Month: November 2016

November 30, 2016

Psalm 124

Isaiah 54:1-10

Matthew 24:23-35

Enlarge the site of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.

[Isaiah 54:2]

We have come to know this first week of Advent as the week of hope.  We hear the prophet Isaiah in today’s reading express hope in the form of a barren woman who will bear more children than one who is fertile.

The VisitationIn ancient Israel, a woman who was unable to have children was a disgrace. Children helped run the farm and do the chores. A woman who could have lots of children was considered especially blessed. God is saying that a woman who was unable to have children will end up having more than anyone else.

This barren woman isn’t told to wait until she gets pregnant. She’s told to start remodeling now. Almost a “build it and they will come” mentality.

What are we to make of such outlandish promises?  There are times when the outcome of God’s promises is truly beyond comprehension.  But the true nature of God’s power is most on display when we have run out of any cause to hope, when the way ahead is only dark.  And yet those promises keep pressing their way into our consciousness.  Then when the skies clear, what God shows us catches us off guard, so stunning in their display of divine richness. 

Our reading ends with the reference to the days of Noah, and as you might remember from yesterday’s reading from Genesis, God gave Noah a sign of God’s promises in the form of a rainbow—one of the most beautiful creations of nature that the eye can see.

These words call us to press on in times of hopelessness, not because we can summon up strength, but because we cannot.  In those times, all we have left to trust is God’s word alone and the assurance that it is in the darkness that God is doing something unexpected. Our eyes will have to adjust to the results of God’s marvelous works of wonder. 

We may feel that the Lord cannot do very much through us. These verses contradict those feelings.  The Lord called Jerusalem to prepare for her children even when it looked as if she would never have them.

What limits have you placed on your life that God has not placed?  Consider that you may have you closed in on yourself, thinking that life is really about going through the routine of your day, doctor’s appointments and hospital visits, work around the house. and having a few friends and not much else. 

If you read these verses carefully God tells you differently. 

God says go someplace you haven’t gone before.  Do something you haven’t done before.  Enter a realm that scares you.  Break out of the box! Take on a new challenge. Seek to serve the Lord in a new way.

church-for-saleWhen I read verses like these verses from Isaiah, almost immediately my mind jumps to thoughts about the struggling churches in our synod.  I think about the rich history many of them have, the mission and ministry they’ve done in their communities, the many lives they’ve touched.  But too often they have become rather comfortable in their existence, somewhat like that barren woman in our passage. 

These words are also a call to our congregations learn new ways of doing things. Things that worked fine 10 or 20 years ago, when there were 350 in the pews, don’t always seem practical now. Don’t be discouraged because things change.  Change is okay.

Take on a new ministry.  Spare not—don’t hold back.  This will require a certain diligence and discipline. Going beyond ourselves means depending on something beyond ourselves. Be open to God using your church in new ways. It could be possible that sometimes old “tent walls” should come down in order to make room for new. But as God assures us through the words of the prophet, “my steadfast love shall not depart from you.”

And so we pray: Almighty God, your Holy Spirit equips the church with a rich variety of gifts. Grant that we may use them to bear witness to Christ in lives that are built on faith and love. Make us ready to live the gospel and eager to do your will, so that we may share with all your church in the joys of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

(From Evangelical Lutheran Worship, pew edition, page 76)


November 29, 2016

Psalm 124

Genesis 9:1-17

Hebrews 11:32-40

“I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”

[Genesis 9:13]

In the 1979 version of The Muppet Movie, Kermit the Frog opens the film singing, “The Rainbow Connection,” while strumming his banjo in the middle of his habitat – the swamp.    Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher wrote this song for the movie and Williams says: “We looked at his [Kermit’s] environment, and his environment is water and air – and light. And it just seemed like it would be a place where he would see a rainbow. But we also wanted to show that he would be on this spiritual path, examining life, and the meaning of life.”

Our Old Testament reading for this Tuesday of the first week of Advent is the conclusion of the flood narrative in which God destroyed the earth but saved Noah and his family and two of every species of living creatures.  After the waters receded, God made a promise with Noah that never again would there be a flood to destroy the earth.  Three times God repeats the phrase, “never again,” as if to call attention to the importance of the promise.  As a sign of that covenant, God placed the rainbow in the clouds.

