Monthly Archives: December 2013

Epiphany – The first Baby Shower

Matthew 2:11 – “On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Upon this verse, much folk theology has been built.  The story of the wise men, or magi, or astrologers, coming to visit Mary is an important part of our cultural understanding of Jesus’ birth.  One thing needs to be clear, despite the beautiful song set to tune of Greensleeves, they were not kings.  There isn’t really a reason to believe there were three of them.  There were three different gifts, but no where does it number the men.  I don’t bring this up to make any grand theological point other than to remind us of how often we read into Scripture, and how difficult it can be to unpack centuries of tradition.

Many legends, song, and art has been built around these mysterious men with their gifts.  Almost all of it is speculation.  The traditional interpretation of the gifts is spelled out pretty well by this Yahoo Voices article.  It goes something like this:

Gold: A gift for royalty, acknowledging that Jesus was of a Royal line.

Frankincense: An expensive incense that was burned as a part of worship in The Temple.  This signifies Jesus’ divinity.

Myrrh: An expensive oil used for perfume.  According to this explanation, myrrh was most commonly used among wealthy Jews as an anointing oil for the dead.  Thus, the myrrh is seen as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ death and a reminder of his mortality.

While this explanation fits nicely into popular modern Christian theology, I’m not sure it really has any historic merit.  For instance, how would the strangers from the East have known Jewish ritual customs of the Temple?  And it doesn’t say that they worshiped him as a deity.  Instead, they “paid him homage.”  Also, isn’t every baby mortal?  Why would anyone need to be reminded that a king will someday die?   According to Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope, at one time Frankincense was the most valuable commodity on earth.  It was also used as an eyeliner by Egyptians.  Not much symbolic value there.

I’ve never been one to go deep into this explanation. I figure it has legs enough without me.  This year however, I found another explanation of the gifts.

Frankincense and myrrh have been used for medicinal purposes for over 5,000 years in places like India and Saudi Arabia.  I do not pretend to know anything about their effectiveness.  There are several websites that you can find with articles extolling the virtues of these ancient oils and resins.  What you and I think about their effectiveness in healing though, is inconsequential.  What seems clear is that men from the East might have understood these two gifts to have medicinal value.

Mary gave birth to a son.  Though we often sing “Silent Night,” anyone that has been anywhere near the birth of a child knows that there is nothing silent about the experience.  Giving birth is a messy and dangerous.  Today a mother dies in childbirth once every two minutes.  In many parts of the world, it is the most dangerous thing a woman can do.  According to the Lukan account, Mary gave birth in a stable, surrounded by animals, with no midwife.  She gave birth in what we would be considered, even then, deplorable conditions.  I’ve written before that the unnamed miracle of Christmas is that Mary survived.

What I have not noticed before this year, is that the reason she survived might have come in the gifts presented to Jesus by the magi.

To a modern reader, the gifts of the Magi seem strange and impractical.  To explain these peculiar gifts, many have placed dubious symbolic meanings on them.  Instead, I feel it much more likely that these gifts were extremely practical.  Notice that Matthew says that the magi “Saw the child with Mary his mother, and then knelt down…”.  These gifts might have saved Mary, and indirectly Jesus himself.

We would be good to take note that Mary’s “Baby Shower” was an act of valuing the life of a woman.  Though Mary gets the short end of the stick through much of the book of Matthew, this act of gift-giving is a reminder of how important a mother is to a child.

This Epiphany, my church is remembering the gifts of the Magi by having a “Baby Shower for Mary.”  The youth of our church are baking cookies, brownies, and muffins. We are putting up cheesy paper decorations, and playing a few silly baby games.  All have been invited to bring a gift in honor of Mary.  People will bring diapers, onesies, blankets, socks, lotions, shampoos, and more.  All of the gifts will be brought to the Crisis Pregnancy Center, which helps women in need.  They operate a clothes closet for infants, and are in constant need of the expensive needs of a newborn.

This small act of mercy might help a mother care for her child.  I’m hoping that in time, we can do more than give gifts to the Center.  I’m hoping that we can develop a relationship with them, providing mentors, support, and classes.  This is just a first step toward helping children and mothers in our area.

