53 posts categorized "Advent Series"
[Editor's note: This Advent season, we will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. The reading for this post is 1 Timothy 4:6-14. Keep reading Bread Blog for more Advent reflections.]
By Eunjoo Choi
As good servants, we are told to put these instructions before our fellow sisters and brothers—particularly if we consider ourselves people who are willing to create our life as God wants us to do. That is to say, the liberty of our expression of faith in Jesus and in God depends totally on our relationship with God. But we have to be fully aware of our own responsibility to live out our faith.
These instructions are calling us to train ourselves in godliness by holding a promise of God for the life of present and the future. It is not we who have to keep the promise, but it is God who has to keep it. For us, what we have to do is hold on to the promise that was promised by God until now and toward the time to come. We are living in order to practice our hope in the promise of God in our life. Setting our hope in the living God is like saying "yes" to the God who is giving us our life now and to the life that is still waiting to unfold in front of us. So, training ourselves in godliness is to struggle to keep this hope alive.
But from where does our hope come? How can we have such a hope? What does it mean for us to keep this hope in us? This life-giving hope would not be real unless the living God already put God's hope in us through our life. The hope of God for our life is the source of our hope in the living God and in our life. No matter where we are at this point of our life, no matter how much we are disappointed with who we are, God never gives up holding God's hope in us, in our brokenness. This is the very source of our hope in God's promise toward our life. And keeping this hope in us is to struggle to act for the life to come. This living hope of God toward our life urges us to embrace God's "yes" toward us. Accepting God's "yes" is to say "yes" to our life in future. That is the ever renewing power of life generated only from the living God. This hope is the foundation of salvation for whole humanity.
Eunjoo Choi is a master's degree student at the San Francisco Theological Seminary.
By Lucas Walker
By Bentley Stewart
Hospitals can feel like a wilderness, especially when your beloved has become a patient and you are forced to wait patiently ... or wait anxiously ... or perhaps, waiting is waiting.
Outside of the hospital, the "civilized" world continues. There are governors and other rulers. The president might have been replaced by an emperor. Who knows? Who cares?
You are focused on wrestling with the sacred on behalf of a life you hold precious. You wish to wake up from the nightmare of the present reality. Only, you keep discovering that the dream world and waking life have switched.
Wishes offer magical escape from difficult realities. Temporarily, this can be a good and valid coping mechanism.
Hoping and wishing are different.
For some people, "hopeful" means "unrealistic." Many of us guard our hearts from disappointment by refusing to risk hope.
Unlike pseudo-spiritualities built on wishing, hope faces and engages the present darkness. Hope sparks our imagination about the future. These alternate narratives of possibility awaken memories of God's faithful presence. The hope for Emmanuel buoys us, while simultaneously doubt and despair threaten to drown us.
Luke quotes Isaiah, who quotes a voice. The voice is calling out in the wilderness, away from our civilized world. We understandably wish that the voice is calling us to escape the madhouse of our lives. However, the voice instructs us to prepare a way into the world that God so desperately loves.
That wild voice dares us to hope. Can it be, despite all evidence to the contrary, that God is not done with this project of creation? Can it be that God is coming in the flesh? Can it be that our flesh, all the flesh of creation, will see salvation? Can it be that we are called to prepare the way?
Bentley Stewart is a master of divinity student at the San Francisco Theological Seminary.
[Editor's note: This Advent season, we
will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from the San
Francisco Theological Seminary. The reading for this post is Luke 1:68-79. Keep reading Bread Blog for more Advent reflections.]
