Divine Stability Amid a Changing Year

God is our place of safety. He gives us strength.
    He is always there to help us in times of trouble.
The earth may fall apart.
    The mountains may fall into the middle of the sea.
    But we will not be afraid.
The waters of the sea may roar and foam.
    The mountains may shake when the waters rise.
    But we will not be afraid.
Psalm 46:1-3 (New International Reader’s Version)

We’re coming to the end of 2017. Times Square is preparing for the annual dropping of the ball with increased security. We’re seeing lists of “The ________ of 2017”, “People we said ‘goodbye’ to in 2017”, etc.  It feels like it was just yesterday we said “goodbye” to 2016 and prepared for this year. Now we’re preparing for 2018.

We had quite a year in 2017.  Starting with “45’s” inauguration into the White House…Our pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords…North Korea’s nuclear jockeying…mass shootings…race riots in Charlottesville, Virginia…government malfeasance occuring all over the planet…terrorist attacks here in New York City…and now sexual harassment charges against men (and women) in positions of power.  A year like this would make any New Year’s Eve reveler curl up in a corner and knock off a bottle of champagne alone.

Now we wonder what’s in store for 2018.  Will war loom on the horizon between the US and North Korea (or China…or Iran)?  Will the high-riding stock market come to a crash?  Will we have another terrorist attack in New York City (or some other major city)?  Will Trump enact a policy that will wreck out national stability?  Will we have another Charlottesville in America?  And these are our collective concerns; I haven’t touched on the individual ones.

However, we can look to tonight’s Scripture for empowerment as we segue from 2017 to 2018.  The above psalm was written as a response to David’s victories in battle (thanx to the Almighty).  He reminds us that God is a place of safety, of refuge.  Now I’m not talking about these “safe spaces” we saw on college campuses where “offended” and “upset” overgrown babies students would find Play-Doh and Kipper videos to make them feel “safe”.  No, God is a refuge where we find strength for the power to respond to the changing year-no matter what befalls us (verses 2 and 3).

Even despite the worst that was thrown at us in 2017, God still kept us and gave us the strength to respond.  Even if the response was living, God still gave us that strength.  Plus, the fact that you’re reading this is a testimony that God kept you safe.  And God will be that refuge where we will find strength for the journey in 2018.

God is also stable despite the changing times.  God’s not fickle like us.  God’s not letting what happened this past year or what will happen next year to affect Him/Her.  The psalmist assures us of Divine stability…more than anything else we tend to rely on here on Earth.  We have this assurance no matter what.

As we usher in 2018, let us do so knowing that God is there; Divine stability amid a changing year.  We have nothing to fear-no matter what.  God will be our place of safety where He/She will empower us to respond to whatever should come our way.

Peace and Love for 2018!

(Image: Unnamed building in Midtown Manhattan along the High Line. October 28, 2017).

 

 

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Silent Night, Peaceful Night

Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. Luke 2:14 (New International Version)

It’s Christmas Day 2017.

Despite the rancor and strife in our world, I hope and pray for peace. The peace that the angels sang about on that Christmas night when God’s Christ came into our world. The peace we need in Washington, Pyongyang, the Middle East, and in our communities.

God showed us His/Her favor on that holy night in Bethlehem; and still that favor rests on us today-despite what people believe. God still offers is that peace; ours for the taking and living.

The night outside my window is silent. A quietness probably experienced by Joseph and Mary as they brought Jesus into the Universe.  Between Jesus’s first cries as his tiny body sucked in oxygen, and the angelic announcement, there was peace that holy night. There was a hush, a silence that covered the town like a Divine blanket. As the hymn writer penned, “all is calm, all is bright.”

As we celebrate the coming of God’s Christ into our Universe; maybe it wouldn’t hurt to have that silence, that peace. It just may what we need to have for a fitting abode for the Christ in our lives.

Silent night, peaceful night. Wouldn’t hurt. Peace!

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The End of Empire

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (King James Version)

As we await the coming of God’s Christ, we turn to current events.  We see empire in its ugly form: America and North Korea flexing their muscles with China in the middle; Russia in Syria; Israel-stoked by Trump’s recognizing Jerusalem as her capital-and her apartheid in the West Bank; America’s other wars in Afghanistan and Africa…and God knows how many more “empire” incidents happening as we speak.

