Are you Ready?

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For those of you with children, you may be able to commiserate with me for a moment here. How many of you have had the experience of telling your children that you are going to be leaving by a certain time and when that time arrives they are not ready yet? Now, let’s not just blame the children, because there are some adults that do this as well. There are still bags to be packed, coats to be found, and shoes to put on before we even get out the door.

If we cannot even expect to be ready when we are told what time we are leaving, how can we expect to follow the directions of Jesus this morning? Jesus instructs us that we do not know what time the Son of Man will return. Therefore, we should keep awake and be ready at all times. Are you ready?

Most likely we are not. We are caught by surprise as many things happen around the world. In a perfect world, we would like to live where everything goes just the way that we want it to go. We want everyone to be healthy. We want everyone to have what they need to live. We want peace. In the midst of our hopes and dreams come disruption!

Jesus is aware of the disruptions that we encounter. He shares the story of Noah to highlight this point, everyone was “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark.” They were not prepared or ready for the flood of water that was about to cover the world and therefore only Noah and his family survive. They were caught up in themselves. Our lives too are disrupted when we least expect it, and often times when we appear to be least prepared. Our lives are disrupted by natural disasters that we have absolutely no control over. The people of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast are still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina that occurred over 10 years ago. Families are disrupted on daily basis around the world as wars are fought and lives are lost. The lives of Wayne State University Officer Collin Rose’s family were disrupted as he was shot and died earlier this week.

The disruptions that enter our lives are a lot of times beyond our control. They can tend to disorient us and we become loss. Not all disruptions are necessarily bad though. This morning we find ourselves in the midst of the first Sunday of Advent. Advent breaks into our lives in the church year to disrupt our comfortableness that has come to us since Pentecost. It breaks in to remind us of the coming of Christ. We raise it up at times as a beacon that leads us to Christmas. Christmas comes and goes. Christ does not. God continues to be with us in the midst of the disruptions as Christ comes to lead the way.

In the midst of this, are you ready? Karoline Lewis comments that, “”Are you ready?” is the question usually asked by people who are certain that they are and even more certain that you are not.” I am sure that you can think of certain people that believe they have it all right, and perhaps you may have it all wrong. This is not the point of view I am coming from.

I believe that part of the are you ready question ties into our families, friends, and neighbors. Are you ready to be in relationship with those around you and to reach out with love and compassion at all times during the year? Not just during the season of Christmas. Being ready may mean being with people that you are at times not comfortable being with. This includes reaching out to those that are less fortunate that may need a place to lay their heads at night or a meal to fill their hunger. It may even mean sitting down to have a Thanksgiving dinner with family members that have differing political viewpoints as yours.

Are you ready to be in relationship and enter into dialog with those whose viewpoints may be different, and yet through listening, you may come to understand? We are all created in the image of God, and as we are, God wants to have a relationship with us. Entering into relationship with one another prepares us for the Kingdom of God that is coming.

In this season of Advent, we are disrupted. We are startled awake by those things happening around us. We are disrupted by the story of Noah and the devastation of the flood. Yet, today we are also reminded of the power of water in the sacrament of Holy Baptism. We are called to attention and encouraged to reorient our lives toward Christ. Jesus coming, being named Emmanuel, is a promise that God is with us in the midst of it all.

And as Paul writes in Romans, “Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

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Advent Devotions December 21

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Colossians 1:15-20

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

The imago dei, or image of the invisible God. We too are told that we are created in the image of God, yet we struggle with what God’s being is actually like. God is all in all! There are no defined parameters for God in the world. It is only our human tendency to want to place those parameters and physical limitations on the God that we worship and praise.

Christ being born incarnate of Mary, lets us place a face to God in our world and time. It is in Christ that God is able to relate to so many people throughout the world, over 2.1 billion Christians. We are called to continue the proclamation of Christ and baptize in his name. There may be many different ways that we hear this calling, as is apparent in the many different denominations within the Christian church. We all return to the same God though, in whose image we were created.

Creating God, be with us this week as we approach Christmas as may we be filled with your Spirit. Fill us with love for our neighbors and reach out to those in need. AMEN.

Advent Devotions December 20

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Micah 5:2-5a

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.

A prophecy of the leader that will come out of the town of Bethlehem. Much like many of the other royal psalms that speak of the shepherd or king that will come to rule with peace.

