Choose Carefully

by: Rev. Jason Radmacher

Text: Book of Jonah

Cedars of Lebanon is the final song on U2’s 2009 album No Line on the Horizon. Lyrically, the song comes from the perspective of a weary war correspondent. It speaks of homesickness and loneliness while juxtaposing images of human decency with flashes of violence. There’s an ache in Bono’s voice as he sings the thoughts of a tired man.

It’s the song’s final lines that capture my imagination this morning, however, for in the end, inspiration strikes and the writer shares his wisdom.

Choose your enemies carefully, ’cause they will define you
Make them interesting ’cause in some ways they will mind you
They’re not there in the beginning but when your story ends
Gonna last with you longer than your friends.

“Choose your enemies carefully, ‘cause they will define you.”

The fights that we fight, the people at whom we direct our anger—even if our cause is just and our motivation is righteous—these take a toll.

And let’s be honest, even if our cause is just and our motivation is righteous, we easily succumb to temptation.

Hatred takes root in our hearts.

Inflicting pain becomes an end in itself.

Words dehumanize, self-awareness is lost, and attitudes calcify.

“Choose your enemies carefully, ‘cause they will define you.”

The ancient Israelites told a story about a reluctant prophet named Jonah to guard their hearts against hatred’s temptation and to encourage each other to embody God’s love for all people. It’s a story that speaks a timeless and fundamental truth that challenges arrogant and bigoted attitudes in every generation, including our own.

Like so many of the Bible’s stories, Jonah begins with a calling, an invitation, from God.

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah…saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.”

 

Unlike others who responded eagerly to their calling, Jonah wanted nothing to do with his assignment, that city, or the God who would send him there.

The prophet Isaiah’s iconic response to God was “Hear I am, Lord. Send me.”

Peter and Andrew dropped their nets to go with Jesus.

Jonah’s reply was just as clear.

“Not a chance, God. There’s no way I’m going to those people.”

Ninevah, you see, was the capital of Assyria, one of ancient Israel’s fiercest enemies. It was a place from which war and devastation had rained down on Jonah’s homeland and the prophet hated the city and its people.

Therefore, when God called Jonah to go to Ninevah, which happened to be east of Israel, the prophet bought a ticket on a west bound ship, intending to put as much distance as possible between Assyria, God, and himself.

His plan failed miserably.

When the sea rose up against the boat, its crew rose up against Jonah and they threw him overboard.

But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights…

Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land.

There can be no doubt that this is Jonah’s claim to fame. If you spent any time at all in Sunday School as a child, odds are you heard this part of the story.

I remember well the coloring pages and felt board fish of my youth.

I’m not sure any of those lessons went to teach me about God’s desire to see enemies become friends and the prejudice uprooted from my heart and community, but I was crystal clear that Jonah was the guy who spent three days in a fish’s belly.

I don’t want to belabor the point now, but it’s worth noting that if our take away from Jonah’s story is a strong opinion about the likelihood of somebody surviving inside a fish, yet we remain wishy-washy on our commitment to barrier-breaking reconciliation, then we’re probably telling the story the wrong way.

Or maybe the point is that we often act as though we’d rather be thrown overboard than to do the hard work of giving up our prejudices.

Regardless, Jonah’s is so much more than a big fish tale.

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying,

“Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”

And this time, “Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.”

The prophet preached, the people responded, and God forgave.

But Jonah became furious.

There are plenty of examples in the Bible of people becoming angry because others ignored their message, but I think Jonah is the only one who became upset when people listened.

And why was that?

Because Jonah’s hatred of his enemies had become intrinsic to his identity, and the realization that God wanted to take these things away from him was disorienting.

Listen to this incredible exchange.

[Jonah] became angry…[and he] prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

 

A misunderstanding isn’t the cause of Jonah’s anger.

He’s angry because he knows the truth too well.

He’s angry because God loves and blesses the people Jonah judged to be unworthy and unlovable. God shows mercy to those he would deny mercy.

And Jonah knows that if he’s going to worship a God of patience, love, and mercy, then he’ll need to find room in his own heart for these qualities, too.

But letting go of his prejudice is a price Jonah doesn’t want to pay.

“O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live…[without these enemies I love to hate].”

 

“Choose your enemies carefully, ‘cause they will define you.”

Called by God, pulled by God from the raging sea, empowered by God to be a channel of peace in a foreign land—all these things are accurate descriptions of Jonah’s life and experience, but, by his own admission, he sees his hatred of Ninevah, not these signs of God’s grace, as intrinsic to his identity.

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry…?” And [Jonah] said, “Yes, angry enough to die.”

