Tag Archive: Justice


Awake in Advent

Last Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, I preached on Mark 13:24-37 at Community Lutheran Church:

If you’re anything like me, the past few days have been spent in a sort of hibernation mode. Packing in delicious food, watching T.V. and meditating on the wonders of comfortable pajamas and sleeping in. I am slightly ashamed that I really didn’t do a whole lot that was productive in that time. Yet, at the same time, I know that it was needed. Valuable time to rest and recharge. Precious time to spend with Jeff, the dog, and my family and friends. And I hope that you were able to have some of that time as well.

Each year, it seems that the Christmas season starts earlier and earlier. Now, emerging from a turkey coma, the world is going full steam ahead into Christmas, with decorations, shopping, parties, cookie baking, Christmas carols and the hustle and bustle of the holidays. With this flurry of activity and stress, it can be really easy to lose sight of God.

Meanwhile, we in the church enter into a time of expectant and hopeful waiting, yearning for the coming, or Advent, of Christ. As a result, the four weeks of Advent are kind of an odd time because we know that Christ has already come 2,000 years ago, yet we’re awaiting Christmas and Christ’s second coming where he will reign in the fullness of his kingdom. Holy and anticipatory waiting contrasted with the busy-ness and often chaos of the month of December.

And then we get these fiery passages about God tearing open the heavens, suffering in the world, the sun being darkened, the moon’s light giving out, falling stars and the very powers of the heavens shaking. Ummmm… yikes! I definitely feel the draw of watching the Grinch, making snowmen, eating gingerbread and laughing at ridiculous hip-shaking dancing Santas!

When we hear texts about the end of the world and the second coming of Christ, I think we have one of two tendencies. We may get nervous and try to figure out when it’s happening and how to read the signs of the times. It makes sense that we would try to figure it out given what we hear in Scripture, but Jesus also tells us, “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Not even Jesus knows when all of this is going to occur! I think our second tendency is to say, “I don’t know when this is going to happen, so I’m not going to think or worry about it.”

Both tendencies, however, miss what we are being called to. And that is faithfulness. We’re being called to keep our eyes peeled – to be like watchmen, waiting with our senses on high alert, prepared for whatever will come next. That’s why we hear this Gospel text in Advent – in the season of waiting, preparation, anticipation, and hope for the things to come.

But what do we do while we’re waiting? We keep watch and keep alert for the ways God is active in the world. And we keep watch and keep alert for the places and ways in which we can actively participate in God’s kingdom, whether that’s listening to those who are hurting, cooking for and serving the hungry, praying for and encouraging others in the faith, or repairing and building homes for others. We use this season to prepare our hearts to receive Christ at Christmas and every day through worship, prayer, fellowship and service. We live out our baptisms and are fed by the Word of God, and at the Lord’s Supper. We use this time to allow God to continue shaping us and helping us to recognize Christ in our neighbor.

I’ve been struggling over the past week, and maybe many of you have been, too. I’ve been listening to conflicting reports from Ferguson, Missouri, reading articles, opinion pieces, and listening to interviews… I’ve been trying to figure out what happened there. I’ve been disturbed by the violence, not only of Michael Brown’s shooting, but also of some of the protestors. I’ve been upset by the hate and the vitriol I’ve heard and read. I’ve been saddened by families torn apart, by the hurt, frustration and the brokenness of the situation in Ferguson that is rippling across the country. And I’ve been wondering how I, as a follower of Christ and a white woman in Virginia, can or should respond. I know that by virtue of my skin color, where I’ve been born, and my circumstances in life, I have been lucky – I have not had to worry about the affects of racism. So when an event occurs that highlights the racial divide, the poverty and lack of opportunity for people of color in our country, I struggle to find what to say or do.

I know, however, that the temptation is to hear about these events, acknowledge them, and then just continue with my life. To hit the snooze button rather than keeping awake for the places God might be calling me to use my voice, my role, or my gifts for the sake of my brothers and sisters. But the truth is, while we await the fullness of Christ’s loving, merciful, and just reign, we are invited to be a part of God’s kingdom work. To keep alert and attuned to how God is tugging at our hearts.

And God is tugging at each of our hearts a little differently. Jesus says in his parable, “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.” Each of us has our own work. We have a voice and we have opportunities to get involved in our world. We are invited to be a part of the conversations and reconciliation needed in so many different issues at hand, whether that’s poverty, education, working for peace, caring for the sick, comforting the dying or grieved. You have been invited by God to speak to and live out the hope and love you have been given in Christ Jesus. To keep awake – to be alive and fully present instead of asleep, complacent or missing out of the life into which God is inviting you. Where do you feel like God has awakened you to a need in our world? How might you use the gifts God has blessed you with to make a difference?

There is one other time this phrase “keep awake” or “keep watch” is used in the Gospel of Mark. It’s in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus urges his disciples to stay awake with him and keep watch as he prays about his upcoming trial and then crucifixion. The disciples, as you may recall, fall asleep not once, but twice, nodding off at one of the moments of Christ’s greatest need.   As we begin the season of Advent, we are reminded not to ignore those in need around us, or to ignore God in favor of perfectly decked halls or the most expensive or decadent gifts. We are reminded to slow down a bit and to savor this time, watching with the eyes of faith for opportunities to experience Christ in others and to share Christ with others.

