Monday, November 14, 2016

The Party-Driven God!

"Do not be dejected and sad. For the joy of the Lord is your strength!"
Nehemiah 8:10

The Party-Driven God!
By Rev. William Dohle

How does your family celebrate the holidays??

Last night at our Couples Group at St. Paul, a group of us discussed how each of our families celebrated the holidays. It was really cool to hear the differences.

Some people traveled all over the place for the holidays. Their Christmas season consisted of going here and there and everywhere!

Some people stayed at home(my wife and I were among them). Because of distance, we chose to spend the holidays with family that was nearby. We really didn't have the traveling problems that the rest did.

Some people had lots and lots of traditions.

Some people had few.

Some were deciding on how much to decorate.

Some had already decorated.

The Christmas holiday is great for Christians, I think, in that we have so many different ways to celebrate.

But what is the right way? Or is there? Is there a right way to celebrate the holidays? Is there a way ordained by God?

You might be surprised, but the Christmas holiday isn't mentioned in the Bible. Not once. The disciples never celebrated Jesus birthday and if they had, they would have celebrated in the fall and not in the winter. There is a lot of history behind Christmas, why Christians celebrate it in winter and what the significance the 25th of December is. (Spoiler alert: It has to do with a pagan goddess who is said to have been born on the 25th. The Christians just subsumed an ancient Roman tradition.).

So with no guidance from scripture, are holidays important? Is it right to set aside one day apart from all the others?

The answer to this is a resounding: Yes! Holidays are important!

In the book of Numbers, for instance, God commands his people to celebrate certain holidays. Here's a list of holidays that Israel is commanded in Numbers to celebrate:
  • The Sabbath(or Shabbat). This is a weekly holiday. Why? God figures we need a chance to rest each week from all our labors. God rested in creation and God commands his people to do the same.
  • The Feast of Trumpets (Or Rosh Hashanna). This celebration takes place in September and is the Jewish New Year. If you have a chance to attend services at a synagogue on this day, I highly recommend it. It's a powerful testimony to the greatness of God! Plus it's a lot of fun!
  • The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur... This is the day when the people atone from their sin. More than 24 hours of total fasting and praying occurs on this day. Traditionally, it is said that at the close of Yom Kippur, God makes his final decision on each persons fate for the year and records it in the Book of Judgment.
  • The Feast of Tabernacles(or Succot) : Just 5 days from Yom Kippur comes Succot. During this holiday, Jews dwell outdoors in a booth. Tents are erected outside homes and synagogues and Jews are encouraged to eat the first meal of their holiday in it.
  • Passover (or Pesach) : This commemorates God's deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. For seven or eight days, Jews eat Matzah(unleavened bread) and abstain from foods containing leaven. Modern Jews celebrate this with feasts called Seders which recount the story of the exodus.
  • Feast of Weeks (or Shavuot). This celebrates the giving of the Torah. It takes place approximately 50 days after Passover. It's also called, in Greek, Pentecost.
There are other holidays that Jews celebrate. These are just the ones mentioned in the book of Numbers.

Probably the coolest part of learning about this holidays is simple. These are the holidays Jesus and his disciples celebrated! Jesus never celebrated Christmas. Never said "Merry Christmas" or put up a Christmas tree. Jesus never celebrated Easter or any of the other holidays we celebrate today. Jesus celebrated these ancient holidays, celebrated still by the Jewish people today.

But even these holidays and their celebrations have changed over time. With the Temple gone, none of the sacrifices commanded can be fulfilled. The ways of celebrating even these holidays have changed. But the spirit remains.

And as Christians begin to enter into the seasons of our holidays, where Advent is followed by Christmas which will be followed, two months later, by Lent and Easter, we too may find inspiration in these holidays. For God isn't a God who disdains our celebrations but one who celebrates with us. God is the one who invites the homeless and the outcast and the widow and those without a family and friends to come to the table to celebrate and party. For God loves a good party and God wants even those we've cast out at the table with Him.

