opposite.

I hope that there is no one in my life who sees me this way – as always being wrong – though I expect that there are times my teenagers think so. They have come to me for help, but for some reason did not like the answer I gave. Perhaps it was not the answer they were looking to receive, but it almost seems as if they want to do exactly the opposite of what I think would be best for them. This shows a lack of trust. Of course, sometimes I am wrong. Though I have had my own experiences and successes, I’ve also had some failure. My children live in a different time and place. There are enough times when the do trust, when they do heed my advice. However, it can be very disheartening to have that lack of trust manifested in the way they react to my advice.

I think the hardest part of this type of relationship is that it becomes very difficult to give advice when it is not trusted or it is abandoned for the opposite point of view. We wonder why they even bother to come to us for advice is it is meaningless. So, we become quiet and unwilling to share our thoughts.

I wonder if that is how God feels sometimes. After all, we are so good at asking God for the things we need, but what we really want is for God to answer with the things we want. When God’s answer is not what we want it to be, we go our own way. The psalmist writes, “Preserve me, O God, for in thee do I take refuge.” Is this really true? Is this what we really mean? Do we really take refuge in God?

When we do, those times when we truly trust in God and reject the ‘gods’ on which we have set our hearts, we find real joy and peace. Unfortunately, most of the time our own wants become more important than what we know God can and will do for us in meeting our needs, so we turn to the ‘gods’ who can provide for our wants. We say we want to hear the voice of God, but when He begins speaking we realize that the ways of the world fit much better into our plan.

Yet, getting our way, going according to our own point of view, will not necessarily bring us joy. There might be a superficial happiness that lasts but a moment, but it quickly fades away. We might feel safe relying on the advice that goes opposite what God would have for us, but in the end our security rests not in the strength or power of the earth but in the humble submission to God’s strength and power. There we will see the fullness of joy. As we hear God’s voice – His advice in our life – and follow it, we will find true peace in the refuge of his love. Thanks be to God.


November 13, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, November 19, 2006: Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] 19-25; Mark 13:1-8

Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] 19-25 And every priest indeed standeth day by day ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, the which can never take away sins: but he, when he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; henceforth expecting till his enemies be made the footstool of his feet. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. [And the Holy Spirit also beareth witness to us; for after he hath said, This is the covenant that I will make with them After those days, saith the Lord: I will put my laws on their heart, And upon their mind also will I write them; then saith he, And their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.] Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having a great priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in fulness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience: and having our body washed with pure water, let us hold fast the confession of our hope that it waver not; for he is faithful that promised: and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh.

As I began to research for this week’s scriptures, I realized that this passage is one of the texts I have used the most over the years, with part of it used nine different times. I suppose that this is a text that is very close to my heart, because it is about our relationship with God.

The two main themes found in those previous writings have to do with repetition and rejection. In the beginning verses of this passage, the writer of Hebrews tells us how the priests did the same thing over and over and over again to no avail. They entered the Holy Place with the blood of animals which did nothing to alleviate the sin that brought pain and suffering to our lives and the world. There might be forgiveness for a moment, but there was never any assurance for tomorrow. Jesus Christ changed all that. His death on the cross was permanent. His forgiveness is eternal. While we still might have to repeatedly dust the cobwebs out of our lives, we can live with the assurance that no matter what should happen today, we have mercy of God which leads to eternal life through Christ Jesus.

The rejection that has been a major theme of the writings on this passage over the years is a rejection of the Church on earth. Many people are searching for perfection during this lifetime, hopping from one church to another, hoping that the next congregation will not be filled with hypocrites and sinners. Unfortunately, there is no perfect church because there are no perfect Christians. We are all sinners in need of the Savior, which is why our offerings are never lasting. We fail, our offerings fail, and our relationships fail. For many the search becomes so disappointing that they give up, choosing to live outside the assembly of believers.

Though our relationship with God is not dependent on our relationships with people – we certainly can know God through our own study, prayer and worship – our own imperfection makes such a relationship shaky. We have doubts, so our faith wavers. We face disappointment, so our hope fades. Love is fleeting and lost, so we turn away from the very place we would find true love. Faith, hope and love is the foundation of our relationship with God and these things are hard to grasp without some visible and tangible manifestation for us to see, hear, taste, touch and know. That visible manifestation is the Church. We have confidence in the promises of God in faith, hope and love, these three magnified as we live in fellowship with other Christians.

During my research I was reminded of a poem I once wrote, which I will post here today. We are reminded that our gathering together is not only for the sake of our own faith, hope and love, but so that the world might see the grace of God.

We learn something new each day
As we walk along this path of life
But three things stand as a testament to God
Faith, Hope and Love.

The scriptures say,
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love."

Faith is
a gift from God
the indwelling Spirit
the knowing, not just believing,
the promises of God.

Hope is
the expectation of God
the indwelling Spirit
the knowing, not just wishing,
the promises of God.

So, why is love the greatest?

Love is
the manifestation of God
the indwelling Spirit
the knowing - not just by the believer
but also the world -
the real presence of God.

The promise of God,
"I will be with you"
we know by faith
we know in hope
and the world knows by love.

There remains, faith, hope and love.
These three, but the greatest is love,
for it is the Word manifest for the world to see.

Written by Peggy Hoppes
June 8, 2000


November 14, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, November 19, 2006: Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] 19-25; Mark 13:1-8

Mark 13:1-8 And as he went forth out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Teacher, behold, what manner of stones and what manner of buildings! And Jesus said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left here one stone upon another, which shall not be thrown down. And as he sat on the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when these things are all about to be accomplished? And Jesus began to say unto them, Take heed that no man lead you astray. Many shall come in my name, saying, I am he; and shall lead many astray. And when ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be not troubled: these things must needs come to pass; but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there shall be earthquakes in divers places; there shall be famines: these things are the beginning of travail.

