Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Prophet of Advent First Wednesday of Advent - B

"O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the LORD!"
(Isa. 2:5)

you reached into
the dusk of chaos
and brought out the sun
to warm me on a winter's day;
the moon to illuminate my path
on an evening's walk;
the stars to be my companions
during a sleepless night.

you stretched out your arms
toward the twilight of death,
rolling away the stone
covering it's heart,
so that i could be set free.

you found me huddled
in the murky corner of my despair,
taking me by the hand,
pulled me to my feet,
and we went off skipping
into your kingdom.

i will walk in your light,
my Lord,
i will walk.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, November 18, 2005

Do you want me to read to you?

More years ago than either one of us would want to admit, my mother gave me the gift that, as the phrase goes, keeps on giving.

The gift of words.

She started out by reading to me as I snuggled up in her lap, or lay in bed, safe under the covers, and warmed by the love in her eyes, smile and voice. Then, she began to help me sound out the words for myself, and to discover that these 'things' created from 26 letters could be gateways to the world, challenges to the mind, solace for the lonely, comfort for the grieving.

I cannot think of a moment in my life when I did not have (at least) one book within easy reach. Even in college and seminary, when I should have been focusing on textbooks, I was delving into mysteries, thrillers, novels, biographies.

But my mother also took the time to make sure I was introduced to the Word. And as most folks attest, it was a transforming moment, which continues to shape my life, guide my walk, give me hope, and challenge my unwillingness to let go of my all-too-human desires.

And now, as I share words with people through my writings and preaching; as I seek to introduce others to the Word of hope, of joy, of peace; asI try to challenge the unwillingness of others to let go, I am even more grateful for that gift my mother gave me so long ago when she asked,

"Do you want me to read to you?"

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, November 14, 2005

Only a dream?

We were talking about prayer yesterday during the education hour, about forms of prayer, 'tools' for prayer, etc.

I mentioned my 'dream' that somehow, in some fashion, the church could offer a prayer room for folks. It doesn't need to be big and it doesn't need to be fancy (after all - a chair, a table with a Bible and a candle would be all the 'furnishings' most of us would need). But it would need to be solely devoted to the purpose of prayer.

Not a room where debates are held, decisions made, and people's toes might be stepped on. No, a room where hurts are offered for healing, where discernment is sought, where relationships are made whole.

Not a room that which would need to be rearranged (reluctantly) so a few people can pray, but then has to be put back into place right away so a meeting can be held. But a room that might sit empty for days on end, but is available and open when it is most needed.

Not a room where cast-off chairs sit, but a room where the outcast can climb up into God's lap and be loved, welcomed, affirmed.

Not a room where boxes filled with dusty records are stored, but a storehouse of prayer, of silence, of wonder, of awe.

Not a room where that old, out-of-tune piano Aunt Sadie gave to the church years ago can be found, but the hill in Bethlehem where the angels first sang; the sheepfold where the Good Shepherd protects his lambs; the living room where our Parent sits looking out the window, longing to spy all of us prodigals trudging wearily home.

Wouldn't it be nice if every church had such a room?

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, November 07, 2005

One of the reason I put off going to seminary (other than the deep conviction that the phone lines had been crossed when I got the 'call') was my inability with languages other than English, which presented problems of its own.

When I finally did give in to the God-who-is-like-a-tenacious-bulldog and went to seminary, you can imagine my surprise that I not only made it through Greek, but absolutely loved studying Hebrew! In fact, my study of Hebrew gave me a new appreciation for the wonder, the grace, the steadfast love of the God the Chosen revealed to us in the Old Testament. It removed any lingering questions about there being two different gods in the two different testaments.

Take the concept of 'commandment.' I grew up, probably like most folks, believing that the commandments given in the OT, especially the Top Ten, were "orders" given to us by that stern and punishing God who shook the mountains. If I took a candy bar off the shelf, God would turn up the flames in hell a little bit. If I gossiped about a friend, the dial was turned to medium. And if I wanted to sleep in on Sunday instead of going to church - well, I was toast!

Then I learned the Hebrew word 'mitzvah' (which we translate into English as 'commandment'). What a difference! Instead of an order, I discovered a honor and privilege given to us by God who has given us life. Rather than a rule, I found a responsibility that is mine as part of the covenant God has made with me. A burden that was almost impossible to carry became a good deed that I am longing to perform over and over. Grace replaced guilt, love overcame law, faith trumped fear.

No wonder the psalmist could talk about these words being a delight. God gave them to us, not so we would become lawyers, but so we would become lovers.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman