Expectation…

“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:20‬ NLT

So far I’ve written about anticipation of and preparation for this Season. And maybe it’s because I like words, and I like the way that words work together, that I want to write about expectation tonight.

It seems I have an “ation” series going on right now.

Expectation is joyful confidence in God. Knowing that God will show up, that God will provide, that God will protect, that God will deliver.

Not just hoping that God will do these things, but expecting it. Being joyfully confident that God is able, more than able.

That is how we move towards this Season – with joyful confidence in God’s goodness; with expectation for the coming of the Messiah.

This Advent, may you be joyfully confident that God is on the move, that the Baby born in Bethlehem is still among us now, that our celebrations draw us closer to Him and transform us into his followers.

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Preparation…

 ‘I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant,whom you desire, will come,’ says the Lord Almighty.

Malachi 3:1 NIV

 

I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. I come across a verse in the Scriptures that I haven’t read in a while and it clearly speaks to me about Jesus. It’s in the Old Testament, long before Jesus was born. There are many passages I know and love that speak to Jesus’ coming long before his birth. But this one surprises me because I haven’t used it in the Christmas Eve worship services, I haven’t seen it on Christmas cards and ornaments. I must have read it before, but I didn’t SEE it until now.

God’s word does this to me with some regularity – it surprises me with things I’ve read before, but am now seeing for the first time.

It shouldn’t surprise me, because God was preparing the world for His Son long before Mary and Joseph came on the scene. For ages, God patiently laid the foundation. Speaking through his prophets, soften the hearts of humanity, preparing the way.

Before any celebration, the preparation must take place. And God was planning on throwing a great celebration, one quiet night in Bethlehem.

This Advent, may you be surprised by God’s word. May you see what you’d read before for the first time. May you prepare to celebrate, and may your preparations bring you closer to the One we celebrate.

 

Anticipation…

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me.  (Micah 7:7 NASB)

For a few weeks now, the sights and sounds and signs of the Christmas Season have been amping up. The Santa Clause Parades, the Bazaars at local churches, the decorations and lights being hung in the community…all these little Christmas moments.

Each year as we turn toward Advent, I get excited. I love this Season. I love the wonder of the story, the beauty of it. I love the decorations and the songs. I love contemplating the right gifts to give friends and family. I love peppermint flavouring and a little extra sparkle all around.

This is not always the case for those of us who work in the church. There are many pressures that go along with this Season, many expectations to be met, extra work to be done. And that can make for grumpy, exhausted and stressed out clergy.

I decided a long time ago that this would not be my story. That I would go out of my way to find joy in this season, to forgive myself if I failed to meet an expectation or two (to decide that I’d just let go of some expectations that I might have of myself), and to take rest (extra rest, when needed).

I didn’t know it at the time, but this decision would be one that would serve me well throughout the Advents to come. I truly enjoy this Season, and all that it brings with it.

Part of my enjoyment has to do with blogging regularly – writing (almost, see above comment about forgiving myself when I fail to meet an expectation) daily about the story of Christ’s birth keeps me in touch with the real reason for this Season.

So, all of that to say, I am beginning my Advent blog today. In anticipation of the Advent Sunday of Hope which officially begins the Season. It’s time, and I’m ready.

May you, also enjoy this Season. May you know the hope, peace, love and joy that the Baby born in Bethlehem imparts to human hearts.

More Love…

It’s been an intense few days. Attacks in Edmonton, a shooting outside a nightclub in Toronto, the unbelievable carnage of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. The world is struggling with so much right now, that it just feels like overload. Too much. I can’t process any more. 

I’ve been trying to formulate a response, and coming up short. 

But I came across this in the Psalms this evening:

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. 

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. 

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? 

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭42:1-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I feel like our tears have been our food all across the western world this week, and people are asking, “where is your God?”

 We are hurting and mourning and wondering what our world is coming to. And we should be – we should be hurt and confused, upset and feeling lost. The world got ugly this week. 

But the thing is – God isn’t absent. He’s right here, in the mess with us. And I think the Psalmist is right – putting our hope in God is the only way to make it through times likes these. 

The only thing that can combat hate is love. The only way we can live in opposition to violence is to live in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentlenesss and self control. 

The world needs us. The world needs us to live a radically-other-centered love…the way that Jesus did. 

This week, in the midst of the darkness that surrounds us, may you find ways to shine some light. May you love when the world seems to hate. May you be generous when the world tells you that you don’t have enough. May you be kind, and patient. Gentle and full of joy. And may we, together, change the world. 

It’s official!

For a few weeks now, I’ve been quietly working in my new position as minister of Graceview Presbyterian Church. It’s been a lovely beginning – one in which I have been warmly welcomed and encouraged by the people of this church.

On Sunday September 10th, at 3 p.m., we made it all official as the Presbytery came to lead us in a service of induction. One of my colleagues recently referred to her induction as “getting married to the people” of the church she is serving. I thought – what a great way of looking at it!

Ministry is a covenant. It’s an agreement between an individual (the minister) and a group (the congregation) to live, grow and and journey in faith together. At it’s best, the covenant of ministry is our commitment to love each other through thick and think, good times and bad, celebrations and sorrows – which is why marriage is a good metaphor.