It is not very difficult for us to read the scripture for today and hear a prophetic voice calling out to our time and our place, focusing on the end times images found within. That is certainly what happened at our Bible study this week. We read these words and think that they are taken right out of the headlines from our newspapers – wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines and false messiahs.

Yet, the same could be said for every generation that has lived since the words were written. Even those hearing the words from Jesus were living in a time of great difficulty. Jesus was not the only one who was crying out in the wilderness. False messiahs were rampant, some of who were killed at the hands of the Romans and the Jewish authorities. There were Zealots determined to fight until Israel was freed from Roman oppression. There was a communication network – traveling caravans and religious pilgrims brought news from the four corners of the known world which would have included stories of earthquake, famine and wars.

There is a prophetic voice in this text – the temple was indeed destroyed just a few years after Jesus spoke these words. However, He then went into a private discussion with His disciples who asked Him for more details. They were curious – when? How? What will be the signs? Jesus changes the point of view. Instead of answering directly the questions they asked, He warned them to beware.

This form of literature – apocalyptic – is not meant to foretell of a specific historical event. Rather, the words are spoken to give courage, strength and hope to a suffering people. There were already false messiahs. There were already wars and rumors of wars. There were already earthquakes and famines. It would have been very easy for the disciples – left alone after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension – to follow another voice. It would have been very easy for the community of faith established by Jesus to wander down a wrong path. It happened to the Thessalonians, many of whom thought that the return of Jesus was so imminent that they could stop living. It has happened to many Christians even in today’s world.

Jesus warns the disciples not to follow the wrong path. Wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and famines will always be a part of our life. We will suffer because of these things and we will be persecuted because of the way we respond to these things. We are called to be faithful – eyes focused on Christ and doing that which He has called us to do.

This is the last ordinary Sunday of this church calendar. Next week is Christ the King Sunday when we celebration that victorious return of our Lord and Savior. This passage is the final warning we hear before Christ comes as King, and we are called to an immediate response. Mark’s language is always urgent and immediate response is imperative. So, we are called to heed the warnings to beware, to be ready and to be active in the work of Christ in the world today.


November 15, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, November 19, 2006: Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] 19-25; Mark 13:1-8

Last week Jesus called our attention to one small woman giving one very small offering to the temple treasury. This treasury was used for the care and upkeep of the temple, to make it even more beautiful with every gift. From the visual representations I have seen, the temple must have been a magnificent and imposing structure. The stones were well cut and smooth out of a light colored stone which probably shone in the light of the sun. It was a large structure, able to be seen from far away; perhaps even glimpses would be caught by travelers as they approached the city.

The widow’s mites were worth so little that they were useless to those who kept the treasury. How much could a penny buy in today’s dollars? It is so worthless that most of us will not even bother to bend down to pick one up off the ground. Yet, it is possible that the widow stood in line to drop in her two small coins because the scribes in the temple convinced her that God needed her offering. We don’t know how she came to be poor. Perhaps she was the widow with a hemorrhage who was bled dry by shyster doctors or the scribes devoured her meager possessions for their own well-being. She was a widow, very vulnerable and unimportant in that day. The temple treasury could have supported the needs of the widows, but instead it was used to decorate the building and keep it clean.

I’m not so sure things are much different today. Who is it that is most likely to send offerings to those televangelist preachers? It is the widow who is unable to get to church on a Sunday morning who relies on the television for their spiritual welfare. She will send every spare cent for the care and upkeep of a church that will never give her the loving touch and care she needs.

Mark then tells us that the disciples were very impressed by what they saw at the temple. “Teacher, behold, what manner of stones and what manner of buildings!” The tiny widow’s mites are made even smaller when compared to the huge stones and magnificent buildings of the temple. Jesus told them that what they saw would be useless. “Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left here one stone upon another, which shall not be thrown down.” This prophesy was fulfilled in 70 A.D. when the temple was destroyed.

It must have been disheartening for the disciples to hear such a prophecy. Though Jesus had been teaching them about the difference between the kingdom on earth and the kingdom of heaven, the temple was to them still the dwelling place of God. Where would He go if there were no temple? Would He leave them? If the temple were destroyed, where would they go? In the past, destruction of the temple came with invasion by enemies and the exile of God’s people. What would happen if this came to be?

They were curious. They were afraid. Yet Jesus did not tell them about the destruction of the temple to make them afraid. No matter how small like the widow’s mites, or how big like the temple, our offering is to God, it is not necessary for God to dwell amongst His people. Yet, God’s presence will not make our life easy. We are reminded that dwelling in God’s presence will bring with it persecution, hardship and sometimes even death. The apocalyptic nature of our texts keep our eyes not on the future hardships that will be, but rather on the God who will be with us through it all.

November 19th is the feast day of a little known saint who died very early in the fourth century. St. Barlaam of Antioch was a poor man, an illiterate laborer and a Christian. It was a time of intense persecution by the Romans of Christians. St. Barlaam was arrested and ordered to renounce his faith, but he refused. In an attempt to get the saint to offer the sacrifice to idols, the judge ordered Barlaam’s hand held over an altar designed for sacrifice to the gods, while he held a burning coal covered in incense. The judge thought that Barlaam would drop the coal on the altar along with the incense. They could then parade Barlaam before the people claiming he made sacrifice before the pagan gods. Barlaam stood firm, however, never wavering from his faith. When the plan failed, the judge ordered Barlaam beheaded.

