THE SECOND COMING

Revelation 1:4-8 — Amplified Bible

John, to the seven churches that are in the province of Asia: Grace be granted to you and peace, inner calm and spiritual well-being, from Him Who is existing forever and Who was continually existing in the past and Who is to come, and from the seven Spirits that are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful and trustworthy Witness, the Firstborn of the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who always loves us and who has once for all freed us, washed us, from our sins by His own blood, His sacrificial death — and formed us into a kingdom as His subjects, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the power and the majesty and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes nations of the earth will mourn over Him realizing their sin and guilt, and anticipating the coming wrath. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord God, “Who is existing forever and Who was continually existing in the past and Who is to come, the Almighty, the Omnipotent, the Ruler of all.”

 

The Second Coming

The Second Coming

The Second Coming
according to the writer
of the Book of Revelation,
is a mystical,
magical moment in the life
of the First Century
Christian Community.
It is a BIG story that contains
a Temple theology
of sacrifice and salvation,
direct quotes from God,
claims and statements of hope,
a new creation story
for the early Christian Community,
and of God’s unending love,
as well as accusations and jugements
for the ones
who are thought
to have murdered Jesus.
The writing style is what is termed,
apocalyptic,
which means,
writing that is about a catastropic
ending of the world.
It is a writing style that
is consistant of the older,
prophetic writings
found in the books of
Ezikiel, Joel, and Daniel.
The key point
in our Revelation text
is that,
while Jesus will indeed come again,
he is expected to come
in the lifetime of those reading
this book.
It was very exciting for them,
as they imagined
the joy they would feel
as they got to witness how
the very ones who killed Jesus
were going to get to see
for themselves the depravity
of their own actions
and be duly guilt-ridden
and terrified of the torturous end
God had planned for them.
The problem with all this is that
it didn’t happen then,
it didn’t happen later,
and if it happenes in the future,
it more than likely will not happen
anything like it is described here.
Yet, the Second Coming
is a key tennent of the Christian faith,
and while many of us
really do not understand
what it actually means
to make this claim,
or truly believe the
assertion in a literal way,
there are others
who hold to it nonetheless.
For me,
it means that for each of us
Jesus will come and be
present to/for us,
whether in the clouds,
or in our hearts,
in our history,
in our now,
or in our future.
Many of us have experienced
the second coming of Jesus
as we have endured suffering
and been delivered
in ways only explained
as a direct experience
of the presence of Jesus.
Will Jesus someday
come from the clouds in the sky
with the sound of a trumpet?
I don’t know.
But I do know
that Jesus has come for me
through the clouds of my doubt
and fear
and walked me
through my pain
and made me
a whole new creation,
and that is all I need to know.

CHANGED BY PRAYER

WELCOME ELDER, CHRISTIANE SWARTZ, who is a member of the Geyserville Christian Church. a Clinical Social Worker for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and preaches this Sunday.

Here in the Geyserville Christian Church we are experimenting with the idea of having a different Elder preach once a month as a way of sharing ministry and gifts.

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1 Samuel 1:4-20 — The Message
Every year this man went from his hometown up to Shiloh to worship and offer a sacrifice to God-of-the-Angel-Armies. Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, served as the priests of God there. When Elkanah sacrificed, he passed helpings from the sacrificial meal around to his wife Peninnah and all her children, but he always gave an especially generous helping to Hannah because he loved her so much, and because God had not given her children. But her rival wife taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children. This went on year after year. Every time she went to the sanctuary of God she could expect to be taunted. Hannah was reduced to tears and had no appetite. Her husband Elkanah said, “Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons?” So Hannah ate. Then she pulled herself together, slipped away quietly, and entered the sanctuary. The priest Eli was on duty at the entrance to God’s Temple in the customary seat. Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably. Then she made a vow: Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain, If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me By giving me a son, I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you. I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.
It so happened that as she continued in prayer before God, Eli was watching her closely. Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk. He approached her and said, “You’re drunk! How long do you plan to keep this up? Sober up, woman!” Hannah said, “Oh no, sir—please! I’m a woman hard used. I haven’t been drinking. Not a drop of wine or beer. The only thing I’ve been pouring out is my heart, pouring it out to God. Don’t for a minute think I’m a bad woman. It’s because I’m so desperately unhappy and in such pain that I’ve stayed here so long.” Eli answered her, “Go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you have asked of him.” “Think well of me—and pray for me!” she said, and went her way. Then she ate heartily, her face radiant. Up before dawn, they worshiped God and returned home to Ramah. Elkanah slept with Hannah his wife, and God began making the necessary arrangements in response to what she had asked. Before the year was out, Hannah had conceived and given birth to a son. She named him Samuel, explaining, “I asked God for him.”

PRAYER AS A CHANGE OF COURSE

Prayer as a Change of Course

Changed By Prayer
by Christiane Swartz

Sometimes we feel invisible,
and our voice seems to make no sound.
I wonder how lonely it must have felt to be Hannah.
One of two wives…
they don’t tell us,
but probably the first wife,
the second wife becoming necessary
when Hannah could not have children
(in a time when that was considered to be the woman’s fault.)
Loved most by her husband,
but allowed anyway to be mercilessly bullied
by his other wife,
for not being able to have children.
It’s a special hell when we know our pain
is not even heard by another woman.
Her pain went unheard by her well-intentioned
but clueless husband,
who couldn’t seem to understand how his love
couldn’t possibly be worth more than ten sons
during a time when a woman’s
actual livelihood depended on her ability to bear children.
A husband who could not understand her tears
or how she wouldn’t want to eat
when he loved her so much he gave her extra portions.
Finally in desperation she leaves the meal,
goes to the sanctuary,
and turns to God in prayer,
where her pain is not only also invisible to the priest
but her intent misunderstood!
Her pain, her prayer made no sound,
and the priest admonishes her for being drunk
because he too could not see or understand her!
But pray she does.
And for me, the miracle in this passage
comes before God blessed her
with Samuel and many babies after that.
For me, the miracle was that after years of pain,
years of abuse,
years of her pain being misunderstood,
invisible and unheard,
she could still believe,
trust, and pray to God.
And that through the act of doing so,
she becomes somebody different.
The passage tells us that after she prayed,
she “went her way, ate heartily,
and her face was radiant.”
Radiant.
Radiant!
The act of praying changed her,
even when she had no idea what the outcome would be.
What is that happens then, when we pray?
Is it that we put our needs into words?
Is it in the act of sharing?
Is it in the acknowledgment that we are not alone,
that we are loved unconditionally?
I wonder if it is more than that?
If we believe that prayer is not a device to get us what we want,
as much as it is a means of bringing us to the point
where we will accept what God wants,
then this means the act of praying either out loud or quietly,
with or without words actually changes us.
Perhaps it reminds us that we can let go for a minute,
that we don’t have to be in charge of everything.
And in that moment we stop being invisible and voiceless
and remember that we are an important part of
something bigger than us.

THE WAY OF LOVE

Ruth 1:1-19 — The Message
Once upon a time—it was back in the days when judges led Israel— there was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Judah left home to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The man’s name was Elimelech; his wife’s name was Naomi; his sons were named Mahlon and Kilion—all Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They all went to the country of Moab and settled there. Elimelech died and Naomi was left, she and her two sons. The sons took Moabite wives; the name of the first was Orpah, the second Ruth. They lived there in Moab for the next ten years. But then the two brothers, Mahlon and Kilion, died. Now the woman was left without either her young men or her husband. One day she got herself together, she and her two daughters-in-law, to leave the country of Moab and set out for home; she had heard that God had been pleased to visit his people and give them food. And so she started out from the place she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law with her, on the road back to the land of Judah. After a short while on the road, Naomi told her two daughters-in-law, “Go back. Go home and live with your mothers. And may God treat you as graciously as you treated your deceased husbands and me. May God give each of you a new home and a new husband!” She kissed them and they cried openly. They said, “No, we’re going on with you to your people.” But Naomi was firm: “Go back, my dear daughters. Why would you come with me? Do you suppose I still have sons in my womb who can become your future husbands? Go back, dear daughters—on your way, please! I’m too old to get a husband. Why, even if I said, ‘There’s still hope!’ and this very night got a man and had sons, can you imagine being satisfied to wait until they were grown? Would you wait that long to get married again? No, dear daughters; this is a bitter pill for me to swallow—more bitter for me than for you. God has dealt me a hard blow.” Again they cried openly. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye; but Ruth embraced her and held on. Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law is going back home to live with her own people and gods; go with her.” But Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us!” When Naomi saw that Ruth had her heart set on going with her, she gave in. And so the two of them traveled on together to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem the whole town was soon buzzing: “Is this really our Naomi? And after all this time!”