Give us joy, God, as we celebrate while, at the same time, opening our eyes to see and welcome those hanging out at the edges of our celebrations. Amen.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Direct Connection

" his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he and all the Israelites with him, the whole congregation." Numbers 29:21

Connecting with God
By Rev. William Dohle

Sometimes I wish I could sit down with God, face to face, and talk with him. Don't you? To know what God knows and understand what God understands. That would be awesome!

I know it's impossible. A mere mortal talking to the divine. Such a feat wasn't even possible for Moses who is said to have spoken personally with God. Moses caught God's backside, not his face.

But sometimes when I'm praying it'd be nice to have a direct answer instead of an inferred one. Sometimes I'd just like someone to talk to, face to face. To know what God thinks right then.

As Moses retires from being the leader of the Israelites, the people lose this direct communication. They lose a face to face interaction with the divine.

Earlier in the Exodus and throughout the wilderness, whenever Moses needed an answer, Moses would "inquire of the Lord" and the Lord would meet Moses in the tent of meeting. From the burning bush through the encounter at Sinai, God had always spoken and interacted with Moses directly. In the wilderness, at the tent of meeting, Moses would hear what God had to say and then pass that onto the people. It was as direct of a connection as anyone ever had.

But after Moses retires, that direct connection stops. God doesn't establish that direct line with anyone else. Instead, Joshua son of Nun is instructed to hear God's word through the Urim.
"But he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the decision of the Urim before the Lord." (Num 27:21).
What is the Urim, you ask. It's a divination tool, used to discern the will of the Lord. In a way, it's an ancient Magic 8 ball. The priest inquires of the Lord and consults the Urim and the Urim reveals the will of God.

Quite a difference from the face to face interaction the people had in the wilderness, huh?

So why would God change the way he interacted with his people? Why would the people suddenly start communicating with him via a Magic 8 ball tool?

As you read the Scriptures from the start all the way through, the way God communicates changes. In the beginning, God is walking in the garden, creating things with God's voice, and hovering visably over everything. In the Exodus, God does great deeds of power and leads his people out with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

But then, starting here, God takes a step backward. God starts communicating through Prophets and priests who receive God's Word via tradition and vision.

So why the transformation from direct conversation to indirect? What's going on here?

Perhaps God was expanding the ways he would communicate with his people. Instead of relying upon the word of one person(a person whose word may be fallible) his people would have to discern for themselves what God's will was. Perhaps he was helping his people infer what to do. Or perhaps God was preparing the people for incarnation, where God would reside not in a tent or a temple but body of one man, Jesus, and thus in the hearts and lives of all.

For whatever the reason, we see the results of that decision today. For, listening closely, we can hear God incarnate in the world around us.
Ever see a sign on the road that gave you the answer you were seeking? That's God.
Ever hear a song on the radio that said exactly what you needed to hear? That's God too!
Ever get a phone call at just the right time from just the right person about an issue that had bothered you? That's God too!
Ever been hugged and feel the love and care of another human being...that's God.
Ever been told by someone you're worth something to them...that's God too!
In fact, Joshua's Urim reminds us that God may not speak audibly to us. But God still interacts with us and through us.
We are the messengers of God. We are God's angels on earth. We are the ones through whom God will speak and act in this world. We are!
We are the answers to someone else's prayers just as they are the answer to ours.
We are the answer we are seeking, the whisper in the dark, the voice that we long for.
We are the answer because of this event. Because God decided instead of communicating to one man to become incarnate, first in the Urim and then in Jesus and now, through the Holy Spirit, in us.

Speak to me and through me, God, that your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Unforgivable Sin or Natural Consequence??

" disobeyed my command to honor me as holy before their eyes." Numbers 27:14

Unforgivable Sin or Natural Consequence??
By Rev. William Dohle

Have you ever done something so bad that someone else couldn't even be in the same room with you? Something so terrible that whenever they were around you, they avoided you, looked away from you, and, at times, ran the other way?

I have. Or at least I've got this reaction from people. I've been avoided, ignored, looked past, and made to feel like nothing. What I did to them is a mystery. I honestly can't remember the offense. But, still, I have been treated as if I have committed the unforgivable sin.

Sins are strange when you think about them. We talk about forgiveness a lot, especially as Christians. We speak about the power of God's forgiveness to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and help us live a holy life. We confess our sins on Sunday. Hear God's words of forgiveness. And then we leave it there, believing that God will forgive and forget.

