Speaking of Life 3013 | Rainbow’s Promise
Speaking of Life 3013 | Rainbow’s Promise
Do you remember the first time you saw a rainbow?
Rainbows are iconic, universal, showing up in legends and stories throughout history. Despite years of pollution and our increasingly busy lives, rainbows still make us stop…and look up.
The first recorded rainbow appears in Genesis 9, just after the flood recedes. Noah walks out into the steaming earth and hears the voice of God:
I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
Genesis 9:13-15 (NRSV)
This is what is called by theologians “The Noahic Covenant”—one of several agreements that God made with Israel—and by proxy all the world.
And here we see this strange imagery of the rainbow. “I have set my bow…” This word “bow” is the same Hebrew word as the bow of battle. To the original readers, the bow would have been a common sight in battle. It meant war and death.
But for God to “set his bow” meant that war was over, that the struggle was over. This is the sign of the rainbow in the clouds, turned away from us, a bow at rest.
That rest is what we remember when we see it. and it reminds us of all of life. As violent as the storm might be, the rainbow will be there—the power of the thunder and rain turns to beauty and color. That’s all that’s left standing.
The covenant reminds us that a devastation like a flood won’t destroy us again. God will not destroy us and start over; he will work with us and through us to accomplish redemption. He works through each storm in our lives to make beauty and light come through.
Instead of ending history, he works within it. And instead of starting over with humanity, he became one.
He set his bow in the sky. He set his covenant that he will always work with us and within us on our relationship with him. Let’s remember this promise when the storm comes.
I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of Life
In this season of Epiphany, we’ve seen the light of the world shining brighter, guiding us through the darkness. We’ve met the prince of peace, who brings calm to our turbulent lives.
With hearts aglow, we’ve embraced these truths. Our Savior, the embodiment of grace, has reached out to us with open arms to embrace all of humanity.
Today, we ascend to a metaphorical mountain. Picture it as a sacred place where heaven touches earth, a mountaintop of revelation. Here, in the presence of Jesus, we witness his radiant divinity.
Transfiguration Sunday marks the conclusion of Epiphany, transitioning us into a season of reflection and repentance, Easter Preparation. Our journey has unveiled the radiant character of God, seen in the love, grace, and compassion of Christ.
Just as the Transfiguration elevated Jesus on the mountaintop, it elevates our understanding. We see who we truly are in Christ. This profound revelation challenges us to embrace our divine identity.
As we stand at the precipice of this divine encounter, let us remember that our identity is woven into the very identity of Christ. We are called to radiate his love, grace, and compassion.
The Transfiguration is not an isolated event. It’s a continuous unveiling, a constant reminder of who Christ is and who we are in him. His glory transcends time and place.
Join us on this spiritual journey, where the light of the world continues to shine, and the transformative power of Christ’s radiant presence awaits.
Stay with us as we explore the significance of this moment, ready to embrace the glory of Christ that can change our lives forever.
Speaking of Life 3010 | Felt Not Seen
Speaking of Life 3010 | Felt Not Seen
Work is a central part of our lives. I mean, we have to have an income to support ourselves and our families. We talk about “hard work,” and we’re suspicious of work that seems too easy. As human beings, the idea of work means putting forth effort, either mentally or physically, and having a tangible outcome. Some of the greatest works human beings have ever made are called “wonders of the world,” like the Taj Mahal in India or the pyramids in Egypt.
If we think about natural wonders in the world, those same people might say some of God’s greatest works are the Grand Canyon in the United States or Mount Everest in Nepal. Or perhaps the Great Barrier Reef in Australia or Victoria Falls in Africa. These are breathtaking natural wonders–clearly not made by man.
The manmade wonders I mentioned, like the Taj Mahal or the Egyptian pyramids, certainly are a visible outcome of hard work, but the effort of creating them came at the expense of human beings, usually slaves. God’s wonders and works, however, never exploit human beings and instead, show love and care for all beings. Further, his greatest works are felt in the heart and not seen.
