JUSTICE – PSALM 146:5-10

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So this is Kirsebær’s second appearance this advent and in the same place, her favorite place, in her crate snuggled in her blankies.  I may have to include Odin and Freyja soon, so they do not feel slighted. Ok, they are dogs, and as long as they get cookies, belly rubs, and the occasional walk, they are pretty much good. On the whole, they do not have to worry about things like justice.

We, however, don’t have that luxury. As Christians, as the ones who watch and wait for the advent once again of our Savior and Lord,  we have work to do in those places God calls us to serve as Jesus did. Often that entails bringing justice to places and relationships that have known injustice.

When I posted this picture on social media, I included the following. “They say justice is blind.”  I understand where the idea comes from and its merit, but I also think justice to be justice must see.

It must see the big picture.

It must see the people involved.

It must see where injustice is taking place.

Finally, it must see ways to live itself into existence.

I am not going to try and delve the depths of justice and injustice in a 500-word reflection on a word and photo but I have a few thoughts based on our reading for today.

In our verses from Psalm 146 I see the very relational aspect of justice being lived out amongst the poor, and the privileged.  The wicked are called to account, and the righteous are loved.   What separates these two groups.  Well, I think it is how we treat the “other”: the oppressed, the hungry, those who are prisoners or are blind or bowed down.

It’s quite the group, it can be overwhelming in fact, and truth be told, there is bound to be someone in there you are not very fond of, but the good news for all of us is that God is!  In this world where we act and react out of fear it is God who is just, it is God the Psalm reminds us who helps us, it is God who executes justice.  God’s justice is not blind, but it sees, more than we can and it is in that justice I put my hope. 

 

HEIR – GENESIS 15:1-18

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So, here is a story.  At one point in time, I thought being a Social Studies teacher might not be a bad idea.  I did my student teaching and everything, and the one thing I knew at the end was I never wanted to teach Junior High.  Fast forward a bit, the teaching thing doesn’t pan out, but it seems God had a different calling in mind for me.  So now I teach confirmation students who are Junior High aged and I love it. Missing a bunch, they were out staffing the kettles and ringing the bells for the Salvation Army.

There are a few missing in these pictures. They were out staffing the kettles and ringing the bells for the Salvation Army.  But tonight was a service/fellowship time, and It was great to see and feel their energy as Christmas approaches.  Now these kids are not perfect, there are attitudes, some of them “have to be there, ” and others deal with stuff I can only imagine at home or in school.  But on Wednesday nights, they are all part of a blessed family.

In our lesson from Genesis, Abram is struggling with the promise, o God forges a pretty one-sided covenant with him that he will have an heir and it won’t be old Eliezer of Damascus. We know how that story plays out… imperfectly on Abrams side, but the promise is still good because of God.

Today we are heirs to that same promise in Christ.

This covenant too is pretty God sided.  For that gift and these other children of God, these heirs I get to help raise in the grace and love of God, I give thanks.

 

WILDERNESS – ISAIAH 41:14-20

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Ok, so I definitely didn’t take this picture today. Its been one of those days… busy, and quite frankly when I quickly looked at my devotional for the word for the day, I looked at the wrong day. So you get this photo which I included in the devotional.  (You can find that here.)

I took this picture in Sedona Arizona near the Chapel of the Cross in an area that is undeniably wilderness, akin to the wilderness spoken of in our reading today from Isaiah.

You can almost get chapped lips reading this passage, so dry!  But that is not the end, the thirst will be quenched and more than that new life will flow, and the wilderness will bloom and grow!

How many times have I been in dry places in my life, where injustice, hate, doubt and fear dry me up.  There have been moments when I thought I would spiritually if not physically die of thirst, that my soul would never bloom and grow again.

In the waters of baptism, God comes to us as the prophet Isaiah came to God’s people long ago and offered a word of hope, no, more than that a word wet with promise. Things will not stay parched, in fact, there will be new life, and things that you never imagined could happen will happen, like a cedar growing in a wasteland.

