I don’t know what to say. I really don’t know what to say to my kids or to the youth and families that I work with. For those of you who know me, know I am not normally at a loss for words. Today as I watched the events unfold at the capitol I was saddened, shocked and disturbed. What was more shocking to me was the number of posts on facebook about sticking it to people we disagree with politically. Comments like you didn’t speak out this summer when their were riots or you spoke out then and aren’t speaking out now or some other forms of attack on people we disagree with politically. It was ugly and hurtful all around. So how do I talk with my kids and families about what is happening? How should I as a Christian leader respond to this crisis in our world?
I still don’t know for sure? I don’t know if responding to every hateful or angry person on my feed is helpful. My guess it that it isn’t. In fact I think today we need stop and listen not respond. Listen to what God would have us do. Listen to how God is speaking in our lives. Most importantly listen to those around us and have empathy and compassion to those who are hurting on both side. Yes speak against violence in the streets or in the capitol but listen to people.
Today as I went through my day I had the opportunity to sit a listen to a few different people about different situations in their lives. People who in different simple conversations shared their lives. They shared about how they are feeling or how they are doing. Listening allowed me to hear them. So often we are quick to speak and share our thoughts but are we slow to listen. Too often we want to have answers or we want to speak up, but today I was reminded we need to listen more and talk less.
So what I am sharing with my kids and what I sharing with you that are reading this, we live in a world that is angry. In a nation that wants to speak and be heard, maybe we as Christians should stop and listen. Stop and be the hands and feet of Jesus. Let us be peace makers and people of hope. Today is Epiphany. The day we remember that God wants all people to know of his love for the world. Maybe today we can share Jesus with people just by listening and offering peace.
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. 26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
I have a confession to make. I know many of you will be shocked by this, but I am a thief. Every year around this time, I go around my house and take all the Wise Men. I also take them from church if I see them and they can be removed. You might be thinking, “How can you do this? Steve, why would you do such a thing?” Well, let me tell you it is something I have done for the last 25 years and it has a purpose.
Many people don’t know or don’t remember that at the Nativity the Wise Men weren’t there that night. In fact, they did not arrive until Jesus was at least a year old. (Matthew 2:1-12) The only people who visited the young couple that night were the shepherds – the lowly people who were outside of town in the fields, watching their sheep. The Magi were important, but they didn’t come until later. So why steal them?
Well, I actually don’t steal them. I just move them. I move them around my house or around the church. I do it for two reasons. First, I want it to be more biblically accurate. Too often I think Christians may not fully know the story of Jesus. We take it for granted and teach our kids the wrong story. This can be a challenge for kids as they grow up, when they think they were lied to or tricked. Second and more importantly, the Wise Men came during Epiphany. The story of the Wise Men is about a group of people outside the promise of Abraham receiving the promise of Jesus. It is a story worth telling. We celebrate it in the Church 12 days after Christmas. So this year if you come to church and find the Wise Men missing, just know that I or someone else may be trying to teach a lesson.
(P.S. – This year at church, I convinced the pastors that I should be able to move the outside Wise Men around the campus before Epiphany. So if you are around St. John, drive by and see if you can find them. They will travel during all of Advent and make their way to the house on Epiphany.)
I will be honest. I am ready for Jesus to come back. This has been a rough year. This has been a year of anger, and hate. It has been a year of broken promises, divorces and all sorts of pain for many of us. It has been a year with very few moments of joy, and lots of moments as a parent trying to move our family forward. Sometimes it feels like we just have to ignore all the things we missed or weren’t the same. Even as we approach Thanksgiving, and plans change, I am looking at the one thing that helps me deal with all of this. I want to look at the promise of Jesus. Advent is a time to remember Jesus coming the first time, while also looking for His future coming.
I don’t know about you but I have really struggled to stay in the Word this past number of months. With School starting and the new rhythms of life being just as busy, I have found myself struggling to read through the scriptures this year. So as I get ready for Advent this year I decided I am going to read through Isaiah. It is 66 chapters about God’s people, judgement, and the promise of a Savior. I need that reminder.
God’s people waited for generations for his coming the first time. They went through trials, and tribulations during those times. God always provided a time for when he would come and be with them. We also wait for Jesus to come again. If you want to join me in reading through I Isaiah i made a reading plan for myself. I pray this may help us all find hope in His promises.
Most of us will post on social media that we have voted. This is a very important part of our country. In fact it might be the most important thing we do as citizen of this nation today. It is integral part of helping shape our nation. But it is not the most important thing you can do today.
The most important thing you can do today is love your neighbor. This is in fact the most important thing you do everyday. If all you ever did was vote you would miss out on the ways we can serve those around us. Jesus never said to vote. In fact Jesus avoided the politics of the day at every turn. He did however call all of us as Christian to love our God and love our neighbor. That might start with your vote but it shouldn’t end there.
Our part is to be kind to our neighbors who are sad at the outcome of an election. To help our neighbor who is struggling with illness. To help our neighbor who is hurting at the loss of a loved one or hurting because they lost their job. When I serve my neighbor, I am serving my lord. The one who first served me. So today go out and vote but don’t forget to serve those in need today. It is the most important thing we do everyday.
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
So here is a blog post I just couldn’t write. I had to make a video because I felt the words would get lost. This is to everyone who needs to be reminded to come back. I pray this is a blessing and nudge of the Holy Spirit.
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.