Advent 1, Saturday, Year A

Inspired by Matthew 24:1-22

“As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple.  Then he asked him, ‘You see all these, do you not?  Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’”  Matthew 24:1-2 (NRSV)

We look around at all the familiar monuments to our faith and culture, and we have difficulty imagining things could be any other way.  We have our religious buildings, our government landmarks, and countless statues proclaiming our national heritage.  We take our identity from these things, perhaps more than we realize.

But all these things were built from corruptible materials by human hands, and all these things will some day disintegrate and disappear.  What will happen to our identity then?

These familiar monuments can tell us something about where we came from and how our society understands itself, but they need not define us.  Our identity comes from the Lord God who created us, redeems us, and sustains us.  Our identity comes from the God of all creation who lovingly and intentionally fashioned us in his own image and calls us his beloved children.  Our identity comes from the One who was before all things and who will remain when all things come to their end.

Enjoy and appreciate those monuments that speak to your history or your present, but know that you were built of stronger stuff, and even if all those monuments were to be destroyed tomorrow, you would still be known and loved by the One who is everlasting.

Let us pray.  Eternal God, you gave us the ability to create great monuments.  Help us to recognize these monuments only point to the Creator of all, that we may put our faith in the One who will never fail.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Advent 1, Friday, Year A

Inspired by Genesis 6:1-10

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.  And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”  Genesis 6:5-6 (NRSV)

In the beginning when God formed the heavens and the earth, he took care to create a beautiful world, filled with all the resources necessary for survival as well as well as great beauty to delight human senses.  Once he’d completed everything else, God created humankind to care for the rest of creation and enjoy all the good things God had made.  He created humanity in his own image, blessed with everything we needed in order to walk with God.  He did this not to fill any need or lack of his own, but because he chose to share his great love with us.

And because God chose to share his love with us, he also chose to make himself vulnerable to us.  And we exploited that vulnerability, abused his good creation and all the good gifts he’d given us, and chose to go our own way.

And that hurt God deeply.

God is not some absent creator who got things started and then left us to our own devices.  Nor is he some cold, unfeeling deity watching us passionlessly from far away.  God cares deeply for each and every one of us, and when we incline our hearts to evil and reject the potential he gave us for great love and compassion, he is deeply grieved.  The needless suffering we inflict upon ourselves and others wounds him, because he didn’t create us for suffering.

Consider the One in whose image you were created.  Consider why he created you.  And consider the great potential he gave to you.  Incline you heart toward him, enjoy sharing the love he chose to share, and help stop the needless suffering that so wounds our God and so many of our brothers and sisters.

Let us pray.  Compassionate God, you created us to be in relationship with you and with your whole creation.  Incline our hearts toward you, that we may come closer to reaching the great potential you gave to us.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Advent 1, Thursday, Year A

Inspired by James 4:1-10

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.”  James 4:3 (NRSV)

God wants good things for us, right?  So why doesn’t he answer our prayers the way we want him to?  Why doesn’t he give us the bigger paycheck and greater leisure time?  Why doesn’t he give us more power and respect in the world?  What does God really have against pleasure and happiness, anyway?

God has nothing against pleasure and happiness; he created many good things in the world specifically so we could enjoy and appreciate them.  But he also recognizes that in pursuit of our own pleasure and happiness, we often deprive others of necessities, either intentionally or through apathy and willful blindness to the consequences of our actions.  And while God does indeed want us to enjoy good things, he’s not going answer our prayers for pleasure at the expense of others.

Why do you want that bigger paycheck?  Are you unable to meet your own basic needs?  Then by all means pray and trust that God will hear your prayer.  But if God is not answering your prayer the way that you want him to, then consider the possibility that you may have confused needs with wants.  Those prayers are still useful, because God can use that opportunity to open your eyes to the needs of others in the world.  And though you may not receive what you asked for, you may find yourself receiving something much more valuable: the ability to be the answer to someone else’s prayer.

Let us pray.  Compassionate God, you know our needs better than we do.  Grant us humility and openness to your will, that we may use the resources you have given us to demonstrate your love to the world.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.