Barlaam was not worth much in the grand scheme of things. He was a poor, uneducated man who was part of a movement that the officials of the day were trying to destroy. God did not need his life for the furtherance of the Way, Jesus offered the final sacrifice. Barlaam had nothing financial to give, the authorities could not benefit in any way from his death. Yet, Barlaam gave all he had out of love for the God who gave him faith. That’s the purpose of these apocalyptic writings – not to scare people into faith but to encourage those of faith into a life of unwavering trust in God and active participation in God’s grace no matter the circumstances they face.


November 16, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, November 26, 2006: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 I beheld till thrones were placed, and one that was ancient of days did sit: his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and the wheels thereof burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousands of thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened… I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Lawyers will do just about anything to keep a trial from starting. They want as much time as possible to get as much information as possible so that they might prove their client to be the one who should win. The file for continuances, which put off the inevitable, in the hope that they will find that one fact that will change the outcome of the trial.

People also like to put things off when it comes to matters of taxes. Those who owe taxes will wait until the very last moment, having their returns postmarked seconds before midnight on the last day that it is due. Many people even file for an extension, in the hopes of putting off the inevitable work that is necessary for making the final calculations. Unfortunately for them, they still need to pay the bill on April 15th or they will pay high penalties and fees.

Much of the salvation language with which we are familiar, particularly that which is found in the New Testament writings, is legalese. We hear how there will be an advocate for us at the judgment throne of God. Jesus is assigned the duties of standing in our defense. We also hear financial language that describes the work of Jesus as paying our debt or giving us an inheritance. This is all language with which we are at least vaguely familiar, equally now as it was in the days of Jesus. We also have the same tendency to put things off, to wait until tomorrow to take care of the things we need to accomplish. We, like they, hope that there will be a new bit of information that might help the situation.

In terms of judgment, we hope that we can put it off for another day. After all, if we can wait to stand before the throne of God until tomorrow, perhaps we can find something to prove that we not deserve to lose. Or perhaps we try do something today to make up for all the things we have done wrong in the past. We also want to try to earn enough to pay our debts, so we put off the payment date. Even when it comes to our inheritance, we’d rather put it off to another day because it means we have to accept the inevitable – that people die.

In Daniel we see an image of what it might be like to face the judgment throne of God. Daniel describes this in visual language to give us a glimpse of the glory of God. Of course, it is impossible for us to truly express in human terms what God is like. Can we really imagine a multitude of angels, so many we can’t possibly even count them? And there, in the midst of this incredible image, we face the inevitable – the book is open and we have to meet the judge. We don’t have another day to find more evidence, we don’t have another moment to do what is right, we don’t have time to make enough money. We stand bare before Him.

Yet, we do have an advocate and He needs no more time. He completed the work of salvation on the cross. We can’t possibly find more evidence or do what is right. We’ll never have enough money to pay our debt to God. We have one like the son of man who has been given dominion over all of Creation. He has overcome death; He has paid the debt. He has done all that is necessary. We can rest in this, because His dominion will last forever. His salvation is eternal. Thanks be to God.


November 17, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, November 26, 2006: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37

Psalm 93:1-5 Jehovah reigneth; he is clothed with majesty; Jehovah is clothed with strength; he hath girded himself therewith: The world also is established, that it cannot be moved. Thy throne is established of old: Thou art from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O Jehovah, The floods have lifted up their voice; The floods lift up their waves. Above the voices of many waters, The mighty breakers of the sea, Jehovah on high is mighty. Thy testimonies are very sure: Holiness becometh thy house, O Jehovah, for evermore.

There are moments in my life when I have been truly awestruck.

I remember camping with Girl Scouts in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Our campsite was on the top of the mountain, far away from the lights of the city. We’d had some terrible weather, rain that ran like rivers on the ground under platform on which our tent was set. When the storm passed and the clouds cleared, I saw the night sky as I had never seen it before – with millions of stars twinkling above.

I remember the first time I went to see the giant redwood trees in northern California. No matter how many pictures you see or how many television shows you watch, there is no way to know the magnificence of those giants unless you stand at the base of one. I might have been embarrassed by my stance – I nearly fell over as I leaned back to look up to the very tops of the trees. My mouth hung open in amazement. I might have been embarrassed by this stance if there weren’t a dozen other people standing exactly the same way.

I remember attending the Evensong service one night at York Minster in York, England. It had been a cold and dreary day, drizzle falling during most of our trip. Though we’d enjoyed our sightseeing, we were cold and tired by the time we reached the church. We planned our day around the service as we often did when we spent a day as tourists. We were pretty tired by the time we sat down in the pew, but that soon passed. Though it was cold and dark outside, inside the cathedral there was an unearthly light that cast a warmth over us all. When the choir began to sing, I could almost imagine the voices of heavenly angels singing praise to God, an image that was enhanced by the carvings of angels that seemed almost alive. That worship service was, to me, as close to heaven as I will ever get in this world. We were drawn into the presence of God and we caught a glimpse of His glory that day.

I can remember other moments when I was awestruck – watching the sun rise over a deserted beach, in the midst of a storm with pounding rain and thunder that rattled the walls, the first time I held my babies, experiencing those ‘God-incidences’ when the events made it very clear that something miraculous had happened that could not have happened without the hand of God Himself.

