“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.” Hebrews 11:1-2
In the KJV, this passage uses the word HOPE… “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for…” What is it that we hope for? I often hear my kids in LYO say, “I hope” that so and so will happen, or not happen. We often, in American usage of English, use the words “wish” and “hope” interchangeably. Hope is so much more than a wish!
In the case of hope, it’s about putting our faith in the fact that something better exists. In 2018, I had throat cancer. Everything went fairly well until about four and a half weeks into radiation. The treatment took its toll and I had two and a half weeks left. My energy was spent. I couldn’t eat or drink without pain. When the treatment ended, I was literally ready to die, and told my wife so. It wasn’t that I wanted to kill myself. I just want to go to sleep and never wake up in this life.
There were two hopes that kept me going. The first hope for something better was that I could be healed from the radiation treatments, and that life would, and could return to “normal”, at least as normal as possible. I was tired of being sick and no amount of hearing “no evidence of cancer” helped. I hoped in the fact that the cancer ward of Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls could help me back to a better existence than I had when I first went in. With a feeding tube and time, I eventually received what I hoped for… “normalcy”.
The second, and perhaps better, hope, was that if I died, I knew I was baptized and that God was waiting for me to be in God’s presence. I don’t know for sure what happens to folks immediately after death, but I do know, and hope, that at some point in the future, we who have placed our trust in the Living One will always rise alive to live in the presence of Love. In today’s crazy world, a better plan is needed… both for the present and for the future. The present may or may not get better, but God has promised us a better future through our baptism and through faith. Set your sights on the hope that comes from God. De colores!
Pr. Russ Lambert A-OK VdC #9
Trinity, Turtle Lake, ND
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10
Love. Such a small word yet wields a profound impact. How often I throw it around carelessly; I love a song, a movie, a certain kind of pizza, my friend’s new haircut, or my new pair of shoes. But what is love, really? These examples fall far short of the definition in the truest sense. For that we must look to the one who first demonstrated love, God.
God proved His love for us by sending his only son to earth, to take on flesh and be born of a virgin in a stable, only to end up dying a painful death on a cross to pay the price for our sins. God established that He is willing to love us no matter what. No matter how much we mess up or sin against Him, His love is unfailing and unchanging. Christ’s love is the truest and purest form of love.
Love is woven through the advent story: Joseph’s love for Mary; Mary’s love for Jesus; God’s love for us revealed through the birth of Jesus. Love is the greatest of all the virtues and encompasses Jesus’ entire purpose on earth. We love because He first loved us. Take a moment this advent season, perhaps when you are singing The First Noel, to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas; God’s abundant and undeniable love for us through the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Carla St. Germain
The word ‘joy’ is found in the bible 172 times. But what exactly is it?
Biblical joy far exceeds happiness—our delight in eating a hot fudge sundae; our bouts of doing fun things; our satisfaction with a new toy.
Biblical joy is always connected to God. And, joy seems to be a term that is distinctly associated with Christianity. We can get a better sense of Christian joy by examining the heart-felt expression of Blaise Pascal.
Pascal is the famous 17th century French mathematician noted for inventing the mathematical science of probability. But he is most well-known for his book, Pensee, a collection of his thoughts on the Christian life.
When he died in Paris at the age of 39, found sewn on the inside of his coat was his so- called Memorial. In part, Pascal had written, “heartfelt, joy, peace, God of Jesus Christ . . . Thy God shall be my God . . . Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.”
Pascal went on in his Memorial to lament that he had cut himself off from God and from Jesus Christ. “Let me never be cut off from him! . . . Everlasting joy in return for one day’s effort on earth.”
It is clear that Pascal was describing joy as living in the presence of God. Jesus beckons us to come where he is and to follow him, and to abide with him so we can enter into his joy. So much is in the bud. We are each a bud waiting to break out into glorious bloom. So much depends on the presence of Jesus.
Joy is the eternal kingdom and abundant life of God, brought to earth by the incarnate Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And when Jesus is in the vicinity, which is always, there is only one outcome—all heaven breaks loose.
Pastor Bruce Baxter
Each time we worship in our church, we pause for a couple of minutes to show each other a sign of peace. It’s brief, more symbolic than anything, because raising my peace sign to others isn’t going to bring them - or me - peace. In fact, I don’t really understand peace or always experience it.
I have what I call pockets of peace when I feel content.
I felt it when I rocked my babies to sleep with their tiny fingers wrapped around one of mine as I hummed to them; I didn’t feel peace with those same young children as they grew and ran me ragged and tested my patience.
I felt peace sitting beside the gentle stream of water as it passed by our home; but I had no peace when our house succumbed to that same river-turned-violent during several horrible floods.
It seems that peace comes and goes, even from the same source.
There is a peace, however, beyond our ability to understand, that we look to as people of faith. The peace that Christ gives us as we step into our forever life:
“I give you peace, the kind of peace only I can give. It isn’t like the peace this world can give. So don’t be worried or afraid.” John 14:27 -Contemporary English Version
So I join others and raise my peace sign to fellow worshippers, knowing that we have a wonderful promise that sums it up for us from Philippians 4:7:
“The peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (New International Version)
Let’s welcome the God of peace this holy season, and seek peace within ourselves and in our relationships with others.