It’s not just geopolitical empires, it can also be religious “empires”. We see the Religious Right (oxymoron) attempting to ride roughshod over the American way of life for the last 30-40 years; trying to tear down the wall separating Church and State.  We see cats like ISIS and Boko Haram using violence to push their radical form of Islam.  We have Zionists pushing Palestinians out of their homes to expand Israeli policies.  Not exactly the King/Queendom of Heaven.

We also have economic empires.  Here in the US, we have corporate greed influencing a president who thinks he can run the US like a corporation.  We have the Koch Brothers slinging their money around here in America.  We have a cadre of banks that wrecked peoples’ dreams of home ownership and/or going to college.

And in the above scenarios, we have the innocent who suffer.  Refugees displaced from their homes.  People who lose faith in religion. People who lose money/home/dreams.  It’s never the perpetrators who suffer.  In fact, the perpetrators get a hall pass from any retribution.

However, Advent cuts through all the empire-crap.  In tonight’s Scripture, God-through the prophet Isaiah-assures a future where a ruler from God will establish a Kingdom.  This was written during Israel’s “dark age” in the 8th-7th Century BCE when Assyria invaded Israel.  Many associate this prophecy with the First Coming of JesusHowever, I’m taking the liberty that the Coming Christ will bring forth the Kingdom/Queendom of God for the here and now.  If you look at the titles given to this ruler, Jesus will fulfill them all whilst here on Earth.  Plus, I dare to say that Jesus’s Kingdom is a spiritual one instead of a political one (ref. John 18:36).  He will deliver us from the “dark age” of empire in our 21st Century. You see, it’s going to take spiritual power, not political or economic power, to take down empire.

In fact, I daresay even further that we are that Kingdom: you and I in the Boardinghouse of Faith.  We’re the subjects of this Queendom that God will establish through Her coming Christ.  We’re to usher in the Christ to liberate humanity from the curse of empire-whatever empire it is.  Plus we have our Divine Ruler in the Christ to be our example.  And while human empires come and go, God’s Realm will have no end.

God will bring an end to empire.  It may not look like it if you look at current events, however we’re assured that the King/Queendom of God will take over through the coming Christ (and us). And that Queen/Kingdom will have no end.

We await the Coming Christ and the Realm he brings.

The end of empire?  Yes, it will happen.  On that day we will be free.

Peace.

(Image: “Over Flag” by Me. Taken November 10, 2017).

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Out of the Darkness

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Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
From the
Book of Common Prayer, 1979

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
Isaiah 9:2 (King James Version)

Believe me folks, it’s dark in here-darker than the darkest darkroom. If you were to look at all that’s happening today, you would agree it’s dark. We have corruption at every level of government-here in the US of A and abroad. People’s livelihoods are being destroyed by corporate greed. Our Evangelical leaders have forsaken the Gospel for personal and political gain. There’s a collective malaise creeping over the land despite the Madison Avenue exhortation to indulge this Holiday Season.

Tonight’s first text was the Collect for the First Sunday in Advent (yesterday); the prayer offered up in worship service. It’s a prayer that applies today in our current situation. It’s time to cast away the “works of darkness” and take on the “armor of light”. It’s a prayer of preparation for us as we await the coming Christ. Although, the prayer refers to the Second Coming, I believe it has more relevance in Advent-the First Coming…

… And ties into the second text. This verse is a promise of future enlightenment, enlightenment that comes with the Christ; the Gospel He brings with him.

As we look forward to the coming of the Christ, we need to cast off the works of darkness: greed; prejudice; predatory behavior; and others. We must ready ourselves to be enlightened by the Gospel of God’s Christ. This enlightenment will allow us to reign with Christ-right here, right now; not in some future time. And when we reign with the Christ, we will cast the works of darkness away and usher in the Queen/Kingdom of God into our world.

Let’s take this Advent time to pray and mediate upon these words so we can come out of the darkness.

Peace and light to all.

(Image by Me).

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Still Got Your Praise?