By Laura Nelson
Last year, I had the privilege of helping my internship site plan a "Longest Night" service—a worship service in the heart of winter that offers a contemplative space during the holiday season. Set for the night before Winter Solstice, it was a great project for me to take on—because I don't like darkness. And, in Oregon, the darkness was lasting for 16 hours each day. Planning the Longest Night service helped me to lean into the wisdom that dark times can teach us: the blessing of cocooned rest, the creativity born of chaos, the reminder that we are not in charge of the rhythm of life.But we also leaned into G-d's promises of dawn, of life abundant and healing for all. We remembered that, with the coming of Winter Solstice, the darkness was receding—dawn was again coming in our midst. Zechariah's song of praise reminds us of this. He is fully in the light of the dawn, which is a great reminder in the midst of Advent, darkness, winter. Dawn is here, is coming, will come again.
What I most love about this hymn is that it's communal. Zechariah doesn't sing about his dawn, his redemption, his G-d. It's about our G-d, our dawn, our redemption. In our interconnectedness, the dawn of a new birth is a blessing for everyone. And, in the darkness, we have each other.
Laura Nelson is master of divinity senior at the San Francisco Theological Seminary.
[Editor's note: This Advent season, we will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. The reading for this post is Philippians 1:3-11. Keep reading Bread Blog for more Advent reflections.]
By Rev. Jack Hodges
As I write this, hope has been terribly compromised for folks on the East Coast. Sandy has been—and continues to be—their reality. To see Staten Island from the air, your house would look like a jumbled pile of toothpicks; standing on the street before it could very well seem like the end to you.
Does that not push the question—Where is hope?
Looking at the Scripture passage, our experiences often seem quite at odds with Paul's cheery wistfulness.
Stop now and read it over ...
Now, in the manner of Lectio Divina—praying with Scripture—do that again. This time, rather than "dissecting" the passage, "enter" into it instead.
If you are now in a hopeless situation, ask yourself: "What of this passage is able to flow into my present void?"
Initially, Paul speaks glowingly of partnership, good works, and being partakers of grace. But Paul is hardly confining himself to Pollyanna statements. Soon Chapter Two will lift up grumbling and questions; and that is only the beginning. Again, reality enters the arenas of our lives.
But Paul also says that hope is on the way: Timothy is coming and he is one who "will be genuinely anxious for your welfare." (Newspapers and TV have been full of "Sandy-inspired Timothys"—may God bless and keep them!)
Advent is that time in the Church Year seemingly most infused with hope. "Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel." Behold! The One genuinely anxious for us is on the way. Good News indeed!
The very least you could do
in your life
is to figure out what you hope for.
And the most you can do
is live inside that hope.
Not admire it from a distance
but live right in it, under its roof.
—Barbara KingsolverRev. Jack Hodges is San Francisco Theological Seminary's alumni association president.
By Dr. Kay Carney
The beauty of faith and the presence of God in our lives is constant, although our commitment to believing, understanding and knowing God may escape us when facing seemingly insurmountable challenges. It is not uncommon for us to question God or God's presence when tragedy strikes or when the depth of our emotional pain knows no boundaries. How often do we hear the phrase, "Why would God allow such an awful thing to happen?" Conversely, we often hear praises for God when challenges are overcome: "Thank God for blessing me with a job so I can feed my family." What we often fail to remember is that God loves us unconditionally, through good times and bad. And so as God loves us, so should we love God. He forgives us when we blame Him for our problems, and when we neglect to praise Him and give thanks for our many blessings.
So deep is God's love for us, that it's often hard for us to believe that we are deserving of His mercies. We see the presence of God every day: whether it's in the eyes of our children or the warm smile of a stranger, God is everywhere. And by deepening our faith and trusting in the Lord, we can see God ... and feel God ... and touch God. There is always hope through the endurance of faith. Let us lift ourselves and one another unto the Lord, knowing that we are embraced by His loving-kindness at all times ... in all ways.
Dr. Kay Carney is San Francisco Theological Seminary's vice president of communications.
[Editor's note: This Advent season, we will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. The reading for this post is Psalm 130. Keep reading Bread Blog for more Advent reflections.]
By Nicole Trotter
My hometown is suffering. I see it every day in the paper. While many continue to wait for shelter, wait for water, and wait for electricity, my teenagers have to be reminded what "Sandy" was while they wait for me to drive them somewhere.
