The First Sunday of Advent: Hope

For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.
Isaiah 60:2

Introductory Sentences

Today is the beginning of Advent – the preparation time for celebrating Christ’s birth. We are here because God’s promises to our ancestors came true when Jesus was born. God’s promise is kept each Sunday when we worship because Christ is in our midst. God will keep the promise to come again in glory.

Lighting of the Candle

We light this candle to proclaim the coming of the light of God into the world. With the coming of this light there is hope. Because of Christ we not only have hope, but we believe that good is stronger than evil. God wants us to work for good in this world.

Prayer

O God, we thank you that Jesus brought hope into our world. By the good news of the Bible you are still bringing hope to people. Help us to be ready to welcome Jesus Christ so that we may be a people of hope in our world. Amen.

Book of Worship, United Church of Christ

The Advent Wreath

They come in all sizes and with a variety of candle colors but where did the Advent Wreath come from and how did it become so popular?

The Advent Wreath traces its lineage to 16th century German Lutherans, but it was not until 1839 when Johann Hinrich Wichern really started to use it.  Hinrich was a pioneer in the concept of Urban Ministry and seeing the inpatients of the children preparing for Christmas he devised wreath of sorts. He began with a wooden circle with 19 small red candles and four larger ones. Every morning a small candle was lit and on Sunday’s one of the larger ones. Custom has only the larger ones as part of the wreath now.

But what about the symbolism of the wreath itself?

The wreath is customarily constructed of evergreen to signify life during all of the seasons of the year. The evergreen also reminds us that God’s love for us will never fade. It is fashioned in a perfect circle to symbolize the eternity of God and God’s unbroken love for us. Four candles are placed around the wreath. In some churches, all the candles are purple whilst in other churches three are purple and one is rose or pink.  Sometimes blue is used as well rather than purple. In the center of the wreath is a larger candle called the “Christ Candle” that is lit on Christmas Eve and Christmas day and all Sunday’s including Epiphany.

The Advent Wreath, with all of its candles, did bring more light into the church at a time when electric and even gas lamps were not used, but the spiritual significance of the wreath and the light is to illuminate the people with the light and the warmth of the coming of Christ into the world.

The four weeks of Advent each have a theme that corresponds to one of the candles. These themes focus on the four virtues that Jesus brings: hope, love, joy, and peace. There are other themes as well: Prophets, angels, shepherds, and the Magi as well as additional theological themes of the forgiveness of Adam and Eve, the faith of the Abraham and the Prophets, the joy of David, and the Teaching of the Prophets concerning justice and peace.

The center candle, the Christ candle, is lit on Christmas Eve as a sign of the completing of the Advent journey and the announcement of the birth of the Christ Child. With all of the candles of the wreath lit the full light of Christ has come into the world, and the “people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Isaiah 9:2

Advent: The Journey Begins

As the days continue to get shorter and the light is with us for a brief period each day the church calls us to the season of Advent in preparation for the coming of the Christ child at Christmas. Advent is the season that calls us from the darkness and into the light. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2

Just as there is a connection between Christmas and Easter, there is a connection between Lent and Advent. The birth and baptism of Jesus is directly connected to his dying and rising. He was born to die. He was baptized to be raised. The harmony between the events is overwhelming.

“Jesus lay as an infant in the cavern in the reign of Caesar Augustus that he might lay in the tomb under Pontius Pilate. He was hounded by Herod that he might be caught by Caiaphas. He was buried in baptism that he might descend into death through the cross. He was worshipped by wise men that the whole of creation might adore him in his triumph over death.”  (Thomas Hopko, The Winter Pascha)

This connection between the two festive times of the year is the reason that Christians celebrate not only Christmas but Advent and we shortchange that if we skip over it and move right to the birth.  Just as we cannot have Easter without Good Friday, we cannot have Christmas without Advent.

The season of Advent calls us to slow down at a time when the world is calling us to speed up. The season of Advent is calling us to a time of preparation, not just of our homes for the festivities surrounding Christ’s birth, but our spiritual homes for Jesus comes not only to our homes but to our hearts. Jesus is calling each of us out of the dark winter and into the light and warmth of his love for each of us and the world.

