By this time of the year most of us have inundated by Christmas stuff. Shopping, cards, decorations. I see these houses with so many lights and do-dads that you can hardly get in the front door. I don’t think even Santa will be able to navigate through all those lights. Christmas is not presents nor cakes nor chestnuts roasting on an open fire or even family members coming from all over. Christmas is not even church services where we all go to enormous lengths to say "ta-da" to this holy time. I love all these things, but they aren’t the real Christmas.
This is why we came—not to be reminded of our finitude. God knows we feel it in our bones, and some of us in our backs and legs and arthritic hands. We come kneeling and hoping that something or someone will whisper forgiveness so that we might start again. Believing or at least hoping that these 40 days that lead to the cross might just touch something deep in our hearts.
The priest comes and dabs his finger into the ashes.
Before his assassination Archbishop Romero of El Salvador had a practice
of reading at the Eucharist the names of members of his church who had
either ‘disappeared’—or died the previous week. As the prayers of the
community were spoken—the names were be lifted up one after another.
People today often speak of a world that has changed dramatically. The
old pillars of morality, values and truth seem to have shifted.
Newspapers and other periodicals are disappearing. Technology has
changed our lives. There is an anger in the land. Many, worried about
jobs and the future, are scared, tired and frustrated.
The Christians in Jerusalem’s early church were in crisis. Should they admit gentiles into their fellowship? Could gentiles be believers? Resolution of these questions did not come easily, but finally the Jews swallowed their pride and begrudgingly allowed the gentile outsiders to come into the fold.
A missionary friend was scheduled to speak about his mission work at a distant church. He got up before daybreak that Sunday morning and drove 300 miles, preached at two services and spent the afternoon speaking with members of the congregation. As he was leaving that evening, the treasurer of the church gave him an envelope, which he tucked in his pocket for the ride home. It was very late when he returned home. As he undressed, he remembered the envelope. He turned on the light in the bathroom and opened it. Out fell a check with his name written on it in bold letters. Under his name were the words: A million thanks! It was signed by the treasurer.
The first Sunday of October is World Communion Sunday. Christians around the world remember that we are linked with brothers and sisters of all colors and languages. There is no better time to remind ourselves of this truth than in these days, when so much of the world is divided into a multitude of warring camps.
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