We believe God forgives. But when it comes to forgiving others...that's where we struggle. We have a hard time letting go of what others do to us. So we cling to that sin. We hold onto it. We use it against our neighbor whenever we have a chance. All the while claiming we've forgiven them and moved on.

What is it about us that we can't let go of what is done to us? What about us makes us cling to the sins of others, allowing them to color our impression of them and their families?

Do others truly commit unforgivable sins against us? Do we really need others to apologize before we'll forgive them? Or is our actions just the natural consequence of their actions? Maybe it has nothing to do with forgiveness at all. Maybe the natural consequences of them harming us in us avoiding and leaving them. Maybe its as natural of a consequence as failing is when we've ignored our school work. It's just what happens when someone sins.

Moses on the mountain as he's looking over the promised land which he will never enter, is presented with what seems to be the consequences of his action at Meribah. Or maybe its the price he pays for an unforgivable sin. For whatever reason, Moses there is told the reason why he's being held back. God says:
"After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, for when the community rebelled at the waters in the Desert of Zin, both of you disobeyed my command to honor me as holy before their eyes." (These were the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.). (Numbers 27:13-14)
Now I've read the story of Moses at the waters in the Desert of Zin and it doesn't seem Moses did anything so wrong there. Yes, he disobeyed the literal words of God. Yes, he struck the stone instead of speaking to it. But maybe it was a mistake. Maybe he didn't mean to do it. Maybe he was so burned out and frustrated with everything that was happening that he just had to lash out. It happens...right?

And what about all the years that Moses did exactly what God wanted him to do. I mean he didn't want to go in the first place. And he went. He didn't want to love and care for the people but he did. What about all the positive things Moses did beside this one negative thing? They must count for something.

And isn't God a God of forgiveness and mercy anyway? "Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and ready to relent in punishing."?? Isn't that who God is??

So why is Moses being burdened with this crazy sin? Why at the end of his journey does he get held back because of this??

I really can't say. Maybe not entering the promised land is a natural consequence of disobeying God at  the waters of Meribah. Maybe God isn't quite as forgiving as we think he is. Maybe Moses did indeed commit the unforgivable sin.

I can't wrap my head around this story. But I do know this. I believe in the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness starts with God. God has forgiven us. I believe, despite what this story may suggest, that God is "gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." And God is ready to forgive at a moment's notice.

As a Christian I see that forgiveness in Jesus and the way Jesus forgives others. I see through Jesus that same forgiveness in God and I believe that in Jesus we experience the full forgiveness of sins.

And I am challenged to be better than even God in this story. To truly forgive others and let them into my heart, into my promised land, even when they have committed an unforgivable sin.

Maybe that's the point of this after all. To challenge us with the limits we place on our own forgiveness. Natural consequence or unforgivable sin, we've gotta let go!

Help me to forgive my neighbors and mean it, reflecting that forgiveness in what I say and do around them. Amen.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

It's not just your job!

"May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord's people will not be like sheep without a shepherd." (Num. 27:15-17)

It's not just your job!
By Rev. William Dohle

I love to garden. I really do. In Montana, we had a good size garden full of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and even some really large pumpkins. We had raspberries and some strawberries too. Every year we'd go out and plant what we could, water it as we would, weed, and finally take in the harvest. It was a nice sized garden. Not too big and not too small.

I love to garden. But I can't imagine gardening this much. I can't imagine picking all these strawberries in the field above by myself. I can't even comprehend how much work is involved.

Gardening is great...but farming needs help. It needs people to come in on shifts, to pick the strawberries one person misses and strip the plants of their fruit. It needs more than one person at a time to work and more than one shift to get the job finished. In the end, to finish the job right, it needs a steady stream of leaders and workers.

The job of ministering to the world is the same.

I am a minister in the world. I serve a congregation of Lutherans in Peoria, Illinois. My job, though, was here before I arrived and will be here long after I am gone. My job was ably done by Pastor Tuhy and Pastor Borcherding and by other pastors before them. They shepherded the people I pastor now.

