A new era

Did the world end on September 23rd, as some had predicted? Obviously not – or has it? Was it the end of an era, and a time for a new one? Have we entered a different age?

I have noticed interesting bands of light in the sky since the evening where Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) started. Then I noticed different pictures from friends from all around the world in the week before that. The sky looks different – like God is using the sky to get our attention, that a time of change is upon us.

L. Banks took these photos at Rev. Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens on 9-16-17

T. Fishel took this photo in Africa 9-17-17

I took this on 9-20-17 – Rosh Hashanah is about to begin.

These were taken by me on 9-23-17 in St. Meinrad, Indiana

The light seems different – otherworldly. Do all these pictures simply show lens flares, or crepuscular rays? Maybe. But they also might call us to be awake and to turn towards God, and that is a good thing.

What does Jesus say about that time? When asked by his disciples, he replied in Luke 21:8-28. Read this all carefully. All these things have not happened yet.

8 Then He said, “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Don’t follow them. 9 When you hear of wars and rebellions, don’t be alarmed. Indeed, these things must take place first, but the end won’t come right away.”

10 Then He told them: “Nation will be raised up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be violent earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you. They will hand you over to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of My name. 13 It will lead to an opportunity for you to witness.14 Therefore make up your minds not to prepare your defense ahead of time, 15 for I will give you such words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will even be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. They will kill some of you. 17 You will be hated by everyone because of My name, 18 but not a hair of your head will be lost. 19 By your endurance gain your lives.

20 “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that its desolation has come near. 21 Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains! Those inside the city must leave it, and those who are in the country must not enter it, 22 because these are days of vengeance to fulfill all the things that are written. 23 Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, for there will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

25 “Then there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars; and there will be anguish on the earth among nations bewildered by the roaring sea and waves. 26 People will faint from fear and expectation of the things that are coming on the world, because the celestial powers will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 But when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near!”

Pay special attention to verse 9, where he tells us “don’t be alarmed” and in verse 28, that we are to “stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near!”

Indeed, we shouldn’t be worried – but we should be mindful. Because Jesus goes on to say in verses 34-36 –

34 “Be on your guard, so that your minds are not dulled from carousing, drunkenness, and worries of life, or that day will come on you unexpectedly 35 like a trap. For it will come on all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 But be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and to stand before the Son of Man.”

In the end times God will decide between what is good and what is wrong – what is bearing fruit of the Spirit and what does not. Meanwhile, we have to be mindful and make good choices. Our decisions will affect what happens to us. It isn’t our religious practice that will save us. God doesn’t care how many times you go to church if you don’t learn the message and act upon it. You have to treat everyone with kindness and generosity and compassion – forgiving them constantly.

(All Bible translations are HCSB)

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On geodes and cracks and God

Leonard Cohen says – “There is a crack in everything. / That’s how the light gets in.”

geode2

The Gospel tells us –
A man who was deaf and had a speech impediment was brought there by a person who begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man and heal him.

Jesus led him away from the crowds so he could heal him privately. He put his fingers in the man’s ears, spat, and then touched the man’s tongue. He then looked up to heaven, sighed deeply, and said in Aramaic “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”) The man was instantly freed from his afflictions and was able to see and speak perfectly.

He ordered the crowd to not tell anyone about what had happened, but the more he ordered them, the more they spread the news. They were amazed and told everyone “He does everything well! He even makes deaf people hear and cures people of being unable to speak!”

MK 7:31-37 (From The Condensed Gospel rendition)

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The outside is boring and dull on a geode. There is nothing special to see. But when you crack it open, there is amazing beauty inside. This is how God sees us – beautiful on the inside. God sees what others cannot. Also, I find it excellent to mediate on the fact that you can’t see the beauty until this rock has been broken open. It is the trials that we undergo that bring out our true nature.

The light of the world

Jesus said “I am the light of the world. If you follow me you will never stumble around in the dark because you will have the light of life.”

The Pharisees said “Your testimony isn’t valid because you are testifying about yourself.”

Jesus replied “What I say about myself is true because I know where I came from and where I’m going. You don’t know either of these things about me. You make your judgments based on earthly standards, while I don’t judge at all. If I did, my judgment would be valid because I don’t act on my own, but with my Father who sent me. In your own Law it says that the testimony of two men is valid. I testify about myself, and my Father testifies about me.”

“So where is your father?” they challenged.

“You don’t know either one of us.” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you’d know my Father as well.” He said all this while standing near the treasury when he was teaching in the Temple complex. Nobody arrested him because it wasn’t yet the time for this to happen to him.

JN 8:12-20

You are the light of the world.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. A lamp is meant to be used, so don’t hide it under a basket or a bed. Put it on a stand so it can give light to all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before everyone so that they may see all the good that you do and give glory to God because of it. The purpose of hidden things is that they be revealed. Don’t hide your light around others.”

MT 5:14-16, MK 4:21-22, LK 8:16-17, LK 11:33

The miracle(s) of Hanukkah

When the Maccabees went to rededicate the Temple they discovered there was only enough oil for one day. This was a problem, because the Temple menorah had to be lit all the time. Making the oil was very difficult and would take at least a week to prepare more. It has been said that it was a miracle that the one bottle of oil that they found was enough to keep the flame burning until more was made.

I think it is a miracle that they went ahead and lit the lamp anyway.

They knew that they didn’t have enough oil and yet they still did what they had to do. They didn’t wait until they had a backup supply in order to get started. They knew how important it was to have that lamp going to honor God.

How many of us hold back, waiting until we have enough to get started? The Maccabees trusted God. They didn’t expect a miracle to occur. They lit the lamp anyway.

Certainly someone was at the task of making more oil. God kept things going until humans could take over. It isn’t that God made that oil last for years. It lasted just long enough until the new supply was ready. It isn’t as if they stopped making the oil when they noticed that it was still going after a few days. They kept on, fulfilling their part of the task. Each did their part – God with a miracle of making the original oil last, and people with their work of making more oil.

This reminds me of the story of the prodigal son. He started back towards his father, and his father ran the rest of the way to him. This is how God treats us. If we make an effort to go towards God, God will more than make up the difference. But we have to do our part too. We have to get started.

We can’t sit around and wait for God to take care of all of our needs. We have to put in the effort. But we also have to use the gifts that God has given us and not hoard them up. We have to trust God and do our part as well.

“Silent Night” with candles.

I love the experience of singing “Silent Night” in the darkness. Every person has a candle that is unlit at the beginning. By the end of the song the whole room is lit up.

There is something magical and amazing about the symbolism of sharing candlelight. A couple of people light their candles from the Christ Candle – the center of the Advent wreath. They share the light with a few others nearby. Then they share with others next to them. The light spreads out exponentially. Within a short time, everybody’s candle is lit, all from the light from one candle, and the effort of one person at a time sharing with another person.

This is how faith works. A few people get lit up by the light of God, and they share it with others. It is shared by personal experience and testimony. It is shared person to person. This is part of what we mean when we say that we believe in an apostolic faith. We mean to say that we got it from someone who got it from someone who got it (and on and on) from an apostle, who got it from Jesus.

There is also something magical about watching the light spread in someone’s face when their candle lights. They are in darkness, and then the light gets to them and their candle flame is low at first, and then gets stronger. As it picks up strength, the light blooms in her face. This too is what faith is like.

Share the Light, my friends.