I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  Psalm 34:1 (King James Version)

Yesterday was the start of Advent 2017. It’s the time we celebrate the coming of God’s Christ into the world.  This should be a time of praise and thanksgiving as we remember…

However, with the mass commercialization of this Season, it’s easy for us to lose our praise.  We can get so dulled by Madison Avenue and Hollywood’s hijacking the Advent Season that we lose sight of the Christ in our lives.  Plus with what’s going on in our collective and individual lives, this can make praising God a challenge.  In fact, we can get so jaded that we wonder if we still have our praise in our hearts.

Tonight’s Scripture is a declaration of the Psalmist’s constant and continuous praise of the Divine.  According the Matthew Henry’s Commentary, this was David at a time when he was escaping King Saul’s angry pursuit of him.  As you know (or don’t), David was chosen by God to be the future king of Israel after God rejected Saul.  Saul was gunning for David and wanted him bumped off before he could assume the throne.  During his sojourn, David eventually wound up in the land of the Philistines-going from the frying pan into the fire.  However, we still see David with praise in his heart; whereas we would expect him to act the opposite.  Despite being in a situation that would jade the heartiest of souls, David still declared his love and praise for the Divine.

As we await the coming of Christ, we cannot let all that’s going on keep us from praising God for His/Her gift to humanity.  We cannot afford to lose our praise.  We still can praise God and celebrate His/Her goodness to us.  We can celebrate with joyful anticipation during this Advent Season.

Still got your praise?  I hope so.  Welcome to Advent 2017 Dear Readers.

Peace.

(Image: Lone water bottle at Edison (NJ) Skatepark. October 8, 2017).

 

 

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They All Have Names!

For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.
Deuteronomy 15:11 (King James Version)

I hope everyone has had a blessed Thanksgiving and are taking the time to relax.

Yesterday my wife, son and I were helping to feed the neighborhood people- especially those who have nowhere to go to or no-one to share with. We were at my sister and her husband’s church in Jersey City where he is the pastor.

Before we started to eat, my brother in law had everyone-volunteer and guest- say their name. As I was listening to the names mentioned, I felt the Holy Spirit touch my mind…

They all have names!

I realized that those who came in weren’t just faces passed by on the street. These were people who had names… and as I shared this with my brother-in-law, he told me that there are stories behind those names.  As I went through my day interacting with those who came through the church doors, the above thought went though my mind over and over.

God revealed to me that the poor, the marginalized, those who have nothing or no one all have names and stories.  And if we take the time to open up our churches, homes and hearts to our brothers and sisters we will learn about them in ways we never knew possible.

Tonight’s Scripture has God giving the Children of Israel “Final Instructions” for their new lives in the promised land of Canaan through Moses.  One of these instructions is to “open their hand”-to give and care for the poor and needy among them.  Those instructions apply to us today as they did back in the day.  And you note, God says, “thy brother” as if He/She humanized the poor-gave them names and stories that belong in the greater narrative of us.

Not just for Thanksgiving, not just for Christmas, but for every day. We need to remember the poor, the needy, and the marginalized need us to open up to them.  They have names and stories we need to acknowledge since they are our brothers and sisters.  They are us in a different form and place.

They all haves names.  Let’s remember that.  Peace!

(Image: Halsey Street Festival in Newark, NJ: September 7, 2017)

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A Couple of Good Reads

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth
2 Timothy 2:15 (King James Version)

Good Evening Family.

Hope all is well since my last post.

Now that we’re getting close to the Holidays (and shopping season…ugh), I can recommend two good books for those on your list who are of the Boardinghouse of Faith.  Both books are a mirror for the Church.

The first is What If Christians Grew Up? by Yaholo.  This book calls us to grow up into the Christians God called us to be to serve those who need us.  It makes us look at the crap we called “Christianity” that’s kept us immature; and calls for growth.  This book is a mirror we have to look into for an honest look.  I just finished reading this book, and plan to return to it.

The second book is a warning which may be the mirror you put under one’s nose to see if they’re still breathing; I’m currently reading it.  Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom S. Rainer is a warning to many a congregation about imminent death if nothing is done.  I’ve just started to read this book, however I feel this book will challenge me as a Christian and one in church leadership.

There are many books on religious bookshelves-virtual and online-you can read.  However, I strongly recommend these two. God calls us to study, and not just the Bible either.  God has ordained many a good writer-laity, clergy and in between-to educate and challenge the Boardinghouse of Faith, the Body of Christ.

 

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