Preparing a highway through the rugged wilderness

A word from our Pastor - January 2012

Dear People of Hope,

While much of the world receives January as the beginning of a New Year, liturgically the year has already begun with Advent, preparing a highway through the rugged wilderness mountains and valleys for the Lamb of God to bring healing to this earth. Two events marked this beginning—this preparing—in the midst of the Christmas-New Year celebrations.

The first was witnessed by front page newspaper articles announcing “a quiet end” of the long Iraq war, describing the process of bringing U.S. troops home. So many nuances come to mind: many U.S. soldiers coming home in time for the holidays that begins with the birth of the Prince of Peace; the memories of many soldiers who have witnessed scenes far from peaceful; the families of soldiers who died in the war; the families of Iraq whose streets, homes and schools were the brutal battlefields. A “quiet end” is so different from the beginning of the war: less blind anger, rage and arrogant rhetoric; more soberness, a deep sadness, a wiser humility in some of our public discourse, fearful questions of how long it will last, a guarded sense of hope.

How many times have we prayed and longed for the end of the war? Now I pray that we will not forget to give thanks in equal or greater measure, especially since it is in giving thanks that we “bump into God”—that we come to understand God’s role in bringing peace and healing, the amazing joy of God answering these longings, the awe and wonder when the scales from our eyes are removed to see God.

The second event was expressed in an evening phone call I received a few days later as we were entering into the Fourth Sunday of Advent: a young couple and their small child are homeless. He heard my after-hours recording on the church answering machine, “If this is an emergency, you can contact me by calling 353-7004.” The young father has been knocking on all the doors of homeless shelters. Unfortunately, there is no room at the inns for a young couple and their child. He had just spent the last of his resources paying for one night at a nearby motel but would have to leave by eleven the next morning. Community church resources provided them a place to stay through the weekend.

My mind keeps playing with two scripture passages: the man lying for 38 years at the Pool of Bethesda who, when asked by Jesus if he wants to be well, doesn’t say “Yes!” but instead gives excuses for being sick (Jn 5), and Mary’s Magnificat (Lk1) which proclaims that God scatters the arrogant, brings down the powerful and raises up the weak, fills the hungry and sends away the rich empty handed. I wonder about these texts. Are we ready for the Prince of Peace this new year? Ready for this year’s adventures? Ready to be transformed and set free from our prisons? If we are not ready, it is all the more evidence why we need God. Ready or not, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

May the grace and peace of God be with you.

Pastor Daniel Swanson
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