As you prepare for the coming season, I urge you to take time to slow down, just a little, and make room for Jesus in your life. Spend time with his word and in prayer and prepare for the message to come announcing his birth and then we can sing Joy to the World.

Is the “Church” truly in decline?

As the spiritual leader of a local congregation, I spend much of my time reading and staying up to date on the latest trends in all things church.  One of the most amazing things to me is this desire to reduce to success or failure of a church based on numbers. It seems to be all about the numbers of people that cross the threshold of the church building on any given Sunday as if a church of 1,000 is more successful than a home church of 5!  I just don’t get it.

The other part of the equation is our definition of church. Most of the “church growth” folks think of the church as the building, and the expression of that is what takes place inside the building, namely, the Sunday morning worship service. It seems that these folks never take into consideration any alternative ministry, the ministry that does not take place inside the building but is focused only on what happens inside the four walls of the church.

There is no doubt that church is changing, just look around, but that does not mean people are not engaged on a spiritual level outside of the confines of the four walls of the church.

I do believe church as we have always known it is in decline and I am not sure that is a bad thing. Society has caused a shift in the way we work and live, and the church needs to adapt.  We can stand on the steps of the church on Sunday morning and shake our fist at the world, but that will not bring them back. We can lament all we want about Sunday just being another day of the week, but the reality is, life has changed, and it is going to reverse.

So, we have to redefine what it means to be the church and what church means. We also need to redefine what success and failure look like when it comes to ministry.

Sermon: Do Not Worry

A Sermon Based on Matthew 6:25-33

 

A few times a week I will have a conversation with someone about how their life is going. They have concerns about their health, their job, their children, or any number of issues that face us in our world. We honestly have much to be concerned about, and that concern can sometimes lead us to worry.

I guess I could say that I am somewhat of a worrier. I tend to over think somethings and let them get under my skin and then it causes me to worry about them. However, the biggest thing I worry about, most of the time, is the Sunday sermon. I tend to work on the sermon all week, but I rise early on Sunday morning, and I put pen to paper, actually, I put fingers to keyboard, and I begin to write. I am a manuscript preacher, so I write out my sermons.

Now I know, on an intellectual level, that most weeks, everything will be fine, but that does not stop those worries come Sunday night, and I have been known to just lay there in bed worrying about what I am going to say. I fear that the printer will work and I have the paper to print on.  Is the ink running low, what if the lights go out and the computer will not start? My penmanship is so bad that if I had to write this out by hand, I would not be able to read what I have written. However, there I am, in the darkness, worrying about all of these things.

From time to time to talk about these issues with my spiritual director and the response is usually the same, “have you done everything you need to do to prepare?” So my response is, “yes, I believe I have” and the response back is, “then why are you worrying?” You see my friends, I am a worrier, and that is what we do, we worry.

Ona n intellectual level I know that worrying about things I have no control over, like the electricity going out, is stupid and senseless. I do not control the flow of electrons through the wires, I do not control the trees that might fall on those wires and knock the power out, but I am in control of being prepared just in case. Perhaps waiting until Sunday morning, as I do most weeks, to get the text written is not the best idea, maybe I should begin earlier and just refine on Sunday morning, but, here I sat this very morning writing these words after laying awake worrying if the power was going to go off.

I shared with you last week, a little of the work that the search committee has started. We are looking at the typical person who lives within a three and a half mile radius of the church. Getting to know who lives outside the walls of the church will better prepare us to answer the question, “who is our neighbor?” I shared some of the demographic stuff last week, middle forties, female, professional, married, etc. However, what I did not share was, what are they concerned about?

Statistically speaking, the area that surrounds the church is stable and growing. It has not always been this way, but, and again based on statistics, the city is growing, and people are moving in. The people that are choosing to live here are, for the most part, professionals with well-paying jobs; they feel some security in their position and are moving here to put down roots.

However, even though there is some security in their position they still worry about job security and their health as well as the health of their families. These are their top concerns, employment, or lack of jobs, and health. Basically, they are asking the question, what will happen to my family if something happens to me?

