Our Dwelling Place in All Generations

*a sermon preached at a local Bremen church*

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the LORD showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain — that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees — as far as Zoar.

The LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants'; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”

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Goodness is Stronger than Evil

Goodness is stronger than evil.
Love is stronger than hate.
Light is stronger than darkness.
Life is stronger than death.
Victory is ours through Him who loves us!
~Archbishop Desmond Tutu

‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.’ ~Jesus (Matthew 5)

Evil seems so apparent these days. It manifests itself in our local communities, in our national and international relationships, in our workplaces, in our intimate relationships and families, and even within our own hearts. What evil wants feels good for the short term – evil wants division, chaos, and fear. Evil wants us to be divided against each other. Evil wants us to be suspicious of each other and isolated, because when we are alone and fearful, we are weak and easily overpowered or controlled. It is so easy to get sucked into scapegoating or gossip, because for a moment it feels like we are safe if someone else is the target. But that kind of division only perpetuates itself and makes everyone, including the perpetrator, more afraid.

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Gifts of the Spirit

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord… to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” ~1 Corinthians 12:4-5, 7

Before Jesus is crucified and again after his resurrection, he promises that he will send a Spirit to be guide, companion, comforter, advocate. He knows that his disciples will need help in continuing to follow his path when he is no longer with them. They will need power and guidance, assurance and encouragement. This Spirit will dwell within them. It will flow among them, connecting them to Jesus and to God, and creating unity among them. It will reveal truth to them and help them discern. And then, fifty days after the resurrection, the promised Spirit arrives in wind and fire.

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Journeying Together

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” ~Philippians 3:10-11

For Christians, the season before Easter (March 1 – April 18) is a time of preparation, a time when we intentionally follow Jesus–traveling with him to the foot of the cross, watching him heal and teach along the way, anticipating his resurrection. Some Christians call this time Lent, with a focus on discipleship, sacrifice, and purification. For me, the season of Lent has been a time of noticing and becoming. I notice the things that keep me from being who God calls me to be, and I nurture the things in my life that keep me growing in God. For the last several years I have taken up practices that empty me of ego, pride, distraction, smallness; an emptying that creates more space for me to be filled with God.

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Clothed with Kindness

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” -Micah 6:8

The unofficial theme for the past month, the word that God keeps seeming to put in front of our community, in our minds and hearts, in our conversations, has been kindness. I think of kindness as love with hands and feet – the visible and tangible outpouring of love. But I have also found it to be a helpful way to grow love when love is difficult. Because kindness is an action, it is also a choice. We may not always be in circumstances that make us happy. We may not always feel a warmth of love toward someone. But we can always find ways to act in kindness. In my own life, when I choose to act with kindness, I find myself learning to love the recipient of my kindness. This is true when I am kind to myself, too.

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My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple when he was eight days old, they were enacting a ritual that was done by every Jewish family with a new baby boy. Anna and Simeon spent so much of their long lives in the temple that they had probably seen hundreds of babies come and go, yet they recognized Jesus as the Messiah and praised God. All the other characters in the biblical Christmas stories (Joseph, Mary, the Magi, the shepherds) have signs and angels to point the way toward God’s presence on earth. Anna and Simeon just knew it through the stirring of their hearts by the Holy Spirit.

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The Blessings of God’s Heaven

“How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven.” ~Phillips Brooks

This season is always a busy one. Family gatherings, shopping trips, extra church and school activities–the demands on our time and money can be overwhelming. This year, as we tumble into advent, a season of preparation for Christmas, I am reminding myself to be still enough to notice and cherish the small moments, the moments where heaven comes close. God whispers into our very human hearts, the very blessings of heaven. Those blessings of peace, joy, abundance, rest, love, and hope are ours if can open ourselves to notice and receive them.

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