Monday, November 26, 2018

Alban at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina, United States PRACTICAL WISDOM FOR LEADING CONGREGATIONS: Alban Weekly "Advent after the storms, the boundary between darkness and light"

Alban at Duke Divinity School in DurhamNorth Carolina, United States PRACTICAL WISDOM FOR LEADING CONGREGATIONS: 
Alban Weekly "Advent after the storms, the boundary between darkness and light"

Faith & Leadership: A learning resource for Christian leaders and their institutions from Leadership Education at Duke Divinity
Hope Morgan Ward: Advent after the storms, and the boundary between darkness and light
Editor's note: In 2017, United Methodist Bishop Hope Morgan Ward wrote about her region's experience of devastating hurricanes in light of the hope of Advent. We offer her reflections again a year later mindful of the many places in the United States and around the world that have experienced catastrophic storms of their own -- both real and metaphorical -- in 2018.
As Advent begins, we stand once again amid the destruction left by devastating storms. In the darkness, we yearn for light, a UMC bishop writes.
God has described a circle on the face of the waters, at the boundary between light and darkness. (Job 26:10 (NRSV))

A little more than a year ago, on Oct. 8, 2016, darkness and floodwaters overwhelmed 5,000 households in Robeson Country, North Carolina, and many thousands more across the southeastern United States. After inflicting catastrophic damage in Haiti as a strong Category 4 storm, Hurricane Matthew fell upon us, wreaking havoc, shattering order, breaking hearts, creating chaos.
That is what disasters do.
When overshadowed by disaster, we pray, we engage, we give, we work together to restore.
That is what we do. And as we do these things, we embody the petition in Psalm 80:7, the appointed lesson for the first Sunday in Advent:
Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
Gary Locklear of Pembroke, North Carolina, remembers Oct. 8 in his beloved community. He remained in the damp darkness for three days. Then resolution welled up: it was time to go out into the ravaged community around his home. A church and community worker and a home missioner for the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, he has been a consistent, leading voice in recovery efforts from that moment. In his life and leadership, we see the psalm prayed, lived, fulfilled.
Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
In this season of Advent, as in so many others, we stand once again amid the destruction left by devastating storms. It has been an especially hard year for millions of people in Houston and Florida and throughout the Caribbean. Memories abound of disaster and aftermath following hurricanes Harvey and Irma and Maria.
As Advent begins, the persistent darkness in Puerto Rico -- and the painful longing for light -- is a beckoning image. In Scripture, darkness and light are held in realistic proximity. Seemingly oppositional, darkness and light abide very near one another.
The book of Job demonstrates this reality. The book opens with a short story, only two chapters long. Job is victimized by disaster. He loses his property, his children, his health. The reader of the story shares the queries of those who observe Job’s misery. His situation confounds us, and our perplexity is met in a surprising way.
At the point of despair, the narrative breaks into extended poetry, 40 chapters of verse. In the midst of the poetry, an image is offered in Job 26:10:
He [God] has described a circle on the face of the waters, at the boundary between light and darkness.
Theodicy gives way to verse, and we see that the great mysteries are better approached in poetic than prosaic forms. The book returns to prose only in the last chapter, as Job dies, “old and full of days,” restored with the surrounding comfort and sympathy of friends and family as well as multiplied fortune.
As we sing our way through Advent toward Christmas, we embody the artistry of God, who is with us in lament and supplication, who always comes toward us, who abides in our midst and who enlivens our spirits. In the darkness, we yearn for light.
Every lit candle in our homes and churches is a brave, artful and resistant witness to our painful realization of the persistent darkness in this world. Every lit candle pleads for the light that shatters darkness in Puerto Rico and in Robeson Country, in Houston and in Sutherland Springs, in Florida and in New York, in Sierra Leone and in Las Vegas. Every lit candle is a sign of faith in God, who is present when and where violence erupts, people suffer and hearts ache.a
God is proximate to pain, as the Rev. Dr. Michael Waters, the pastor of Joy Tabernacle AME Church in Dallas, has observed. In darkness and trouble, we pray for light and experience God in serendipitous and amazing ways. Neighbors connect, helping one another. Assistance is given and received. Gratitude swells for the simple necessities of life: light, water, food, shelter, transportation. Faith is revived as prayers swirl in a beautiful pattern of lament and hope. People embrace often and express openly love for one another. Creativity blossoms in the midst of trouble.
In September, as the first anniversary of Hurricane Matthew approached, the congregation of West Robeson United Methodist Church -- 30 faithful souls -- remembered the storm and all they had been through together. When Hurricane Irma -- a massive Category 5 storm -- threatened Florida, they had an idea. They knew that thousands of people would be evacuating quickly, with few provisions, heading north on I-95. With 100 hot dogs and a few cases of bottled water, they went to the North Carolina Welcome Center at the South Carolina state line. They made and posted a simple sign announcing “Free food and water for evacuees.” Cars began to stop, filled with evacuees and others, some to receive gratefully and some to offer $20 bills in support of the effort.
As word spread through social media, an amazing chaos of giving and receiving continued throughout the day. Hundreds took part, giving and receiving, receiving and giving -- all prompted by the generosity of one small church that remembered its own passage through the storm a year earlier.
The evening news on television featured the delightful story. The next Sunday, as the evacuees began heading home, the folks from West Robeson set up at the welcome center on the southbound side. Again, generosity flowed and many were encouraged. Within weeks, 90 souls gathered for worship at West Robeson, a threefold increase in presence, energy and missional delight.
Disasters, despite their grief, weariness, filth and chaos, are a canvas upon which God continues to paint. I know this because I have seen it happen, time and again.
One of the most vivid instances was in 2005 when I was bishop of the Mississippi Annual Conference. On a Sunday morning, six days after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, my husband, Mike, and I entered First United Methodist Church in Gulfport with Pastor Guss Shelly and a handful of people who had stayed and survived. Gathering at the altar of the devastated church and community, we embraced and wept together. Overwhelmed, we were in the circle on the face of the waters between darkness and light.
Looking back, Mike and I wish that Mississippi and Louisiana had been spared the devastation and heartbreak of Hurricane Katrina. We confess, however, that if it had to happen, we are eternally grateful for the unparalleled experience of lament and praise, fatigue and energy, inappropriate and appropriate helpfulness, scarcity and provision, disappointment and delight.
Thanksgiving arises from humility, not heroics. The storm was simply, as one volunteer described Biloxi, “God’s workshop.”
Advent comes. God is present in every circle on the waters where darkness meets light.

