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Washed Clean, Guided Forward

Star WordsMessage for the Baptism of Our Lord Sunday on Matthew 3:13-17 given on Jan. 8, 2023 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said to me—"oh if I came to church the roof would fall in,” or “the place would burn down”—as if they are so bad or so far from God that their very presence would cause a physical calamity. Perhaps we have the legacy of Jonathan Edwards and his 1741 sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” to thank for the notion that our sins can so shock and anger God.

It’s an ego trip really – albeit a negative one, but an ego trip none-the-less--that we can be so far from God, that our sin is so bad –that God cannot love or forgive us—and that makes us extra special in the sin department.

But of course, we are here, so we are not worried about the roof falling because of our sin, or the place burning down due to our past because we showed up. But I wonder how much of ourselves we hold back from God. We come seeking, but still feel unworthy, we come hoping, but still hide part of ourselves, we come praying, but still fear rejection, we come wondering, but still holding onto to secrets, we come craving more, but are still closed off to a deeper relationship with God.

About 25 years ago a friend invited me to go with her to an Al-Anon 12-step meeting for family and friends of those with addiction problems. She thought working the 12-steps would help me deal with my own co-dependent behaviors since there was some addiction in my extended family tree (these behaviors get passed down without us realizing it!)
But I had heard about steps 4 and 5 and I was not too interested in taking a “searching and fearless moral inventory of myself.” And even if I did, there was absolutely no way, I was going to do step 5, which was to read this moral inventory to someone and "admit to God, myself and another human being, the exact nature of my wrongs.” Because I thought my sins were special and unforgiveable, and needed to remain secret, and something I would always have to hide from God and everybody else.

I hear this fear and hesitancy in John the Baptist. He has been preparing his whole life for this moment—preparing the way for the Messiah! John’s birth was foretold by an angel to his father, Zechariah in the temple! His mother gave birth in her old age, his father was mute until he was born—he has known the stories of angels appearing to Mary and Joseph about Jesus, and his job has been to get people ready. And now it begins—the culmination of his life’s work as Jesus joins him at the river of repentance. Jesus is ready to begin his ministry by entering into solidarity with the people and their journey with him through Baptism.

But John resists Jesus’ request to Baptize him: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” John feels unworthy, he is too sinful, it’s all backwards: there’s too much distance in their status—John holds back, he would rather play his role with the people, to keep his place, separate from Jesus, the Messiah. John comes craving more, but even he is still closed off to this opportunity for a deeper relationship with Jesus. But, Jesus insists— “Let it be so now; it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”

What feels backwards to John and to us, is indeed proper to Jesus; what feels wrong and unworthy, is in fact, fulfilling all righteousness for Jesus.

As it says later in Matthew: “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt. 20:28)

To “fulfill all righteousness” for Jesus is to be in right relationship—right relationship with John and right relationship with God. Jesus surrendered himself to the full human experience—to being by baptized by the Baptizer alongside the people he came to serve and to save. In so doing, he affirmed John’s worthiness as his servant and friend.

Imagine the actions John took in baptizing Jesus—standing in the river together, scooping up water, lifting his arms up onto Jesus’ head—Just this physical action alone invites John to open up his heart and soul to Jesus—How can he harbor secrets, and hold back his fear when he has opened up his arms and bathed Jesus in water? Then John submerges Jesus in the river, and goes further down himself with him—a foreshadowing of their future journey into death, and then rising up out of the water into resurrection. John is as soaked as Jesus is, the feelings of unworthiness, fear, and worry washed away by the water, loosened by the movement. The love that flows from Jesus to John carries no superiority or distance or judgment—just the bond of love and forgiveness that frees the tightness in John’s chest. Jesus surrenders to John’s washing, and in so doing, John becomes clean.

Right relationship with nothing held back. Open heart to open heart. Both surrendered to God’s will. Fulfilling all righteousness. That’s when the roof of heaven cracks open, and the physical world changes! From the heavens, the Holy Spirit lands on Jesus as the voice of God affirms, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Right relationship with God—a fully open, honest, transparent, surrendered relationship with God changes the physical world—people filled with the Holy Spirit, following Jesus, doing what our Lord asks—that’s what changes the world—not hanging on to sin, and not pride in how bad ours is and how unworthy we are.

