Tag Archives: joy

Finding Christ Through Art

Chapel of the Cross

While in Sedona, I was excited to go see the Chapel of the Cross, a mix of worship space and artistic architectural creation.

The Chapel has an interesting history, inspired by the Empire State Building in NYC, envisioned with the cross as the central structural component, planned as part of a city block construction in Budapest, and eventually developed in Sedona.

It looks out over the amazing landscape of Red Rock country and draws thousands of visitors every year, many of whom may not even be Christian but can easily sense the spiritual reality of that place.

The architect of the chapel shares the story of how it came into being. One of the beautiful quotes is how art might lead us to know God and Christ. I had to snap a photo of that phrase. This is an image of a God who is present to us and revealed to us in all manner of mysterious ways, including in those times when our senses are awakened.

Finding Christ through art

Finally, as you leave, the Holy Spirit, the dove, starts you on your journey, working for peace and wholeness in the world. I lament the fact that many of my brothers and sisters in faith don’t seem to get that message, but seeing the symbol and walking that path encouraged me not to give up hope. I even took a moment to tell my daughter what that dove means to us as human beings and people of faith.

Go in peace

May you, wherever you are in your journey, hear that benediction as well – go with God, go in joy and peace! Amen.

What does it mean to be healed?

Lost in the woods

I started my day off with some great conversation with a friend at Hypnotic Donuts.

Tough questions and tough topics.

Like what does it really mean to be healed? If we ask God for healing, what should we expect?

It’s tough because for many of us who live with serious ongoing health struggles, our doctors may tell us that there is no cure. Just management. Does God heal those kinds of things? And if we ask God to heal us and nothing happens, what does that mean? Was our faith not strong enough?

Or does healing mean acceptance of our ailments and illnesses? Learning to live and cope with them? Discover the gifts in them?

I believe God heals people… but not always in the same way. Healing can happen through relationships, a sense of hope, or peace. Healing can be forgiveness and reconciliation. Healing can be physical, mental, and/or spiritual. I have seen prayer work in people’s lives. Do I always understand how it does? Of course, not. People can get stronger when they are surrounded in prayer and love by their family and friends. People also find permission to let go and complete their life’s journey through prayer. All of that can be healing.

In Gerald May’s book, Addiction & Grace, he flips the script on addictions and brokenness. After recognizing that we humans can never achieve a state of perfection, no matter how hard we try, we must see “that the incompleteness within us, our personal insufficiency, does not make us unacceptable in God’s eyes.” We are wounded but that woundedness does not make us unlovable. In fact, we can think of our inadequacies “as doorways through which the power of grace can enter our lives.”

Maybe that is a better definition of healing – being reminded, through our places of weakness and pain, that we are loved, just as we are.

Peace be to those who yearn for healing – may we all know God’s love this day and each day.

A Word from Nouwen

Can giving change the world?

With all this talk about giving and stewardship, it’s important that we are not afraid to stop from time to time and ask ourselves – does all this giving making a difference?

We all give for a variety of reasons. People who are not religious may give to take advantage of tax breaks or just because they like to give. People of faith are often called and urged to give with a call to remember what God has done for them. (Although, a lot of us don’t mind the tax breaks either.)

Regardless of how much we give and why we give, the ultimate idea is that we make the world a better place through our sharing with one another. A person who owns two coats gives one to someone in need. A home is built with time and money shared by groups of Christians and neighbors. Ten dollars buys bags of rice and grain to feed a family in the midst of a drought. Giving creates a channel through which others are blessed.

Sometimes, though, our giving may not seem to leave an indelible impact. You may toss in ten bucks to help struggling families in some part of the world, and you may hear of their need again in a year. You may donate old clothes to a clothing ministry only to find out that more and more are needed. You work tirelessly with a local organization to end homelessness and discover that the numbers of homeless in your community continue to rise. The reality is that the world is complex – our giving is not the only solution to the broken systems that dehumanize and destroy people. We have a lot to learn and understand in that regard.

In the meanwhile, what sustains us is the joy that comes from our giving – a joy that opens doors to new ways of seeing and being in this world. Take it from Shane Claiborne’s book, The Irresistible Revolution:

People who experiment in sharing may begin out of burden or guilt, but they are sustained by the matchless joy it brings. What delight it is to see others receive the gifts of God, especially when they have been deprived of them for far too long. One of the beggars in Calcutta approached me on day, and I had no money on me, but I felt a piece of gum in my pocket, so I handed it to her. I have no idea how long it had been since she had chewed gum, or if she had ever even had the chance. She looked at it and smiled with delight. Then she tore it into three pieces and handed one to me and one to my friend so we could share the excitement.

Every time you give, imagine that image in your mind – someone receiving with joy even the littlest blessing that you may offer and splitting it up to share with others. Giving can change our world by starting thousands and millions of these chain effects, ripples of sharing from person to person in need. Of course, you got to be willing to do your part, keep the change going by being a steward of what God shares with us in the first place. Are you willing?

Alternative Gifts?

The four gifts we most commonly hear around Christmas time in church are peace, love, joy, and hope.

The other gifts we spend our most time on are the things we give to others – toys, gadgets, computers, clothes, and goodies.

That’s why this year we are exploring the unexpected gifts of Advent.

Stuff like uncertainty, preparation, and surprise.

These are unusual and different gifts. Who would think in a difficult economic time that uncertainty would be a gift? What surprise could be in store for us beyond unwrapping pretty gifts beneath a tree? What does it mean to be prepared for Christmas beyond our shopping and decoration?

Each of us probably finds some struggle in this season as we seek to balance all of life’s pressures and yet leave some lasting memory. Advent challenges us to go deeper, to yearn to understand the gift God shares with the world – a gift of presence, forgiveness, and life.

I guess this is what an alternative gift is – one that makes us stop, think, feel, and dream.

Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life, life abundant.”

Christ invites us to go deeper than the wrappings of our gifts and the lights on our trees – to wait in wonder for Emmanuel, God Is With Us, into our lives once again.

- In addition to our exploration of these alternative gifts through our worship together, we invite you to bring other alternative Christmas gift ideas to share with your friends at the Table. We already have some information from Church World Service, Heifer International, Threads of Hope, and others. Do you know of gifts that also seed hope and peace around the world? Bring your information to share this Sunday.

- Also starting this Sunday, we will decorate a Christmas tree with our prayers through this Advent season. Small cards will be available for you to write prayers, names, wishes, joys, and dreams. These cards will not be read by others.

- Finally, end your Sunday of worship by joining with others during our Advent Workshop and build care packages for our college students and men and women served in the armed forces. We will try to have some kits available immediately after worship to be put together in the Great Hall.

- Rev. Nathan


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