Labyrinth #1a

The Way of Love

THE WAY OF LOVE
I like the story of Ruth and Naomi
because it shows me
a model of profound
love and commitment
of one to another.
Many do this:
give up our lives to follow another.
That is love.
I know many couples
who take turns following the other
as they take jobs—
a leapfrog-sharing of
leading and following.
We choose
following,
leading,
staying,
standing,
trading,
supporting,
growing with,
holding to
each other
as we share
our lives and families and communities
in steadfast love and companionship.
Still, for me,
this story is one
that is more subjunctive
than
prescriptive or descriptive.
It is a what-could-be
story,
a how-love-could-be
story.
We will find out in later chapters
that it is also an etiological story,
or a story that explains
how something else
came to be.
It is also a story
about how I make my choices.
Do I make them out of love?
Do I make them out of convenience?
Do I make them out of habit?
Who will I,
who will you,
follow
like Ruth followed Naomi?
For me,
Naomi is a kind of god-like individual,
because the commitment
Ruth had to her
is akin
to the commitment I have,
or try to have,
to God.
It is a story that is echoed thousands
of years later by Peter
when, in John 6:68, he said to Jesus,
“Lord, to whom can we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe and know
that you are the Holy One of God.”
Words of true love
are always words
of eternal life.
I will listen for them.
And so like
Ruth with Naomi
or
Peter with Jesus,
I turn to God
and echo the same thought—
I have heard your words of love,
God,
I will follow,
where else can I go?

WHO ARE WE?

Mark 10:46-52 — New Revised Standard Version
They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Transformation Detail #13

Transformation Series: Detail #13

WHO ARE WE?
What are we?
Just a couple of quick thoughts.
Last week I spoke
about speaking out,
naming injustice,
demanding to be heard.
The scripture for this week
demands that we make a choice.
Will we be the ones silencing
those who cry for justice,
or will we be the ones
who listen to the pain
and lead those
needy souls to
Jesus?
Will we tell the sightless
they cannot hope to see,
because, of course,
they are blind.
Will we tell the voiceless
to shut up,
stay silent,
and not make waves?
What will we choose to do?
What kind of a people are we,
anyway?
I have both stood with,
and stood against,
those who cry out for justice.
Commenter,
Kathryn Matthews,
tells us that
the disciples were so caught
up in their potential magnificence
that no one
speaks up for Bartimaus.
I too have missed my cues
as a follower of Jesus.
Caught up in the wonder
that is me,
I have turned an unhearing ear
away from the ones
crying out for justice.
For those times of indifference,
for those times of non-support
I am grievously sorry,
and I am determined
to do better as other chances
arise
to lead the hopeless
to the one who gives ultimate hope.
So who am I?
What am I?
What path do I follow?
I do my best,
now,
to be one who listens
to and for
the calls of the oppressed
and the downtrodden,
and to say
to those who cry out for justice,
“Take heart;
get up,
he is calling you,”
and help lead them
into their vision.
It is important to note
that at this time,
as theologian
Megan McKenna explains,
Jericho was a dangerous,
even violent,
place filled with bandits
but also with insurgents
who were skirmishing
with the Roman Empire.
Who are we,
and where do we hang out,
and are we willing
to stop and listen
even when
it is dangerous for us to do so?