So, if John can move through his resistance and distance and unworthiness to baptize Jesus himself, our Lord and Messiah, and enter into a deeper, right relationship with nothing held back, then we can, too. It took me a few years, but eventually I did go to Al Anon, and I actually wrote my 4th step, 30 pages of my life story—a searching and fearless and ugly moral inventory, and with fear and trembling, I read it aloud to the 1 person who was helping me through the steps. I waited for her to pronounce judgment on me, and she chuckled and said, “you were just a normal kid.” I felt as though an enormous weight had been lifted off me.

There’s a slip of paper you were given with your bulletin. On it, I want you to write something you have held back from God. I promise no one will ever see it—not me, not anybody. Write on it something you continue to feel guilt or shame about from the past—even your childhood. Something you can’t forgive yourself for, or a resentment you have not let go; something you would like to release that you haven’t been able to, a secret you have never shared. Write something that if you were released from this worry, this guilt, this thing, you would feel freed, or released, or relieved.

Remember that your sins are not special or unique, and that we all have them, and Jesus knows it already, that you’re just a normal human being with regular sins and issues that we all have. This is for you to join John the Baptist in the river as Jesus comes to you, to let you know that no part of your life, your story, your thoughts, or your past-- is hidden, excluded or a hindrance to a deeper, love relationship with Jesus who saves you, with the God who made you, and the Spirit who fills you.

After you write it, you can fold it so no one sees it. Then bring it forward during Communion and put it in the Baptismal water, give it stir, and let it go. I promise no one else will see what you wrote (it's dissolving paper!). We will have one line for Communion so you can have a few seconds alone at the baptism bowl, and then come to me for the bread.

Having released something to God, you will pick up a Guiding Word as a spiritual focus to fill you with something new for the coming year—they are in the side aisle after you dispose of your Communion cup. The words are face-down. Trust the Spirit to give you the right word for this time—tape it to your frig or mirror and discover why this word is a spiritual focus for you in 2023.

Churches that do this call these “star words” because they guide us during the year like the Wise Sages followed the star to find Jesus. For those watching from home—if you have given us a shoutout in the comments, we will pull a word just for you, and mail it along with a slip of this special paper for your forgiveness ritual this week.

No one’s sin is going to cause the roof to fall in, but the forgiveness in Baptism cracks open the heavens for the Holy Spirit to descend upon us! Right relationship with God changes the physical world because it changes us and frees us to be God’s messengers of Jesus’ love, forgiveness, and hope! That’s why we’re a church where "spirits come alive!" So allow Jesus to free your spirit in a new way today and join John in the cleansing waters of Baptism!

 Thank you to the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, NJ for the free download of beautiful Star Words!

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Joyful Expectations

B11chrevegcChristmas Eve Message, 2022 based on Luke 2:1-14, Matthew 2:1-12 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas

The Christmas story from Luke and Matthew includes many important names—Emperor Augustus, Governor Quirinius, King Herod—the people who run the world, who change people’s lives with the stroke of pen, who order soldiers, and wield power others can barely imagine.

Even the angel Gabriel is named in his essential mission to announce the mission to the soon-to-be Mother of the Messiah. Of course, Mary and Joseph are named as Jesus’ human parents who will raise this Christ child to be named Jesus. But after Jesus is born, wrapped in bands of cloth, and laid in a manger, these specifics drop out—no one else is identified by name.

Who is this angel who appears to the shepherds and tells them good news of a great joy? Is it Gabriel? Michael? Some underling with her first big assignment? And how about the multitude of the heavenly host? Maybe they would like a mention by name in Scripture—even the third grip—whatever that is, gets their name mentioned in movie credits—but the third alto of this heavenly host? Nothing. And what about the shepherds? No names, not even a number of how many there were. And the wise sages from the east?—people of high status themselves—nameless, with not even a mention of their country. We can deduce by the way they watch the stars that they are Zoroastrian priests from Persia—or perhaps from as far as India or the Arabian Peninsula.

Why is the text so specific in the beginning, and then so vague as the story progresses—all these nameless characters—no one in particular shares or receives the news of the Messiah and responds?

Certainly, the Gospel writers want us to know Jesus’ birth took place in a specific time in history. But another answer lies in the angel’s words to the shepherds. This nameless angel says two things that at first sound contradictory. First, she says, “I bring you good news of a great joy for all the people. God’s love in the birth of Jesus is for everyone—it’s all-inclusive.

