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What is the Easter Vigil?

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In some sense, you might say that the Easter Vigil service is to Easter what the Christmas Eve service is to Christmas. Just as the Christmas Eve service is the first liturgical celebration of Christmas, so is the Easter Vigil the first liturgical celebration of Easter.

Actually, many people who study liturgy consider the Easter Vigil to be the central and most important service of the entire Christian year.

The Easter Vigil has four parts:

  1. The Service of Light (or Lucernarium) begins the night with the first lighting of the Paschal Candle (the large “Easter Candle” that we light through the entire season of Easter). The deacon chants an ancient song about the light of Christ and the salvation of God’s people brought about through the resurrection. The word “Paschal” comes from the word “Passover.” In English we call the resurrection celebration “Easter,” but many languages use the word for “Passover” like in Spanish, Pascua. Jesus’ death took place during the Passover. In his death, he became for us the Passover lamb sacrificed for our sins. In his resurrection, he is God’s deliverance for his people from the bondage of Egypt (sin and death). Therefore Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ, “our Passover.”
  2. The Liturgy of the Word. During this part, we read several Old Testament passages that recount God’s saving acts in human history—especially the Exodus and also the prophesies that promised that God would save his people, gather them, and fill them with his Spirit.
  3. Holy Baptism. In ancient times, catechumens (converts to Christianity preparing to be baptized) spent as much as three years preparing for their baptism. Lent was an especially rigorous 40 day fast that prepared them to receive baptism at the Vigil. Baptism is a symbol of death and resurrection into the new life afforded to us in Christ. Thus, the Easter Vigil is especially appropriate for converts (and their children) to be baptized into the family of God.
  4. Holy Eucharist. This is the first Eucharist of Easter. Those who have been baptized for the first time now join the rest of the family around the table of our Lord. We eat the body of the crucified and risen Lord so that we might become his body for the world—and in doing so—we become witnesses of his resurrection until he returns.

Join us for this year’s Easter Vigil on Saturday, April 15.

Location: 115 N. Ave 53, Los Angeles, CA 90042 (the building directly behind Iglesia De La Comunidad)

Time: 7:00 pm

Childcare provided.

View photos from last year’s Easter Vigil here.

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What is Maundy Thursday?

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“Maundy” isn’t exactly a word we use everyday. You might be familiar with the word “mandate.” These words come from the same Latin root. On Thursday—the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested—Jesus washed his disciple’s feet and he instituted what Christians call “the Lord’s Supper” or “the Holy Eucharist.” In between the washing and meal, Jesus said, “A new command I give to you” or in Latin from which we get the word Maundy, “mandatum novum do vobis.” Jesus gave them a new command—that they love one another.

This is the Maundy, the mandatum, the mandate. This is what feet washing (servanthood) is all about. This is what the celebration of the Eucharist is all about. This is what the cross is all about. It’s all about love.

Come and get your love on. Thursday @ 7pm in the library of Iglesia de La Comunidad – 115 N. Ave 53 – 90042.

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What is Holy Week?

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During the first centuries of Christianity, many people would journey to the Holy Land to visit the places where Jesus lived. Often they would visit during Easter. It was the ancient custom in Jerusalem to reenact the last week of Jesus’ life before his crucifixion. They re-lived his triumphant entry into the city on Palm Sunday. Later that week, they would reenact the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and the institution of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday, his crucifixion on Friday, and of course his resurrection on Sunday.

Having returned to their homes from the Holy Land, the pilgrims brought back these experiences to their own towns. Soon, Christians throughout the world were doing the same as Christians in Jerusalem during Holy Week: they relived the last days of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

The story of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is central to Christian faith. It is the story through which Christians interpret all of reality. In Holy Week, we re-live and reenact that story so that we ourselves might become participants. We become the palm-waving people who welcome Jesus as our Messiah into Jerusalem. We become the crowd that screams “Crucify Him!” On Friday, we sit at the cross and marvel at its meaning. At the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday services, we too become witnesses of the resurrection of Christ.

We invite you to join us as we relive the greatest story ever told.

