The Spirit Calendar
A Weekly Devotional from the Connecticut Conference United Church of Christ
December 05, 2016
This week's author is the Rev. Ryan Gackenheimer, Executive Director of Silver Lake Conference Center.
Scripture: Psalm 146:5-10 (CEB)
The person whose help is the God of Jacob—
the person whose hope rests on the Lord their God—
is truly happy!
God: the maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
God: who is faithful forever,
who gives justice to people who are oppressed,
who gives bread to people who are starving!
The Lord: who frees prisoners.
The Lord: who makes the blind see.
The Lord: who straightens up those who are bent low.
The Lord: who loves the righteous.
The Lord: who protects immigrants,
who helps orphans and widows,
but who makes the way of the wicked twist and turn!
The Lord will rule forever!
Zion, your God will rule from one generation to the next!
Praise the Lord!
As I understand Advent, it a season of active waiting, one filled with anticipation and reflection. In some ways it is the antithesis of sitting and waiting on a bus. You want the bus to arrive, but most of the time your life isn't significantly changed by its arrival. You don't do any work to help it arrive, and it doesn't impact profoundly how you live as you await its arrival.
Advent, on the other hand, is a time of anticipating the in-breaking of the divine— the time in which we celebrate the Holy bursting forth in our midst. With the very thought of that I can't not be different. I can't not begin to imagine what can happen when God is present in our midst. And not as one who is distant and detached, but rather one who loves each of us to the deepest core of our very being. One who cares whether we know we are loved. One who weeps with us in times of despair and crisis. One who giggles when we realize that we are not the center of the universe and that this Holy One is the Creator of us all. Yes, that is all of humanity and all creation, all that is, all that was, and all that will ever be.
To describe the one who knows God in this way the Common English Bible has used the words "Truly Happy" rather than "Happy" or "Blessed" and presented the text in a slightly differently punctuated structure. It seems this may be one of those places where English fails us. Happiness can be shallow and fleeting. But this seems to be something much deeper, perhaps what we sometimes consider joy. Either way it seems to grasp some of the incredibleness of God. It glimpses the vastness of God's justice and compassion. A vision offering hope, possibility for a future that includes less suffering, a lifting up of those who are lost, hurting, feeling damage, broken, or abandoned.
We can wait for this to happen, like one waits on a bus. Or we can live into Advent and get impassioned to act as we are moved by the very thought of the Divine in our midst, Immanuel. It is hard for me to imagine not being energized, motivated, and empowered to act when I glimpse what it might mean for God to burst forth into this world once more. As we anticipate the celebration of the birth of Jesus, I would raise the idea that we are also waiting with anticipation for God to be born in us anew. We are anticipating the renewal of the Christ Child being born in our midst and within us.
May that light of Christ, may that unconditional love of God, fill you with "True Happiness" and send you forth to be the source of this transformation in the world.
Special Prayer Requests:
- those grieving or suffering after a fire destroyed a warehouse in Oakland, CA, killing more than 30 people who were attending a party inside the building; and
- the family and friends of Rev. Robert Fichtner, retired UCC pastor, who died on November 25.
- those suffering or grieving after an attack at Ohio State University left 1 dead and several injured on November 28;
- those grieving or suffering after a bus caring 37 children crashed in Tennessee leaving 6 children dead and many others injured on November 21;
- those grieving or injured after a shooting in New Orleans left 1 dead and 9 injured on November 27;
- the family and friends of Rev. Robert B. L. Singer Jr, retired UCC pastor who served in several CT churches, who died on November 25;
- those in law enforcement after 4 separate shootings on November 20 left 3 officers injured and 1 dead;
- those grieving in India after a train derailment left more than 140 dead on November 20;
- for peace between Dakota Access Pipeline protestors and law enforcement officials in North Dakota;
- the family and friends of Pauline “Polly” Parmalee, former President of the CT Women of the UCC, who died on November 11;
- those grieving or stranded in New Zealand after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the South Island on November 14;
- the friends and family of the Rev. Dr. Don Westerberg, former pastor of Roxbury Congregational Church, UCC, who died on November 1;
- the Rev. Paul Goodman, interim pastor of Plantsville Congregational Church, whose father died on November 3;
- the people of Italy who experienced a high magnitude earthquake, their second in 3 months, on October 30;
- those grieving or suffering after a bus accident in California killed 13 and injured over 30 others on October 23;
- the people of Iraq impacted by the renewed fighting in and around the city of Mosul where Iraqi forces are trying to retake control of the city from ISIS;
- Rev. M. John Arens, Pastor of the New Preston Congregational Church, who had surgery on June 28;
- Rev. Da Vita McCallister, Associate Conference Minister for Leadership and Vitality, and her family as they face a loss and difficult illness in the family;
- The Rev. Sara Smith, pastor of United Congregational Church of Bridgeport, and her sister Ellen, who is recovering from a stroke;
- Rev. Kelly Hough Rogers, Associate Pastor of the Norfield Congregational Church in Weston, whose parents were involved in a tragic car accident. Kelly’s father, Wallace, has died and her mother, Janet, is hospitalized;
- Michael White, former Operations Manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who was diagnosed with colon cancer;
- Juliane Silver, the daughter of the Rev. Jim Silver of Middletown, who is in dire need of a liver transplant. We pray that a donor will come forward giving the gift of life and a portion of their liver to Juliane;
- Chacy Eveland, husband of the Rev. Marcia Eveland, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Ansonia, who has been moved to a full-time facility for care of dementia;
- the Rev. Mary Nelson, South Central Regional Minister of the Connecticut Conference, whose brother is recovering from surgery;
- Alisia Selders, daughter of Bishop John Selders, pastor of Amistad UCC in Hartford, in a new round of treatment for cancer;
- the thousands of migrants worldwide who flee from violence and persecution in search of safety;
- our ecumenical partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea;
- the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
- the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
- this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism;
- those suffering due to the ongoing financial woes of the nation, be they struggling to meet an unaffordable mortgage, seeking employment, or working to find just resolutions; and
- those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
To be added to the prayer list, please send an email to Drew Page at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
Covenant Congregational Church
Thomas A. Vandermeid – P
Elmwood Community Church UCC
David E Congdon - P
First Church in West Hartford, UCC
Charles Geordie Campbell - SP
Susan S. Izard - AP
Elliott Munn - AP
Dawne Quinn - CE
Flagg Road UCC Congregational
Mark E. Diters - P
Colleen Mitchell - CE
Manantial De Gracia
Maritza Angulo de Gonzalez - CP
Elivette Mendez Angulo - CP
The Spirit Calendar:
December 05, 2016