It’s the same message as other places in Scripture—“for God so loved the world, the cosmos, all people –that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” There are no names, so everyone knows that this message literally includes all people!

But shepherds, who are at the bottom rung of society, usually do not feel included in the “everyone”—in “all the people.” They are like the day laborers today who hang out at the Valero gas station near the High Five hoping a builder will pick them up for work. They are used to being overlooked and shoved aside. All the people often feels like everyone else—those who have a better family, a decent job, people who do not struggle like they do, who have more on the ball, are more worthy, less lonely, more faithful, more sure in their beliefs, who do not feel beaten down by life or like they are flunking in some way. Some days, we all feel like a shepherd—that we are on the outside looking in at all the people God really loves.

So in the next breath, right after the angel says, “I bring you good news of a great joy for all the people,” the angel says, “to you”— to you, shepherds, personally, specifically, “to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Lord, the Messiah.” To you— Tom, Arlene, Kristin, Bill, Gail, …… To you a Savior is born.  What do you need from the Savior who is born to YOU this day?

I asked our homebound members this on my visits this month, and one said, “peace,” another said, “to know I am loved,” someone else said, "to become stronger," another said, “to be transported to heaven,” and still another said, “deeper faith.”

The savior is born for everyone yes, and also, the Savior is born to you—the names are dropped so we can put ourselves in the story, and we can hear the angel speaking to us.

And the names are gone, so we can see that there’s a multitude of angels which means there are plenty to go around, including a guardian for each of us.

So, with the shepherds and sages, we can gaze around us, and see God in all things, be it an angelic presence appearing in nature, in the stars, or the shimmering light of love manifest in an infant, a smile, a human connection, a moment of hope.

With the shepherds and the sages, we are always on the journey of faith. Because the Savior is born to us, we live with the joyful expectation that we get to participate in what God is doing in Jesus here and now. All we need to do is bring ourselves because Jesus does, in fact, know you by name.

Christmmas Prayer
Unexpected and holy God, your love shines through the ages, making real your presence in our own story in the form of an infant. We rejoice that you sent yourself-- this great gift of hope, peace, joy, and love to all people, to everyone, to the whole world. Open our hearts to receive that you are also born to us, personally. Enable to ask for the saving we need, at this moment, in this time, as you place us in the story of incarnation and salvation with the shepherds and sages. Give us the joyful expectation that we will see your angels, your stars, your light, your love aflame in the world, hidden in plain sight—in the people around us, in your creation, in the faces of those in need, in every act of love. Wrap in bands of healing cloth, those who are sick and suffering in any way, especially those who are lonely or distant from family, and those on our prayer list. Make us faithful and joyful in our journey with Christ as we shine his love, share our gifts, and carry the good news that he is born to all, and to each one. We pray in the name of the Christ child, born to us this day. Let all the faithful, say, Amen.

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Doubt & Transformation

3 1Message for Advent 3 on Matthew 11:2-11 on Dec. 11, 2022 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas

“Expectations are pre-meditated resentments.” I first heard this when I was learning about addictive family systems and family systems theory, and it stopped me up short. I was a master at high expectations and judgment when people did not live up to them. When we were dating, Dan noticed this prevented me from even enjoying movies, because if they didn’t turn out how I was expecting, I did not like them.

Part of my personal and spiritual growth over our marriage has involved learning new ways to operate in relationships, in the world, and in ministry, so I would not hobble my spirit with self-made resentments born of my own constructed reality. I embraced this theme for Advent, of “Great Expectations” with a little fear and trembling…

All of that is to say, I understand John the Baptist, now sitting in prison—wondering what is up with Jesus. John has done his due diligence in preparing the way for the Messiah: he has confronted the powers that be in their self-righteousness and arrogance; he preached preparation and repentance with Baptism, a fire-y message that refines and purifies, so the Messiah can come with redemption and judgment. John is paying the price at the hands of the powerful who are not so thrilled with his message—he’s awaiting death in Herod’s prison.

There John hears stories about Jesus—but Jesus is not what he is expecting. John expects the liberation of God’s people from oppression and bondage, more fire-y judgment, but so far nothing has happened. The domination of Rome, its local rulers, and the religious powers are carrying on as usual.

