Advent Devotions

All are invited as we Make Room this Advent season. 

Is Fear the Opposite of Faith?

During an intergenerational event held between services on Sunday, January 19, 2020, each participant was surprised with an envelope containing a $100 bill.  Included with the money were some simple instructions: to share God’s love with the world.  In total, we gave away 150 such envelopes and then collected the stories of what became of many of those $100 bills.  The stories can be read here.

We called this experience “Love Let Go” as it was inspired by a book of the same name written to chronicle the experience of another church that had received a large and unexpected financial windfall.  Our own “Generosity Committee” had been formed to offer guidance to the congregation on determining the best response to the significant estate gift received from Rose Diestler.  This team’s hope for the $100 bill surprise would be an opportunity to experience radical generosity and a chance to exercise some of the generosity “muscles” that often languish for so many of us.

As I shared in my sermon yesterday, “When God’s people experience scarcity, it’s not because there isn’t enough, it’s because we don’t want to believe there is.”  This is why generosity and faithfulness go hand in hand.  How often is it that we respond to the needs of the world around us too cautiously?  How often are our conservative approaches masking a fear that there isn’t or won’t be enough? 

But God’s story, time and again, describes a very different approach.  God’s faithfulness to the world is one of abundance.  Think of the stories of manna in the wilderness or the feeding of the 5000.  God’s generosity is plainly evident in creation and, even though we’ve worked hard to keep this abundance for ourselves, the full value of God’s abundance is only realized when given away.

The discernment process of how to best use Rose Diestler’s estate gift was understandably interrupted by the pandemic.  In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be once again considering how God might be calling us to use this unexpected abundance for the sake of the church and the world.  How will the witness of the ever flowing fountain of God’s love continue to inspire us, reassuring our fears, and give us the courage to let love go?

May God’s peace come to you this day. – Pastor Peter

Let us pray…

Gracious God, your love pours out in a never-ending stream.  As it fills up within us, give us the courage to send it back out again so that we might be the church you need us to be, for the sake of your world.  Amen.

Previously…

Fruitful

As we have been focusing on the fruits of the Spirit, it is good to pause and ponder what we mean by “fruitful.” While I love the language of “fruits” when we talk about the gifts of the Spirit, I have not always been a fan of the term “fruitful.” Fruitful means productive and generative, and those are good things, but if you are not productive in the ways we typically think of, or are in a fallow season, the word can feel like an indictment. “Fruitful,” when heard through the ears of a friend experiencing infertility, is not helpful. “Fruitful,” when heard through the ears of a newly disabled worker, is not helpful.

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Self-Control

As we use the fruits of the Spirit as our worship focus, so far we have looked at love, kindness, patience, and self-control. But we haven’t really talked much about self-control, have we? Self-control, as a fruit of the spirit, feels tricky. Culturally we think of self-control in terms of counting calories, or sticking to a budget, but as a spiritual fruit is that what it means?

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Patience

I took my dog, Cami, to the park early the other day. With the heat, and her thick black fur, neither of us wanted to be out once the temperature started rising. We weren’t the only ones with that idea. Sitting at the top of the spiral slide was a toddler, clutching her panda bear stuffed toy, with a look of hesitancy on her face. She was clearly not in any hurry to go down this slide. At the bottom of the slide was her dad, encouraging the girl to come on down the slide. “I’ll catch you! I’m right here! You can do it!” I waved to her and offered a few encouraging words of my own as my dog took her own sweet time sniffing around the playground.

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Clothespins and Binder Clips

Were you in worship on Sunday? If you were, you know that the wind was a powerful part of our worship experience. An umbrella was turned inside out, the coffee tent started to blow away, and our voices, even amplified, were carried off by the wind. It was tricky to lead worship under such conditions, but it was probably most challenging for our pianist, Abe.

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