One of the most important elements of Jonah’s story is that this is the note on which it ends.

There’s no clear resolution of the prophet’s inner turmoil, no teary-eyed redemption scene, no Come-to-Jesus-Moment.

Reading the book, it feels as though there must be a missing chapter in which Jonah admits his error, rushes back to Ninevah, and professes his love for the people living there.

But that chapter doesn’t exist.

In the end, there’s Jonah’s bitterness and the radical truth about God’s love.

And then, ultimately, there’s our response.

Which example will we follow?

Will we open ourselves to the truth about love and the realization that there’s divine mercy for even those we would deny mercy, or will we double down on anger and prejudice?

Will we faithfully worship the One who causes the sun to shine on the righteous and unrighteous alike, or will we act as though grace is a sucker’s bet, and that the love and blessings in our lives are the obvious results of our own greatness?

Today we pray that the Spirit will keep our hearts so tender that we would overcome temptation and choose wisely.

Today we pray that, even as we pursue justice with passion, we must rise above the lie that our opponents are less human than us, farther beyond redemption’s reach than us.

Today we pray that, even when we walk through the valley of death’s shadow, we would always stay in the light, that never in the name of fighting a monster, would we become monstrous.

“Choose your enemies carefully, ‘cause they will define you.”

Choose carefully.

Called by God, pulled by God from the raging sea, empowered by God to be a channel of peace in a foreign land—all these things are accurate descriptions of Jonah’s life and experience, but, by his own admission, hatred of Ninevah, not these signs of God’s grace, was intrinsic to his identity.

So where are the signs of grace in your life?

What lesser loves would ask you to deny them?

Today we pray and worship and give of ourselves so that we might truthfully answer these questions and walk on in the light Christ shines on our way.
Let’s do so with joy and a renewed desire to see the walls around our hearts come crashing down.

Let’s say “Yes” to God’s barrier-breaking gospel and move forward with thanks.

Thanks be to God for this Good News. Amen.

All This

by: Rev. Jason Radmacher

Text: Mark 1:4-11

The Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John agree that the turning point in Jesus’ public life was his baptism in the Jordan River by the hand of his cousin John.

Today, we’ve heard Mark’s record of that event.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

 

Jesus’ temptation, his ministry, his death and resurrection all flow from this moment, as do the Church and our faith as Christians.

There’s a strong current running between the manger, the Jordan, the Cross, and what we do here today at this celebration of the Lord’s baptism and remembrance of our own. That current carries Good News of God’s grace through the ages and refreshes faithful hearts everywhere with the promise of Christ’s eternal presence.

Baptism gives shape to our identity as a Christian community and reveals something essential about who we are and what we’re all about.

Given the vital function in plays in our lives, therefore, it’s important for us to think deeply about baptism.

Why do we baptize?

How do we baptize?

What do we believe is happening when we baptize?

Questions like these can fuel our thoughts and invigorate our prayers.

Likewise, I recently came across a passage written by Bishop Will Willimon that pulls our reflections on baptism into even deeper waters.

Bishop Willimon writes,

Baptism is essentially something which God does…From [our] point of view, the question asked of…baptism is, “What does this mean to me, and what am I doing when this happens?” [but the better question is,] “What does this mean to God, and what is God doing when this happens?” (Remember Who You Are, p. 33)

“What does baptism mean to God, and what is God doing when baptism happens?”

What a remarkable question!

For me, the difference between answering Willimon’s question and the question “What does this mean to me?” is like the difference between warming up a frozen dinner in the microwave and being treated to anything off the menu at your favorite restaurant.

I don’t believe thinking about what baptism means to us is bad. It probably won’t hurt us. Something is just lacking from the experience.

But shifting our question to God’s point of view, to God’s activity, the possibilities appear limitless. Instead of thinking about what our experience lacks, instead of cultivating thoughts of scarcity, we’re drawn deeper and deeper into the reality of God’s abundance—abundant love, abundant grace, abundant possibilities.

Through the Sacrament of Baptism we are initiated into Christ’s holy church.

 

We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit.

 

All this is God’s gift offered to us without price.

We hear these words regularly in worship, but we need to be clear about what’s being said.

Initiates, incorporates, gives, offers—God does these things. We receive “all this” and more.

It’s true. This statement—it appears in your bulletin today as the Invitation to Reaffirm the Baptismal Covenant—is loaded with promise and meaning. But, far from being just a nifty little liturgical turn of phrase, it expresses the heart of the Gospel. In fact, when compared to what the New Testament says about baptism, we could be accused of saying too little.

Take the work of Saint Paul, for example. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul proclaims that God gives us in baptism a new identity that transcends the barriers once thought to determine so much about who people were and what they could accomplish in life.