Instead of upending them, Jesus is focused on healings, exorcisms, and banquets with sinners of every kind including those colluding tax collectors. Jesus is great at healing and restoration, but weak on judgment and vindication like John. With his expectations disappointed, John begins to doubt Jesus. Are you the one? Are you the Messiah we have been waiting for or should we look for another, someone who behaves like the real deal?

It's comforting, isn’t it? To hear John the Baptist struggle with doubt? To know that in the midst of his suffering in prison, fearing death, he begins wondering if he got it all wrong. He is cold, hungry, probably tortured, and his pain causes the questions in his mind to run rampant.

Physical, mental, or emotional suffering does lead to spiritual doubt. We have probably all experienced it one way or another—the doubt that comes with suffering. I certainly have—a hollow dark night of the soul in chemo-hell that I pray I never to experience again. And we wonder, if God is all powerful, why am I sitting here in so much pain? Why are we still waiting for Jesus to redeem the whole world? Why is there still war and injustice, exploitation and violence, poverty, and horrible illness? Is Jesus the One who is come and save us or should we look for another?

This is one of those moments when we really want Jesus to give a direct answer like, “Yes! It’s me! I am the One. I am the Messiah! Ta-dah!” But he doesn’t do that, does he? Instead, he wants John’s disciples to testify to what they hear and see. They have to look for evidence of God’s power breaking in to people’s lives through Jesus. They need to discern God’s presence and the kingdom. They have to watch for good news—well—they have to engage in Advent with great expectations of seeing God breaking into ordinary life in extraordinary ways through Jesus: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.

Jesus does make this part very plain and direct. If that is not God’s power breaking into this earthly realm and transforming reality, what is?

This good news should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Scripture or who reads Isaiah and longs for the restoration of this nation who has suffered. Because this always been part of the vision:

• Isaiah 29:18-19 – the deaf shall hear and the blind shall see
• Isaiah 35:5-6 – says the same thing and adds then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
• Isaiah 42:18, Listen, you who are deaf, and you who are blind, look up and see!
• Isaiah 61:1-3 The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners,

• We hear more of the same in Psalm 146 which we just sung.

Jesus hopes the elite will overhear all the testimonies now being told by John’s and his disciples and all those being healed. It is really the whole nation who is blind and deaf to their own Messiah. Will those in power who are blind and deaf to the needs of the people also begin to see and hear the truth?

Franciscan priest Fr. Richard Rohr says, “the best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” John expected Jesus to overthrow the oppressors and instead Jesus practiced the better—the empowerment, healing, and restoration of the oppressed. The powerful’s shameful treatment of the sick and outcast became evident as the crowds flocked to Jesus for food and healing. The feeding of the masses, the empowerment of the poor, the healing of the marginalized, was indeed upending the system and disrupting the power structure. If it was not, there wouldn’t have been such powerful movement to execute Jesus. Jesus did not go about it how John expected, but never has healing and feeding been so threatening or subversive. Really look, John. Really watch. (Those who really understood this are Martin Luther (educate and feed the masses!), Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandhi, Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement through the church in South Africa).

In his response to John, notice that Jesus is not offended by John’s questions or doubt—in fact he praises John as the greatest prophet. I hope this gives you comfort and relief in your own questions and doubts and wonderings about God and Jesus as the Messiah. Theologian Paul Tillich wrote that “doubt is not the opposite of faith, it is an element of faith.” Doubt is an element of faith for John the Baptist and he knew Jesus personally—Jesus is not fully who John expected—Jesus may not always be completely who we expect either.

But Jesus does love us in our doubts, and he always enters our suffering because he himself suffered. Jesus heals and transforms from the bottom up –which means that he enters at the worst, hardest and lowest point and meets us there, where we think no one can, and there he loves us, there he embraces us, there he says, God’s love is big enough to carry you out of this chasm, this hurt, this depression, this sorrow, this illness, this fear. I will not leave you or forsake you, for I have suffered so that you know that I will never abandon you, not even death—even there, I will carry you over to a new life with God.

If Jesus can praise John the Baptist in his doubts and transform the lepers and the lame, then surely he can love you and me in our doubts and in our suffering. Because death could not hold him—the powerful thought they won—and they did not! He rose to defeat the power of evil for good!

