Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Week 2, Day 2

Luke 1:5-25, 57-66 & Luke 3:1-20

Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist. I suppose I never took the time to notice that so much of the beginning of Luke's gospel bounces back and forth between Mary/Joseph/Jesus and Elizabeth/Zechariah/John. Clearly, the sees the stories as being related. The devotional guide for today asks: What stories in the Hebrew Bible should Zechariah have remembered when the angel told him he would become a father in his old age? Here are my answers:
  • Abraham and Sarah...especially the part where Sarah laughs at the angels of the Lord.
  • Jacob and Rachel
  • Hannah and Samuel-I still hear Jim Forbes calling out, "And Hannah rose!" in that great preacher voice of his.
I find it sad that all of these women felt shameful about their inability to have children...that somehow society looked down on them because they weren't mothers. I know that was a cultural thing, but I think there are similar societal pressures today, and not just for women. Thankfully, I'm not in a church that puts the pressure on me to be married, and my family certainly doesn't. Sure, there are a few of the Moms at church who think that the solution to any situation in my life would be to find a wife (or for them to find one for me), but for the most part, I'm treated a fully formed person even though I'm not married. That's not always the case, though. It's not as if people come right out and say it, but they'll imply that somehow one's life isn't complete unless one is married. I went to some worship services with my friend Mark that were geared to young adults. There was a clear emphasis on finding a mate. Being married with children was held up as the ideal situation for all people: "When you find that special somebody" not if. Somehow, unless you get married, your life is incomplete, or you aren't OK simply being you. Last year, at the Montreat Collegiate Conference, Tony Campolo explicitly challenged all that nonsense and told an auditorium full of college students that the church has had it backwards all these years...that getting married and settling down isn't necessarily the ideal for people of faith...that Paul is pretty clear that remaining single allows you to be faithful to God in ways that the settled down set have difficulty doing. Anyway, while this "injustice" may not be the same as some others in the world, I hope that the church can be a place where we don't hold up any one model of life circumstance as normative.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Week Two, Day 1

Week Two: Expecting the Hope of the Earth

Hymn for the Week: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.

Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art:
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child, and yet a king,
born to reign in us for ever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.

By thine own eternal Spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all-sufficient merit
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 85

Day 1: Isaiah 35:10-10 & Isaiah 40:1-11
Both of these passages contain visions of creation being transformed by God, whether it be streams bursting forth in the desert or the blind seeing or rough places being made smooth. I was struck by the vision of the high places being brought low and the low places being lifted up. I'll admit that I'm not so sure I want to see that come to pass. Now, I'm a mid-western boy, so there's something comforting and heart-warming about being able to see the horizon in every direction. I love the look of rolling fields with silos, houses, churches, and various other buildings dotting the landscape. There's a stretch of road in southern part of Illinois on I-57 that takes me to a place of awe everytime I drive through it. But, I'm also a fan of the mountains. There are stretches of I-40 on the way to Montreat, NC from Nashville when one is completely surrounded by mountains, and I feel somehow safe in those places. I'm often reminded of Psalm 139:5: You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. I somehow feel hemmed in by God in those places. I'm not so sure I want everything leveled out into a smooth plain.

With a little nudging from the devotional guide, I was also drawn to the images of fresh water being poured out on parched lands (and people). I have certainly had my dry spells in life, and it seems like each time, God finds different ways to bring water and life into my dry wilderness. Sometimes it's a song that randomly shuffles onto my ipod at just the right moment. Sometimes it's friends who simply sit in the dust with me, and slowly let me sip from their living wells. Sometimes it's the people in the congregation who I'm supposed to be pastoring who end up giving me pastoral care...whether it be a sandwich and a pickle, or cauliflower and bean salad and tea sweetened with sugar and a lemon, or a round of golf, these people have been living water for me.