I am not sure if we as a congregation can answer that question, but this is a genuine concern for the folks that might make their way to our doorstep. From a spiritual standpoint, I would ask them, as my spiritual director asks me, have you done everything to prepare if something does happen? Do you have adequate health insurance? Do you have sufficient savings? Do you have a will? Do you have life insurance? All of the practical questions. If the answer to all or most of these is yes, then what we are worrying about is out of our control. Now intellectually I know this, but in my heart, I still worry.  You see sometimes the heart outweighs the intellect and controls us.

Way back in the ancient days of the 1980s, the singer Bobby McFadden had a hit song called “don’t worry, be happy.” The song was a knock-off of an Indian Sage from the 1800s whose mantra was similar, but it was about peace rather than happiness. However, the message is simple, don’t worry, be happy.  Always easier to say than to do. Of course, now that recreational marijuana use is legal just below the board in Massachusetts, there are a lot of happy people. However, I will leave that for another day.

In the gospel passage, we heard read this morning we hear Jesus telling us not to worry about our lives. He tells us we should not worry about having food or clothing because God will take care of us. Now that might be okay for you and me as I can see we all have something to wear this morning and I am making an assumption here, but we all had something to eat this morning. So Jesus sounds a little harsh and uncaring, and if you think that you are right, he does seem harsh, but Jesus was not speaking in a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen. Jesus was not talking to the anawim, the “least of these” Jesus was speaking to ordinary folks that have food, have shelter, have clothing, and have jobs, they have all this, but they continuously want more.

Jesus is telling them, and us, to be satisfied with what you have and that we should not always be looking for the next thing, the bigger house, the better car, the next gadget that will break in three weeks. I can only imagine what Jesus would have to say about the likes of Black Friday! There is nothing wrong with wanting security and comfort, but what does it cost us to get there? Are we gaining comfort and safety if we are maxed out on credit cards? Sometimes the unforeseen happens, and our preparation has given us those credit cards to use, but are we using them in an emergency or are we using them to keep up with the Joneses.

I am not sure how many of you have heard of Dave Ramsey, but he is a financial guru of sorts that helps folks get out of debt, and avoid debt, by teaching them about money and value for the dollar. He bases most of what he teaches on Christian principals and just plain old smarts. He desires that no one use credit and we only use cash, not sure how practical that is but this is what he teaches. I do not always agree with him, but one this I do agree with is his mantra that we “should live like no one else so we can live like no one else.” In other words, we do what we have to do today, so in the future, we do not have to worry so much about those things. So we stay within our means today, so tomorrow we can live a little better.

But back to the gospel passage.

Jesus tells us at the end that the stuff we really should be worried about is the kingdom of God, righteousness, and justice. Care for our spirituality, living a righteous life, not a self-righteous life but a righteous one, and justice for all of humanity. These are the things that we should be concerned about and working towards not a bigger house and a bigger car and the latest gadget that will break in three weeks, but, and you thought you were not going to hear about it, love of God and love of neighbor.

What Jesus is saying here is, God will take care of you … so take care of God’s justice in the world.  There is more to life than concern for daily needs, though this may prove difficult for some. But Jesus expects his followers to put forward energy into things that give more meaning to life.  We must strive to discern how God is working in the world “God’s kingdom” and how to participate in acts of justice on God’s behalf “God’s righteousness.”  Beyond that, everything else will take care of itself.  Or, to summarize Jesus, God will deal with the rest.

Presidential Proclamation on Thanksgiving Day, 2018

After surviving a frigid winter and achieving their first successful harvest in 1621, the Pilgrims set aside 3 days to feast and give thanks for God’s abundant mercy and blessings. Members of the Wampanoag tribe who had taught the Pilgrims how to farm in New England and helped them adjust and thrive in that new land shared in the bounty and celebration. In recognition of that historic event, President George Washington, in 1789, issued a proclamation declaring the first national day of thanksgiving. He called upon the people of the United States to unite in rendering unto God our sincere and humble gratitude “for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country” and “the favorable interpositions of his Providence.” President Abraham Lincoln revived this tradition as our fractured Nation endured the horrors of the Civil War. Ever since, we have set aside this day to give special thanks to God for the many blessings, gifts, and love he has bestowed on us and our country.