STEADFAST – PSALM 21

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Steadfast is one of those words that has become a favorite of mine.  The reason I chose this photo for today is how I feel about the word steadfast.  Look at those roots, they do not run deep, they can’t but boy do they run… all over the place. There is no nook or cranny near the shore that doesn’t have roots running all over it.   For these cedars to live and grow, they have to have roots to keep them steadfast.  The winds from Lake Michigan can blow pretty hard and while a deep root might provide some stability there is nothing like a broad base for stability in the face of a storm.

I love this line from our Psalm today:

For the king trusts in the Lord, and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.

The steadfast love of the Most High… now there are some roots.  Through this love, God enables us to not only survive the storms of life but to grow through them as well.  You will note the trees are not perfect, they are bent, they have limbs sticking out in odd places, not perfect, but boy do they have character!  That character bears witness to the storms each tree has endured and the steadfast nature of God’s love for us.

 

LOVE – MATTHEW 3:1-12

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We have three dogs, little ones mind you but three.  This one kirsebær, loves to snuggle into her blankets, often we can’t tell if she is in her crate or not as she is hidden under all that fleece.

While this is not odd for puppies, the word I used to describe her behavior is.  To be honest, I don’t know if she knows and understands love the way I do, shoot she may understand it better for all I know. But love is an odd word, she loves her blankies, I love my truck and my wife, and my kids, and a good Bach toccata and a really good pizza.

As you may have guessed, I understand love differently in each case. I love my truck, but it isn’t nearly the same as the love I have for my wife or family. I love pizza, but I love what I do for a living far more.

Love doesn’t even feel the same.  Love sometimes hurts, sometimes it burbles over like suds… love as it has been said, is a many splendored thing… it is also odd.

So odd in fact that a sign of God’s love for us is a wild-eyed baptizer with questionable style in clothing and diet.  Repent!  You brood of vipers!  Not exactly lovey dovey words… but words of love none the less as we are called into relationship with the one who is coming. John has a job, and part of that job is to shock us our of our complacency and to get ready.  Ready for the one who brings healing and love in its purest, most holy and completely odd form in the person of Jesus Christ.  For God so loved the world… and that love is big mighty big and it covers a lot, and I am good with that.

 

 

 

BLESSED – Psalm 72:18-19

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So on Friday night we got to see the handsome young guy in the middle sing with his choir and other groups at Concordia University of Wisconsin where he is a student.

The hard work and the energy shared was a blessing to all of us.  Blessings are meant to be shared, the flow like water, even sloshing around a bit.  Sometimes it may seem like all flows out from us, and it can be hard to feel blessed.  But blessing is more than a feeling, it is more than objects or things, it is more deeply about relationship.

In our Psalm today it speaks of blessing God. We tend to think of blessings as a one-way street, but they are not!  Sure the blessings flow from God, but they also flow from us to others and back to God as well when we give thanks for all that God is for us in the good times and the hard times as well.

It can be hard to bless others, and even God when we are feeling down when we are spent and depressed, but that doesn’t stop God from blessing us!  That makes blessing God when we can that much sweeter.

 

 

WOUND – ISAIAH 30:19-26

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This was taken last night at my son’s Christmas Concert at Concordia University of Wisconsin.  They did a nice job, but as I listened my eyes were drawn to the juxtaposition of the crucifix and the Christmas trees.

But that is Christmas really… isn’t it?  Christmas is about the perfection and joy of God brought down to earth and into the messy woundedness of our lives.

In our reading, today from Isaiah the last verse stood out for me.

Moreover, the light of the moon will be like the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, like the light of seven days, on the day when the Lord binds up the injuries of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow.

Um… those last words… do not sound so good, do they?  The reason for this is that we think we are, well reasonable people.  The truth of the matter is often we are not, and the people of God in Isaiah’s day certainly were not.  The blow inflicted… while being credited to God was primarily the consequences of their actions. It’s like a child who is told not to touch the stove then willfully slaps his hand on a burner.  Maybe the child thought that the parent would keep them from doing it, perhaps they were just too precocious for their own good, whatever the case, the loving parent will still bind up the injury and work on healing the wound.

The wounds borne by Christ on the cross, are in part a gift to us at Christmas. It is this time of year where we remember that God comes to us as a loving parent.  We are offered grace and salvation, healing and wholeness, and in the darkest places of our lives, God’s light and love shine for us.