Tag Archive: Dietrich Bonhoeffer


The Peace of God

This was my humble and much wrestled with attempt to speak to the tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut.  May we continue to pray for God’s peace for the families and community affected, as well as for all people and nations.  And may we be peacemakers, sharing the love we have experienced in Christ Jesus with all those we encounter in both our words and our actions.

Today is Gaudate or Joy Sunday.  And the readings we’ve just heard are bursting with praise and joy.  But to be honest, I don’t really feel a whole lot like rejoicing.  I’m still thinking about the horrible shootings of the past week – two in one week.  I’m sad and wondering how this could have happened.  I’m frustrated and I’m angry that once again there have been shootings in our country.

I guess when I think about it more, I’m just tired.  I’m tired of turning on the news and hearing about continuing bloodshed in Syria, or more trouble in Israel and Palestine.  I’m tired of hearing about tragedies happening in movie theaters, temples, malls and in schools.  I’m tired of all the bad news.

And so it seems that these texts for today are horribly out of place given what’s been going on in our world.  But I think just the opposite is true – these texts have a lot to say to us this morning, particularly the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

I really love this letter to the Philippians.  It’s positive and upbeat, it includes the Christ Hymn in the second chapter, and it’s full of these wonderfully written sentences and phrases that I have found incredibly valuable in my own spiritual life.  Not to mention, it’s short and that makes it seem a little bit easier to handle!

But there’s a lot more depth to these four chapters than we might think at first glance.  The Philippians were living in what is now northern Greece along one of the major Roman trade roads of the day – the Via Egnatia.  In addition, the city of Philippi, once a backwater town, had become a sort of retirement community for Roman military personnel who had fought previously with Marc Antony and Octavian against Brutus and Cassius – yes, “Et tu, Brute?”  So the city had a Roman vibe.

Then, in around 50 CE, this guy named Paul had founded a tiny church – the first on European soil.  As a follow-up, Paul writes to the Philippians to share what he’s been up to, to encourage them to stay united in Christ, and to continue in the faith despite opposition.  And he’s not just writing this letter from his cushy home office, he’s sitting in a prison cell, knowing that his life could seriously be in danger.  Prisons in Paul’s day were not places for punishment or reform, but rather places where people would be held until a verdict could be reached.  Paul was waiting to see what would happen.

It is with all this in mind that we hear four verses of Paul’s letter to the community at Philippi.  We hear about rejoicing, about not worrying, and the peace of God.

How on earth is Paul able to write, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice?”  If I were sitting in a dark, dank prison cell, pondering the possibility of my death, as much as I’d like to, I honestly don’t know if I’d be able to write that.  And yet, Paul is not the only prisoner I know who has had this attitude.

Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was imprisoned by the Nazis during WWII for various charges, the gist of which was that he wasn’t following the Nazi party line as he should have been.  During Christmas of 1943, sitting in prison, away from his family, friends and fiancée, Bonhoeffer wrote a Morning Prayer included in a collection of “Prayers for Those Also Imprisoned.”  The prayer is rather long, but here’s a portion of it that echoes Paul’s words:

“In me it is dark,
but with you, there is light;
I am lonely, but you don’t leave me;
I am faint-hearted, but with you there is help;
I am disquieted, but with you there is peace;
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I don’t understand your ways, but
You know the way for me…

Lord Jesus Christ
You were poor
And wretched, and imprisoned and abandoned like me.
You know the affliction of all people,
You stay with me,
Even when no person stands with me.
You don’t forget me and you search me out.
You desire that I recognize you,
And that I turn myself towards you.

Lord, I hear your call and follow.
Help me!”

These words help to clarify for me some of what Paul was talking about.

All of the things Paul talks about in these four verses – rejoicing, not being worried, receiving the peace of God – all of these things only happen in the context of what God has done first.  We are able rejoice, but we rejoice “in the Lord.”  We are not concerned or worried about the things we face, because in all things, we can always bring our prayers, requests, and questions before God.  And we receive the peace of God that guards our hearts and minds “in Christ Jesus.”  In God, come down to earth in a fragile, vulnerable baby, we rejoice, we pray, and we know God’s peace.

What is peace? How do we define it? There are two KFC commercials right now that feature the tagline: “find some peace this holiday.”  One shows a man using chicken to quiet two women, who are laughing and gabbing, while the other shows this same man pacifying his fighting children with chicken and chocolate chip cookies.  Is that what peace is?  Quieting down the noise with fried chicken?!