Read more from Hope Morgan Ward »
Faith & Leadership: A learning resource for Christian leaders and their institutions from Leadership Education at Duke Divinity
Advent watchfulness is a call to participate in the in-breaking of the Kingdom

Advent watchfulness is a call to participate in the in-breaking of the Kingdom
We must transform the workplace, the home and the play place into spaces that care for the vulnerable, for Christ himself.
The church calendar is full of rich reminders that life is cyclical, always returning to the themes and the stories of the past to give us a vision for the future.
November marks the end of the church’s liturgical calendar, an ending and a new beginning of sorts. Our lectionary readings take on an apocalyptic quality: parables that force us to ask hard questions about our readiness; prophesies of preparation and long-awaited deliverance; and epistolary texts that warn the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
Watchfulness is the discipline of the season, but sometimes I wonder what I am to be watching in my ministry, my life and my relationships. Despite having a few experiences that I believe to be strong contenders to qualify as charismatic, I don’t consider myself a charismatic sort. I’m certainly not on the lookout for God to speak to me in strangely inaudible tones. I tend to see God’s work in my life in fairly mundane and boring ways -- God shows up in the sermon or conversation that pushes me to reconsider myself and my world. God shows up in music and beautiful, yellow-leaved trees.
The God that shows up in these places is rarely the subversive, challenging God we meet in November’s lectionary texts that risks everything for a hurting, wounded, wandering people. The God of this season is the God of the oppressed, seeking justice and humbling the proud.
The call to watch asks for a different kind of imagination than what I normally muster. This call is to watch and see God transform ordinary moments into powerful, subversive acts that radically call what has died back to life.
I rarely see my life this way, or rather, I rarely take time to see life and God’s transformation of life this way. I see an inbox full of things I don’t want to do and a calendar full of people I love, without adequate time to share with them. I’m often frustrated by the news cycle’s endless blather of disease, destruction and decline. I have to work to glimpse the divine, squint carefully with my head cocked to the side and leave my heart vulnerable to yet another disappointment.
Jesus makes it clear in his apocalyptic sermon in Matthew 25:31-46 that we are surrounded, every day, with the possibility to participate in the in-breaking of the Kingdom.
He makes clear that the vulnerable are Christ himself. These acts of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the imprisoned aren’t easy or comfortable. They aren’t dramatic, and they don’t win us attention from the people in power. And yet they are the places where Jesus promises to show up. My dinner table, my car, my office cubicle can become places where the veil is pulled back and we all can see that God is working to make all things, all of us, new.
We must make our mundane spaces in the workplace, the home and the play place into spaces that care for the vulnerable, for Christ himself.
We advocate with compassion to recognize our office’s custodial staff with living wages. We use our car to drive a young mother to work, saving her hours of bus-riding. We mentor a young worker struggling to begin a career. We make our dinner table into a place where many are invited. We give generous alms at the stoplight. We write letters to and visit the imprisoned.
We say no to the ordinary chaos of busy-ness, omnipresent technology and the frenetic urgency to succeed that blinds us to the in-breaking Kingdom of God. Instead we use each day to see the vulnerable and see each person as Christ himself.
When December comes and we sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” we sing with transformed vision, seeing Jesus, our Emmanuel, in every person and God at work among us.

Read more from Alaina Kleinbeck »

