Monday, October 29, 2007

Chili Supper this Friday

We will host our annual chili supper before the last home football game of year this Friday (Nov. 2) at 5:30. Come to the church for dinner before heading over to the game! Adults $4, Kids under 10 $2. See you there, Nathan will be preparing his "Pastor certified Hotter than Hell Chili" to add to the mix!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Oct. 28 Sermon: Whose Persistence?

Every once in a while, I encounter a sermon that leaves me speechless. What I mean by that is that after coming into contact with this particular sermon, by Robert Dunham (a Presbyterian pastor at University Church in Chapel Hill, NC), I realized that there is not much I could add to its poignancy and challenge. So, I slightly adapted his sermon to fit our context, and "passed it on" to you. He brings up the movie "Hotel Rwanda," which I have also seen and been convicted by, and would recommend to you.

Sermon Texts:
Sirach 35: 13-24
Luke 18: 1-8

There's not much question as to the meaning of this parable of the widow and the unjust judge. There's not much question because Luke tells us why the parable is important before he tells it and then remembers Jesus offering his own interpretation after he finishes telling it. This is a story about persistence in prayer and God's compassion and responsiveness. It is...isn't it? There is this judge, says Jesus. We know about judges in Israel. We know their role was to maintain a reasonable harmony in the community and to adjudicate disputes fairly, impartially. It is particularly worth remembering that Jewish law, the Torah, described a particular responsibility for such judges when it came to protecting the rights of the poor - of widows and orphans and sojourners in the land. Then Jesus says: there is this widow. And therein lies the plot. There is this widow. The choice of character automatically raises the stakes for the judge, because any God-fearing jurist would feel obliged by the Torah to take especially good care of her.1 The problem is that this jurist is not God-fearing and not especially interested in justice at all. And so he tries to ignore the widow's pleading. But the widow is not going to take "no" for an answer. She keeps coming back to him day after day, resolutely pressing her case, until finally the judge has a conversation with himself. Luke describes other such internal conversations elsewhere - the rich fool, the prodigal son, the dishonest steward - all of them talk to themselves. But this judge figures that if he doesn't grant the widow's petition, she will wear him out. So, eventually, despite his callousness and his lack of integrity, he gives the woman what she wants. The progress of this parable is known as an argument from the lesser to the greater - if a wicked judge will finally relent and hear the woman's case, how much more will God. The point is that God is full of compassion, willing and ready to hear the prayers of the poor and oppressed. And the counsel is thus to be persistent in prayer, knowing that God will answer the prayers of God's children. It's an unclouded parable and a neat conclusion. And it is unbridled good news for those who pray day and night for justice, for it promises that their prayers do not go unanswered. Of course, if that's the point - and it seems to be - then we have a dilemma, if we are honest with God and ourselves. The dilemma is that nearly two millennia later the poor and oppressed are still calling out for relief and, for the most part, don't seem to be appreciably closer to a world of justice and compassion than they were when Jesus told the parable. If one reads this parable as it has always been read, as a counsel to relentless prayer, there will always seem to be some lack of evidence that such prayer really makes a difference. Unless Jesus is talking about deferred compensation - the kind of "pie in the sky by and by" vindication that many Christians resist - then, frankly, the claim for persistence isn't very convincing...or at least not always.

