Friday, December 23, 2011


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me. - Emily Dickinson

Each year during Advent we are asked to think of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love as we prepare the four weeks of before Christmas for God's presence in the stable on Christmas night.  Hope is the bird that perches in the soul, even among the storm.  While many storms may seem to take pause around Christmas, many are still there, and this year a small "storm" approached when Michael announced his resignation.  It is a "storm" that FCCBRLA has been through before, and will progress though again, but a small storm of the unexpected to say the least.

Hope is that thing that perches in the soul despite any storm, and no matter how big a storm may feel.  For FCC hope appeared each Sunday in Advent as FCCBRLA welcomed four new members, one on each of the four Sundays in Advent, AFTER Michael made his announcement.

This is great hope for our congregation.  People have asked me how I felt about the situation and my thoughts on our next steps, and I have continued to say that I am very hopeful for our congregation.  FCCBRLA is in a great place, and certainly in a far better place than 7 years ago.  We have some very spiritually driven leaders that are looking forward and discerning God's plan for this community of faith.  I am very hopeful for FCCBRLA and know that God has great things in store.

That hope was confirmed each Sunday in Advent as we had four new members join the church; all from different walks of life, and all for different reasons.  The fact that four new individuals have joined after an announcement that would change the future of the church, it speaks volumes to the congregation.  It speaks volumes to Michael's ministry over the last 7 years and where he has taken the church during his ministry.  It speaks volumes to the congregation that there are 4 individuals that trust in the COMMUNITY, and not in just one person, that the community is here to live out God's calling.  It speaks volumes to the hope that we can all have in our congregation, and to the places that we will go when we listen to the spirit.

Hope is the thing that perches in the soul and withstands the storms.  Hope is the thing that while delicate is also steadfast.  Hope is the risk that we are willing to endure because we have faith in the great things that are to come.

As we embrace hope in our final days of waiting for the Christ child, we can also embrace the great expectation we have for the future that will be birthed into our congregation in the months to come.  In the same way we have faith in the ways that Christ will change our hearts and lives when we open our hearts to him, we can have faith in the hope that we have for our future as a growing community of faith.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holy Patience

It seems as if ever since Michael announced his resignation the season of Advent, this time of waiting has taken on a new meaning. I read my devotional a bit differently, I hear the sermon a bit differently. It is to be expected as major changes can always color our 'regular" experiences. So as a church, it is no wonder that we might approach this Advent season a bit differently than otherwise. Advent is the perfect season to anticipate revelation. As we await the coming of the Christ child, may we also be ready for God's inspiration for the next steps of our congregation.

In 2 Peter 3:8-15, one of our scripture passages from the Second Sunday of Advent, we are reminded that waiting can seem like an eternity. One day in the Lord’s time is like a thousand years. Scripture, however, is not the only place that we are reminded of this. Waiting in an airport for your flight to board, 5 minutes can seem like an eternity. Waiting for the doctor to call, half a day can feel like a lifetime. Waiting with a loved one as they take their last labored breaths, that last day can feel like infinity.

Waiting can mean that we neglect something for a time – as in, that matter can wait until the first of the year. Or, waiting can mean to be inactive until something expected happens – as in waiting for the bus to arrive. However, waiting can also mean to be available in readiness, especially in the unexpected. While we wait in the meantime, we have to rename the meantime so that we can focus on the “being available in readiness,” as opposed to being inactive, or neglectful in our waiting. This time of waiting does not have to be a time of despair, nor does it have to be a time of our frustration, rather, it should be one of God’s patience. God is not slow in providing for us, rather God is patient with us, asking us all to come to repentance, to come to a time of readiness. Neither is God neglectful in our time of waiting. On the contrary, God is present with us, consistent in attendance.

The unexpected will happen. Change will happen. The Bible and our own faith stories are full of examples of this. Rarely, if ever, have we seen a story of faith in which God says, “OK, everything shall remain the same and you shall live the rest of your life in monotony.” The challenge, however, is to be waiting in readiness for that unexpected, and for that change that we know will come. Scripture upon scripture tells us that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night, it will be unexpected, and it will be a drastic change. Whether we are talking about the coming of the Lord, or day to day unexpected and indiscriminate change, our challenge is to be ready in our waiting, not inactive or neglectful. This passage in 2 Peter tells us that God is patient with us as we figure out what it means to be ready. God’s slowness is not neglectful as we might be neglectful in our waiting, rather it is a holy patience as we prepare for the ways that God is acting in our life.

In the coming months we will face the unexpected, for change has already come. Michael’s announcement may have been unexpected, but change is not. We can be assured that more change will come and adjustments will be needed. However, we can also be assured that we will not be neglectful in our waiting, nor will we be inactive in this time of unknown. Just as we are called to be active in our time of waiting during Advent, and prepared and ready for the coming of the Lord, so are we called to be active and prepared for the changes that lie ahead of our congregation. There are sources of consistency that will carry us through this time of change. Our elders are dependable, our church leaders are reliable, our time of waiting will have consistency and we will be ready. God is consistent, and will be present with us. We can rely on these sources of consistency to carry us through this time of many unknowns.

As we practice waiting in readiness during the Advent season, I pray we will remember to wait in readiness for the next chapter in the life of FCCBRLA. As God demonstrates a holy patience with us, that we will be ready for the coming of the Lord, I pray we will also demonstrate that same holy patience, as we wait in readiness for wherever God will lead us next. God is constant. God is patient. God is ready. May our faith, and our congregation mirror God’s consistency, God’s patience and God’s readiness.