Episcopal Church Visual Arts calls for entries
ECVA is mounting an exhibition of fine art and fine crafts entitled Women At Prayer
which express women's prayers, their work of prayer, their experience of prayer. They are currently welcoming entries. Please use this link for all the details, including submission requirements: http://ecva.org/
Friday Focus: Great Expectations
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?"
Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, 'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. - Matthew 11: 2-11
While we wait for Christmas, it’s useful to remember that the symbol of our faith isn’t Santa Claus. It’s not candy canes or mistletoe. It is the cross. Advent reminds us that we live in expectation of eternal happiness. But we must travel the way of the cross to get there. John the Baptist lived in expectation. But he wound up in jail. He answered God’s call to prepare the way of the Lord. And he got locked up for it. You’d think he’d learn his lesson and find some other line of work. But no: from the depths of Herod’s dungeon he keeps expecting; he keeps calling out. And Jesus answers him.
John stands on the divide between the old and the new covenants. He is the last in the line of messianic prophets. He is the first to know that all the prophesies are fulfilled in Jesus: The blind see. The lame walk. The lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised. The poor have the good news preached to them. And yet John goes right on rotting in jail until the executioner comes for him. Is that what he expected? Is that fair? Didn’t he, haven’t we, waited long enough? What’s all this endless waiting and expecting about any way?
It is the way of the cross. Individually and collectively as the Body of Christ we live in expectation… in hope, not in fear. Christ has already done the hard part for us. Our salvation is bought and paid for. We have a free ride all the way home. But we must take that ride. We must make the leap of faith. And every day we must take up our cross and follow him. That’s what he expects. That’s what we must embrace.
The Christian way is either easy or it is impossible. It is easy if we do things God’s way. It is impossible if we do things our way… the what’s-in-it-for-me way… always on the lookout for the big payoff… always in full transaction mode, ready to trade our good deeds for God’s blessings. We forget that God has expectations, too. He doesn’t want or need us to throw him a bone. He wants it all. He doesn’t want scraps from our table. He wants us.
In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis spelled out God’s expectations for us: “I have not come to torture your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. Hand over your whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you myself: my own will shall become yours.” That is what John the Baptist did. He gave his will to God. That is why the only truly joyful place in Herod’s whole palace was deep down in the dungeon.
Like John, we find fulfillment when we find what God expects of us. Ask him and ask him again. Seek his will every day. As God’s expectations become clearer, take a really hard, honest look at the way you live. Then get to work putting your expectations in line with his… getting your life right with God. And what better time to do it than now. This is Advent. This is the season of great expectations.
Friday Focus: A Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent
Said the night wind to the little lamb,
Do you hear what I hear?
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
Do you hear what I hear?
I can’t remember when I first heard it, but Advent and Christmas would somehow not be the same if I could not experience the warm and sentimental carol “Do You Hear What I Hear?”
The carol continues with all manner of questions about what possibly could be heard in this season of expectation and wonder. It ends, however, with an affirmation about the coming of the Christ child. With broad chords and all voices singing in parts accompanied by full organ, the carol affirms in an explosion of confidence, “He will bring us goodness and light!”
Could it that on this Rose Sunday we might hear and see the witness of grace among us? I suppose that any time is a good time to have grace re-kindled in our lives, but perhaps Advent is the season of seasons for such moments. Perhaps those blind to reconciliation might once again see the energy and healing that comes when grace gives us the ability to let go of the grudge or wave “goodbye” to the hurt. Maybe right now is a Kingdom-coming moment when the lameness of cynicism might be transformed into the wonder of hope. Could it be that God’s Kingdom might surely come in your life and mine if we heard and saw the Gospel changing our attitudes of fear and death into expectations of confidence and life?
What do you hear and see? I want you to believe with me today that the promises of the prophets and even the hope of old John the Baptist is still very much evident in the work and person of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is not only the Coming One, he is the Present One through whose grace and love, life, passion, death, and resurrection we all finally hear and see who we are and what God so longs to make of us. That is exactly what this season of anticipation and preparation is all about! The beautiful decorations, evergreen smells, warm music, and bold pageantry of this holy season are all conspiring to put you and me in a place where we can hear and see ourselves as God sees us: created in God’s image, beloved of God from before the heavens existed, wanted by God now and always as God’s children.
So in these waning moments of Advent with but 10 days until Christmas, what do you hear and see?
Praying Advent - from Creighton University's Online Ministries
What are the key steps to enter into Advent?
We can all slow down. We can all breathe more deeply. We can all begin to trust that this will be a blessed time. Then, when we let ourselves be who we are, and hear the Scriptures, we can begin to quietly pray, “Come, Lord, Jesus.” We might expand that prayer, in quiet moments of our days ahead, “Come into my life. I trust you don’t mind if it is still messy. I believe you love me, because I need your love. I don’t fear you can’t find the way to my heart. Come and fill me with peace and the love only you can give.” Some of us will want to open our hands on our laps or hold up our arms in the privacy of our rooms and say out loud, “Come, Lord, Jesus, come into this house, into my family, into our struggles. Come and heal us, and give us join again. Come and unite us and let us experience, each in our own way, a bit of the joy you are offering me now.”
And, before a single decoration goes up, we have prepared for Christmas’ message with the foundation of faith, with the mystery of Advent’s gift. God wants to be with us. Advent is letting God’s will be done in our hearts and in our everyday lives.
Taken from Praying Advent, on Creighton University's Online Ministries web site:
Used with permission.
Remembering Father Louis
Father Louis, a.k.a. Thomas Merton, died on this date in 1968. I can appreciate his journey, honesty and humility. Here is a prayer he wrote and used often:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
This Is Water
This is a wonderful video by Margaret Abrams illustrating excerpts from an address by David Foster Wallace to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College.
An unlikely source for an Advent meditation? Perhaps.
But listen and watch and then ponder. Perhaps tomorrow will offer you a new range of possibilities and perspectives!