Like the Magi so long ago, we may pay homage to the newborn King by making sure his mother survives.  There are other things we can do for mothers worldwide.  The Healthy Families, Healthy Planet project raises awareness about the need to support international family planning and maternal health initiatives.  It is an organization of which I am proud to be a part.

This Epiphany, brings gifts to the baby.  Save a mother.

The Unnamed Miracle of Christmas

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Our Baby Shower for Mary invitation posted on Riverside’s facebook page:

baby shower for mary

 

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To those who only come on Christmas Eve, “Welcome. I’m so glad you’re here.”

WelcomeIs this the only day of the year you come to church?  Please don’t apologize. You are welcome, and I’m thrilled you came.  If you’re only going to come to worship once a year, then this is a good day to pick.  It is a pretty awesome day.  The Christmas tree is beautiful.  The songs are familiar.  The story is simple, and the message is powerful.  Singing Silent Night at the end of the service with the candles lit give me chills every time.  I hope it is moving for you too.

Maybe you’re here because your Grandma insists.  Great.  We love your Grandma too.  I saw her last month in the hospital, and we prayed for you.

Maybe you’re here because you’re looking for your “yearly check up.”  Great.  I’m glad you still feel connected to God through worship.  It might not be a part of your weekly routine, but I’m so glad that you came here to try to encounter something Holy, even if it is only once a year.

Maybe you’re busy every weekend.  You intend to come to worship, but it’s just too hard.  Great. I know that your time is precious. I’m so glad that you were able to carve out some time now. Christmas is an especially busy season.  I’m so glad you were able to be here and worship. Life is hard. I believe that being a part of a worshiping community can help you tremendously.  I hope you are blessed by coming.

Maybe you’re back from college, and this service brings back memories of growing up as you live through a transitional time of your life. Great. We’re proud of you, and what you’re becoming. We hope you remember who and whose you are while away at school. Leave your school address, and we’ll send you a care package.

Maybe you’re trying church with your kids. Great. We love kids, and not just the idea of kids. We love real kids.  Kids that make noise. Kids that get up and climb the steps. Kids that need something to do. Kids that want to participate in worship, and kids that just want to color. Kids that are looking for a smiling face over the pew. Kids that dance in the aisles when the music is just too good to sit still. We know that raising kids is one of the hardest things we’ll ever try to do, so we’ll be in this together.

Maybe this is the first time you could come back since the loss of a loved one.  I’m so sorry for your loss, but I’m so glad you’re here. I hope you consider this a step toward healing. I know you miss her. I know that Christmas can sharpen the pain. There is someone here that misses someone too. I hope you sit together, and find comfort and joy in the midst of mourning.

Maybe this Christmas you had a strange feeling that maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. Great. I hope you continue to search, and by the way, I love Dr. Seuss too. I hope you encounter something real with us at worship. I pray that you feel connected to God through the songs, the prayers, the Scriptures, and the message proclaimed. I hope that the power of the eternal Word made flesh resonates with you, and opens up a new way of understanding the world.

Maybe you’re searching for a church home. Great. You should know that this is not a typical worship service, but we hope you can come back. May your search be blessed, wherever it takes you. If you want to come back on Sunday, we’ll be here.  We’d love to have you. I’d love to walk with you as you dig deeper into your faith. I’d love to see you in a Bible study. I’d love to talk with you over coffee about faith, compassion, forgiveness, Jesus, grace, sin, death, and life.  I’d love it if you want to get baptized. I’d love it if you joined us in our mission to transform our community and our world.  But if this night is all you want, I’m okay with that.

Maybe you’re a pilgrim searching for truth. Great. There’s room for your questions. No one here has it all figured out. I believe that doubts, questions, and wondering makes faith stronger in the long run. There’s no need to check your brain, your science, or your logic at the door. Maybe though, there is room for some mystery, and we can go on this journey together.

I celebrate that you are here with us today. Sometimes I hear “church folk” or other pastors talk about “C and E Christians.” You know, people who only show up to church on Christmas and Easter. The term is seldom used with kindness.  Maybe if the people already established in churches stopped talking about C & Eers with such righteous indignation, more of them would come back on December 28.

