Reflections on Faith
In this blog, you will find weekly reflections on life and faith. My hope is that, in some way, they will prove helpful to you in your daily living. May God bless you on the spiritual journey.
Andrew S. Odom
Published on 12/19/2016 @ 9:28 PM CDT
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)
Have you ever had someone sneak up behind you without you knowing it, and they put their hands over your eyes and ask you to guess who? You try to guess and are completely surprised to find out who it actually is.
This is the style of the beginning of Luke’s gospel. Luke quietly sneaks up on us with the good news of Jesus Christ. Of all four gospels, Luke easily has the longest advent story. He tells not one, but two birth announcement stories, followed by two birth stories. He also tells about the shepherds in the field. With each little tale, Luke slowly sneaks up behind us with God’s great incarnation surprise. To read the first chapter of Luke is to be massaged into the wonder of Christmas in a found nowhere else. By the time you get to the first verse of chapter 2, Luke is standing behind you with his hands over your eyes and whispering, “Guess who?”
Then you open your eyes, and the first words you see are these, “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” May this week do what Luke does so well and sneak into your heart with the joy of Christ’s birth.
Published on 12/19/2016 @ 9:04 PM CDT
“Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15)
Sunday after church the Revelation Youth Choir sang the music of Christmas outside of Dillard’s at North Park Mall. As I sat in attendance, I focused my attention on the shoppers passing by in the seasonal consumer craze. I watched as their rush from one store to another got interrupted. I watched as the hallowed voices of the choir hit their ears. I watched. Some of them immediately smiled. Others got a bright look of refreshment and peace on their face. A few of them simply had to stop and sit down to bask in the beauty of a moment where God showed up in the marketplace. Every single person I saw, in one way or another, gave the impression that they had just received an unexpected gift in the middle of their “go from point A to point B, have to get it all done” day.
Our youth choir is a very talented group, but that is not the best part of them. Their best quality, and this I witnessed first-hand, is that they are completely willing to share themselves with the world. They do it without hesitation. They are filled with joy when they do it. And isn’t that the Christmas gift in a nutshell, a willingness to share our very selves with those around us because God shares himself with us? The choir took that gift seriously on Sunday at the mall, and because they did, hordes of people stressfully trying to complete their holiday sprint went home with the holy sound of Christ’s birth echoing in their ears and piercing their hearts with hope that the world might just have a chance after all.
Published on 12/12/2016 @ 8:32 AM CDT
You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)
I recently read a story about a teacher in an impoverished area in Colorado who goes through the same experience every year when she learns the names of her new class. Every time she does it, she inevitably comes across a name that has more than one pronunciation. When the student is asked for the correct pronunciation, the typical response is, “Whatever is fine.” It is then that this teacher stops and, with clarity in her voice, replies, “No, it is not. It’s your name. Tell me how to say it.” Her hope in doing so is to help students understand the importance of their name. For some, she says, it is all they have.
Life is uncertain and messy. It comes with no guarantees. It holds no promise that tomorrow will be better than today. But when we are baptized, Jesus calls us by name and then gives us his name. Amidst the uncertainty of life, the name that is above all names is generously and abundantly given to us, imprinted upon our very souls. God claims us in baptism, promising us a life filled with the sound of his voice and the confidence of his presence, the one who keeps calling us by name. After all, nothing is quite as personal as a name. In the end, it is all we really have, and it is enough.
Published on 12/05/2016 @ 8:45 PM CDT
Your thoughts, how rare, how beautiful! God, I’ll never comprehend them! I couldn’t even begin to count them, any more than I could count the sand of the sea. (Psalm 139:17-18)
What will the next year really bring? What will the next presidency really bring? Will our country behave? What is going on? How did we get here? These are the questions that continue to be asked. Societal anxiety continues to rise. We are worried and unsure. It can be paralyzing.
Congregational consultant Susan Beaumont recently wrote about the anxiety that has popped up in churches. “How do we remain centered when everyone else seems so anxious?” she asks. Her answer is to reclaim a sense of wonder. “Wonder trumps anxiety. We cannot be filled with wonder and remain anxious at the same time. Wonder is the ability to feel amazement, admiration and curiosity about something. Wonder invited our best, most creative thinking. Wonder connects us with God.”
Psalm 139 is an exercise in wonder. Read it when you get a moment. You will find the psalmist writing about enemies that seemed to be everywhere. But instead of allowing the voices of fear or cynicism or judgment to take control, the psalmist returns to a place of wonder and curiosity about God. Instead of a prayer that ramps up the anxiety, we end up with one of the most beloved and intimately captivating prayers in the Bible.
As we move toward Bethlehem and the miraculous Christmas promise, take note of the voices in you that are cynical and fearful and judgmental. Acknowledge them. They are part of you after all. And then, sit silently and ponder the whole of the Christmas story. Take time to wonder about God, the one who is in and above all time and space, the one who was born in a pile of hay. Wonder trumps anxiety.
Published on 11/29/2016 @ 8:36 AM CDT