Sunday, November 30, 2008

Intro to my Advent Devotional

Hi all! This year, as every year, I write an Advent devotional for our church to use. I will be publishing them on my blog this year, as well as notes on facebook. My hope is to get some discussion going around the themes that are raised herein. Keep in mind when we discuss that the Internet is a big place, and I have friends of all theological stripes, from entrenched atheists to staunch conservatives to wild and flaming liberals (you know I love you guys...). So the potential exists for some really good discussions, and also for some really hurt feelings if we're not careful as we express ourselves. So please, keep a few things in mind when you post your comments:

1. Those who read your posts will not always share your theological positions. So if you want to represent your convictions well, be KIND!!
2. Provocative statements are welcome as they make us all think. Keep your thoughts provocative and not your language.
3. If someone says something that offends you, try to take it up with them privately. I can vouch for most of the people reading this blog, that they're pretty good people who are not intentionally trying to upset you.
4. Always be open to having your mind changed: all truth is God's truth, for God is One.

Below is the intro to the Advent devotional, entitled "Healing for Broken Hearts." It was inspired by the election this year.

I had great plans for this year’s Advent Devotional. I was going to write a booklet called “Preparing with the Prophets:” a series of reflections on getting our hearts ready for the coming of Jesus, just as the prophets prepared the way for him so long ago.
Still a good idea. Maybe I’ll do it some other year. Just not now.
Because when I woke up on November 5 and turned on the news, I saw a nation desperately in need of healing. I saw a people waking up after a long and polarizing dream to find out it was all true—that we really do see the world very differently.
I also noticed in this year’s election that the church revealed the same polarities as the rest of the world: many Christians were more excited by Obama than any Democratic candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976. While it was great to have the voices balanced somewhat, the presence of the Christian Democratic voice also revealed deep divisions in the American church in a way never before seen so publicly. Indeed, when it became evident that Obama would win, one man at an American Baptist church categorized it as a “victory of faith over fear, grace over greed, and vision over violence,” and evidence that “God was still on the throne.” While that may in some sense be true, it also gave me pause when I thought about the good Christians I knew on the other side of the voting fence. Were they really fearful, greedy and violent? Of course not. But it revealed how starkly Christians are different from one another and it revealed the depth of division in the body of Christ. And that is what made my heart ache on November 5: the division in the church. Of course, the election only brought that division to the surface; it always has been there.
And so I ditched “Preparing with the Prophets,” and instead decided to write a devotional on healing. Our God heals. He has always healed. These divisions are nothing compared to what God has healed in the past, when He called people from all over the earth to be His own.
This makes perfect sense for Advent, because healing is precisely what Jesus promises. He promises to heal those who would be healed. His healing is not trite, never easy—there is always a cross to bear if you follow him. But, oh!—the healing he brings to his people, some of whom never suspect it. In this devotional, you will read stories from both the Old and the New Testament about God heals people. As you read, I ask that you think about three things:
• What does this story about healing have to do say to my own individual need for healing? All of us are in need of healing. Modern American lives are incredibly fragmented; we have so many goals to achieve, each one demanding high priority, that the best we can often do is to try to keep all of our plates spinning. We are desperately in need of integration in our lives, the sense that our lives are about something. Theologians talk about this as having our lives “ordered rightly.” When our priorities in order and we have a clear sense of what is truly important to us, we experience God’s healing! As you read the Biblical stories and reflections, think about the ways they correspond to your personal need for healing.
• What does this story have to say to Christians about our need for healing and unity? The body of Christ around the world, the universal church, is also in dire need of healing. But to be healed, one must first admit one’s brokenness. As you read the Biblical stories and reflections, reflect on the brokenness of the church and think about the ways that these stories invite the church to be healed.
• What does this story have to say to all humanity about being healed? While this election revealed deep fissures in the church, the fissures in the world are still deeper. Little trust exists between blue-staters and red-staters, even more so than four years ago. What can these stories say to a nation and a world desperately in need of healing?
May God use these writings to touch you and to start (or continue) a healing process in your life and in our life together.

Pastor Mike Jordan


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