Faith & Leadership: A learning resource for Christian leaders and their institutions from Leadership Education at Duke Divinity
Never mind the width
Samuel Wells: Never mind the width
In Advent, dare to feel the depth. Never mind the width. If you're tired of waiting, go deeper, says the noted preacher.
Isaiah 64:1-9
Isaiah 64:1 (2) It would be like fire kindling the brush,
and the fire then makes the water boil.
Then your enemies would know your name,
the nations would tremble before you!
2 (3) When you did tremendous things
that we were not expecting,
we wished that you would come down,
so that the mountains would shake at your presence!
3 (4) No one has ever heard,
no ear perceived, no eye seen,
any God but you.
You work for him who waits for you.
4 (5) You favored those who were glad to do justice,
those who remembered you in your ways.
When you were angry, we kept sinning;
but if we keep your ancient ways, we will be saved.
5 (6) All of us are like someone unclean,
all our righteous deeds like menstrual rags;
we wither, all of us, like leaves;
and our misdeeds blow us away like the wind.
6 (7) No one calls on your name
or bestirs himself to take hold of you,
for you have hidden your face from us
and caused our misdeeds to destroy us.
7 (8) But now, Adonai, you are our father;
we are the clay, you are our potter;
and we are all the work of your hands.
8 (9) Do not be so very angry, Adonai!
Don’t remember crime forever.
Look, please, we are all your people.
9 (10) Your holy cities have become a desert,
Tziyon a desert, Yerushalayim a ruin.
 (Complete Jewish Bible).
Editor’s note: Faith & Leadership offers sermons that shed light on issues of Christian leadership. The Rev. Samuel Wells preached this sermon on November 27, 2011, at Duke University Chapel.
Have you ever known what it means to be hungry? It starts as a sense of appetite, a feeling that you could really do with a bit of something, maybe a snack. And then it grows, and if you’ve got no way of finding a mouthful or a whole meal, you begin to feel your own fragility -- an ache in the stomach, your concentration beginning to waver.
And it starts to be difficult to do ordinary things, so you begin to seek out distractions -- something absorbing that takes your attention away and enables you to lose yourself. You start to doubt your own judgment, and you realize you’re becoming incredibly selfish, because you find yourself so mesmerized by your own desperation that you can’t consider the needs of anyone else.
And when finally you do find food, it can be that your yearning and ache for the pain to go away is so great that you don’t truly enjoy the food or savor its taste or texture. You greedily wolf it down, because your body’s taken over and the rest of you has been elbowed aside. Hunger’s drained all the joy, and you’re left with raw, voracious compulsion.
We don’t want to see ourselves like this. It’s not just the physical discomfort. It’s the discovery that we can be so needy, so selfish, so consumed by one thing to the exclusion of all else. And we certainly don’t want anyone else to see us like this. How humiliating for others to realize the narrow, precarious, craven creatures we can be. What a loss of dignity. If someone saw us like this, we could hardly be in their presence again -- not just because they would think so little of us, but because as soon as we saw them, we’d be reminded of a place of need in ourselves we’d much rather suppress or forget.
Hunger may be the most basic of our human needs and desires. But more often, it’s a metaphor for other longings that can take over our life. I wonder if you know, for example, what it’s like to yearn to have a life partner. Your life has good and rewarding things in it, but deep down you just profoundly want to matter to another creature, to have a commitment and a relationship to build your life around, to shape meaning out of the rhythms and texture of your days and the movements and achings of your heart, and perhaps most of all to make something beautiful together to leave as a legacy on planet Earth and feel your life has been at least somewhat fruitful.
But year follows year and there’s no genuine sign of your being in any potentially permanent relationship. Your plans for your career, and your financial planning, which had always been provisional, begin to take on an unexpected air of permanence. You come to wonder if anyone will ever find you attractive, if maybe you’re hanging out in the wrong places, or if you’re just being too choosy.
Before you know it, the waiting takes a grip over your mind and soul and becomes as convulsive as hunger. Your radar screen can’t help but flash sirens when it picks up nearby people with vibrant marriages, designer children and imagined happiness; and you begin to avoid conversation with them and withdraw from their company, lest your need and grief turn into sharp words, inappropriate tears and blinding self-pity. You don’t want other people to see you like this. You can’t bear to see yourself like this.
Of course, these are only among the most intense of many profound yearnings that can’t be assuaged by material comfort or professional accomplishment. Right now, 1 in 10 people are longing for a job, and a great many more are yearning for a job that they can truly pursue with their heart and soul. Look to your left; look to your right: you’re likely to see someone who’s waiting, been waiting a long time.
Not long ago, I sat down with a young man called Jeff who’d lost his beloved and only sister in a tragic accident. What made the tragedy so poignant was that the man responsible for the accident, Andrew, was a close friend of both Jeff and his sister. Even worse, Andrew’s own brother had also died in the same accident. The four friends had been traveling together.
It would have been great in many ways if Jeff and Andrew could’ve sat down together and talked through the events of that day and shared their grief and loss. But Jeff told me he just couldn’t do that.
“I know I should, and I know I must, but I’m sorry, I just can’t bring myself to forgive him. I know in my head he’s hurting for his brother as much as I am for my sister, but he’s not missing my sister like I do. No one is. No one knows how important she was to me. I just can’t forgive him, and I just can’t face him.”
I asked, “D’you think one day you will?”
Jeff said, “I know one day I’ve got to, because this hatred is just eating me up, and I can’t think about anything else. Until I can forgive, I won’t be able to start living again. But I’m not there yet -- nothing like there yet. And I think it’s going to be a while.”
All waiting is a kind of hunger. All hunger is a kind of waiting. You can fill up your life with good and worthwhile things, genuine and valuable tasks, absorbing and deserving projects, admirable and interesting people; but suddenly, you get moments when you see with piercing clarity that it’s all a distraction, all a way of making you so busy that you don’t need to think about the one thing you desire above all else, and long for with your whole being, and need like a hungry hole in your stomach.
You can deal with waiting through distraction, through busyness and fluster and hurry and entertainment; but when all your distractions have expired, the waiting’s still there for you, gnawing at your soul like a hungry dog growling and pawing at the back door.
We live in a society increasingly clothed in technology. Technology seduces us because it zeroes in on every single problem and frustration of our life and promises to fix it. Struggling with your hip? Here’s an artificial one. Not sure what clothes to pack for your trip to New England for the holidays? This little device can predict the temperature in Boston for the next week. Ready for supper and not had time to go to the store? This oven can bake things straight from the freezer. Longing to be asked out on a date? Here’s a website with lots of interesting-sounding lonely hearts, every one of them emotionally intelligent but astonishingly baggage-free.
Once we’ve become accustomed to expecting technology to resolve the unfulfilled or unresolved parts of our lives, waiting becomes even harder than it was before. It doesn’t just seem distressing -- it seems outrageous, because surely someone, somewhere, must have invented a solution to this problem. We look around us and see everyone else apparently finding solutions to their problems, and it makes our waiting seem monstrously unjust. So as often as not, we’ll look to technology, because even if it can’t end our waiting, it can at least provide ever more sophisticated forms of distraction. After all, who needs to feel the pain of sitting by the bedside of a sick loved one if you can pick up the remote control and, at the flick of the red button, be able to watch any one of four football games, each chock-full of passion, drama, skill and controversy?
Back in the days when it was common to go into a tailor’s store and ask for yards of cloth for sewing or dressmaking into trousers or skirts or outer garments, people would imitate the proverbial salesperson and say, “Never mind the quality -- feel the width!”
In other words, “Who cares whether the material comes from the very best fabric? See how much there is of it, for such a bargain price!”
It’s a parable for what we do to our lives to hide ourselves from the depths of our struggles and sadness and pain. “Never mind our deepest desires -- see how easy it is to occupy ourselves with our trivial ones! Don’t distress yourself about the things that really matter -- see how quickly you can get your hands on the things that don’t!”
It’s perfectly possible to turn your whole life into a distraction, a whole enterprise of feeling the width. Maybe that’s what you’re doing right now.
The church has a season for helping us set aside our distractions and get profoundly in touch with the powerlessness of waiting. It’s called Advent. In Advent, we dismantle our elaborate defenses and, for a few weeks, or days, or moments, face up squarely to our deepest yearnings, our unresolved longings and our rawest needs. But Advent is also about a confidence deeper than our needs, a hope more far-reaching than our desires, a future more comprehensive than our most poignant yearnings.
In our self-protection, we habitually say to ourselves, to one another and even to God, “Never mind the quality; feel the width. Let’s just make ourselves busy and perhaps we’ll forget about it.” In Advent, God says to us, “Never mind the width. Your life isn’t about quantity of activity or length of days. Let go of the width. Feel the depth.”
The answer to the agony of waiting isn’t width. It’s depth. Just this once, in this Advent moment, feel the depth of your life, and look into the deep heart of God.
Look at your hands. Think of the Father’s hands, that made the world; think of the Son’s hands, and the nail marks in the center of them; think of the Spirit’s hands, and realize they’re the hands you’re looking at right now.
Look at your feet. These are feet that can walk with others in their pain; these are feet that can dance to the beat of God’s heart; these are feet that can run with the wind of God’s Spirit.
Feel your skin. Skin that Christ took on, skin that can touch the tender suffering of another, skin that’s made to protect and stretch the boundary of your being. Feel the depth.
Advent says, “Yes, you’re hungry. Yes, you long for fulfillment and resolution and completion and consummation. Yes, you’re aching all over; yes, if you stopped your incessant activity and paused for one second to look in the mirror, you’d be sobbing with disappointed dreams and deflated desires and unmet longings and dashed aspirations. Yes, life hasn’t turned out as you trusted it would; yes, it feels like everyone else has it easier than you; yes, it’s sometimes impossible to find the patience to keep going; yes, you feel if you for one moment admitted your grief, it would crush you and incapacitate you and disable you from functioning in any respectable and grown-up and self-effacing way.”
Advent goes to the bottom of our waiting. But Advent doesn’t stop there. Advent goes under and around our waiting.
Advent also says, gently, cherishingly and tenderly, “No. No, this isn’t the way the story ends. No, God isn’t ignoring you or punishing you. No, this isn’t God’s last word on the matter. No, God hasn’t finished with you. No, this groaning, this aching, this longing won’t be your eternal condition. God came in Christ to be with you, to groan with your groan, to ache with your ache, to yearn with your yearning. God in Christ suffered on the cross to show you a yearning that is greater even than your yearning, a grief that is greater even than your grief, a longing that is greater even than your longing -- a longing for you.
“Christ rose from the dead to show you how the story ends, that all your pain and agony and tears will be taken up into glory, that all your sadness will be made beautiful, and all your waiting will be rewarded. Christ ascended into heaven to show you that you’ll spend eternity with God, that your hunger will be met in God’s banquet, that everything you long for will be exceeded and overwhelmed in the glory of the presence of God, and that when you see the marks in Christ’s hands and the Father’s broken heart, you’ll finally realize how achingly, convulsingly hungry God has always been for you.”
Just for this moment in Advent, dare to feel the depth. Never mind the width. If you’re tired of waiting, go deeper. Feel the deep texture of life. Eternal life isn’t an infinitely extended version of what we have now; it’s a deeper version of what we have now. If you want a glimpse of eternal life, even amid the sadness and the longing of waiting, go deeper.
Remember all those people you were envious of and who seemed to have everything you didn’t have? Go deeper and see who they really are and what they truly long for, and feel your jealousy begin to melt into compassion. Go deeper into your fears and come out of the bottom of them, and let your hatred become hope. Go deeper into your loneliness, and make a companion of the truth you find there. Feel the wonder of your createdness; sense the unlikely mystery of your being here at all. And receive all the rest as a bonus, a gift, a blessing.
Advent isn’t an escape. It’s an encounter with the time that’s deeper than our time, a time we call eternal life. It’s a discovery of a longing that’s deeper than our longing, the longing