One of the best places in the Bible to hear descriptions of God’s works is the book of Psalms. Let’s look at a few verses from Psalm 111:
Great are the works of the Lord; they are studied by all who delight in them. Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the Lord is gracious and merciful…. The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. Psalms 111: 2-4, 7 (NRSV)
If we look closely at the descriptions the psalmist gives for God’s works, we see qualities of God’s heart: honor, majesty, graciousness, mercy, faithfulness, and justice. Not only are God’s works beautiful and majestic, but they also reflect his goodness and his love. In other words, they reflect who God is by revealing his heart.
When we consider the beauty and majesty of the Grand Canyon or Mount Everest, we know they were created by a loving God who is devoted to showing his great love and compassion for all people, for all creation. The next time you visit or see a picture of one of God’s wonders, allow your heart to dwell on the love, compassion, and faithfulness that brought those wonders into being. This is the same Creator who made you and me, the same Creator who became human to draw us into a loving relationship. The greatest works of God are felt in the heart, not seen.
As you witness beauty in the world God created for us, I hope you experience his love and compassion.
Mi nombre es Heber Ticas, Hablando de Vida.
Speaking of Life 3009 | Jonah—Prophet or Cautionary Tale
Speaking of Life 3009 | Jonah—Prophet or Cautionary Tale
If you ask anyone about Jonah, what will they say the story is about?
The whale. Every kids’ book and cartoon adaptation of Jonah features some hybrid of Moby Dick and Jaws creeping up out of the seaweed to swallow the hapless prophet.
But the real story is much bigger. Jonah is asked by God to avert the destruction of Israel’s sworn enemy, Nineveh. Jonah, out of an ethnic hatred of these people and anger about God showing them mercy, ran in the other direction as fast and far as he could.
At one point, he even chose to kill himself by jumping into angry seas rather than obeying God’s call. In his own rage and bitterness, he would rather die than soften his will to God’s.
God turns the tables on him by sending, as we all know, a giant fish.
God turns the tables again by hearing the Ninevites repenting and holding back his judgment.
But Jonah remains unmoved. He ends the whole book arguing with God over whether God is allowed to show mercy to these people.
In a sense, Jonah gets his theology right, but he misses who God is. Sure the Israelites are the people of God, sure the Assyrians were bloodthirsty and godless, but in the book of Jonah we read, God is:
“…a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” Jonah 4:2 (ESV)
Isn’t that who we want God to be? Sure! But Jonah was blinded by his own self-preservation and his own thoughts on how God should be acting. Instead of a prophet, his story became a cautionary tale.
Has that ever happened to us? Have we ever so figured out how God should be acting that we miss what he’s doing? Does an obsession with theological details sometimes cause us to lose the big picture—that God loves the world and wants to draw everyone to himself?
Let’s not forget that God’s main business is love—and that love is messy, fuzzy, spontaneous, and generous. He’s not going to follow whatever expectations we have for him, and he’s not consulting us on how far to extend his grace. Halleljujah! Let’s be grateful! Embrace his lavish love for you and for your perceived enemies. That’s how GOOD God is.
I am Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.
Speaking Of Life 3008 | Lukewarm Coffee
Speaking of Life 3008 | Lukewarm Coffee
I have a friend who likes her coffee lukewarm. Her husband on the other hand will only drink it piping hot. Early in their marriage this created a moment of tension. One morning her husband prepared some fresh hot coffee just the way he would like it. Then he surprised her with a cup to enjoy for her morning reading. She seemed touched by the gesture, but he noticed that she didn’t drink it. In fact, she let it sit so long that he knew it would no longer be any good. From his perspective she had wasted his efforts of kindness.
But, instead of showing frustration, he took her coffee and went to heat it up in the microwave. Now it was her turn to be frustrated. From her perspective he was about to undo her patient waiting for the perfect cup of coffee. Thankfully, with some sharing of coffee preferences, marital disaster was averted. The problem wasn’t that her husband didn’t know how to brew coffee. It was that he didn’t know his wife.
I think we could all agree that the best gifts come from those who know us best.
With that in mind, listen to this Psalm that speaks of the Lord’s knowing of us.