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Society’s roles, the privileges and obstacles of your birth, your upbringing, your experience; Paul says that the various roads we’ve traveled, the paths upon which we’ve stumbled and been denied access, have no power over our destiny because of the new identity God gives us in baptism.

Paul goes on to say that the basis for this new identity is nothing less than Jesus’ resurrection. In other words, Christian unity and our identity in Christ aren’t simply the product of a new point-of-view or perspective. Our identity is tied to history’s crucial event.

Paul elaborates on this in his letter to the Romans.

We have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

 

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

“Incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation” is fine, but it just doesn’t have the same punch as what Paul said, does it?

The New Testament goes on.

Revelation speaks of those who “have the seal of the living God” who “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

In Acts, baptism was the Ethiopian Eunuch’s response to the Good News that he wasn’t a second class citizen in God’s kingdom.

And Saint Peter boldly compared baptism to Noah’s ark.

Baptism, which [the Ark] prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

What does baptism mean to God, and what is God doing when baptism happens?

Pondering this question helps us to recognize that, thanks be to God, the font before us is filled with Good News, overflowing with God’s goodness, and brimming with the promises that God would realize among us.

The waters of baptism have the strength to bring down barriers.

They carry the gift of life to desert places.

They quench our deepest thirst.

They wash the foulest clean.

The chapel at Belmont Abbey College not far from Charlotte, North Carolina is home to a unique baptismal font. Belmont’s basin is carved into a large stone, a stone with an incredible story to tell.

The baptismal font at Belmont Abbey College is carved into a piece of granite that’s been on the school’s property for hundreds of years—but that property hasn’t always been a school, and that rock hasn’t always been a tool of worship.

Before the Abbey’s monks came to that part of North Carolina, you see, the land where their college now stands was a plantation and the stone that would become their baptismal font was an auction block.

Men, women, and children were once made to stand on the stone so that they could be inspected, purchased, and sold into slavery.

After the Civil War, a priest bought the old plantation and gave it to a community of Benedictine monks who built a chapel and a college there.

And the monks turned the millstone into a baptismal font to which they affixed a plaque that reads,

Upon this rock, men were once sold into slavery. Now upon this rock, through the waters of baptism, men become free children of God.

Friends, Belmont Abbey’s chapel holds something unique, but the promises spoken round that roughhewn stone are proclaimed wherever God’s waters flow.

“What does baptism mean to God, and what is God doing when baptism happens?”

Baptism means that the past doesn’t get to write the future and that change is possible because God brings to the water new life, and forgiveness, and transformation.

The waters of baptism have the strength to bring down barriers.

They carry the gift of life to desert places.

They quench our deepest thirst.

They wash the foulest clean.

And “all this is God’s gift offered to us without price.”

Thanks be to God for this gift and for this Good News. Amen.

For Us

by: Rev. Jason Radmacher

Text: Luke 2

Tonight we tell a very familiar story.

Long, long ago, the prophets of ancient Israel foresaw a leader, anointed of God, who would deliver them from physical and spiritual futility. Rooted in their community’s experience as a displaced people, the prophets envisioned a messiah, which means “anointed one”, who would end the exile of their discontent and lead them home.

The first act in that homecoming brought to a chaste couple named Mary and Joseph heavenly messengers who said that Mary would miraculously give birth to a holy child.

When her time came, at a town called Bethlehem, Mary delivered her child in a humble manger and Joseph named the baby Jesus.

 

On that same night, just outside of town, shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks in the neighboring fields when suddenly a magnificent sight shattered the darkness.

 

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

 

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

 

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.(Luke 2:9-11, KJV)

Then appeared a choir of angels who were singing, “Glory in the highest!” And when the angels departed them, the shepherds made their way with haste to the manger.

Finding Jesus where the angels said that they would, they told Mary and Joseph about what had happened in the fields, about the angels, and their message. And while “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart”, “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.”

That’s the story that brings us together tonight, the biblical account of Jesus’ birth.

Oh, there were wise men, too, but they came onto the scene a little bit later, and they get their own holiday in twelve days, anyway, on The Epiphany. Tonight, though, it’s all about the prophet’s vision, Messiah’s birth, and the shepherds’ joy.

On Christmas Eve we read, tell, and remember a very familiar story. This holy night inspires us to worship, however, because Christmas is for us.