Frankie

Advent Day 28

admin Advent, blog

December 24, 2016

Artwork by Françoise Zavala

Marker on Paper, Desert Christmas

READINGS

Rev. 22:12-17, 21 · Luke 1:67-80

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
    though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble with its tumult.Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
    God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge.Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
    see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
    I am exalted among the nations,
    I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge.Selah

 

Isaiah 35

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
    the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
    and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
    the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
    the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
    and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
    “Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
    He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
    He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
    and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
    and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
    the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there,
    and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
    but it shall be for God’s people;
    no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
No lion shall be there,
    nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
    but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
    and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain joy and gladness,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

MEDITATION

Christmas in the Desert

It is the most wonderful time of the year. We know this because in 1963, Andy Williams sung these words with such pure enthusiasm and class that we have been sentenced to endless repeats of this song while we shop, drive, or put on Spotify’s “Palm Springs Christmas” playlist. We love Christmas every year because it means we get to spend a decent chunk of time not working, seeing family and friends, eating delicious food, buying things for others and finally opening up boxes and boxes of things that are sometimes very close to what we would have bought for ourselves! These things can make for a wonderful time of the year, but they can also be somewhat of a let down, especially in difficult seasons of our lives or when family, relationships or other life situations are sources of frustration and even despair. But there are other songs we might take time to listen to during this Advent season, including one from the book of Isaiah:

“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom…and rejoice with joy and singing… the tongue of the speechless [will] sing for joy… the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing. Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” This is a song that people have been singing since long before 1963. It is also a song that will be sung in the future. The singers are those that have been redeemed by the LORD, those who have been unable to sing. Even the natural world itself will join in on singing this song of hope and joy. Advent has been about waiting for the birth of Jesus Christ the Messiah. We wait, along with the suffering world, for God to heal and restore human beings and the land we are so deeply connected to. If we ever feel that “the Christmas season” is not completely wonderful, perhaps that is part of the point. There are still dry deserts waiting to bloom and sing. But on Christmas Day we move from waiting to celebration, remembering that Christ was born, and that he walked among us, calling us to join him and learn from him how to love God and each other and how to take care of God’s world. And we do this together as members of Christ’s body while we await God’s completion of our work, when we along with the desert will sing with everlasting joy.

-Stratton Glaze

PRAYER

Ask God to show you what He has been doing in your heart during the Advent Season.

What is He preparing in you?

In what sense has He prepared more room in your heart to receive more from Him?

What new levels of joy does He have prepared for you in the Christmas celebrations?

Ask Him.

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Advent Day 27

admin Advent, blog

December 23, 2016

READINGS

Revelation 22:6-11, 18-20 · Luke 1:57-66

Psalm 93

The Lord is king, he is robed in majesty;
    the Lord is robed, he is girded with strength.
He has established the world; it shall never be moved;
    your throne is established from of old;
    you are from everlasting.

The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
    the floods have lifted up their voice;
    the floods lift up their roaring.
More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters,
    more majestic than the waves of the sea,
    majestic on high is the Lord!

Your decrees are very sure;
    holiness befits your house,
    O Lord, forevermore.

Isaiah 33:17-22

17 Your eyes will see the king in his beauty;
    they will behold a land that stretches far away.
18 Your mind will muse on the terror:
    “Where is the one who counted?
    Where is the one who weighed the tribute?
    Where is the one who counted the towers?”
19 No longer will you see the insolent people,
    the people of an obscure speech that you cannot comprehend,
    stammering in a language that you cannot understand.
20 Look on Zion, the city of our appointed festivals!
    Your eyes will see Jerusalem,
    a quiet habitation, an immovable tent,
whose stakes will never be pulled up,
    and none of whose ropes will be broken.
21 But there the Lord in majesty will be for us
    a place of broad rivers and streams,
where no galley with oars can go,
    nor stately ship can pass.
22 For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our ruler,
    the Lord is our king; he will save us.

 

MEDITATION

We live in a world consumed by hatred, violence, fear, anger, and betrayal. Yes, there are rays of light that shine through the darkness, bringing hope in the midst of despair, hurt, and confusion. But so often it seems that the light is not strong enough to overcome the darkness. At times it feels as though our own pain and suffering is so embodied that we cannot break free to truly experience the waves of grace that God lovingly embraces us with like a strong bear hug. It may even feel at times as though we are unworthy of God’s grace. Or perhaps we fear that if we allowed ourselves to accept it, we would be overcome by it. And yet, deep down we know that God’s grace is the answer to our hurting world, and indeed, our hurting selves.

How do we hold together these tensions of living in an often dark, broken, and needy neighborhood, with our longing to be free from pain?    

Scripture holds before us an image of an immovable, eternal, and glorious city—the new Jerusalem—that disciples of Christ will live in after we die. It is the Kingdom of God where there is no more suffering, no more terror, hatred, or fear. Where fullness of life, abundant and overflowing with perfect love, joy, and peace bind us together as a unified family of God. This is the hope we have in the midst of our current storms. It is a hope that is stronger than any darkness. We see it break through in a shining star in Bethlehem, guiding us to the birth of Jesus. This light brings forth the breaking in of the Kingdom of God on earth through Christ. As we daily look to him, we behold our hope—God’s response to a hurting world, and indeed, our own wounds: the God who saves us.

-Ally Kern

PRAYER

Reflect for 2-4 minutes on the following questions:

  • Where am I experiencing darkness or suffering in my own life?
  • How is my neighbor encountering darkness or suffering in their life?
  • Where is my hope for healing and freedom placed?

Loving God, in the midst of the darkness we look ahead to the life of Christ who came to save us. By the power of your Holy Spirit would you enable us to receive your grace, to heal our wounds, and to fill us with your light? Form us into your family who reaches out to our neighbor with love and compassion, shining your light into the darkness so that all may know the hope we have in Christ. Amen.

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Advent Day 26

admin Advent, blog

December 22, 2016

 

READINGS

Psalm 80 · Isaiah 29:13-24

Revelation 21:22-22:5

22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Luke 1:39-56

39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

 

MEDITATION

Today is my mom’s birthday. She has carried and sustained the life of six human beings in her body. We have all probably accomplished some stuff here and there with our lives, but the capacity and sacrifice of bearing and caring for human life is one of the most profound endeavors. Elizabeth recognizes this significant role that Mary plays in human history by being the bearer of the incarnate Christ. She says to Mary, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Mary responds with gratitude at the gift of participating in bringing Christ into the world. In this, the mother of our Lord shows us what it looks like to prepare for and receive Christ.

We, like Mary, are invited to receive Christ. We, too, can respond with a resounding “Yes!” to bear Christ in the world. The Church is the body of Christ—the hands, feet, and mouth of Christ. We are called to carry the light and life of Christ in us to our families, friends, and neighbors. We can respond in gratitude and joy at the gift that has come to us in Christ, and the opportunity to participate in bringing that gift to others.  


Let us remember that the infinite light has come into the world and when he comes again “we will see his face, and his name will be on our foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be our light.”

- Janna Mahoney Ziegler

 

PRAYER

In prayer, consider the ways in which Christ’s light can illuminate your life and how you might be a bearer of Christ’s light and life. 

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Advent Day 25

admin Advent, blog

December 21, 2016

Artwork: Greetings, favored One! by Micah Collins

READINGS

Isaiah 28:9-22 · Revelation 21:9-21

Psalm 72

Give the king your justice, O God,
    and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
    and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
    and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
    give deliverance to the needy,
    and crush the oppressor.

May he live while the sun endures,
    and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
    like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish
    and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

May he have dominion from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.
May his foes bow down before him,
    and his enemies lick the dust.
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles
    render him tribute,
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
    bring gifts.
11 May all kings fall down before him,
    all nations give him service.

12 For he delivers the needy when they call,
    the poor and those who have no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
    and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
    and precious is their blood in his sight.

15 Long may he live!
    May gold of Sheba be given to him.
May prayer be made for him continually,
    and blessings invoked for him all day long.
16 May there be abundance of grain in the land;
    may it wave on the tops of the mountains;
    may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
    like the grass of the field.
17 May his name endure forever,
    his fame continue as long as the sun.
May all nations be blessed in him;
    may they pronounce him happy.

18 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
    may his glory fill the whole earth.
Amen and Amen.

20 The prayers of David son of Jesse are ended.

 

Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

MEDITATION

Risking Disgrace

Just after today’s passage in Luke 1:48, Mary refers to herself as “lowly.” I am struck by the fact that of all the places and people and ways God could have become incarnate in the world, he chose “lowly” Mary in the insignificant town of Nazareth in a way that, to all appearances, is scandalous. By conceiving Jesus while unmarried Mary risked being viewed as an adulterer and sexually impure.    