Yet, no matter how awesome those experiences might have been, no matter how awestruck I was at seeing those stars or trees, or worshipping in that beautiful place, no matter how often I see God’s hand in my every day living in this world, nothing will compare to that which I will see in that day when I come before the throne of God. The most beautiful things in the world will pale in comparison. The most furious storms will seem calm. The largest trees or stars or mountaintops will seem small compared to the majesty of our God. In that day we will be truly awestruck, beyond anything we can even imagine.


November 20, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, November 26, 2006: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37

Revelation 1:4b-8 Grace to you and peace, from him who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits that are before his throne; and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins by his blood; and he made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Behold, he cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they that pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn over him. Even so, Amen. I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Zachary came home from school today and asked, “If I were a cereal, what would I be and why?” Of course, this was something they talked about in one of his classes. It was an exercise in describing oneself. They were supposed to figure out the characteristics they shared with different kinds of cereal. One student may have chosen something healthy because they are very fit and active. Another might have chosen Cocoa Puffs because they are loveable and deliciously fun. Yet another might have chosen Fruit Loops because they are a little fruity or loopy. Zack said he is Rice Crispies because he snaps, crackles and pops.

They played this game with other questions like “If you were an office supply what would you be?” “If you were a game, what would you be?” “If you were a great American city, what would you be?” “If you were an ice cream flavor, what would you be?” These questions and many more helped the children think about different aspects of their personalities, their interests, their lives. No one question could possibly describe everything there is to know about the children. It takes many words to describe just one person. I suppose that is why it is so hard to answer when someone asks you to describe yourself in just one word.

If it is hard to describe us, imagine how hard it is to describe God. Even if we use the statement, “God is love,” we do not come close to fully describing the God whom we worship. In the beginning of today’s text, John writes, “Grace to you and peace, from him who is and who was and who is to come.” This might seem like a long winded way of saying that God is eternal, and yet is eternal enough? We have eternal life in Christ, but we have not always been. God is, was and is to come. He is the past, the present and the future and yet not at all definable by time or space.

Perhaps that phrase is simply John’s way of trying to describe the indescribable. There are dozens of different names which are attributed to God. A website about the names of God include these Hebrew phrases which describe how God has revealed Himself to man, “Adonai-Jehovah -- The Lord our Sovereign; El-Elyon -- The Lord Most High; El-Olam -- The Everlasting God; El-Shaddai -- The God Who is Sufficient for the Needs of His People; Jehovah-Elohim -- The Eternal Creator; Jehovah-Jireh -- The Lord our Provider; Jehovah-Nissi -- The Lord our Banner; Jehovah-Ropheka -- The Lord our Healer; Jehovah-Shalom -- The Lord our Peace; Jehovah-Tsidkenu -- The Lord our Righteousness; Jehovah-Mekaddishkem -- The Lord our Sanctifier; Jehovah-Sabaoth -- The Lord of Hosts; Jehovah-Shammah -- The Lord is Present; Jehovah-Rohi -- The Lord our Shepherd; Jehovah-Hoseenu -- The Lord our Maker; Jehovah-Eloheenu -- The Lord our God.” There is one Hebrew word that is meant to encompass the fullness of God, and even that is not truly a word. It is the Tetragrammaton, which is the ineffable name of God. Though some would add vowels to the four letters “Y,” “H,” “W,” and “H,” we do not know what vowels really belong. The Tetragrammaton is ineffable not only because it is not to be spoken, but because it is difficult for us to even know what would be spoken if we could.

Yet, YHWH is about the only thing we could write that would come close to the indescribable. Perhaps it was this about which John was thinking when he began writing the book of Revelation. Perhaps the phrase, “who was, is and is to come” is John’s way of speaking the unspeakable. God is not limited as we are limited, and yet we try to limit Him by our words. He can not fit into our idea of time and space, or even into our personalities, interests and lives. We look to the characteristics that most fit our needs. Perhaps that is why God has revealed Himself to us in so many ways. He knows that there will be something which draws us to Himself. Yet, no matter what it is we like about God, we should never forget that He is indescribable. It is in this that we truly have hope, because if God could be held within the limits we define, then He would not be God.


November 21, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, November 26, 2006: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37

John 18:33-37 Pilate therefore entered again into the Praetorium, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered, Sayest thou this of thyself, or did others tell it thee concerning me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end have I been born, and to this end am I come into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

There are presently three different movies in the movie theaters involving royalty – all queens. An Independent film maker produced a show about Queen Esther which was well done. Though they took some artistic license with the story, it opened up some wonderful discussion with my kids about the biblical story. I have not seen the other two – a story about Queen Elizabeth and one about Marie Antoinette.

We definitely have a fascination with royalty. Look at the tabloid papers and there is likely to be some story about some king or prince or other monarch. Of course, it has been a little quiet lately, though over the years there have been times when everything revolved around the lives of the English nobility. We want to know everything they do, think and feel. We want to delve into the depths of their most private business, to live life through their lives. We have this image of happily ever after. They surely must be satisfied with all their wealth, fame and wonderful things. Yet, life behind the castle gates is not always pleasant.

It is hard to be a king. There are political and social obligations. There are difficult decisions to be made daily. The fate of their nation rests on their rule; the people live and die at their command. While modern monarchs are not always so powerful, they still wield a lot of authority. They can change the course of human events with just a word. Through it all, someone is always watching. One wrong move and the world cries in shock, one human foible and the world wages war against them.

By the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth, the people were crying out for Him to become king, so that He might change the world in which they lived – to give them freedom and independence, to make them a great nation once again. They wanted Jesus to be like David, or Solomon, to restore Israel to those golden years. The Jewish rulers were threatened by the crowd’s interest in Jesus, because they knew that if He became king then things would change. The Romans were threatened by the possibility of civil disobedience in the empire. Everyone misunderstood Jesus.

