Greetings From the Mountain

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“Stir up your power O Lord, and with great might come among us:”

It’s hard to believe that the Third Sunday of Advent is upon us and Christmas is just around the corner. In years long since past the Third Sunday of Advent was referred to as “Stir up Sunday” as referenced in the Collect for the Day. The thinking behind this “Stir-up Sunday” was to give encouragement to those who where keeping a holy Advent and remind them of the destination.

The season has become so commercially driven that we are hard pressed on many levels to engage spiritually in our preparation. We become encumbered in our journey by the demands of the world; this pageant here, this office party here, this event here the list goes on and on. Is it no wonder we are both physically and emotionally tired by the time Christmas Day does arrive? The readings of the Advent Season are readings to get us back on the right track; to give us hope and to let us know that God will do a great thing and we need only to be patient and wait upon the Lord’s pleasure.

Yeah! Right! How can we even think that given the reading from the Gospel of St. Matthew where John the Baptist is uncertain about who Jesus is? Is Jesus really the Coming One? That is a question that is put to us each and every day. Compared with human hope, is what the gospel brought to the world really the fulfillment of our hopes? This may seem a bit offensive to some and it is not intended to be, but there is no proof that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Coming One. All we have to go on is His activity-the blind see, the lame walk, the dumb speak, etc., but above all, the poor have the good news preached to them. For there, in the preaching of the gospel, is the real miracle. For where it is preached, lives are transformed. But that calls for a decision: Either Jesus is the Coming One or he is not.

There in lies the challenge for us. Do we believe that Jesus is who He says He is? Do we believe in his words and His works? Our answer to this question will have eternal significance.

Reading from Isaiah assures those who do believe, who have fought the good fight,  “A highway will be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; and the unclean will not be on it but shall be for God’s people: no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray” (Isaiah 35) This will be the reward. Joy and gladness will be ours. We will be on the “Holy Way”. 

But a few days remain in our journey. We must, as James reminds us have patience. Let us ponder our redemption, our ransomed lives knowing that we cannot redeem or ransom our own lives, but that God alone can and has in and through His son, Jesus Christ. Through God and only God can we become redeemed of God, and that transforms our lives in every way possible.

Have a blessed Advent and a transforming Christmastide. May God bless and keep you. 

Bp. Paul

Complete the Race (II Timothy 4:17)

At the end of our vacation we find ourselves in Chicago for its Marathon weekend (the fastest, I have read this morning, perhaps because it is cool and relatively level). Marathons offer many good things. You can see world-class athletes from places like Ethiopia and Kenya. There is a feel of fiesta with signs by family members, getups by some for-fun runners, and food for sale.

But as I looked out my hotel window at 7:30 a.m., I watched the race of competitors who have lost legs or their use. Wheeling vehicles by arm for 26 miles means serious fitness and determination.

Those competitors were to me, this morning, a symbol of the Church too. For each is wounded. The larger family cheers them on. Each by grace has risen up to run the race. Ahead is the goal, the prize, the welcome home. We find the companionship of Jesus the Lord, there, and along the route too.