Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10
Two men, so recently filled with joyous expectation for a brilliant future, commiserated over their shredded dreams. A stranger joined them as they walked and enquired about their sorrow. How could he have been so ignorant of the grief they shared? As the stranger reflected on their shared history and what had been predicted from ancient times, hope was rekindled, and spirits seemed to rise above raw emotion. When the stranger gave thanks over the bread broken for lunch, they knew he was Jesus.
This past year, 2020, has been a great international leveler. Not one country has escaped the Corona virus; all have suffered. In our country, we were experiencing unprecedented economic prosperity and growth; joblessness was at a record low; opportunities seemed to be limitless. We were barely into the new year when the virus struck a blow that upended the whole world. And it changed our lives.
Those men who walked along Emmaus Road bowed down with grief probably shared thoughts of what had been their dreams for the future: emancipation from Roman rule; a house and farm for everyone; a renewal of David’s Kingdom. Their world crashed when their Messiah was crucified. Were they walking away from their sorrow? Was their journey an attempt at discernment? God saw and sent Jesus.
Why THOSE two men? There were so many others suffering. But they were chosen to hear the words of hope, to have their eyes opened. Somehow, the God “to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid” saw two lonely men walking out their despair and came to speak Truth to them. God had won victory over death and was announcing the Kingdom that would bring about a revolution greater than anything they had ever thought or imagined. And, as they listened, their hearts burned within them.
We’re walking into a new year. Perhaps the old one symbolized the death of many things, but now the Kingdom has come. This is a year of possibility and we can live into the reign of our Lord as we rekindle our faith in his faithfulness. As we open our eyes. As we welcome his rule in 2021.
Father, we welcome you as Lord and trust you to renew us and fill us again with your Spirit and presence. Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done. AMEN.
…singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. Ephesians 5:19 (NLT)
We noticed him immediately—front teeth missing with a toddler cradled in his lanky arms. He had quietly stood in line for his breakfast taco, beans, and pineapple and respectfully participated in communion. Then suddenly, the margins at the Mexican border were filled with his clear and melodic voice as he burst into song. It wasn’t just a brief little ditty. He sang on and on with bursts of staccato phrasing—obviously, a canticle of praise. And we were all touched and moved beyond that border feeding station.
A small group of church folks had come from afar to see for ourselves the “crisis” on our southernmost point. We had talked with government officials and their loved ones; had witnessed ordinary families waiting to be freed to unite with their families; had seen people hopefully awaiting the buses that would take them to their new homes; and we’d listened to ranchers whose multi-generational families had populated the border.
Already on sensory overload, we filled wagons of food prepared by faithful volunteers and made our way across the concrete link that was the gateway to dreams for which so many had risked their lives. We knew people would be waiting for the breakfast that would sustain them until the next act of kindness would be proffered. As I pulled my wagon, I anticipated a scene of chaos, disorder, grasping from the ragtag I thought would be awaiting us.
Instead, we were greeted warmly, and lines quietly and patiently formed in front of us as we set up our makeshift cafeteria. One by one Cubans and Hondurans, Mexicans, Guatemalans, and others took their plates with, “Gracias,” “Dios la bendiga,” or heavily-accented, “Thank you.” No pushing, no grabbing, just quiet gratitude.
And then two clergy in our group set up communion for anyone who wanted to remember our Lord’s great sacrifice. We were drawn together from many places and many experiences yet shared Jesus as we worshipped. And that’s when he broke out in song. The song that clearly recognized Jesus and our fellowship as we praised God together. The song that transcended the suffering, the setbacks, the disappointments that may have been felt. The song that proclaimed the love of Christ in the midst of a broken world and the song that would, ultimately, heal that world.
It was a song we all knew…
Father, be with those people who are searching for a place to be free and safe and where they can worship you without fear. Thank you for allowing me to participate in a foretaste of what it will be like as we, from many tribes and tongues, stand around your throne and worship. AMEN.
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:12
My bank has done something brilliant – besides lending money, giving good financial advice, and providing mortgages. This past week it launched a 30-Day Optimism Challenge. This is the pledge that participants are asked to take: I hereby pledge to be more generous with those in need, more connected with my community and more open to changing my perspectives. I will approach this challenge with an open mind in pursuit of discovering the powers of optimism. I will do my best to not skip a day, make up my own daily act if I cannot complete the one provided… That sounds rather Christian to me, but I shouldn’t be surprised since the bank’s owner is a faithful member of our church.
So far, I’ve completed five of the thirty days. This is what we’ve been asked to do: list ten things for which we are thankful (easy to do); introduce ourselves to a neighbor we haven’t met (a little harder); delete unused apps from our phones (finally); do a favor for someone without being asked (loved that); put an encouraging note on the windshield of a random car (really fun).
We each have a check list to mark as we complete the daily challenges with space for a personal takeaway. I find that as I intentionally practice “optimism” or Christ’s love or kindness or hope (fill in the blank), in return I am filled with joy. I loved meeting my interesting new neighbor, something I should have done long ago, and I wish I could have seen the person’s face when he/she saw my note on his/her windshield.
Actually, hasn’t Jesus asked us to share his Spirit and his gifts indiscriminately with our world? God is consistently reminding us to reach out, to get out of ourselves to bless some other life. I really wish I’d thought of this, but I’m glad the bank did.
Father, this challenge is a good jump start for reaching out. Help me to make this a daily habit so that when this little exercise is done, I just keep going from one happy outreach to another. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.