Sunday, December 29, 2013

Redeemed, Lifted and Carried

Isaiah 63: 7-10
Hebrews 2:10-18
December 29, 2013
Prescott American Baptist Church

I saw a cartoon this week. Somebody shared it on Face Book. Jesus is sitting on the floor by a Christmas tree. He is holding a gift and looking sad. Somebody asks, “What’s the matter, Jesus? You don’t like your present?” And Jesus responds, “Somebody gave me a church and I can’t get it out of the box.”

There’s no doubt at all that Jesus came into the world and got busy organizing. Lenin and Trotsky in Russia, Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy, Mao Tse-Tung and Ho Chi Minh in Asia, Castro in Cuba all discredit Jesus in their public statements. Yet their debt to Jesus is greater than they would acknowledge. The most obvious debt such leaders owe Jesus is his basic innovation: the idea of striking for power by organizing the poor and powerless. 

Jesus walked into his adult life alone and unknown. He was raised in a culture of discontent. Poverty and oppression gave the ordinary man on the street little to lose if changes were made. So change was not as frightening as it might have seemed. The established power, religious hierarchy and Roman rulers, were divided and so they couldn’t offer a united front against the people’s bid for power. And the myth of the day held the people’s hope: A Messiah would come and relieve their misery, strike down the enemies of the oppressed and make everything right. Jesus walked into his adult life alone and unknown but with a special opportunity to be an authority. The people were watching for a man who could work miracles, a man who could put a face on the hopes of the poor and oppressed. 

He began his work with a strategy. Jesus built a following among the poor and the powerless. His basic tactic was to define the poor as more deserving of power than anyone else and so curry their favor. Early in his public life he announced that the poor were blessed. He called them the salt of the earth, the light of the world. He told the poor people who crowded around him that the meek would inherit the earth.  He selected and developed his elite followers from among the poor and he gained a reputation for eating and drinking with outcasts, people who would not be invited to eat and drink in respectable circles. 

Jesus was an organizer, a successful organizer. And even though he might have thought and we might suspect that his strategy failed when he found himself being crucified in Jerusalem, we also have to acknowledge that the crucifixion extended Jesus’ power beyond the grave. The fishers of men he had gathered and motivated for his mission within the culture of that day were altogether devoted to the organization that Jesus had begun. They had given up everything (prior dreams and plans, careers, family, home) to follow Jesus. They could not and would not let their work and the organization die with Jesus. Thus the church was born. *

After the singing and celebration of Christmas Day, what does the life of Jesus Christ mean for us? How is today’s church shaped by Jesus’ preaching and his values? So many of you, the Prescott congregation of faith, have come to this place and joined this church because of your unhappy or unsatisfactory experience in another community of faith. I don’t need to take your time talking about being left out or under-valued. You already know about the under-belly of the church. It isn’t hard for you to imagine Jesus struggling to get today’s church unstuck and out of the box.

One of our basic problems in the church is the way we have come to understand the theory of atonement. The prophet Isaiah said that the Messiah would come among us himself so that we might be redeemed, lifted and carried by the Messiah’s presence and power. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews said that Jesus, as our high priest, made a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. It is worth examining this sacrifice and its meaning if the church is worth saving. How are we redeemed, lifted and carried?

I’ll come clean so you won’t have to wonder about my own personal beliefs. I don’t take the virgin birth literally but I like that story and I think it works well in terms of inspiring faith and commitment to doing good in the name of Jesus.  However I do not think the story of atonement works so well. Jesus had to suffer, bleed and die in order for my sins and your sins to be forgiven? I have trouble with that as the only explanation for how humanity might be engaged in the mystery and miracle of salvation.  I trust God. At this point in my relationship with God I am fully convinced that the creator could and did make a way for human beings to be spiritually transformed through a process of discovery that allows us to learn, grow and take responsibility for our own choices and our own actions. Just as Jesus took responsibility and acted with courage and faith, so can we.

If we blithely allow Jesus to be the one with all the integrity, the one whose suffering has all the purpose, then we are set free to be something less than what we can be.

Back in 1996 I was serving as pastor in a Methodist church in a rural community. I was a seminary student living in the parsonage and driving into Memphis Tuesday through Friday for classes. Saturday was reserved for writing a sermon and making worship bulletins. One Saturday morning while I still had bed head and was still wearing my pajamas, I heard a knock on the door. I opened the front door and saw Hershel, a successful tomato farmer and chair of the church council. “I just dropped by to talk,” he said.  I thought a call in advance would have been more appropriate. But I let Hershel inside and we sat down.