When we say we long for peace or that we’re praying for peace, what is it that we’re actually saying? Are we hoping that people will stop being physically harmful to one another?  Or are we hoping that conflicts will cease?  What does peace mean to you?  What does peace look like and feel like to you?

I think we often have a more limited view of peace.  I think our idea of peace sometimes looks like something that you’d hear in a beauty pageant – “I wish for world peace and for everyone to have a puppy!”  Both awesome things, but a little limited.

God’s peace is far greater than that.  God’s peace is  “shalom” – completeness, soundness, safety, health, prosperity and wholeness.  God’s peace is nothing short of the complete healing and wholeness of an aching world.  Close your eyes for a moment and imagine it.  Wars cease.  Painful conflicts end.  Bitterness between politicians disappears.  Words of love and joy flow from peoples’ lips.  Sharp and hurtful remarks are gone.  Relationships are healed and restored.  People feel and are safe and secure because this peace from God is permanent – it is not temporary or confined like human peace.

This is the peace that Paul and Bonhoeffer knew.  It was in the hope of this peace that they lived and died.  It was in this peace that they waited for Christ’s return, just as we do today.  And it’s not that their lives were free from the pains, tragedies and sufferings we experience.  No – just the opposite!  They had more than enough trials and ordeals.  But they knew that the Lord was near.

They knew that God had come into a violent, worrisome world as a vulnerable child to live life among us.  They knew that God, the holy One of Israel, had lived life as a poor peasant – an outcast.  They knew that this same God, had faced the injustice and violence of the world head on, and had been crucified.  They knew that this God – the God who worked through weakness and the unexpected – was raised from the dead conquering sin and death once and for all.  And they knew that this God had done all of this out of love for God’s beloved children.

They knew that they could take all of their struggles, worries, problems, fears, doubts, questions and joys to God in prayer and supplication.  They knew to give thanks for the good things and to let their requests – all of them, even the most mundane – be made known to God.  Knowing all of this, they lived with the peace of God guarding their hearts and minds.  They were able to rejoice in the goodness and the promises of God even in the midst of persecution, violence and injustice.  In the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might, and has become my salvation.”

We catch glimpses of or experience this peace from time to time.  We may feel God’s peace surround us when praying or being prayed for.  We may witness courageous souls stand up against violence and hate in favor of love.  We may see it in little children who go caroling through the neighborhood, lifting a neighbor’s spirits.  God’s peace – God’s kingdom – is breaking in, despite all that we have seen to the contrary.  It has always been this way.

The peace of God is found in expectant hope.  We see the horrors of the world around us and yet we know what God has done for us in Christ.  We watch the news and we pray, knowing that God hears us and is at work, even if we cannot perceive how.  We wait and hope for that day when God’s peace will reign.  We wait and hope for Christ’s coming, knowing that all things will be made right at last.

It will take time to grieve the losses we have experienced this week.  Even if we were not in that Oregon mall or at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we are all grieving.  We are all wondering what the next steps will be.  But God is also grieving.  God is grieved anytime there is suffering in this world.  And God knows the unbearable pain of losing a child.  But God also knows that death does not have the last word.  There is light that the darkness can never overcome.  There is peace that no violence can take away.  There is life that comes forth from death.

I’ll close with the last verse of the hymn we are about to sing: “O God, whose heart compassionate bears ev’ry human pain, redeem this violent, wounding world till gentleness shall reign.  O God of mercy, hear our prayer: bring peace to earth again.”  Amen.

© 2012. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

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Community in Christ

This is the sermon I delivered on Sunday morning at Christ Lutheran Church in Washington, DC.

As the semester draws to a close and senior graduation creeps closer, I have been thinking a lot about my fellow students and life on Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg.  I’ve been thinking about the experiences we’ve all shared – both good and bad.  And I’ve been thinking about where we will all be in the coming months, whether in first call congregations, doing Clinical Pastoral Education and serving as chaplain interns, or beginning internship around the country.  Seminary has a way of bringing people together in community only to send them back out again.

And I’ve also been thinking about my upcoming trip to Munich to live in an intentional ecumenical community while I study at the university.  I’ve been reflecting on what it means to live in relationship with others from sometimes vastly different backgrounds.  In short, I’ve had community on my mind!

The author of 1 John also had community on his mind.     His community was going through conflict and strife, differing on theology and church practice.  And so he was writing to encourage his community to “…love one another, because love is from God.”  The reading we have for this morning uses some variation of the word “love” 27 times and the word “God” 21 times – that’s quite a bit of repetition and emphasis, so these must be important words!