Read more from Sam Wells »

Faith & Leadership: A learning resource for Christian leaders and their institutions from Leadership Education at Duke Divinity
Impatiently waiting
Charlene Brown: Impatiently waiting
The search for a church committed to racial reconciliation didn't go quickly. But the waiting for it, like the waiting of Advent, was a time to learn to love God and neighbor and find miracles in small and surprising places, says the national director of Intervarsity Black Campus Ministries
I had prayed, for months on end, for a church that valued racial reconciliation -- if not in practice, at least in word.
Since moving to Durham, N.C., in fall 2008 to begin my master of divinity degree at Duke Divinity School, I had visited multiple churches. I had wondered: Is this possible, Lord? Will the vision of every tongue, nation and tribe giving glory to the Lamb be seen only in Christ’s return?
My longings exposed my impatience and my inability to trust God in the waiting.
Yet waiting is a Christian practice full of hope and anticipation. During Advent, we hope for the birth of the Christ child, and we anticipate the day when Christ will come again.
My waiting for a church committed to racial reconciliation was no different. Even with hope, waiting is difficult. I want results now. I want God to answer with lightning bolts or angels singing.
But our God sometimes works quietly, over time, in humble places and through surprising people.
In 2009, I met Franklin Golden, the pastor of St. John’s Presbyterian Church. I instantly wrote him off as an ambitious white pastor with a vision for growing churches in color but not relationship. I’d been in churches that desired a picture of diversity without authentic community. I was not interested in being a token black person in the congregation.
I told Franklin that the Holy Spirit had stirred a passion for reconciliation and justice in me during my undergraduate years at the University of Virginia.
“I saw God begin the work of healing a racially segregated campus and believe that God is doing that in churches too,” I told him.
Franklin described St. John’s as a small church with a small budget. The congregation had a median age in the 50s and was all white.
Baffled, I didn’t say much. The more he spoke, the more I was filled with skepticism. The demographics Franklin mentioned, in my mind, could not yield the kind of fruit that we both dreamed about.
Racial reconciliation seemed to be a ministry for new church plants with lights, hip pastors and loud bands. I was amazed at this pastor’s willingness and excitement to dream beyond what he could see, but I was still suspicious.
“God surprises us sometimes,” he told me. “And I believe this can happen at this tiny church on Roxboro Road. They are open, and they are willing.”
I wanted to be open and willing, too. I wanted to trust God, this pastor and this congregation. I held on to hope as my mind created questions and doubts and my heart told me to join this church.
A group of young adults -- of different races, backgrounds and stories -- started worshipping at St. John’s and joined the church. I expected instant transformation. I thought we would see a vision of Revelation 7, every tribe and every tongue worshipping God here in Durham, N.C. Yet even with the increase in diversity, we felt like we were still waiting at a crossroads.
We spent more than a year at this crossroads.
We committed to each other by adding opportunities during the week for prayer, dinner discussions and Bible study in our homes. We learned to sing each other’s music. We diversified our leadership, and we regularly shared our stories and journeys about how God had led us to the place of anticipation.
It was not enough for us simply to worship on Sunday mornings; we desired to be present in each other’s lives.
We had our own ideas of what church should look like -- how long worship should be, what traditions we should keep, what music we should sing. We thought we could create a plan for a multiracial, multigenerational church and flawlessly execute that plan to get there.
While we were waiting, we were learning to receive what the Lord was doing in our midst. And we saw, in that waiting, that we had to surrender our notions about what it means to be church. The glimpses we have seen of God’s kingdom manifest on earth are far grander than what we might have planned on our own.
The season of waiting, the in-between time, helped us learn to love God and others well. We learned to be more patient and trusting with God, and with each other. The more time we spent actively waiting together, the more our ideas of church were transformed.
Emerging from a season of waiting with a renewed vision and passion for ministry, we are replanting our congregation as Bull City Presbyterian Church in February 2012. The new church recognizes the new work that God did and is still doing among us.
We are committed to being a multigenerational church as diverse as Durham with a heart for campus ministry and the vulnerable in our community. Bull City Presbyterian is partnering with Iglesia Emanuel, a Latino PC(USA) congregation, in their outreach to a growing immigrant population.
St. John’s did a lot of waiting. In fact, we are still waiting with hope.
We are witnessing that when we stand in places of uncertainty, we can be hopeful that God faithfully meets us there.
In the waiting, we catch glimpses of the Lord. And when the waiting ends, we will see the fullness of the kingdom.
Read more from Charlene Brown »
The Wisdom of the Seasons: How the Church Year Helps Us Understand Our Congregational Stories by Charles M. Olsen
The church year is often seen as a framework for church programs, but well-known Alban author Charles Olsen shows readers how it can be a prism through which congregations more deeply understand their own stories.
By weaving together our narratives and those of Christian tradition, a congregation can clarify its identity, grow in wisdom, and discover a new vision and ministry. Olsen draws parallels between the church seasons and practices of spiritual formation -- letting go, naming and celebrating God's presence, and taking hold. He shows us how these movements are expressed in the three major cycles of the church year -- Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost.
Focusing on communal narratives, he presents a process for telling a story and forming a corporate memory of the story, and then deepening and reflecting on it by exploring the season of the church year that captures its character.
Learn more and order the book »
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Alban at Duke Divinity School

