Monday, December 19, 2011

Reflection in Peace

"For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named" Wonderful Counselor; Mighty God; Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
(Isaiah 9: 6-7, NRSV)

For many Christians, preparations for Christmas are more hectic than peaceful. Parties to host or attend; gifts to purchase and get to their recipients; favorite foods to prepare; houses to clean; worship services, concerts and recitals to attend; poor to care for and serve. And there are other realities which contradict what seems to be the way of peace -- crime in some neighborhoods, domestic violence, conflict in schools or in work places. The poor and the homeless whose presence, visibly or in the back of our minds, pricks our consciousness, reminding us of the violence poverty does to a body and to a heart. Along with the deployment of more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, we are reminded that in too many places, the world continues to function completely antithetically to the ways of peace.

In many aspects, the days during which Christ was born were similar to our own times. The need for peace was born out of the lack of it, for the majority of God's people. In Jesus, God responded to the cries of the marginalized, the oppressed, the despairing, for whom peace was not easily attained. But it was into the very midst of conflict, poverty, hunger, disease, injustice and hopelessness that God in Christ Jesus appeared as a visible symbol of hope and life.
The birth of Jesus was proof that God is a God of peace and of justice. Endless peace is the result of knowing the healing, forgiving, restorative, miraculous love of God. Jesus showed us what it looked like, sounded like, felt like as he fed the hungry, gave hope to the poor, healed the sick, raised the dead and called for justice for the marginalized and excluded.

It is often difficult to believe that these movements of God are still occurring and live within and among us. Yet, they are. The way of peace is an inside-out job. We are God's vessels for the change we wish to see. So I invite us to live into this season of new life and new beginnings, releasing from within us the peace that comes from knowing the love and presence of our God resident in each one of us.

Human nature is amazingly predictable. Love multiplies, hope multiplies, faith in God multiplies. The more we give, the more we receive. It truly IS more of a blessing to give. God's immeasurable gift of love to humanity cannot be repaid, but we CAN respond in kind. We can respond by being vessels of God's peace in the midst of the challenges of real life. We can exemplify and speak peace in our congregations, our families, our circuits, in our schools and our places of work and community. Not just some of us, but each of us, all of us. Looking to the author and finisher of our faith, we are the agents of God's change, transformation, movement and spirit of peace today.

With these things in mind, let us celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Through him we expect a new spirit of peace in Wisconsin Conference. New peace that gives birth to new life in ministry and mission in Wisconsin and throughout the world!
"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be the sign for you; you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, And on earth peace among those whom he favors.' (Luke 2:10-14)

In the Spirit and Peace of Christ, Bishop Linda Lee

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer

Monday, December 12, 2011

Glad for Advent

CBS News Anchor Dan Rather wrote in his book, I Remember, about watching the Flying Valentis while growing up. He writes, “Walking past a vacant lot on our way to school early in the morning, we would come across the Flying Valentis practicing in their long tights and tank tops.” The Flying Valentis were a troupe of circus acrobats who traveled and performed throughout the United States.

“Although we were used to their art,” Rather recalls, “the Flying Valentis never ceased being the wonder of the neighborhood. Every morning it was like getting invited to a great show without having to buy a ticket. They did triple somersaults above their practice nets and caught each other by the forearms while swinging from the trapeze. We’d gasp when they missed connections and fell into their nets.”

From watching this family work out, Rather and his friends discovered that practice meant a lot of hard work. It might have looked like a lot of fun, but it was work. Rather writes, “From this hard-working family with its specialized brand of togetherness, we learned that even life in the limelight was no cakewalk. When we traipsed back from school in the afternoon the Valentis were still swinging away from their nets, and when they returned from a tour looking banged up and limping with limbs in casts we could see that a price had to be paid for fame.” Rather learned a valuable lesson from watching the Flying Valentis, “Their vicissitudes would have been good preparation for survival in the acrobatics of network television.”

Advent is our time of holiday preparation. It is a time when we look back, examining Israel’s expectation of the long-awaited Messiah. It is also a time to look forward to the day when Jesus will return. We do not know when that long anticipated event shall occur, but we try to stay prepared. Like flying a trapeze, Advent/Christmas season often looks like a lot of fun with all of the tinsel and lights. However, without the disciplines of reflection and preparation, this season can make us end up looking as battered as working without a net.

Advent season gives us the spiritual net to help us survive the hurriedness of Christmas. With great panic we can either say that there are only 4 Sundays until Christmas Eve and we’re not ready, or with the right amount of spiritual preparation we can say that we’re looking forward to it. With adequate reflection, we can celebrate this special season with all the wonder and poignancy that it deserves. Don’t miss the net!

--Tim McClendon, A Potters View

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Advent Joy!

My spirit rejoices in God my Savior... -- Luke 1:47

With joy and hope, we sing with Mary:

We magnify the Lord,

we rejoice in God our Savior

for God comes to us.

God works through us

so that all call us blessed.

God who is mighty does great things for us.

Holy is God's name.

God's mercy is great.

God shows strength,

scattering the proud,

bringing down the powerful,

exalting the lowly,

filling the hungry,

sending the rich empty away.

God remembers and does

all that God has promised.

This beautiful Advent song expresses God's purpose and power in the world.

Wherever God's people sing this song with their lives, this world is infused with compassion, justice and faith.

Wherever God's people sing this song with their resources, this world is made more gentle, hospitable and peaceful.

Wherever God's people sing this song with their spirit, this world is seasoned with the salt and leaven of holiness.

Let us sing this song today as Advent anticipation continues, as our hearts are made ready for Christ who comes into our world anew this Christmas.

Sharing joy with you in this holy season,

--by Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, MS AC

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer