Advent Reflection: Your Timing vs. Divine Timing

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Luke 1:5-25

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God,he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous-to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple.When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home.

After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.”The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Reflection by Onleilove

“And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time” – Luke 1:20

Like Zechariah most of us struggle with believing God’s words and promises. For many of us our unbelief is fueled by the media, news reports and the “common sense” of our day. During our holiday season we sing “joy to the world” while struggling with depression. We marvel at manger scenes with Three Kings of diverse races coming together to worship baby Jesus and yet struggle to believe diversity can exist in our churches. We praise Jesus as the “Prince of Peace” while living in a country that spends more on war than on education for children.

Though we know the promises of God, we falter in our faith. From today’s passage we see that even the zealous Zechariah struggled with believing. We can’t condemn Zechariah’s actions because it is difficult to wait years for a situation to change. Emotions, criticism and doubt will cause even the most faithful to murmur. This passage has a great deal to teach us about God’s appointed timing versus our timing. God’s appointed timing is based on eternity and our timing is based on finality.

Elizabeth and Zechariah were chosen as the parents for John the Baptist. God had to delay John’s birth so that he would be on time to lead the way for his cousin – Jesus. Looking back, we can see that John’s birth was right on-time and by delaying the birth of John, God was not punishing Zechariah and Elizabeth but was actually choosing this couple to assist in preparing the way for the Christ.

At times, what appears to be a delay or denial from God may actually be divine timing that will lead to the birth of a new ministry, business or relationship that will impact our world in a powerful way. Though we may be tempted to murmur about our current circumstances let us remember that God can see the entire picture and is working situations out for a divine purpose and appointed time. When the world provides negative reports and you are tempted to murmur, remember the words from this gospel song: “Whose report will you believe? I shall believe the report of the Lord!”

Prayer

God, when we are discouraged by the reality we see, give us new eyes to see your reality. When we are tempted to murmur, give us the faith to know that you are working for our good and the good of humanity. In our times of doubt, comfort us and remind us of your love. Amen.

Prayers for Children

Sandy HookMy heart was saddened when I learned of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but I was also reminded that in the inner-city children are shot and killed everyday. Growing up in East New York, Brooklyn I was accustomed to hearing gun shots and hitting the floor for cover at an early age, this is a tragedy as well. In Chicago for 6-months in 2012 on average 50 people were killed by gun violence a month (many children and teens), this is higher than the death rate in war torn countries. Trauma research has shown that youth in inner-city communities in California have higher trauma rates than youth in Iraq-this is a tragedy as well. I do not like to compare pain because pain is pain but what we must overstand is that when we allow the poor to die for years without concern we open ourselves up for tragedies like Sandy Hook. ALL life is sacred! Black, white, rich, poor, children, teens and elderly. What is done to one affects all because you can not build a gated community to keep out the violence and pain of the rejected. Yes we need access to mental health and gun control but what we also need are villages that will shepherd youth with love and justice.

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Become Like a Little Child…..

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven….”-Matthew 18:2

From: lovenwords.com

      From: lovenwords.com

Affirmation: “The world is safe and friendly. I am safe. I am at peace with life.”

Poetry Challenge Day 18: A Psalm of Joy

Today’s poem was inspired by a prompt from Writing the Sacred: A Palm Inspired Path To Appreciating and Writing Sacred Poetry by Ray McGinnis.

Divine parent-mother and father, human and divine,

I give you thanks with my entire being;

before the sun, moon and stars I declare your praise.

You pull the orphan close feeding her with the eternal milk of your unconditional love.

When I was invisible you saw me in my distress;

even when others refused to look upon me.

Your grace and mercy follow me all of my days,

like twin companions  flanking me on each side during this sojourn we call life.

Who can quantify your ways or figure  out your favor?

With joy I will share my testimony with all who need encouragement along the way.

Your praise will continually be upon my pen as I write of your just ways.

Your divine love will light my path as I illuminate the darkness for your glory.

                                  Photo by Onleilove

Occupy-Chaplaincy!!!

This blog first appeared on the Poverty Initiative Union in Dialogue Blog: A New & Unsettling Force.

Below are two pieces by Poverty Initiative leaders discussing the different contexts in which they have served as chaplains and how this work is connected to the broader movement to end Poverty. The first is a reflection by Jennifer Wilder about her work with the Union protest chaplains who have been serving in Zuccotti (Liberty) Park for the past several weeks of Occupy Wall Street. Jenn’s reflection is followed by an excerpt from a reflection that Union alum and Poverty Initiative leader Onleilove Alston wrote about being a chaplain over the years with the Poverty Initiative, “on the field of battle for justice.”

CHAPLAINCY IN ZUCCOTTI PARK FOR ‘OCCUPY WALL STREET

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Lenten Reflection for MARK 10:46-52: “What do you want me to do for you?”

This is a lenten reflection I wrote for Park Avenue Christian Church’s Lenten Series and I wanted to share it with all of you in the hopes that you receive some encouragement from it, be blessed!

Blind Bartimaeus Receives His Sight

MARK 10:46-52

46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.  51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.  The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”  52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Reflection

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Bartimaeus was desperate for healing, so he boldly called out for what he needed though he was rebuked for doing so. Bartimaues’ neighbors probably found his display of desperation embarrassing and unsettling. Many times in our communities we allow ourselves and others to suffer in silence, but in this passage, God shows us that he is not unsettled by our cries, but will respond to them.

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2012 National Prayer Breakfast Speeches: Eric Metaxas & President Obama

During this year’s controversial National Prayer Breakfast Eric Metaxas, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and former Veggie Tales writer gave a prophetic call to “true faith”. I was really impacted by his Bonhoeffer biography and though we may not see eye to eye on everything politically I do agree that when people of faith” play” religion it can have dangerous consequences.I have been meaning to make it out to one of Metaxas’ Socrates in the City lectures.

President Obama’s Speech at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast