Now Is The Time Lent Study

The Least Noticed - Reflections - 12-29-16

 Texts for Sunday  January 1, 2017
 New Year's Day

 Ecclesiastes 3:1-13
 Psalm 8
 Revelation 21:1-6a
 Matthew 25:31-46

This past Sunday, Christmas Day, I shared an adaption of Tolstoy’s short story, Where Love Is, God Is with those gathered at worship.  The main character, busy watching out the window for Christ, sees other people in need and helps them. Later he learns that Christ was there in the forms of those he helped. I told the crowd that I didn’t do very well at seeing God revealed in others, especially the needy and vulnerable. Then I said, I need to be challenged on this.

Well, the very text from Matthew 25 which inspired this tale is on the docket for Sunday. Maybe not challenged quite that often?

This Sunday we celebrate New Year’s Day. From Facebook posts, I see that 2016 cannot end soon enough for many. The losses, anger, fear, violence, disappointments, and heartache have become too heavy. We are ready to move beyond all that.

The scripture texts to which we turn for New Year’s give a long view of time and show God’s steadfast love for humankind. These texts certainly do not negate our feelings from this last year, but they do encourage us to invite God into the mess; they both comfort and challenge.

Ecclesiastes reminds us that “this too shall pass”. There is a time for every matter under heaven, and then a time for its opposite. This is the experience of being alive. 

Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God has placed a sense of eternity in us. We intuit God’s perspective without the details. Combine this “God's-view” with God’s assurance in Psalm 8 that we were created as partners in God’s work and we can begin to get a sense of our own meaning/purpose within all those seasons of Ecclesiastes. 

We move, then, to the end time. Revelation assures us that our God is not a distant God but one who decides to dwell among us. God meets us here not there. With God’s powerful presence in our midst, we are comforted even as all things are made new. 

Then that Matthew text... God also dwells outside of our comfort zone. The angels and the throne of verse 31 throw us off. We are not face to face with a powerful king. Instead our Lord appears only and always in the need of “the least of these”. “How did I miss that?” say both the sheep and the goats... and me. 

...before we can "be Christ" to our neighbor we need also to "see Christ" in our neighbor - David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, 11-13-11

Think about it. 
The New Year offers an excuse to examine your spirit and heart.

The first 8 verses of the Ecclesiastes passage provide a wonderful opportunity for reflection. Ponder each “a time to”. How would, or has, each of those times played out in your life? And how about the time with which it is paired?

Take time to look around this amazing world…. check out the stars, or a plant, or your own hand. Psalm 8 says that humans are treasured and called upon to care for creation. What can you do this year to care for creation?

Or image that God has come to dwell with you? What might change?

Finally, where have you missed God-in-flesh?

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245