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Daily Advent Devotional
3 minutes | Dec 25, 2021
Christmas Day: Life
Week FourDecember 25, 2021Christmas Day: Life John 1:1-14What has come into being through him was life… the light for all people. John 1:4John’s Gospel opens its presentation of Jesus with a communication metaphor, the Word. And it employs the Hebrew Bible paradigm of Wisdom the communicator. The Hebrew Bible, notably Proverbs chapter 8, presents Wisdom as a female figure who exists “in the beginning” with God. She comes from God to communicate divine presence and purposes among humans. She seeks to draw people into relationship with God as God’s friends. Among people she experiences acceptance and rejection. John’s Gospel borrows this paradigm. It presents Jesus as the definitive word who reveals or communicates divine presence and purposes among people. What does Jesus communicate? “What has come into being through him was life…the light for all people” (John 1:4). Jesus manifests the life-giving, liberating, and loving purposes of God. The word becomes flesh and lives among us (John 1:14). Jesus lives in solidarity with victims of dominating and life-depleting power. He opposes the damage caused by indiscriminate and self-serving power. He pursues justice that honors the dignity of all people and their access to just societal structures and requisite resources for good life.Communication, though, can be ambiguous. A long tradition has preferred to spiritualize and individualize this “life.” Some interpretations emphasize life that “saves souls” but ignores bodies, that focuses on the future but not the present, that concerns individuals but not societal structures and practices. Such claims ignore that the Word becomes flesh, lives among us, and offers life to all. Dr. Warren CarterLaDonna Kramer Meinders Professor of New Testament See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 24, 2021
Good News for the Working Class
Week FourDecember 24, 2021Good News for the Working ClassLuke 2:1-20When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” Luke 2:15Sheep are very dependent animals and require all of their daily needs to be provided. Since they don’t have a strong survival mechanism, they are easy prey for predators. When sheep are in an open, hostile environment, they require a protector, a shepherd who guards and guides the sheep. Without a shepherd, death of the sheep is certain.Although being a shepherd was a common profession, it was not a very well respected profession. The shepherd was not seen as noble. Instead, the shepherd was regarded as dirty, low class, and unprincipled. The shepherd, who worked outdoors all the time, had to combat the weather as well as combat carnivorous animals like wolves, bears, and lions. On occasion, a shepherd also battled thieves who sought to steal the sheep. Without a shepherd, the sheep might wander away and perish. The shepherd was required to be alert, watchful, fearless, and attentive.On that holy night, the skies became the backdrop of a magnificent drama that invited the ordinary to participate in an extraordinary event. The night became as day as the good news was proclaimed to the socially impoverished. God calls everyone to experience saving grace. The shepherds did not question, “What is this?” or “What does this mean?” Rather, being inspired by their fidelity, they chose to collectively travel to witness what had been declared to them. Their faith made them a part of the sacred scene that we cherish during this season. Once they arrived at the manger, they kept watch over the Lamb of God who also became the Good Shepherd!Dr. Lee H. Butler, Jr.Vice-President of Academic Affairs and Academic Dean andWilliam Tabbernee Professor of the History of Religions and Africana Pastoral Theology See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 23, 2021
Mary’s Song in Troubled Times
Week FourDecember 23, 2021Mary’s Song in Troubled TimesLuke 1:46b–55[G*d] has come to the aid of Israel, his child, a reminder of mercy. Luke 1:54 (Common English Bible)Life can bring about uncertain times when it is difficult to recognize G*d’s love. The pressures of life can bombard our senses as we anticipate end-moments, those times when pain ends, and dominance is achieved. Interpretations of Mary’s song often assume this posture: eyes forward we see pre-emptive praise for Christ-mediated end-moments of salvation and victory. I pose an alternate posture. Mary, a betrothed yet unmarried Galilean woman, was an expectant mother. Imagine her not as mother of G*d but as a young woman in a hostile, patriarchal world holding on to a promise. Imagine this vulnerable woman aware of her condition while not yet showing. Imagine Mary, living daily in ever-present awareness of being discovered and castigated. Have you ever felt vulnerable? To society? To the economy? To a virus? Amidst her danger, Mary held Gabriel’s promise that the Holy Spirit would move on her behalf, and it did. Despite cultural norms and stereotypes Mary found safety with Elizabeth. It was in Mary’s service (to Elizabeth) that she was extolled. Elizabeth’s words fell upon Mary’s ears creating a profound moment of love and affirmation, a moment prompted by the spirit. Might Mary’s song be euphoric praise for the steadfast love of G*d, articulated in the unexpected outpouring and transformational relationship fostered by Elizabeth?Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on the world. So many of us grapple with how to live safely and authentically in times of vulnerability. I do not know what Sars-CoV2 will be like by Christmas. I’m uncertain if the delta, lambda, or nu variants will shutter church doors, national boundaries, or claim millions more lives. Yet, advent calls us to be reminded of G*d’s love, a promise embodied in Christ’s birth. May we, in our most vulnerable moments, be reminded that G*d’s love is with us, now and tomorrow.Dr. Arthur F. Carter, Jr.Assistant Professor of New Testament See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 22, 2021
An Inclusive Faith
Week FourDecember 22, 2021An Inclusive FaithEphesians 2:11-22He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near…. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household. Ephesians 2:17, 19As we near the culmination of the celebration of Advent, the juxtaposition of today’s Hebrew and Christian lectionary texts provide an interesting meditation on the journey and transformation this Advent makes possible. Indeed, the incarnation demonstrates for us what Willie James Jennings in The Christian Imagination calls an “intimate joining” we are called to manifest in our own lives. As those who have been grafted into another’s story, made fellow citizens and also members of God’s household, one would think by now that Christians would be better witnesses to learning from others’ varied experiences, reconciling and loving across differences. Instead, we too often use religion—whether Christianity broadly or denominations more specifically—to exclude. By contrast, today’s Hebrew text from Micah reflects a monotheism, to be sure, but not a closed monotheism. Even in “the last days,” it allows that “all the nations may walk in the name of their gods.” Likewise, Revelation 21 surprises us with the mention of “nations” and “kings of the earth” in the New Jerusalem. Both Micah (4:2) and Revelation (21:24) speak to the nations seeking God’s wisdom and coming to walk in God’s paths.May this Advent season’s example of humility and emptying inspire us anew to empty ourselves and open our hearts, eschewing our own “wisdom” that we may seek God’s alone and walk in the ways set before us.Kaaryn McCallAlumna (2020) See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 21, 2021
Life in the Darkness
Week FourDecember 21, 2021Life in the DarknessRomans 8:18-30For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? Romans 8:24Today is the Winter Solstice. In the northern hemisphere it’s the darkest day of the year. Sometimes I think darkness gets a bad rap. The fact that the church picked this time of the year as Jesus’ birth is not a coincidence. Christianity baptized many traditions and claimed them as ours. My favorite carol is “In the Bleak Midwinter”—which fills my soul. Today I want to celebrate darkness.In 1986 I moved to the San Luis Valley in Colorado. My 11 years in that mystical place gave me many gifts. Our home was on an acreage away from the town. Sometimes I would go outside at night just to breath the alpine air. The stars always put on a show. I had been doing this for a while when I realized that what I thought was a collection of clouds, was actually the Milky Way galaxy. One summer we hosted an international exchange student from Japan. I will never forget walking outside with him on one of his first nights with us. He stopped and pointed to the sky, “Beautiful,” was his only word. He explained that in Tokyo you can never see the stars because “we have too much light” (light pollution).The eighth chapter of Romans ranks up there with my favorite Christmas carol. It reminds me that at the core of our faith is the truth of hope. That hope is grounded in the reality that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (vs 26). In the supposed darkness of these times, whether in our communities or our beings, the forces of light and hope are present. Rev. Dr. Mark W. PumphreyPresident of the Phillips Alumni AssociationSenior Pastor at First Christian Church in Greeley, Colorado See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 20, 2021
Praise the LORD
