Tag Archives: Hope

Why do you wear your cross of gold?

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

When I was in the sixth grade our youth choir performed Michael W. Smith’s song “Cross of Gold” . If you don’t have time to watch this rad live performance of the song, I’ll boil down the gist: Michael W. Smith is calling out other pop stars (most likely Madonna, though he doesn’t call her by name) about their rationale behind wearing a cross. He asks them “Tell me why you wear your cross of gold?”

So what is the meaning of the cross? Why does anyone choose to wear the symbol? For some, the cross is a means of warding off evil— an insurance policy against demons and vampires and other things that go bump in the night. For others, it is a sign of allegiance to their faith, a way to publicly proclaim which side they stand on.

Prior to Jesus’ death, the cross had its own imagery. The Roman empire used the cross to publicly torture and make examples of revolutionaries. The cross was intended to say “We have the power. Anyone who dares to try to overthrow us has this to look forward to.” When Jesus’ followers saw Him on the cross, they saw the loss of all hope. The “King of the Jews” was supposed to change everything. His crucifixion was the symbol of ultimate failure. Truly, the message of the cross was a warning against foolishness. It is what happened to the idiots who dared to believe life can be different.

Jesus’ followers hoped that he would overthrow the Roman Empire and reestablish the kingdom of Israel. This was the threat to Rome, and the reason he was sentenced to die on the cross.

But Jesus’ revolutionary message was so much more subversive than the one the crowd before Pilate pinned on him. He redeemed prostitutes and tax-collectors. He fed the hungry and healed the sick. He cast out demons and condemned those who felt they were beyond reproach. The crowds of the day saw the Roman Empire as the ultimate enemy, but Jesus knew His battle was one of even greater importance.

And in His death and resurrection, Jesus also subverted the original message of the cross. For those of us who believe, the threats of political powers, abusive leaders, oppressive societal structures, even internal demons, are empty.

We can hope foolishly, fight passionately, love completely.

To those of us who are being saved, the cross is the power of God.

——
Janna McClain lives with her husband, dog, and two children in Sewanee, TN. She is a staff member at Sewanee: The University of the South and parishioner of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Murfreesboro, TN.

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Change your Cover Photo for the week leading up to Valentine’s Day

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An Amazing Video of Hope (and why I decided to go back to school)

I know I talk a lot about business school and its impacts on me, but I thought I would re-share this video that inspired me about a year ago and convinced me that while the future is hard and scary to imagine (especially in the medium term of 20-40 years), I actually believe we have the opportunity to leave the 20th century behind and find a new and better way of being together. Maybe that has something to do with disassembling the categories of the 19th and 20th century that keep things like business and “social good” separate. I hope so…

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Bless me as I go

a mountain prayer

Don’t Wish for Cupcakes

cupcake

by Steve Mullaney

God invites us this Advent to stand at our doorsteps, look into our neighborhood, and join God in the ways that God is already working in our community.  It is all too easy to only look inwards–into our church building–and spot problems that aren’t really problems: we need more young adults/young families; our Sunday School attendance was much higher in the 90’s; if only we had a fireplace room/bigger kitchen/waterslide that goes directly into the baptismal font then we would be a Good Church.

God has already given us the gifts that we need to engage in ministry.  It is harder to see how God is working in our community when we put up obstacles towards participation in God’s Mission.  “First let me build a Sunday School program” sounds a lot like “First I must go see my oxen” in the Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-24).  When we wish for our churches to look like they did in the 1950’s we miss the ways that God is calling God’s church to be in this moment.  We must look ridiculous, wishing for cupcakes like Lou in Tony Carillo’s “F Minus”, instead of throwing ourselves into God’s mission and trusting God to use our gifts to help meet the world’s needs.

 John the Baptist asks us to repent–to turn back towards God.  Let go of the trappings of the institutional church and “the way things have always been”, turn towards the ways that we are being called by God to be the hands and feet of Christ.  Don’t wish for cupcakes; pray for deeper engagement in the ways God continues to move and transform.

Steve Mullaney is the Missioner for Young Adult & College Ministry for the Episcopal Church in Minnesota and the Organizer at the University Episcopal Community in Minneapolis.

God enters in

flat-feet-in-children-may-need-attention1by Jamie Osborne

I posted a prayer on my Facebook wall I had seen from a friend the day of the Sandyhook shooting. Pretty soon after I had shared the prayer on my wall a childhood friend commented something like, “Oh yeah? Where was God?” I didn’t know how to respond so I didn’t. I knew that I wasn’t going to solve the problem of evil on my Facebook wall and I didn’t want to get into some type of theological debate the day of the tragedy. I just wanted to pray.

I have thought about the question quite a bit since then. Where is God? It’s a question that comes up often when there is tragedy. It’s a question of how God could allow something like the tragedy to even happen. I don’t have the answer; I think evil and tragedy are a mystery and no one has the answer to that question. But I have a different question that I think is related and gets to the heart of the matter – What is God like?

I used to think that God was unaffected by anything. Cold and unfeeling, God was removed from our lives and just looked on as humanity suffered. God was untouchable. But now I believe that God is better understood as a vulnerable and even suffering God much more than the removed and unfeeling God I believed in for most of my life.

The shift in my thinking came when I understood the Incarnation a little more. As Eugene Peterson puts it, “God moved into the neighborhood.” Another way to say it is that God enfleshed Godself. As I understood the Christian belief that to see Jesus was to see God, I started to shift in how I viewed what God was like. No longer was God removed and unaffected in my thinking; God started to become personally acquainted with the human experience. I read about Jesus weeping over his friend who died and then I realized that I was reading about God who was weeping over a friend who died. God told a woman caught in adultery that she wasn’t condemned. God compassionately and graciously loved all the “notorious sinners” of the day and healed the lame and the blind. God even felt God-forsaken on the cross.

