My Father Owns the Mountain

God providesI heard a story of two teens who arrived at summer camp at the same time. They were forced to share bunks. One girl was a brat who introduced herself by saying, “Hey, there. I come here every summer because my daddy owns part of this property. Do you see that speedboat on the lake? My daddy owns that boat. Do you see that mansion on the side of the mountain? My daddy stays there when he comes to visit me.”

Looking at the other camper, she asks in a condescending tone, “So, who’s your daddy?”

She smiled and lifted her dejected head. With a twinkle in her eye, she replied, “Do you see that large lake that your daddy’s boat is in? My Father created that lake. And you know that mountain your daddy’s cabin is on? My Father owns that mountain.”

By focusing on the provision, we can become like the bratty girl and forget the One who provides. We can come to love the provision more than the provider. The safety becomes more important than the obedience. The comfort sounds better than the responsibility.

Elijah, the Old Testament prophet, was led to a ravine after foretelling a drought that would devastate the land. At the ravine, God promised to provide for the prophet. In the morning and in the evening, ravens would bring him meat and bread. The small ravine would provide him with water. One day, the ravine dried up. No more water.

If we find ourselves in life where it seems all is dried up, it is easy to feel resentful, abandoned, or no longer loved. This is especially true if our focus has been on the provision and not the Provider.  It is in those dry places that we must be “persuaded that God has power to do what God has promised” (Romans 4:21). It is worth remembering that sometimes God guides by what God does not provide. It does not mean that God is not taking care of us. It just means the creek has dried up and it is time to move on. In those seasons of our life, we must trust in Jesus who promises “If you are thirsty, come to me and drink! Have faith in me, and you will have life-giving water flowing from deep inside you” (John 7:37-38). 

The Making of Beautiful Things (Ash Wednesday)

ash wednesday picWhen I was a kid my grandmother’s house was struck by lighting. It went up in flames. It was completely destroyed. Clothes, furniture, and memories left in ashes. I remember standing in the front yard watching as the last embers faded and the adults savaged through the rubble digging for anything worth saving. Every time I get a scent of a fire my mind rushes back to that moment. The moment when it looked that all was lost.

Ashes are what are left after destruction. After chaos or catastrophe, ashes are what remain. When the character Job of the Old Testament loses everything – his home, his family – he sits among the ashes. When the psalmist is being overtaken by his enemies, he declares, “I eat ashes like bread, and mingle my tears with my drink” (Psalm 102:9). The prophet Jeremiah tells the people to “roll in ashes” because the destroyer is on their doorstep (Jeremiah 6:26). Ashes are what are left when all is gone.

Everyone has ashes. Everyone has something that has fallen apart. Cars breakdown. Paint flakes off. Skin wrinkles. Hearts fail. We all have something that has turned or is turning into ashes. Hopes and dreams left in rubble. Jobs are lost. Homes are foreclosed. Relationships are broken apart. There it all lays – our sins, our failures, our disappointments – in a pile of ashes. What does your pile look like today?

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lent Season. This is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which is a season of preparation for Easter celebration. Early on it had become the custom of ancient Christians to have a season of spiritual readiness before the Easter celebration. It was during this season that converts to the faith were prepared for baptism. It was also a time for those who had wandered away from the faith to be received back into the community through repentance and forgiveness. The season of Lent invites us to renew our faith and live in the mercy and forgiveness that is found in Jesus Christ. We look forward to resurrection. It is a time of year that prepares us for new life.

Ashes are seen by many as the end. But in the church we see them as the beginning. They begin a season that moves us through reflection and repentance into joy and resurrection. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent where we are being invited to turn back to God, to be reconciled with one another, and to live in peace. We are invited to see the ashes as the beginning of new life. We believe beautiful things can truly come out of the ashes.

The prophet Isaiah proclaimed in the good news of God’s arrival, “a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit” (Isaiah 61:3). It is through the ashes that we will be called, “oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory” (Isaiah 61:3).

The Apostle Paul tells that in Christ, “there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (2 Cor. 5:17)! The whole world is being made new by the cross and resurrection. Because of what God is doing through Christ Jesus, there is the possibility of reconciliation with all that is broken. Because of new creation, we are made to be agents of reconciliation. We are called to speak hope to the hopeless, joy to the brokenhearted, and life into death. The cross on the forehead reminds us that we have been reconciled unto God through Christ. The mark of the cross sets us a part as ambassadors of reconciliation.

Where in the midst of ashes is God calling you to speak a word of life? Where in the midst of destruction is God calling you to be an agent of change? Where among the ashes of sin, brokenness, and death is God calling you to announce, “Now is the time to lay down your weapons of hatred, hurt, and anger. Now is the time to turn back to God. Today is your salvation day!”

Today we may begin our Lent journey toward new life by sitting among ashes but when we trust in God we can be assured that even in this place resurrection can happen. God really can make beautiful things out of the ashes.

Epic Story Epic Author: The Torah

Epic Story Epic Author“In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.” Exodus 13:14-16

My children enjoy watching old video recordings of when they were younger. They like to take those trips down memory lane. So, we pop some popcorn and gather around the television to re-live the past. We watch summer vacations, holidays, and birthday events. It is peculiar how fast we change and grow. It is even funnier how some things you remember and others you forget.

All of us have selective memories. Selective memory is the act of remembering certain things based on our feelings. Our selective memory remembers things and forgets things based on either positive or negative emotions. Some of us have a selective memory that remembers only good things and forgets bad things. Your selective memory blocks out all the negative stuff. The things that you find that are to painful or to shameful are blocked out of your memory.

On the other hand, some of us have selective memory by forgetting the good things and remembering only the bad. We choose to live in negativity and never see anything to be grateful for. We use our selective memory to dwell only on the painful, the shattered dreams, and broken hopes.

What memories do you recall this past year? Are they all negative? Or do you remember moments of God’s redemption? What do you remember? Do you remember the hand of God at work in your life?

As the Jewish people set out for their journey towards the Promised Land, they are told to remember. Remember this day, God tells the people. Remember it is on this day that I called you out. When you are in the land of the free and enjoy the flowing of milk and honey, remember this day. When you are establishing your homes, raising your children, making your money, remember this day. When you are in the desert and you don’t think you will survive, remember this day. When the task before you seems impossible, remember this day. Remember this is the day that I came to your rescue, says the Lord. Remember this is the day I brought you out of slavery. Remember this is the day that seemed like the last day but I turned it around and made it the day of new beginnings. Remember this day, the day I called you out, says the Lord. Remember this day.

When in the future your children ask what all this means, you tell them this is about the day that God came to our rescue. The God of the heavens emerged as the one who intervened on behalf of the nobodies. We were slaves in Egypt and we are alive because God came to our rescue. We remember this day because without this day there would be no other days.

Throughout the first five books of the Scripture the word “remember” carries significance. As the Hebrews move closer to the Promised Land they are told to remember where God brought them from. When they transition from being traveling people to people of the land, they are told not to forget who they were. When they celebrate their holidays and reenact the Exodus, they are to tell the children their story. Although God does not change, circumstances around us change all the time. For that reason, God encourages the people to remember.

Change is easier when we remember who we once were and who it is calling us to change. It is easier to adapt to new circumstances when we remember who it is calling us out to change. Remembering where we came from is a great motivator to change. It is when we choose not to remember that we get stuck in our ways and become people who complain of the changes around us.

In a changing world everyone needs to be able to retell who they are in confidence. In Deuteronomy 31 God tells Moses, “When all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people – men, women, and children, as well as the aliens residing in your towns – so that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God and to observe diligently all the words of this law, and so that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess” (31: 11-13). The Torah, the first five books of the bible, is Israel’s refusal to live in disorder.  In the Torah children learn the truth of who they are, where they came from, and with that information, where they are headed. As Walter Brueggemann says, “The Torah is a line drawn in the sand against darkness and disorder. It is a line drawn against chaos and death. The story of Israel found in the Torah is told by adults who are confident in its truth.” In an ever-changing world, the Torah stands as the stable influence.

The Torah teaches that when we speak of God it must always be contextual. We might talk about how this God created the heavens and the earth as some cosmic reality. But we can’t leave this God up in the heavens. In the cool of the evening, God came to walk among His creation. God’s relationship is dynamic. It is ever-changing as the people move through history. This one we call God is relational. He is always revealing, loves surprises, and keeps initiating relationships. The working out of God’s purpose is discovered in these pages. The ultimate meaning of life is found in this historical experience of God naming, calling out, and promising to be with these people. These stories are necessary because in retelling them we remember. We remember the graciousness of God. We remember that life is truly a gift.

The reading of the Torah and all of scripture is a reminder that God continues to remember. He remembered his people and at the right time sent Jesus to be the hope of their salvation. God came in Jesus Christ and through his cross, His suffering and death, paid the price for our sin, so that we can go ahead and remember it, we can confess it, we can lay it before him.

 

Epic Story Epic Author: Storybook of Our Lives

Epic Story Epic AuthorMy great-grandmother was a natural story-teller. Her heritage was mix of Native American and Appalachia blood. As a farmer in the hills of Georgia, she was baptized in red clay. Grandma Sally could weave a story like no other. As kids, we would sit on the hardwood floors of her makeshift house and listen to her tell tales. The stories seemed to even hold the attention of the chickens that pranced through the house. Everyone around loved a good grandma Sally story.