Week FourDecember 20, 2021Praise the LORDPsalm 113Praise the LORD! Praise, O servents of the LORD; praise the name of the LORD. Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time on and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the LORD is to be praised. The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens. Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD! Psalm 113:1-9 As I reflect on 2021, I can only pull together thoughts of hope and promise. Hope stands as the foundational breath we need as humans to push from day to day. Promise is the key to a home that reminds all of us of the bountiful blessings bestowed by God to God’s people. It’s the promise that evokes a movement capable of illuminating the power and might to change lives, heal the sick, and save souls. Many lives have seen and felt much pain over the past years. Psalm 113 is an example of the hope and promise we receive through the public and private practice of praise and worship. This is a psalm for the community to unite and build a strong tower of support. As I envision the imagery of Psalm 113, I can envision people of all races, religions, and walks of life coming together to offer affirmation of praise and gratefulness. Psalm 113 provides us with a picture of a LORD who wants to love and protect us. The LORD is in the blessing business of elevating the poor and needy to a place of importance, royalty! During this Advent season, please remember the importance of praising the LORD! Praise the LORD who provides for you and your family. The LORD who takes away your troubled pain and gives you the power to strive to greater accomplishments. Praise the LORD who never loses a battle or faces defeat. Please remember to share with your community, family, and friends the sincere benevolence of love, peace, and joy. Praise the name of the LORD! This advent season is your season of glorifed praise. Praise the LORD!Rev. Ulysses D. AllenInterim Director of Recruitment and Retention See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 19, 2021
A Song of Love and Justice
Week FourDecember 19, 2021A Song of Love and JusticeLuke 1:46-55“My Soul Magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor upon his servant.... He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.” Luke 1:46-48, 52-53.The Magnificat has become one of the most potent pieces of justice literature in the entirety of scripture for me. Growing up half-Roman Catholic and half-Pentecostal in rural Oklahoma, I remember hearing about Mary in very different tones depending on which side of the family we enjoyed after-church meals with. Today, I honor and revere her.Not just because of the clear connection she has to the expectation we all experience in Advent. Not as a woman created in the image of a rather absurd, westernized “meek and mild” archetype. Not even as the Theotokos, or, the Mother of God. But as an exemplar of the Holy’s commitment to love and justice. Mary exclaims with Divine conviction that God’s eternal promise to lift the lowly, fill the hungry with good things, fulfill promises, and love with abiding presence will never falter. But it doesn’t stop there, for this only represents half of Mary’s exclamation. The powerful, the rich, the proud, and the greedy find justice in a different way within her prayer. “Meek and mild?” I think not. The Magnificat shakes me from my privileged torpor to remind me that I am not always to whom the prayer is meant to comfort. Mary’s song is one of both comfort and retribution. Love and justice. Renewal and doom. As I greet the Living God in Christ this Christmas, will I find comfort in Mary’s song? Will you?May we all be shocked by Mary’s Song. May the Magnificat help us realize justice, and indeed love, this Advent.Kyle Miller-ShawneeInterim Director of Admissions and Student Services See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 18, 2021
A Roller-Coaster Season
Week ThreeDecember 18, 2021A Roller-Coaster SeasonIsaiah 66:7-11; Luke 13:31-35The sound of an uproar from the city!...The sound of the Lord repaying his enemies what they have earned. Isaiah 66:6 (Common English Bible)The Advent season is not for persons who want only “ups” in life. Take Lucy Van Pelt of Peanuts fame. She complained to Charlie Brown, “Why can’t my life be all ‘ups?’ If I want all ‘ups,’ why can’t I have them?...I don’t want any ‘downs!’ I just want ‘ups’ and ‘ups’ and ‘ups!’In contrast to Lucy, we have Isaiah and Luke, two masters of sending our imaginations on fabulous ups and terrible downs. They juxtapose images worthy of a Salvador Dali painting. Isaiah’s author tells of Jerusalem’s post-exilic rebirth being like a woman delivering before labor begins. The returnees are newborns drinking from Jerusalem’s milk-swollen breasts. But before and after those joyous and tender images are condemnations of God’s enemies. “The sound of an uproar from the city!...The sound of the LORD repaying his enemies what they have earned.” Downs with the ups.In Luke, friendly sometimes-sparring partners warn Jesus that Herod wants him dead. Rather than saying, “Thank you,” and taking cover, Jesus tells them he is headed for Jerusalem, the place of danger for those who speak truth laced with justice and compassion. Jerusalem here is not the loving new mother but prophet-slayer. This time, it is Jesus who would play the loving mother. He longs to gather the city’s people as a hen gathers her chicks, but no one comes.Advent is not a time of pure joy or terror. It is a mixture of warning (the downs), the demand for change (always a gut-jerking ride), and wild promises of a more joyous future (ups!). I would sure prefer Lucy’s world, but that is not where we live, especially during Advent.Dr. Gary Peluso-VerdendPresident Emeritus and Executive Director of the Center for Religion in Public Life See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 17, 2021
Remembering and Perservering!