Hershel talked about the weather. It was clear that he was working up to the point of his visit. I was aware that I hadn’t yet brushed my teeth.

“You know, Elaine, some of us have been talking. You’ve been here a whole year now. You realize that?” I did.  “And you’ve been preaching every Sunday plus a few special services. Remember that community Thanksgiving service we hosted? Yeah. And we’ve had about four, five funerals this year. You’ve been in the pulpit quite a bit. And not once have you ever said a thing about sin. Now all this talk about love, how God loves us and we need to love each other…. That’s fine for us regular church members. But when are you going to start preaching about sin?”

(I am going to remind you now that I was still in my pajamas, had not yet brushed my teeth and the pressure of an unwritten sermon was pushing on my shoulders.) “Hershel, you want me to talk about sin?”

“I do. We need that because every once in a while somebody comes to church from the outside, you know? And they need to hear what’s right and what’s wrong. Plain spoken. Now some of us are wondering if you're ever going to get around to some real preaching.”

“Hershel, I can preach about sin but I don’t think you and some others would like it very much.”

“We are used to real preaching, Elaine, the kind of preaching that makes people get right with God.” 

“OK, then. I can talk about sin. Maybe I should give it a try right now, just you and me.”

“That’s fine.” Hershel sat up straighter, ready to help the lady preacher get it just right. 

“Hershel, you remember when those Girl Scouts wanted to hold their meetings at our church? And  remember what you and the rest of the church council decided? You decided not to let those little girls meet in our church basement. You decided to keep them out because some of those little girls were black. Now that’s sin and I can build a whole sermon around your racism and what it has cost this church.”

Hershel didn’t stay long after that and I never got another request from anybody at that church to talk about sin. We all sin and we all need to be redeemed, individually and as a community. Redemption is a process of learning to see and value the love of Jesus in the face and life of others.

My problem with the theory of atonement is the way it reduces God’s love for us to a form of emotional blackmail: “Look what I did for you—and you are still sinning in spite of all that I suffered?” Out of guilt or fear we can claim to believe in the power of Jesus’ blood to wash away our sins. But that prevents us from the possibility of discovering and developing a healthy relationship with God. Significant relationships happen within a process over time. Each one of us has our own spiritual journey as we move toward becoming the person God created us to be. One size cannot and does not fit all. **

I don’t think Jesus wanted to create an organization that squeezed all of us into a box, forced us to memorize statements of faith and doctrines hardened like bricks. I don’t think Jesus intended to build his organization with anything like bricks and walls that could keep some people in and some people out. I don’t think Jesus was afraid of curiosity and questions. Jesus had imagination and he wasn’t afraid to use it. Over time and through a process he became the person we admire and worship.

See? The classical understanding of the theory of atonement allows a person to claim salvation without undergoing any process of transformation. People claim righteousness because they attend church and yet they have not yet reflected on what it means to be powerless. People who have not yet learned to recognize their own sin claim righteousness. Too many church people have not learned to ask questions about their own faith so they see anyone who asks questions about faith as a threat. Out of their fear (and not out of their faith) they condemn difference and the other. 

To claim salvation because Jesus suffered without recognizing the dignity of our own suffering is to cheapen the gift of God’s ongoing creative work among us. That kind of short cut and shallow faith has robbed the church of its opportunity to suffer with Christ today. It has stripped the church of its strength by allowing the church to look just like the power structure of politics. I voted for Jesus. He won the election and therefore I am on the inside. This shallow faith has kept the church from becoming the organization that Jesus hoped to give us.

If the Gospel means anything it means that the church is a place for the poor and the powerless. And none of us, not even the poorest and the most humble among us, can come quickly to that level of salvific experience. It takes a lifetime of prayer, living in a faith community, service, study and sacred Sabbath time. 

The prophet Isaiah said that the Messiah would come and in his presence we would be redeemed, lifted and carried-- not so that we would be exempt from suffering and not so that we could look down on those who are different. We are redeemed, lifted and carried so that we might belong to the redemptive process that Jesus began for all people a long time ago.  

*James Alison, On Being Liked, The Crossroad  Publishing Company, New York, 2003, pages 17-31
**Jay Haley, The Power Tactics of Jesus Christ and Other Essays, Crown House Publishing Company, Bethel, CT, 1986, pages 19-54

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Got Room?

Luke 2: 1-20
Prescott American Baptist Church
December 24, 2013

Imagine a gift so big it cannot fit through your front door.  Imagine it wrapped in fabulous good taste. Would you knock out some wall to claim it and bring it inside? Would you make room or would you let it move along, maybe to the house next door or on to another neighborhood? 

My friend, Lisa Anderson, was in seminary with me at Memphis Theological. She has been a chaplain at St Jude for many years. She has also been serving as pastor for Colonial Heights Cumberland Presbyterian Church. In 2010, she introduced her church to a program, Room in the Inn, to host guests overnight when the winter weather makes homelessness particularly loathsome. Room in the Inn has been a successful program in Nashville for twenty-five years supported by over 200 community agencies. The program provides dinner and breakfast, a shower (depending on the facilities available) and a warm bed to sleep in for guests one night a week during the coldest winter months (November 1 through March 31.)

Trinity United Methodist Church (right across the street from my house) decided they would like to be part of this program. They have warm hearts and a warm building with room to share. So they gathered up volunteers who were properly trained for the job and they informed the neighborhood, giving neighbors a chance to learn and to contribute. But some neighbors did not want to learn or contribute. They went to city hall and complained. The complainants discovered a city ordinance that said no church sitting on six acres or more could host overnight guests. And so Trinity UMC was ordered to cease and desist with the hosting of homeless neighbors. 

A meeting was called.  It was a chance to talk about the program and to listen to each other. There were about 200 people who came to the Sunday afternoon meeting. Most of the people were in support of the program. One woman talked about the joy she received by hosting the overnight guests. She had shared a good meal, played Scrabble for hours and felt like it was the most rewarding night she could remember. A boy told about being resistant to the job of volunteering at the church. Volunteering would keep him away from a ball game. But his father insisted and so he went to the church. And he had so much fun! He is bringing friends with him to share the good time with guests at the church. The supportive testimonies brought tears to my eyes.

Then another man got up and he said, “I have two daughters in this neighborhood. They are five and three years old. I do not want their safety to be jeopardized by the sort of people this program will bring into our neighborhood.” 

Other people talked about unwanted traffic, suspicious activities and criminal element… They were afraid. Afraid. I do know about that. Being fearful. You probably know what it’s like to be fearful too. We get afraid of new things, things we have never seen before, people who are not like us, ideas that come from faraway places. If it is strange we just might be on guard. If it is mysterious we are sure to be afraid. 

As it is, only about a dozen or so guests are hosted on any given night with the Room in the Inn program. All of them have been in relationship with people at Manna House. They are known. Their story is a story that can be shared. They are not frightening to the people who know them, not strange to the people at Manna House who have taken the time to eat with them, play games with them and listen to their stories. 

The guests are picked up at 7:00 downtown and brought to the church in a van driven by a trained volunteer. The guests eat with hosts and spend the evening with hosts. They sleep while the space is supervised by hosts and then everyone gets up and out early in the morning. At 7:00 am the guests get on the van and are returned downtown to the place where they were initially picked up. 

The hosts who give their time to these guests are able to receive true blessings. Their hearts are warmed. Their faith increased. They can see how all of us belong to the same creator God. Every homeless person carries a part of me and I walk around with part of them in me too. We are the same family when we look beyond our fears.  Being poor does not make our brothers and sisters dangerous. But being poor does make them first in line in God’s heart.
Like it or not it was the poor who were blessed by Jesus’ birth. God did not send Jesus to be born in a king’s castle or in a 5 bedroom brick mcmansion in Collierville. The gift came to the front door of the poor and the smelly. The riffraff were blessed with good tidings of great joy. And the rich would receive word when the poor got around to sharing.

The angels that visited the shepherds were huge and loud and overwhelming. Totally unexpected. In a field on a winter night. The sheep already lying down and the shepherds trying to catch a little shut-eye. They were simply uneducated men. The angels came soaring down out of the darkness, bringing light and song and terror.  Yet the shepherds, (their clothes smelly and their beards matted) listened to the command, “Do not be afraid!” They were courageous and curious enough to set aside their fear. Their ears were opened to hear the good news. A Savior is born for you this night. The shepherds seized the opportunity to be players in the greatest story ever told.

