Monday, December 7, 2015

From a Grateful Fellow Pastor

This is a season of Thanksgiving, and my heart is full of abundant joy because of you, pastor.

Most people in your congregation will never really know that depths of longing you have for each one to draw nearer still to Jesus, how you have wept in prayer over the suffering and sometimes confusion of your members, the too many times you were required to miss meals and special moments with your family because you tended to the crises and needs of your flock.  Few will understand the decisions you have made to take less in order to serve more, to give sacrificially not only to set an example but because you love God and care for those suffering in the world.  You have chosen a simple lifestyle to honor the King who had no place to lay his head so that the gospel may be proclaimed without hindrance.

I know that this Thanksgiving there are lonely elderly in your community who will have companionship, confused teens who will know they are loved, hungry men who will have a meal, homeless women who will not be on the street, stressed marriages that will find points of agreeable joy, refugees and immigrants who will find friends in a hostile world – BECAUSE OF YOU and how you have led.

And only God truly knows, but I am sure the number is larger than you suspect, all of the people who have crossed from death to eternal life and will join you in angel song before the throne of the King of Kings when the mortal coil is shed - because of your witness and ministry.

This world is a better place because you said yes to Jesus Christ, and to the divine call to shepherd or prophesy or teach or evangelize or break new ground in a hard community – or all of this.  
I am so thankful for you. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Refugee Jesus, A Christmas Story

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt… for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Matthew 2:13

Mary and Joseph fled nearly certain death in Bethlehem for the insecurity of Egypt and a chance to live. How long did young Jesus and his refugee parents live in Africa? Tatian puts a seven year span on the event, Baronius says eight, Athanasius thought four and Josephus believed it to be one year. There are plenty of ancient, apocryphal tales of young Jesus in Egypt, celebrated yet today by the Egyptian Coptic believers.

No one knows how long Jesus was a refugee before being gathered by Joseph, daring to return to obscure Nazareth. No one really knows what Christ’s earthly parents or even young Jesus himself did while separated from family, friends, occupation and home. We simply know that core to the Christmas story is the bleak and bloody tale of terror, shed blood, and fleeing with the hope of life and little but the promise of God.

Was Joseph hungry and harassed? Mary afraid? Did her baby cry? Most refugees are hungry, afraid, harassed and weep over deep losses.  

From the depths of this agonizing portion of the Christmas tale emerges a carpenter’s son whose entire life and legacy can be summarized by the action verb -- LOVE. Pressed by terror the diamond of hope emerged. Surrounded by death, the Prince of Peace smashed the mortal coil and prepared the path toward eternal life. The tragedy ends well. But the story continues to be written anew today.

I imagine Christ, at the side of His Father in heaven, is heartbroken over the weeping, harassed, hungry streams of refugees that flee from today’s Herods and seek some help from today’s wise men and hope for some place to lay their heads in today’s Egypts. What a wonderful Christmas gift it would be if Christ’s people, children of the Refugee King, might supply the warmth of prayers, assistance of financial support, and not without applying the wisdom of security, nonetheless offer a place for the least of these to lay their weary heads.