My faith celebrates the One who comes into this world offering hope, peace and love. My faith teaches me that Jesus is light that shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome the light. My faith also teaches me that as Jesus serves to bring light and exposes the injustices of this world, so must we who are followers of Christ do the same. We are also light.
Yes, we are plagued with pandemics of viruses, of gun violence, of poverty, of unaffordable health care, of education inequity, racism, sexism, too many others to name. All of this is challenging and it almost sounds impossible to do anything about. My faith offers to me that we can do more than we can even imagine. God actually believes that we can. Imagine that! God believes in us so much that God brings us a light through the Christ child that strengthens and guides us in making our world a place not of darkness, but one of love, of acceptance, of helping the other, of seeing the other, embracing and sharing our gifts with one another, of sharing light that overcomes the darkness. Light always prevails.
My prayer for all of us is that we shine our light so bright that the darkness will be totally pushed out and that God would say, “Hey, I knew you could do it!”
Be Bless My Friends, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2022!!
Today I preached from the Gospel of John 6 chapter, which tells the story of the 5000 (plus because women and children were not counted). The Gospel of John is the only gospel that shows where Jesus uses a boy’s meal, five loaves of barley and two fish, to feed 5000 plus people. I am fascinated by the boy, who is not counted among the 5000, but is a participant in the ministry of Jesus. I love that Jesus has a child to teach us how to share with each other. I also love that Jesus shows us that we often miss what and who is right in front of us, that offers us provision and blessings, because we often look for something or someone greater, larger or popular. But Jesus uses a boy, a child, after asking the adults how can we feed the folks. The adults could not see the possibility. The adults even shrugged off the idea that the boy had enough to feed the folks. Jesus uses what the boy has, five barley loaves and two fish, and it is enough!
We have enough. We have enough to share with the world. We have enough to feed those who are hungry. We have enough to house those who are homeless. We have enough to provide fair funding in education that all children will have the opportunity to succeed. We have enough to provide health care for everyone. We have enough to end poverty. We have enough to offer love. We have enough. The question is do we see the possibility or do we act like the adults and just shrugged the thought of even trying. Can we be like the boy with the five loaves and two fish? Can we allow ourselves to share our enough? Can you imagine if I share the little I have, you share the little you have, someone else share the little they have, the possibility of all having enough. Come on, see the possibility with me! I believe we can make that little boy proud!
My home is a happy, funny and spiritual place. Two pastors in the home can be quite entertaining, especially when you hear broadway tunes being belted out and our neighbor so graciously smiling instead of telling us to stop the madness! We can be a handful! But that is what I so love about us! My husband grew up Lutheran and I grew up Methodist. Both of those denominations come with liturgies, prayer books, catechisms, books of worship, crosses, banners, and so many other items that make up our religious tradition. We have some of those religious findings in our home, but there is one thing that we did not see in the churches my husband and I grew up in. A portrait of Laughing Jesus!
Laughing Jesus greets us with his squinting eyes, head tossed back in the air, mouth wide open, inviting us each day to join him in the laughter. Laughing Jesus is the joy of watching children run in the playground, swinging and hugging their friends. Laughing Jesus is the being of a young man who snags his first job, swags as he walks down the street, his headphones, slightly turned down, listening to the sound of his generation, greeting everyone he meets. Laughing Jesus is the couple who is now planning that wedding and getting the news that the venue of their dreams is available for the date of their nuptials. Laughing Jesus is the old man in the nursing home who now gets to sit outside in his favorite spot and smoke his pipe, without the staff knowing. Laughing Jesus is the high school senior who will experience a graduation this year and will beam from the podium as they try to quiet the noise from their parents in the balcony who are celebrating to the point of embarrassment. Laughing Jesus is the thrill of being able to see our grandchildren soon and hugging them, never wanting to let them go. Laughing Jesus is breaking free to simply breathe.
Laughing Jesus tells us to love boldly, to fly with no fear, to dream that impossible dream. Laughing Jesus gives us permission to have fun, to run, play and laugh so loud and so hard that the universe shares in the laughter. The humanity of a Laughing Jesus should tell us that laughing is divine. So maybe you don’t have a portrait of Laughing Jesus; you don’t need one. Just raise your head back, open you mouth wide, close your eyes and let out your loudest laughter! Keep that image of yourself locked in your wonderful brain. There you have your Laughing Jesus!
There is this song that I keep hearing in my head. It’s an old hymn sung in many black traditional churches in the South during the Jim Crow era. When I hear this song, I see the old but strong men sitting in the deacon corner and the women dressed in their white, as they prepare the table for the Lord’s Supper. I see courage in their eyes and an unbreakable spirit. I have been carrying this song in my spirit almost every day. I’m so glad that I am hearing it because it reminds me to stay in the fight for justice and freedom. This song reminds me to never give up and to never back down. You may not be a religious or spiritual person or even believe in a power that is greater than you. But I hope you have someone, a friend, your spouse, your pet, someone who loves you unconditionally that will walk with you through these troubling times. This is what I hear:
“I want Jesus to walk with me. I want Jesus to walk with me. All along my pilgrim journey, Lord I want Jesus to walk with me. In my trials, Lord, walk with me. In my trials, Lord, walk with me. When my heart is almost breaking, Lord I want Jesus to walk with me. When I’m in trouble, Lord, walk with me. When I’m in trouble, Lord, walk with me. When my head is bowed in sorrow, Lord I want Jesus to walk with me. (J. Jefferson Cleveland, 1937- Verolga Nix, 1933)