by Ann Weems on April 14th, 2014

Broken covenant. Broken covenant. Broken covenant.

Over and over and over again.

Faithless faithless faithless.

Jeremiah, O Jeremiah,

I’ve seen how Rembrandt painted you:

your head in your hands, eyes downcast,

shoulders slumped.

God has been in covenant with faithless people.

But in exile they pray for forgiveness,

reminding God who God is:

a God of covenant love

a God of mercy.

They promise to repent.

God responds:

I have loved you

      with an everlasting love;

therefore I have continued

      my faithfulness to you.

 

The days are surely coming when

I will make a New Covenant

with the house of Israel and

the house of Judah …

I will put my law within them,

and I will write it upon their hearts;

and I will be their God and

they will be my people.

No longer shall they teach one another,

or say to each other: “Know the Lord,”

for they shall all know me,

from the least of them to the greatest,

for I will forgive their iniquity,

and remember their sin no more.

 

We would see Jesus!

Exactly!

We would see Jesus!

The world had gone after him,

and we would go after him, too.

In our hearts we long to wave

the palm branches, to shout

our Hosannas,

and yet, and yet, and yet….

something holds us back.

We have so much to do:

budgets to raise,

programs to start,

meetings to attend,

teachers to find,

new members to attract,

sermons to preach,

music to learn,

dinners to cook,

buildings to maintain,

materials to order …

order the flowers,

order the fronds,

answer the phones …

We’ll parade later.

 

The world had gone after him,

even the Pharisees knew it,

but now the parade was over.

The palm branches were no longer waving.

The Hosannas sang only in memory.

 

We would see Jesus.

The Greeks stood in front of Phillip,

asking to see Jesus.

Phillip tells Andrew,

and together they tell Jesus.

The world outside of Judaism

is asking to see Jesus.

This was the sign Jesus had

been waiting for!

God had sent Jesus

to all of God’s people.

 

The hour is come

for the Son of Man

to be glorified.

The hour of Christ’s death

is nearing.

The hour of our Life

is nearing.

 

We see the shadow of the Cross;

the angels begin their lamenting.

If we understand, we tremble,

for if we would see Jesus,

we will see God die.

God’s New Covenant

embraces this world.

The world has broken covenant

over and over and over again;

the church has broken covenant

over and over and over again,

and yet, and yet, and yet,

something pushes God forward

past broken covenants.

Love so much Love

that God not only is true

to the covenant made

with God’s people,

but God also keeps covenant

on behalf of God’s people.

Love so much Love

that God climbs upon a cross

and hangs there

even unto death.

The hour of Christ’s death

is nearing.

The hour of our Life

is nearing.

 

That it had to come to this!

That Jesus had to die

in order for us to live!

Just as wheat dies to the earth

and later bears much fruit,

Jesus had to die to the world

that he could live again

         for all of us

that we through him could live.

 

I had a plant that died one winter.

Because of the ice covered earth,

I put the plant in the garage,

thinking I would throw it away

when the ice thawed,

wash out the pot, and replant.

When spring came, I went to

the darkness of the garage

and there in the pot

the plant bloomed green.

Resurrection in my face.

 

We would see Jesus.

Exactly!

In these Lenten days

we would see Jesus,

see who he really is,

see what he is about,

see how we are to follow him.

 

If we would see Jesus

we would see him praying

with loud cries and tears.

We would hear him say,

Now my soul is troubled …

and yet, Jesus is obedient,

faithful even unto death.

If we would see Jesus,

we will see him die.

And if we see Jesus,

we are to follow.

If we follow,

we will die, too,

to our world

of self-centeredness,

and live forever

in this New Covenant

together feeding his sheep,

God’s Love written

upon our hearts.

 

But there’s something terribly wrong!

The world says Hate

when Jesus says Love.

The world says War

when Jesus says Peace.

The world says Mine

when Jesus says Share.

The world says Torture

when Jesus says Mercy.

The world says Kill

when Jesus says Life Abundant.

The world says do what you can get away with

when Jesus says Justice.

The world says Take Care of Number One

when Jesus says Care for the Least of These.

 

Oh, we would see Jesus!

But something is terribly wrong.

The church reflects the world.

Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Shouldn’t the world reflect the church?

In the Lenten quiet,

we hear the world outside

asking to see Jesus.

It’s a sign, of course.

Jesus was sent for all the world.

They would see Jesus.

We live in hope.

Hope that we in the Church of Jesus Christ

one day will step outside our doors

and put our arms around

this cold and shivering world

and in one voice shout:

Love

and Peace

and Share

and Mercy

and Life Abundant

and Justice

and when you have done it unto the least of these

you have done it unto me.

 

We would see Jesus.

