This week, one of the texts in the Revised Common Lectionary is the end of the First Letter to the Thessalonians. It includes theologically challenging imperatives like Rejoice Always, and Pray Without Ceasing, and the one that used to really throw a wrench in my optimistic, justice-seeking brain: Give Thanks in All Circumstances.
A few weeks ago, I got to hear Dr. Zan Holmes preach, and this text came up. And he said it so simply and so fully—“it is not give thanks FOR all circumstances, but IN all circumstances.” God is working in us, strengthening us and changing the world, and making all things new. And the status quo, the harm-bringers, the pain-causers, the empire-proppers, they’re going to fight back and make things rough to hold onto power. It means God is at work. It means the greater Love is winning. It means we still have work to do—thanks be to God.
Last Sunday was about cultivating patience by holding onto hope. This Sunday, we’ll continue on in Advent by seeking joy through resilience in God’s purposes—for us, for the world, for the Church, for all of it. And it will be something. I look forward to seeing you then.
I was out of worship with y’all on Sunday because I was driving back from Saint Louis. My friend Jerry Patterson was celebrating his eightieth birthday, and my godmother and I agreed that surprising him with my presence was a good idea. Jerry waited a long time to turn eighty, I waited a long time to get through Oklahoma.
Seriously. I drove twenty hours in sixty. And like four hundred hours of it was in Oklahoma, on Route 69. Maybe you’ve driven it—where you get your car up to the speed limit, drive two minutes (maybe passing someone going really slow in the left lane) and then kill cruise control to roll through yet another town. On the way up, I was looking for Big Cabin; on the way back, I was looking for Denison. On both drives, I was looking for patience.
But, of course, patience is not grown, it is thrown. I truly believe this. We can cultivate patience, and seek it, but it is one hundred percent a gift of the Holy Spirit. This Sunday, we’ll be lighting a candle for it and for peace, as Advent is not just about the baby Jesus in the manger, but the second coming of Christ and the full glory of the Reign of God. It’ll be something else; I look forward to seeing you then.
“We don’t have a nativity!” I exclaimed late at night last year, as my husband, Curt, and I had just laid down for bed. Curt lifted the corner of his eye mask, and grumbling, told me that we could get one later, that it would be okay if we did not have one right away. I nodded in agreement, but in my head, all I could think about was, “How can Jesus come without a nativity?” Curt, knowing how I like to work through a problem in my head tirelessly until there is a solution, pulled me in closer and said, “It can wait.”
Waiting. This word ultimately defines what the Advent season is all about. The church waits with anxious anticipation, with excitement, with hope, and with joy, for the birth of our Savior. We await the coming of the Prince of Peace, for the God-child. But Advent is more than just waiting for the baby in the manger. Advent is about waiting for the coming of Christ again. Rejoice! Christ is coming back.
Sometime in February last year, well after Christmas had passed, I found our nativity. I had to wait. It reminded me that our whole life is an Advent, as we wait for Christ’s final return. It now sits on our bookshelf, next to the small globe we have. Christ is coming into the world. For the world.
by Rev. Kathy Bouchard
Last week I had the opportunity to visit my long-time friend, Rev. Michelle Tatlock, in Albuquerque. It was a short visit, only a couple of hours, but we covered a lot of topics as we caught up on one another’s lives. Michelle and her husband Charlie are former members of this congregation. In fact, they are the ones who invited me to visit on Friendship Sunday at Midway Hills many years ago. So, it was no surprise when our conversation turned to what’s happening at MHCC, particularly Children’s Ministry. As we reminisced about the Worship and Wonder model that we used in Children’s Worship back when Michelle’s children were very young, she pulled out a binder that was put together for each of the volunteers who helped lead Children’s Worship twenty-five or so years ago. Along with the stories compiled by Jerome Berryman, was a list of MHCC adults who took turns helping out. The long list of adults who took turns presenting Bible stories in child-friendly ways brought a smile to my face. Many of those volunteers have moved on to other congregations in other cities, but some are still among us. Those were good days at Midway Hills! We had faithful servants then, and we have faithful servants now. These are good days at Midway Hills!