Week ThreeDecember 17, 2021Remembering and Persevering! Hebrews 10:32-39So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. Hebrews 10:35 (NIV)We have heard of stories of people who have waited for loved ones to return from a journey or an assignment and what a joy it is when they finally receive them back. We have also heard of some people who have unfortunately given up “a few minutes” before realizing their dreams.I once heard a story about a miner who gave up and sold off what he considered a useless mine but unknown to him, he was just a few meters away from the gold that he had been looking for most of his life. In Hebrews 10:32-39, the author talks about remembering our love or commitment to faith in Jesus. “So do not throw away your confidence, it will be richly rewarded,” (v. 35). “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what God has promised” (v. 37).As we await the coming of the Lord, we are being called upon:To Wait patiently on God’s promiseTo Remember our love and commitment to the message of Jesus.To Persevere in order to receive what the Lord has promised. Do you know what the Lord has promised you? Knowing what the Lord has promised us is one of the things that will help us to persevere and not give up, especially when the journey gets hard. As we wait on the Lord’s coming, let us do so joyfully and with perseverance, knowing that the Lord is coming soon and will not delay! Are you expectant? Judith Nakibuuka Financial Accountant See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 16, 2021
Embodying the Covenant
Week ThreeDecember 16, 2021Embodying the CovenantJeremiah 31:31-34“I will put My Teaching into their inmost being and inscribe it upon their hearts. Then I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Jeremiah 31:33bThe text contains some of the most familiar words of this prophetic book. Jeremiah is speaking to the exiles in Babylon and envisioning the future that God intends for them. Through the prophet, God promises them a future, when God will “build and plant” the people in Judah and establish a “new” covenant. It is this last promise that needs some closer consideration. What about the covenant will be “new?” God does not say that there will be new commandments or teachings; the content will not change. Rather, it is how people will know the covenant that will be new. Whereas in their past, the Israelites had a tradition of a “written,” or text-based, covenant with God (though that was probably a later development), now God says that the covenant will be “written” on their hearts. There will be no need for monuments containing the commandments or for teaching others about God’s desires. All will know the covenant intuitively.How could this be possible? Certainly, children and new community members will need instruction in what the covenant requires, wouldn’t they? There is no reason to take this text literally, implying that no one will ever need a reminder about how God wants us to live.If a community structures its life together with a clear sense of accountability and acts in ways that consider the current need and possible future results, it will embody the covenant requirements. They will love God with all their being and love their neighbors as themselves; their living will “teach” the next generation. Their faith will lead them into a new future.Dr. Lisa W. DavisonJohnnie Eargle Cadieux Professor of Hebrew Bible andDirector of Formation for DOC Students See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 15, 2021
Week ThreeDecember 15, 2021Sacred AutonomyMicah 4:8-13But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD; they do not understand his plan… Micah 4:12aA common trope in novels, television, and movies is the damsel in distress. A woman, usually young and beautiful, is captured by an evil villain who threatens her life and virtue, thus enticing the hero, usually a young and equally beautiful man, into the villain’s lair to rescue the fair lady at risk. A great fight ensues, the leading man carries away the leading lady, who, of course, falls hopelessly in love with her rescuer, and they ride happily off into the sunset.In this text, the city of Jerusalem is depicted as a damsel in distress being held captive in Babylon, waiting to be rescued, not by a human hero, but by the LORD. Her captors are drooling over her, thinking that she is there for the taking.But Lady Jerusalem does not sit around waiting to be rescued. In fact, rescue is not even in the LORD’s plan for her. Instead, God’s plan is for her to take matters into her own hands and provide her own rescue herself.She has a “king” and a “counselor” within her (v. 9)—her own strong spirit, breathed into her by the God who created her. God’s plan for her, and for all people of all genders, is that we all have sovereignty over our own selves, a king and a counselor within each of us.We all were created and called very good by a loving God whose desire for all of us is to flourish in lives of sacred autonomy, living out every dream that the Divine has for us and that we have for ourselves.Rev. Renee GoodwinTheological Reflection Group Facilitator and Pastor of First Christian Church of Girard, KS See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 14, 2021
