Thursday, December 27, 2012

Do it all

Whatever you do in word or deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.
                             — Colossians 3:17

The email sounded urgent.  “Please come back,” it said in the Subject line.  “We miss you.”  But this was not from any long-lost family member or old friend from church.  This e-mail came from an online store.  I bought a desk lamp from them earlier this year, and now...Come back, we miss you — seriously?  I don’t even know you.  More like you miss my money.

             I suppose this kind of thing is supposed to make me feel some kind of attachment to the merchant, give me some sense of emotional obligation to them.  Instead, it creeps me out.  It makes me feel more anonymous, more like a number (a credit card number, that is) and less like a human being.  Our computers and cell phones are now tracking us, watching us, analyzing what we buy and where we go, trying to figure out what we are most likely to purchase next.  They share this info with companies that keep records of every purchase and send these warm fuzzy emails to entice us to keep coming back.
I don’t know about you, but it makes me uneasy knowing there are companies out there that know all kinds of things about me I don’t even know about myself.  Information is powerful, and technology has advanced so quickly in the last 10 years, the potential for abuse is huge and few of us see where it’s heading.  I get as many scams and spams in my email box as legitimate communications.  And it’s getting harder to tell the difference.
As I finish out my yearly read through the Bible, I am in the book of Revelation these days.  It is, of course, about the end times and where things are ultimately going on this planet, but it was also written for it’s own day.  The young Christian churches struggled with the vast

machinery of a brutal, dehumanizing Roman Empire.   True, it was a government that gave everyone a certain kind of safety and stability.  The Romans wanted to be loved by their subjects — after all, they built roads and sanitation systems, and kept a semblance of order.  But they made a demand that conflicted with every Christian’s conscience — worship the Emperor.   Call him your Lord, your Master, your Supreme Ruler, and everything will work out fine.  And often the Christians who turned out to be just uppity enough to say no were tortured or killed.
The book of Revelation is the story of the machinery of this world which intrudes into our life, demanding worship, allegiance, or at least to be liked.  Written in code, it depicts the dehumanizing horrors of their day as misshaped monsters and violent beasts feeding on the human spirit.  Now, I’m not saying that this company that sent me this one email pleading for another purchase is some kind of agent of the antichrist.  But I don’t think they’re entirely unrelated, either.
The world is full of pressures that push us away from God.  They want to replace the priorities of our hearts, the things we really want that would make us truly happy, with policies and products.  We fall in love with the things we do and the stuff we have, forgetting that love is for people. We find ourselves advancing into artificial worlds concocted by human beings, kingdoms of something other than Christ designed around political power or moving merchandise, or games of one type or another.  We exchange flesh and blood face-to-face human interaction for 140 letter tweets.  Our lives become centered in these worlds, and our spirits sag as we realize we’ve begun to leave God’s world, his kingdom, behind. 

Revelation is a warning to us today — that there are always rival kingdoms encroaching on God’s territory, kingdoms that will one day fall.  The end of the book is unbridled hope, but only for those who are  not so attached to the stuff of this world that they’ve forgotten that it’s people that God’s going to save in the end.  We’ll all be made new and given a place in the endless rejoicing of heaven, where God is always center stage.
With all that in mind, I can think of no better way to enter 2013 than with Paul’s prescription from Colossians — whatever you do, keep Jesus in mind and do it for him.  When deciding where to go, who to hang out with, how to spend your time, what to buy — do what you can be proud of doing, remembering that you always stand before Christ.  Maybe that’s him now, calling to you, pleading in your heart: Please come back, I miss you...

Pastor Scott



Sunday, December 2, 2012

Ready or not....

After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it,
that the remnant of humanity may seek the Lord,
and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord...

                                                                — Acts 15:16-17

It’s time to get ready — pull the tree out (remember where you put it?), dust off all those boxes of ornaments, find the old nativity set and get to work.  For most of us, the season of Advent is time to get busy.  We don’t just sit around waiting for the Christ child — we have things to do.  Run to the store to get the ingredients for those Christmas cookies.  Run the kids to rehearsal for the Christmas program.  Run down that list to find that just-right present for Uncle Albert (I’m sure there’s an app for that).  It’s a season full of preparations — and somewhere in the thick of it all — wrapping presents, receiving guests, decorating, cooking, going to church and  doing the good things we do — then all of a sudden Christmas comes. 
No matter how long the build up, it arrives in an instant.  No matter how long before Thanksgiving the Christmas music started to play on the radio, Christmas gets here before you know it.  It always takes my breath away,  not because the day itself is different from other days, but because it reminds me that on a day just as ordinary as this one God was born.  Under the same deep sky with the same stars looking down on this very planet, a virgin conceived a child named Jesus.  Immanuel, God with us.  Right here.
God had his own preparations to make for that day.  From the moment we stopped living for God and started making life just about us, the Lord got busy.  He began assembling the story, wrapping his greatest gift up in promises which would rain down upon his precious people.  We had turned our backs on his command and sovereignty, but God would come at us with grace.  “Humankind will crush your head,” he told the old serpent, “and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). 
              He sent messengers throughout the ages to tell us that that what was lost would one day be found, what is gone will be regained, what was broken will be re-made.  The prophets shared the promise that David’s fallen tent — the line that once carried the hope of humankind, would be restored.  When our own attempts to set the world right proved utter failures — BEHOLD — “for us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be on his shoulders, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6  God prepared the world for his arrival, bringing hope for a King of Kings, a light not just for David’s people the Jews, but for all people everywhere.
So if your tree looks a little lopsided, if you just couldn’t find the right gift for Uncle Albert, even if the pieces to your old nativity set have cracks in their necks or fingers broken off — however overdone the  Christmas cookies are, just remember there’s some One who’s been preparing for this for 2000 years.  No matter what, he will take us along.  No matter what, we are heading nonstop into a holy mystery, a downhill ride that won’t end until we find ourselves face to face with the miracle of the Word made flesh.
It’s time to get ready, to hear again the story of our sad descent into sin and the radical solution of God’s descent to be with us.  It’s time to prepare our hearts to marvel at the height, width, and depth of his love for us, that he would strip himself of all power to become a baby in a maiden’s arms.  It’s time to stand beneath the starlight and wonder at the moment when this world received the child who was the very one who made this world.  There’s nothing else like Christmas, and it’s on its way.  Are you ready?