All of this is to say, that this week I am especially thankful for everyone who makes ministry happen at Midway Hills Christian Church, not just Children’s Ministry, but all of the ministries that we have in place. Today, I am imagining someone pulling out a list of MHCC ministry team members from 2018 and smiling at the long list of faithful servants. The nominating committee has been working diligently to put together a strong and faithful leadership team for 2018. There will be plenty of opportunities for everyone to plug-in to the ministry teams that interest them most. I expect that 2018 will be a very good year. If you’ve been asked to serve, I hope you’ve given the request your prayerful consideration. If you’re looking to serve, let us know. There’s something for everyone!
So, for all who have made and are making ministry happen at Midway Hills, I give thanks! For all who have said “yes” or will say “yes,” I am grateful for their commitment to working for the Reign of God. Let’s gather together again on Sunday and keep the good work happening!
I try not to hold on to regrets. A few years ago, I gave up guilt for Lent, and I stopped accepting and using shame as transactional currency with others, myself, and God. This is not to say I always get it right, nor that my life is this ongoing parade of shameless, guiltless successes without a tinge of regret; I would rather engage and royally screw up than not engage and miss out on what could have been.
Last week in worship, we looked at the first of the three parables in Matthew 25—parables of judgment, about what THEN the Reign of God will be like, and saw the call to relationship. The foolish bridesmaids weren’t rejected in the end because they were late; it’s because they didn’t respond to the invitations to Christ’s foolishness in this world.
This week, we see a similar yet different take on this call to relationship in the Parable of the Ten Talents. When servants are called on to take a king’s money and do something with it, the real problem comes to the one who says “I got nothing.” Not I lost it, not I doubled it, not I threw it in a fountain, nothing. No change. And boy howdy does he look back in regret!
Inaction is dangerous in the life of the church, and in the life of faith. We cannot let Sabbath turn into complacency; we cannot let pausing turn into the status quo. What can we do if the great risk of separation, condemnation and destruction are all off the table when we respond to God’s calling?
It’s something to think about, and in my case, write about, and practice talking about. I look forward to seeing you Sunday.
The memorial service for Charles Winslow will be on Saturday, November 18 at 11:00 a.m. at St. Luke Community United Methodist Church. (5710 E R L Thornton Fwy, Dallas 75223).
When I was a freshman in college, Die Another Day came out, and I was beyond excited. As I’ve mentioned a thousand times before, I have an odd fascination with James Bond—he’s a relic of colonialism, patriarchy, and empire; I’m squarely against and actively working to dismantle them—but they’ve always stuck. And in 2002, my friend Steve-O and I got into his minivan, and drove to Cedar Rapids for a midnight showing of the twentieth installment in the Bond franchise.
It was supposed to be incredible. And in the very beginning, when Bond walks out in the gun barrel sequence, he turns, he fires his weapon, and the bullet goes into the gun barrel. I heard Steve-O mutter “Oh no,” after this, with good reason. The theme song, by Madonna, was awful. Oscar winner Halle Berry phoned in her performance as Jinx, the most stupidly-named Bond girl. And the plot was more focused on hitting a reference to every previous movie than actually making a new one.
This week, we’re starting a three-week stretch on some traditionally frightening and disconcerting texts. The twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew features three parables of judgment—the Bridesmaids, the Talents, and the Sheep & Goats—and the lectionary doubles down on all of this with passages that are used to promote the rapture, apocalyptic preaching, and a harsh, imperial, destructive Christianity. I don’t think control, fear and exclusion were the goals of the writers of the New Testament; I am certain that’s not how Jesus operates. What happens when, like with Die Another Day, we lose the story for the sake of self-reference?
Let’s find out together on Sunday. I look forward to seeing you then.
P.S. As we grieve yet another public shooting, this time in a church, let us offer our thoughts and prayers to those affected and afflicted. Let us then seek to create change through contacting legislatures, having forthright conversations, lobbying against the firearm free-for-all that’s sweeping the state, destigmatizing mental health and making care more readily available, and loving one another boldly. For starters…