Imagine a gift so big it cannot fit through your front door.  Imagine that it is wrapped in fabulous good taste. Would you knock out some wall to claim it and bring it inside? Would you make room or would you let it move along, maybe to the house next door or on to another neighborhood?

We have spent the last few weeks preparing our hearts and lives to receive this great gift. The doors of our hearts and lives are open. We know it is new, strange and mysterious. We know it might be unfamiliar and messy—to let true love into our homes, our relationships and our souls. But it has been offered. And we are here to set aside our fear, knock out a few walls if we have to—in order to accept the gift of God’s love this night.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Rebirth of Vision

Matthew 1:18-25
December 22, 2013
Prescott American Baptist Church

Prescott Church was born with a vision for peace, equality, respect and social justice. This Christmas is a time for a rebirth of your vision, a time to experience a new way to see how God is at work among you and with you. And when you think about it, isn’t that how we live into our faith? Every year we move more deeply into God’s vision for us as the Christ child is born and reborn into the manger of our hearts.
I shopped at Target between Black Friday and December 15th. I’m guessing that many of you did too. Now we are told that hackers broke into the system and stole the card information from 40 million shoppers. Once we swiped our card, we were robbed. Our name, card number and the three secret digits were in the hands of anonymous hackers. Nothing we can do about it. It’s done. And our spending was no longer in our control but in the hands of crooks, smart crooks, out there somewhere, completely out of our control. 

It’s just one small example of what we cannot control in this life. We get up in the morning, get to work on time, do what’s required with as positive an attitude as possible. We reduce our salt and sugar intake because it’s good for our health. We smile at the customer because it’s good PR. We help the boss because it’s good for our career. We drive defensively and get home safely. And like you, I pat myself on the back many evenings, thinking that I have done a good job of checking tasks off my list, getting things done in a timely fashion and maintaining all that’s of value in my life. Of course I am choosing to be unaware of all that exists outside of my control. But when we stop to consider- we realize how all of us are so very vulnerable, always exposed in one way or another to the hackers.

Joseph, a carpenter before he became the husband of Mary, must have been a good guy. He realized that the young girl he planned to marry was pregnant and he first decided to dismiss her quietly. No fuss. He wasn’t willing to expose the girl to public disgrace. Her pregnancy was a disappointment, a true turn of events for Joseph. But he was a good guy and he wasn’t going to add more pain to what was already painful enough.  

Apparently Joseph was the kind of guy God might trust with a dream. An angel explained to Joseph that Mary’s child would be of divine origin. “Don’t be afraid,” the angel urged Joseph. But everything Joseph had imagined for himself and his family has been turned upside down. Everything he trusted was being challenged. He had never intended to be part of a scandal. He was a carpenter who planned to work hard, do what was right and live simply.  He knew, I suspect, even as we know that nothing is ever perfect and most things that matter aren’t easy. Joseph probably knew there would be surprises in life. He had a good heart, a faithful heart, the kind of heart God might trust with the gift of a dream.

The people of Prescott have stayed close to God. Your history marks a clear path of social justice. You were pioneers in the struggles for civil rights and gender equality. Early on you chose to have respect for diversity. You are good people, a congregation with a good heart. The kind of people God has trusted with the gift of a dream. 

Joseph woke up from his dream and shook his head. What to do now that he was awake and aware? What to do now that he realized how his life would be changed? What to do now that he was being asked to give all control to God while God refused to give any definite answers to his questions? How did this happen? And the real question: Is this fair?

Dreams are interesting. I consider my dreams when I remember them.  I journal about them, pray about them and look for what they might mean. Sometimes I learn important lessons from my dreams. I can see more deeply into my own brokenness, my need for something more.

Through a dream, God sent an angel to Joseph. And the angel reassured the man, basically saying, “Although this is nothing like what you had planned, God’s plan is to do something wonderful. Despite the fact that according to Jewish custom and law you are in a socially unacceptable situation, remember this: You are in a situation with God.” 

Joseph’s life was hacked. His plans shredded. The carpenter opened his life and his soul to return the gift, not as in taking it back because it was the wrong color or size but as in establishing a mutual gift of trust between God and the man. A mutual trust was born. 