There is an Aramaic word that appears only once in the New Testament, but I think it helps to paint a wonderful picture of Advent. The word is “Maranatha.” Say that with me: “Maranatha.” It can either mean “Our Lord has come” or it can be read as a plea or command: “Our Lord, come!” This word is the prayer of Advent. It is stating with hope and confidence that our Lord has come. Although things may be difficult, God is in our midst and is working in and through us to bring about the kingdom. We know this because we know Christ has come, has died and was raised from the dead. We know that we have a God who brings about healing and forgiveness in even the darkest situations – even from the cross.

And yet this prayer expresses the eager longing of people tired with the way things are. It cries out and asks God not to delay in bringing about the fullness of the kingdom where all are seen as children of God, where justice abounds for rich and poor, black and white, young and old, and where love is the currency people spend freely.   Maranatha. Our Lord has come. Come, O Lord. Amen.

© 2014. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

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….with hummus?!

I was watching tv the other day and I saw the following commercial for Sabra hummus:

First of all, I love hummus. Second, I love the bright colors used and the emphasis on different cultures and backgrounds. Third, it made me think of heaven. You may be asking, “what?!” Seriously though.

In the church we speak about Holy Communion as a foretaste of the feast to come and about one day being at the feast which will have no end. So when I see gorgeous scenery, a beautiful, rich, vibrantly-colored banquet table, and people coming together from every corner of the world, bringing their own experiences and stories to share at the table, I think of heaven.

I think of that place where all of God’s children will be gathered together and there will be no sorrow or pain, only life in the brilliant, loving light of God. But life is not just waiting for that future time and place.

Jesus declared that the kingdom of heaven (or kingdom of God) was already here! The kingdom is here among us, in the world. We can catch glimpses of it in all kinds of random and surprising places and times. This means during our lives we can all endeavor to work for the kingdom, seeking peace and justice for the poor, weak, oppressed or those who have no voice. Yes, the kingdom is here, but it is not yet fully realized – that will only happen in God’s time. So until that point, we can eat hummus and work for the kingdom! 😉

© 2011. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

The more I know of You,
The more I realize how much I fall short.
And the more I know of Your justice,
The more I realize my guilt before You.

But the more I know of You,
The more You teach me of Your love.
And the more I am aware of Your mercy,
The more I know of Your steadfast faithfulness.

Yes, the more I know of You,
The more I know how bountiful Your grace is.
And the more I rest in Your hands,
The more I long to rely solely on You.

© 2011. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

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.

A few days ago, I heard the song “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele. I love its simplicity and the gorgeous harmonies that develop as the song progresses. It’s a beautiful love song for sure, but as I listened to it on YouTube and looked at the lyrics (posted below), I thought that maybe it spoke to a deeper truth.

“When the rain is blowing in your face,
and the whole world is on your case,
I could offer you a warm embrace
to make you feel my love.

When the evening shadows and the stars appear,
and there is no one there to dry your tears,
I could hold you for a million years
to make you feel my love.

I know you haven’t made your mind up yet,
but I would never do you wrong.
I’ve known it from the moment that we met,
no doubt in my mind where you belong.

I’d go hungry; I’d go black and blue,
I’d go crawling down the avenue.
No, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
to make you feel my love.

The storms are raging on the rolling sea
and on the highway of regret.
Though winds of change are throwing wild and free,
you ain’t seen nothing like me yet.

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true.
Nothing that I wouldn’t do.
Go to the ends of the Earth for you,
to make you feel my love”

As I listened, I found myself thinking, “does God sing like this to us?” I would answer “yes.” God is there for us when “the whole world is on your (our) case” or “there is no one there to dry your (our) tears,” extending loving arms to us as a parent would to comfort a child. God patiently waits for us to turn to God even though we may not know what exactly to think about God or faith.

In the song, Adele sings, “no, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do to make you feel my love.” Celebrating Holy Week last week, I heard again the stories of God’s amazing acts in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and of the sufferings of Jesus Christ, and, as I listened, I heard echoes of that line from Adele’s song. I think the authors of the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, are trying desperately to show us through story, song and letters how God has been trying to reach us throughout history.

Look how far God has gone to make us feel God’s incredible love for us – God brought up God’s beloved people Israel from Egypt, God delivered Israel from exile, and God has consistently taken sides with the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized and those crying out for mercy and justice. Taking this to the ultimate step, God took on human flesh and went to the cross for our sake. When the Crucifixion occurred 2,000 years ago, the world hadn’t seen anything like that and we still haven’t seen such an act since. Yes, there were many crucifixions, but never one in which an innocent man died in order to redeem the world. I would consider that going to the “ends of the earth,” wouldn’t you?

I enjoy this song as one sung about human love for sure, but I think it’s given me another chance to think about God’s amazing love for all of humanity. God is there, waiting to comfort us and bring us through the storms, winds, changes and regrets Adele sings about, even if we haven’t quite decided what to make of God. Thankfully though, God won’t stop trying to reach us – won’t ever stop trying to make us feel God’s love.

Happy Easter!

© 2010. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

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