This points towards Jesus as we open up this fourth Sunday of Advent and continue to wait in the midst for the birth of the newborn king. The signs and the prophecies continue to point to Jesus as we venture into various verses of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) throughout this Advent Season. It is a season for us to wait. It is also a season for us to prepare. Through these scriptures, Christ is present and alive among them and is evident that he does not come to us in just the New Testament. As Christ can be present among us today in every bit of our lives, he was also present with our ancestors more than 2000 years ago, back to the beginning of time. The Christ that is, was, and will be.

Let us pray.

Eternal God, we give thanks for prophecies point us towards your son, Jesus Christ. We ask that he may continue to guide us today, tomorrow and into the future to come. AMEN.

Advent Devotions December 18

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Hebrews 10:32-36

But recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

The author of Hebrews is referring to an earlier time when the listeners had first received the good news of Jesus and endured many hardships. It was not easy to be a follower of Jesus in first century Israel as there were many persecutions and people being tortured and killed because of their faith. All we have to do is turn to Acts to see this.

Is it much different being a Christian today? There are still many places around the world where the Christian faith is not welcome and people are persecuted. The Gospel message of Jesus Christ is one that questions the status quo and turns people towards a God of love and acceptance. Yet, many remain strong and follow the letter to the Hebrews in the regard that they must endure through any hardships and struggles. They know what is most important in life and their faith is strong. Following the teachings of Jesus even in America at times is counter-cultural. May our proclamation continue to shine Christ’s light in the darkness.

Let us Pray.

Lord, we pray for those around the world that do not have the freedom to openly express their faith in you. Be with them and provide them peace and comfort in times of hardship and struggle. May we be a voice for those whose voices are not heard. AMEN.

 

Advent Devotions December 17

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Jeremiah 31:31-34

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Verses from this passage are also included in today’s selection from Hebrews in the daily lectionary. As we get closer and closer to Christmas the anticipation builds and we are drawn to the manger. The promise that comes to us in Jesus can reflect the covenant that is spoken of in this passage of Jeremiah.

One of the verses that will forever strike me within this passage is, “I will put the law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” This law, or covenant, is already in each and everyone of us. We are closer to God than we realize, even those that claim they do not know or want to know God. God is present within each and everyone of us from the day that we came to being. It was this verse that continually went through my mind and heart when I had the opportunity to witness an open heart surgery while doing my clinical pastoral education. As I watched the patients heart beating outside of their body I marveled at the wonder of God within each of us.

Let us pray.

God of the covenant, we give thanks for the promises that you make to us and pray that we continue to live into this promise. As you have written the law on all of our hearts may we live into the mystery in which you have bestowed upon us. AMEN.

Advent Devotions December 16

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Isaiah 11:6-9

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

These verses at first may seem shocking to both the hearer and the reader. Here, two things are brought together that at most times would be a danger to one another. This is the foreshadowing of the Kingdom of God, that is to come to the world.

Today amidst our violence we pray that we too may resemble this scripture in our lives. We pray for those that are at odds with one another may get along well and learn to live peacefully, even in disagreement. May people of all faiths come together in a common collective to serve their sisters and brothers so that everyone is treated with love and respect.

Unfortunately, the violent acts of people have tarnished the reputation of an entire group of people, at this present time it is Muslims. There are many Christians as well that carry out acts of terror, but for some reason this gets overlooked. University Lutheran in East Lansing is a great example of faithful people working together regardless of their faith.

Let us pray.

Dear gracious God, we give thanks for all we have and ask that you guide us in this time of uncertainty. May we reach out to our neighbors in loving compassion with your good news. Amen.

Advent Devotions December 15

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Isaiah 11:1-4

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.

The Jesse tree is a great tradition to be a part of, either in the church or in the home. It tells the story of creation from the beginning of Genesis to the birth of Jesus. This is similar to what we would imagine as our own family tree as Jesus’ ancestry can be traced back to Jesse, the father of King David. 

It is nice to know where you came from and the origin of your family. The Jesse tree takes it a step farther reflecting all the way back to creation. Have you ever looked into your own family tree? There may be some great treasures within it. While we know that we are all children of God, it is always interesting to see whom your tree may be holding. One great way to start on this journey is to talk to family and start your research in that manner. Not only do you find out some history, you also strengthen relationships. We are called to not only be in connected relationship with our family but to truly be with the people we call family.

Let us pray.

Loving God, we give thanks for family and the ability to know where we came from. As part of your family we give thanks and ask that our relationship continue to deepen. AMEN.