Reflecting God: Embrace Holy Living from The Foundry Publishing of the Global Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City, Missouri, United States "Comfort" by Stefanie Hendrickson for Monday ,26 November 2018 - Isaiah 40:1-8

Reflecting God: Embrace Holy Living from The Foundry Publishing of the Global Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City, Missouri, United States "Comfort" by Stefanie Hendrickson for Monday ,26 November 2018 - Isaiah 40:1-8
"Comfort" by Stefanie Hendrickson

Isaiah 40:1 “Comfort and keep comforting my people,” says your God.
2 “Tell Yerushalayim to take heart; proclaim to her
that she has completed her time of service,
that her guilt has been paid off,
that she has received at the hand of Adonai
double for all her sins.”
3 A voice cries out:
“Clear a road through the desert for Adonai!
Level a highway in the ‘Aravah for our God!
4 Let every valley be filled in,
every mountain and hill lowered,
the bumpy places made level
and the crags become a plain.
5 Then the glory of Adonai will be revealed;
all humankind together will see it,
for the mouth of Adonai has spoken.”
6 A voice says, “Proclaim!”
And I answer, “What should I proclaim?”
“All humanity is merely grass,
all its kindness like wildflowers:
7 the grass dries up, the flower fades,
when a wind from Adonai blows on it.
Surely the people are grass!
8 The grass dries up, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.”
(Complete Jewish Bible).
Then the glory of Adonai will be revealed;all humankind together will see it, for the mouth of Adonai has spoken.”(Isaiah 40:5).
Israel suffered under the power and rule of Babylon. Destruction and exile reigned over the people of God. For years the Israelites were afflicted with exile-banished from their homes. The Promised Land—that which God said would be theirs when they were freed from slavery in Egypt—was no longer their home. Pain and loneliness were surely companions of the Israelites.
Then the prophet Isaiah shared a word from the Lord: “Comfort, comfort my people, . . . Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, . . . that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for” (vv 1-2). Comfort! Can you imagine the power of that word to be people tired, lonely, homesick?
While this encouraging word does not mean there are no longer challenges to overcome, it does convey hope. God, like a mighty warrior, has come to the defense of his people. Like a mother, God gently comforts His children. They will not wander in the desert for years; he will make their paths home straight.
What situation do you find yourself in today? Are you waiting in a desert place for the Lord to bring comfort? Have hope—the Lord brings comfort and guidance to his people.
Hymn for Today: "All the Way Along" by Ada Blenkhorn
There is One who loves me, One who is my friend.
All the way along, all the way along.
He is ever near me, ready to defend.
All the way along it is Jesus.
Refrain: All the way along it is Jesus;
All the way along, blessèd Jesus.
He’s my joy and song, all the way along.
All the way along it is Jesus.
2. He doth still the tempest, bid its tumult cease,
All the way along, all the way along.
In the time of trouble keeps in perfect peace;
All the way along it is Jesus.
Refrain: All the way along it is Jesus;
All the way along, blessèd Jesus.
He’s my joy and song, all the way along.
All the way along it is Jesus.
3. In my Lord and Savior I will joyful be,
All the way along, all the way along.
Speaking words of comfort sweet and dear to me,
All the way along it is Jesus.
Refrain: All the way along it is Jesus;
All the way along, blessèd Jesus.
He’s my joy and song, all the way along.
All the way along it is Jesus.
4. I will sing the praises of His wondrous love,
All the way along, all the way along.
I will sing more sweetly in my home above,
All the way along it is Jesus.
Refrain: All the way along it is Jesus;
All the way along, blessèd Jesus.
He’s my joy and song, all the way along.
All the way along it is Jesus.
Thought for Today:He is like a shepherd feeding his flock,
gathering his lambs with his arm,
carrying them against his chest,
gently leading the mother sheep.”
(Isaiah 40:11).
Please pray:
For Christians in the Eurasia Region who are persecuted for their faith.

