You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide
in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord,
‘My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.’
– Psalm 91:1-2, NRSV
A funny thing happened on the way home from a recent trip Debbie and I took with family overseas. In making our connection half way through on the way home, we had to go through a control station for ticketed passengers. As we scanned our boarding passes, all of the family members in our traveling party got a green light except for Debbie. As a result, she was directed to a separate security line for an extra TSA inspection. When she did not emerge from this extra inspection in a timely manner, we were told that we would meet her at the gate. After what seemed to me to be more than a long time waiting at the designated gate, I began to become concerned, even to the point of making mental plans to stay overnight in Reykjavik in case we missed our connecting flight. The TSA folks told Debbie this would never happen, but I did not know that. Just as my turn at the customer service counter was coming up to inquire what to do, Debbie appeared and all was well. We made our flight, returned home safely, and were in church the next morning ready for worship. Thus even though everything turned out well, my level of anticipation trended more toward anxiety than hope.
Advent is a season of anticipation, and as such, we too often will experience unnecessary anxiety when instead we should be filled with greater hope and joy. Even beyond Advent, we will often worry and become apprehensive how the details of our life will work out. Yet, God already knows that they will and has a plan in place for each of us. The birth of a small child in a stable in Bethlehem is God’s way of telling us to keep working on our journey – but not sweat the overall outcome. In a cosmic TSA sense, God has already passed us through security and will be sure that we reach home safely and on time.
As a result, may the Advent and Christmas holiday season find you healthy and in a good place in your travels with God. We invite you to join us here at the Ramapo Reformed Church as you are able. We look forward to sharing the joy of Advent and Christmas as we celebrate together the arrival of Emmanuel in our lives and in the world!
Anchored in the past, sharing Christ’s message today, and growing in faith into the future.
[Jesus] appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me – 1 Cor.15:5-8, NRSV
I almost fell for a scam a week or so back. I am embarrassed to admit, but I came close to giving away a sizable sum to someone who had called the church office. Normally I think of myself as fairly scam resistant. I do not have any relatives in Nairobi who need advance funds to transfer over a large estate. My grandchildren are too young to be kidnapped by terrorists and held for ransom. Nor do I believe anyone who claims to be calling from the IRS warning me that I am going to jail if I do not pay some as yet unforeseen back taxes. The scam for which I almost fell, however, centered on shutting off the electricity to the church because the church did not pay a deposit when our new smart meters were installed last year. These guys, and there was more than one, were quite good at what they did, and I was this close to authorizing a debit payment over the phone, which one should never do. I learned my lesson and what saved me was the customer service representative at the local Acme who said I was the third person that day coming in to do the same transaction. She urged me not to do it and instead told me to call the police, which I did. As a result, I view my relief at not getting scammed greater than my embarrassment at almost falling for it.
In his first letter to the Corinthians in chapter 15, the Apostle Paul is, in a way, warning against scams as well. Except the ironic twist is that he is talking about not becoming scammed by the Christian faith, for which he is an evangelist. He writes:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised … If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1Corinthians 15:12-16, 19; NRSV)
But before we hurry to get in line to pity the Apostle Paul, he fully knows that our shared faith is anything but a scam. Why? Because he met the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Certainly we will encounter times of doubt and trials as well as feelings of anxiety and helplessness. But as God strengthens us in ways we cannot always put into words, this in itself is quite an apologetic for the veracity of our hope and trust in God. What can we say? The Christian faith is not smoke and mirrors but has been put to the test (and passed) for nearly 2000 years. Not only has it found to be worthy, but inversely, is there for us who have proven to be totally unworthy.
Thus as we continue into the fall season, getting back into the familiar rhythms of the year, may God grant us the wisdom to protect us from those scams artists who would seek to steal our material possessions. And may we be secure in the knowledge that our faith can never be taken from us. In fact, we have been instructed to give it away as often as we can. May God’s grace fill you with hope and joy in the coming months ahead and continue to bless you on our shared journey of faith.
Anchored in the past, sharing Christ’s message today, and growing in faith into the future