Don't get me wrong. I believe persistent prayer is very important, even when such prayers are not answered in the ways we think best. It is important to be unrelenting in our prayers...not only because of the changes our prayers may elicit in God's mind, but for the changes such prayers can work in our own hearts and minds. As Frederick Buechner said years ago, persistence is a key, "not because you have to beat a path to God's door before [God will] open it, but because until you beat the path, maybe there's no way of getting to your door."2 Buechner's comment set me to thinking that maybe there's more to this parable than we have sometimes seen. What if Jesus offered this parable not only as a call to prayerful persistence but also as a reminder to the church of the importance of securing justice for the poor and the oppressed in their midst? Alan Culpepper says, "To those who have it in their power to relieve the distress of the widow, the orphan and the stranger but do not [do so], the call to pray day and night is a command to let the priorities of God's compassion reorder the priorities of their lives."3 What if we stand this parable on its head and hear it as a testimony to the persistence of God, who wants us to grant justice to God's chosen ones who cry out day and night? Might this parable speak to the resolute, persistent, unrelenting, determined One who keeps knocking on our door, challenging us to respond, pressing us to accept God's claims, urging us to work for the good of neighbors in need? All through the Scriptures we can trace God's unwavering claim on God's people - the covenant with Abraham, the giving of Torah (that set forth a way of faithfulness and integrity and righteousness), and when God's children rebelled and fell into selfish ways, the sending of prophets to press God's claims and to call for justice and fairness...and later when the people ignored the prophets, in the fullness of time, God sent the Christ into the world to demonstrate once and for all the character of God's grace and love toward all of God's children, and especially the poor and the outcast. "Behold," said the Christ, "I stand at the door and knock." That knock is the sound a conscience makes in the life of the faithful. A few years ago I saw the film, Hotel Rwanda, the difficult story of what happened in Rwanda in 1994, when that African nation descended into madness, with the powerful Hutu majority beginning a systematic slaughter of the Tutsi minority. One writer would later call that massacre "the fastest and most efficient killing spree of the 20th century;" in one hundred days, the Hutus killed 800,000 Tutsis.4 The film tells the story of that horror through the person of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, a Hutu who made a promise to protect his Tutsi wife and the family he loved and ended up finding the courage to shelter and save over 1,200 people by hiding them in the luxury hotel he managed. As the horror built, Paul initially protested that there was nothing he could do, but his hesitance was challenged by the steady beating of truth upon his door. What was it Alan Culpepper said? "To those who have it in their power to relieve ... distress ... but do not, the call to pray day and night is a command to let the priorities of God's compassion reorder the priorities of their lives." Paul began to see the horror and experience the shame. It was a truth he didn't want to admit; but in the end, his conscience prevailed and he acted to save as many lives as he could. But Paul was not the only one to hear the beating on the door and to experience the need to reorder his priorities; it happened also to many viewers of the film. And I think it happened especially in one telling moment. About midway through the story, as the slaughter of the Tutsi people escalated in Kigali, Western reporters began to capture scenes of the genocide on tape.
Paul was heartened a bit, because he assumed the broadcast of such images would prompt immediate Western intervention. When a skeptical Western reporter expressed doubt, Paul was dumbfounded. "How can they see that and not intervene?" he asked. But the reporter had seen it all before. "More likely," he responded, "people will see the footage, say 'Isn't that horrible?' and then go right on with their dinners." It was for me a particularly disturbing moment in a deeply disturbing film, for I knew he was right. Who could see and hear that exchange and not feel shame?
And yet shame could be our full-time preoccupation. Across the span of our lifetimes we have experienced a steady drumbeat of news reports of injustice after injustice, perpetrated by one group or another. And what has been done? In this country, of course, some civil rights laws were established; and they have brought some progress, though such progress more often seems to follow the path of a pendulum than of an arrow. We have seen some of the worst offenders elsewhere being brought before international tribunals and tried for crimes against humanity. We've watched celebrities who have staged worldwide concerts to raise awareness and to try to end poverty in our time. But many of us, seeing such things, have spoken our laments and then have gone right back to our dinners or whatever else it was we had been doing.
So, I wonder: if this parable offers a mirror for our lives, then maybe the face many of us will see when we peer into that mirror is the face of the judge who, as Jesus said, "neither feared God nor had respect for people." Is that not who we are in this story?
Oh, it's not very flattering to read the parable that way, to be sure. Who wants to be characterized that way? But, then, in the parable the judge does eventually reach the tipping point, and even if not for the best of motives and more from self-interest, does grant the widow what she wants. What she wants, of course, is justice and a fair shake. It's what the outcasts of the world most often want, and we know - from reading the Torah and the prophets and from listening to Jesus - it is what God wants for them as well. Maybe the good news in this story for the non-outcasts - for the rest of us - is that God is like the widow - unrelenting, persistent, assertive. God hasn't given up on us, even when we have acted as though we "neither feared God nor had respect for people." So maybe there's hope, not only for the widows and orphans and sojourners of this world, but for us. Maybe there is hope that we will tend to the shame we feel and allow it to break through our resistance and press us to open doors to those who knock persistently; maybe there is hope that we will hear their pleas at last and use our voices and our power to help shape relief and reconciliation and fairness in this world. Maybe there is hope for us. I believe there is. More importantly, I believe God believes there is. "Behold," says the Christ, "I stand at the door and knock." Maybe today we'll open the door. Maybe. And what a good day that would be...for everyone! O Lord, let that day come. Let it come. Amen.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Oct. 21 Sermon: Overhearing Prayers

This sermon was an adaptation of one my dad preached a couple years ago. It fit with the theme we're on lately--"Prayer Life of a Christian." Thanks for the help, dad.

