December 8, 2009

calls for justice in the midst of advent joy

This coming Sunday we will light the third candle on the Advent wreath - the candle for JOY.

We hear in the midst of this call to rejoice, however, a very startling message. John the baptist calls out to the crowds: You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance.  (Luke 3:7-8).

He tells people to share their coats and their food, to not take advantage of others, to be satisfied with their wages. 

In many ways, that is the spirit of the season that we find ourselves in.  At Christmas we collect canned goods for the local food pantry, collect coats and mittens for children who need them, we remember the blessings of this year, we look out for our neighbors.  We take on a whole new attitude toward life in the month of December...

If only it would last.  Before the holiday lights on the town square are taken back down, our hearts begin to grumble.  Our spirits of generosity are suddenly overwhelmed by the credit card bills that come in the mail.  It seems impossible to sustain that good will towards all into the new year.

But that is exactly what John the Baptist is calling for - Repent, believe the Good News - you can live differently. You can bear fruit that lasts.  You can be changed.

I know I'm on a Susan Werner kick lately - only because I recently discovered her and I can't put down the album.  One song in particular has just absolutely stuck with me.  It's called "Help Somebody."

When I hear this song, absolute joy floods my heart.  It helps me to realize just how much I have been blessed.  I have plenty.  I have a roof over my head.  I have supper on the table.  I have a sense of God's salvation working in my life.  And if I have it to give - I should.... JOYFULLY. 

There are a lot of places in the world where some have too much and others have not enough.  We are having a huge debate over health care nationally for exactly that reason.  I think all (most) of us would agree that everyone should have affordable access to care.  We just don't agree on how that happens.  But if we let this song and John's call fill our ears and eyes and hearts then the question that comes to my mind is how can I help others get what I have. 

It's not a question of whether they deserve it or not.  Perhaps it's not even a question as to whether it is right.  It's a question as to whether we want to give.  It's actually a question of joy... what kind of joy and peace and wholeness can I create in the life of another person?  What kind of joy can I create in my own life through giving a little bit extra?

We could apply this same formula to anything.  It's not about what we can get, but what we can give.  It's about the joy that comes through recieving the good news of God and then not hoarding it, but changing our lives and giving it freely away.  It's the spark of life that we have to pass on. 

We are going to be looking at the "Enough" stewardship/money series in January - and I think that this song is going to be our theme for the whole thing.  I'm looking forward to the ways that our congregation finds joy in the good things that we have - enough joy to take responsibility for how we use our resources and enough joy that we overflow from that abundance and help others in our community and in the world.

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