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  • Advent Devotion – Wednesday December 19

    December 19, 2018 ~ Carolyn Matthews

    Wednesday, December 19, 2018

    The Rev. Dr. Valerie Miles-Tribble, Associate Professor, Ministerial Leadership & Practical Theology, American Baptist Seminary of the West


    Sweet Little Jesus Boy (We Didn’t Know Who You Were)


    Luke 7:31–35

    31 “To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
    ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;  we wailed, and you did not weep.’
    33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; 34 the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”  (New Revised Standard Version  – NRSV)


    Jesus looked upon the humanity of the crowd that stood or sat before him, some eager to learn and others still doubting that what some proclaimed – Emmanuel (“God who will come”) – was the one who dwelled among them, teaching and healing. When Jesus looked upon them with love yet knowing that the world did not know who He truly was, perhaps his words recorded in Luke remind us to seek for the truth and take stock of the goodness in one another rather than place so much emphasis on rituals and rules.

    In 2018, in a world of societal divisions, the religious fervor of Christmas must also amplify the prophetic teaching of Jesus to love the Lord God before all else and to love each other as neighbors. What is it I hope that Jesus could see? People that realize the words of John the Baptist proclaiming the coming of the LORD still ring true.

    I hope we realize the urban poor, the hopeful immigrants, the black and brown bodies, all targeted by “otherness,” are nevertheless found worthy of love in the sight of God. Such is the promise proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah of one who would come to judge the poor with righteousness and with equity for the meek of the earth. (Is 11:1-9, NRSV). Such is the promise of the Gospels proclaiming that God is with us. This Advent, may we live into that promise with love toward one another.


    May you open our eyes that we might see you, O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

  • Advent Devotion – Tuesday December 18

    December 18, 2018 ~ Carolyn Matthews

    Tuesday, December 18, 2018

    Rev. Dr. Robert Stephen Reid is an Emeritus Director of Master of Communication program in Organizational Communication and Leadership, University of Dubuque, IA


    The End of Paul’s Story and Ours


    Acts 28: 23-31

    23 After they had set a day to meet with him, they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe. 25 So they disagreed with each other; and as they were leaving, Paul made one further statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah,

    26 ‘Go to this people and say,
    You will indeed listen, but never understand,
    and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
    27 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
    and their ears are hard of hearing,
    and they have shut their eyes;
    so that they might not look with their eyes,
    and listen with their ears,
    and understand with their heart and turn—
    and I would heal them.’

    28 Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” 30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.  (New Revised Standard Version – NRSV)
    Also see: Isaiah 11:1–9, Numbers 16:20–35


    Just mention changing voter ID laws and blood pressures will go on the rise. Trying to restrict and marginalize voters to favor one group over another gets our ire up. The book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome, awaiting trial for preaching a message that believer ID laws should make faith in God available to all rather than a select few. That was the message he gave his life to advance. We hear him speaking to the local Jewish leaders of the synagogue in Rome, urging them to grasp that both Moses and the Prophets saw that a day would come when the believer ID laws of the Kingdom of God would be forever changed. He shared with them that Jesus was the promised one, the “candidate” who forever changed the rules for who could be counted among the elect people of God. With the cross, the rule and reign of God was redistricted for the good of all humankind. Jewish leaders should no longer teach that God belongs to only one race. The salvation of God belongs to all who will listen and believe.

    Luke leaves the story there, but it doesn’t end there. Just as a biographer of John F. Kennedy ended his book with the presidential couple joining Governor Connally and his wife for the motorcade through Dallas, Luke’s readers knew what happened to Paul. Luke ends his story with the message that does not end: Paul’s Gospel of reconciliation with God—that all people, all classes, all races, all genders, all ages are welcome as God’s citizens. Thanks be to God.


    O God, may the story of our life be told, like that of Paul’s story, in how we made a difference in people’s lives. Help us this, Advent, to reflect not just our own end, but the end to which our lives are recreated each day as we commit the day to you in service that welcomes all whom we meet as people worthy to be citizens of your loving care.
















































































































































  • Advent Devotion – Monday December 17

    December 17, 2018 ~ Carolyn Matthews

    Monday, December 17, 2018

    The Rev. Paul J. Schneider, II, Interim Pastor at Burien Community Church, Burien, WA, Founder and Director of the Oasis Project, ABSW ’17


    A World Unlike Our Own


    Isaiah 11:1-9 

    A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

    The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

    His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
    He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
    or decide by what his ears hear;

    but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
    he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

    Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
    and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

    The wolf shall live with the lamb,
    the leopard shall lie down with the kid,

    the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
    and a little child shall lead them.