Someday my job will be passed on to another who will have the privilege of walking with these people too. Thus is the legacy of ministry and of any job. This isn't my ministry. It's God's. And I am but one worker in a line of workers.

It's not just my job.

This is what I think Moses realized too as he gazes over the land on the mountain in the Abarim range. The Torah tells us that he was gathered to his people, like Aaron was, because "both of you disobeyed me to honor me as holy before their eyes."(Num 27:14). You might think that Moses is mad at God for doing this. Or if not mad than a little sad.

But I think Moses is glad to be done with leading the people of Israel. I think he's ready to pass the mantle onto another.

After all the stress that came from leaving Egypt to all the complaints in the desert to countless times the people rebelled and had to be dealt with. All of this still weighs onto Moses, I think. And I think he's ready to be done with it. Ready to say "It's not just MY job anymore."

God, who is gracious to us, helps us do the same thing Moses did. When our time comes, God helps us pass on the leadership to the next generation and move on. God helps us let go as others take leadership of the group that WE use to lead. God strengthens us for whatever our next task is. And God gives us vision to see how our work fits in with the larger picture.

I think Moses saw what was ahead on that mountaintop. Gazing down at his people one last time peering back at their past and forward into their future, Moses saw what God had done through his hands.

And I think it made him smile.

Give us vision, Lord, that we may see our place as one piece in the puzzle of Life. Amen.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Evening the Scales

"But let justice roll down like a river and righteousness like a never failing stream." Amos 5:24

Evening the Scales
By Rev. William Dohle

There's a game we use to play in science class in school. One that I always found fascinating.

You take a scientific scale, one that has
a metal plate on either side suspended over a rod. On one side you put something heavy. Say a rock or a piece of metal. On the other side you place on it the various weights and you see how many weights measure up to your heavy thing. If one large weight and eight small ones balanced the scales, you can measure how much the heavy rock weighs. Evening out the scales was a simple way to measure the weight of a particular object.

Scales operate on balance. One side must equal the other. In society we call that justice. On one side are the needs, desires, wants, and arguments of one person or group of people. On the other side are the needs, desires, wants, and arguments of another. The goal of justice is to balance them out, never giving more weight to one than the other.

Ideally it works perfectly the first time, but sometimes weight must be added to one side in order to balance the scale out. One person or people must be favored in order that justice will prevail.

We see this kind of justice played out in the 27th chapter of Numbers where the daughters of Zelophehad (Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah) are given their father's inheritance after their father dies.

Now a few questions come to mind here...
#1. Why is THEIR story told? After all there must have been countless others who had questions about their inheritance after their parent died. Why is their story told?
#2. Why are they named? Why is THIS story so important? It seems odd that each and every one of them are named, doesn't it? Especially since they don't appear anywhere else in the Bible.

We may answer both of these questions with our scale of justice.

At Moses' time, a woman's status didn't matter. Not really. In a society centered around the son, where the firstborn son inherits everything, women really didn't matter much. If they had had a brother still living, their weight couldn't compare to that of his. With no brother, the lack of justice here was apparent.

Their story may have been dismissed in such a society. But it isn't. Instead it's brought before God and God rules in their favor. Their story matters to God! They matter a whole lot! And God puts God's own weight behind them to balance out the scales and provide justice.

And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, "The daughters of Zelophehad are right in what they are saying; you shall indeed let them possess an inheritance among their father's brothers and pass the inheritance of their father on to them."(v. 7)

God puts God's weight on their side. Justice is served. And justice, in this case, favoring Zelophehad's daughters because Zelophehad's daughters matter!

In the United States, the question of which lives matter has come up. In the wake of racial violence in Ferguson and throughout the country, some have said...

Black Lives Matter!

Pointing to white privilege and an injustice inherent in our system, they have lent their weight to the black community in America. In an effort to balance the scales, they favor focusing on the black community. At the same time another voice has countered that voice...

No... All Lives Matter!

They argue that no life matters more than another. That we shouldn't pick one minority or another. That we should lift up all lives as mattering equally. That the scales of justice are already equal.

The problem with this second argument is that its countered by the facts. All lives don't matter equally right now. They just don't. It's not a matter of favoring one group over another, its a matter of recognizing that injustice is being done and the only way we can do justice is by lending more weight to the minority.