When we think of a king, we think of all the things we read in the tabloids about the royal families in our world today. When the Jews thought of a king, they were thinking about what they knew about David, Solomon and all other kings of their past. Some of those kings were not good, some of them were not so good, and some of them were evil. They were familiar with those stories and with the possibilities. It was what they thought they wanted. However, Jesus came to be a different kind of king.


November 22, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, November 26, 2006: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37

The coronation of a king comes with a great deal of pomp and circumstance. For many, though they ascend to the throne immediately upon the death or abdication of the previous monarch, the official coronation does not take place for a year or more. In England, the people are given a year of mourning and then the ceremony is planned for spring or summer when the weather is most likely to be suitable for the occasion. The year is not necessary just for the mourning, but also to prepare. Invitations must be sent to the world rulers or authorities, and also to the subjects who are given the opportunity to be present. The preparations will include planning parties, gatherings and other hospitality for the guests. Special clothes need to be prepared, jewels created.

Some of the preparations do not seem so grand. The “Stone of Scone” or the “Stone of Destiny” is a rock that is believed to have been the rock on which the earliest kings of Scotland were crowned. Legend takes it back even further, claiming it to be the very stone that Jacob used as a pillow. Others claim it was the altar of St. Columba on his missionary travels. Even to this day the Stone of Scone is used when crowning a British monarch. A specially prepared throne has been created to hold the stone, which is not very beautiful but has such legendary meaning that the coronation would not be considered real if the stone were not present.

We are quickly approaching Advent, the time when we look forward to Christmas. Though the stores are already filled with Christmas merchandise and the papers are already filled with holiday sales, we are not yet ready to go forth into that time. Sunday is Christ the King Sunday. It is the last Sunday of the Church year. It is on this day that we look forward to the Day, the day of God’s judgment and his full reign over all creation. On this day we look to the end, but an end that is actually the beginning of forever.

At Advent and at Lent we look forward to the coming of the King. We see the king making in two very different ways during those times. At Christmas the King comes humbly, born in a manger in Bethlehem. At Lent, we wait for the fulfillment of all God’s promises, and yet it happens in an even humbler manner. On Good Friday, Jesus is crowned King in the most offensive manner – at His death on the cross. When He is raised on Easter Sunday, He will rule forever at the right hand of God.

On this Sunday, we look forward to the day when Christ is truly King over all. It is the end, but really only the beginning. As the Church year passes, we know that after Christ the King Sunday we will begin again with a new year and a new Advent. Yet, in the reality of God’s reign, we do not know if there will ever be a tomorrow. We do not know when the Day will come. Perhaps it will be tomorrow, and we will never know another Advent. This might seem like a frightening proposition, but it is the hope of our faith. The hope of our life in Christ is that the Day will come soon so that we can live fully in the grace of God in eternity. Yet, the Day may not be tomorrow, so until then we will live fully in the grace of God in this world. Living in grace we are called to praise God with our mouths, with our hearts and with our lives. We are called to live with Christ as our King in our daily and every day experiences, sharing His love and mercy at every opportunity. In this way Christ will be King in the here and now even while we wait for Him to be King over all. Thanks be to God.


November 23, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, December 3, 2006: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36

Jeremiah 33:14-16 Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will perform that good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and concerning the house of Judah. In those days, and at that time, will I cause a Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely; and this is the name whereby she shall be called: Jehovah our righteousness.

Felix and Tigger are indoor cats, not by choice but because we know that it is too dangerous outside for them. They could be hit by a car, get lost or become infested with fleas or ticks. Any of these could lead to death. Tigger is generally ok with the state of his existence – he doesn’t mind staying in the house. Felix, however, has always longed to be outside. Though Tigger might want to chase birds, he’s just as happy watching them from the window. Felix wants to be out there with them.

Over the years he has discovered ways to escape. He has pushed out the screens in windows, figured out how to open door handles and even managed to get a second story window open enough to jump to the ground. He tries to slip unseen beneath our feet as we enter or leave through the door. We have a screen door in the front so as the weather has been so lovely lately here in Texas we have been keeping the front door open. Felix has been so good about not trying to get out. Recently, however, he has figured out that he can push the screen door open and slip through without much notice. We’ve had to put a hook on the door to keep him from escaping.

At times I wonder if we shouldn’t just let him escape so that he can see how harsh it is out there in the world. I don’t because I know it could lead to something horrible. He has no claws, so a fight with another cat might be deadly. What if he got lost? Hit by a car? We would be devastated to lose our friend. He could end up with ticks and fleas and bring them into the house. We play his games with him, but ultimately we will always win because we know it is in his best interest to stay indoors where it is safe.

We are much like Felix when it comes to our relationship with our Father in heaven. We want to be safe in His arms, but we also want to know what it going on out in the world. So, we do whatever we can to escape, thinking that those small acts of disobedience don’t seem too bad. After all, there are people who do things that are far worse than the things we do. We are certainly more righteous than the murderer or thief. We are probably more righteous than our neighbor.

Yet, we have to ask, “What is righteousness?” Is it doing what is right verses wrong in this world? No, righteousness is not a moral attitude, but rather it is a right relationship with God. It means having faith that God is true and faithful to His promises. It is trusting that God knows what is best for us and believing that He will keep us well. All the promises of God have been fulfilled in Christ Jesus, our Lord. He has done all that is necessary to restore our relationship with God. All too many ask, what did we do to need salvation? The question is not what we did, but rather what we are. We are sinners in need of a Savior.