LUKE 18:9-14

My grand-father was a self-educated Pentecostal preacher on the weekends and a skilled carpenter throughout the week. Consequently, my father has told me that my grandfather’s nighttimes were often devoted to bible study and sermon preparation, as well as prayer. As a young boy, my father’s bedroom was the converted utility room right off the kitchen, and he often overheard his father’s prayers. Though my grandfather died almost twenty-five years ago, my father still cherishes the memory of those overheard prayers, because many of those prayers were for him!
You can tell a lot about people by listening to how they pray. Praying is absolutely vital to the church. Prayers are vital for the spiritual well-being of the Christian. This is one reason we are creating a prayer chapel off the sanctuary in this room to the right. It will be a visible and practical encouragement to this faith community to make prayer a discipline. We read in the letter of James that “the prayer of a righteous person availeth much.” (James 5:16)
But perhaps, as we see in the parable, we do not intuit what righteousness truly is! Prayer gets to the heart of the relationship between God and us. Is prayer knowing all the right words to say? Sometimes, not knowing the right words to say communicates more effectively the depth of the experience of a relationship than being an articulate word-smith.
Sometimes, if we cannot find the words, we may turn to the beautiful resources in our hymnal and book of worship and resonate with the spirit led words of others. Other times, if we turn simply to what writer Anne Lamott calls the only two prayers: “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you,” and “Help me, Help me, Help me!” God will respond to us, indeed!
Jesus also believed in the vitality of prayer, but he also sought to expose the futility of trusting in your self alone. He did so by telling the parable you heard this morning.
Let’s review something very important about parables. By their very nature, parables draw the listener into the story, and, before you know it, we (the listeners) are involved like one of the characters actually in the story! In a parable, one states a truth but disguises it so that the meaning is not quickly and immediately obvious. Its meaning is to be deduced, and when you finally do get the “point,” you might even have a great “ah-haa” experience.
In telling a parable, you change the scene to throw the listener off a bit until you can insert your needle without the listener knowing it has been inserted. John Killenger has called such practice, “literary Novocain.” If you tried to get in your point without the “parable-Novocain” your “patient” would run a way and your point is then rendered useless. Likewise, if you brought up your subject directly, it could easily fall flat.
The parable Jesus tells about he Pharisee and the tax collector who prayed is a perfect example. The problem is, in the many years that have passed since Jesus first told this parable to his first listeners, the two characters in the story have virtually changed places, and we’re in danger of losing the “ah-haa” that I believe Jesus intended.
In our day, it’s easy to not despise the tax collector and instead, despise the Pharisee! Fred Craddock has rightly said, “Popular caricatures present the Pharisee as a hollow hypocrite and the tax collector or publican as generous Joe, the Bartender or Goldie, the hooker, both whom we might admire for the rejection of religion!” (Interpretation, Fred Craddock: John Knox Press-1990, pg.211).
But, you can be certain that this is not the way Jesus’ original hearers first reacted. To them, the Pharisee was a true pillar of society, the kind of material respectable communities desire. In fact, if the Nominations Committee of First Church, Palestine was meeting to gather names for submitting to the Charge Conference for election to the Church Board, you can rest assured this Pharisee’s name would be at the top of the list! If the Evangelism Committee was seeking to respond with hospitality to newcomers who had visited the church, you’d be safe to assume this Pharisee would be one of the most sought after.
Why? Not only does he fast once a week, as some Jews did, he fasts twice a week! He was zealous, not merely to keep the law, but to go beyond it. He’s not an extortionist; he’s not a swindler or an adulterer. And when it comes to the temple budget, not only did he tithe 10%, he went even further and tithed on all he bought! Ordinarily, in buying corn, new wine, and oil, he could have assumed that a tithe had already been paid by the one who had produced it. But this Pharisee took no chances, so he paid a tithe on these purchase as well! You could call him a religious neurotic, if you wanted to, but he meant well. In any case, those who first heard this parable would easily recognize this man to be unusually diligent and upright.
Likewise, in our modern attempts to romanticize the tax collector/publican, we often forget just how revolting and mean his lifestyle really was! Publicans not only cooperated with a foreign occupying power, Rome, but padded their living by defrauding others as well. True repentance of such reprehensible activity required that they quit their job as tax collectors and restore all that they had illegally taken, plus 20%. Since it was unlikely that they could even name, let alone repay all those whom they had defrauded, they were treated by others as robbers—and essentially, they were! They were hated, so it’s no wonder he’s found praying in the shadows of the temple, certainly not in full view of everyone. It’s a wonder the Pharisee even sees him!
Now I’m not one who would say you should keep your eyes closed during prayer, as we discussed last week, but it would be helpful to keep your focus on God and your praying, not looking around the temple to see who’s there------.
I think I recognize what the Pharisee does in his prayer.
“I may have failed you Lord, but, compared to _____, I’m
not half-bad!”
I recognize that kind of praying, because I’ve done it!
Have you noticed, though, that most of the times when we pray like that, we’re making the wrong comparisons? Rarely do we compare ourselves with our moral superiors. Instead, we compare ourselves with scoundrels and pridefully say, “Hey God, comparatively speaking, I’m not so bad…” Employing that same tactic in woodworking or sewing can have disastrous results. Constantly cutting new pieces from a faulty pattern might be quicker than measuring each time, but the end product might be grossly distorted.
Yes, it seems the final offense of the Pharisee’s prayer is his sidelong glances toward the publican/tax collector in the shadows, instead of his focus on God. Without denying all of those things he did, fasting, tithing, upstanding behavior… all very good, he was NOT looking in the direction of God. Smugly seeing how much better he fared (he thought) in the conduct of life than the poor sinner standing in the shadows.
The hated and despised tax collector had nothing to gain in prayer by comparing himself to others or contemplating how others felt about him. He knew already! All he could do was throw himself on the mercy of God, who is the God of saints and sinners alike.
Would that the poor Pharisee knew the song, “It’s not my brother, nor my sister, but it’s me oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer!” For you see, the prayer of a truly righteous person has nothing to do with a religious “pedigree” or our church work experience—time spent teaching Sunday School, or even how much or how little we give to the church. The prayer of a truly righteous person has everything to do with whom we gaze upon in prayer—so we should ask ourselves. Is prayer to contemplate God or is it to announce to God who we are? The prayer which justifies the person is the prayer which seeks God and leaves self behind. And thus, we arrive at this parable’s “bottom line.” The Pharisee trusts in self and all his accomplishments. The Publican trusts in God alone. That is the difference.
You see, the world can still make judgments as to who in human eyes is justified. God, however, makes another. Some truly righteous people are not the world’s so-called perfect people. And therein lies Jesus’ agenda, so remarkably told by Luke in his radical “upside-down” way.
Even though many times Jesus seems to exalt those whom the “respectable” deem to be morally inferior, Jesus, in so doing, is after something deeper than “respectability”…something far more crucial than observing religious rituals. Instead, he’s intent on doing business in each human heart, where there are no secrets, not pretenses. So yes, each of us can say, “it’s me, it’s me oh lord, standing in the need of prayer.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

