Getting Ready While We Wait

A meditation by Michael Pahl on the Second Sunday of Advent, December 8, 2019, called “Getting Ready While We Wait.”

Here is a written excerpt from the introduction:

“How long, O Lord?”

It’s a common refrain in the Bible, found nearly twenty times from the Psalms to Revelation.

“O Lord, how long?”

It’s a common refrain in the Bible, because it’s a common experience of God’s people: stuck in a time of waiting, in a space of discomfort or pain or sorrow, longing for peace and joy and life, feeling as if God is ignoring us, as if God has abandoned us.

These are the Advent seasons of life: waiting for God to come, yearning for God’s salvation, longing for God’s deliverance.

“How long, O Lord?”

We might tend to think of this as the cry of an individual person in their individual circumstances. There are a few of these in the Bible, like David in Psalm 13. But most of these cries of “How long?” arise out of the collective experience of God’s people.

There’s Psalm 94, for example:

O Lord, how long shall the wicked,
how long shall the wicked exult?
They pour out their arrogant words;
all the evildoers boast.
They crush your people, O Lord,
and afflict your heritage.
They kill the widow and the stranger,
they murder the orphan,
and they say, “The Lord does not see;
the God of Jacob does not perceive.” (Ps 94:3-7)

Or there’s the Prophet Habakkuk’s opening complaint:

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
therefore judgment comes forth perverted. (Hab 1:2-4)

We can understand these feelings, can’t we? We, too, look around our world and see the migrant child being left to die, the evildoer boasting, violence rising around us like the rising seas, justice being perverted, and the wicked exulting over it all. We cry out to God, but God does not seem to be listening. God does not even seem to see the evil we see, being committed in plain view.

“O Lord, how long?”

Nearly twenty times in the Bible, both Old and New Testament, this cry goes up from God’s people: “How long, O Lord? How long must we wait for justice, for peace, for salvation from our oppressors and vindication of our just cause?”

God, what are you waiting for?

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Our Wait Begins

A meditation by Peter Hildebrand on the First Sunday of Advent, December 1, 2019, called “Our Wait Begins.”

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What Are You Waiting For?

This Advent we are asking the question, “What are you waiting for?”

God, what are you waiting for? We need you to act!

God, what are you waiting for? Maybe our repentance, or a step of faith or obedience?

What are we waiting for? God is eager to respond to our cries for mercy.

What are we waiting for? God is with us! Let us walk in the light of Christ.

Join us as we gather in worship this Advent season, through Christmas, and into Epiphany. Watch for special services and events throughout the season!

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God’s Peaceable Kingdom

A meditation by Michael Pahl on Eternity Sunday, November 24, 2019, called “God’s Peaceable Kingdom.” It is a reflection on Psalm 46.

Here is a written excerpt:

At some point in our lives, all of us come to this place: teetering on the brink of disaster, engulfed in anxiety or despair, realizing the precariousness of our lives, our relationships, our carefully constructed worlds.

But this has always been the reality of our human existence: we are caught in the now of harsh experience and elusive promise, catching only glimpses of the not yet of some bright future.

Psalm 46 speaks right into this reality. It speaks directly to us in our unstable, uncertain worlds. And it says this:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.

Three times the Psalm says this: “God is our refuge. God is our refuge. God is our refuge.”

When all is falling down around us, “God is our refuge.”

When our world is crumbling from within, “God is our refuge.”

When our lives are pressed down by forces beyond our control, “God is our refuge.”

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Bear One Another’s Burdens

A sermon by Michael Pahl on November 17, 2019, called “Bear One Another’s Burdens.” This is the fifth in a five-part series called “One Another.”

Here is a written excerpt:

It began with washing some feet. But it led to dying on a cross.

Washing someone else’s feet—serving them in love—is not easy. It requires us to humble ourselves before them. It requires us to—to put it frankly—get off our duff and do the work, doing the work that no one else is willing to do.

But while serving others in love requires some humility and initiative, it still might seem pretty innocuous. No one gets executed by the state for loving people, do they?

