Category Archives: Meditations
By Pastor Christie John, Geneseo United Methodist Church
Advent greetings to you! “Advent” comes from a word that means “coming.” It is the four-week period that the church sets aside each year to prepare for our celebration of the coming of Jesus into our world. We know that peace and joy are associated with the celebration of Christmas. But what does Jesus’ birth have to do with peace and joy? To understand why we believe that Christmas is such good news, we need to begin at the beginning…the beginning of everything.
Scriptures tell us that our world is not here by accident – we were brought into being by a powerful, compassionate Creator – the one true Source of wisdom and beauty, goodness and life. Human beings were created with the ability to be close to God, to remain faithful to God and follow God’s ways. We were made to love God and to reflect God’s image as we graciously care for God’s good world.
Instead human beings turned away from God, and reaped the inevitable consequences of that choice: corruption and death. In our brokenness and rebellion, we became prone to selfishness, greed, arrogance, and bitterness. And somehow we dragged all of creation down with us. We did not care well for ourselves, for one another or for God’s beautiful earth. The image of God became more and more distorted in us. All that God had lovingly made for full, everlasting life was suffering and dying. We were in a horrible mess of our own making, and it broke God’s heart.
So what was God to do? We were suffering because we had moved away from God – God had not moved away from us. Where goodness wanes, evil rises. Where life diminishes, death emerges. We were on a profound downward spiral that we had begun and were incapable of stopping. I suppose God could have simply zapped the world and started over. But God loved us, and didn’t want to destroy us. I suppose God could have entered into the world with the kind of overwhelming power that made it impossible to refuse God’s gracious offer of loving, life-giving relationship with Him. But enforced love isn’t really love at all, is it?
For those of us who live in the northern hemisphere, it is very appropriate that Advent comes just at the moment when our nights are longest. For the first Christmas marks the beginning of God’s surprising, loving and just solution to our despair, a hope that burns brightly in our darkness.
By Christopher Simon
Knowing Many Things
Modern technology has made it possible for virtually everything that is known to be accessible at the push of a few buttons. Just ask your question and the search engine provides you with an assortment of answers. But, what has this access to instant knowledge gained for us? Are we better off because we can settle factual disputes quicker, and has this knowledge made us wiser, or just lazier? Does this instant knowledge makes us better human beings, and here I think the answer is that it can, by making us more aware of the suffering and plight of people around the world, and able to reach out to them, charitably or otherwise, at a moment’s notice. And while having access to such vast amounts of information can make us lazier about acquiring knowledge the old-fashioned way (by reading or doing our own research), it also allows us to have a broader, more synthetic view and to be more connected to the rest of humanity. And we should always remember that truth is One. Knowing many things can blind us to the ultimate fact about our existence, that we owe our very being to the one true God.
By Pastor Doug Rokke American Lutheran Church, La Porte City
Giving Thanks: Every Day!
“And be thankful” ~ Colossians 3:15b NRSV
“And be thankful.” This is one of the instructions that Paul gave to the church in Colossae. Before this he told them to clothe themselves with virtues such as compassion, kindness and humility, but then he told them to be thankful. He mentions this again in a couple other ways in the verses that follow, as well as in other letters he wrote. It seems that for Paul, giving thanks and being thankful is an important matter for those who follow Christ.
This week we celebrate the Day of Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorite holidays because it hasn’t become as commercialized as Christmas or some of the other holidays. I also like the fact that for a day we stop from our work and from our busy lives with the main purpose of giving thanks. Hopefully people will take time to look at their lives and see the many blessings they have to be thankful for. Along with this I hope we will all take time to offer up a prayer of thanksgiving for all those blessings we remember.
Finally, I hope that the Day of Thanksgiving will be a reminder of the value of giving thanks every day. Because giving thanks isn’t only for Thanksgiving Day, really it is something that is important to do every day. For in giving thanks we see the goodness of life and all the many blessings God sends in good times and in difficult times. Perhaps this is what Paul came to realize as he says, “and be thankful.” If that’s the case, then that he isn’t just talking about giving thanks at a particular time or for a particular thing, but that being thankful is something to do in all times and places.
So here’s wishing all of you a very good and blessed Thanksgiving Day. I hope you get to enjoy it with family or friends. And I hope you have a long list of things for which you are thankful. But finally may it not end with Thanksgiving Day, but may it move you give thanks every day. Or in Paul’s words may it lead you to simply “be thankful,” in all you do.
By Rev. Doug Rokke American Lutheran Church, La Porte City
Giving Thanks; A Celebration!
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. ~ Psalm 100:4 NRSV
Psalm 100 one of the better known Psalms and is loved by many people. It is a Psalm of praise and thanksgiving calling on people to worship God. In verse four it says to enter God’s courts with praise and thanksgiving because, “the Lord is good.” As Christians I think this is one of the results of giving thanks; by giving thanks we remember the goodness of our God.
As Christians, our Thanksgiving is always directed toward God and the blessings that he pours upon us. That’s not true for everyone. In fact, one doesn’t have to be Christian to give thanks. People of all cultures and religions can bring up a sense of gratitude for things in their lives. Anyone can enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner, be grateful for family and enjoy a good football game without thanking God.
But for Christians their thanksgiving is directed to God. We believe that he is somehow connected with the goodness in our lives. And in giving thanks we not only give him the credit that he is due, but in giving thanks we remember his goodness toward his people. This goodness is seen not only in the things we remember at Thanksgiving, but is seen most clearly as he gave his son to die on the cross.
As we approach Thanksgiving let us not only take time to be thankful, but let it be an opportunity to thank God. May it be a time to celebrate all that God has done. Or in the words of the Psalm may it be a day to give thanks to Him and bless his name.
By Rev. Doug Rokke American Lutheran Church, La Porte City
Giving Thanks: A Time to Remember
“Bless the Lord O my soul, and do not forget all his gifts” ~ Psalm 103:2 NAV
Recently I have been reading a book by Ann Voskamp entitled One Thousand Gifts. In this book her reflections on giving thanks led her to start keeping a list. Every day she would write down something to give thanks for. Her goal was to list one thousand things in her life that she was thankful for. She found that as she listed these things every day it changed her and helped her to look at life differently.
I think that is one of the benefits of giving thanks. It changes how we see things in our life. I’m sure that for some this past year may have been difficult. And yet pause to remember what we do have. It includes not only the material things, but the many gifts we have been given like people we love, friendships and the simple things in day to day life. Finally giving thanks may lead us to remember the gifts of our faith and the greatest gift God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
And so as we enter this month and approach Thanksgiving, let us take time to make a list either mentally or maybe even a written list of all we have to be thankful for. And then let us take time to offer our thanksgiving to God. It may help make your Thanksgiving more complete!