This Thanksgiving, as we gather in places of worship and around tables surrounded by loved ones, in humble gratitude for the bountiful gifts we have received, let us keep in close memory our fellow Americans who have faced hardship and tragedy this year. In the spirit of generosity and compassion, let us joyfully reach out in word and deed, and share our time and resources throughout our communities. Let us also find ways to give to the less fortunate whether it be in the form of sharing a hearty meal, extending a helping hand, or providing words of encouragement.

We are especially reminded on Thanksgiving of how the virtue of gratitude enables us to recognize, even in adverse situations, the love of God in every person, every creature, and throughout nature. Let us be mindful of the reasons we are grateful for our lives, for those around us, and for our communities. We also commit to treating all with charity and mutual respect, spreading the spirit of Thanksgiving throughout our country and across the world.

Today, we particularly acknowledge the sacrifices of our service members, law enforcement personnel, and first responders who selflessly serve and protect our Nation. This Thanksgiving, more than 200,000 brave American patriots will spend the holiday overseas, away from their loved ones. Because of the men and women in uniform who volunteer to defend our liberty, we are able to enjoy the splendor of the American life. We pray for their safety, and for the families who await their return.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 22, 2018, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage all Americans to gather, in homes and places of worship, to offer a prayer of thanks to God for our many blessings.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand eighteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-third.

DONALD J. TRUMP

William Bradford: Thanksgiving Proclamation 1623

Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.

-William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Colony, Thanksgiving proclamation, 1623

Sermon: Praise the Holy One

A Sermon Based on Hebrews 10:11-25

This past Wednesday evening I met with the search committee for the first meeting. The search committee, as you know, is tasked with finding my replacement. I am trying to set the bar very high, so their task will not be an easy one, but I digress. During that meeting, I painted a picture of the typical person living outside the walls of the church. We talked about age and gender, education and income levels, employment, and their desires and fears. The information comes from a variety of sources and is put together in a nice little report that can be used by search committees in their work.

After looking at who the person is, we turn to reasons why they don’t come to church. It should come as no surprise to you that the vast majority of our society do not attend church on a regular basis, now I am not saying they are not religious or spiritual just that they do not belong to a local community. In fact, belief in God is at an all-time high as well people who say they pay to that same God, but church attendance is low.

I shared with the committee some of the reasons folks give for not attending church. This is not meant as a judgment on them in any way I am merely sharing information, so we have a better idea what is going on outside the walls of the building we worship in. A large number of people do not come to church because they have little or no time. Again, this is not a judgment just stating facts. Sunday, whether we like it or not, has become just another day. That is the reality. The question is, and I do not have the answer, how do we cope with that new reality?

The second reason that scored near the top was that trust in organized religion is no longer there. Through a variety of scandals over the last few years involving church leaders, both clergy and laity, have driven people to a mistrust of church, so we have public relations problem that transparency will certainly help.

The survey results that I am using are from 2017, and this survey is conducted every five years. What the study shows is that there is a slight, but noticeable, change and that these reasons are slowly changing, but they still exist.

Now this one may be shocking to some folks, it was not all that shocking to me, but one of the main reasons people do not come to church is the belief that church, and Christians in general, are too judgmental.  By the statement, we make and individuals, and as the church, both local and national, we Christians have a reputation of being too judgmental. I am just guessing, but when I mentioned that folks said they don’t have enough time to come to church some, if not all of us, rolled our internal eyes or had some other thought about time. That, my friends, is a judgment. However, it goes much deeper than that. Let’s stick a pin in that thought for a moment.

However, the most interesting reason why people do not come to church, and it was around 17% of the population in a 2.5-mile radius of our church, they were never asked to come. Now some of you might be thinking that is a lame excuse for not coming but the reality is, in this day and age, the number one reason people come to church is that they were asked. They stay by the way because of the preaching and the music, which is also the reason they leave, so that puts an enormous amount of pressure of David and me.

Today we heard a reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. This letter was written around the year 63, and although the author is unknown, it is attributed to Paul. Scholars believe this letter was written at a time when Radical Christians, although they were not called Christians at the time, believed that to be a true believer you had to conform to a set of strict rules and that non-Jews had to convert to Judaism to be considered true believers. Scholars also believe that there was another group, on the other end of the spectrum that claims that all the rules were gone. The Letter to the Hebrews attempts to strike a balance between those two thoughts.