Love comes from God and, as 1 John explains, “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  Everything begins and flows from in God’s loving action toward and for us.  Through Jesus’ death, he has restored our relationship with God the Father.  And what’s more, Christ’s death has enabled us to love one another.

Now, we participate in all different types of communities: our families, our groups of friends, sports groups, music groups, book groups, academic or professional groups, theater and arts communities, and religious communities.  And, through social media, we participate in online communities.

And we all know that life in community is not always…how shall I put this…pretty.  We all sin, make mistakes, say things that aren’t very nice – we have all been there and done that.  As it says earlier in the letter of 1 John, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  So when our human imperfection and sin happen in community, people get hurt, angry and upset.  It’s a vicious cycle that’s easy to get trapped in.

I’ve been taking pottery lessons in Gettysburg for about three months now.  Besides being something I’ve always wanted to do, I’ve found the classes to be a wonderful stress release.  There’s just something about getting messy with clay that is incredibly freeing.  If you mess up, you can usually fix it with a bit of water and some elbow grease.  Or, if it’s really bad, you can ball it up and begin again.  Some of the best pieces I’ve made have come about through mistakes.  I’ve only had to take a step back to rethink what was happening and remain open to inspiration.

Life in community is kind of like pottery.  It’s not clean, simple or perfect.  It’s messy.  But it’s wonderful.  Just like with pottery, some beautiful things can emerge from the messiness and struggle of life in relationship with others.

For example, our recent conversations surrounding what we can do about economic disparity may be difficult conversations to have, but the Holy Spirit is at work, bringing about good fruit, even if we can’t imagine what that will look like right now.

God’s love as shown to us in Jesus’ death and resurrection restores our relationship with God.  And knowing and abiding in that overwhelmingly beautiful and powerful love, we are to love one another.  The author of 1 John even takes this a step further, saying that, “no one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.”  It is through loving one another, that God’s love is perfected or fulfilled in us.  In practicing loving others, we come to know and understand more about the God who is love.

The church community, drawn together by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ, is where we should be able to let our hair down and be ourselves.  It’s the place where we should be able to be vulnerable with one another.  It’s the place we should be able to come and say, “I’m struggling with this and I need prayer.”  It’s also the place we should be able to say, “God has done something amazing!  Let’s celebrate together!”

But I fear that maybe because of our experiences in the world the other six days of the week, we may be less likely to embrace the church as the loving, forgiving, encouraging community it is.  The world prizes individualism and self-sufficiency.  The one who shows no weakness is the one who is valued as a strong person.

But the gospel flies in the face of all of this.  We proclaim that we rely on the undeserved grace of God.  We follow a savior went willingly to a cross for us – we didn’t do anything.  We are called to abide in Jesus – to draw our strength, hope and our very lives from him.  And we are called to live in community.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his classic work on community, Life Together: “Into the community you were called, the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray.  You are not alone, even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ.”

In baptism, we are welcomed into the body of Christ where we find support for our lives and faith journeys.  And in Holy Communion, we are fed together at Christ’s table in a meal that connects us not only with God, but with each other and all Christians, past, present and future, around the world.  I love Communion – it’s a such an important part of worship for me.  And part of it is being able to witness people receiving communion – it’s the communal aspect that helps to make it powerful for me.

I once thought that I could be a Christian on my own, but I ended up really missing the community of believers.  I missed being able to worship God with others – to sing, pray, and to receive communion with fellow believers.  I wanted a place that I could explore the faith and learn more from mature Christians.  But that was only going to happen in community with others.

This community in Christ is an incredible blessing that I think we may take for granted.  With texting, the Internet and social media, people are constantly “connected,” but these connections are not actually helping people to form or grow relationships.  Instead, they are making us more lonely and less connected to actual human beings.

As Sherry Turkle, Director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, explains in a TEDTalk: “Human relationships are rich, and they’re messy and they’re demanding, and we clean them up with technology.  And when we do, one of the things that can happen is that we sacrifice conversation for mere connection. … That feeling that ‘no one is listening to me’ is very important in our relationships to technology.  That’s why it’s so appealing to have a Facebook page, or a Twitter feed – so many automatic listeners.  And the feeling that ‘no one is listening to me’ makes us want to spend time with machines that seem to care about us. … We expect more from technology and less from each other.”