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When I stopped teaching my daughter to fear

spider meme

I’ve killed my fair share of spiders.  I’ve never been one to consciously support stereotypical gender roles, but I fell easily into the role of family spider-getter.  There is a little kind of spider that seems to thrive in our bathroom.  They appear on a pretty regular basis.  With  legspan about the size of a nickel, they are harmless little creatures.  This week, something pretty amazing happened.

“Daddy!” my six-year-old daughter screamed.  “Come quick. There’s a spider.”

At hearing such a cry, most Dads would grab a magazine or tissue.  Instead, I wished I could remember where I had put my magnifying glass.

“It’s so cool,” she said, as she sat and watched it crawl along the wall and spin its web. Mesmerized by the work.

Not too long ago, this scenario would have played out much differently.  When my daughter was much littler, she had no particular fear of spiders, but by the time she was four or five, she was terrified.  Given where our spiders like to hang out, this posed a problem at some very inopportune times.

“Daddy!” She would scream. “I have to go to the bathroom!”  Long potty-trained, I wasn’t sure why she was screaming this at me with such ferocity.  “So?” I would ask.

“There’s a spider in here!”  So I would go in, armed with a tissue, and “take care” of the problem.  I would explain, “These spiders are harmless.  They won’t hurt you.  There’s no reason to be afraid,” as I squashed the little guy into oblivion.

Then I realized something.  My actions and my words were incongruous.  My words were saying, “Fear not.”  But my actions were saying, “This spider must die!”  She heard my actions much louder than my words.  By killing the spider every time I saw one, I was reinforcing the idea that the spider must be eradicated.  It must be feared.  So I did something strange.  I stopped killing them.

“Daddy!” she would scream, “There’s a spider.”  So I would go in, and explain to her that there was nothing to fear.  “That little guy is harmless, I would say.  He eats mosquitoes, which are annoying.  I’m not going hurt him, because he’s not hurting us.”  She was not happy with my decision, but eventually the power of nature’s call would overcome her fear.  As she did what she had to do, she wouldn’t take her eye off the little spider. 

This scenario repeated itself several times over the course of a few months.  Eventually the fear was gone, and it was replaced with curiosity.  Until one day she found herself excited to see a spider.  Well, maybe not excited, but at least intrigued.

Yes, this is a story about my daughter and spiders, but I feel like it is so much more.  Too often, when confronted with something different, our default reaction is fear.  What if, instead of fear, we respond with time, care, and compassion.  When curiosity or empathy replaces fear, maybe there is room for something more, like learning, relationship, and friendship.

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Interactive Christmas Eve service: The ABCs of Christmas

I found the original ABCs of Christmas on a website called The Young Clergy Women Project.  I loved the idea of the service, and decided to use it this year for one of our Christmas Eve services.  Every year we have a special “Kid-Friendly” Christmas Eve service.  I love this, because it seems like it will be truly interactive.  Each person coming into the service (or every child) will get to choose to be a Wise One, a Shepherd, or an Angel.  Erin Klassen, the author of the original blog post, suggested making little head gear for kids to wear.  I’m not that crafty.  I’m going to print little paper-sized posters for people to take with these pictures on them:

These are images I took from Microsoft Clip Art.

These are images I took from Microsoft Clip Art.

At the beginning of the service, I’ll tell the people to listen to the Christmas ABCs story, and pay close attention.  Every time I say the word “Shepherds,” the Shepherds are supposed to hold up their poster and say “Let’s go see!”  Every time I say the word “Wise Ones,” the Wise Ones hold their poster and say “Look, a star!”  When I say the word “Angel,” the angels say, “Hallelujah!”

A is for ANGEL. The ANGEL Gabriel began the story by telling Mary,

Luke 1:28-33        “Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty.  Beautiful inside and out! God be with you…. Mary, you have nothing to fear.  God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.”

B is for Bethlehem, where our story takes place.  People traveled from far and wide to get to Bethlehem, which was not a very big village.

C is for Census, which means an official counting of all the people.  The reason so many people came to Bethlehem.

D is for Donkey.  A donkey carried the family on their long journey.  Mary and Joseph had to travel 107 miles along the Jordan River to get from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  That’s a pretty long journey.

E is for Exhausted.  That’s how everyone must have felt when they arrived.  It would take about 36 hours of walking to go that far.  That’s three days in a row of doing nothing but walking.

Song: O Little Town of Bethlehem

F is for Family.  Mary and Joseph and their new baby Jesus created a new family, one that would bless the whole world.

Luke 2:6-8       “While they were there, the time came for Mary to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn.  She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for in the hostel.”

G is for the Good News about to be shared with all the earth.  This is what the ANGELS said:

Luke 2:10-14   “There were SHEPHERDS camping in the neighborhood.  They had set night watches over their sheep.  Suddenly, God’s ANGEL stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them.  The SHEPHERDS were terrified.  The ANGEL said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master.  This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket lying in a manger.”

            At once the ANGEL was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: “Glory to God in the heavenly heights.  Peace to all men and women on earth.”

Song: Hark the Herald Angels Sing

H is for Hope.  Now we light the Advent candle of Hope.  Hope is knowing that good news is coming, even when things look bleak.  Jesus is the source of our hope.

I is for Imagine.  If we close our eyes and imagine the scene, we can see the beauty and wonder of the ANGELS proclaiming good news to all men and women.  We can see the SHEPHERDS, first terrified, but then overcome with joy as they hear the good news.  If we try even harder, we can imagine a world where God’s peace reigns, where there is no war or hunger.  And if we can imagine it, we can do it with God’s help.

J is for Joy.  Now we light the Advent candle of Joy.  Joy is a kind of happiness that comes from God.  It cannot be dampened, and is always shared.  The birth of Jesus gives us joy.

Song: Joy to the World

K is for King.  Though Jesus would be King, he was not the kind of King people were used to.  Most kings are born in palaces, surrounded by servants.  He was born in a stable, surrounded by dirty, smelly SHEPHERDS.  Most kings rule with power and fear.  Jesus rules with mercy and love.

L is for Lost.  When Jesus grew up he told a lot of stories, and three of them were about lost things that were found.  He loved to find lost things, and when you are with Jesus, you will never be lost.  He is the good SHEPHERD, who do anything to find his lost sheep.

L is also for Love.  Now we light the Advent candle of Love, Jesus summarized his ministry by saying “Love God…” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

M is for Manger.  A manger is usually used to hold food for animals, but this time it held the baby because he had no crib.

Song: Away in the Manger

N is for Noel.  Noel is another word for Christmas.  It means new birth, and that’s what happened in our story.  That’s what happens every year at Christmas time.  That’s what happens every time we decide to follow Jesus – he is born anew in us.

O is for Offering.  The WISE ONES gave gifts to the baby, and we can offer our gifts every day.  We give our time, our talents, and our treasure to God, and pray that as a Church, we are good stewards of all that is entrusted to us.  So we we share our gifts now.

Offertory – Go Tell it On the Mountain

Doxology

P is for Peace.  Now we light the Advent candle of peace.  Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and is the source of the kind of peace that surpasses all understanding.

Q is for Quiet.  We begin a time of prayer in quiet, allowing God to speak to us, and joyful when the quiet is broken by small voices.

R is for Revealed.  Revealed means “showing us something that was once hidden.” God revealed to us what love looks like by giving us Jesus.  Jesus is love, and reveals to us the way to love one another.

S is for Star.  One special star guided WISE ONES to come to see the baby.  They were mysterious, and they lived far away, but they brought gifts to Jesus because they knew that he would grow up to be a King.

Matthew 2:9-11 Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time! They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh. 

T is for Table.  When Jesus grew up he invited all to his table.  He gave his friends bread and wine, and told them to remember him always.  When we gather at the Lord’s Table today, we call it Communion because we come together.  So at this table, we also remember the next letter:

U is for Unity.  Communion is a time when all people can come together and be one.  Just as many grains come together to form one bread.  We, who are many people, come together to be one body of Christ.

Communion Liturgy

After the Communion liturgy is read, these instructions are given: When you come to Communion, you will be given a piece of bread by the Pastor.  You may take it with you to the railing, where you will  be given a cup of grape juice.  If you are here as a family, then each family will be given one hunk of bread.  You are then invited to kneel at the railing together.  Take the bread, break off a piece, and give it to someone else in your family and say, “This is Christ’s body.”  If you have a little one, tell them “We do this as reminder of how much Jesus loves us.”  The cups will be brought to you at the railing.  You are welcome to pray together as long as you wish.