Daily Devotional for Monday, 26 NOVEMBER 2018in Nashville, Tennessee, United States "Answered Prayer" by Eunice Ar?o Kakueka (Luanda, Angola)

Daily Devotional for Monday, 26 NOVEMBER 2018in Nashville,Tennessee, United States"Answered Prayer" by Eunice Ar?o Kakueka (Luanda, Angola)
(Image: Pixabay)
Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. (Psalm 50:15 (NRSV))
A few years ago, one of my sons, Bongue, and I left home early one morning to participate in a training seminar for pastors in Luanda. It was still dark. A few minutes later we were approached by three thieves who demanded our wallets. When we resisted, they threatened us with a firearm and beat us. They took our wallets, belongings, and money.
For several weeks, I felt hatred, remorse, and fear, but prayed constantly for God to touch the hearts of the people who hurt us and, if possible, to see that my wallet was returned. Six months later, three people appeared at the church where my other son, Abraham, was pastor and handed him my wallet, repenting of their evil acts and asking Abraham to pray for them and receive them into the church.
God had worked a miracle! God hears our prayers and answers them. We must never forget Jesus’ promise: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
TODAY'S PRAYER: Thank you, God, for your love and protection in difficult times. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:9-13, NIV). Amen.
TODAY'S READING: 1 John 5:11-15
1 John 5:11 And this is the testimony: God gave eternal life to us, and this life is in his Son. 12 The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have God’s Son does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of God’s Son so that you can know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence that we have in our relationship with God: If we ask for anything in agreement with his will, he listens to us. 15 If we know that he listens to whatever we ask, we know that we have received what we asked from him. (Common English Bible).1 John 5:11 And this is the witness: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Those who have the Son have the life; those who do not have the Son of God do not have the life. 13 I have written you these things so that you may know that you have eternal life — you who keep trusting in the person and power of the Son of God.
14 This is the confidence we have in his presence: if we ask anything that accords with his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — then we know that we have what we have asked from him. (Complete Jewish Bible).
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
PRAYER FOCUS: Someone waiting for an ?answer to prayer

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Richard Rohr's Meditation from the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States Week Forty-eight "Joy and Hope" "The Franciscan Vision" for Monday, November 26, 2018

Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation
From the Center for Action and Contemplation
Richard Rohr's Meditation from the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States Week Forty-eight "Joy and Hope" 
"The Franciscan Vision" for 
Monday, November 26, 2018
St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (1217–1274) took Francis and Clare’s practical lifestyle to the level of theology, philosophy, and worldview. Unlike many theologians of his time, Bonaventure paid little attention to fire and brimstone, sin, merit, justification, or atonement. His vision is positive, mystic, cosmic, intimately relational, and largely concerned with cleaning the lens of our perception and our intention so we can see and enjoy fully!
He starts very simply: “Unless we are able to view things in terms of how they originate, how they are to return to their end, and how God shines forth in them, we will not be able to understand.” [1] For Bonaventure, the perfection of God and God’s creation is a full circle, and to be perfect the circle must and will complete itself. He knows that Alpha and Omega are finally the same, and the lynchpin holding it all in unity is the “Christ Mystery,” or the essential unity of matter and spirit, humanity and divinity. The Christ Mystery is thus the template for all creation, and even more precisely the crucified Christ, who reveals the necessary cycle of loss and renewal that keeps all things moving toward ever further life. Now we know that the death and birth of every star and every atom is this same pattern of loss and renewal, yet this pattern is invariably hidden or denied, and therefore must be revealed by God—which is “the cross.”
Bonaventure’s theology is never about trying to placate a distant or angry God, earn forgiveness, or find some abstract theory of justification. He sees humanity as already being included in—and delighting in—an all-pervasive plan. As Paul’s school says, “Before the world was made, God chose us, chose us in Christ” (Ephesians 1:4). The problem is solved from the beginning. Rather than seeing history as a “fall from grace,” Bonaventure reveals a slow but real emergence and evolution into ever-greater consciousness of Love. He was the Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) of the 13th century.
One reason Bonaventure was so hopeful and positive is that he was profoundly Trinitarian. He saw love always and forever flowing between Father, Son, and Spirit and on to us. Bonaventure’s strong foundation in the Trinity gave him a nondual mind to deal with the ineffable mystery of God and creation. A dualistic mind closes down at any notion of Trinity or infinite love, because it cannot process it.
For Bonaventure, God, is not an offended monarch on a throne throwing down thunderbolts, but a “fountain fullness” that flows, overflows, and fills all things in one positive direction. Reality is thus in process and participatory; it is love itself, and not a mere Platonic world, an abstract idea, or a static impersonal principle. God as Trinitarian Flow is the blueprint and pattern for all relationships and thus all of creation, which we now know from contemporary science is exactly the case.
Gateway to Presence: If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.
[1] Bonaventure, Collationes in Hexa?meron (Lectures on the Six Days of Creation), 3.2. See Ilia Delio, Simply Bonaventure: An Introduction to His Life, Thought, and Writing, 2nd edition (New City Press: 2013), 171.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi(Franciscan Media: 2014), 162-165.
Image credit: Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan (detail), Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2013.
Thank you for being part of CAC’s contemplative community. You are one of 309,355 readers worldwide (as of November 2018). 
News from the CAC
The fall edition of Oneing is here!
Unity and Diversity

This limited-print issue of CAC’s journal features Richard Rohr, Micky ScottBey Jones, John Dear, Polly Baca, Gideon Tsang, Naomi Shihab Nye, and others.
The authors give us a glimpse of what can happen if we pay attention and are fully present to one another, and the transformation we can experience by recognizing that diversity is not our enemy, but our teacher; not something to disdain, but to embrace. —Vanessa Guerin, Editor
Order “Unity and Diversity” at
"Image and Likeness"
2018 Daily Meditations Theme

God said, “Let us make humans in our image, according to our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26)
Richard Rohr explores places in which God’s presence has often been ignored or assumed absent. God’s “image” is our inherent identity in and union with God, an eternal essence that cannot be destroyed. “Likeness” is our personal embodiment of that inner divine image that we have the freedom to develop—or not—throughout our lives. Though we differ in likeness, the imago Dei persists and shines through all created things.
Over the course of this year’s Daily Meditations, discover opportunities to incarnate love in your unique context by unveiling the Image and Likeness of God in all that you see and do.
Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time! Click the video to learn more about the theme and to find meditations you may have missed.
We hope that reading these messages is a contemplative, spiritual practice for you. Learn about contemplative prayer and other forms of meditation. For frequently asked questions—such as what versions of the Bible Father Richard recommends or how to ensure you receive every meditation—please see our email FAQ.
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Inspiration for this week's banner image: Dear Child of God, you are loved with a love that nothing can shake, a love that loved you long before you were created, a love that will be there long after everything has disappeared. . . . And God wants you to be like God. Filled with life and goodness and laughter—and joy. (Desmond Tutu)
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The Upper Room Daily Reflections: daily words of wisdom and faith from The United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, United States for Monday, November 26, 2018 Today’s Reflection "Pray Without Ceasing"