This Savior has been promised and we now begin the journey through Advent to the birth of the Christ. He will come from out of Israel, just as we hear in this passage from Jeremiah. Israel will be called “Jehovah our righteousness,” and God’s people will be identified with the One who will be their Savior, they will be part of His Kingdom, they will reign with Him. As the relationship between God and his people is restored, they will become one with Him in heart, soul and spirit.

We are like Felix, thinking the outside world is better. God does not keep us trapped inside; He lets us escape His grasp for a moment as we seek out our way in life. But He is never far from Him, He seeks us out and finds us to bring us home. He knows what is best for us; He has His plan for our lives. Through Jeremiah, He promised that He would send a Savior. Jesus was that Savior, and He came exactly as God intended – through the line of David and Levi even though they often failed. In the past two thousand years, the number of those saved by His mercy and grace is beyond our ability to measure. He is truly faithful to His promises even when we fail. Thanks be to God.


November 24, 2006

Today’s WORD is a repeat from May 14, 2004.

Scriptures for Sunday, December 3, 2006: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36

Psalm 25:1-10 Unto thee, O Jehovah, do I lift up my soul. O my God, in thee have I trusted, Let me not be put to shame; Let not mine enemies triumph over me. Yea, none that wait for thee shall be put to shame: They shall be put to shame that deal treacherously without cause. Show me thy ways, O Jehovah; Teach me thy paths. Guide me in thy truth, and teach me; For thou art the God of my salvation; For thee do I wait all the day. Remember, O Jehovah, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindness; For they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: According to thy lovingkindness remember thou me, For thy goodness' sake, O Jehovah. Good and upright is Jehovah: Therefore will he instruct sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in justice; And the meek will he teach his way. All the paths of Jehovah are lovingkindness and truth Unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.

In the beginning, Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden with God. They walked together and talked. They had a personal, intimate relationship with one another and with their Creator. They were naked and it did not matter. When the serpent deceived them and they ate of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good an evil, things changed dramatically. The Bible tells us that their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked so they covered themselves with fig leaves and hid in the garden. They were afraid to be seen by God.

They were indeed physically naked since God had not given them clothing to wear and their response showed that they were ashamed of their physical nakedness. Yet, that was just a symptom of the greater problem that they faced. When their eyes were opened, they could see that their disobedient actions were disrespectful to their Creator and that they were not worthy to be in His presence. Their shame was not only about their naked bodies, but also about their fear to be in the presence of God. What would He do in response to their disobedience? He had warned them that eating the tree would mean death and they did not believe His words. No wonder they were afraid and hid from His presence.

That’s what shame does to us. We know that the deep secrets of our souls are exposed and we fear the recompense that will come. So, we hide. We hide behind emotion such as arrogance or pride. We hide behind blame by passing the fault to others. We hide physically by breaking relationships or becoming separated from society. We cover ourselves with clothes like the fig leaves – self-righteousness and excuses – clothes that don’t last or really cover the reason for our shame.

The truth that is hidden in our hearts and our souls is often revealed and we are exposed to the world. It is easy for our enemies to use our imperfection against us. They take our sin and put it on display in order to attack our credibility. I did a web search on the word “shame” and I came up with a number of “Hall of Shame” listings. These are places where people have taken the stupidity, arrogance or sin of others and revealed it for all to see. This is done in the hope that it will cause the recipient of such an award to go away, to stop doing their work, to slink away in shame never to be seen again. But, we in Christ know a better way to deal with our shame. We face it, repent of our sin, ask forgiveness and trust that God will be faithful to His promises.

Life in Christ does not mean that the hidden things of our hearts and souls will never be revealed. As a matter of fact, in Christ is it especially important that they are exposed and dealt with through mercy and grace. Though our sins are exposed, we will not be put to shame because we know that through Jesus Christ our imperfection is forgiven and our infirmity is healed. We do not have to go into hiding as they did in the Garden of Eden, we need only speak the truth of our hearts before God and ask Him to be gracious and pardon our sin. In this way our enemies will never be able to use our faults to bring us down, for in them we see the mercy of God and turn to Him for salvation. Thanks be to God.


November 27, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, December 3, 2006: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 For what thanksgiving can we render again unto God for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face, and may perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way unto you: and the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you; to the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Paul is an incredibly emotional person. He takes everything to heart and wears it on his sleeve. He gets deeply involved with all he does, putting a hundred percent or more into all he does. He is extreme and that is very apparent in this week’s epistle lesson. I suppose that is why some people do not like Paul or some of Paul’s writings – his attitude is so excessive that it almost seems insincere and in some ways arrogant.

In his writings, we can easily see that Paul has so closely identified with the Lord that at times it seems like he is equating himself with Christ. The churches he founded are his churches, the people are his children. He writes to the people of Thessalonica with an intense jealousy over what he has begun. Yet, Paul is not associating himself with God in that way, but rather connecting to God through the work that has been done in and through his life in the churches. He knows the love of God with such intensity that he can’t help but share it with others. That love manifests in other emotions – joy, jealousy, hope, and a desire to see their faith and love grow.

Paul left Thessalonica quickly, forced to leave because some of the Jews agitated the crowds in an attempt to get him to stop preaching the Gospel. Paul left, but he did not stop. He feared for the church – that it would be swayed by the countering discourse by the Jews. He sent Timothy to check on the new Christians and was overjoyed that they were standing firm in the Word that Paul had given to them. He is not arrogant to think that his words are the source of power or their salvation, but rather that it is God’s Word given to them through him. He does not want them to be lost to a false Gospel or return to an incomplete understanding of God. He wants them to know the same joy and passion that has taken over his life, to experience the love of God in a way that manifests in their own relationships.