V is for Vulnerable.  Vulnerable means, “able to be hurt.”  Every baby is very vulnerable, and so are we when we love one another.  God became vulnerable when Jesus was born, and we are called to be vulnerable when we love our brothers and sisters.

W is for Wonder.  Like the WISE ONES, we stand in awe and wonder of the newborn King.

X is for Christ.  X is the Greek letter Chi, the first letter in the word “Christ.”  The X is one of the most ancient symbols of Christianity.  People have been using the letter X to stand for Christ for centuries.  And now we light the Christ candle, symbolizing the coming of light into the world.  Jesus is born.

Y is for You.  You ANGELS.  You WISE ONES.  You SHEPHERDS.  You sons and daughters. You mothers and fathers.  You friends and strangers.  You are all here to worship and celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Z is for Zeal.  Let your zeal for Christ burn brightly.  As these lights are passed out, know that the light of God burns much, much brighter.  Though these lights will die out, the light of God is steadfast, and endures forever.

Glow sticks are distributed by the ushers.  Sometimes these sticks are difficult to crack, so they should be lit before the service and kept in a box.

Song: Silent Night

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Sermon: Let No Prison Hold You

From the sermon below:

“‘Are you the one?’  John the Baptist asked. ‘Or do we need to wait for another?’ 

I can understand this question John asked.  I can see the prison walls around me.  That we build up with violence, war, and poverty.  I see Newtown and Columbine.  I see apartheid South Africa, and oppression and racism that exists today.  I see hunger amongst us, hurting people in our pews.  I see my own heart, my own failures, and the hurt that I cause.  I see the times when I’ve failed to love God the way I should, or participated in the unjust  systems.  I can see the walls, and they are thick, and they are strong.  And I can ask too, ‘How long must we wait?'”

For a full blog post, go here.

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Let no prison hold you

let none hold you

Few of us ever plan on going to prison.  No one wants to spend time in a jail cell.  Yet many of us spend time in one every day.

We spend time in jails built around us.  Sometimes they are barely noticeable.  Like the fish that doesn’t know it is in a fish bowl, or the bird that doesn’t know the world outside the cage, we spend our time in prison.  These are the prisons of injustice.  They are the prisons of systems that keep us from fulfilling our dreams.  They are the walls that are built by those that want to keep others oppressed.  Hope and possibility are kept out, and all that remains is a cycle of despair.

Sometimes we are in prisons that we built ourselves.  We guard our pain and our torment and make sure nothing is able to penetrate the walls we build.  We have been hurt too many times, so we build walls.  We remain in the cell because the outside world is full of pain, and at least inside the cell we have the illusion of safety.  Intimacy and friendship are kept out, and all that remains is superficiality.

Sometimes we are in prisons that have been built for us.  These walls are built by sickness, or by those that hurt us.  Sometimes great wrongs are inflicted upon us.  Sometimes the tragedy is too much to take.  Some say, “God doesn’t give us what we can’t handle.”  I don’t believe it, because I don’t believe it is always God that is giving it.  Sometimes the pain is just too much, and the walls of the prison are too strong to break free.  Healing and joy are kept out, and all that remains is pain.

In Matthew 11:2-11, we find John the Baptist in prison.  He was imprisoned by a King that did not want to hear the truth.  John spoke the truth to power.  He called for repentance.  He called for a change of heart.  He called upon people to follow the path of righteousness, and he prepared the way for the one that would come.  But he was not imprisoned until he demanded too much of the King.  When he impeded the powerful from having his way, he had to be stopped.  He was kept alive, for awhile, by the will of the people.

John was called the “greatest of all those born of a woman,” by Jesus.  And yet as he was in jail, he wondered.  It can be dangerous to inject too much of our own thoughts into figures in the Bible, but here it is almost impossible not to wonder what John was thinking when he sent a messenger to Jesus.

“Are you the one? Or are we to wait for another?” he asked.