My favourite singer/songwriter, Andrew Peterson, writes this about marriage:

‘I do’ are the two most famous last words
The beginning of the end
But to lose your life for another I’ve heard
Is a good place to begin

‘Cause the only way to find your life
Is to lay your own life down

And I believe it’s an easy price
For the life that we have found

And we’re dancing in the minefields
We’re sailing in the storm
This is harder than we dreamed
But I believe that’s what the promise is for

So when I lose my way, find me
When I loose love’s chains, bind me
At the end of all my faith, till the end of all my days
When I forget my name, remind me

-Dancing in the Minefields, Andrew Peterson

 

Often living in relationship is harder than you’d dream, but that’s what the promise is for: to keep you in the relationship when it might be easier to run away.

At Sunday’s service, both myself and the people of Graceview made promises. We promised to encourage each other, to work together, to remember that God was the one who brought us together, and to honour God in all that we do. These are great promises for and it’s been a wonderful beginning. May God continue to bless us as we continue to journey in faith!

Here are a few photos from the service:

Good Friday…

This is a day for tears, for mourning. But also for hope and for deep gratitude. 

Though everything Jesus went through was incredibly painful and horrible, he did so to heal the human soul. 

The prophet Isaiah tells us:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

By His wounds we are healed. We are healed – brought from our brokenness to wholeness. Made right with God. The red in our ledger wiped out by the sacrifice of Jesus. The death we had earned made over into new life. 

It is a day for tears, but some of them ought to be shed in gratitude, in awe, in reverence. Because he did that for you. He did that for me. 

This Good Friday, may you know how very good it is to be forgiven. 

A new commandment…

On Maundy Thursday, Jesus gathered in an upper room with the disciples. They shared the Passover meal, but Jesus changed it. He told them he was the bread broken for them, that in his blood a new covenant was made between humanity and God. 

And then he said,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

‭‭John‬ ‭13:34-35‬ ‭NIV‬

This is the beginning of the church. This is what the church is meant to be: a community that loves so powerfully the rest of the world recognizes that we are different. 

And then, Judas betrays him with a kiss. And then, Peter denies him entirely. 

Sometimes, we just get it wrong. And it’s always been that way. And Jesus still tells us we are called, we are capable, that he will build us and that the gates of Hell will not prevail against us. 

Jesus still goes the road with us, to the very end. 

So this Maundy Thursday, may you love one another, for God loves you dearly enough that he gave his only Son for you. 

Lukewarm…

On Tuesday during the last week of his life, Jesus was at the Temple. This happened:

One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2 “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”

3 He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: 4 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

5 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”

7 So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.”

8 Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Luke 20:1-8 NIV

 

The thing is, the chief priests and teachers of the law wanted to take the safe route. They didn’t want to admit what I suspect they knew – that Heavenly forces were aligned with Jesus. John had proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. If the chief priests and teachers of the law said John’s baptism was from God, they would be admitting that there was a case for the Christ – that, indeed, Jesus was the Messiah.

On the other hand, if they said John’s baptism was of human origin, the people would turn against them. For the people believed John was a prophet. Their power over the people was already precarious, threatened by the Roman occupation and by this young upstart Rabbi.

Jesus is asking them to be hot or cold. To affirm him or deny him. To own what they believe.

They chose to be lukewarm. They chose to neither affirm nor deny. They refused to own their opinions. And therefore, Jesus tells them that he has nothing further to say to them. He will not tell them about the authority he has been given by his Father in Heaven, because they are more concerned with saving face than having a serious theological conversation with him.

When I was in seminary, my Old Testament prof used to remind us that God cares where our hearts are at. Clearly, Jesus does, too – he has all the time in the world for someone who is seeking God, but no time at all for someone who is seeking to save face.

This Holy Week, may we all be a lot more than lukewarm. May our hearts seek God with passion. May we long to meet Jesus on the road, and hear all that he has to say to us.

 

I wonder…

There is so much about Jesus’ life that we simply don’t know. Most of his childhood (except for that one incident in the Temple when he was 12) is a mystery to us. Most of his adulthood is similarly blank – we have no record of what he was doing or saying or thinking before he turned 30. 

And even when we get to the well-documented ministry years, there is much left to our imaginations. We know what he did, to a certain extent, but we don’t know his innermost thoughts. There is much that falls into the category of “I wonder…” 

And that’s not a bad thing. It is good that we, as seekers of the Way, get to imagine. We get to wonder. And as Holy Week continues I find myself wondering. 

We know that Jesus knew the scriptures. He knew precisely where to turn to in the Scroll of Isaiah (because it wouldn’t have been a chapterized and versed book which was easy to navigate, but an endless – 24 ft long! –  scroll of cramped Hebrew letters in his day) in the synagogue in that incident we know as Luke, Chapter 4, when he declared the year of the Lord’s favour and proclaimed that he had come to give sight to the blind, and to set the captor free. 

So I wonder, as the cross loomed close, as his mission drew to its painful and inevitable end…did he take comfort from these words in Isaiah: 

“I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. “All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭41:9-13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Did he repeat these words to himself as he walked the way of sorrow with the cross on his back? Did he whisper them in prayer in Gethsemane? Did he cling to them when he was a prisoner in the pit in Caiaphas’ house?

I don’t know. But I wonder. In fact, I more than wonder. I like to think that it was precisely words like this that gave Jesus strength forming his final days. Because I know that they have given me strength throughout my years. And I like to imagine that Jesus and I share that. 

This Holy Week, may you know the power of the Word. May you be strengthened by the promises of God. And may you follow in the footsteps of Jesus.