Where Faith Leads
Week Three December 14, 2021Where Faith LeadsNumbers 16:20-35…when the ground under them burst asunder, the earth opened its mouth, and swallowed them up with their households, all Korah’s people, and all their possessions. They all went down alive into Sheol, with all that belonged to them… Numbers 16:32-33 (Jewish Study Bible)What a satisfying ending to anyone’s enemies, no? So ends the tale of Korah, great challenger to Moses’s leadership. The interesting bit about the tale is that at first blush it looks like Korah’s beef with Moses is really about democracy versus divine appointment. Korah presents Moses with a pretty good complaint, stating that all of the Israelites are holy. He demands, “Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” Think of Pete’s confrontation with Everett in O Brother, Where Art Thou?: “Who elected you leader of this outfit?” Unlike Everett, Moses doesn’t have a snappy comeback. Instead, Moses prostrates himself and begins to consult with G-d. He perhaps senses a demagogue in Korah. Korah is a Levite and already has special privileges, so why is he looking to end Moses’ leadership? As a prophetic figure Moses knows there is more to leading G-d’s people to G-d, that land of milk and honey, than simply declaring everyone finished in achieving holiness. Martin Buber suggests that Moses knows, through G-d, that the road to learning how to become a holy people is a long one and must be hewn across generations of choices “between the way of G-d and the wrong paths of their own hearts.” Where does faith lead you this season?Sandy ShapovalDean of the Library and Research Services See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 13, 2021
Week ThreeDecember 13, 2021Korah’s RebellionNumbers 16:1-19And the glory of the Lord appeared to the whole congregation. Numbers 16:19b Whichever word you use for it — incarnation, real presence, embodiment — a central theme for Advent and Christmas is how the human Jesus reflects the work of God in a flesh-and-blood world. The next question, then, is how and where this holy work manifests in a real way today.Though the biblical story of Korah’s rebellion requires more exegetical unpacking than we can do here, it does offer an interesting perspective on how a fiery God shows up in the midst of challenge to reveal what is holy. “And the glory of the Lord appeared to the whole congregation” (Num 16:19b).In Korah’s case, the result was to reinforce the status quo, Moses and Aaron as God’s chosen leaders. Ponder with me the possibility of a different result.What if we ignite a fire within by challenging our existing assumptions about our own holy work? What if we begin seriously to question the traditions and structures in which we and those around us operate? What if we interrogate ourselves, our own motives, our own conscious or unconscious participation in systems we thought were neutral when it comes to justice and liberation?Imagine this Advent as a season of rebellion against complacency, a time of self-examination and proactive exploration in which we pay attention to how a fiery God shows up in the challenge and reveals to us anew both the internal and external holy work to which we are called. This, too, is incarnation.Rev. Susanna Weslie SouthardDean of the Chapel and Affiliate Instructor for Ministry Studies See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 12, 2021
Week ThreeDecember 12, 2021Extended WarrantyPhilippians 4:4-7Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4If you are a mainline, Protestant person of a certain age, you likely have a tune going through your head about now. “Rejoice… rejoice… and again I say, rejoice.” You may also be hearing that music as a round that will take a while to exit your brain. You may also be thinking of the lack of things to rejoice about over the past year.The “rejoicing” expressed in this text is not a happy kind of feeling. Instead, it’s a call to a sense of total well-being in the promises of a Divine One whose desire is for our protection and peace. This is a total protection plan, the most extended warranty of warranties, far beyond anything a telemarketer could offer, regardless of how many times they call.Folks in Philippi get a reminder in this letter that while they may not live in the most welcoming neighborhood in the Roman empire, they are to trust their faith to lead them to a life of shalom, a peace that “exceeds human imagination” (Charles B. Cousar). They are reminded that their hearts and minds are also guarded by the Divine One, even as they navigate persecution from without and disagreements within their community.The folks of Philippi know that as faithful followers of Jesus, the one we await this season, they are expected to also share this encompassing love, this peace that “exceeds human imagination” outside of their community, even to those who persecute them, rejoicing in the Lord always and in all ways.Kurt GwartneySenior Director of CommunicationsInstructor, Center for Ministry and Lay Training See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 11, 2021
Second Kind of Faith