John was in prison, so all he could do was wait.  And yet he wanted to know, “Are you the one?”  Sitting in jail, still alive at the whim of a tyrannical King, looking back at his work, his ministry, and looking forward to a future that was unlikely to have a happy ending, he asked, “Are we to wait for another?”

And likewise I wait.  I wait in my prison.  I wait in the prison of sin that I have built around me.  I wait in the prison of injustice that is all around.  I look to Newtown and Columbine.  I look to the Liberian Civil War and Apartheid South Africa.  I look to violence on the streets of our cities, and violence in the homes our children.  I look to hungry children at the school in my neighborhood, and to the cold families looking for coats at our Wardrobe ministry.  I look into my own heart at the choices I make, the hurts that I cause, and the prisons I build.  I wait and look back at my work, my ministry, and look forward to the future and wonder.  “Are we to wait for another?”

Is the question a sin unto itself?  Maybe.  But at least I know that I’m in good company.  I’ve never felt that doubt is the opposite of faith.  .

So, trapped in our prisons, what do we do?  What is Jesus’ answer?  Of course, Jesus doesn’t give us a straight answer (That is why I think doubt is not an obstacle to faith, but lines the pathway of faith.  If Jesus wanted us to never doubt or question, he would have given us more straight answers.).

Tell John what you have seen,” Jesus says.  Tell John to look beyond his prison walls.  Tell him to look beyond the pain and the heartache and the bleak outlook.  Tell John “that 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.”

This Advent, we still wait.  We wait like John in prison.  Not held in by despair, but looking always outward.  Looking from within our own prisons at the world all around. Waiting and watching with God’s eyes to see the signs.  Waiting is never a fun activity.  We do everything in our power to avoid waiting… for anything.  We fill our time with noise.  We go to restaurants designed to limit waiting as much as possible.  We go to grocery stores where the lines are filled with things to read, and last-minute items to buy.  What are waiting rooms filled with? TVs, magazines, some even check out ipads.

Yet here we are waiting, but not idly.  We are purposefully waiting.  Waiting with eyes open to the love of God that is all around.  We hear one of the Newtown mothers declare “Love wins,” and are left in awe of the power of the human heart to heal. We hear stories like the one Peter Storey tells here, of a woman in South Africa who said to the man that killed her son, “You took my son.  So now you must be mine.”

Advent is a season to wait.  Wait and watch for Christ in our midst.  In a world addicted to instant gratification, the act of purposeful waiting is a revolutionary act.  It is a soul-cleansing act.  We wait with eyes wide open.  We wait with hearts open for Christ, seeking the answers to our questions in the stories of hope and grace.  We wait, seeking  forgiveness.  We do not rush into anything, because you cannot rush something as powerful and painful and precious as forgiveness.

This Advent, we wait like John in prison, who was called to notice the signs all around.  

This Advent, we wait like Mandela in prison, who refused to let the walls hold him.  We wait like Mandela, who transformed his prison into a crucible of learning, organization, and reconciliation.  Who practiced forgiveness even as he was tormented.  Mandela, who befriended white guards who were supposed to hate him, who used their friendship to secretly write his manuscript for A Long Walk to Freedom.  Mandela, who wrote in prison, “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death” (from A Long Walk to Freedom)

We are called to look beyond the walls of our prison.  Don’t ignore the walls, but do not let them defeat you.  Look beyond the walls, and do not let them contain you.  See the signs of mercy, justice, and love.  See Christ all around – not in holiday decorations or TV specials.  See Christ in the hearts of others.  The prisons made by sin and injustice can feel impenetrable, but there is freedom in Christ.  No prison held Mandela.  No prison held John.  Let none hold you.

Listen to the sermon I preached based on this post

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Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013

let none hold you

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December 5, 2013 · 4:58 pm

One piano sounds like a string symphony playing Christmas Classic

Every time I watch the Piano Guys, I find myself doubting.  They cannot possibly be doing this with just one piano.  This is truly remarkable.  I could write more about being inspired to use old tools in creative ways, or the power of team work, or the discipline it must take to perfect this kind of performance.  Instead, I’m just going to take it for what it is – a beautiful piece of music that should be savored.

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