We live in an age of sound bytes. The news anchors give you just enough information to help you to know what is happening without really understanding. We read the headlines, but rarely get past the first few paragraphs of the article. We make our purchasing choices based on thirty second ads. We share our ideology, theology and passions with bumper stickers plastered on the rear of our fast moving cars. We hold up signs with “John 3:16” in the hope that those few characters will save people. We even write shorthand, using punctuation marks to smile and abbreviations to say the simplest things, such as “i luv u, : )”. We talk like we are in an internet chat room, saying as much as we can with as few words as possible.

However, these sound bytes rarely do what we intend. As a matter of fact, it probably does little more that add to the confusion of our fast paced world in the minds, and hearts, of those who might read. I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “Jesus is coming. Look busy.” We always look busy. If we aren’t running from one activity to another, we are busy taking care of the possessions we’ve accumulated or working to buy more. Paul was not thrilled to learn that the Thessalonians were busy, but rather that they were faithful and loving one another. This is what Christ will look for when He comes. He will look for faith and love. He has no interest in our busy-ness; He looks at our hearts.


November 28, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, December 3, 2006: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36

Luke 21:25-36 And there shall be signs in sun and moon and stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, in perplexity for the roaring of the sea and the billows; men fainting for fear, and for expectation of the things which are coming on the world: for the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads; because your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable: Behold the fig tree, and all the trees: when they now shoot forth, ye see it and know of your own selves that the summer is now nigh. Even so ye also, when ye see these things coming to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all things be accomplished. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. But take heed to yourselves, lest haply your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day come on you suddenly as a snare: for so shall it come upon all them that dwell on the face of all the earth. But watch ye at every season, making supplication, that ye may prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

It might seem odd for us to begin Advent with scriptures that bring to mind the end of the world. After all, the world is just beginning to look bright and festive with all the Christmas decorations popping up all over the neighborhood. The long, dark winter nights are brightly shining with twinkling lights and fun displays. We are as guilty (perhaps guiltier) than our neighbors – our display has taken two days so far to set up. We still have a few little details and we will be complete on the outside. Then we’ll focus on the inside.

Things are also hustling and bustling at the malls and stores. After Thanksgiving sales were very good for many retailers. We went shopping on black Friday and on Saturday, and we saw plenty of people carrying handfuls of shopping bags filled with gifts. We did our share for helping the economy these past few days, taking advantage of all the sales. On top of these activities, we also have piles of projects lying around – Christmas cards to write, ornaments to make and cookies to bake. There are parties and other events to attend. It is a busy, festive season.

Perhaps that’s why it seems so odd for us to hear Jesus speaking these words that He gave to His disciples on His way into Jerusalem to be arrested. He was talking about the end of time. Isn’t Advent a time for looking toward the birth of a Savior?

Yet, we do prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ in the manger. However wonderful the Christmas story is, it looks to an event in the past. It is a commemoration of what has already happened. Though we enjoy the festiveness of Christmas and the joy that comes with the Nativity, we do not live in the past. Advent is also a time for looking toward the future, to that day when Christ will come again. We can enjoy remembering, but never to the detriment of what is to come. The promise has been fulfilled, but it will still be fulfilled. It is also being fulfilled as we go through our days.

I suppose it is hard for us to take some of the things Jesus says with the seriousness needed – particularly when we hear it at a time such as this. After all, Jesus was taking about “this generation.” What does this mean? We think in terms of our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers that have passed when we think of generations. Yet, Luke is taking about a different idea. He is referring to a type of people, rather than a specific group belonging to a specific time or place. The type of people that will not pass are those who do not heed the words of Christ – unbelievers. We can take seriously what Jesus says when we realize that every generation of man – those who belong to a specific time or place – have dealt with this type of generation – unbelievers. There are unbelievers today, and they seek to make us doubt our faith. They seek to make us feel like fools so we will abandon Christ. They seek to keep our eyes off Christ.

Why the warning about men fainting with terror when our hearts are filled with the sounds of jingle bells? How are these words relevant to us? After all, they were spoken to the disciples before they knew the complete work of Christ. We live after the cross and resurrection, we know the entire story. How could we be faint with fear? However, it is at this very time when we are most easily deceived. It is in this state when we can fall to the temptations of the world the hardest. It is when we are most comfortable that disaster can make us tremble with fear. That fear can take us down dangerous roads, where we try to lose ourselves, as look writes, “…your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.” Those of us remembering the birth of Christ this Advent need to heed the warning as much as those disciples who still had to survive the rest of Christ’s death and resurrection and keep our eyes on Jesus.


November 29, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, December 3, 2006: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36

Jesus said, “And there shall be signs in sun and moon and stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, in perplexity for the roaring of the sea and the billows; men fainting for fear, and for expectation of the things which are coming on the world: for the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.” As we look at this passage with post resurrection eyes, we wonder how it might be that we would fall faint. After all, we have nothing to fear since we have Christ our Lord.

Yet, I know fear. I remember what it was like being in Houston as Hurricane Rita approached, wondering what would happen to my sick father who was in a hospital, unable to escape the coming storm. I remember worrying about my sister, who left Houston hours after I left, then stuck in the massive traffic jams. The earth would shake with the wind, the coast pummeled with the waves and I knew fear. It is easy to panic, wondering if we have enough food and water, batteries and other supplies to get us through whatever might happen.

