This feeling of chaos, hopelessness, and utter despair was the mood du jour for the people of God at the time of the events that unfolded in today’s scripture. The first verse and the beginning of the second verse remind us that the rulers of the day were heavy-handed, tough-minded, and corrupt. It was into this cultural moment that John predicted the arrival of the Messiah, one who would usher in peace at just the right time.
The entirety of God’s love towards us tells this story of God himself—all-knowing, all-powerful, all- and ever-present God—bending toward us, reaching out in our direction, coming toward us before we even knew there was a difference between up and down. God loved us first, before we could rack up points or accomplishments or ever-increasing feats of genius to impress God and make him want to love us.
Last week, just after the sun appeared, I opened my bedroom curtain and there, in the field beside our house, I saw a burning bush. It was burning, but it was not consumed, and my breath caught in my throat. Of course, I thought of Moses. The bush wasn’t literally on fire. But the bright red leaves of the small sapling against a backdrop of yellows and blues and pinks and greens of fall was stunning. I knew, right then and there, I was in the presence of God.
From time to time, a young dad and his son go for a walk in our neighborhood. The little boy is five and just started kindergarten this year. He is curly-haired, caramel-skinned, full of energy and smiles and giggles. His dad is tall and lean, a head full of curls, and has a serious case of love for his son. The other day, the two passed my window in fits and starts… As they reached the corner, the young boy stopped, apparently done with walking or running or anything else…
Heaven is all around us, and the Spirit of God invites us to awaken to a life where every ordinary moment shimmers with gold… The Golden Hour is here, right where you are. Jesus told us we would be his witnesses, first in the place where our feet are planted. At your kitchen table, in line at the grocery store, walking the dog with in your neighborhood, in the boardroom, on the other end of that phone call. This moment, right now, is what you are called to. This is the adventure of a lifetime.
It’s difficult to truly know the meaning of love. Most of us would probably say we know it when we feel it. But the truth of love is hard, if not impossible, to put into words. True love is bigger than our emotions can contain; richer than our senses can absorb. The Bible tells us God is love and, I have found that, when trying to explain love, it’s best to begin with God… God is love. What if God is inviting us to be love in the world, too?
The sky was cloudless and blue, just like the sky on September 11, 2001, when two airplanes crashed into the two towers and thousands of lives were lost… Together, my husband and I stood at the edge of one of the pools of water that fall away forever, each pool surrounded by the names of those who lost their lives that day. Not far from one of the pools is the Survivor Tree. It’s a small tree that endured the destruction around it and was found, alive, in the midst of the rubble.
We had the windows down, the sunroof open, and the radio off. Out of the silence, my niece asked this question: “What do you think happens when we die?” I admit to being caught off guard. I gathered my thoughts and rambled on and on for a few miles about existential possibilities, philosophical abstracts, and unproven theories about the afterlife… Glancing at my niece, in the midst of my rambling, I was convinced I’d complicated things with all my words… “Good grief!” I thought. “I broke my niece!”
Meanwhile our little friend kept running around the house. And then, he started screaming, because why not scream in an empty house that has an epic echo, right? The running and screaming got our attention. We stopped talking and watched him. The more I watched the more I laughed. “Man!” I thought to myself, “kids sure know how to have fun!” Then I remembered I was in my own empty house and what rules were there against running around in circles while screaming in your own house? None. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
A couple of years ago, for the very first time that I can ever remember, I missed Easter. When my alarm went off to get me moving in time to make the sunrise service, I felt a little bit “off.” I thought it was a headache, so I rolled over and made the decision to skip sunrise and get myself to the 10:30 service. It wasn’t long, however, before I knew something was wrong. It was vertigo. My husband was eight hours away on a ski trip in Colorado. When he called to report on the fun he was having, he could tell something was wrong.