Tonight I want to focus on Hope and Love which give birth to faith.  Faithful is the attribute ascribed to people who put their trust in God.  How does one find hope; How does one understand love; How does one act on faith if they have not experienced any of these?  I have come to realize love must be experienced to be understood before one can have hope. I believe Love and hope are necessary for one to act on faith.

Now hope is something we all know how to do.   It is not uncommon to hear: “I hope I get ________for Christmas!”;  I hope I get that job… ;I hope my child will get well….; I hope my car will last me another year;  I hope I can pay my bills;   I hope I will find the right person and settle down;  You get my point.  We hope for what we do not already have. (Romans 8:24)   In hope we imagine what it would be like to experience our hopes realized.

Faith is a little different.  Faith is the evidence of things not seen the substance of things hoped for. (Hebrews 11:1)   It is by faith we believe that there is evidence for what we hope will come to pass.

Hope can be a prospect, a vision, something to put out there as a possibility.  But faith sees more than a prospect or a possibility or a vision.  Faith takes those things and goes one step further.  Faith believes that what is hoped for will be fulfilled.      When we have faith in an idea, we must also have the assurance that it will indeed become reality.   For instance: a child hopes for a bicycle for their birthday.  They will imagine themselves getting the bike and riding the bike and dream about going on long trips They might imagine all  their friend going on a bike ride and having a picnic.   In all their  daydreaming they wonder how they can get that bike. Ultimately they will let it be known that they want a bike.  Now the one who “hears” the desire for a bike tells the child you will get that bike for your birthday.   The moment the child hears these words, if they trust the person, hope   becomes much more.  The dream for a bike now  has achieved substance because there is the assurance that a bike will be in their future.  So you can see that hope gives birth to faith when Love and assurance are involved.

For centuries before Jesus entered time from eternity. The People of Israel had been waiting for a Messiah. The one who would deliver them from oppression, the one who would set the world aright?  Where did they get this idea?

God spoke to the Beloved Children through the prophets.  What is a prophet?  A prophet is a person regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God.  The following are the prophets of the old Testament: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and twelve others.   When we think of the prophets we have to realize that many were not contemporaries.  Combined they delivered Prophecies over a 500 years period. (931-400 B.C).  Then there was 400 years of silence until the birth of Jesus.

Over time many had forgotten but there were many who believed and their faith caused them to remain awake and aware for the coming of Messiah.  When Jesus was born prophecies came to pass in the following: Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 9:6: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”  Those who were expecting the Messiah those who were awake and aware of his coming, indeed recognized him.   Simeon and Anna are the two who did. (Luke 2:22-40)

Jesus was born and was recognized as the Son of God, Immanuel.  This is just the beginning of His story among humanity.   People who hoped in the coming Messiah recognize him because of their faith.  Today we also hope as we look back and believe the words of the prophecies fulfilled. Our faith is exercised when we recognize Jesus truly is the son of God.

We are encouraged by Jesus who said, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” John 20:29.   Many in our world today are not awake or aware of God’s presence among us.  They go through the motions at Christmas time. Caught up in the preparations  unaware that we are the reason Jesus was born, lived, died and rose again.  My prayer is that you  will pause tonight and put your hope in God’s love Gift and allow yourself to witness the evidence that Jesus is indeed Immanuel so that your faith can arise to the wonderful possibilities of your belovedness.    Only then will you truly have a Very Merry Christmas.



Mother Teresa said, ” We have no peace because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Christmas time we sing: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”

We live in a world where  evil, chaos, suspicion and fear surrounds us.  On one hand, how can JOY find its way into our world?  On the other hand, if each of us truly let peace begin with each of us what JOY’s would await us?  We would first have to make peace with those who have hurt us in small and big ways. To make peace  there would have to be forgiveness. Peace makes way for relationship building and a sense of oneness with God.   Jesus the prince of peace met with a lot of push back.  He refered the worlds people as God’s Children and let it be known that some were lost and needed to be found. (the parable of the lost sheep) and others had left and needed to find their own way back.  (the parable of the prodigal son).   Undeserved, in both cases they found Love, forgiveness, belonging and joy.  

The four weeks of advent each focus on one attribute of grace.  Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.    We are in week three JOY.  I have been thinking on peace this past week .  What I have come to realize is that Hope and Peace are never fully realized without Love and when one knows Love, REAL LOVE, JOY is experienced.  If peace is the missing ingredient of true belonging, one must open their heart to the source of Love.

Jesus left eternity and entered time to show us the God kind of love that feeds our hunger and thirst for hope and peace.  Those who truly find it are moved to action.   They are transformed away from self and motived to treat everyone as belonging together with God.  When eyes are opened  to the truth that surrounds us: The social barriers of race and ethnicity, the disparity of rich and poor,  the sick and healthy, the oppressed and the oppressor, the segregation and brokeness. It becomes clear salvation is needed.  This motives men and women to  act in deed and in truth. They do this by  putting themselves in harm’s way caring for Ebola patients or offering themselves as relief workers in the danger zones of war or  those who chose to give up the luxury’s of life to care for foster children or adopting or becoming a legal guardian or those who visit the sick, help the poor, cloth the naked, visit the prisoner, protest social injustice, And care for the earth. They do so whether they know it or not  because they sense a belonging to each other and God.  These kinds of actions  inspire hope and peace, opening the door for love and JOY!