Jesus’ power—alive today—breaks into our lives and that’s what we watch for, wait for, look for and what we expect—that’s what gives us hope in the midst of doubt.
Because every experience of love, every kind word, every meal, every hug, every encouragement, every prayer said on our behalf, are all moments where the life and love Jesus break into our ordinary days with healing and hope.

Jesus wants us to go through our daily life with the ability to see and to hear God’s presence and love available and showing up for us—so like John he wants us to look for evidence of God’s power breaking in to people’s lives through Jesus…to discern Jesus’s presence— to watch—and to engage in Advent all year—with great expectations of seeing God piercing our ordinary life in extraordinary ways in Jesus. This is what enables us to make a difference in our community together.

I still do have some expectations –I expect God to show up every day—to see signs of love and hope around me and in the world, and these expectations help me keep on the lookout for what Jesus is up to around me and in other people’s lives.

This week I want you to watch for a Jesus-sighting—a moment where the extraordinary breaks into the ordinary. A moment of love or kindness, something your kid or grandchild said or did, something good breaking into your everyday when you felt hope, peace, joy or love—the four spiritual gifts of Advent. And I want you to tell someone about it. Testify—tell your family at the dinner table, call up a friend, send me a text--I want you to blow up my phone this week! Post it on our FB page in the comments on one of our Advent posts that come out every day! It doesn’t build up anybody else’s faith, or help anyone else see or hear what Jesus is doing if you keep it to yourself. Jesus said, “tell what you have seen and heard!”

Our first Jesus-sighting is going to be after church today with lots of great cookies, packing Hunger Helper lunches, and a herd of shepherds and a choir of angels fitted for your costumes in the congregational life center! I'll see you and Jesus there!


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Repentance, Truth, Dying & Life Expectancy

3Message for Advent 2 on Matthew 3:1-12 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas

Thank you for your prayers for my dad, he's recovering and doing much better!

Yesterday, I presented Pr. Gnana’s Advent Bible study at the women’s event since she was home with pneumonia. One of her opening comments was that John the Baptist is our primary biblical character for Advent—And my first thought was, “what a bummer!”

 “Brood of vipers, wrath to come, judgment, and fire–?” I echo Indiana Jones’ question, in the movie the Raiders of the Lost Ark, “Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?” Do we really have to go through all this to get swaddling cloths and shepherds, and praying for peace on earth in the fullness of time? I have already promised myself that next year, I am picking my own Advent texts and John the Baptist and me? -–we get a year off.

 But Pr. Gnana is right of course –because just like he did before Jesus’ earthly ministry, John calls us to repent–to turn around and away from our sinful, destructive, or hurtful ways, and turn toward God, preparing the way for Jesus to come anew into our lives.

The religious leaders also come out to hear what all the fuss is about at the river, with so many people being baptized, and opening themselves to a new way of life. Here we see that the judgment John offers is not just about bad, immoral or sinful behavior–repentance is a truth-telling.

It may not just be something you did, or a thought pattern that needs to change, but what you need, who you are, where you are lost, how you are incomplete, where you are broken, how you are willing to turn around to be in a relationship with God to experience what is missing. Repentance is really about learning to die before you die–to die to those things that do not bring life, so you can really live.

The deeper question in repentance is “What is the hardest thing to let go?” Maybe it’s a resentment. Maybe it’s control. Maybe it’s fear or anxiety. Maybe the hardest thing to let go is the belief you have to earn forgiveness, that you are not worthy of grace.

John prepares us by asking us to come to the waters with whatever needs to be changed, whatever needs to be released, whatever truth that has not been spoken so it can be said and let go, so our hearts can be washed clean. For me this week that has meant letting go of control, and trying to do everything, and believing I can do 3 jobs while staffis out recovering from surgery or sick, and doing everything without help.

Preparing for Jesus is really about dying before you die–letting go of those things that are hardest for us to let go of to make room for the life of Christ so we can really live. That’s the truth of repentance–it’s about willingness to be changed–not just to have the slate wiped clean so we can out and do the same things over again--or just pick up a different sin.

Enter the snakes. Perhaps the religious leaders did not get the message that they should not come to the river or see John the Baptist if they do not want the truth. They quickly discover that if they are not prepared to offer honest repentance, truly change or tell the truth about who they are and what they need to let go–John will tell the truth for them.