October 14 Sermon: Praying With our Eyes wide Open

Sermon Texts:
Psalm 66: 1-12
Romans 8: 26-39

Paul states in today’s passage that there’s nothing that separates us from the love of God. Nothing stands between us. God’s Love is consistently emenating toward us. This is why I accentuate the Holy Spirit as the “Breath of God” in my own thinking and prayer life, and why you’ve heard so much about it from me. For many of us, it is a re-orientation of thinking to perceive of God’s Spirit as something that is as tangible and present to us as the very air we breathe.
But, our Scriptures point us in this direction, the Psalmist writes that “as God give us breath, we have life, and when God takes back that Breath, our life is taken back into God.” For me, envisioning my life as a “Breath of God” has been an enriching insight. There’s a Muslim saying that God is closer to us than our jugular vein. That is both a comforting thought and an uncomfortable thought. Perhaps the association with the “jugular vein” makes things a little uneasy. It makes me think that my life is not entirely my own….well, perhaps that’s the point!
Paul begins today’s passage by saying that even though we don’t know how to pray, this Spirit, this Breath of Life, seemingly enters into our lungs and prays “with sighs too deep for words.” It doesn’t matter that we may get caught up in our own needs and wants and prejudices and errors in our prayer life. God knows what we need, and God’s Spirit interacts with us so deeply, so intensely, that our prayers are influenced by the inaudible “sighs of the Spirit” even if we aren’t aware.
I was remembering something I had talked about with some kids a few years ago this week. It stayed in my mind for a while, it jumped around in my heart a little, and from these stirrings, I reckon it must be something that I should share with us as a congregation as well. I asked the kids if we were supposed to pray in a certain posture, and was met with a resounding “NO!”
It is good that the children have a sense of what is important to God, and prayer posture certainly isn’t it. It may be important for us to have a certain way to pray so that we can prepare ourselves for being with God in a communicative way. Some may pray with hands open in front, some may pray with elbows on knees hunched. When we are children, we are usually taught to pray with our hands folded and eyes closed. I explained to the children that we are probably taught this way so that we can shut off the racing of our minds and concentrate on what God has to say to us.
There is certainly a use for this kind of prayer, and it has been the dominant form of prayer in our church. If not hands folded, then certainly eyes shut. We are so accustomed to this form of praryer, that usually we preface our prayers with “Will you bow with me in prayer?” It has become our custom to pray in this way.
Yet, if we think of things a little differently, if we allow our “custom” to be flexible in some way, it may give the Spirit enough room in our life of prayer to get in there and shake things up a bit. (That is after all what the Spirit likes to do). Perhaps we may even be able to attune our ears to the “sighs too deep for words”
I remember what a revelation it was to me when I was a teenager and heard or read somewhere that Native Americans pray with their eyes open instead of closed. Now, whatever source it was that I got this information was certainly generalizing—of course there are Native Americans who pray with their eyes closed. I’ve seen a lot of United Methodist Native Americans praying just like most United Methodists, in the familiar head down, shut eyes fashion. But, traditionally, so I’m told, in the native spirituality of the Native peoples, prayer is an eyes open type of experience because it is an acknowledgement of the Great Spirit’s presence in the things that surround us.
In many Indian cultures, God is experienced in the Rain, in the Mountains, in the Wind, in the Animals we come into contact with. It was probably this sense of the Sacred in the World around us that confused many of the Christian pioneers who came into contact with the Native Peoples and decided they needed to be missionized. I agree that we as a Christian church had something very special and enriching in the Gospel to share with the Native Americans, but at that time, the Spirituality that we Christians were wanting to give to the Native peoples was a very “closed eyes” kind of faith.
Perhaps God’s intention was not only for us to share our love of the Gospel with the Native People, but perhaps it was also to let the Native people share their worldview with us as well!
When I started praying with my eyes open, I started looking at the world in a different way. Instead of being something to distract my mind from a good intellectual, strictly verbal relationship with God, I began to understand what the Psalmist meant by “O taste and see that God is good.” When I started to pray with my eyes open, I began to see God’s face in the faces around me, I began to feel God’s presence in the warm sunshine or the refreshing rain, I began to taste God’s complexity and bounty in a blueberry or an ear of corn. I began to hear God’s voice in Beethoven’s symphonies. I began to understand what the Psalmist who wrote today’s Psalm meant by writing “All the earth worships you, they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.”
In short, when I prayed with my eyes open, I began to LIVE MY LIFE as a prayer. I began to see what Paul meant when he said, “38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing separates us from the Love of God. For me, this revelation came with a change in my prayer life. And for me, it was like finding a treasure in a field that I had previously experienced as empty. It was a surprising pearl to my life. Living our life aware of God’s close proximity to us is a life in the Spirit, as we have been talking about over the past few weeks. It is a Kingdom life, a life that reveals God’s Kingdom to the world. Jesus said that God’s Kindom is here in our midst, and we have not opened our eyes to it. Opening my eyes in prayer was for me the precious glimpse into God’s kingdom. When I mentioned this kind of prayer to the children I mentioned earlier, I remember looking at these fresh faces, these innocent eyes, these children who seem to know more about God than anybody. As I prayed, open eyed, with them—my heart was filled, God’s Spirit in them was made visible for me, and I thanked God In the clear, knowing eyes of children lies a life attuned to this prayerful life.
Children experience wonder in the world, and this wonder in the world is something that seemingly evades us in our adult years. We become used to it all. The magic of the world around us loses its luster for some reason. We become “grown up” and forget about the mystery and excellence of our surroundings.
I remember when I was a kid, I used to look at the roots of trees that crawled out over the ground, and I’d imagine the world it must be for all the bugs that lived in the tree’s shade. I remember looking at clouds for hours. For me, flying in airplanes was a late experience in life, so fortunately I haven’t lost the child like wonder when looking out the window at the earth from 30,000 feet. Seeing the rivers and patches of farms and mountains, and the billowy clouds--Remember when we used to see the whole world that way from 4 feet up in the air?
In the acknowledgement of the wonder and mystery of life itself, the Spirit sighs deeply in us. We return thanks to God in the acknowledgement of our place among this magical Creation of God. In the human family, the complexity of which baffles us with mystery and wonder as well. Meister Eckhart, a German mystic of the 14th century, said, “IF I spent enough time with a caterpillar, I’d never need to preach another sermon in my life.”
When we are astounded, when we are baffled, when we are engaged by the world, by the face of God in the faces around us, that is when we can hear the “Sighs too deep for words.” That is when we can attune ourselves to God’s prayer for us!
I invite us today to be in an eyes open attitude of prayer while we go our separate ways today. With an open eyed faith, we may see things that our eyes have grown accustomed to in a new way. In a spouse about whom we more typically can name faults and weaknesses, we may instead see partners who support us and possess strengths we may not have recognized in a while. In a teenager we may more quickly judge, we may see a brave, young soul who achieves great things in a world that is very different from the one in which we lived those years. In a co-worker whom we more often find annoying, we may see the private difficulties they silently face.
May we pray with open eyes, so that we don’t overlook God’s presence in the everyday world around us! Amen.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sept. 30 Alternative Worship service

