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Wednesday Words, January 22, 2020

Wednesday Words – Light

January 22, 2019

Pastor Paul Cannon

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

On them light has shined.

- Isaiah 9:2

The internship congregation I served at was named Light of the World. When I first began serving there, that name called to mind one of Jesus’ famous “I am” statements from the Gospel of John- John 8:12 which reads, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” But that wasn’t the scripture the name of our congregation referred to.

Instead, Light of the World used Matthew 5:14 as its theme verse, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.” They even adopted a theme song by “Tangled Blue” that had been written for that verse, which said, “You are the light of the world. So shine, shine, shine where you are. You are the light of the world” (Click this link to listen to the song on Tangled Blue’s website)

In John, Jesus says, “I am the light” and in Matthew Jesus says, “you are the light.” Which is it? Jesus? You? Who is the light that Isaiah mentions, when he says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”?

There’s a theological part of my brain that wants to reconcile the two disparate passages from John and Matthew by saying, “Jesus is the light and we reflect his light.” After all, our Mission Statement is “We reflect Christ in message and action.” There’s truth in that statement … but that’s not what Matthew is saying here.

Our upcoming text for Sunday recalls Isaiah’s prophecy about light breaking into the darkness on the shores of Galilee. The image points a finger directly at Jesus, who began his ministry there. Jesus is indeed the Light of the World.

But then Jesus did something surprising; as the crowds began to follow him, he turned and told them “You are the light.” Not only that, but it’s your responsibility to shine your light on the world. “In the same way” Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

It’s not one or the other. It’s both! Jesus is our light and our salvation, but that light now lives in us. It shines through in our actions, that they might give glory to God (not for our own glory or our own righteousness). You carry that light in you.

Let it shine!

Wednesday Words, January 15, 2020

Wednesday Word

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

“The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb the Lord named me.” – Isaiah 49:1-7

I never liked my name growing up. My last name was LaBouve’ (pronounced La Boo’ vay). It was a name that generated lots of nicknames: boots, boob, boof, boov – you get the idea. I also didn’t care all that much for my first name, Catherine, a name that my mom called out when I was in trouble. What made my name even worse was when I was researching it for a 7th grade project I discovered that my first name meant “pure” and my last name meant “cow.” Pure Cow! I was mortified as I had to do an in-class presentation telling my class what my name meant.

But, as time went on, I learned that nicknames were often given because people cared about me. I learned the time and attention that my parents put into choosing my name. I also learned that my middle name, Ann meant “Grace” which is a powerful word from our faith story. Lastly, I learned that how I choose to live my life influences the impression people have of my name more than my name itself.

In the Gospel reading assigned this Sunday from the book of John, Jesus renames Simon to Cephas (which is translated Peter). Name changes in the Bible are an indication of the beginning of a new life, a new purpose, and a new relationship with God. Cephas is the Aramaic word for rock and Peter is the Greek word for rock. Jesus sees rock-like possibilities in Peter that will not be realized for quite some time. For now, Peter is spontaneous instead of rock-like. In his enthusiasm, he will walk on water toward Jesus, only to stumble as soon as he realizes what he is doing. In the heat of anger, he will cut off the ear of one of the men who come to take away Jesus. He will argue his loyalty to Jesus but will deny him three times. Only after Jesus’ resurrection will Peter begin to be like the rock that Jesus saw in him so much earlier. There are possibilities like this in each of us. If we follow Christ, he will bring those possibilities to the surface for us just as he did for Peter.

We are given lots of names by the world, but I hope and pray that you remember in 2020 that you are a “child of God.” May that name give you hope, courage, and strength as you try out new names and let go of other names this year. Blessings to you!

Wednesday Words, January 8, 2020

Wednesday Words

January 8, 2020

Pr. Paul Cannon

The Names of Jesus

Picking out names for your kids can be kind of hard; it’s a very personal decision. For both of our children, Kirstin and I didn’t have a set idea of what to call them right away, so much as parameters for choosing them. We didn’t want them to be anything too popular or trendy, we wanted them to connect with family and we wanted the names to have a positive meaning.

Our first was Isaac Farrel Cannon, and our second is Elin Joan Cannon. I’ve often thought about those names. Neither name is overly popular, and Farrel and Joan are family names (check, check!). As for meanings, Isaac means “he laughs” in Hebrew, and Elin is a Swedish name meaning “light”. For us, those names were more than just labels for our kids. They held hope for who they might become, while rooting them in memory of loved ones (past and present).

Names reveal things about who we are, which is why we’ll be talking about the names of Jesus during this season of Epiphany, as we reflect on who Jesus is after his birth.

Immanuel, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God … just to name a few. It’s fitting that we have so many different names for Jesus, because we are still trying to figure out exactly who Jesus was (and is).

To one he’s a savior. To another a rabbi. To another a brother. And to yet another … a friend. We have so many names for Jesus because he is all those things, when we need him to be.

So the question for you today is, what do you need Jesus to be? What name might you call out to him right now? Do you need a teacher? A counselor? Do you need peace and quiet in your life? Whatever it is, Jesus is there for you, revealing himself to be exactly what you need today.

Wednesday Words, December 11, 2019

Third Week of Advent

DELIGHT (JOY) CAN’T WAIT

KEY SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:46b-55

THEME CONNECTIONS

Mary’s Magnificat shows us deep and holy joy—joy that trusts God’s promises of restoration,

new beginnings, food for the hungry, and justice for the wronged. 

What does it look like to delight in God’s goodness? How do we respond to God’s work in the world with joy? How can we be singers of joy?

 

GUIDING QUESTIONS

• In her artist statement for the painting, “Desert Blooms,” artist Lauren Wright Pittman

describes the desert as a place “often associated with desolation, scarcity, and death, but

it’s really a place of surprising, subversive beauty—a place of meeting the divine.” What does

subversive joy look like in spaces that are scarce of hope or full of despair?

• Read Luke 1:5-66. Underline each instance in the text where fear or joy are present. Where

in the interweaving birth stories of Jesus and John the Baptist are characters filled with

surprising joy to overcome their fear?

Wednesday Words, December 4, 2019

Wednesday Words

December 14, 2019

Pastor Paul Cannon

Can’t Wait for Peace

 

I can’t wait!!! It’s a phrase normally reserved for trivial things – things that we are excited for and know are going to happen. So it’s used to say things like, “I can’t wait for the next Star Wars movie!” or “I can’t wait for the next episode of the Mandalorian!” (guess who broke down and got Disney + ???).

We say “I can’t wait” for things that can wait all the time. But on the flip side, the things that really can’t wait, are the things that we put off.

Apologizing for that hurtful thing I said the other day? That can wait.

Writing that letter to my congressperson on behalf of the homeless? That can wait.

Peace in this world? We’ve been waiting for the entirety of human history! Why stop now?

It’s easy to wait for the little things, but when it comes to the big things, most of us delay and sit on our hands. We would rather not have to do the hard work of peace. It’s heavy, it’s emotional, it’s exhausting, it’s never ending. But peace is one of the few things that truly can’t wait, because while we wait, people suffer.

 

For more Biblical devotions on peace from our What Can’t Wait series, stop by and pick up a copy of our booklets.

KEY SCRIPTURES Isaiah 11:1-10, Matthew 3:1-12

THEME CONNECTIONS

Isaiah points to a peace this world has yet to know—peace where the wolf lies with the lamb and a child

shall lead us. John the Baptist invites us to believe in this vision of peace, but first, we must repent of the

ways we turn away from God and do harm to others and ourselves. Only through honest confession can

we seek reconciliation and become vessels of God’s peace, facilitators of the Kindom of God drawn near.

 

GUIDING QUESTIONS

• The stump of Jesse represents the end of the Davidic dynasty, the family line believed to carry

Yahweh’s goodness and righteousness. The monarchy was either thwarted by the Babylonian

exile or the Assyrian empire—historically, we’re not exactly sure. Regardless, this image of the

“stump” likely portrayed the fear and uncertainty many felt about Jerusalem’s future. What

might be a modern day example of a “stump”? What fears do we hold about our future?

 

• John the Baptist’s invitation to baptism reflects the ritual tradition of Jewish proselyte baptism. The ritual emphasized spiritual cleansing for gentiles being welcomed as new members of a Jewish tribe.

How does this ritual of baptism differ from the practice and meaning of baptism in your particular faith community?

 

• Why does John the Baptist insist that repentance can’t wait? How might his social location

and lifestyle contribute to his sense of urgency for radical transformation?

 

• The Hebrew word for “repent” means “to turn.” Literally, this means to return or change

directions; metaphorically, this connotes radically changing your behaviors or perspective.

In Matthew 3:1-12, the word used for “repent” stems from the Greek noun, metanoia, which

refers to a transformative change of heart. The hebrew word shalom, often translated as

“peace,” speaks to completeness, wholeness, and restoration. Given these translations and

connotations, what is the relationship between repentance and peace?

 

QUOTES & RESOURCES FOR INSPIRATION

“Forgiving and being reconciled are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not

patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes

the awfulness, the abuse, the pain, the degradation, the truth. It could even sometimes make things

worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end dealing with the

real situation helps to bring real healing. Spurious reconciliation can bring only spurious healing.”

—Desmond Tutu. No Future Without Forgiveness. New York: Image Doubleday, 1999. 270-1.

 

“Only converted people, who are in union with both the pain of the world and the love of God, are

prepared to read the Bible—with the right pair of eyes and the appropriate bias, which is from the

side of powerlessness and suffering instead of the side of power and control. This is foundational

and essential conversion. The Greek word metanoia, poorly translated as ‘repent’ in the Bible

(Matthew 3:2, Mark 1:15), quite literally means ‘to change your mind.’ Until the mind changes the

very way it processes the moment, nothing changes long term. ‘Be transformed by a renewal of

your mind,’ Paul says (Romans 12:2), which hopefully will allow the heart to soon follow.”

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