Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What's in a name?

Today I'm wearing special socks: lavender and black with my name at the ankle (Julia) and the words "clever and kind" on the arch. They make me smile to wear them. How anyone knew me well enough to mass produce socks that describe me perfectly to be sold in a store in England... I'll never know. Are all Julias clever and kind?

When I put on my socks this morning, I thought, "My socks say I am Julia", which lead to the thought, "Who do you say that I am?" Now you can see where this is going- right?

In the gospel story (Matt. 16:13-20, Mark 8:27-30, Luke 9:18-21), Jesus asks his disciples about the word on the street about him, "Who do people say that I am?" The disciples tell him that some people think he might be John the Baptist or Elijah or possibly another historic prophet- returned from the dead. When Jesus asks his followers who they believe he is, Peter blurts out, "You are the Messiah (or the Christ)." For once Peter had the right answer, though Jesus urged him and the others not to tell anyone.

In the coming church seasons (Advent and Christmas), we will hear many names for Jesus. There are the names one of the writers of Isaiah wrote with a savior in mind, "Wonderful, Counselor, ... Prince of Peace." These are combined with other names we have for Jesus: the Vine, the Potter, Bread of Life, Light of the World, etc.

We do not use all the names, all the time- but certain names seem more fitting at certain times. We do not necessarily think of Bread of Heaven when we are praying for healing. This Sunday is Christ the King- when we think of Christ very differently than we will four weeks from now.

At a time when we are hearing Christ's name in a variety of ways, celebrating his coming and anticipating his return- I encourage you to ponder in your heart the names of God and who you say that God is. I know I will.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Firm Foundation

Yesterday in church we sang one of my favorite hymns. Here it is with some language edits by me:

How Firm a Foundation

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in God's excellent Word!
What more can God say than to you has been said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

This song is full of great lines, but my favorite is at the end of the first verse. "What more can God say than to you has been said/ You, who unto Jesus for refuge has fled?"

Many is the time I've looked at a text on which I was supposed to write or preach some new insights and I wanted to simply point to this hymn. It IS the old, old story. How can I possibly elaborate on that which God made pretty clear through God's initial prophets?

Yet, there's more to this song, faith and God's word than looking at the page and seeing the shapes of letters. The Word itself calls us to be with other people, faith in community, so we can remind each other of how God once moved, does move and will move in the world. When we hear the Word with and from each other, it strengthens that foundation- of which Christ is the cornerstone.

So in this week of Thanksgiving, look for how God is upholding you (maybe after too much turkey, maybe through family drama) and how God has been building a foundation for you and through you- out of love for God's creation!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

With Gratitude

Last week I think I was making people crazy with my Pollyanna attitude. Well, maybe only myself. On Saturday, 27 October, as I was getting ready for bed, I found that my septic tank had backed up and flooded my downstairs bathroom. It was already 9 o'clock at night and I needed to call a plumber, wait for him to come and then clean up the mess after he left. I was so very tired and still needed to get up early and preach the next day. Yet when I went to the store for cleaning supplies at 11:30 at night, I found myself walking through the parking lot praying this: "Thank you, God, that we had money to pay for the repair. Thank you that there is not significant damage and we still have a house. Thank you that this didn't happen on the first night Rob was home."

When I realized what I was doing, I kind of laughed at myself because of my seemingly ridiculous level of optimism. Yet I felt happy because I knew things were going to be okay. My high continued to escalate throughout the week as I knew the time when I would be reunited with my husband came closer and closer.

My happiness forced some reflection: on families whose father/husband/mother/wife/son/daughter isn't returning, on people who have lost loved ones and long for the reunion hereafter, on people who are not in a spot where they can be happy at this time.

Mostly,though, I really reflected on how blessed I feel at this time in my life. I love the work I am doing right now and the people around me who are shaping me. And I am finally living in the same house at the same time with the man I promised to share my life with and whom I love dearly. While I don't know that my Pollyanna-ability to see the good will last indefinitely... I'm enjoying it for a few weeks. I've a lot to be thankful for and I don't mind sharing a little joy. Thanks be to God.