Week TwoDecember 11, 2021Second Kind of FaithLuke 1:57-66But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” Luke 1:60Faith is tricky. For some, faith comes easily, a childlike trust that God is always there, a belief that God hears every prayer, a certainty that God has a plan about everything. For others, faith is more difficult, like trying to grasp a handful of fog or see the wind. It’s there, but not easily describable or concrete. Looking into the future is an act of the second kind of faith. We can’t know what’s there with certainty; we can only peer into it with near-sighted vision. Yet our faith can give us an underlying hope in the future, as in the passage from Isaiah.For a people in exile, dreaming of a return home, it would have been easy to succumb to hopelessness. But with their faith, the words of Isaiah about the future, about repairing, restoration, and rebuilding were like trying to grasp that fog. It was there and not there at the same time.Like the amazement surrounding the naming of John the Baptist, there is wonder about both the present and the future. As John’s name was clearly decided, people still wondered about his future—and their own—as they wondered what he would become. His future was not yet written but had promise and potential. And so it is with us. As we wait through Advent and through life, may we embrace the fog and the wind, and the steadfast God there through it all. Kelly YoungbloodStudent Senate Member and Master of Divinity Student See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 10, 2021
Cheerful Giving and Receiving
Week TwoDecember 10, 2021Cheerful Giving and ReceivingAmos 8:4-12 and 2 Corinthians 9:1-15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15Has shopping for Christmas presents ever felt more like a grudging obligation than a joy? I have to confess that most years at least some of my gift-giving feels compulsory rather than cheerful.I admire my few, brave, counter-cultural friends who refuse to participate in gift exchanges at Christmas. I wish I would follow their example of rejecting the idolatry of consumerism and commercialism that conscripts so many of us into buying and material junk as a token of love. Yet, I can hardly imagine opting out of the custom. This lesson from Amos reminds me that greed is a human tendency with serious consequences. Ideally, the practice of gift giving could be a rehearsal for generous sharing — the opposite of greed. In the 2 Corinthians passage we read about one community’s outpouring of love to support another community. When love flows between those who can give to those who are in need, the Commonwealth of God is manifest in visible, tangible ways. I am intrigued by the line in verse 15 about God’s gift that is indescribable, inexpressible, unspeakable. Can we say anything at all about that gift? Perhaps we come closest to experiencing that gift through the wonder and hope that stems from the miraculous power that can free us from greed. The insatiable, acquisitive drive in me is a cruel master. It is a miracle when I am freed from grasping in order to appreciate and share with others instead of wanting more for myself. May your giving and receiving be filled with potent cheerfulness this Christmas. Dr. Kathleen D. McCallieAssociate Professor of Ministerial Leadership and Ethicsand Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 9, 2021
Faith Leads Us to Peace
Week TwoDecember 9, 2021Faith Leads Us to PeaceIsaiah 12:2-6Yes, indeed— God is my salvation. I trust, I won’t be afraid. God- yes God!— is my strength and song, best of all, my salvation! Isaiah 12:2 (The Message)At first glance, you feel the peace presented in this joyful song, but the prophet Isaiah shared these words in a world full of doom and gloom. The people of Judah had struggles, fears, divisiveness, and uncertainty. This passage is a much-needed bright spot sharing of the future day when we draw together to give thanks and praise.Today’s struggles, fears, inequalities, and other crises echo Isaiah’s time. We also experience personal strife, worry, illness, accidents, and loss. We feel frail and very human. It seems too much to join in or repeat this beautiful song; to trust, and not be afraid.When we are fearful though, it helps us to understand that God is always faithful. The Spirit reaches to us from the pages and across the centuries to let us know that God is with us, is our strength, stands beside us, and even carries us through painful moments or worrying times. Grace and love are gifts bestowed upon us; compassion and comfort are blessings that sustain us, enabling us to withstand what overwhelms us. This verse is a promise that can help us get through troubles and personal challenges. During this season of Advent, as nights seem so dark and the relentlessness of this world keeps us worried, we wait, just like the people of Isaiah’s time, for “the future day” when God’s salvation will come to us in all its fullness, we won’t be afraid. We are drawn toward that, ready to “sing praise-songs to God. Let the whole earth know what’s been done!” (Isaiah 12:6). We celebrate with the whole people of God. Can we get any more peace than that?Leslie LeSieurSenior Director of the Center for Ministry and Lay Training See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 8, 2021
