We are working with Church World Service (CWS) to support relief teams going to the area and we are purchasing Hygiene Kits and Emergency Cleanup Buckets. These efforts are being coordinated with local organizations and churches responding to the disaster from the storm.
Some of my friends are Fredrick Nietzsche devotees. Not me. However, I do agree with this thought of his:
“What doesn’t kill us will make us stronger.”
This idea describes the experience of the Jews who survived exile in Babylon. In the book of Ezra we see examples of how the hardships and trauma of their captivity refined and defined their character as Jewish people.
A thunder drum of heaven rolls in Luke’s description of Jesus entering his hometown (Luke 4). The Gospel writer portrays Jesus glowing with victory from his 40-day wilderness fast and successful triumph over Satan’s temptations. Unrolling the scroll of Isaiah in his local sanctuary, Jesus reads to his neighbors the prophet’s illustration of God’s compassion for humanity in our most vulnerable condition. Every person listening in that congregation undoubtedly knows of God’s concern for broken people. They take comfort in the hope that one-day, in some distant place, a Messiah will come and help fulfill God’s vision of goodness. They consider this a nice thought, albeit a completely elusive vision.
The drum of heaven then falls silent, as Jesus declares history in the making. He personally claims to be the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy and takes the helm of a movement to save all people. His resounding inaugural address introduces a radically different way of thinking and living beyond religion as usual. No longer does faith focus on a distant future, ancient past, or some ethereal concept. Jesus declares that God is right here, compassionately working in our presence.
This heavenly proclamation by Jesus is met by earthly murmurs from the crowds. God’s creatures start judging what their creator is doing, rather than align with God in this historic moment. Shewing away the hand of God, they arrest Jesus and plan to throw him off a cliff.
By recounting this event in his Gospel, Luke invites us to consider our response to the claims of Christ. Fyodor Dostoevsky offers a reaction in his brilliant novel, Brothers Karamazov. His character, Ivan, tells a hopeful tale about Jesus returning to earth to live out love for the needy during the Spanish Inquisition. A representative of the church arrests Jesus and suggests that he should have taken the deal with the devil in the desert. The Christian leader declares that the church certainly has!
Reading this tale can leave you in heart racing breathlessness. The idea of a Christ-less Church and Spirit-less Christians is horrifying. Yet it happens! Nevertheless, Jesus keeps marching on. Nothing can silence the drumbeat of his Spirit or arrest his mission for long. The Bible invites us to listen and enthusiastically embrace his movement. If we don’t, others most certainly will.
Good King Wenceslas provides a model of thoughtful kindness in public life. Although he was surrounded by political intrigue and treachery, he managed to maintain a vital Christian faith and demonstrated significant compassion toward those in need. His life of devotion to Christ in the murky waters of the royal courts of old Bohemia (in the 10th century AD) is an inspiration, and his loving kindness memorialized in the Christmas Carol that bares his name is a fitting tribute to his spirit of openness to Christ.
King Wenceslas is better known in the Czech Republic as Saint Václav. Soon after his death at the hands of a conniving brother who was seeking political power, Václav was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. Eight centuries later, a clergyman in the Church of England, named John Mason Neale, wrote a poem in his honor, and it was put to the music of an old Finnish Tune.
I’m going to try to learn this carol for Christmas. I think it's certainly more edifying than Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman, which I know by heart.
I recently read on Patheos.com about Broadway Methodist Church in Indianapolis limiting their church programs and focusing instead on listening intently to the needs of the community and linking their church members to established community services as engaged friends where they can use their gifts to share God's love. This concept is worth discussing among church leaders who desire more than a parochially oriented finger print on the character of their community and who instead want widespread impact. This video takes less that two minutes to share the theology behind this thinking .