People are hungry for connections to others, but we’re tricking ourselves into thinking that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MySpace, Google+, FourSquare or Pinterest will suffice.  And don’t get me wrong – I’m on many of them!  But people are longing for others to actually listen to them – to be present with them in the midst of what they’re going through.  People are desperately yearning to be themselves, and to be welcomed and accepted for who they are.  People desire real connection, but they are scared to death of intimacy.

Now people do post some important things on Facebook – things that they might not have the courage to say in person.  Things that can be as simple as “please pray for me as I go through this difficult situation.”  However, it’s one thing to be on Facebook and type something or respond to someone’s post – it’s another to walk up to a human being and be with them – to sit with them, listen to them, talk with them, and pray with them.  We have been drawn together by the Holy Spirit into community – to pray for one another, listen to one another, learn from one another, encourage one another, share our joys and how God has been at work, as well as to share our sorrows, needs and shortcomings.  The church is the place for people to be vulnerable and to learn to be themselves with one another.  This means that we risk being hurt, but it also means that we have tremendous opportunity to grow closer to each other.  And by being so open and vulnerable, we open the door and welcome others to be themselves.  People are looking for real community where they can encounter God present in the faces of those around them.   People are looking for a place where they can discover who God is calling them to be.

We have a priceless gift in the gospel and in our community that worships and bears witness to God together.  “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…  We love because he first loved us.”  This gift is not something to keep to ourselves.  It is something that is meant to be shared with others.  If fear of others’ judgment is holding us back from connecting with people, or being vulnerable with them, or inviting them to check out the community that means something to us, then may we look to God’s love – that perfect love that drives out fear.  Drawing from God’s love, we, too, can love one another with all boldness.

How can you really connect with others in the coming weeks?  Does this mean changing how much time you spend online in favor of spending time with people instead?  How can you reach out to people longing for God and for real community?  How can you welcome others into the community of faith?  How can you support others in their lives and their faith?

Look around – look at the faces of the saints around you.  These are your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Let us take a moment to give thanks and to pray for this community that we may be filled with the love of God and strengthened by the Holy Spirit to welcome others into the body of Christ.  Amen.

© 2012. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

I stumbled across this prayer a while ago and I really liked it, so I thought I’d post it for others to think about. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote this while imprisoned in Berlin at Tegel Prison. I can only say I admire his life and work immensely and I believe he is a wonderful example from whom we can learn a great deal.

Prayer

,,Gott, zu Dir rufe ich in der Frühe des Tages.
Hilf mir beten und meine Gedanken sammeln zu Dir;
Ich kann es nicht allein.
In mir ist es finster, aber bei Dir ist das Licht;
Ich bin einsam, aber Du verlässt mich nicht;
Ich bin kleinmütig, aber bei Dir ist die Hilfe;
Ich bin unruhig, aber bei Dir ist der Friede;
In mir ist Bitterkeit, aber bei Dir ist Geduld;
Ich verstehe Deine Wege nicht, aber Du weißt den Weg für mich.
Amen.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Morgengebet

“O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray and gather my thoughts to you, I cannot do it alone.
In me it is dark, but with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not desert me;
My courage fails me, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace;
in me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me.
Amen.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Morning Prayer

Love One Another

This was the last sermon I preached at my Teaching Parish of Trinity Lutheran in Greencastle, Pennsylvania and was given today (May 2, 2010).

John 13:31-35
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love. The Beatles said it was all we needed. We use this little word to say we really like something, as in “oh my gosh, I love shoes!” or “I really love mocha chocolate chip ice cream!” Both of those are totally true by the way… We even use it when speaking to one another, and amazingly enough, this one word is used to cover a broad range of relationships – relationships between parents and children, those between friends, those between lovers. For a four-letter word, “love” is pretty versatile!

Last November, I had an interview for Clinical Pastoral Education, a program I’ll be participating in over this summer. Basically, I will be a chaplain at Gettysburg Hospital, learning about pastoral care firsthand. After speaking with me about what I hoped to learn over the summer and a bit about my faith journey, the interviewer asked me about what exactly had brought me to faith in God. You see, I wasn’t raised in any religious background so the interviewer was wondering how on earth I had ended up at seminary! A fair question to be sure!

After thinking a bit, I answered that it was God’s overwhelming and amazing love. The love that says no matter how much I mess up, God still wants to forgive me and have a relationship with me. And the fact that someone, a man named Jesus, had been willing to die for me in order to forgive me and bring me into relationship with God. That astounded me – who was this man who would give his life for me? I mean, he would do that for me even though I didn’t even know him?! That blew my mind and continues to leave me speechless. The feeling I had that God was out there, coupled with hearing about Jesus’ selfless act on the cross, told me that there was a God who loved me more than I could even begin to fathom. Once I heard that, I wanted to hear more – I wanted to know more about this God who would go to such incredible lengths for the sake of people who sinned and turned their backs on God and each other.