As I had mentioned before Jesus gave us a new commandment, love God and love neighbor but he says very little about our communal nature and how we are to support one another in that command. We get that answer is the final verses of today’s scripture lesson:

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to  meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching.”

The “Day” is judgment day.

How do we provoke one another to love and good deeds? We meet together. We encourage one another. Notice there is nothing in this passage about guilt, shame, or judgment the three biggest sins of the Christian Church today. The Christian Church today is the largest purveyor of guilt, shame, and judgment and the Day is not coming the Day is already upon us and that, my friends, is why churches are closing, and that is why our pews are empty.

This church that was founded on a supreme act of love and requires only one this in return, love, by and large, has become an institution based on rules and regulations as well as self-preservation. It is no longer about making disciples it’s about making members, increasing the number, and donors. It’s about preaching a gospel that does not offend anyone so as not to upset the base of people that support the church. In many places, we have sacrificed the very soul of the church for political gain and would instead walk the halls of power in Washington then be with the “least of these” right outside our door. We have created a church culture that is more concerned about maintaining what we have than risking it all to save one lost sheep. We have, in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we have gone after the cheap grace rather than the costly grace. We base the success or failure of a church on the number of converts and butts in the seats and not on those we help right outside our doors.

I recently saw a rather funny statement that read in part, when asking “What Would Jesus do?” remember that flipping over tables is not out of the question. Plain and simple Jesus was a radical for his time. This idea of everyone being equal in the eyes of God was a new and controversial idea. This idea that we had to care for others was a very radical idea that was offensive to many. Also, the idea that we had to love our enemies, well that was just more than many could deal with. This passage from Hebrews is coming at a time and to a church that has been radicalized and polarized all at the same time and I am not talking about the church of 63 I am talking about the church of today!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whom I have already mentioned, was a 20th-century German theologian that stood up against the Nazis in Germany. However, before his political opposition, he wrote about our spiritual life and the life of what he calls costly grace vs. cheap grace. He has this to say about cheap grace which I like to call the Gospel that does not offend anyone:

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Cheap grace is what allows some to say what they want and then when called out for it, they offer an apology, and we accept it without any sense of repentance or reconciliation. Cheap grace is how we justify the behavior of some politicians and religious leaders as long as we get what we want. Cheap grace is what allows us to say we are all sinners so what difference does it make. And cheap grace is what enables us, when our behavior is called out, to reply with “judge not lest ye be judged.”

In contrast to cheap grace costly grace is:

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.”

“Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son… and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.”

The church has an amazing gift to offer the world, a transformative redeeming grace that provides love for all people. This is the gift that has been given to us by the costly grace of Jesus Christ on the Cross, but it did not end there it ended with the command to go into the whole world and make disciples, not church members or donors, but disciples.

Our task is not an easy one, but it all begins by asking someone to come and see, come and see what Jesus has done for you and what Jesus can do for them.

Sermon: Risk and Restoration

A Sermon Based on Mark 12:38-44

 

This morning we come face to face and have to deal with, two very different stories presented to us from the Gospel of Mark. On the one hand, we have the self-righteous, those who walk around thinking they are better than the rest. On the other hand, we have the widow, giving the last of what she has.

The Scribes were the educated class in society, they were the ones that everyone wanted to be like, and they knew it, so they walked around town like they were better than everyone else. They wore long robes, they demanded the best seats in the church, and when they prayed in public, they prayed long prayers, not to bring glory to God, but to bring glory to themselves.

However, they also neglected the widow, the orphan, the hungry, the homeless, and all the rest. It was not their job to care for them and they up with excuses like, they are lazy, they should pull themselves up by their bootstraps, they are just looking for a handout, they will just buy drugs or alcohol with the money I give them.

Jesus says, “they will receive great condemnation.”

In contrast to the Scribes, we have the widow who comes forward and places two coins in the collection plate. In today’s money this would be about 1/32nd of a penny, and it was all she had, not all she could afford, not all she could afford after her bills were paid, not all she could afford after getting her nails done and he hair taken care of, not all she had after she got her large mocha cream with a double shot of espresso and a squirt of some other nasty thing, at the local drive through. No, those two coins represented all that she had, and she gave it as a testament to her faith.

Jesus was pointing out to his disciples the behavior of those leaders of the church that were requiring more of their followers then they were willing to do themselves. They were standing and preaching, but they were not listening to their own words and following what was to be done. I am sorry to say we continue to have this problem today.

All through history, religious leaders have used Scripture, or their version of Scripture, to justify their behavior and even to justify the conduct of their respective governments. Almost immediately after Christianity became legal by governmental decree, the church started to persecute those that did not believe the way they did.  This once persecuted church now became the persecutor.

Holy War, or crusades, were justified based on Scripture because the people the Holy War was against were non-believers. Slavery was justified, at all levels, because Scripture said so and because those enslaved were not humans to start. You see when we demonize and remove the humanity of the individual or group we believe we are free to treat them however we want. If we think they are a threat to our way of life, well we can kill them if we wish to because the rules do not apply.

Jesus says, “they will receive great condemnation.”

I have said this to you before, Jesus was the hardest on the religious leaders of his day because they should know better.  Jesus was always on their backs, “brood of vipers,” “hypocrites,” and all of the other choice words Jesus had for them and this is another example of that condemnation. I often wonder what Jesus would think about the religious leaders we have today who makes statements like; “Hurricanes are God’s wrath sent to remove sinners from the face of the earth.” “God will send his judgment upon you if you do not vote for a certain candidate.” These are just a few examples of how today’s religious leaders are willing to justify just about anything as long as their version of Scripture is followed. Jesus caused a revolution not because he directly challenged the political establishment, Jesus started a coup because he questioned the religious establishment and they killed him for it.

Jesus came to spark a spiritual revolution and to show us a new way to live our lives. No longer were we slaves to the law but he gave us a new law, “love God, Love neighbor.” It really is that simple to follow. If we truly love God with our whole mind, our whole heart, and our whole body, then we have no other choice but to love our neighbor and to care for them. However, our neighbor is not just the person that lives next door to us, and our neighbor is not only the person who looks like us, but our neighbor is also all of humanity because each person has been given that divine spark at their creation. Each of us has been created in the image and likeness of a God who loves us the way we are, unconditionally.

The problem Jesus had with the Scribes was not their position, and their place was an important one in society, the problem Jesus had with the Scribes is that they were hypocrites and he called them out on it every chance he had. The Scribes had failed in their task to lead the people to spiritual renewal and instead made it about themselves and about what they wanted. Rather than doing the hard work of loving everyone the set up false interpretation of rules to exclude certain people and created a system that no one could live up to, to gain the kingdom God.  Jesus came along and flipped that all over. Jesus took away and replaced it with “Love God. Love Neighbor.”

So where does that leave us?

We have to ask ourselves the question, are we the Scribe or are we the widow? Are we going to exclude based on a version of scripture that fits our narrative or are we going to include based on the call of Jesus to love God and love neighbor. It really is that simple. Ask yourself the question, does my belief about an issue express my love of God and my love of neighbor or is it something different?  God loves me and accepts me without condition, am I doing the same in return to God and to others? Are we, as a church community, witnessing to that unconditional love of God and love of neighbor in our practices and policies? Are we like the Scribes, do we expect better things just because we are Christians? Do we wish to force others to believe and act the same way we do or do we accept them for who they are, beloved children of God?

Today we commemorate the end of World War 1, a war that started, as most wars do because one group felt they were better than another group. They believed that their way of life was better than their neighbor’s way of life and resorted to violence to make others live and act the way they do. We have to be ever vigilant to ensure that we do not do the same thing and it all begins with our vision of the other person and whether we live by the command of Jesus to love God and love neighbor.

Election Day Prayer

 

Election Day Prayer

Almighty God, you are the source of wisdom and justice. Guide those who at this time are called to choose representative to serve the people of the United States at all levels of government, that they cast their vote with a true sense of their responsibility. Give those who are elected the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, that they may provide conditions for a good and honest life for all the people; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Adapted from the Book of Common Order, Church of Scotland