Tag Archive: Faith


Hosanna, Hosanna!

I am absolutely in love with “Hosanna” by the Soweto Gospel Choir!

Here are the lyrics:

Let the weak say, “I am strong”
Let the poor say, “I am rich”
Let the blind say, “I can see”
what the Lord has done in me (Repeat 3x)

Hosanna, hosanna
To the Lamb that was slain
Hosanna, hosanna
Jesus died and rose again
Hosanna, hosanna
To the Lamb that was slain
Hosanna, hosanna

Jesus died and rose again (Repeat 5x)

It’s simplicity, sweeping dynamics and incredible harmonies really convey the beautiful message of the Gospel.  In the midst of a stressful and hectic semester, I’ve found rest and calm in the lyrics and tune of this song.  In times of stress or great pressure, what brings you peace?

This song reminds me that God is already at work in the world, changing the lives of people by bringing hope and peace through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The Lord is busy at work in people, making the weak strong, the poor rich and the blind able to see what God is doing.  Lest we think, “oh, that doesn’t include me,” let’s not forget that the words “weak,” “poor” and “blind” can also pertain to our faith lives.  After all, how many times do we struggle with doubts or trusting God, or forget to make time with the One who created and cares for us?  How often do we miss what God through the Holy Spirit is up to because we’re looking at the world not through God’s eyes or the eyes of faith, but with human ones?

This song is a reminder that God is already transforming us and that the kingdom of God has already been initiated.  And for that, we can say “Hosanna, Hosanna!”

Let us pray…Gracious Lord, we give thanks for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ and for your beautiful work in the world.  Strengthen us by your Spirit to be a part of this work and move in our hearts that we might be filled with love for you and our neighbors.   May we at all times and all places give glory and praise to you, shouting and singing “Hosanna” with all of creation.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

© 2010. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

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In The Midst

In the midst of despair,
you are there.
In the midst of suffering,
you are there.
In the midst of pain,
you are there.
In the midst of confusion,
you are there.
In the midst of grief,
you are there.
In the midst of frustration,
you are there.
In the midst of anger,
you are there.
In the midst of sinfulness,
you are there.
In the midst of doubt,
you are there.
In the midst of brokenness,
you are there.
In the midst of sorrow,
you are there.
In the midst of sickness,
you are there.
In the midst of hate,
you are there
In the midst of disbelief,
you are there.
In the midst of injustice,
you are there.
In the midst of weeping,
you are there.
In the midst of night,
you are there.
In the midst of death,
you are there.

In the midst of hope,
you are there.
In the midst of celebration,
you are there.
In the midst of pleasure,
you are there.
In the midst of clarity,
you are there.
In the midst of happiness,
you are there.
In the midst of satisfaction,
you are there.
In the midst of peace,
you are there.
In the midst of righteousness,
you are there.
In the midst of trust,
you are there.
In the midst of wholeness,
you are there.
In the midst of joy,
you are there.
In the midst of health,
you are there.
In the midst of love,
you are there.
In the midst of faith,
you are there.
In the midst of justice,
you are there.
In the midst of laughter,
you are there.
In the midst of day,
you are there.
In the midst of life,
you are there.

Wherever we are, you are there with us.

© 2010. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

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

Friday was my first day in Greek class at LTSG (Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg) and, toward the end of the class, while we were learning about verb endings, our professor went over the vocabulary for the upcoming chapter. One of the words was πιστεύω, which means “to believe.” Interestingly enough, it can also be translated as “to faith.”

In English, we simply say “I have faith” and we do not have a verb for “faithing.” Our professor pointed this out, using the example of holding faith in our hands and then dropping it. We all laughed to think of such a silly thing, but as he explained further, the Greeks did not often say “I have faith” but rather used the “I faith” or “I am faithing” form instead. To them, faith was an action – something to be pursued, worked at and continued. It was not seen as something you could have and then drop or lose.

The more I thought about this, the more I liked it. People often talk about losing faith; when you seem to have lost it, it does seem to be very difficult to find again. You find yourself thinking, “how can I get back to that place of comfort and certainty?” I believe the answer lies in actively continuing to pray and continuing to hope and strive for that joy, comfort and peace. As the author of Hebrews 11:1 writes, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The very acts of continuing to pray, to worship, and to hope are the “faithing” – the active verb.

You might not be able to see faith or to grasp it, but you can actively pursue it and participate in it. Perhaps that is why people speak about their “faith journeys.” Faith is not something that you can swing by and pick up at Target or Wal-Mart. It’s something that you wrestle and struggle with, find comfort in, and work at, that it may grow stronger over time. It’s like kindling a fire; you may start with just a match, but if you tend the fire carefully, it will grow stronger and brighter.

© 2009. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

Accepting Acceptance

“Faith is accepting your acceptance.” – Paul Tillich

If that statement doesn’t make your mind explode upon first reading it, you should really look at it again! In other words, Tillich is saying to have faith is to accept that you are accepted. That sure seems easy enough. Or does it?

If you’re anything like me, how many times have you thought any of the following?: “Can this really be this good? It seems too good to be true. What’s the catch? When does the floor fall out from under me?” Perhaps this is just caution – our way of protecting ourselves so we don’t get burned again, but I find it somewhat sad that we have become jaded enough we cannot always see a good thing purely as a good thing.

Sometimes I find it hard to believe how fully we are all accepted by God. “Am I really wholly forgiven and accepted just as I am?” Sometimes I even manage to convince myself that it’s too good to be true – that I cannot possibly be welcomed and accepted by God Almighty. “There’s no way He could forgive me for the things I’ve done! I must do something else in order to set things right. What does He want from me?”

The truth is that we are accepted and forgiven, not because of anything we’ve done to set the situation right, but rather because of the merciful and gracious God who wants to have a relationship with us. I think that’s what Tillich is talking about. Actually accepting the Good News as good news is difficult and requires faith – faith and trust enough to let go and believe that we are accepted and loved in spite of what things we’ve done. Faith is accepting and conceding that God can and does uphold His promise of forgiveness.

As hard as it is to believe that there’s nothing special I need to do to earn God’s love and forgiveness, I find immeasurable comfort knowing that I am loved and forgiven no matter how much I manage to goof up! The act of accepting our acceptance is something we need to practice every day. We need to remind ourselves that we are God’s beloved children even if we have made mistakes or bad decisions. We should hold tightly to this message especially when nothing seems to be going our way. Maybe even more importantly, we need others to speak this word of comfort to us when we cannot seem to see it for ourselves.

© 2009. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

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