The Upper Room Daily Reflections: daily words of wisdom and faith from The United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, United States for Monday, November 26, 2018 Today’s Reflection "Pray Without Ceasing"
PAUL SPEAKS OF praying “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
It is not as hard as it sounds, really. You merely learn to be aware of God’s presence with you all the time, whatever you are doing.
A friend who commutes to work says that he sits and communes with God every time he stops at a traffic light. You can do it every time you open the refrigerator. Or when you brush your teeth.
The point is simply to turn your thoughts toward God at many specific times each day.
One way to do this is to practice remembering God when you are performing one specific action all week. When you are making the bed, for instance. Or setting the table. Or checking your mail. Or walking to school. Then, for the next week, pick another action. (John Killinger, Beginning Prayer)
From page 16 of Beginning Prayer by John Killinger. Copyright © 2012 by John Killinger. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books. Learn more about or purchase this book.
Today’s Question:
Name times during your day when you could remember God.
Today’s Scripture: Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37, NRSV)
This Week:
Pray for those who are lonely.
Did You Know?
In need of prayer? The Upper Room Living Prayer Center is an intercessory prayer ministry staffed by Christian volunteers. Submit a prayer request, and our Covenant Prayer Groups will pray for you. Visit The Living Prayer Center website.
This week we remember: John Knox

John Knox
November 24

John Knox (ca. 1513-72), Scottish preacher and Reformation leader. Knox expressed his spirituality in action and a determined pragmatism. He lived in times of ecclesiastical turmoil throughout Scotland, England, and Europe. Reformers were being burned at the stake for their beliefs. Nations became embroiled in religious wars as Catholics did battle with Protestant reformers.
In this environment came a man with a practical spirituality. Knox was ordained to the priesthood but became a disciple of John Calvin after visiting Geneva, where he contributed to the creation of the Geneva version of the English Bible. Unlike Calvin, Knox felt that it was necessary for common people to rise up against godless rulers. When he returned from Geneva, he entered the battle for Scottish independence and Protestant theology. The two were inextricably linked.
In December of 1560 the first Scottish General Assembly was held. Shortly thereafter the First Book of Discipline was presented to Parliament. The Discipline, a work of Knox and his followers, attempted to apply Calvin's thinking to political systems. While the names for the operating structures (or polity) developed over time, this document contained the basis for what became sessions, presbyteries, synods, and general assembly. Knox also created a Book of Common Order (also called "Knox Liturgy") that received general assembly approval in 1564. It provided for free prayer and, while it gave a generally accepted order of service, the order was understood to be a model rather than an absolute form to be followed.
If John Knox had taken the Spiritual Types Test he probably would have been a Sage. Knox is remembered on November 24.
[Excerpted with permission from the entry on John Knox by Sandi Nesbit, from The Upper Room Dictionary of Christian Spiritual Formationedited by Keith Beasley-Topliffe. Copyright © 2003 by Upper Room Books®. All rights reserved.]
(November 24).
Lectionary Readings for Sunday, 2 December 2018
(Courtesy of Vanderbilt Divinity Library)
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36
Jeremiah 33:
14 “Here, the days are coming,” says Adonai, “when I will fulfill this good promise which I have proclaimed for the house of Isra’el and the house of Y’hudah.
15 When those days come, at that time,
I will cause to spring up for David
a Branch of Righteousness.
He will do what is just and right in the land.
16 When those days come, Y’hudah will be saved,
Yerushalayim will live in safety,
and the name given to her will be
Adonai Tzidkenu [Adonai our Righteousness].”

Psalm 25:1 (0) By David:
(1) I lift my inner being to you, Adonai;
2 I trust you, my God.
Don’t let me be disgraced,
don’t let my enemies gloat over me.
3 No one waiting for you will be disgraced;
disgrace awaits those who break faith for no reason.
4 Make me know your ways, Adonai,
teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth, and teach me;
for you are the God who saves me,
my hope is in you all day long.
6 Remember your compassion and grace, Adonai;
for these are ages old.
7 Don’t remember my youthful sins or transgressions;
but remember me according to your grace
for the sake of your goodness, Adonai.
8 Adonai is good, and he is fair;
this is why he teaches sinners the way [to live],
9 leads the humble to do what is right
and teaches the humble [to live] his way.
10 All Adonai’s paths are grace and truth

1 Thessalonians 3:9 Indeed, how can we thank God enough for you or express to our God all the joy we feel because of you? 10 Night and day we pray as hard as we can that we will be able to see you face to face and supply whatever shortcomings there may be in your trust. 11 May God our Father and our Lord Yeshua direct our way to you.
12 And as for you, may the Lord make you increase and overflow in love toward each other, indeed, toward everyone, just as we do toward you; 13 so that he may give you the inner strength to be blameless, by reason of your holiness, when you stand before God our Father at the coming of our Lord Yeshua with all his angels.

Luke 21:25 “There will appear signs in the sun, moon and stars; and on earth, nations will be in anxiety and bewilderment at the sound and surge of the sea, 26 as people faint with fear at the prospect of what is overtaking the world; for the powers in heaven will be shaken.[Luke 21:26 Haggai 2:6, 21] 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with tremendous power and glory.[Luke 21:27 Daniel 7:13–14] 28 When these things start to happen, stand up and hold your heads high; because you are about to be liberated!”
29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, Indeed, all the trees. 30 As soon as they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves that summer is near. 31 In the same way, when you see these things taking place, you are to know that the Kingdom of God is near! 32 Yes! I tell you that this people will certainly not pass away before it has all happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.
34 “But keep watch on yourselves, or your hearts will become dulled by carousing, drunkenness and the worries of everyday living, and that Day will be sprung upon you suddenly like a trap! 35 For it will close in on everyone, no matter where they live, throughout the whole world. 36 Stay alert, always praying that you will have the strength to escape all the things that will happen and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man.” 
(Complete Jewish Bible).
Jeremiah 33:14-16

Verse 15
[15] In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.
The branch — The kings they had hitherto had of the line of David, were most of them unrighteous men, but God promises that after the captivity, they should have a branch of David who would execute judgment and righteousness in the land, for the protection and government of those that feared him.
Verse 16
[16] In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness.
Saved — It is the opinion of some that a spiritual salvation and security is promised under these expressions, but by the most and best interpreters, a temporal salvation. This was typical of that spiritual and eternal salvation which is promised to the true Israel of God; as their rest in Canaan typified that rest which remaineth for the people of God.
The Lord our righteousness — There is no such name any where given, either to the Jewish or Christian church, as the Lord our righteousness, but the full import of that name is spoken of Christ, Isaiah 45:23, which text is applied to Christ, Romans 14:11; Philemon 2:10.

Psalm 25:1-10
Verse 2
[2] O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.
Ashamed — Disappointed of my hope.
Verse 3
[3] Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
Cause — Without any provocation of mine.
Verse 4
[4] Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.
Teach — Teach me my duty, and cause me to keep close to it, notwithstanding all temptations.
Verse 8
[8] Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
Upright — Holy and true, in all his declarations and offers of mercy to sinners.
Therefore — He will not be wanting to such poor sinners as I am, but will guide them into the way of life and peace.
Verse 9
[9] The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
The meek — Such as meekly submit themselves to God, and are desirous to be directed and governed by him.
Judgment — In the paths of judgment, in the right way.
Verse 10
[10] All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
Paths — All the dealings of God with them, yea even those that are afflictive, are done in kindness and faithfulness to them.

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Verse 10
[10] Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
And perfect that which is wanting in your faith — So St. Paul did not know that "they who are once upon the rock no longer need to be taught by man."
Verse 11
[11] Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.
Direct our way — This prayer is addressed to Christ, as well as to the Father.
Verse 13
[13] To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
With all his, Christ's, saints - Both angels and men.

Luke 21:25-36
Verse 25
[25] And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
And there shall be — Before the great day, which was typified by the destruction of Jerusalem: signs - Different from those mentioned Luke 21:11, etc. Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24.
Verse 28
[28] And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
Now when these things — Mentioned Luke 21:8,10, etc., begin to come to pass, look up with firm faith, and lift up your heads with joy: for your redemption out of many troubles draweth nigh, by God's destroying your implacable enemies.
Verse 29
[29] And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees;
Behold the fig tree and all the trees — Christ spake this in the spring, just before the passover; when all the trees were budding on the mount of Olives, where they then were.
Verse 30
[30] When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.
Ye know of yourselves — Though none teach you.
Verse 31
[31] So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.
The kingdom of God is nigh — The destruction of the Jewish city, temple, and religion, to make way for the advancement of my kingdom.
Verse 32
[32] Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.
Till all things be effected — All that has been spoken of the destruction of Jerusalem, to which the question, Luke 21:7, relates: and which is treated of from Luke 21:8-24.
Verse 34
[34] And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
Take heed, lest at any time your hearts be overloaded with gluttony and drunkenness — And was there need to warn the apostles themselves against such sins as these? Then surely there is reason to warn even strong Christians against the very grossest sins. Neither are we wise, if we think ourselves out of the reach of any sin: and so that day - Of judgment or of death, come upon you, even you that are not of this world-Unawares. Matthew 24:42; Mark 13:33; Luke 12:35.
Verse 35
[35] For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
That sit — Careless and at ease.
Verse 36
[36] Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
Watch ye therefore — This is the general conclusion of all that precedes.
That ye may be counted worthy — This word sometimes signifies an honour conferred on a person, as when the apostles are said to be counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ, Acts 5:41. Sometimes meet or becoming: as when John the Baptist exhorts, to bring fruits worthy of repentance, Luke 3:8. And so to be counted worthy to escape, is to have the honour of it, and to be fitted or prepared for it.To stand — With joy and triumph: not to fall before him as his enemies.
(The John Wesley's Explanatory Notes).

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The God Pause Daily Devotional from The Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States for Monday, 26 November 2018 Jeremiah 33:14-16

The God Pause Daily Devotional from The Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States for Monday, 26 November 2018 Jeremiah 33:14-16
Jeremiah 33:14 “Here, the days are coming,” says Adonai, “when I will fulfill this good promise which I have proclaimed for the house of Isra’el and the house of Y’hudah.
15 When those days come, at that time,
I will cause to spring up for David
a Branch of Righteousness.
He will do what is just and right in the land.
16 When those days come, Y’hudah will be saved,
Yerushalayim will live in safety,
and the name given to her will be
Adonai Tzidkenu [Adonai our Righteousness].”
(Complete Jewish Bible).
"The Days Are Surely Coming"
Our twin 3-year-old granddaughters and I often tease one another about what's "my favorite." No, it's my favorite -- whether it is a color or an ice cream flavor -- whatever: "My favorite." "No, mine."
Advent is "my favorite" season of the church year. The emphasis on expectancy -- on watching and waiting -- helps to build my energy as the darkness increases. This year is especially important for me. Recently retired, I am struggling to make sense of my next step(s). I am also on hurry-up mode -- always looking for the shortest lane at the grocery store -- and yes, a yellow light for me does not mean slow down, but rather speed up.
I need Advent, desperately, to slow down, to catch my breath, and to watch and wait patiently. Jeremiah's words ring true: "The days are surely coming." A new shoot will emerge -- new life is God's promise even in the midst of exile. God remains faithful in the most discouraging times. The righteous branch offers the promise and hope of God's justice. We receive these words as good news, hopeful news, as we enter this season of Advent (my favorite!).
Righteous God, prepare our hearts and minds for your involvement in our world as we draw hope from the promise that "the days are surely coming." In your name we pray. Amen.
Paul A. Herpich, '08
Retired, Liverpool, N.Y.
Jeremiah 33:
14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: "The Lord is our righteousness."
(New Revised Standard Version).
The Luther Seminary
2481 Como Avenue
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55108, United States