A Reflection on the Worship and Sermon theme for Sunday, 12/3/17
What emotional response is initially stirred for you on seeing this word? Waiting. Is it enthusiasm? Dread? Excitement? Worry? Boredom? Impatience?
Advent is a season of waiting, of anticipating. It could reasonably prompt all sorts of responses.
We are waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled. That could leave us either excited and hopeful, or frustrated and anxious, or some combination of these. We want God’s promises of justice and righteousness in the world, of joy, hope, peace and love. And we are frustrated that these things are so long delayed and so far from our grasp. We may also feel guilt at our complicity in their delay.
And it has been such a long wait, has it not? Let’s agree for argument’s take that “the arc of moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” (Theodore Parker, 1860s). The book of Hebrews catalogues some of the faithful who longed and looked and waited but did not see God’s kingdom come. Paul anticipated Jesus return within the first century as did the Gospel writers. But we live in the Already / Not Yet of God’s kingdom here and still to come.
Our waiting as God’s people is not passive. We wait with active (though not hyperactive) intention. We have prayed the Lord’s Prayer as Jesus taught us, so now we seek to live it out. We asked that God’s kingdom would come and God’s will be done, and now we lean in with our intellect and strength. We work as coworkers with God in the transformation of the world. We work while we wait.
Waiting comes with its own promise of blessing: “Those who wait on the LORD will have their strength renewed. They will mount on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) The combined disciplines of waiting in stillness and quiet before God in prayer and meditation along with waiting on God in service to the world will result in a life of fulfilment and flourishing for those who draw near to Jesus in this way. This is how Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, embraced the call of God upon their lives in expectant and active waiting.
I pray that each of us may grow in our ability to do likewise.
In the meantime, we recognize that there is darkness in and around us. Our active waiting helps to stir hope for ourselves and others. We remember that in our past light has shone in the darkness. We see glimpses of light even now. So we lean in with faith that light will continue to come and grow and cast out the darkness of the world. Until then, we wait in the darkness.
If you love Christmas Music and you love Jazz (I'm raising my hand wildly in the air) then you'll love worship at Central Christian Church, 11am on Sunday 12/10/17.
Along with our Choir Master David Aston and Pianist Tim Caffee we will be hosting a jazz trio from University of North Texas (direct to UNT Jazz Music Department here). The group consists of Henry Dickoff, piano; Steven Heffner, bass; and Ryan Folger, drums.
They will play their own pieces during worship as well as accompany the congregational singing. Then they will join us in the Fellowship Hall following worship for our Taste of Christmas holiday deserts and hors d'oeuvres reception.
To help you get in the mood, here is a playlist from YOUTUBE of Traditional Christmas Jazz Instrumentals.
Kearstin Bailey grew up in the Columbus, Ohio area and graduated from Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio with a focus on political science and religion. She went on to participate in the UCC’s Young Adult Service Communities program and moved to the Boston area to serve with a local church as well as with a conservation non-profit. Following her time there, she followed her call to work with the global church – she jumped off the cliff of her comfort zone and moved to Central Europe.
Kearstin served as a Global Mission Intern (GMI) with the Reformed Church in Hungary for two years. This was an appointment by the Common Global Ministries Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. Her time in Hungary was spent facilitating international church communications, helping refugees integrate in Hungary, and supporting Roma youth. Her ministry was made possible because of funds provided by the Week of Compassion of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Kearstin is passionate about many things, but especially human migration and the concept of radical vulnerability – two things that intersected during her time in Budapest, Hungary.
Following her brief speaking tour in the US, Kearstin will move to Northern Greece to take another GMI placement with the Evangelical Church in Greece. While there, she will focus on holistic refugee integration work and community building.
You can follow Kearstin’s story several places online:
Support her at donate.globalministries.org/onlinegiving
listing “Kearstin Bailey” in the “Partner/Project” field.
You can read Shelia Huffman's published article on Kearstin here.
TOPICS INCLUDE REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT
AND INTERFAITH EFFORTS IN EUROPE
Kearstin Bailey, an Overseas Ministry Intern with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, will be guest speaker during a series of events to take place at Central Christian Church in Dallas.
The church is at 4711 Westside Drive. The public is invited to all events in the series including dinner - presented in partnership with Refugee Services of Texas - on Friday, November 17, at 6:30 p.m., in the church’s Fellowship Hall, and a Thanksgiving banquet on Sunday, November 19, beginning at 12:15 p.m. Ms. Bailey will also lead a conversation at 9:45 a.m. on Sunday. RSVPs are requested for either meal by 2 p.m. Friday.
Ms. Bailey just completed a two-year ministry in Hungary. Her next mission takes place in Greece. Focus of her ministry is local interfaith cooperation and refugee resettlement in the countries where she is posted. More information about her is at http://www.globalministries.org/kearstin_bailey.
For a complete schedule of events, contact Central Christian Church, 214-526-7291 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The church’s website is CentralChristianDallas.org.
What happened last Sunday, 11/5, at First Baptist Church was a tragedy on so many levels. We grieve for the families and the community torn irreparably. We wonder about what's wrong in our world. We have concern for our own safety at church and elsewhere.
This is a good reminder that all gathering places need a variety of emergency preparedness and response plans. We are actively working to put those in place at Central. Wherever else you go, you might ask what they are doing to prepare for any number of events, such as a fire, tornado, gas explosion, sudden health emergency, or an outbreak of violence. All of these are things for which we can prepare in advance and be more ready to respond thoughtfully and well. Panic almost always leads to poor choices that increase danger. Preparation helps us avoid panic.
More specific to the current situation, here are some thoughts:
What happened was tragic. We must not live in fear. We are no more or less at risk than the day before it happened. Its just been put in our faces again. We cannot fully protect ourselves from such incidents. We can do more than we currently are to prepare. The answer is not armed guards or concealed handguns at church.
What happened in Sutherland Springs was the result of major failures on at least four fronts which have nothing to do with congregation's readiness for tragedy.
One thing we can do immediately is engage with organizations like Genesis Women's shelter and their men's auxiliary HeROs to address the root causes of domestic violence before it begins and support people at every stage of the process. Victims, Perpetrators, and their Communities all need more support than they are receiving. Had these things been in place, perhaps Devin Kelley might have found another way to deal with his mental and emotional problems.
We can and must advocate for more and better systems of accountability that would have prevented a known perpetrator of violence from having been able to carry out this attach. No matter if everyone in the sanctuary had been "open carry" ready, Kelley would have gotten off dozens of shots before people would be able to respond and bring the chaos to an end - in the very best of circumstances.
I'm not taking a position on open or concealed carry. I am certain that arming parishioners would not have prevented this tragedy, though it may possibly have saved a few lives (which would certainly have been a good thing). In a crowded room people who are not expert marksmen would be just as likely to hit other innocents in the chaos and panic. We need to pursue solutions that prevent such things from going this far.
As with the Lord's Prayer, we ask in such times that God's kingdom would come and God's will would be done. We then experience the prayer immediately coming back to us with God's question - "What will you do? How will you pursue my kingdom and my will on earth as in heaven? How will you be partners with Me in the solution?"
What happened was the result of a convergence of immense systemic failures in our society. All of which we can address. As a society, we must address issues of mental health and domestic violence with greater intention, attention, energy, and money. We are not powerless. We need not be victims. We need not live in fear.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment." (2 Timothy 1:7(HCB translation)
As we pray for the victims and their community, let us continue as people of The Light, who shine in darkness, and who are not overcome.
(If you would like to have conversation about this post, or the topics raised in it, I welcome you to contact me at the church.)