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.” Psalm 139:1-4 (NRSV)
We could read more of this passage to discover that the Lord knows us better than we know ourselves. As the one who created us, we can know that he is the only one who knows us perfectly. And that means he knows the perfect gift to give us. The Christmas season we just celebrated was all about that perfect gift—Jesus Christ his one and only Son. In this gift, God the Father has given us himself to be known. This is what we were created for, to know the Father like the Son knows the Father.
When we receive the gift of Jesus, we will also have an epiphany about ourselves. As we come to know Jesus, we will come to know ourselves the way our Creator knows us. It’s only after receiving the gift of Jesus that we come to see that knowing the Father and being known by him is the life we are made for.
And since he knows us perfectly, we can trust he knows how to brew the perfect cup of coffee—even if it’s lukewarm coffee.
I’m Cara Garrity, Speaking of Life.
As the night sky glistens with the brilliance of countless stars, we are drawn to the story of the magi, following a star to worship the Light of the World.
Matthew 2:1-12 recounts their pilgrimage, their hearts set on finding the source of this celestial light, a light that leads to the very presence of God.
In the midst of simplicity, in the heart of the humblest abode, they find the King of Kings, the one they had traveled so far to worship.
Just as the Magi brought their gifts to the Christ child, we, too, offer the gift of our worship, our adoration, and our devotion.
“As we embark on this journey of Epiphany, let us remember that the Light we seek is not confined to a single location, or a single group of people, but shines forth for all to see and bask in the warmth.
When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Matthew’s account reminds us that when we seek the Light with open hearts, we, too, will find ourselves in the presence of God.
Today, as we gather in worship, let us offer ourselves to Jesus as the magi did, in awe and reverence before the One who is the true Light of the world.
As we journey through this season of Epiphany, may the Light of Christ continue to lead us, illuminating our path and revealing the boundless love of our Savior.
Speaking of Life 3005 | The Twist Ending
Speaking of Life 3005 | The Twist Ending
There are almost 7000 movies on Netflix. And that’s only one of the dozen or so streaming services available. Right now, we are awash in stories, narratives, and characters. As human beings, we’ve always loved stories, and technology transforms our living rooms into home theaters.
Personally, I enjoy movies that make me think, and allow me to be the ride along detective. The twist ending is a favorite device these days. That last act/scene where the bad guy turns out to be the good guy or the poor character turns out to be royalty. The move included an avalanche of scenes that gave clues you simply didn’t see.
The whole story, through all it’s twists and turns, comes together in a new light suddenly. You may not have seen it coming, but when the twist comes it makes sense of everything else.
Much of Paul’s writing explains the twist ending of the gospel—which is Jesus. Paul connects the story of Jesus with the story of Israel and the rest of the world, showing how the gospel ties everything else together.
Look at Galatians 4:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.
Galatians 4:4-5 (NRSV)
The fullness of time. The long story of Israel — God setting one nation apart, then one family line, then one family, then one person who represents all of humanity.
Jesus didn’t come because the law failed. He didn’t scrap all that had gone before to start a new story, he completed the story begun in Adam and Eve. In fact, the real beginning isn’t Genesis, it’s John 1, where we see that Jesus, the Father and Spirit have always existed in perfect relationship. John tells us that Jesus became flesh to enter the story at the appointed time. He is the twist ending that makes history—his story—make sense.
Do we recognize Jesus as the twist ending for us? Is that part of the story that was missing in your life and mine that makes everything come together? Think of those places where Jesus is described as the capstone or cornerstone—not the stone that everything stands on, but the piece that makes all the others come together, makes everything neatly fit into place.
He completes not only your story, and mine, but the grand narrative of all of humanity—all the wars and dynasties and joy and pain in all of history. Jesus is not the ghost in the machine who comes from nowhere, but the twist ending the story was building to all along. And it is good news.
I am Greg Williams, Speaking of the good news of Life.
In the quiet of this holy night, we gather to celebrate the coming of the Light of the World, a beacon of hope in our waiting hearts.
