Words of Hope
Words of Hope
Friday – December 31, 2021
“Then, to those on the left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me no food, I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger, and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘When did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Words of Hope
Today is New Year’s Eve, and in just a few hours the clock will pass the midnight hour and we will begin a new year. Welcome to 2022!!
2021 (and 2020 for that matter) will be years that will be long in my memory and, like you perhaps, I am hoping that 2022 brings better news in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, among other things.
Our Scripture reading today, taken from the Gospel of Matthew is often read in a context of “final judgement” – how God will separate out those who do right, and those who do wrong. While this is a familiar interpretation of this passage, I see it a little differently. I see it more in the way of how we will use our free will and decision making as people of faith. Will we choose to be Christ-like, or not.
We are all given opportunity, every day, to live more fully into the ways of Christ and every decision, of course, has its consequences. By this I do not believe the theology of “one false move and you are doomed to eternal hell”, but in a theology of God’s grace that covers both our good and not so good decisions in life.
Jesus challenges them, and us, to consider our actions as people of faith, as followers of Jesus, and to “do the right thing” in every circumstance. Hear these words from Jesus again:
“For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked, and you clothed me, I was sick, and you visited me, I was in prison, and you came to me.”
The life of Jesus followers is one of service and constantly being remade, overwhelmed with gratitude to what God has done and continues to do in our lives. It is from this place of
gratitude that we are motivated to make Christ real in our daily actions. Our motivation is not based on a fear of “eternal damnation” or “hell” but by the grace that God extends to us every day.
Tomorrow can be “just another day”, or it could be a day when we write or even re-write the next chapter of our faithful lives. We get to choose to live, living as Jesus, and making decisions that not only bless others, but also bless us, shaping us, continually into the likeness of Christ.
Just as the parable called those of old to know that being doers is more important than just believers and that our actions count, we too must be more than just “believers”.
As the clocks move past the midnight hour, I pray that I may be prepared to go even deeper into my spirituality and make decisions and create actions that reveal more of Christ in 2022.
God of every year, every day, every hour, be with us as we begin a new year, new day, new hour. Help us in our identity with You and call us into right decisions and right actions that ensure that the world will know You, through us. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Neil G. Thomas
Cathedral of Hope, United Churches of Christ, Dallas
Thursday – December 30, 2021
Mark 13: 5-8, 32-37
Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines.
These are the beginning of birth pains.
But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son of Humankind, but only God the Creator. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a person going away, leaving the house and home, putting servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and telling the one at the door to keep watch.
“Therefore, keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If the owner comes suddenly, do not be found sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
Words of Hope
The Day and the Hour are Unknown
This text reminds me of what we experienced in the liturgical season of Advent.
As Christians, Advent was the time we anticipated the birth of Jesus. Advent is the four-week period leading up to or anticipating Christmas. Just as we prepared for the birth of Christ, let us also be reminded of our hope of the second coming of Christ. None of us, even Christ, knows when Christ will come again. However, the charge to us is clear: be ready.
Let us pray
Most good and gracious God, help us be alert and ready for your return. Amen.
Wednesday – December 29, 2021
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,”
Words of Hope
As we approach the beginning of a new year, many people will be making resolutions. I will be doing a different version of that process. Instead making a “to do” list, I will start with imagining a better world, a better life. Many things come to mind immediately: Nonetheless, more love, more peace, more respect, more truth, more trust, food and justice for everyone.
I cannot imagine trying to take on the responsibility for fixing all that. That does not mean I won’t care about all of it. I will keep this list handy and consult it each day to see if there is one thing I can do to help make it so. Can I love more? Can I give grace? Can I forgo being right, to consider someone else’s view? Can I practice negotiating solutions instead of blaming? I am absolutely certain the things I can do will keep me very busy and will bring me great joy.
One thing is more important than anything else. If I want to be successful, I will start by inviting the Holy Spirit to be my guide. I will commune often with God so that my instincts will be out of God’s Spirit rather than just my efforts and actions. Galatians 5:22 lists the fruits of the spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Forbearance, Kindness, Goodness, and Faithfulness. Our part in this is to spend time with Jesus, invite Him to make a loving difference in our lives, and begin to love others as He has loved us. The fruits of the spirit will show up in us. That will change our world!
I wish you a New Year full of blessings and joy!
Beloved God, we thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus Christ. This season, may we be the givers and recipients of love, the makers of peace, the fountains of kindness, the essence of goodness. May we commit ourselves to being faithful to you and to others. May we live joyfully. May we be beacons of light, inviting others to the safety and peace of your loving arms.
Carole Anne Sarah
Tuesday – December 28, 2021
Psalm 54: 1-13
“…you are sad and discouraged, but I, the Lord, will rebuild your city.”
