Archives: 3 Advent

The One Who Calls You Is Faithful

“The one who calls you is faithful.”

That’s 1 Thessalonians 5:24, and it is now officially one of my favorite verses in scripture.

This entire 1 Thessalonians passage is beautiful, every phrase packed full of practical encouragement in the life of faith that somehow manages to rise above plain advice and reach a lyrical joy.

These are words you can write on your heart, words you can carry around with you through the day, words you can call up when your soul is hungry for light.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances,” Paul says. “Do not quench the spirit…hold fast to what is good.”

Those are lofty goals.

I wish to heck I did rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances, but I can guarantee you I don’t.

There are days it’s more like “complain always, feel sorry for myself without ceasing, and make my own life more difficult in all circumstances.”

How do we live lives drenched with rejoicing, governed by prayer, and radiating gratitude?

Both the how and the why of it are all contained in that concluding phrase: “The one who calls you is faithful.”

This phrase has more than one meaning, and we can see it through all of our scriptures appointed for today.

“The one,” of course, in “the one who calls you is faithful,” is God.

But there is more than one way to look at God’s call. Continue reading

An End to Performance Anxiety

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the performance principle, and about how it honestly has dominated my entire life.

The influence of my upbringing and my society has encouraged me to base most of my self-worth on what I do, how I perform, what I achieve.

I know I’m not alone in that!

I sense that God is changing that in me in a “three steps forward, two steps back” sort of way, and I have to tell you, slow as it is, that change is actually incredibly liberating and peace-giving.

I told one of my spiritual direction partners that I’m realizing over and over how much of what I do and what’s going on around me doesn’t matter in any final sense, and far from being nihilistic, that’s a joyful realization.

In conjunction with that strand of spiritual call, I’ve also done a lot of thinking about something that may sound a bit odd.

I’m starting to wonder if part of discipleship is just learning how to put up with the fact that we’re kind of jerks sometimes, and there’s probably a piece of that that we can’t ever grow out of or get rid of.

Does that make sense?

The honest spiritual desire to grow in faith, to practice spiritual discipline and see it effect real change in us, can lead us right back to the worthiness and holiness trap.

It’s the performance principle that used to be focused on the outer world—job, salary, possessions, looks, Facebook likes—translated into spiritual athleticism.

Suddenly we have a false and hollow goal that one day—one magical day!—we’ll have Arrived. We will have “achieved” Being a Good Christian.

Well, what if we never will? Continue reading

John the Baptist Commits a Major Party Foul

Today is the third Sunday of Advent, traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday.

What does that mean?

Gaudete is the Latin word meaning “rejoice,” and the origin of this name for the third Sunday of Advent comes from the beginning of our reading from Philippians today: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”

In the old Latin mass, the introit used this text, so the first words the priest said were, “Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.”

Hence the name Gaudete Sunday, a Sunday of rejoicing.

Advent is actually a penitential season like Lent, something many people don’t realize.

That’s why when I dismiss you at the end of the service, I don’t say “Alleluia, alleluia.” We just say, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” and you respond, “Thanks be to God,” just like in Lent, because it’s a penitential season.

Just like how in Lent we use the time to prepare for Easter and reflect on things like our mortality and sin, we do the same in Advent to prepare for Christmas.

Thinking about how much we need Jesus helps us get ready to welcome and greet him. Continue reading

Mandela and John the Baptist: When Jesus Doesn’t Come to the Rescue

There are some moments in life that just make your heart ache.

That is definitely the case for me when I read our gospel story today.

John the Baptist, the mighty, fiery, wild man John, has finally been brought low.

The physical deprivations of living in the wilderness on nothing but locusts and wild honey couldn’t do it. The hoards of desperate people begging him for baptism couldn’t do it. The jeering remarks of the Pharisees couldn’t do it.

But at last, the being on death row in prison has done what nothing else could do.

John’s fire has been put out.

He is at his absolute lowest point, probably in his entire life.  And at that moment, suddenly everything seems worthless and the premise on which he has built his entire life seems questionable at best and absurd at worst.

How many of us have been in his exact spiritual shoes before? Continue reading