This is the Incarnation. And this is what we are journeying towards during Advent. Frederick Buechner says it beautifully:

"The Word became flesh. Ultimate Mystery born with a skull you  could crush one-handed. Incarnation. . . God of God, Light of   Light, very God of very God … who for us and for our  salvation," as the Nicene Creed puts it, "came down from    heaven."

Advent is a time of hope and anticipation as we expectantly relive the experience of Christ entering our deeply wounded and beautiful world. You may be suffering right now and going through a hard time. You may feel confused, even God-forsaken. But you are not alone. God is not way out there somewhere. God is with you. God is with me. God is with us.

May we be filled with hope as we experience God coming into our lives, not as a removed and untouchable God, but as a God who is deeply affected by our personal pain and that of the world, who enters the world as vulnerable as you can be, “born with a skull you could crush one-handed.” We may not have the answer for why there is pain and tragedy, but may we be filled with hope as we come to see how God has entered our pain and tragedy and travels with us through it on the journey of salvation.

Jamie lives with his wife, Lauren, and their two children, Rowan and Phoebe, in Huntsville Alabama. Jamie is a Postulant for Holy Orders and will be attending seminary this upcoming fall.

My 7 Weeks of Advent

Advent-Medium-FeatureHere at my church, St. Anne’s Episcopal in Tifton, GA, we don’t do the usual 4 weeks of Advent. We do 7. Call us overachievers, but that’s how we roll. But really, we have a 7 week Advent for a couple of reasons. We are taking on the older traditions of churches past that had a 7 week Advent. It’s also a reaction to how early the Christmas commercials start, and people decorating their houses in green and red. And the Christmas music comes on before Thanksgiving! It gives us a chance to take a step back a little earlier and to remind ourselves what Advent is really about.

Waiting. Hoping.

We are not patient people. If you don’t believe me, see the aforementioned super early beginnings of the Christmas crazy.  Advent forces us to take a step back from the commercial side of life and remember to enjoy the moments leading up to the birth of Christ.

I love Advent. I love that even though I know what’s going to happen, I’m still excited about it. I get all antsy, like a kid waiting to open presents on Christmas morning. Yep, it’s cool to get presents and all, but come on now – it’s THE BIRTH OF JESUS. It also helps that I love babies and think they’re super cute. *insert your own Talledega Nights baby Jesus quotes here*

We all know what’s going to happen, but isn’t the waiting just as fun? We get to hear in the readings that no one knew when the birth was going to happen. We are told, over and over, to be patient and know that the Lord is coming. If you put yourself in that position – in that moment where you’re reading the foretelling of Jesus in the Old Testament – where there is so much hope for the future. You can’t feel anything but the same excitement and hope that they felt.

We are resurrection people. But we are also hopeful people. We are the waiting people. We are waiting for the miracle to happen, all over again. So enjoy it. Get caught up in it. Be excited because you know what’s coming. And get ready. Jesus is coming y’all.

Today’s advent author is Liz Williams from St. Anne’s Tifton, GA. 

Lift your voice

“Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us; Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, Let us march on till victory is won.”

Take a minute this morning to lift your heart to God, not in gratitude for family or friends or warm homes or good food. Lift your heart in thanks for all that your life has made you, for the faith, the hope and the love you are able to carry inside you because of the good and the hard times you have faced. Trace your fingers across the scars and think of the ways you have been transformed and strengthened by a life that is often unsteady and unsettling. Give thanks for resilience.

Into the weekend

Another week has passed, week of work or rest, a week of joy, wonder and discovery, of heartache, frustration and anger. Perhaps  this week has mended relationships, torn relationships or just made things more confusing. But I hope on this Friday afternoon you can take a minute to give thanks for the week that has passed, another seven days of life, and that at the end of them your are better prepared for the seven days to come.

may the tide

that is entering even now

the lip of our understanding

carry you out

beyond the face of fear

may you kiss

the wind then turn from it

certain that it will

love your back may you

open your eyes to water

water waving forever

and may you in your innocence

sail through this to that

Blessing the Boats by Lucille Clifton

First Steps to Stop Climate Change

Last Friday I stood outside on a rainy evening to hand out flyers in front of a mayoral forum. I hate handing out flyers, but I think climate change is worse.

Climate change has been on my mind a lot lately. I think there’s reason to be concerned, but rather than wring my hands I’ve decided to learn more and see what I can do, and I’ve discovered acting to change things helps you feel better.

Which is how I ended up handing out flyers in the rain about a movement for religious organizations and universities to divest from the fossil fuel industry and reinvest in clean energy.   I believe this is probably the best way to move us and the national conversation forward.

I know not everyone will agree, but I hope you will agree that it’s something we should all be concerned about, for the sake of those facing forest fires and storms and droughts already, and for the sake of our children and our future, and for the sake of this earth we’ve been given to care for.

If you’re concerned, but not sure what to do, here are a few steps to get started (this is what I did, anyway):

Find others who are concerned about climate change and support each other.  That’s what we did the other day. We had some friends over for dinner and hung out and watched a documentary and discussed what we could and should do.
Listen to this episode of This American Life. It explains the problem and some possible solutions pretty well.
Read this document about why divestment is probably our best option from a religious perspective (I know, it’s a little long, but worth a look at least).
Talk about climate change. A lot. Even if you don’t agree with me or that divestment is a good idea, keep talking about it. It’s not OK to stay silent.
Have hope. I interviewed Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org for Trinity Wall Street once, and he said to me: “As people of faith, we’re not compelled to believe that we have to do it all 100% on our own. If we do everything we can, then perhaps forces larger than us will meet us halfway.”