God’s covenants with humankind are unique in that they require nothing of us in return.  In a marriage covenant, for example, both the bride and groom promise to be faithful to each other and usually they exchange rings as a sign of those promises.  In contrast, however, God’s covenant is unconditional.  It is only what God does for us that matters.

Yet even though God promises to never again destroy the earth, there is always a clear and present danger that humankind itself, through sinfulness, corruption, greed, evil, and neglect, could achieve the same negative result.  It is humanity – not God – that initiates war, contaminates the environment, and pays little notice to the health and well-being of other humans and living creatures.

Rainbows are vividly colorful, richly symbolic, and inspire a limitless spectrum of possibility.  It is somewhat appropriate then, that as we begin our season of anticipation of the promised Christ child, the story of a rainbow – a reminder of God’s abiding promises – might also keep us mindful that we are stewards of God’s creation.  The care of our world, the earth, the water, the air, is in our hands to protect – not to destroy.  May that be our “Rainbow Connection.”

November 28, 2016

Psalm 124

Genesis 8:1-19

Romans 6:1-11

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

[Romans 6:3]

100214 Lukas Reel - CropBaptisms were my favorite moments as a parish pastor.

In that sense, I was no different than most families in our American Christian society, who make a big deal of their child’s baptism.

But while the day itself may be a big deal for some, our emphasis on baptism seems to end there.

I can’t honestly say that I know of any parents who remind their children of their baptism (or remember their own, for that matter), or celebrate the anniversary of their baptism with anything similar to the attention we lavish on birthdays; even though I would emphasize this in pre-baptismal conferences,

In addition, my experience is that folks outside of deeply religious families have next to no sense of what baptism means or why it matters. I have baptized many children of couples in which at least one parent didn’t know the tradition well, and I would get the sense that while they were going along with a quaint tradition (for the sake of a spouse, parent, or grandparent), they had little appreciation of what was going on.

When we were baptized, each one of us had pronounced upon us the forgiveness and acceptance of God. We need not have anything more to do with thinking about ourselves as sinners.  We still are, of course, but we need not wallow in our sinfulness.  In fact, according to today’s reading from Romans, we can think of ourselves as chosen by God, as being selected by God for glory, so that, “we too might walk in newness of life.” 

Yet even as baptized children of God, as Christians, we are always going to struggle to find God’s path. We will always struggle with doubts and obstacles, wondering if God is really there, really caring about the choices we are making, looking for some sign from above, some words of affirmation.

The blessed Martin Luther passionately reminded people to “Remember your baptism!”  It is also said that any time he faced whatever demons tormented his life, he would respond with the words, “I am baptized.”

We all need reminding sometimes of the simplest, truest, most basic things in our lives.  We need reminding of answers to questions we didn’t even realize we were asking. Who are we?  What is our purpose?  What’s it all about?  Why am I going through all this difficulty?

The anticipation of the coming of the Messiah this Advent gives us pause to remember who we are.  May we always remember that we are baptized, “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Interrupting the Silence

An Episcopal Priest's Sermons, Prayers, and Reflections on Life, Becoming Human, and Discovering Our Divinity

Rev. Hazel Salazar-Davidson

Love God. Love Your Neighbor. With Whatever You Got.

The Ninth Inning

Stories and more to consider on one's spiritual journey.


mostly ecological observations, obsessions, laments & celebrations

Cassidy Hall

Author • Filmmaker • Podcaster • Pastor

Snapshots in Life

Reflections, thoughts, ideas on life, ministry, and the church

Loving God, Living Life, Laughing Lots.

perspectives of Rev. Tiffany C. Chaney ~ ~ ~ daughter, pastor, sister, friend



zachandrachel + dottie

Seeking to accompany our global friends, neighbors and strangers--with Christ as our guide. We invite you to journey with us as we move along the path of discipleship.

We Talk. We Listen.

Conversations about Diversity

…In the Meantime

Reflections, thoughts, ideas on life, ministry, and the church

%d bloggers like this: