ADVENT: Ready to See

Our Advent readings seem like they could have come from our current news feeds. Present life raises a cry for broken humanity to be healed. In our global and local anguish, we long to see the tender words of Advent—hope, peace, joy and love—made manifest. We are ready to receive revelation, to see justice come that raises up low places and levels arrogant high places. Advent assures us that God works beyond the place I’m standing today. Comfort, O Comfort my people! These are words for threshold moments, for instances in which we long to move through the current places and events of our lives and to be carried along by both God’s reality present to us now, and his promise to come again. We long to live in a secure kingdom. We search for a word that will last forever. This word, is of course, Jesus Christ. He is the brightest of all possible dawns. “Yes! Come Lord Jesus! This Advent we open ourselves to see you.”

Ordinary Time Readings: Sunday, August 31

Reading: Genesis 16:1-16 and John 11:11-27

  1. Can you recall a time in your life when you couldn’t imagine or figure out how God was going to make good on a promise or a plan that was made known to you? Can you recall a time in your life when you took matters into your own hands to make the promise or plan come to fruition? What happened? What did you experience? What did you learn from the experience?
  2. Read and reflect on both passages: Gen.16:1-16 and John 11:11-27. Both narratives involve real human and Divine complexities. Both involve tensions between faith and sight; trust and timing. Put yourself in the shoes of Sarai, Abram, Hagar. What do you discover from the messy story? Sense the confusion, the pain, the disorientation between theology and human experience from the disciples, Mary and Martha. What do you discover about trusting God beyond your own understanding of things? About the unexpected and the unpredictable miracles of God’s ways?
  3. Sit with your own circumstances, dreams or yet unfilled promises from God. Discern where you are, how you are with the yet unfulfilled aspects of your life in God. What encourages you from these stories? What challenges you? What continues to riddle your soul as you wait for fulfillment? In what ways do these two stories help you get to a more resolute “yes I believe” ? You may want to pray…”but help my unbelief.” Talk honestly with the Lord Jesus about these things.

Spend additional moments with the words of this prayer by Ted Loder:

Lord, I have so few ways to pray
but you have so many ways to answer.
Keep me alert to your unpredictable answers
to your unexpected, unexplainable surprises
and to your grace.
Make me one of those surprises,
for the sake of the One who taught us the surprises of
moving mountains, healing touches, wondrous stories, great banquets, first suppers,
broken bread, crosses and resurrections.

Ordinary Time Readings: Sunday, August 24

Reading:  Genesis 14:18-24 and Luke 1:46-55

  1. Upon Abram’s return from battle he is met by two kings, one of which is Melchizedeck. Sit with Genesis 14:18-24 as you reflect on Abram and his character. What do you notice about the exchange and about Abram’s response to enrichment offered outside of God’s promise to him?
  2. Have you ever been offered a type of enrichment that seemed like a good thing at first blush but was not quite right? What happened? How did the deal turn out? How did you experience yourself or what did see in yourself during the episode? What did you discover about God during that experience?
  3. As you read Mary’s Magnificat (or prayer-song of praise to God) from Luke 1:46-55, realize an entire nation, in fact all of humanity has been enriched by one man’s loyalty to and faith in God and his promises to bless us. What words of encouragement do you find in Mary’s song that might help you endure temptations to doubt or reject God’s life giving love and enrichment  for your life?