Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Gaps

          This is the last Sunday of this year. It’s the Sunday that falls in between two Wednesday holidays.  And on the liturgical calendar we are in between the birth of the Messiah and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee.
          There’s a gap, a bit of downtime, a silence, between the two events. In the gospel lesson for today we heard of Joseph’s dreams, the atrocious slaughter of the infants by Herod, a refugee family fleeing into exile and their return. All that and yet we can see that from the beginning of these events to the end of the last one many years have passed. These are gaps in time we know nothing about. We can only guess what might have taken place. There are spaces in time missing from this story.
Today, for a moment, reflect on the gaps we encounter: the times of silence in our lives, the empty time when we’re between jobs, the uncertain time when we’ve retired and yet haven’t planned how we’ll fill our idle time, the pauses when we read a sentence of scripture when we come to a comma or a semi-colon, the interludes in a piece of music. What do we do with the gaps, the silences when we encounter them? Do we try to fill the void or do we leave it alone? What do we do with them?
The other side of this reflection is how do we feel when there’s a gap in time or there’s absolute silence? Are we comfortable or not so comfortable with the gaps? Do we feel alone, abandoned, anxious, or fearful or do we get a sense that we’re not alone?
I think many times when the pauses are too long, the silence to deep, the spoken words too far apart we have a strong tendency to rush in and fill the void. We have a low tolerance to the long, quiet stillnesses, the gaps in time because we feel like we’re alone.
My friends, what I pray that we learn today is that, we’re never alone. The presence of God is always with us, even when we feel as if He’s abandoned us because of some wrong we think He’d never forgive us for. Even then He’s with us.
What we learn from those who have chosen lives of quiet and contemplation is that often it’s in the silence when God speaks to us.
Isaiah 30:15. There you find God speaking to the people of Israel and he says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…”
If you read on you’ll find that God’s children wouldn’t have any of that and so they suffered. In verse 18 we then read how God “longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”
That may be where we fall down. We’re too impatient to wait. We can’t abide the silences and the gaps. We feel alone in the silence. And so we impulsively forge ahead, many times doing the wrong things and we end up hurt just like the people of Israel and Judah, the chosen children of God.
Even with all their rebellion God never left their side, never completely abandoned them. In fact that’s why Jesus came to earth as a baby.
So, my friends, in the silence we’re not alone. In the gaps in time in our lives we’re never really alone. Jesus, Immanuel, God is always with us.
And these gaps, these silences aren’t bad things even though we may not like them anymore than we like change. In the silences, if we listen, God may speak to us. In the gaps of our lives we are never alone because God is with us, Immanuel.
The gaps, the silences are necessary for us. Just as rests in music gives us a place to breathe, the silences, the gaps, give God a chance to speak to us. As we sit breathing in and out in the silence paying attention to the rhythm of our breaths God comes to sit with us, becoming one with us in the silence.
As we become one with God and God with us we become attuned to the thoughts of God. The more time we spend in the silence the more opportunities God has to converse with us.
This isn’t so far fetched as some may think. If a couple has been married for quite a while we notice that sometimes one or the other finishes sentences the other one’s started. It’s almost like they know what the other is thinking. 
Our relationship with God is the same, I think. The more time we spend with God the more we grow in God’s likeness. It’s almost like we know what God’s thinking. And we know that God knows what we’re thinking, if we believe in God. That’s the key, believing.
My friends, I ask that you believe that God is always with you, never abandons you, and is speaking to you in the gaps and the silences. Embrace that silence and listen as God speaks his word to you.

Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.

God Cares

Listening to these readings from the Bible the one overriding theme that speaks to us, I think, is that God cares. He cares whether we’re thirsty. He cares whether we’re scared; he cared enough to send his Son, Jesus, to save the world, a world that was pretty messed up then and I think you’d agree is still pretty messed up today.
God loved us enough to send us an Advocate, his Holy Spirit, after Jesus ascended into heaven, which means we’re never alone. God is always with us.
For some folks that gives them hope and for others it leaves them uncomfortable because if God is always with us he knows every mistake we’ve ever made.  By the same token he also knows how often we’ve succeeded in walking in the Way of Jesus.
God knows our needs before we ever get around to talking to him in prayer. His invitation to us is always an open invitation to “come” when we’re thirsty, when we’re hungry, when we’re too scared to step out alone, when we’re grieving a loved one dying.
God has told us time and again to not be afraid, but we still are.  Even though we forget, even when we try to go it alone, even then God still cares. He never abandons us. God’s always ready to give us his best.
And there’s no hidden agenda with God. He just asks us to come, listen, seek, and believe. 
In this season of Advent when nights are too long and days are too short we are reminded that God sent his Son to be the Light of the World, a world that was hiding in the darkness, a world that still hides in the darkness.  In John’s gospel reading Jesus says, “whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” God cared for this world so much he sent the Light into the world to drive back the darkness.
          God cares. God cares that a family is missing their mother, their grandmother, their great-grandmother, their friend. God cares, that’s why he has us gather together to celebrate the lives of these saints so we can support each other, so God’s love can flow from friends to family and back again.
God cares. He cared for Norma and he cares for her family. And he cares for every one of you gathered here this morning. And my friends, that the Good News for us, God cares for us. God loves us. God desires an intimate relationship with us.

Thanks be to God for his loving grace. Amen.


          In this Christmas season, a time of long nights and short days, a time of too much darkness and not enough light, we need to hear the words of Paul to the people of Thessalonica, “…do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”  
          And also John’s words that say, “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life… Light has come into the world… whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” “…whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life… the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.”
          My friends, these words give us hope…if we believe. There’s the key…believe. If we believe we shall have eternal life. If we believe we shall not perish. If we believe we will hear the voice of Jesus.
          Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”
          Believe in God, believe in his Son, Jesus the Christ. My friends, the good news is that if we believe we shall not die but shall rise again just as Jesus did…and live.
          Where God is there are many rooms and Jesus has prepared rooms for us in that place. Beulavon has a room all ready created just for her.
          Jesus said, “…if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” I believe that’s exactly what will happen. Jesus will come back and we will all join our friends and our families again…and sing praises to our God.
          A very long time ago when I worshipped at Silver Creek EUB church I learned my ABC’s, “ask, believe, and confess.” The good news for all of us gathered here today is that if we believe we will not die but will live eternally with God in a place that he has prepared for us, if we believe.
          I can’t tell you how God will accomplish this wonderful thing, that’s a mystery to me, but I do believe that God can and will do what Jesus promised. Because 95 years isn’t enough time for us to get to know each other…and God.
          So, believe in Jesus’ words and trust in the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus the Christ and believe that one day we will all be together in one place, a new heaven and a new earth.

          Thanks be to God for his grace…and peace. Amen.