Black lives haven't mattered as much. They just haven't. Think about how much American history centers around white Europeans. How many notable black Americans living before the Civil War can you name off the top of your head? They were there! But they've been forgotten. Think about how many white Europeans are read in English class. Think about how many white scientists are celebrated.

If black lives matter as much as white European lives do, then why aren't they better represented in our culture and what our culture teaches?

Black lives haven't mattered to most Americans. And neither have other minorities. At the same time as we speak on behalf of the African-American community, we must recognize that other minorities haven't mattered either. Hispanics, Native Americans, Jews, Muslims. We don't know their unique histories or their contributions to our society. We don't study their culture. We ask them to assimilate into mainstream American life, forgetting that that mainstream America is centered on the white, European story. They don't matter as unique people. Not really.

A year ago or so, I took a two-year class on Jewish history. I was amazed! So many things I never even knew about. Why don't we teach Jewish history as a part of our history? Why don't we study their migration into Spain, their expulsion, the rise of Polish Jewry, and what led to the Holocaust. It could all be one unit even. And we can do the same for other minority cultures too especially including the black community without which we wouldn't be the country we are today.

Black lives matter because they need to matter. The scales need to be balanced. If justice is to flow like a flowing river and righteousness like an ever present stream, than the story of the white European has to diminish so that their story may be told. And once their story is told and their lives matter more, then the story of other minorities, the Hispanic, Native American, Jewish, Muslim, and other neighbors can be raised up as well.

And finally...finally we might live in a just society.

God of Justice, let the scales of our world be made equal. Diminish the majority so that the minority can speak and be heard, that all may find peace in this life and forever. Amen.

Monday, August 22, 2016

According to Plan or Rolling with the Punches??

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: "The daughters of Zelophehad are right in what they are saying; you shall indeed let them possess an inheritance among their father's brothers and pass the inheritance of their father on to them." Numbers 27:6-7

According to Plan or Rolling with the Punches??
By Rev. William Dohle

Four weeks or so before we left on our big vacation this summer, we sat down to make a plan.

We needed to know where we would stay and how much we'd need to bring. We decided to stop in Amarillo, Texas. We decided to stay in Ontario, California when we traveled there. We already had our reservations for Disneyland thanks to my parents. And we decided to stop in Lincoln, Nebraska on the way home.

For the most part, everything went according to plan. We had no unexpected stops or bumps in the road. Besides a rainstorm that God saw us through, the roads were great!

That hasn't always happened that way. One trip we took out to Utah from Colorado turned into a nightmare! We were traveling to a friend's wedding. There was a massive blizzard in Wyoming, so bad that you couldn't see the road in front of you. I was drifting off the road, both from exhaustion and from the snow. We stopped at the worst motel we've ever stopped in and prayed we could get out the next morning. Thankfully we did and we made it to Utah, just twelve hours before the rehearsal! It was a mess!

Plans have a way of doing that to you. Either they work out just as you thought they would. Or they don't and you have to roll with the punches.

God's plans work very much the same way.

Take the daughters of Zelophehad in the book of Numbers. Zelophedad was son of Hepher son of Gilead son of Machir son of Manasseh, son of Joseph, a member of the Manassite clan. He planned on having a son to pass down his inheritance to as well. Unfortunately he only had daughters. Five of them in fact. Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.

Now in his journey across the wilderness to get to the Promised Land, Zelophehad died. He didn't plan to die. He just did. And he died leaving no sons to carry on his name.

Now this is a problem for ancient Israelites. After all, the SON takes the name of the father and inherits all the father's estate. (We have this same thing happen in America as daughters take the last name of their husbands). But he had all daughters. He didn't plan on having all daughters. He didn't plan to die. It just happened.

So the daughters go to Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders, and all the congregation, and say: "Our father died in the wilderness; he was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin; and he had no son. Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father's brothers."(Numbers 27:3-4)

Now what should Moses do?  They hadn't planned for this to happen. They planned on every family having at least one son to pass the family surname and estate onto. This sort of thing didn't happen.