John’s anger was not against the Jewish religion, but toward anyone who was self-deceived, acted as if they had no sin (as it says in 1st John 1:8-9) especially those with wealth, power, and authority–with the power and resources to change the lives of the poor and oppressed for the better.

Hearing no repentance, nor hearts turned toward God, John called them a “family snakes”–echoing the Garden of Eden from Genesis with a serpent as satan–he viewed the powerful who did not use their power for the good of all as instruments of evil. Then John talks about bearing fruit, cutting down trees, and burning chaff, mentioning fire three times, so it sounds like he is mixing metaphors, but he isn’t really.

 It was customary for farmers then, as it may be for some today, to burn the stubble in the field to get ready for the next planting season, and as the fire came near the vipers’ dens, the snakes were often visibly slithering away from the flames. "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance."

John offers an image of preparing the field for an excellent planting season ahead, and many snakes are caught in the fire. This fits with the rest of what he says–a tree that bears good fruit, and the good wheat that is preserved to grind for bread, while the chaf, the dead wood, the fallow stalks from last year, and the broods of vipers are burned.

The fire is purifying, cleansing, refining, where evil is cast aside; the fire is the place of rebirth and re-growth, so something new can come. Fire is the process of repentance–of dying before you die, so you can make room for the life of Christ and really live. The goal for John in repentance is to be cleansed in Baptism to bear the fruit of the coming Messiah in the world–to be cleansed and open to his life and Spirit, words and character, dreams and hopes– that we bear the fruit of the kingdom in the world.

 This is John’s life expectancy for us–that in telling the truth, in dying to ourselves and letting go of what crowds out Jesus from our thoughts and our heart, and our day, we open up space to become infused and grafted and implanted with the Spirit, fire and life of Christ within us that his life is our life and our life is his life. Our life expectancy is not about time or how long, how old, but how much light and how much love; how much joy and how much good; how much hope and how much compassion did we share?

 Our life expectancy is the fullness of our life in Jesus, the new life he can grow in us when we are willing to die to ourselves–our own ego, or control needs, or addictive patterns, or whatever it is that is the hardest to let go–and allow the life expectancy of the fruit of the Spirit to expand in us– love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control!

This week I want you to contemplate what it is that is the hardest for you to let go of–really sink into it in some contemplative time beyond your ego, and find the answer in your true inner self. This is why listening prayer or quiet prayer or contemplative prayer is important. Whether you have 5 minutes or 15–(even if it’a in the bathroom and you get 5 minutes by locking the door)--it is the practice of dying to self, a practice of repentance and giving ourselves to God:  we die to the monkey mind and listen for the mind of Christ; we die to the false self full of agendas and get in touch with the true self that God created; we die to the illusion of separation from God and we experience union with the Spirit who always dwells within. Even 5 minutes of this practice a day will help reveal what is hardest for you to let go of this Advent season, open your heart in repentance and create more room for the life expectancy Jesus has for you as light and love for others.

Those whose ministry is to listen to the dying teach us many things. They say that the only two questions almost everyone wonders about at the end of their life regardless of age, is “am I loved?” and “did I love others well?” When you identify the one thing that is hardest for you to let go of, ask yourself how letting go of that and making more room for Jesus’s love will enable you to experience deeper love from others and also to love others well. The dying tell us not to wait to pay attention to this in our life.

Hospice chaplains also share that many are caught by surprise in the dying process, and wish they had been better prepared. Learning to tell the truth and die to ourselves before we die, so we can be filled with the Spirit of Jesus is a spiritual practice that prepares us not only for a full life expectancy here, but a great transition into our eternal life expectancy.  

Trusting in the power of Jesus Christ to give us life and life eternal, we do not have to fear any death– whether it is change, fear, having things my way, giving up something we hold precious, like our health or our independence—Jesus covers all of it and all of us, here and into the next life, forever!

That is an amazing life expectancy!

John the Baptist urges us not to wait until the end of our life to fulfill this life expectancy–but to do it now. John knows that the only way to be loved and to love others well–bearing fruit in the kingdom, is through the love of Jesus Christ working in and through our freed and available hearts.




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Quotation of the Week

The church does not have a mission in the world, God's mission has a church in the world.