And Joseph took Mary as his wife. He named the baby Jesus, the one who will save us from our sins, the one who will show us how to let go of control completely for the sake of trust.

We have spent the last few weeks preparing for the birth of Jesus. We allowed ourselves to imagine a world of peace where lions and lambs would be changed and neither would be a threat to the life of the other. We dreamed of a future when swords would be beaten into plowshares. We have given ourselves over to the work of preparing a place in our lives for the Christ child to be born. 

What’s important for us to acknowledge now is how much we need the miraculous gift of salvation. It’s important for each one of us to recognize that the gift of this child, this Jesus, this Savior among us is something we need. Or else the miracle has no real meaning. 

Every year we come back around to the manger and we look into the face of this baby. It’s hard for us, those of us who have made great plans for our lives and worked to see them through, those of us who live comfortably and conveniently… it’s hard for us to acknowledge that this infant in a stable is able to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  

In preparation for this sermon I have spent time this last week acknowledging the places in my life that require a Savior, the deep needs of my soul that I cannot meet by my own power. Maybe you would like just a minute here to consider that too. What is this infant going to save you from when he comes into your life this year? ***********************

This poor, homeless and illegitimate child has power over the things of our life that we cannot control.  He has come to give us a rebirth of vision, a new way to see how God is at work in us and among us. He has come to show us how to live with truth and to trust the mysteries that come with God’s love.

In one way or another hackers come into our daily lives and make it clear that we need a Savior. Christmas allows us like children to trust, simply wake up from our dream and trust the one who trusted us with the dream. 

As the baby was born, so was Joseph reborn. He let go of the need to plan, to control, to understand. He looked into the face of this child and experienced rebirth, a rebirth of vision. A way to see life through the eyes and heart of God's perfect love.

Prescott Church was born with a vision for peace, equality, respect and social justice. This Christmas is a time for a rebirth of your vision, a time to experience a new way to see how God is at work among you and with you. And when you think about it, isn’t that how we live into our faith? Every year we move more deeply into God’s vision for us as the Christ child is born and reborn into the manger of our hearts.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lions and Lambs

Isaiah 11: 1-10
Matthew 3: 1-12
December 8, 2013
Preached at Prescott Baptist Church

It is the second Sunday of Advent and we are waiting, actively preparing our hearts and our lives to be mangers, birth places (once again) for the Christ-child. We have so much hope for a better world, a world where the poor will be noticed and fed, where the meek will receive power, a world where all creation will be redeemed.

Both of our texts today, Old Testament and New Testament, take us into the wilderness. The prophet Isaiah shares a vision of a wild place where the predator lies down beside its prey. 
Our Gospel text in Matthew invites us out into the wilderness with that outrageous John the Baptist where he gathers in and baptizes the crowds, telling them about one who is to come, one who will lead us all out of the wilderness, one who will redeem the world and everything in it.

“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse…” Isaiah tells us.

“Prepare the way of the Lord!” John shouts. “I baptize you with water but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit…”

The power has gone out at my house the last two days. The ice has over-stressed the transformers and they have exploded with sonic booms.  Suddenly the lights go out, the computer shuts down and the heat is off. Darkness surrounds us. The cold settles in quickly. And we are in a wilderness experience.  Lost and wandering. What can you do without power? 

I stood in the middle of our street and talked with our neighbors, Jeannie and Phil. We were bundled up against the cold: coats, scarves, gloves and hats on our heads. I looked down the street and saw darkness in every house to the east and to the west. It’s frightening to me- how dependent we are on Memphis Light Gas and Water. I lit candles in the house and sat beside them—waiting for the power to return. 

This season of Advent is a time to acknowledge our powerlessness and our need for a savior. There will be no place for a Messiah to be born if we are not able to humbly repent and prepare a place for his birth in our lives. 

I was baptized at the age of fourteen at First Church of the Nazarene in Nashville, TN. I was one of about ten adolescents in line that Sunday evening.  I walked down three concrete steps into a baptismal pool. Dr. Ted Martin was the pastor who tilted me back across his arm and submerged me under the water. I hoped my red plaid jumper would not float to the surface. I also hoped that the water of that baptismal pool would wash away my sin, my fears and give me a whole new life. I walked up the steps on the other side of that pool and went right back into the life I knew. I was the same person after I was baptized; my identity had not changed and I was not given power over my own human impulses and frailties. Baptism didn’t change who I was. But it did name clearly who I belonged to and who I could turn to for the gifts I needed  for a life that mattered: courage, faith and hope. 

Our Old Testament reading illustrates for us Isaiah’s vision of a peaceful kingdom, a time that is coming when the new king of kings will reign, when power will be in the hands of a righteous and just ruler.  Predators and their prey will live side by side.  Babies will play unharmed near poisonous snakes. Woody Allen once gave his own interpretation of this vision: “The wolf shall lie down with the lamb. But the lamb won’t get much sleep!”

I wonder… is it only the predator who will be transformed in this coming peaceful kingdom? What about the prey? I want to think the peaceful kingdom will be a place where even the lamb is set free from its fear, from that rush of adrenaline that comes with knowing you are food to another beast.  And more than that. I want to imagine that the lamb discovers in the coming kingdom the sound and the force of its particular roar. The peaceful kingdom will be a place where the little child realizes she has her own kind of power to contribute to the peace and harmony of creation.  

We are together on this second Sunday of Advent waiting and hoping for all creation to be converted. The peaceful kingdom is a place of conversion. The vulnerable will find themselves set free—even with and especially with their vulnerabilities. The powerful will recognize their need for humility. And all creation will exist in relationships of mutual respect. 

It’s hard for us to imagine here in this wilderness where we live, in this place where we just hope the electricity stays on and we get enough to eat. In this wilderness city where we hope we are not the next victim of some violent crime. In this wilderness where we know we need a savior. In this wilderness where we recognize and regret our own contributions to what has gone wrong in the world as we know it. In this wilderness where we are called to repent and make a way for something new, something better.

Our modern day prophet, Nelson Mandela, died this week. A true hero has left this life and gone on to his eternal reward. He was 95 years old when he gave up the fight. And his life was a fight from start to finish, a bold fight against injustice in the wilderness of apartheid. Mandela spent 27 years in prison.

It is reported that a child asked him after his release from that long period of exile, “What was it like to be sent to jail when you didn’t even steal anything?”

Mandela replied, “Oh, but I did steal something. I stole freedom for South Africa’s people.”

In our Gospel reading, John the Baptist is out in the wilderness associating with the poor and the powerless, stealing freedom for them. The people pour into the wilderness to confess their sins and to be baptized, to be converted into new creatures set free from the weight of their pain and guilt.

In Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “The River,” a four year old boy, Harry, is picked up from his city apartment by a new baby sitter, Mrs. Connin. The heavy, older woman is very religious as so many characters are in O’Connor’s stories. She takes the child, Harry, to the river for a baptismal service. The boy lives with his parents who are not mature, not nurturing parents. Harry has been ignored during his four short years on earth. He has no past experience of being noticed or respected as a real person. He had never heard of Jesus except when he heard his parents curse. He had no idea, until Mrs. Connin showed him a picture of Jesus, that there was such a man. 

The woman leads the boy through the woods, walking on pine needles. It might as well have been an amusement park for Harry; it is all so new and strange for him. The preacher, a tall young man, was standing about ten feet out in the stream where the water came up to his knees. He was calling out in a twangy voice, his head tilted upward. 

“There ain’t but one river and that’s the River of Life made out of Jesus’ blood. All other rivers and oceans come from that one river. This is the river you lay your pain in, a rich red river of Jesus’ blood.” (If you’re familiar with O’Connor’s work, you’ll recognize this as the way most of the preachers in her stories talk.) 

Harry leaves Mrs. Connin’s side and moves forward, deciding that he wants to be baptized by the preacher in this River of Life. 

“If I baptize you,” the preacher looks into the face of this child, “you’ll be able to go to the Kingdom of Christ. You’ll be washed in the river of suffering. Do you want that, boy?”

“Yes,” the child answers. 

“You won’t be the same again,” the preacher warns. “You’ll count.”

You’ll count. Once you recognize the true source of power in this world and give your life to that source, you cannot claim to be insignificant. You cannot look back and pretend that you belong to the wilderness. You will find yourself in that river of life that leads to the peaceful kingdom where all creation will be free, redeemed and existing in a state of mutual respect. 

We are already on the second Sunday of Advent. Time passes so quickly. But it is all we have in the wilderness. This is our time to prepare for the one who is coming to steal freedom for us, to make it clear that we count. We matter because of our Savior’s power.