Advent II – Wonder

Message by Lynn Fry

     Good evening, thank you for the invitation to share this evening; however, I really am wondering what I’m doing up here right now!  Since we haven’t been here very long, I thought it might be helpful to tell you a little about myself. My husband John and I reside in Scotland and are the parents of three adult children. Prior to joining St. James, we were members of St. Luke Lutheran Church, Chambersburg, where I served as the Coordinator of Faith Formation and Outreach. I am a graduate of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg with a master’s degree in Religion and a concentration in Christian Education. No pressure, my former advisor and friend, Nelson Strobert, is presently evaluating this message! John and I are thankful we have found a home at St. James. We were attracted to this family of faith as we observed and learned about your many outreach ministries, the outstanding music and the variety of worship styles you incorporate into gatherings. Vocationally, I recently began my third year serving as the Program Director for Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania.

     How appropriate that I was given the topic of wonder. I have always been a curious person wondering since elementary school about social classes, migrant workers’ rights, respect for God’s creation, overpopulation and the stress it would place on resources to name just a few. Was that song “In the Year 2525” recorded by Zagers and Evans really going to come true – would we survive? Since my childhood of course there have been numerous causes of concern and social injustice to respond to.

     All of this describes one meaning of wonder. I know throughout my life I’ve struggled at times trying to find the balance between wonder in the sense of why is the world the way it is and wandering in the wilderness (as we read in Isaiah); seeking my sense of life’s purpose, along with the awe of wonder embracing the rare moments of grace-filled wonder God has shared through the decades. The birth of children, the hope found in rainbows, mountain top experiences like ELCA Youth Gatherings, church retreats, the warmth of conversations around the table with family and friends. The unexpected God moments when life and faith just seem to click.

    Let’s re-visit the Peaceable Kingdom found in Sunday’s reading from Isaiah 11:1-10.

1A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
  and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
  the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
  the spirit of counsel and might,
  the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

 He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
  or decide by what his ears hear;
4but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
  and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
 he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
  and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
  and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

6The wolf shall live with the lamb,
  the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
 the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
  and a little child shall lead them.
7The cow and the bear shall graze,
  their young shall lie down together;
  and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
  and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9They will not hurt or destroy
  on all my holy mountain;
 for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
  as the waters cover the sea.

10On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

      According to the Lutheran Study Bible, Isaiah is the longest and perhaps most important of the prophetic books, offering the full range of God’s prophetic message: terrifying words of judgment and comforting words of promise.  Isaiah portrays God as the powerful Creator, like no other, and also the gentlest comforter, like an earthly lover or mother.  The New Testament quotes Isaiah more than any other prophet, especially its proclamation of hope for a coming messiah.

     Reflecting on this passage brings me back to my grace-filledmoment of wonder last week as I was contemplating this evening’s message. Little did I know that speaking this evening would provide me with an aha moment! Let me explain.

     Last week I was really moved by the realization that God’s had my plan or purpose in life available and ready for me to move through for decades. It was a grace-filled moment of wonder! Certainly, I’ve had choices to make along the way as he/she has provided me with a healthy brain to assist me in this process. God’s guidance through our lives reminds me of our GPS devices – constantly making adjustments if we don’t follow the guidance exactly as shared. It really hit home last week that from an early age I recognized in my life the most important things were God; family; and vocation. Yes, I was blessed to be raised in a family that attended church regularly. Sunday dinners did include conversation about the day’s sermon and its application to life. At Christmastime my sister and I would play church in our living room, processing with the electric candles, the stairs would serve as the choir loft and the landing as the pulpit. I fondly recall, as many of you do also, the wonder and magic of late-night Christmas Eve candlelight worship services.

     Over the years God has opened many doors for me to walk through allowing me to grow in my faith and recognize the interdependence all of us and creation have with one another. The realization that neighbor is everyone, not just those living on my street, in my state, country or North America, God said everyone is my neighbor. It doesn’t matter that everyone believes as I do that you love the Lord Your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind; I am still commanded to love my neighbors everywhere as myself. When you really get down to it, it’s not as complicated as many human beings want to make it. I WONDER why we simply can’t trust God’s commandments and follow them?

     As the Program Director for Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania (LAMPa) I do my best to live out these commandments. The LAMPa mission statement reflects God’s commandments: In response to God’s Love in Jesus Christ, we advocate for wise and just public policies in Pennsylvania that promote the common good.  LAMPa equips Lutherans in Pennsylvania to live into their baptismal call to “strive for justice and peace in all the earth.”

     Called by the Holy Spirit, trusting in the grace and love of God, we look for the bridges where the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together and a little child shall lead them.

     LAMPa is a part of the ELCA.  Our primary funding source is ELCA World Hunger. Along with our colleagues in our ELCA Advocacy Office in Washington DC, we are governed by ELCA Social Statements advocating in a non-partisan fashion. LAMPa is the oldest ELCA State Public Policy office; celebrating our 40th anniversary this year. We are a two-person office that covers the entire state that includes 7 synods representing two regions of the ELCA.

     Informed by our ministries around the state and our partnership with ELCA World Hunger, we work to end hunger in Pennsylvania and build up communities where ALL may thrive by encouraging public witness on issues important to the flourishing of God’s beloved creation. Are you aware one in seven adult residents of the Commonwealth are food insecure with one in six children also facing food insecurity? At LAMPa we work in collaboration with several coalitions including Hunger-Free PA, the Interfaith Justice Coalition, the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, LIRS and LDR to name a few.

     Each year, along with our LAMPa Policy Council, we develop an Advocacy Agenda.  Front burner issues for the coming year include hunger, creation care, immigration, poverty, healthcare, hate crimes and human trafficking.  Of course, we respond to additional issues as needed and legislation is introduced. LAMPa issue information and resources, along with upcoming events, are available on our LAMPa web site. We disseminate information to interested folks through monthly e-newsletters, Facebook, twitter, and through Action Alerts where you are asked to take action through a letter or call to a legislator or legislative body. I invite you to follow us and surf our web site.  If you’d like to be added to our mailing list, please connect with me.

     Once a year LAMPa holds our Annual Lutheran Day in the Capitol. The day includes worship, education on issue areas, a keynote speaker, legislative visits, and networking. The date in 2020 is May 18th.  I am hopeful we will have a group of folks attending from St. James.

     God’s Work. Our Hands. Our Voices. United together. Please join me in prayer: O God, may we continue to join together in wonder as God’s love widens our circles and changes lives so that we can no longer think only of ourselves.  Fill us and strengthen us with your grace.  Help us to share your love and blessings with people in need around the world. Amen.  Keeping awake as we watch for Christ, I invite you to join with me in singing and reflecting on Hymn #538.

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