On Friday, 18 January 2019, Grace’s own Marlene Haller was presented with the 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Living the Dream Award for her outstanding contribution to the Phoenix community through her volunteer efforts.
And what surprises me, what delights me, what brings me hope tonight is that, even though every single person in the ancient story of Jesus’ birth and every single one of us is steeped in violence and injustice, fear and hatred, the angels proclaim: Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth, peace!
As we expectantly wait for Christmas, one persona dominates the church world, another persona our culture at large. These two prominent figures both speak of how we should act, what we should do—and the consequences if we do not. The persona of our culture at large? Who can we find everywhere at malls and on cards and sung about in songs during the month of December? Santa Claus.
How about the persona of the church world? Who is it who dominates our Advent stories? Right. John the Baptist.
Linda Herrera, a member of Faith/La Fe Lutheran Church, is in direct contact with one of the community leaders who is helping coordinate relief efforts for the asylum seekers that are being dropped off at the Greyhound station in Phoenix. They need everything from emergency travel kits to families who are able to host other families for 1-3 days.
Our community building goal for December is to remember in prayer those for whom we do not normally pray: perhaps those with whom we struggle, people who are easily forgotten, or people we may believe do not need our prayer because they are successful. We may offer these prayers up during Sunday morning worship and/or during our personal, daily prayers.
Imagine in your mind’s eye a group of runners, including yourself, spread along a solid white line on a track. You are ready. Ready to run. You breathe deeply, shake the tension out of your hands and arms, last-minute stretching. You press your toes against the starting line. You focus on the finish line for this short sprint. You decide to give it your all. Finally, the time comes. You set your left foot forward, your right foot back. You bend your knees. You wait impatiently for the familiar commands. On your mark! You bend down, listening. Get set! You’re just about to pick up your foot, to expend all your energy in pursuit of the finish line. Can you feel the tension, the anticipation, the energy of that moment? Like a chord unresolved, like the moment before the bride walks down the aisle, like those final pages of a mystery novel save one. That’s Advent.
Today in our gospel reading from John, Jesus stands on trial before Pilate. Pilate clearly doesn’t care who Jesus is, unless who he is happens to threaten the power of the Roman Empire. Pilate isn’t the one who brings Jesus into be tried; it’s the Jews who demand that Jesus be examined and punished. While Jesus never directly admits his identity as king, he does say: “My kingdom is not from this world… for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." Though not included in today’s passage, the next words out of Pilate’s mouth are “What is truth?”
During September, our Wilbur emphasis is Grace Buddies. For this ministry, we have partnered with Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest to provide a monthly morning of fun for adopted children. Grace will host Grace Buddies on the first Saturday of each month in our basement. Monetary donations this month will be utilized for pizza, snacks and other consumables for this wonderful work we are doing in the community. Thank you!
“Three Sides” is a new monthly podcast featuring stories from the ELCA. As a church that believes God is calling us into the world – together, “Three Sides” will share diverse voices from across this church. Typically, it’s said there are two sides to every story. But often a middle or third side of the story is revealed, providing another perspective to consider. In our introductory episode, our hosts give listeners a sneak peek of the first episode, “Women who lead.” Subscribe and listen today!