“Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts.” Marianne Williamson
The account of Jesus’ birth that we hear today is the foundation of a way of life. The birth of Jesus is a gritty story. We clean it up a bit so that it’s easier for us to digest. Jesus was born into a less than ideal world in less than ideal conditions. The government of Rome was an imperial monarchy that sought to bring all in line through fear. They used the military and economic inequality to bring fear. For most, it was a less than ideal time to be alive. Some spoke on behalf of God, but what they were saying was nothing that was of God. Others thought that God had stopped speaking, giving up on the people. People were watching for a messiah, expecting a great warrior, a smooth politician, and a gifted legislator.
No one was expecting the most powerful love of all to come into the world as a baby. Jesus would later in his life describes Gods actions like “a thief in the night.” God sneaks up on us. This day, we are waiting for God to sneak up on the the whole world once again. In a world that is filled with fear, we need this. We need a savior who is born with the power of love, not the love of power. We need the reminder through the birth of Jesus that we are all born with love. Not fear, but love. Tonight, as we welcome Christ we begin a journey. A journey to who we are created to be, people filled with love in our hearts.
We just unpacked our collection of Harry Potter books. They are considered valuables in our household, with our nine-year-old making her way through Chamber of Secrets as we speak.
It’s hard to believe that the first Harry Potter book was published twenty years ago today. J.K. Rowling blessed us with this magical world that teaches us much about our lives and our world. Plenty of people will write wonderful things about the insights Harry and friends have given, but one overarching theme keeps coming to my mind. It also happens to be the overarching theme of the Bible- Love wins. Love always wins. Love conquers all, even death.
This is a word that we so desperately need to hear. J.K. Rowling created a world much likes our today, where some used the coercive power of fear to control and wield power. Voldemort used fear to the extent that most were afraid to even speak his name. Harry though, had no fear is saying his name. Dumbledore has none either. At the end of The Sorcerer’s Stone, Dumbledore offers these wise words, “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”
The theme of fear and death verses life and love is the central theme throughout the story. Harry spends his life learning what it means to truly embrace others. He spends his life doing what Jesus calls his followers to do, losing his so-called life so that he may find true life. Harry shows us what it looks like when one seeks justice above all else, no matter the cost. He shows us what it means to care for others, no matter the cost. He shows us what it means to seek life, no matter the cost. We learn through his actions what it means to live for others, and the true gifts we find in living for others.
In the end, it is indeed life and love that has the final word. Even when it would have been far easier to choose fear and death, love still wins. Dumbledore offers Harry (and us) this piece of wisdom; “do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and above all, those who live without love.”
Thank you J.K. Rowling for reminding us of the Gospel truth- love wins.
It’s Valentine’s Day, which originally began in the church, of all places, as a feast for the saint Valentinus. The story goes that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for those who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to followers of Christ who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. As the story goes, he was put to death around February 14.
We mostly celebrate today with flowers
chocolates, and cards. It’s become a big day for the Hallmark company. We would be remiss not to remember what we celebrate on this day and the responsibility given to us.
Valentinus had the courage to defy orders from the Roman Emperor in the name of love. Anyone who has known love knows that there is risk involved. We become vulnerable when we love another and when we allow another to love us.
The Apostle Paul tried to capture love’s essence is his letter to the church at Corinth when he wrote that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. This is a real, flesh and bone kind of love that cannot be captured by a Hallmark card or experienced during a Lifetime movie. This is the kind of love that originates from the way God first loved us. Jesus understood this as agape love. Agape love is the universal, unconditional love that God has for all of creation. As a child of God, we are called to embody this unconditional love towards others. This is a love that can take all that is broken in this world and make it into something that is whole and good. That is the power of love.
What is the best way to celebrate one who so boldly risked and eventually gave up his life for the power of love? Perhaps it is to live each day empowered to love boldly and fearlessly.
Grace and peace,
It is early in the morning, the sun rising over the neighborhoods of Tecate, Mexico. Tecate sits about 25 miles due east of Tijuana, and straddles the border between Mexico and the United States.From certain places in town you can see both sides of the border. I’m s driving a van full of kids, eager and nervous for their first day of building a home for a family. As we pulled into the dirt street, a man in silk pajamas suddenly appeared in front of the van. This is unusual to say the least. He is waving his arms, motioning us forward. What is he doing? Then it dawned on me. He is showing us where to park. He is offering a gracious gift of hospitality. For the next three days he did the same thing. A parking attendant in silk pajamas.
Build Lives, Not Walls
We arrived at the site where we would be building a home and begin looking for the tools. AMOR Ministries provides certain tools that are delivered to the work site ahead of time. We couldn’t find them anywhere. Someone suggested that perhaps they were at another house in the neighborhood. A few of us begin walking down the street yelling “martillos.” We thought this was the Spanish word for tools, but it turns out it means hammers. This begins to become apparent when people emerged from their homes holding hammers, offering them to us for our use. The use of hammers for a group and a neighbor in need. They are offering a gracious gift of hospitality. I think about how many of my neighbors in my neighborhood would be so willing to offer such a gift to me if I walked up and down my street yelling “hammers.”
Build Lives, Not Walls
It is the end of the day and the sun is beginning to go down. It gets cold in the desert climate of Tecate, Mexico around sunset in the spring. A man is sitting outside his clapboard home around a fire. The fire is his kitchen for the evening. His makeshift refrigerator is a bucket filled with ice. On the menu for the evening is fish, fish moving from the bucket to the old grill over the fire. I’m fascinated by his resourcefulness. He waves me over and I draw nearer to take a closer look. We exchange a glance and with a quick wave, he invites me for dinner. I’m a complete stranger to him and he is a complete stranger to me. Except that we aren’t really strangers.We are neighbors.A human made border doesn’t change that fact. We are children of God who have been given the gift to break bread together. My neighbor offering a gracious gift of hospitality.
Build Lives, Not Walls
I’m grateful these new friends took an interest in building my life. I’m thankful that building walls was not on their agenda.Grace abounds.
You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.–Exodus 22:21
He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. Deuteronomy 10:18
” and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
I’ve been thinking about a couple of things today
- Jesus- I’m getting ready to start a new series on the life of Jesus as told in the early chapters of the Gospel of Luke
- New Year’s Resolutions- There is reason devotional sales are high in January. Everyone wants to be a better, more devout, go to religious services type of person in (insert year here)
- Where people see themselves along the spectrum of Christianity.
I had coffee this morning with my buddy Michael McCluskey and we talked about some of these things. I have a gift for having coffee with others. It’s easily some of my best work. I shared that I really believe that the labels we as Christians have given ourselves are changing (Mainline, Evangelical, Conservative, Liberal, etc.) Among the issues are the baggage these labels carry, the way they shortchange the breadth and depth of faith, and the confusion and division they perpetuate.
We use these because we need to use them in order to fit in somewhere. We need to describe our communities and our faith to others. We need to tell our story (God knows we need to do this) so we fall back on old descriptions. How do you describe something that is in many ways indescribable?
I can’t remember which of us said it, but we began to talk about the idea of a line in the sand. The phrase is a metaphor that generally means a point beyond which one will proceed no further and a point in a decision from which one cannot return.
Who do you believe God loves? Who do you believe Jesus loves? Where would you draw the proverbial “line in the sand?” Who’s in and who’s out? That’s some real practical theology there isn’t it? If Jesus is our model for living, a quick read of the Gospels would suggest that Jesus draws his line pretty far out. It made folks uncomfortable then and it makes folks uncomfortable today.
Where would you draw your line in the sand? Could it be that our best resolution for 2017 is to draw that line as far out as God does. I believe being more faithful means paying better attention to who God loves. We should be in communities of faith who love others as Jesus loved others. As leaders, we should call our communities of faith to love others as Jesus loved others. That’s perhaps more critical now than it ever has been.
Where does God draw that line? Farther out than you can begin to imagine.
Who does God love? All of us, even you and me.
Fear is our greatest enemy.
If you stop and think, almost every issue in our world has fear as a root cause.
Many of our personal struggles are rooted in fear. Continue reading “From Danny- A Permanent Residence”
Tomorrow is Moral Monday in Georgia, a day set aside to rally our state government to put the needs of people over politics. It is especially ironic that on a day when we lift up people, the state plans to execute the lone female inmate on death row. Kelly Gissendaner, who was sentenced to death for her involvement in the death of her husband in 1997, is awaiting one last gasp effort to avoid death. In the last couple of days, over 400 area clergy have signed a petition calling on the state to halt the execution. Continue reading “Signs of the Kingdom (especially on a day called Moral Monday)”