Surely it is God who saves me;
trusting him, I shall not fear.
For the Lord defends and shields me
and his saving help is near.
So rejoice as you draw water
from salvation’s living spring;
in the day of your deliverance
thank the Lord, his mercies sing.
Make his deeds known to the peoples;
tell out his exalted Name.
Praise the Lord, who has done great things;
all his works his might proclaim.
Zion, lift your voice in singing;
for with you has come to dwell,
in your very midst, the great
and Holy One of Israel.
–Words: Carl P Daw (b. 1944); paraphrase of The First Song of Isaiah
–Tune: THOMAS MERTON, by Ray W. Urwin (b. 1950)
“Thy kingdom come!” on bended knee
the passing ages pray;
and faithful souls have yearned to see
on earth that kingdom’s day.
But the slow watches of the night
not less to God belong;
and for the everlasting right
the silent stars are strong.
And lo, already on the hills
the flags of dawn appear;
gird up your loins, ye prophet souls,
proclaim the day is near:
The day to whose clear shining light
all wrong shall stand revealed,
when justice shall be throned in might,
and every heart be healed;
When knowledge, hand in hand with peace,
shall walk the earth abroad;
the day of perfect righteousness,
the promised day of God.
–Words: Words: Frederick Lucian Hosmer, 1891
–Tune: ST. FLAVIAN, 1562
God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that who so believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.
This Easter, I have been surrounded by reminders of the Resurrection life. We are a blessed people to have inherited that gift through our new life in Christ. Each Easter, we remember that blessing. After what seemed like an unusually long and cold winter, and a season of renewal and reflection during Lent, this Easter season is greeted by shouts of praise and ALLELUIA to the risen Lord. It is a beautiful, sacred, and grace-filled life that we live in Christ. May that light shine in us always, no matter what darkness or evil may enter our lives. Thanks be to God! Happy Easter!
Christ is alive! Let Christians sing.
The cross stands empty to the sky.
Let streets and homes with praises ring.
Love, drowned in death, shall never die.
Christ is alive! No longer bound
to distant years in Palestine,
but saving, healing, here and now,
and touching every place and time.
Not throned above, remotely high,
untouched, unmoved by human pains,
but daily, in the midst of life,
our Savior with the Father reigns.
In every insult, rift, and war
where color, scorn or wealth divide,
Christ suffers still, yet loves the more,
and lives, where even hope has died.
Christ is alive, and comes to bring
good news to this and every age,
till earth and sky and ocean ring
with joy, with justice, love, and praise.
Words: Brian Wren © 1969
Tune: TRURO, Charles Burney, 1789
Colorful signs of new life pop up everywhere!
The Gospel story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45) is a strange one, for many reasons. What I find most strange, but also most interesting, is that Jesus is told that “the one whom you love is ill.” Upon hearing this, Jesus doesn’t immediately go to Bethany to see his friend…he stays two days longer with his disciples. Upon his arrival in Bethany, he consoles his friends Martha and Mary. He goes to the tomb of Lazarus with Mary and Martha, and he, too, begins to weep. Several times, the Gospel says “he was greatly disturbed.”
This Gospel reading gives us a rare glimpse of Jesus…a one in which we see Jesus’s humanity expressed in several ways: his love for his friend, his being “greatly disturbed”, and in his consoling of his friends, showing compassion for his friends grief.
I think in this story, we are shown that it is OK to mourn the loss of friends and family whom we have lost in death. But, we are also called to hope and joy for the day when we will be reunited with them in eternal life. We are called with Jesus to mourn when we lose a loved one to death, but also we are called with Jesus to be joyful in anticipation of the day when we will all be raised from the grave, like Lazarus, and reunited with our loved ones for eternity.
Thanks be to God!
A poem for reflection…
Are you saved?
All this talk of saving souls,
Souls weren’t meant to save,
Like Sunday clothes that
give out at the seams.
They’re made for wear;
they come with a lifetime guarantee.
Don’t save our soul.
Pour it out like rain
on cracked, parched earth.
Give your soul away,
or pass it like a candle flame.
Sing it out,
or laugh it up the wind.
Souls were meant for hearing
breaking hearts, for puzzling dreams,
remembering August flowers,
These folk who talk of saving souls!
They have the look of bullies
who blow out candles before you
sing happy birthday,
and want the world to be in alphabetical order.
I will spend my soul,
Playing it out like sticky string
Into the world…
So I can catch every last thing I touch.
Next time someone asks, “Is your soul saved?”
Say, “No, it’s spent, spent, spent!”
I lift up my eyes to the hills;
from where is my help to come?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
“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. 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.”
These two excerpts from the Psalms and the Gospel of John are two of the most known words of the bible. In this sermon from the Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral, Dean Hall reflects on the words of these two scriptures, and how they might apply to our everyday lives, specifically during the days of Lent.
Click here to watch the sermon.
Click here to watch the entire worship service.
The Very Rev. Gay Hall
Lo! he comes, with clouds descending,
once for our salvation slain;
thousand thousand saints attending
swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!
Christ the Lord returns to reign.
– Stanza 1 from Lo! he comes with clouds descending by John Cennick, 1752
As the season of Advent comes to a close, I think of these words of my favorite Advent hymn. These words elicit a mighty, triumphant return of Christ in the fulfillment of God’s kingdom on earth. These words, inspired by the words of the book of Revelation, describe Christ’s return as a mighty King arriving in pomp and circumstance. These images have long been used to beautifully describe God’s ultimate return to the earth. Christians collectively long for the day when the sin and heartache of our world will fade away, and the glorious, endless peace of God’s reign will take hold. Regardless if you believe that Christ’s return will happen just like the words of this hymn explain, one thing is for sure. When the Kingdom of God does come to earth, and Christ’s Way is the way of all humanity, throngs of angels will rejoice in heaven. All of creation will be sanctified. All people will walk with integrity and justice will flow like a mighty stream. When that day does come, may we all in unison shout ALLELUIA to our God! Come, Lord Jesus, come!
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. (Isaiah 35:1-2a)
Many places in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament talk about drastic change during the times when Christ shall come to the earth. Christ’s return will usher in a new era of peace and joy. But this is not something that we must wait to happen. We can usher in the reign of Christ in our own lives. We can acclaim Christ as our King and Champion. The wilderness of our hearts can be fulfilled with the love of Christ. Our minds can rejoice with joy and singing at the thought that we are marked as Christ’s own forever. One need only invite Christ in to feel such joy. May Christ be present to you this seventeenth day of Advent, and always.
Prepare the way, O Zion, your Christ is drawing near!
Let ev’ry hill and valley a level way appear.
Greet One who comes in glory, foretold in sacred story.
Oh, blest is Christ that came in God’s most holy name.
– Stanza 1 from “Prepare the way, O Zion” by Frans Mikael Franén, 1812
On this first day of the season of Advent, our stories in church turn to the words of Isaiah the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, and to the Gospel readings in which Christ return is foretold. In this season, we celebrate the coming of Christ in our world…the coming into our world 2,000 years ago, the coming into our lives each day as we celebrate God’s words and sacraments, and the coming of Christ again in the fulfillment of God’s kingdom on this earth. In this season, resist the urge to stress out about shopping and gifts and entertaining. Instead, joyfully await the coming of Christ into our world: past, present, and future. As you prepare your house for the celebration of Christmas, and welcoming friends and family to your Christmas celebrations, meditate on God’s word and remember that you are preparing your heart at the same time for Christ’s presence in your life.
I wish you a blessed season of stillness and awaiting the sanctification of all of creation in Christ’s return.