    The cow and the bear shall graze,
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

    The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
    and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

    They will not hurt or destroy
    on all my holy mountain;
    for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.  (New Revised Standard Version – NRSV)


    These words from the prophet Isaiah are remarkable. Not for the way they speak of the overcoming of the natural order: the wolf and the lamb living together, the leopard and the kid resting peacefully, the lion eating straw and not preying on the other animals. Nor for the way they speak of one to come who will be of the Spirit of God: one full of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and might, of knowledge and awe of God. Nor even for the way it speaks of a new peace found even between enemies set at the dawn of time, like the child of humanity and the serpent. These words are remarkable for the way they proclaim that knowledge of God will be over the whole earth like waters cover the depths.

    The season of Advent is a season of incarnation, but also one of holy imagination. It is nearly impossible for us to imagine a world where knowledge of God surrounds us like the air we breathe. Yet, that very promise is the world we strive to create in building the Heavenly Realm. We must overcome our disbelief that such a world is possible, and instead let God breathed imaginings inspire us to help create a new reality. For such a time as this our Savior came as one most helpless, yet most connected to God. For such a time as this we must learn to see a world unlike our own in the most remarkable ways.


    God who made all things, inspire us to see the world as you envision it. Let your pneuma, your breath and spirit, surround us like air. Help us to overcome our fears, our factionalism, our hatreds, and our disbelief. Make our tongues ready to proclaim your love for all people, and speak of the one who came to incept the Heavenly Realm with grace, peace and truth. May we also speak, to encourage holy imagination in the others we encounter, to create together a world unlike our own. Amen.

  • Advent Devotion – Sunday December 16

    December 16, 2018 ~ Carolyn Matthews

    Sunday, December 16, 2018

    Rev. Robert Wilkins, retired CEO of East Bay YMCA, Oakland, CA



    What Should We Do?  


    Zephaniah 3:14-20

    14 Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
    shout, O Israel!
    Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
    O daughter Jerusalem!

    15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you,
    he has turned away your enemies.
    The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
    you shall fear disaster no more.

    16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
    Do not fear, O Zion;
    do not let your hands grow weak.

    17 The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
    a warrior who gives victory;
    he will rejoice over you with gladness,
    he will renew you in his love;
    he will exult over you with loud singing

    18 as on a day of festival.
    I will remove disaster from you,
    so that you will not bear reproach for it.

    19 I will deal with all your oppressors
    at that time.
    And I will save the lame
    and gather the outcast,
    and I will change their shame into praise
    and renown in all the earth.

    20 At that time I will bring you home,
    at the time when I gather you;
    for I will make you renowned and praised
    among all the peoples of the earth,
    when I restore your fortunes
    before your eyes, says the Lord. (New Revised Standard Version -NRSV)
    See also Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippines 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18


    What should we do? This nagging question looms heavy and easily when dark and difficult circumstances visit our lives. The answer to this vexing query requires disruptive action – a forceful reversing of fortune from an unpleasant outcome that seems certain to occur.

    These seemingly unrelated passages [unrelated to each other and surely unrelated to the season] are bound together by unfavorable circumstances. Isaiah writes from lonely exile in Babylon; Zephaniah speaks to a nation awash in sin, idolatry and oppression; Paul pens a letter from a prison cell and John scolds a complacent, greedy and hypocritical people. “What should we do?” they all surely must have asked.

    Somehow, despite the odds they faced, they all speak emphatically of joy…and rightly so, since the third Sunday in Advent has come to be known as Gaudete {“joy) Sunday. This joy is not mere happiness, but rather a defiant shout of celebration in the face of an indifferent and recalcitrant world. This joy disrupts self-pity, self-interest and doubt, and proclaims the certain coming of a new day in God.

    Advent is God’s disruptive act to the unruly, materialistic and violent rhythms of the world…. Advent is Joy. What, then should WE do?  DISRUPT…. REJOICE!! .


    O God, help us with the decisions we make; that we might resist the temptation to give in, give up, give out. Help us to embrace the joy you offer to us through Jesus. Amen.