It was from here that my faith journey took off, slowly, but surely. Along the way, I have encountered many things, both positive and negative in the church, as I am sure you have as well. It’s quite inevitable to avoid any negative experiences within the church, because, ultimately, we are dealing with people who share and struggle with the same sins. In my personal experiences, I have encountered the condemnation of others who did not believe the exact same things being taught as well as people looking down on those of different faiths. I firmly believe that this is contrary to the new commandment Jesus gave to his disciples.

In our Gospel reading for this morning, Jesus declares: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” This statement comes just after Jesus has knelt to wash the dirty feet of his disciples. It also follows Jesus’ statement about the glory he and God the Father have received through Judas’ betrayal and the upcoming crucifixion. Jesus gives this new commandment, but he elaborates on it, saying that the disciples are to love just as he has loved them.

When I don’t slow down to actually think about what Jesus is saying, I think “oh, loving other people – that’s like being “nice” to them, right?” Yes, of course, but Jesus’ two sentences here mean infinitely more. First of all, love is a verb, not a noun. It’s an action, and, in the original language, the verb that is used here translates into “keep on” or “continue loving one another.” Here, Jesus is urging his disciples to continue loving one another, especially given that he knows his trial and crucifixion are going to happen in a few short hours. The community of faith must continue on in the spirit of Christ, even though dark and trying times are around the corner.

Secondly, what exactly does “just as I have loved you” mean? At a quick glance, it’s tempting to think of pictures of Jesus smiling and laughing with children or of the songs “Jesus loves me” or “Jesus loves the little children.” While these are wonderful in their own right, I think Jesus’ statement here is much more powerful. Jesus stands before his disciples as the Word become flesh, the one who was “in the beginning with God,” the one who has done incredible signs and taught powerful things. He stands there as the one who has just taken on the role of a slave, washing the disciples’ feet and who has predicted his impending suffering, death and resurrection. He has done all of these things out of love and now, he tells them to love each other as he has loved them. That is way more than being nice to one another!

There is a Middle English poem in the Commonplace Book of John Grimstone written in 1372, which speaks to this love beautifully:

“Love brought me,
And love created me,
Man, to be your companion.
Love fed me,
And love led me,
And love abandoned me here.

Love slew me,
And love drew me,
And love laid me in a tomb.
Love is my peace,
For love I chose,
Man to dearly buy.”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t rhyme or flow as well when it’s translated, but I think it captures the depth of Christ’s love for us.

But what does this all mean for us? Having received this amazing love, how does it affect our lives? Jesus has commanded his disciples and us to love one another with the same selfless love he showed in his life, throughout his ministry and in his death on the cross for our sake. We must get our hands dirty, throwing ourselves into loving others just as Jesus took on human flesh to show the love of God to and for us. Like happy gardeners reveling in the messiness and earthiness of the garden soil, we are to be busy about the work of the kingdom of God, loving with abandon.

Jesus also told his followers, “everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Like a badge or a tattoo, loving one another like Christ will show the world who his disciples are – who his representatives are on earth.

All I have to say to that is a sheepish, “Oops.” How many times have I shown less than Christ-like love to others? Driving on the road, in my relationships with those around me, the list could go on…I know for sure that I have not always loved as Christ loved me. I also have this sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one here who has had this problem! As I said before, love is an action, not a noun. It is something that we must continue to seek to do, relying on God’s never-ending grace and the Spirit working within us. I have also found that two of my favorite authors have encouragement for all who would seek to follow Christ.

First, C.S. Lewis, the great 20th century apologist and author, wrote, “do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”
In other words, Lewis wants us to stop thinking about and pondering whether or not we are truly loving someone and, like Nike would tell us, “just do it!” If we begin treating people as if we already loved them, with dignity, honoring them with our time and extending generosity and hospitality, I think we will be surprised to find that our attitude toward them shifts.

Second, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor, theologian and member of the Resistance movement against the Nazis, wrote extensively in his book Life Together, how Christians can and should live in community with one another. In this book, he urges people to pray for one another, to listen to each another’s stories, to bear one another’s burdens, to forgive each other, to proclaim God’s love and forgiveness to one another, and to allow God to interrupt our plans and hectic lives for the sake of others. This list rings true today, even though it’s more than 60 years later.