A sermon preached by Martin Luther on Christmas Day nearly five hundred years ago sheds some light on to this point. On that occasion, the great reformer said,

The Gospel does not merely teach us about the history of Christ. No, it enables all who believe it to receive it as their own, which is the way the Gospel operates. Of what benefit would it be to me if Christ had been born a thousand times, and it would daily be sung into my ears in a most lovely manner, if I were never to hear that he was born for me and was to be my very own? (Martin Luther, Christmas Sermon, c.1521)

Christmas is for me. Christmas is for you. Christmas is for us.

Christmas is for us in the sense that it is a gift given to us.

One thing that the New Testament makes abundantly clear is that Jesus’ birth, the Incarnation of the Divine Word, was neither the wage paid to pious people for their good works nor an action required by God in any way. Rather, like the news that a virgin was pregnant, it was a surprise, and the people received it as an unmerited blessing, an act of grace and divine favor.

And that’s Good News because that’s exactly how we receive our Savior, too, as a gift.

We actually profess this to be true throughout the year whenever we celebrate a baptism. Be it the sacrament, our place in Christ’s Church, salvation, or new birth—“all of this is God’s gift, offered to us without price.”

Christmas is for us because Christ is a gift given to us.

But it’s also true that Christmas is for us in the sense that it is exactly what we needed.

Only a people aware of their need for salvation rejoice at the news of the Savior’s birth. Such awareness, therefore, is vital to the transformation we seek tonight.

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is the traditional Advent hymn of yearning. It is not a song for holiday revelers. It is a prayer for God to take action on behalf of a hurting wounded people.

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here.”

Come to your people, God, for we are alone.

Pay our ransom, Lord, for we are indebted beyond our means.

End our exile and set us free, O Christ, for we long to go home.

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is a captive’s plea for release, release that was granted in and through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Mary’s boy.

As Saint Paul put it,

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman…so that [all of us] might receive adoption as [God’s] children…So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. (Galatians 4:4-7, NRSV)

In the fullness of time, God sent his Son who is our Savior to pay our ransom and end our exile.

Christmas is for us in the sense that it is exactly what we needed.

Christmas is about grace. It’s also about our greatest need. Grasping these ideas we take hold of something fundamental about the gift of Christ. However, truly to probe the depths of this holy night, we must also note something about this gift’s intended recipients.

When we say that Christmas is “for us” of whom do we speak?

We speak of all people, of any who reap the consequences of Adam’s folly because this night, this story, this Christ, is all for sinners’ gain.

Oh how tempting it is to convince ourselves that this gift of love is merely for us, in the most narrow sense imaginable—for people who look like us, act like us, believe like us?

How easy it is to resist God’s grace and ignore our need?

How quickly we forget that the manger of Bethlehem cradled not just a baby, but a king, our king.

If this night is a gift given to us, then it must be a gift given to the world God loves.

If this night is for sinners like us, then it must be for any who walk in darkness and traverse the valley of death’s shadow.

If this night is for us, then it is for all.

On Christmas Eve we tell a very familiar story.

The Gospel does not merely teach us about the history of Christ. No, it enables all who believe it to receive it as their own, which is the way the Gospel operates. Of what benefit would it be to me if Christ had been born a thousand times, and it would daily be sung into my ears in a most lovely manner, if I were never to hear that he was born for me and was to be my very own?

People of God, hear the Good News.

Christmas is for me.

Christmas is for you.

Christmas is for the lonely, the lost, and the last.

Christmas is for us.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Turn Up the Lights: A Constant Struggle

by: Rev. Jason Radmacher

Text: Mark 1:1-8

Last week we began the season of Advent with a wake-up call.

“Keep awake,” said Jesus.

Keep your eyes open and your spirit alert, because even in times of trouble and woe there is grace for the journey and the promise of a Love that will not let us go.

Recalling Israel’s great prophetic hope and the fulfillment of that promise in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, Advent hits us with a bright and disorienting light and the announcement that it’s time to get up.

Today, as our eyes adjust to this light and we move deeper into Advent, we’re better able to get our bearings and to accurately assess where we stand.

Revisiting last week’s image, if the First Sunday of Advent is our wake-up call, then on the Second Sunday of Advent, our eyes are open, our feet have hit the floor, and it’s time to take a look in the mirror.

It’s the ministry of John the Baptist that helps us to accomplish this task.

Mark’s Gospel begins with a lightning strike.

Chapter 1, verse 1, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Announcing that he plans to tell us a story about Jesus—the Son of God—a story that is, in fact, good news for those who receive it, Mark immediately steers our attention to the prophets of old, specifically Isaiah, who spoke of God’s forerunner, God’s messenger, “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.”

Mark immediately identifies John as the one about whom Isaiah spoke.

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

Mark then paints a picture of a rather wild-eyed preacher.