God’s choice to enter the world this way sets the tone for the rest of Jesus’ ministry in Luke. Again and again in Luke, we see Jesus working with and through people, places, and appearances that our society would label lowly. And in doing so, Jesus risks disgrace. His glory and reputation are on the line and yet the Most High risks disgrace by engaging with what the world calls most low. He took these risks because he was committed to love and work through those the world calls lowly; and ultimately, to redeem the world of its false conceptions of what is high and what is low.

This reminds me of Martin Luther’s theology of the cross. For Luther, the theology of the cross was that Jesus did not just operate in beauty, power, and triumph. In fact, for the mass majority of his life Jesus embodied weakness, poverty, and loss. And Luke 1:26-38 should be a reminder to us that we are called to mimic God’s willingness to be viewed as lowly.

For us, Mary is a wonderful model of such willingness. In the world’s eyes she is lowly, and she knows it. Then by conceiving Jesus, Mary risks being seen as even lower. Her reputation as pure is one of the few things she has to her name and God asks her to put it at risk. Yet, she trusts God’s promises and, like Jesus, risks disgrace to accomplish his will.

For this reason, Mary threatens me. This young girl from Nazareth who was likely poor and illiterate challenges me to disregard the world’s standards of status and reputation. She threatens me because I am tempted to try to hold faithfulness to God in one hand and worldly success in another. I want to be faithful to God but I want to do so in a way that least threatens my status. I want to be faithful to God as long as I don’t have to risk disgrace.

And yet, there is Mary. Calling all of us to take hold of God’s promises with both hands. There is Mary, calling us to have the courage to risk disgrace and say to God, “let it be with me according to your word.”

-Michael Waldrop

PRAYER

Pray these prayers

“Here am I, your servant, oh Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

“Holy Spirit upon me; let the power of the Most High overshadow me.”

Advent Day 24

admin Advent, blog

December 20, 2016

Artwork: The Angel and The Priest by Javier Solis, 2016image06

READINGS

Psalm 66 · Isaiah 11:10-16

Luke 1:5-25

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10 Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19 The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”

21 Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25 “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”

Revelation 20:11-21:8

11 Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. 13 And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; 15 and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

MEDITATION

    “Get this! The house God lives in is now with people, and he will settle down amongst them and they will be his people and God himself will be their God, right there with them!” (Rev 21:3). It’s breath-taking, isn’t it? God living right in your city, so close, so tangible! God speaks these words to John near the end of Revelation after the final judgment, when the New Jerusalem is descending to earth. I long for that day. It will be, I imagine, a day of unparalleled nearness and intimacy with God. But this has happened before! During Advent we anticipate the first time God came and lived with us here on earth. In fact, the word John uses to say that God will “settle down” among us at the end of all things is the same word he used to describe the Word-made-flesh “settling down” among us (John 1:14). God’s first settling down as Jesus initiated the process that will culminate with his coming to settle down among us again, this time forever.

    Revelation describes God’s coming to live with us with great pomp and circumstance. A beautiful city, made up as beautifully and extravagantly as a bride, descends from heaven to the newly re-created earth. Likewise, there is a big todo about the birth of Jesus. It’s not enough for Jesus to be miraculously born of a virgin to the fanfare of a jubilant choir of angels. It’s not even enough for a prophet to go before Jesus, announcing his coming and preparing a way for him. The birth of that prophet must be foretold by an angel as well. Here we see the tender love of God so often displayed throughout the Bible. He chooses to send this prophet, not through a royal family or a rich family, but to a disgraced, aging woman who has failed to produce children, the primary means of achieving “success” as a woman in first century Palestine, and to her husband who shares with her the pain of not being able to have children. So often, when God intervenes with a great work in human history, he takes the opportunity to mend the broken heart of a barren, disgraced, broken woman: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, the unnamed mother of Samson, Hannah. It’s this God who goes out of his way to mend the broken hearts of these disgraced women who settled down among us in Jesus, whose Spirit lives in our hearts, who will settle down among us again in his new creation. This is indeed reason to celebrate this Advent season!