Remember that we are not just to love one another in the church or in the body of Christ, but also to love one another in the world. The famous Rabbi Hillel, who lived around the time of Jesus from 30 BCE to 10 CE, wrote, “If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” This applies directly to loving one another as Christ loved us. Yes, it is important for us to speak for ourselves and love one another within the church, but if we are not speaking for and caring for others, for our brothers and sisters outside of the church, then who are we as the body of Christ? Jesus, a Jewish man, went to Samaria and taught there, even though it was taboo for the two religions and cultures to interact. Time and time again, Jesus reached out to the outsiders and the marginalized and loved them.

If we do not stand with indigenous peoples whose homes and livelihoods are being destroyed due to deforestation and pollution, who will? If we do not stand with those who are persecuted due to their race, ethnicity, gender or faith, who will? If we do not do so, just as Jesus did, who are we? And, if we do not do it now, when will we do so? Will we only wake up when it is too late?

Love is a many splendored thing for sure. But love as Jesus talks about it is not static or something that happens to us. Rather it is something we are to actively participate in. As love brought Jesus to take on flesh and love for all of us drove him to the cross, it is a powerful force, not just a four-letter word. We have been commanded to love just as Jesus loved us and we are able to because Christ loved us first. We are to respond to the love of Christ by going and doing likewise. Are we up for the challenge? Maybe The Beatles were right: all you need is love. Perhaps, however, we can expand our view to include that of the band Switchfoot when they sing “Love is the movement. Love is a revolution. Get up, get up. Love is moving you now.” Love, the overwhelming love of Christ, is moving us now. Amen.

© 2010. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

Love

First Snow

Today, I’ve been watching the snowflakes dance and drift slowly to the ground. It’s the first snow of winter and I love it! It’s coated the grassy area in back and the roofs of the buildings across the way with a white layer of fluff. For a while, I heard shouts of joy from kids playing in the snow – giggles and the sound of a snowball fight in progress. I wish I could have joined them, but, alas, the final assignments of the semester were calling my name. Even now I’m procrastinating!

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been loving seminary, but I’m ready to have a bit of a break! Right now, I’m in “get it done” mode and crossing things off my list makes me almost shout with giddiness: “Yes! One step closer!” It’s been a wonderful semester, but I feel almost as if I’ve forgotten some basic things in the hustle and bustle.

In school we discuss God, ponder God, debate about God and theology, learn about how people in the past have talked about and believed in God, how people worship, why we worship the way we do… It’s fascinating and I feel like I’m learning a ton, but it’s almost as if I’ve forgotten how important it is to just sit still and listen to God.

I find myself in dire need of Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” Be still. Those two words are so simple and, yet, incredibly complicated. How on earth can I be still with seven classes, a part-time job, my teaching parish, and trying to have some kind of a social life?! And now, it’s Advent and we’re ramping up for Christmas. Being still seems impossible, but I think it’s the thing we need most desperately.

In Advent, we await the coming of Christ with great anticipation and excitement. In this season of hope and expectation, we wait until the time is right for Christ to enter the world. However, I think this is what we need to be doing every day – not just in Advent. We need to be still – to wait for God to burst into our lives and make Himself known to us. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated in Meditating on the Word, “to be silent does not mean to be inactive; rather it means to breathe in the will of God, to listen attentively and be ready to obey.”

If we’re running around, we might miss His arrival. We might miss the opportunities He wants to grant us in spending time with loved ones or making time for the stranger or the outcast. We might miss how He longs to speak to us through His Word if we say, “I haven’t the time to read yet another book.” We might miss speaking with Him or hearing Him speak to us in prayer.

The snowfall and the sound of children playing helped to remind me of the simple pleasures. They helped me to remember how relaxing and renewing simply sitting with a cup of coffee and taking things in is. Moreover, I was reminded of how important it is to sit quietly with God – to listen for His voice, to praise His goodness and faithfulness, to thank Him for the blessings we have received, and to just enjoy the company of the Almighty. How refreshing it is to be still!

And so, I pray:
Holy God, as the snow drifts to the ground, help us to remember the importance of being still and knowing who you are – the God of creation, justice, salvation, peace, mercy, hope and renewal. In the midst of to-do lists, errands and the end of the semester, may we rest in the sheer joy of sitting with you. I ask this in the name of your precious Son, Jesus Christ, AMEN!

© 2009. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

A beautiful instrumental version of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by “Casting Crowns” to put you in the holiday mood:

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