John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

Later, Mark says more about John, describing him as a fearless truth-teller, one who would challenge society’s richest and most powerful members, even at the cost of his own freedom, even at the cost of his own life.

John was bold and brash, this is clear, but he wasn’t self-serving. He was telling the truth. Something incredible was taking place—a savior walked among the people.

John preached a message of forgiveness and repentance because Heaven’s Merciful God was making possible a new beginning for the people. John told the crowds that they were living in an era of amazing grace, a grace that had the power to give anyone who accepted it a second chance and a fresh start.

John was a wilderness man with a fiery tongue, but that’s not why we revere him.

We remember and honor John the Baptizer because the one about whom he preached still walks in our midst, bringing the change, and forgiveness, and new life that John envisioned so long ago.

John matters to us because his message is as urgent and contemporary as ever.

Repent and be forgiven because Jesus comes to set us free from the spirits of our age.

All that is crooked, all that is uneven—God’s Holy Spirit would make a straight and level way forward.

From the Spirit of Materialism that leaves us unsatisfied, to the Spirit of Fear that leaves us uneasy, to the Spirit of Self-Righteousness that tempts us to believe that we can leave the heavy lifting of change and transformation to someone else, someone who really needs it, we stand in need of deliverance. We need God’s Spirit to chase away these shadows and bring light and renewal to us.

An ancient prophet named Haggai offers one of my favorite descriptions of the spiritual futility that follows in the wake of all things that strive to take God’s rightful place in our hears.

To a community that was working hard at going nowhere, Haggai writes,

Consider how you have fared. You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag with holes.

There’s something so evocative in these ancient words, and a timeless truth as well.

While it’s true that there are times when we can see clearly the difference between right and wrong, and choose what is wrong anyway, I think it’s far more common to find ourselves in a situation that just seems so far removed from the promises of God without really understanding how we got there.

No one heads out on a hike planning to get lost, do they? Rather, through a series of quick decisions, poor decisions, even indecision, the wanderer comes to the realization that they don’t know the way home.

Or in Haggai’s words, they discover that they’re poor because they’ve been putting their earned wages in a bag with holes.

It’s as imperative for people in this position to experience a visitation of grace as it is for the one whose missteps are on clear display.

Repent and be forgiven because Jesus comes to set us free from the spirits of our age.

Anne Lamott expresses this idea in a tweet-sized thought.

Repentance just means to change direction, or to change course.

It should not be accompanied by a wagging finger, because it’s a blessing. 9 May 2014

She’s right.

Repentance is an act of hope in an era of shame.

It’s the blessing of realizing that the way things are is not the way things have to stay.

It’s the blessing of God-stitched clothes when sin convinced us that fig leaves would do.

It’s the blessing of being fully known and deeply loved, the grace of being comfortable and at peace in one’s own skin.

Repent and be forgiven because Jesus comes to set us free from the spirits of our age.

This is the mirror John holds up for us, inviting us to be humble so that we might be honest about the changes that need to take place within and among us.

Barbara Brown Taylor expands on this idea when she writes,

The recognition that something is wrong is the first step toward setting it right again. There is no help for those who admit no need of help. There is no repair for those who insist that nothing is broken, and there is no hope of transformation for a world whose inhabitants accept that it is sadly but irreversibly wrecked. (Speaking of Sin, p. 59)

This is the invitation to break free from the icy grip of lesser spirits so that we might know God’s warm embrace.

On this Second Sunday of Advent, our eyes are open, our feet have hit the floor, and it’s time to take a look in the mirror.

It’s a day that brings to mind a famous quote from George Orwell, “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”

To experience John’s ministry, to receive “the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” takes a constant struggle, too.

It’s the struggle to live honestly and to be formed and reformed by love.

It’s the struggle to admit that something is wrong when we know that something is wrong, to say that something is broken when we know that it needs to be fixed, even when the broken something is our heart, especially when the broken something is our heart.

Saint Mark writes,

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight” ’

As they have been, may the promises of ancient prophets be
renewed among us this day.

May an honest look in the mirror inspire us to live honestly and lovingly before God and our neighbors.

And may we always give thanks to God for this Good News.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Brave Girl

by Rev. Scott Summerville
Luke 1:46-55

My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior. God looks on the lowliness of his servant henceforth all ages will call me blessed. The Almighty works marvels for me. Holy is God’s name! There is mercy from age to age, on those who fear God, God puts forth his arm in strength scattering the proud-hearted; casts the mighty from their thrones, raising the lowly, fills the starving with good things, sending the rich away empty.  Continue Reading

Sacred Balance

by Rev. Scott Summerville

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess…. Continue Reading