-Nate Collins

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Advent Day 23

admin Advent, blog

December 19, 2016

Artwork by Mena Hutin Zavala

Hope and Love, Mixed Media

READINGS

Isaiah 11:1-9 · Revelation 20:1-10

 

Psalm 62

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
    from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall never be shaken.

How long will you assail a person,
    will you batter your victim, all of you,
    as you would a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
Their only plan is to bring down a person of prominence.
    They take pleasure in falsehood;
they bless with their mouths,
    but inwardly they curse.Selah

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us.Selah

Those of low estate are but a breath,
    those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
    they are together lighter than a breath.
10 Put no confidence in extortion,
    and set no vain hopes on robbery;
    if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.

11 Once God has spoken;
    twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
12     and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.
For you repay to all
    according to their work.

John 5:30-47

30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. 33 You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.

39 “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 41 I do not accept glory from human beings. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”

MEDITATION

Glory. Love. Honor. Hope.

What do these words mean to you? Can we know what these words mean without Christ? I wrestle with this passage. As a person who believes in the sacred text and as someone who is in love with Jesus, how often do I show that in my actions? Do I live my life in such a way that my hope is entirely dependent of Christ? Without even intentionally doing so, we can turn people, things, and even ideas into idols. Maybe there is a pastor, parent, mentor, or a celebrity that you highly respect; you respect them so much that you take their words as gold and never question anything they say. And trust me, I get it, sometimes it does feel easier to go and listen to a quick 20 minute sermon or vent to someone rather than going to the direct source (prayer). But stay with me. How many times have these people in your life said something along the lines of: “Jesus is the only way”, “no one will love you more than Christ”, “prayer works, cast all your cares there”…But yet not truly believe them? Maybe you claim to, maybe you have mastered going through the motions but to take what they said to heart and let that change you- that is what Christ is looking for. What Jesus is experiencing in this passage with these witnesses and their devotion to Moses is definitely comparable to when we listen to people we look up to that teach us about Christ. When we are at a wall or a dry spot in our faith, do we fully believe what they are saying about Christ? God is never surprised by our emotions and shortcomings but keep pressing forward.

I can surely promise you, nothing is more rich, valuable, and fulfilling than going directly to Christ Himself. Seeking honor, glory, hope, and love that’s not grounded in your identity in Christ will constantly leave you empty.    

-Bianca Luna

PRAYER

God, I confess that at times my faith lacks. I struggle to see your goodness and faithfulness in my life every single day of every single moment. God, PLEASE help me; help me find rest in you, teach me to relax and sit in your embrace. Reveal yourself to me with your precious son and the Holy Spirit. Help my heart stay soft towards you, that I do not take what your Son did on the Cross for my sins for granted. I love you, my Abba Father. I will continue to strive towards growing my love, faith, and hope in you.

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Advent Day 22

admin Advent, blog

December 18, 2016

READINGS

Psalm 24 · Ephesians 6:10-20

Isaiah 42:1-4

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
    he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
    until he has established justice in the earth;
    and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

John 3:16-21

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

 

MEDITATION

One of my all time favorites gifts is the ring that Jon gave me when he asked me to marry him. It is a simple gold band, but perfectly suits me. We are all familiar with giving and receiving gifts. Granted some of us are better than others at gift giving. Some of the gifts we give are material: a bike, a meal, or a Christmas sweater. Often the best gifts are ones that require something more from the giver, like the gift of time, presence, or comfort.

God is good at giving gifts. In a similar category to the people you hope pick your name for a Christmas gift exchange. Our gospel reading for today reminds us of this: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” The gift of God’s Son is a gift that demonstrates God’s radical love towards us. This gift is God’s ultimate move towards us. Oftentimes, we think of ourselves as the ones who are moving toward God, but the reality is that God has made the decisive move towards us. The divine Son wrapped himself in the smallness of a baby and lived in our broken world so that we might be united to God.

How do we receive this kind of gift? What is our response to this act of love towards us? We receive the light and life offered in and through Jesus. We receive the wholeness and salvation that has come not to condemn us but to receive us. We receive, as the prophet Isaiah tells us, the one in whom God delights and who Spirit of God is upon.

 

- Janna Mahoney Ziegler

PRAYER

God, would you grant me the eyes to see the gift you have given to me in love? Would you give me the ability to receive your Son?