So Moses brings it to the Lord. And the Lord rolls with the punches. "The daughters of Zelophehad are right in what they are saying; you shall indeed let them possess an inheritance among their father's brothers and pass the inheritance of their father on to them."

In other words... plans have changed, Moses. We've gotta roll with the punches here!

This event brings me to a curious question. Does God have rigid plans for us or does God roll with the punches??
Did God plan on Zelophehad having no daughters?
Did God plan on Zelophehad dying in the wilderness?
Did God plan on this issue being brought forward to Moses and the Israelites?
It seems to me that, despite all that we might think, God's plans aren't rigid. They;re actually pretty flexible.

And that fits what we read in the rest of Scripture. In Jeremiah, God assures his people that he still has plans for them.
"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future." (Jer. 29)
In the book of Romans we read about God's plans too.
"For we know that in all things God works for good of those who love him, those who he has called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)
God's plans, you see, are flexible enough to roll with the punches, to take whatever comes. God doesn't plan on you losing your job...but that loss can turn into gain when you find something else in a new chapter of your life. God doesn't plan on your marriage falling apart...but the death of that relationship can lay fertile ground for other relationships. God doesn't plan on someone dying...but that doesn't stop them from being with God or their memory from living on.

God's plans are flexible. Even when ours are not.

We are like Moses, stuck in the plans we had before the unexpected. Moses did right. He went straight to God. When the unexpected happened, when these five daughters came with their request, Moses knew to go to the Flexible One, the One whose plans are that we have a hope and a future, who wants the best from us. So Moses goes there and finds a new plan and a new way of living.

Maybe we could say that God plans on death and resurrection. Things dying and something else new taking its place. He planned the world that way in nature. New things grow where the old things have died. Maybe those are his plans for all of life.

Maybe that's what "plans to prosper give you a hope and a future" really mean.

The plans we think God has are just temporary details. His true plan for us is shown in Jesus Christ where through our death God gives us new life.

Give us eyes to see, God, what your plans are for us and faith to trust that, even when our plans fail, you still give us life. Amen.

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Promise Just Out of Reach

"Among these there was not one of those enrolled by Moses and Aaron the priest, who had enrolled the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai." Numbers 26:64

A Promise Just Out of Reach
By Rev. William Dohle

I read something the other day that made me pause. It said:

In one hundred years from now there will be all new people!

I paused when I read it's true! None of us will be around in one hundred years. None.

Those that are one or two years old today might have a chance of seeing life in 2116, but for the most part, most of us will have left this place to our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.

And that gave me pause. I'm a Futurist, you see. I enjoy peering into the future, not just in literature but in our world and our church today. If I'm not here to see the fruit of my labor, what does my labor mean? If a whole new group of people will enjoy or suffer from what I do today, what should I busy myself with then?

I wonder if this is the question the people of Israel faced wandering through the desert. God had said...

"They shall die in the wilderness. Not one of them was left, except Caleb son of Dephunneh and Joshua son of Nun."(Num. 26:65)

In other words, if you were a normal Israelite slave back in Egypt and had left with Moses, if you had seen the parting of the Sea of Reeds for yourself and had witnessed all the plagues of Egypt, your eyes would not gaze upon the Promised Land. It was not for you to see. Instead, your children would enjoy what you struggled your whole life to enter.

This realization can bring a new clarity to life. I've come to realize that, in large measure, most of the things we work and struggle for today will be meaningless in a hundred years. The arguments we get into sound crazy ridiculous to people in a hundred years. The things we strive for. The shows we watch. The ways we entertain ourselves. Think about what life was like in 1916. Do you think they could have imagined the world a hundred years from them?

And yet we are called to keep our eyes always fixed on the Promised Land, whether we enter it ourselves or not. We are called the "repair our broken world", to "announce the kingdom of God", and to "strive for the prize that awaits us."

We are a people always on the edge of the Promised Land, never quite there yet. It's prize is always just out of our reach. And yet, God calls us there all the same.

May God strengthen us with patience and with courage and diligence, that we may do something productive with our lives here and now that will better the world he has given our grandchildren in the future.

Eternal God, give us eyes to see the consequences of our actions today, well past our own human horizon, that what we do today might matter to people far beyond our years. Amen.