Happy New Year: Prayer for 2013

2013 begins on Tuesday; as a church, we’d like to pray for St. Paul’s and what God has in store for us in the year to come. 

Join us on Sunday (12/30 at 4 PM) as we come together and celebrate what God has already done, how He has blessed us this past year, and join us as we anticipate and pray for the things he will do through us in 2013. 

Happy New Year! 

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On Resolution.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is passed away; behold, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17

In a couple of days, as 2012 comes to a close and 2013 starts up, millions of people are going to make resolutions. Most of the time, these resolutions have to do with losing twenty pounds, being more active, quitting smoking/drinking/whatevs. At least, according to all the ads around for gyms, Special K, and diet pills, that’s what most people make resolutions about.

Despite my inclination for cynicism and skepticism, there’s really nothing wrong with that.  If a person would like to improve him or herself, more power to him/her. Good intentions are nice and everything.

The thing that’s not so nice is the way these resolutions don’t actually take. I don’t need to get into details here, but that’s the other joke about New Year’s: it’s the time of year where we all come up with things we’d like to change in our lives on a night where partying and lots of booze is often involved. It’s not as serious as it probably should be.

This past fall, we all at St. Paul’s took part in The Choice Campaign, and I think that was the first time when I earnestly and repeatedly asked God to reveal to me the things in my life that needed to change. It’s not that I never asked before; it’s more that I never really asked. I New-Year’s-Resolution asked. My intentions were good, but then that spiritual Big Mac won over.

And here’s the unfortunate thing that happens when you earnestly ask God to show you what things in your life need work: He gives you what you asked and shows you. And God has yet to tell me I need to lose 20 pounds or quit something-or-other. He has pointed out things in my character that need to change.

It hasn’t stopped either. Just because that Campaign ended back in November doesn’t mean I haven’t been reminded of the things I need to work on since then. Maybe I’m getting a little better at forgiveness, maybe I’m a little more careful about what I say and to whom I say it, maybe I’m getting a little better at not taking my husband for granted, but then I’m reminded of other things: I have a volatile temper, I am impatient, I am a glass-half-empty kind of person. And these things hold me back. 

(Sidenote: Yeah, I know. I probably missed some vital stuff there. Baby steps).

So instead of being cynical about New Year’s and how those resolutions don’t stick, I’m going to try and look at this as yet another opportunity to make those choices for change in my life.

The real thing that needs to get buried, though, is the idea that these resolutions only happen once or twice a year, when the calendar tells us. This is a decision that needs to happen every single day. Every day is new because through Jesus, we have a chance to become more like Him, sons and daughters of God, redeemed through grace. 


Advent Week 4: On Redemption.

A-charlie-brown-christmas

Redemption is tricky word. It’s one I probably throw around a lot, a part of meaningless Christianese. 

But I used this word this week in a different context. I said: “I don’t see how this situation is at all redeemable.” My husband and I were driving to a memorial service for a friend, someone who was like family to my in-laws, the childhood best friend of my sister-in-law. She was killed last Thursday in a car accident. Her 9 year old daughter was also in the accident. Jeff and I saw her on Sunday in the children’s ICU. She was slipping in and out of consciousness, and in a lot of pain. And it’s hard for me to find redemption in this situation.

I don’t see how this can be redeemed. I think a lot of us have thought this this past week. Horrible things happen, and it’s untrue that we can always find a silver lining. Sometimes there are no silver linings. Sometimes, it’s all dark. 

But the problem isn’t the word redemption. The problem is we think we can redeem. We think we’re capable of turning things around, we can make something good out of something awful, we think we can solve this problem called evil. We think we can overcome death. We think we can make our own peace amidst conflict. 

We can’t. I can’t. You can’t. No person can.

And while I can’t redeem these tragedies, and while other people can’t redeem them, we can find hope in the truth that God can. God has redeemed the entire world. 

At Christmas, it’s easy to get caught up in the stuff that doesn’t really matter that much. And I don’t really want to rail against American consumerism or anything, but I don’t think some of the the ways we celebrate the holiday really helps us much. It’s very easy to cushion ourselves against the fact that every single one of us is in need of redemption with material items and comforts; but that is the reason why Jesus came. He came to redeem us all. 

And God can redeem anything. Even in the darkest of situations, even when things seem hopeless, even when the most horrible things happen, God is still there, and he can redeem. God can redeem anything, and he promises to redeem everything. 

We celebrate Christmas because without Christ’s redemption, this world is a sad pace. We celebrate Christmas because without Christ’s redemption, we are trapped by our own innate darkness. We need God to redeem us and make us new. 

I think the third verse of Hark the Herald Angels Sing puts it best:

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

 


Sermon Recap: Redeeming and Redeemed

Sunday we looked at the last of Joseph’s Wild Grandmothers:  Bathsheba. There’s only one Bathsheba, but there are three very different takes on her.  

  1. Some people think she’s the Femme Fatale.  Bathsheba is a villain and is responsible for everything that goes wrong.  But this interpretation simply does not fit the actual story of David and Bathsheba. 
  2. Others think she’s the Compliant Queen.  Bathsheba is a victim and is responsible for nothing.  But this interpretation does not fit the overall context of her story.
  3. And still others think she’s the Wiley Wife.  Bathsheba is responsible for her own choices.  This fits both the details of the story and the overall context.

The best take on Bathsheba is possibility #3. It’s that simple. 

  • Bathsheba sins: She makes a bad choice with David. 
  • Bathsheba suffers: She suffers greatly for her choice. 
  • But ultimately Bathsheba redeems and is redeemed: It is to Bathsheba’s credit that King Solomon (God’s choice for King) ascends to the throne and begins his reign securely with no rivals. And while David and Bathsheba’s relationship couldn’t have a worse beginning, God redeems it by providing the next (good) King of Israel through this couple.

Rachel Weeps.

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
    weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

Jeremiah 31:15

Two thousand years ago King Herod ordered the execution of all boys two and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem in an attempt to eliminate Jesus, the new born king.  It is called the slaughtering of the innocents.

Friday a man went into an elementary school in Newtown Connecticut and killed twenty children and six adults. The slaughtering of the innocents continues.

How do we respond to these horrific events?  As people of faith, we weep with those who weep.  As people of faith, we look forward to the day where there are no more Herods. For one day King Jesus will return and evil will be no more. But until that day, we mourn.