Reflections on Faith and Community
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
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. (Luke 1:46)
Luke 1:46 notes the first words out of Mary’s mouth when she greets her cousin Elizabeth with the news of her pregnancy. As you may know, Elizabeth was also pregnant, soon to become the mother of John the Baptist. I’ve always pictured that meeting as one filled with more joy than two people could handle. I can see both of them jumping about and laughing together feeling more abundantly blessed than they could have ever imagined. They were ripe with life, God’s life. It was a fun day, in the best sense of the word.
I believe I felt something similar last Sunday as we worshipped together. Both of our services were filled with joy as the music and our singing echoed around the sanctuary. It wasn’t just the sounds of Advent that did it. It wasn’t just the fact that we were singing the carols of the season or witnessing the incredible musical talent of our praise team at 9 AM or the sanctuary choir and instrumentalists at 11:05 AM. No, it was more than that. Sunday morning had the feel of a people who are ripe with life, God’s life.
I wanted to echo Mary’s words when I left the Canyon Creek campus on the heels of outstanding worship. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” What a fun day it was, in the best sense of the word. It made me feel more abundantly blessed than I could ever ask for or imagine. I hope it did the same for you. May God be with you this week as we continue to wait with expectation for the God who will, yet again, surprise us with faith, hope, and love… and life.
Published on 12/18/2018 @ 1:42 PM CDT
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. (Psalm 62:1)
On Sunday during the children’s time at the 9:00am service, Liz Rasley played a game with the kids where they passed around a ball of plastic wrap. They each took a turn pulling off one of the sheets of plastic wrap that, slowly but surely, uncovered the baby Jesus. During the unwrapping, kids began getting a little antsy having to wait. Even Liz ended up having to speed it up some due to “lack of time.” It was a perfect example of how we don’t like to wait.
I remember how hard it was to wait for Christmas when I was a child. Everything seemed to take ten times as long as normal. The days seemed to drag on and on… the hours... the minutes even. It felt excruciatingly painful. It is easier to wait for Christmas the older I am, but it is still difficult to wait when I don’t want to do so. When I am running late, everything seems to take longer than normal. The lights stay red longer, the cars seem to move more slowly than usual, and it feels like everything that could happen to slow me down, does happen. I don’t like to wait.
Eugene Peterson once said that busyness is a disease of the spirit and that restlessness is a sign of it. If that is true, and I believe it is, then the waiting game of Advent is the cure. Let us all receive this season of Advent as a lesson in waiting. May our souls wait, not with reluctance, but with expectation. May we all welcome the art of waiting into our lives that Christ might show up in our hearts with the surprise of hope and joy.
Published on 12/11/2018 @ 1:26 PM CDT
Published on 12/04/2018 @ 8:24 AM CDT
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the Lord is good. (Psalm 100:4-5)
For a stretch of Thanksgivings when I was younger, a friend of mine would join my family for dinner on Thanksgiving Day. He was the youth director of the church I grew up in, and he was not always able to go home to his family. So, he came to my house. I remember going around the table saying what we were each thankful for. When we got around to him my friend said, “I am thankful to have a place to go today, to spend this day among friends and family.” It clearly meant a great deal to him.
At the very base of our faith is the assurance that we have a place to go. It is a certainty that reverberates throughout the whole of scripture. In the garden, Adam and Eve had a place. When Abraham set out, he had a place. When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they had a place. When the prodigal was lost, he still had a place. When you feel alone, you have a place. This place is not oriented around a location, but a person. Our place is with God. Whenever we give thanks, we are noting that God has given us a place by wrapping us up in the love of Jesus Christ.
Not everyone has a place to go on Thanksgiving, but that does not mean they are without a place at all. The good news is we have each been invited into the family of God. We each have a place. May you reflect that great truth this week in how you live and how you love. Be on the lookout for those who feel as if they have nowhere to go. Remind them that they have a place too.
Published on 11/13/2018 @ 4:20 PM CDT
Restore us, O God. Let your face shine, that we may be saved. (Psalm 80:3)
This seems like the right line, the right prayer, the right posture. I can’t begin to imagine how the families of those shot on Saturday at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh are handling this: deep grief, deep loss, renewed sorrow from the past. One of the victims was a holocaust survivor. Did you know that? To say one’s heart aches barely even scratches the surface. Restore us, O God. Let your face shine, that we may be saved.
I grew up in a neighborhood with a large Jewish community. We were all friends. People jokingly referred to my school, Hillcrest High School, as Hebrew High. It all seemed innocent at the time, just a playful phrase. I don’t think so now. When we were kids, we would banter back and forth with Jewish and Gentile jokes. We thought it was all in good fun. I don’t think that way now. No, I think of my friends in the wake of this weekend, and I wonder how they are doing. I wonder what kinds of seeds were being planted back then. What kind of world were we helping foster? Restore us, O God. Let your face shine, that we may be saved.
It has become clear to me now that the years of my ministry will be littered with these kinds of horrors, and I readily admit that I don’t feel equipped to face it. Does anyone? And then I watched the news as Rabbi Jeffrey Myers spoke about how much love they have already received from people of all religions: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and others. “Love is how we beat hate,” I heard him say. How was he able to say something like that so quickly? I also read how one of the nurses taking care of the shooter in the hospital was herself Jewish. How could she do that? How is that possible? Pictures like these stick out in my mind as examples of the immediacy of the presence of God in the midst of pain and anguish and evil. When we say, “Restore us, O God. Let your face shine, that we may be saved,” God shows us people like that and says, “I am.”
Published on 10/29/2018 @ 9:49 PM CDT