We live in a time of fear – with terrorism, war and disaster all around. We see violence in our own streets as gangs fight against gangs. We fear disease that ravages our bodies. We fear economic collapse and what might happen. How easy it is to let our hearts become “weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life.” We turn to the ways of the world to get us through the days. We will set aside, or even hide, our faith in Christ out of concern for offending our neighbor or causing them to bring persecution to our lives. We do not even say “Merry Christmas” so as not to appear intolerant of other people’s faiths.

At this time of year we give generously, sharing our worldly goods with those in need. Angel trees, food banks and other charities have no problem collecting enough to ease the suffering of the poor and sick. Yet, we do not give the greatest gift that we can give – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We hide behind a social agenda, and though we know in our hearts we are doing these things in the name of Christ without ever mentioning His name. Pagans and heathens are as able to share a cup of water as we – what we have to give is even greater. But it is not our works that save, it is God’s Word which we speak into their lives.

We celebrate the feast day of one of the greatest missionaries of all time on December 3rd. Francis Xavier lived in the sixteen century and was one of the founding members of the Jesuits. He was sent to India by Ignatius of Loyola. In ten years time, Francis visited many countries in that region, always trying to gain access into China. Though he died before he was able to accomplish that goal, he managed to share the Gospel with thousands, bringing Christ’s love and forgiveness to many.

Christianity existed in those places, having been taken there by the Apostle Thomas. Unfortunately the priests, which were few and far between, had lost touch with the God of their faith, living scandalous lives. They were greedy and loose-living. Francis’ preaching brought a proper understanding of life in Christ to the Christians in these places. He lived in abject poverty, refusing gifts and eating so little it is a wonder he even survived. He was not the type of missionary that would be welcome in many of our churches today. He did not concern himself with the feelings of the non-believers wherever he was preaching. He concerned himself with giving them the gift of faith by speaking God’s Word into their lives. Under his preaching, the church grew stronger and grew in number as Christians rediscovered that life in Christ meant keeping our eyes on Christ, not living according to the ways of the world around us.

We are so concerned about the feelings of those we encounter that we ignore the very thing that could bring them peace. Perhaps we can learn from the passion Francis felt for the souls of those he encountered. Though it is good and right for us to serve those whom we encounter that are in need that we take our eyes off Christ. But Jesus said, “But watch ye at every season, making supplication, that ye may prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”

The bumper sticker said, “Jesus is coming. Look busy.” Jesus is coming. What are we busy doing? Are we concerned with just the physical needs of those around us, or are we standing firm on Christ, giving to the hungry and thirsty the food and drink that will make them also ready in that Day?


November 30, 2006

Scriptures for Sunday, December 10, 2006: Malachi 3:1-4 or Baruch 5:1-9; Luke 1:68-79; Philippians 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6

Baruch 5:1-9 Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on for ever the beauty of the glory from God. Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting; for God will show your splendour everywhere under heaven. For God will give you evermore the name, ‘Righteous Peace, Godly Glory’. Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height, look towards the east, and see your children gathered from west and east at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remembered them. For they went out from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne. For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God. The woods and every fragrant tree have shaded Israel at God’s command. For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of his glory, with the mercy and righteousness that come from him. (RSV)

When I was a youth, I traveled with my family to the shore on the east coast for a convention each year. We would stay in a hotel on the beach, enjoy all the activities and have plenty of time to play. Though I am not a big fan of the beach, one of my favorite things to do was to go out very early in the morning to watch the sun rise. I would leave the hotel while it was still dark and go down near the splashing waves and wait.

Though I tried to get there shortly before the expected time for sunrise, it seemed to take forever. Eventually there would be the faintest glimpse of light, so faint it was hard to tell whether anything was really happening. Then slowly the horizon would become brighter, painted with the most beautiful colors. After a time the sun would peek out over the horizon and then continue to rise until the entire sky was filled with light. It would be just a matter of moments from darkness to light, but time almost seemed to stop while it was happening.

We have two choices for the Old Testament lesson for this week. It might seem odd to choose the passage from Baruch, but this passage reminded me of those early mornings on the beach. The writer of Baruch was looking forward to the time when the exiles would come home. Though the experts do not think this could have been written before the return of the Babylonian exiles to Jerusalem, it is reminiscent of that journey home. The writer also looks forward to another journey home, the one that would occur at the last day when all the exiles will go home to be with their God.

Imagine what it must have been like to be living in Jerusalem when the exiles came within sight as they were approaching Jerusalem. A sea of people coming over the horizon would have been a magnificent sight, particularly to those who were longing to see family and old friends. Though they’d been mourning, living within the walls of the city because they had been left behind, now they could rejoice. I imagine that those waiting would have dressed themselves in their finest clothes and done everything they cold to make Jerusalem a welcoming place for those who had been gone so long.

For those who were to return, this passage offers comfort and hope. Not only would they be going home, the way would be easy and safe. The journey from Jerusalem to Babylonia was most likely a dangerous one, one that would leave anyone filled with fear and doubt. They were being forced to march on foot to an unknown place, far from their God and their people, by an enemy they did not trust. They had to travel over mountain and through valley until they were settled in a strange place. The journey home would be easy because as the writer states, “For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of his glory, with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.”

Imagine what it must have been like for those returning to Jerusalem – seeing their beloved city rise up from the horizon as they drew closer and closer to home. Advent is like these things – the sunrise, the returning exiles, the great city drawing closer. We begin this time in darkness and get small glimpses of what is to come. As we draw closer to the Day, we see a little more until the light is finally shining brightly filling the earth with light. It is time, even now while we wait, to put on our robes of righteousness that God has given as we wait to see the fulfillment of His promises. Thanks be to God.