Isaiah 9:2-7 foretells the birth of a child, a son given to us, whose light would shine in the darkness, bringing joy and peace to a weary world.
In the vulnerability of a child, we find the promise of God’s boundless love, a love that knows no bounds.
As we gather in this season of Advent, we join a chorus of voices echoing through the ages, proclaiming the arrival of our Savior.
Tonight, we light the Christ candle, a symbol of the Light that has come into the world, dispelling the shadows of doubt and fear.
As the flame grows, may our hearts also be kindled with the fire of God’s love, warming us from within.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied exultation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders,
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Great will be his authority,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Isaiah’s words remind us that unto us, a child is born, a son is given, and he shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In this sacred space, may we feel the presence of Emmanuel, God with us, as we come together to celebrate the birth of our Savior.
As we journey through this Christmas season, may the Light of Christ guide our way, leading us to a deeper understanding of God’s boundless love.
Advent - Love
Advent – Love
In this sacred season of Advent, as we gather in hushed reverence, we are reminded that love is at the heart of it all.
Psalm 89:1-4 calls us to sing of the steadfast love of the Lord forever, to declare God’s faithfulness to all generations.
As we kindle the Advent candles, each flame represents a beacon of love, illuminating the path toward the birth of love incarnate.
In the vulnerability of a child’s birth, we witness the boundless love of our Creator, a love that knows no limits.
Love, like the pure snow that blankets the earth, covers over our flaws, bringing renewal and peace.
I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.
You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to my servant David:
‘I will establish your descendants forever
and build your throne for all generations.’ ” Selah
Psalm 89 reminds us that God’s love endures forever, an everlasting promise that cradles us in times of need.
In this season of Advent, let us open our hearts to the love that transcends boundaries, a love that unites us all as one human family.
May our gatherings be a testament to the love that brings us together, to the love that fills this sacred space.
As we journey through Advent, may God’s love be our guiding star, leading us to the manger where Love was born.
Advent - Joy
Advent – Joy
In the tender embrace of Advent, we find ourselves on the cusp of a wondrous journey. Like the first light of dawn, joy begins to illuminate our hearts.
In Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, we hear the prophet’s voice, a herald of good news to the oppressed, a proclamation of liberty to the captives, and the promise of joy for those who mourn.
We witness the human experience, where joy and sorrow intermingle, where we long for a deeper sense of purpose and meaning.
Advent reminds us that joy is not a fleeting emotion, but a wellspring that flows from the heart of God, reaching out to touch our lives.
Isaiah’s words speak of transformation, of beauty rising from ashes, of joy blossoming in unexpected places. It’s a promise of renewal and hope.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
Isaiah 61:1-3 (NRSVUE)
During this Advent season, let us open our hearts to the joy that comes from selfless giving, from being present for one another, from finding purpose in the service of others.
In this season of Advent, may joy be our guiding light, filling our hearts with hope and our spirits with praise.
Like stars in the night sky, may our joy shine brightly, a testament to the light that has come into the world.
Advent - Peace
Advent – Peace
In the quiet moments of Advent, we find ourselves in the wilderness, where the hustle and bustle of the world begins to fade away. It’s here, in this sacred space, that we encounter the promise of peace.
Isaiah 40:1-11, a timeless passage, invites us to prepare the way of the Lord. It calls us to make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
In the midst of life’s deserts, amidst the rough terrain of our own struggles, we yearn for a peace that transcends the chaos of the world.
Cut to a bustling city scene, with people rushing in all directions. The camera captures the frenetic energy of the urban environment.
But in this season of Advent, we are reminded that peace is not found in the noise and distractions. It is not found in the clamor of our daily lives.
True peace is found in the stillness, in the calm waters of our souls. It’s a peace that flows gently, like a river, quenching our deepest thirst.
Isaiah’s words remind us that God is our shepherd, tending to us like a loving caretaker. He gathers us close and leads us with gentleness and care.
Transition to an image of a shepherd guiding his sheep through a peaceful pasture. The camera captures the harmony between the shepherd and the sheep.