Waiting has come to be known as patience. Patience elicits images of a quiet girl sitting with hands politely clasped, or the Dalai Lama. But when we need something, we participate in getting it. The world has never been changed through passive waiting. The world changes through relentless trouble makers who "cry from the depths" and keep their eyes wide open at night "like a sentry waits for dawn."
The psalmist was a New Yorker, I'm convinced. He doesn't politely ask for what he needs, he practically demands it. "Hear my voice!" He will wait. But not in the sense we usually think. He will wait, with full awareness, awake, in darkness, because he's sure the dawn will come. Make no mistake, he can't muscle or will the morning's light. None of us can. But we can actively participate in waiting for it. Because if we don't, we may fall asleep and miss the sunrise, we might find ourselves one day asking, "What was Sandy?" We may forget to change anything, to hope for anything passionately. What's more, we may forget that to hope requires something from us, something resembling a relentless troublemaker "crying out from the depths." When we need something desperately, hope consumes us with a God given passion so big that it cannot and should not be politely contained.Nicole Trotter is a master of divinity student at San Francisco Theological Seminary.
By Christopher L. Schilling
As a child, visiting my grandparents on Christmas Day was special to me. My grandfather never had many memories of celebrating Christmas as a boy because he grew up in various foster homes. But, as an adult, he always found ways to make the season joyful for his grandchildren: from the lights decorating his small home in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Penn., to the toys he and my grandmother bought for each of their grandchildren, even to his somewhat tacky-looking Christmas tree, always over-covered in tinsel. Christmas was not only special to us, his grandchildren, Christmas was special to him.
While the Christmas season is a time to be joyful, it also can be a time of sorrow from the loss of loved ones to the struggles and changes in our personal lives. Seeking the gift of Christmas—or trying to re-capture the gift we once had for this season—can be difficult, if not at times impossible.
Yet, Psalm 25 reminds us that we are given reassurance of God's presence, even in the midst of our quest to find or recapture the gift of this season. This reassurance reminds us that in the midst of our own trying to find the gift of Christmas, through faith, this gift just may find us.
Perhaps the gift this season will come from a hug from a loved one. Or it could be in a reconnection we make with an old friend. Maybe it will be sharing a meal and much-needed laughter with a stranger. Or maybe it will be through retelling our favorite Christmas story to children.
Whatever it may be—in the midst of our great quest to recapture the gift of Christmas—God is about to give us what we so desperately are seeking: presence. This Christmas, presence is a hope that says there is a God who hasn't forgotten us. This is a Christmas presence of acceptance, hope and joy from a God who loves us so much. In fact, this is a Christmas presence that is just as great to give as it is to receive!
Christopher L. Schilling is a San Francisco Theological Seminary master of divinity student.
[Editor's note: This Advent season, we will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. The reading for this post is Romans 8:18-27. Keep reading Bread Blog for more Advent reflections.]
By Adlai Amor
For several years now, Bread for the World has partnered with various churches in presenting meditations for Advent and Lent. This year's Advent devotions (Dec.
2-25), "Hope for All the Earth," comes to Bread Blog readers via a
special arrangement with the San
Francisco Theological Seminary.
"Hope for All the Earth" devotions are written by SFTS students, alums, faculty, staff, and trustees. According to SFTS, the devotions "collectively serve as our gift to the SFTS community, our family and friends, and the larger church. Many people find that devotions are a great way to begin each day during the holiday season."
The theme comes from the Advent hymn "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus." Composer Charles Wesley based it on Haggai 2:7 and Isaiah 9:6.
The San Francisco Theological Seminary is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Established in 1871, it is the only PC(USA) seminary on the West Coast.
We'd like to thank all the SFTS students, faculty, and alumni. I hope our readers will enjoy "Hope for All the Earth."
Adlai Amor is Bread for the World's director of communications.