Well, yes, in fact, they do. Jesus is Exhibit A for this. But history is filled with people who were persecuted, even executed, simply for seeking to live a life of love in the way of Jesus, simply for calling other Christians to live a life of love in the way of Jesus.

And here’s why: Jesus’ way of servant love is radical. It’s subversive. And this makes it offensive. This makes it threatening.

Jesus’ way of servant love means lifting up the poor as blessed by God. It means healing the sick freely and caring for the dying with dignity. It means liberating the politically oppressed, centering the socially marginalized, and giving them a seat of honour at our table. It means ceasing all violence against neighbours and strangers and enemies—even convicted criminals.

In other words, Jesus’ way of servant love means giving up our privilege to stand in solidarity with the underprivileged. It means giving up our power so that the powerless can be empowered. And this kind of love is always a threat to those with privilege and power.

And so Jesus himself, after washing his disciples’ feet, walked the road to the cross. He walked the road to the cross in solidarity with all those who have ever been condemned as sinners. He walked the road to the cross in solidarity with all those who have ever been victims of violence. He walked the road to the cross in solidarity with all those who have ever been cast out and trampled upon by the powers that be.

This is what crucifixion meant in the ancient world, and this is what the cross meant for Jesus.

With this we are getting at what Paul means in Galatians 6:2 when he says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ.” He’s thinking of the story of Jesus. He’s thinking of Jesus teaching love of God by loving one another. He’s thinking of Jesus welcoming children and washing feet. He’s thinking of Jesus walking to the cross in solidarity with sinners, in solidarity with all oppressed peoples everywhere.

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Forgive One Another

A sermon by Michael Pahl on November 10, 2019, called “Forgive One Another.” This is the fourth in a five-part series called “One Another.”

Here is a written excerpt from the conclusion:

As we live out this generosity of spirit toward others, forgiveness comes more naturally—at least for the everyday hurts and harms we all experience.

These are the ordinary bumps and bruises of living life together. The unintentional slight. The awkward behaviour. The careless word spoken in ignorance, or the gruff manner induced by stress or fatigue. Someone falling short of expectations. These everyday offenses all become easier to forgive when we live in a space of grace cultivated by humility and compassion.

Of course, there are deeper wounds, wounds which are not easily healed. Callous indifference. Willful ignorance. Malicious cruelty. Grave injustice.

For these more long-lasting, more destructive harms, forgiveness is complicated, and it’s difficult, but it is still possible. These require wrongs to be named and brought into the light of day. They require deep repentance by the wrong-doer, a significant commitment to change. They might require restitution or reparations, sacrifices being made in order to make amends. And they might involve multiple wrong-doers, even entire systems bent toward injustice and oppression.

Forgiveness for these deeper wounds is complicated, and it’s difficult, but it is still possible. It is certainly easier to work toward forgiveness of others for these deeper wounds—or at least the gift of releasing ourselves from their power—when we have nurtured a space of grace, a generous spirit, in our everyday lives.

Be gracious with each another.

Create a space of grace for one another, in all your interactions with each other. Develop a generosity of spirit toward others, a fundamental openness to the other person, just as they are. Receive each other warmly, not with a critical spirit, not with a defensive spirit, not with a fearful or judgmental spirit, but with a spirit of humility and compassion.

Be gracious with each other.

Allow this generosity of spirit to generate sympathy for the other person. Find the ways your experience compares with theirs. Allow this “space of grace” you create even to generate empathy with the other, a sense of solidarity with them, discovering that your parallel experiences are in fact shared human experiences.

Allow this generosity of spirit, this space of grace you create with others, to then generate compassion, the movement of your spirit with their spirit, moving you in the Spirit toward acts of compassion, acts of mercy and kindness—including forgiveness.

Be gracious with each other, in other words, as God in Christ has been gracious with you. Amen.

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Be Kind to One Another

A sermon by Lawrence Siemens on November 3, 2019, called “Be Ye Kind One to Another.” This is the third in a five-part series called “One Another.”

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