Our worship service was a bit different this past Sunday. We had several worship stations that people interacted with in lieu of a sermon. It was youth sunday, and the youth chose to have this particular style of "alternative worship." Here are photos and the instructions for each worship station:


In the Books of Law, God sets a festival called the Festival of the Booths or Ingathering—called Sukkot. It began this past Thursday. Here the celebrations of the harvest are sanctified by God through the blessing of ritual. The celebration of plenty is coupled with the remembrance of the Exodus. Read about the celebration of Sukkot on the piece of paper. Take a card and write about a journey that you remember from your own life. Celebrate that journey by tying your card either inside our on the outside of the tent. If you would like to sit in the tent to remember your journey, feel free!

In our scriptures, the book of Revelation imagines the end of all life on earth in a highly symbolic dream event. Here is one image of reaping that is indicative of our relationship with God. God sends the harvesters to collect the harvest of our souls—and we are resurrected in a new life in a new form. As the harvest of our fields leads to the complex foods we create, our newly created lives will be in the service of God in ways which we can not imagine any more than a grape could comprehend its place in a glass of wine, or a grain of wheat its place in a cake. Read the passage from Revelation 14:13-15. Look at the interprative painting. Reach out and feel the harvest of the vine. Imagine the end of your life as a harvest instead of an ending. Have you harvested the gifts that God has given you?
When you are ready, take a piece of bread from the loaf and juice from the cup. Eat and drink them, but eat and drink slowly. Savor them. This is the meal where our Savior meets us to strengthen us and enable us to bear fruit in our life of faith. This "communion" is where God helps us prepare our own lives for harvest. Here is where we are spiritually nourished so that the fruit we bear will add flavor and richness to life itself.


The colors of fall are probably one of the most effective evangelists of the natural world. The reds and golds and yellows and oranges and browns and greens float together in a seas of leaves blanketing the hillsides, like waves reflecting the sunset. God clearly delights in diversity and richness and extravagance. It is clear in our Creation account that God blesses the manifold of the Holy Creation. The Spirit of Life: that blowing breath that sweeps over creation at its inception, the mighty wind bursting through the windows of the early church and setting it on fire. That Spirit of exuberance and vitality is present in every moment. Life makes a grand finale before it goes to sleep for the winter.As children, we harness such creativity and celebration of life with crayons. Isn’t it a shame that we grow up and think we shouldn’t use them anymore? Use the colors to make a picture of God’s majestic creation. If you can’t draw a tree, just use the colors to give the expression of trees, or whatever else you choose to create. Have fun!


In the Christian calendar, harvest leads to the New year. Advent begins with the oncoming of cold weather and empty trees. The goods are dried and readied for the winter, and then we wait. We wait for the surprise at the peak of the winter, when the world is asleep. We wait for the Birth of the Christ and then hold it fast, and carry it with us until spring. Light a candle in anticipation. Anticipation is like that little flame that sparks to life and then creates a little light. If we hold it close, it will light our path for the days to come.Look at the lyrics of “This little light of mine.” What are your memories of this song? Share the light of Christ with someone by writing a postcard. You don't have to have someone specific to send it to. If you don't address it to someone, we'll send it anonymously to someone we just look up in the phonebook, you can just sign your first name. Pray that the Holy Spirit works through the postcard to show the light of Christ, and place it in the manger.