THEREFORE: Advent is a season of expectation! In hope, through faith, love divine, Emmanuel whispers; peace is coming!

We remember, the Christmas drama: an unplanned pregnancy, an imperial summons to Bethlehem, nowhere but a stable to give birth….

Yet… in the midst of these challenges…. a promise comes into view and is greeted with: singing angels, praise-filled shepherds, and gift giving wise men.

Peace is coming!

The Prophets longed for messiah’s arrives. Not quit as expected…

Still…. the refrain has entered human history………peace is coming!

It comes in sermons…. it comes in healings….. it comes in emancipation great and small………… Peace is coming!

It was purchased with Christ’s life……. it suffered…died….was buried with him ….then resurrected………..Peace is coming!

It is imparted to all who believe……..Peace is coming!

But when it comes to you……it must also flow from you…..for in it… is life!

For the lonely, the anxious, the fearful, the troubled, the broken…..peace is coming

All who are Children of God….are Emmanuel….God….among us….God breaking though!

……..Peace is coming!

This advent season, I exhort you to look beyond wars, personal and public, beyond anxieties…. beyond the uncertainties that surround us……..And raise your voice……. this advent season…in hope….through faith…..let divine love…..announce again with singing angels…. praise filled shepherds…… and gift giving wise men!

Peace is coming!

Each person who lives into their belonging  promotes Love and Justice and declares  peace is coming! This brings JOY TO THEIR WORLD.




Making meaning of prayer


The Apostle Paul wrote to the early Christian community in Thessalonica the following words.

“We urge you, sisters and brothers, to warn the idlers, cheer up the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure no one repays one evil with another. Always seek what is good for each other, and for all the people. Rejoice always and pray constantly and give thanks in all circumstances…” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

We have a need to pray.  Paul says – “Pray constantly.” I tried to “pray constantly” and frankly it was daunting.   I thought my best praying happened on retreats or those days that I managed to spend hours praying, isolated with God reading singing and praying.  Today, I understand the reason why we pray differently.

How should we make meaning of prayer? I believe Jesus showed us by modeling for us our interconnectedness, as individuals in relationship with God, other and creation. We best understand the role prayer plays in a community of caring.  Not long ago I talked about Facebook as a community of caring where it has become common place to ask or to offer prayer.   I am convinced a face to face community of caring, a healthy church, allows people to engage in ways that Facebook falls short.  In the prayer Jesus taught us he says,” Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  When one thinks of heaven, one would describe it as a place where there is no more pain or tears, everyone knows love and peace and experiences a deep sense of belonging minus hunger, dis-ease, oppression and injustice.  To pray, we are inviting God’s will in heaven to become goodness experiences here on earth.  In its purest form, prayer opens our hearts to God’s eternal presence which interconnects all living things in a spirit of oneness.

John Shelby Spong’s 2001 book, A New Christianity for a New World he writes:

He said: “My actions, my engagement with people, the facing of concrete issues – these became for me the real time of prayer. Prayer came to be identified with my living, my loving, my being, my meeting, my confronting, my struggles for justice, my desire to be an agent of transformation…If prayer is the act of engaging God and if God is the source of life, then my prayer time became my time of engaging life.”

Now here is Spong’s definition of prayer which I now claim for myself.  “Prayer is the way I live, love, struggle and dare to be.” I would add, “We pray for ourselves and each other because of our deep sense of belonging to God and others beckons us.”

Prayer invites us to be awake and aware within and without. The act of prayer is how we become agents of transformation of life, love and being.  Spong says, “For the God I see in Jesus of Nazareth, is revealed in the personhood of everyone. This God is present in the love of everyone. This God is encountered in the being of everyone…This God calls me constantly to be the incarnation of God’s love. I do this…to free the life present in every person, to increase the love available to every person, and to celebrate the being of every person. It is in those actions that I discern the very presence of divine footprints and know that God has been in this place before me and sometimes because of me.”

Prayer then is much more asking and answers.  When we pray we engage in “LOVE” who is God! Rumi said, “We must get out of the circle of time into the circle of LOVE.”  Prayer does just that!  Out of love comes compassion, empathy, a need for justice and peace which opens doors for action. It is written in Scripture: “let us not love in words and speech but in deeds and truth. (1 john: 3:18) The truest form of prayer then is in our actions not just the words that we speak.   In many cases praying is the only way we can respond to life and being.  Prayer is our ability to respond which reveals itself as our “response-ability”.

We make our whole life a prayer when greeting the day awake and aware that “God has been in this place before me and sometimes because of me.” This new understanding allows us to be alert and responsive.  We matter in the big scheme of our interconnectedness with people moving through their day. Prayer allows us to engage in the chaos and creativity of life. Whether encountering  disease, oppression and injustice or the beauty found at the birth of a child, the blooming of a rose, a rainbow after a storm,  all things  help us experience life providing  opportunities to rejoice, pray and give thanks.