Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Colossians 1:15-20
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

MERRY CHRISTMAS! Now, everything is different, right?! For the church at Colossae believing in Jesus Christ was universally reorienting. The invisible had been made visible. Thrones, rulers and dominions were as sands in an hour glass; the only realm worthy of recognition is the realm of God. On this day where we remember the day of Jesus’ birth, we remember that he is the first born among the dead; the sting of death is no more and Life is in its abundance. So, once again, I say, MERRY CHRISTMAS!! This is the day when you can reassess your relationships, your identity and your entire life in light of the gift of Christ. You are forgiven! You are loved! You are free! Take a moment today to give thanks to God for claiming and calling you all over again; Christ is born to you and in you today! MERRY CHRISTMAS, you’ve received the best gift of all.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Undignified Holiness

I recently read a Facebook post by Jim Wallis (a favorite theologian and author of mine), where he stated a number of ways Pope Francis reminds him of Christ...

“Pope Francis reminds me of Jesus, calling us again to a deeper relationship with Christ. When he invites homeless men to have breakfast with him on his 77th birthday, or provides a chair and food for the Swiss Guard outside his room, he reminds us of Christ. When he kisses the feet of Muslim prisoners, or offers to baptize the baby of a woman who was pressured to abort it, he reminds us of Christ. When he asks, ‘If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?’ he reminds us of Christ. When he chooses a simple place to live and simple clothes to wear and when we hear rumors of his going out at night in disguise to minister to the homeless, he reminds us of Christ.”

Throughout this Advent season, I hope you also have had encounters like these. You don’t have to be the Pope to invite a homeless person into your life; you don’t have to be the Pope to visit prisoners; you don’t have to be the Pope to share a moment of grace with someone who is struggling through a difficult circumstance; you don’t have to be the Pope to comfort those who mourn; you don’t have to be the Pope to choose and model a life of simplicity; and you don’t have to be the Pope to love all God’s children with the radical love, grace, and humility of Christ - which Pope Francis emulates each time he does one of these seemingly “undignified” things.

It is refreshing to see a world renowned religious leader lay down his crown - his worldly power and authority - to reach out and hug a man with leprosy or welcome a hug from a child while he’s addressing a crowd. But isn’t he just doing what all Christ-followers should do? Isn’t he simply following the lead of a God who loved the world unconditionally; who was willing to become humble and take on human form; who didn’t mind getting the holy hands dirty in the stench of a stable; who didn’t think twice about entering the world through a woman’s womb; who dined with sinners; who welcomed children; who allowed a prostitute to wash the holy feet with her tears?

As we celebrate this most holy night, I pray we will look for ways to embody the Incarnate Gift of God’s Love in our own lives. I pray we will follow the lead of our children who have helped the Grinch’s heart grow to an immeasurable size with their FirstActs of Kindness. I pray we will not only give from our pocketbooks, but also give of our time, talents, and passion. I pray we will look beyond the walls of our church, our work places, our homes, and our hearts - and extend the grace of God to anyone we meet.

In so doing, we will not only welcome and receive the Christ Child, we will also give birth to the kind of Christmas miracle God dreams for the world:

The miracle of a world where the oppressed receive good news; the broken-hearted are healed; the captives are set free; those who mourn are comforted; songs of gladness and praise are lifted high; and the devastation of many generations is repaired, renewed, restored, and reconciled with the God who created and loves us all.

Praise be to God! The time is near. The Prince of Peace enters our hearts and our world anew. It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. Hallelujah and Amen!

Rev. Becky Walker, Minister of Adult Formation

Monday, December 23, 2013

Harvest Time in the City

Matthew 9:35-38

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” 

“I feel like I’m here to learn something special,” a homeless friend I met on the street explained to me earlier this week. 

“It’s like I’m in a field, a wide field and the ‘harvest’ spreads out before me, but there’s no one to help with the gathering!” he continued. 

The conversation reminded me of the longing, prayerful words of Jesus in this text. 

People need relief. 

People need grounding. 

People need connection and community.

People need hope, direction, joy, peace and love. 

Through St. Matthew, we learn that Jesus’ strategy involved at least three practical dimensions.

First, his mission led him out to the crowds.  His ministry was the ultimate in itinerancy!  He moved from town to town and from gathering place to gathering place to bring a message shaped by the good news that the kingdom had arrived.  There was no waiting for folk to come his way!  Through Advent we’ve waited for the great arrival.  Here we see what the arrival meant for all humanity!  God moves aggressively toward God’s world, and God invites us to join the journey outward.

Second, Jesus delivered what people needed.  His arrival brought healing of all sorts of human maladies.  Jesus didn’t come just to talk!  Jesus came to engage, to change life and circumstance.  By tackling the deepest pains of those he met, Jesus defined and displayed the authentic nature and the clear intent of God’s amazing kingdom in the here and now.

Third, Jesus recognized the pitiful plight of the people he came to liberate.  The people Jesus addressed and healed were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  The backstory of the oppression of the people he came to touch moved him deeply—his compassion could not be constrained.  Jesus lived and worked as the strong shepherd who would upset and remove the forces of oppression and tyranny that captured those he loved so deeply. 

Advent and the incarnation call us to move out beyond the safety of church and clan where we discover people in need of grace.  The life of Jesus we celebrate today compels us to take action to provide what people really need.  The amazing child of Christmas presses on our hearts to work alongside the oppressed for liberation in a world of injustice and darkness. 

Like my homeless friend, Jesus recognized a labor shortage in the company of the kingdom.  The call of Christmas is to join the revolutionary movement created by this amazing child.

Rev. Larry James, President and Chief Executive Officer of CitySquare