This Advent, let us open our hearts to the promise of peace. Let us prepare a way for the Prince of Peace to enter our lives and calm our restless hearts.
In this season of Advent, may peace be our guiding light, illuminating our path and bringing solace to our souls.
“For the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together.”
Advent - Hope
Advent – Hope
In a world filled with uncertainty and darkness, we find ourselves journeying through the season of Advent. This sacred time of waiting and anticipation reminds us of the profound significance of hope.
Isaiah 64:1-3 in the New Revised Standard Version reads:
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!”
As we look around, we witness the struggles of our world—a world yearning for divine intervention, just as Isaiah did. We see nations in turmoil, hearts in despair, and lives shattered by adversity.
But Advent whispers a promise—a promise of hope. It calls us to prepare our hearts and open our eyes to the light breaking through the darkness. The hope that transcends our circumstances and points us to a Savior who comes to heal, redeem, and lead us into wholeness.
In this season of Advent, let us kindle the flame of hope in our hearts. Just as the prophets of old cried out for God to rend the heavens and come down, we too cry out for God’s presence to be known in our midst.
In our gatherings, in our prayers, and in our actions, let us be bearers of hope. Let us be the hands and feet of Christ, demonstrating love and compassion to a world desperately in need.
Isaiah reminds us that even in the darkest of times, we have a God who hears, a God who cares, and a God who brings hope. This season, let us embrace the message of Advent and let the hope of Christ’s coming fill our hearts with joy and expectation.
As we journey through Advent together, may we be the living embodiment of hope, shining God’s light into the world’s darkness.
As we await and long for Christ’s arrival, may hope be our guiding star, illuminating our path and filling our hearts with the promise of a love that knows no bounds.
Speaking of Life 5053│The Why of Praise
Speaking of Life 5053│The Why of Praise
Many people are familiar with Psalm 100. It’s called a “psalm of thanksgiving,” and it encourages the entire earth to “make a joyful noise.” That sounds like a good time to me! But what I want to focus on today is the why – why should we “make a joyful noise?”
Let’s set the stage by reading what we should be doing:
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him; bless his name.
Psalm 100:1-4 (NRSVUE)
Notice all the things we “should” be doing – making a joyful noise, serving with gladness, singing, knowing that God is our Creator, and giving thanks and blessings to the Divine. While these verses can be instructional, if you’re like me, you often want to know “why” you need to do something. And by knowing why, it connects the head with the heart. Our actions become linked to heartfelt emotion, and what might have been routine, mindless acts suddenly become infused with meaning.
Let’s look at the last verse of Psalm 100 to understand why we would even consider making a joyful noise, serving with gladness, or any of the other actions the first four verses tell us we should do:
For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever and his faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 100: 5 (NRSVUE)
The reason we respond with a joyful noise and thanksgiving is because God is good, but verse 5 does more than leave the definition of “good” up to our human imaginations. It defines God’s goodness as “steadfast love” and “faithfulness.”
The phrase “steadfast love,” can be more expansively defined as “kindness or love between people” or the idea of giving yourself fully to another. God gives steadfast love fully to each one of us, and we know this by Jesus’ crucifixion, where God’s Son endured the hatred and mistreatment of humankind so that we could be brought into the triune relationship. We also have evidence of the fullness of God’s steadfast love through the gift of the Holy Spirit, our Helper and Comforter, who lives in us.
The word “faithfulness,” refers to trustworthiness in relationships. God’s way of moving in the world reflects his loyalty and commitment to humanity. This trustworthiness in relationships was demonstrated by Jesus’ commitment to people who were often marginalized in his culture, like women, children, and Gentiles. Jesus went out of his way to encourage, hang out with, and even heal those who had no power or money to offer him. This is God’s way of showing his trustworthy commitment to people while pointing out the problems with man-made systems and cultures.
God’s complete commitment and loyalty to all of humanity is what inspires our praise. When we make that “joyful noise,” it’s because we understand the goodness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
May we make a joyful noise, knowing the fullness of our triune God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.
I’m Jeff Broadnax, Speaking of Life.