A Word of Hope
[take a deep breath,,,,take another and exhale slowly after both]
As we approach a new year, there is plenty that we can cite to build a case to be “sad and discouraged.” One look at the evening news on most TV channels and we are treated to natural disaster, political upheaval bordering on Constitutional crisis, trials of policemen and others for murder of one form or another. After the commercial about Preparation H we hear that more than 800,000 Americans have already died of Covid and that the Omicron variant has not really struck yet and that an annual Covid shot may be required like the common flu.
After another break to encourage us to check for one disease or another, we are treated to the stories of the latest school shootings by a 14-yea- old with an automatic weapon given by his parents as a Christmas gift! The last commercial is for a cleaning liquid that we have to use. The program ends with the recent consequences of climate change causing the deadly tornados in the mid-west. Some have suggested, and not only in jest, that we are living in the “end times” when the world will come to an end. It is even a little depressing to write this paragraph!
However, we are in a deep and personal relationship with a God who promises to “rebuild the city” and not to overuse a phrase, to Rebuild It Back Better! Too good to be true? Ah-ha…and therein lies part of the good news of Scripture. In faith, we know it is all true. If God is truly for us, who on earth could be against us; who could really triumph over us in the long run? Develop your relationship with God by speaking (praying) with God. Let it be a TWO-way communication. Allow God time to speak with you, so use silence on your part wisely but often. Too often in prayer (the conversation with God) we feel that we need to be talking all the time. Not so. “BE STILL and know that I am God.” Let the New Year be a new start!
Let us pray
O Holy One! We can get discouraged so easily. It does not take much to bring on the blues and these our days do not make it easy to be hopeful. We may wonder why you may be punishing us. Help us to be more faithful and conscious of your promises to be with us “until the end of time.” Help us to remember that it is up to us to allow the lives of others to be fulfilling and joyful. Let us look out for ways to help others put their life’s puzzles together in your name.
We make this prayer in your many names, O Holy One! Amen!
Cathedral of Hope / United Church of Christ.
Monday – December 27, 2021
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. -John 4:7
Words of Hope
Sometimes my mind works in the strangest ways. Either I am certifiably crazy; or, the Holy Spirit has figured out how to get my attention by leading me toward insight in roundabout ways.
Today is National Fruitcake Day. When I read this, the first thing that came to mind was the old Johnny Carson joke about there actually being only one fruitcake in the world and people keep sending it to each other year after year. For reasons that I don’t know, my next thought was the Gandhi quote, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” When this kind of odd juxtaposition of thoughts comes, I feel compelled to take some time to figure out the lesson being given to me. As one who has never been a fan of fruitcake, I started by reading fruitcake recipes which, as you might imagine, led me down a rabbit hole.
What I discovered is that “fruitcake” is a generic term. It simply means a bread base with dried or candied fruits and nuts, and alcohol. Variations in spices and flavorings as well as shape do not make or break a fruitcake as long as it has those three basic components. Assuming you like those three things, fruitcakes sound palatable. So why all the jokes surrounding them?
Cookbook author Virginia Glass says, “Mass-produced fruitcakes, the kind that most people are exposed to during the holidays, are nothing like what a fruitcake should be. A fruitcake should be rich, it should taste like dried fruit and spices and alcohol. It should have a moist texture — it’s not supposed to be dry and crusty. Here’s where I think it all went wrong: it’s those …red and green glacé cherries. I don’t know what they are. But they bear no resemblance to real fruit,” When I read this, the association between fruit cake and the above Gandhi quote started to make a little more sense. The mass-produced fruitcakes that Glass speaks of are like mass-produced Christians. They bear little resemblance to the real Christ“. If it is the red and green glacé cherries that ruin fruitcake, what is their equivalent in those that Gandhi says call themselves Christians but are so unlike Christ?
Hypocrisy and judgement are the red and green glacé cherries for me. Many “mass-produced Christians,” those that are blind followers rather than those who have done their own interior work, are quick to judge those who were not made by the same “recipe.” Diversity seems to have no place in the eyes of some. Yet, as in John 4:7, we are continually reminded to “love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” This is a far cry from judge one another for judgement comes from God…which, sadly, is how things often play out.
Hypocrisy comes not in making mistakes that cause us to be less than God hopes us to be. It comes with only seeing these shortcomings in others and not in oneself. As humans, we are all fallible. We all fall short. Without question, God loves us as we are, imperfections and all. Jesus calls each of us to also love one another despite our shortcomings and failings.
If a fruitcake is at its core a combination of a bread base with dried or candied fruits and nuts, and alcohol, perhaps we should look to followers of Christ, to be, at their core, vessels of steadfast faith, joyful hope, and unconditional love. Beyond those three things, let us celebrate the unique “spices and flavorings” with which God has blessed each of us.
O God who is the maker of all things, fill me with all that is right and good in your eyes. Help me to open my mouth to taste. to open my eyes to see, and to open my heart to feel the goodness of your infinite and unconditional love. Amen.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)