​Ann Weems of St. Louis, Mo., is a best-selling poet-writer, speaker, and conference leader. She is an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Her works include Kneeling in Bethlehem, Kneeling in Jerusalem, and Psalms of Lament.

by Henry Van Dyke on January 4th, 2014


There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping Christmas. 
Are you willing... 
  • to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you; 
  • to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; 
  • to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; 
  • to see that men and women are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; 
  • to own up to the fact that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life; 
  • to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness. 
Are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas. 
Are you willing... 
  • to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; 
  • to remember the weakness and loneliness of people growing old; 
  • to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; 
  • to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear in their hearts; 
  • to try to understand what those who live in the same home with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you; 
  • to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; 
  • to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open— 
Are you willing to do these things, even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas. 
Are you willing... 
  • to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world — 
  • stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death — 
  • and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? 
Then you can keep Christmas. 

And if you can keep it for a day, why not always? 

But you can never keep it alone.


Isaiah 30:21 reads, “And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”   I am always hopeful that when the Israelites to whom Isaiah prophesied heard these words that they were comforted by it.  To know that there is a voice calling out, nudging us from behind to give guidance and direction is what so many of us want.  “Just tell me what to do, Lord!  Just tell me where to go, Lord!” is what we all too often want.  

And yet Isaiah’s words are also a challenge to us.  Not only will God’s guidance be offered, but it is expected that we will actually walk in the way that God leads us.  Sometimes this way is paved with trials, stretching us beyond where we think we can or want to go.

Jesus shares a similar command recorded in the Gospel of Matthew when he refers to the narrow gate.  “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it.  For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

As our Stewardship Season commences, I would encourage us to find ways to go through the narrow gate and stretch ourselves to do that which we never thought or imagined we could do in the name of Jesus Christ.  All the while, we can be both comforted and challenged knowing that the Word of the Lord is behind us, cheering us on to Engage, Serve, Lead, Grow and Give of ourselves in every way for the glory of Christ our Lord.


Summer is upon us and the time for graduation, travel and respite.  About two weeks ago I happened to be in the mountains for a day of fishing.  As I moved from one location to another I travelled in a heavy line of traffic that I imagined was due to vacationers coming to visit the wonderful North Carolina Mountains, as the weather improved.  Several cars ahead of me a driver in a large SUV became impatient and decided to pass although there was a curve and a no passing zone.  In an instant another car rounded the curve and there was a tremendous collision between the two large vehicles.  One instant and six people’s lives were changed in a very sobering accident.  It reminded how suddenly a momentary lapse in judgment can have terrific consequences.  During the next couple of hours as we awaited ambulances, police, and fire trucks my heart went out to families I did not know that were about to receive very disturbing news.  I thought of rescue workers doing their grim tasks and how so many were affected by a bit of impatience.  I share this with you in hopes that you will all be careful as you travel this summer – stay safe.  Be patient.  Give yourself permission to take time.

I am also reminded of a story pertinent to summer that a woman, named Sabina, who worked for our business once told me.  She grew up the child of Methodist missionaries to the Congo.  When they arrived in that country from the United States her father was anxious to reach the mission station in short order.  Bearers were arranged to carry their considerable supplies to the station that could only be reached on foot.  Sabina, a child at the time, recollected carrying her dolls in hand the whole journey.  After several strenuous days the family awakened one morning to find their campsite very quiet.  The normal hustle and bustle connected with their getting underway was hushed.  Her father went to visit the man in charge of their expedition to urge a resumption of their journey believing time to be of the essence.  The leader informed him that their caravan would not be travelling that day or the next.  When her father asked why, the man simply said, “We are waiting for our souls to catch up.”  How much would it mean for us as people to learn the simple lesson of Sabbath-keeping and taking our time?  So often, I believe we are like Sabina’s father, so urgently pressing toward our next task that we forget to take the time to let our souls catch up.

This summer, enjoy some Sabbath-keeping.  Take your time and stay safe.  God bless.


Pentecost is, in short, the birthday of the Church.  On the Day of Pentecost, while the people gathered in one place and Peter preached what could have been the most empowering sermon of his missionary career (Acts 2), the Church was born and a new people were born with it.  I love Pentecost for many reasons, but primarily I love Pentecost because we are reminded that our God is a living, moving, creating, redeeming, sustaining God who loves and trusts us enough to do the work of ministry on God’s behalf.  We get to be a part of the moving forward of the Gospel.  Furthermore, we must be committed to this cause if we ever expect the Church to be filled with the Spirit as it was on that first day of Pentecost almost 2,000 years ago.

As we celebrate the Day of Pentecost on May 19, our congregation will have the privilege of receiving into membership our six Confirmation students.  These young people made their profession of faith before the Session on April 28, but on Pentecost the congregation will bless such action and affirm the vows they made to these young people upon their baptism. 

For these young people being Confirmed and for the congregation who is privileged to recognize that milestone, it is an opportunity for all of us to reaffirm our own vows to Christ and to the Church.  So on May 19, listen again to the vows that are taken, reaffirm them for yourself and then, go do them!  
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