A Hope Filled Longing for Joy
Week TwoDecember 8, 2021A Hope Filled Longing for JoyIsaiah 35: 3-7Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. Isaiah 35:5-7Alienation is one of the conditions of living in exile. In Isaiah’s writings, we encounter people living under chaotic, disorienting experiences of oppression where there is a scarcity of hope.For many living in the middle of an ongoing pandemic and the heightened racial and political tensions of the last five years, there is a profound sense of estrangement. One consequence of isolation and ongoing tensions is the struggle to maintain a sense of hope. The reminder that joy is more than a possibility it is a promise of abundant justice and healing.In the wilderness of separation parched by feelings of loneliness and uncertainty about the future, the memory of connection and wholeness lingers in the distance like a mirage. The longing for refreshing springs of renewed health and relief from the suffering of Creation and her Peoples.Isaiah reminds us there is still hope and the potential for joy as we remind one another and bear each other up while navigating the desert. God’s promise bubbles forth and the thirst abates and gives way to song. Even in precarious surroundings, we are not alone in our sojourn. Together, we can participate in compassion in such a way that a place of communion is created.Dr. Lisa A. DellingerVisiting Assistant Professor of Constructive Theologies See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 7, 2021
Someday at Christmas
Week TwoDecember 7, 2021Someday At ChristmasIsaiah 19:18-25In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together…The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel, my inheritance.” Isaiah 19:23, 25 (NIV)Someday at Christmas, men won’t be boys,Playing with bombs like kids play with toys.One warm December, our hearts will seeA world where men are free.—Stevie Wonder, “Someday at Christmas” (1967)When I was a child, we put up decorations while listening to this holiday classic every Christmas. As a child, the music moved me. But now, as an adult, I value the lyrics equally. The song’s message is just as important now as it was in 1967. In my view, it is such a fitting song for Advent.I often wonder if Stevie knows how his song dovetails nicely with the prophetic and eschatological themes of Advent. Like the prophet Isaiah, he penned a vision of the future where joy, peace, hope, and love will be the order of the day. However, what’s important to note is that no one will be left out of this vision. In the oracles from Isaiah, we read that although God will hold Egypt and Assyria accountable for their oppression of God’s people, yet still God includes them in this reconciling work.This Advent, may we consider how anticipating Christ’s coming into the world involves drawing the circle of grace wider. We embrace those already in the fold, those pushed to the margins, and yes, even our enemies. In Advent, we anticipate restorative justice not through building walls but through paving highways that all may enter the ever-inclusive Kin-dom of God. The fruit of our faithful labor may not be immediately apparent. But as Stevie would put it, the fulfilment will come “maybe not in time for you and me, but someday at Christmastime.”Keith Anthony BethellStudent Senate Member and Master of Theological Studies Student See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
3 minutes | Dec 6, 2021
A Word of Comfort
Week TwoDecember 6, 2021A Word of ComfortIsaiah 40:1-11The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:8I used to work at a summer camp. During training, we would rehearse a list of values and principles that would guide our work together. Most of them have faded from my memory but one embedded itself in my life: When confronted with changes big and small, the twinge (or wave) of anxiety I feel is met with the phrase, “I am flexible and adapt to change.” It helps us all to be flexible and adapt to change because change is inevitable. Viruses mutate. People get sick. People die. People grow. People move. New jobs start. Families grow. Families divide. Seasons pass. Grass withers. Flowers fall. Grass grows. Flowers bloom. The list could go on and on and on. But, as Bon Jovi sings, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” It often seems like a lot of the troubles in our world endure as steadfastly as God’s love. Global warming continues to progress at a terrifying pace. Police brutality and the killing of oppressed peoples persists. The pandemic rages on. Again, the list could go on and on and on.Hear a word of comfort and call this advent season: in the midst of it all, God is steadfast and sure. We are flexible and adapt to change! We work with God, responding to the needs of the world, ushering in change that brings relief to the suffering and liberates the oppressed. Dr. Allie Utley Assistant Professor Liturgy and Practical Theology See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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