Who doesn’t like a good story? A fine story can grab our attention and make claims on our lives before we know why or how. We may be reading an article online or listening to a podcast when suddenly, without warning, some tale of heroism or tragedy grabs our attention and leaves us forever changed. We had no intention of being hijacked by the story but now that we have we must react to the world differently.

Our lives are shaped by the stories we tell. We use stories to give meaning to our lives. Stories hold us together. Stories can tear us apart. We tell stories in order to live.

Storytelling is an act of hope. Stories transport us to times and places we do not know. Through the power of the narrative, we have the ability to transcend ourselves and our world. Stories have the power to invite us to enter into unknown worlds. In the unfamiliar and distant landscape the story of our lives can be re-shaped and re-told with meaning and purpose. By connecting our life narrative to a grand-story, we come to the realization that life is larger than any story we can create ourselves. In a world that destroys itself on individualization and selfishness, story-telling has the power of conversion.

If for no other reason, this is why we hear again and retell the stories of the Hebrew Scriptures. As adopted children of Abraham, these stories are as much our stories as the stories our grandmothers and grandfathers tell. They tell who we are as a people formed by God. Recent graduates going off to college need to be able to recall the story of Joshua and how as he stood at the crossroads of his life God said, “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Our sons who are being bullied need to be able to recall the story of David and Goliath. Our daughters who feel threatened by the world need to remember that Esther is their ancestor and just like her “they were raised up for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). So many are trying to convince our children that they have another story to live. We need to re-tell the stories of scripture so that when someone comes along and tries to convince our children they can have another story they will say, “I already have the greatest story ever told.”

The stories we tell ourselves is what gives meaning to our lives. They serve as the interpretative tool for understanding ourselves. By wrapping the stories of scripture with our own stories, we have the ability to live as part of a grander story than we could ever imagine. Weaving our stories with the story of God we are able to understand our own stories with more clarity and with new possibility.

The Hebrew Scriptures, (commonly known as the Old Testament), was written over a thousand year period. This is compared to the New Testament that was compiled over eighty years. The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew except in a few places in some of the later books that were written in Aramaic. The Christian bible has thirty-nine books in the Old Testament. The books are divided up in three sections. The Torah contains the first five books. These books contain the story of the beginning of a people. When the Hebrew community tells its story this is what it tells. The second section is the Prophets. In this section we have the major and minor prophets but also some books that we would consider history. For example, the book of Joshua is found in this section. The reason is because more than telling the history of God’s people, they trace the development of God’s word among God’s people. They tell the rise of the prophets among a people trying to live the reality of what is at hand compared to what is promised. The third section is the Writings. This section is sometimes referred to as the Wisdom Literature. These writings explain order and meaning to life.

Jesus is a reader of Israel’s scripture. When he was arrested in the garden and led away to be crucified, Jesus says, “The scriptures must be fulfilled” (Mark 14:49). He believed his life was a fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures. He was convinced that he was the embodiment of God’s word to God’s people. His actions were part of the continuation of God acting in the world. He was living out Israel’s story.

From its beginning, the Christian movement located its story in the continuity of Israel’s scriptures. The Hebrew scripture was integral to the formation of the identity and teaching of the community of Jesus followers. When the New Testament writers refer to scriptures, they are speaking of the Old Testament books. When Jesus says, “Have you never read in the scriptures,” (Matt. 21:42) or when the apostle Paul says, “For what does the scripture say” (Romans 4:3) or when Peter declares, “It stands in scripture,” (I Peter 2:6), they are referring to the Old Testament. The early church understood that their story did not make sense outside of the story of Israel. We know throughout the New Testament that the writers quoted directly from the Old Testament, but what is fascinating is how the stories of the Old Testament shaped the telling of the stories of the early Church. Even without giving a direct quote the reader would know that the story was formed as a result of the writer being emerged in the Hebrew Scriptures.

The story of Jesus and the early church, and thereby, our story is connected to the stories of the Hebrew Scripture. The God of the Hebrew bible is the same God we worship. We read scripture to be reminded where it is we have come from and where it is we are going, and what our part within it ought to be. The people of Israel understood this and that is why there was such an emphasis on retelling the story.

The identity of Israel was wrapped up in the stories they told. They could not tell their story without the telling of what God had done among them. The main act in their story is the Exodus. Everything they tell about themselves is interpreted through the lens of God rescuing the people out of bondage in Egypt and into freedom through the Promise Land. Deuteronomy 6:4 and following is what the Jewish people call the Shema. It is to be recited twice a day. “Shema” means “hear” which in Hebrew means obey or live out. Moses is giving the people of Israel their divinely sanctioned charter. This is what they are to live by in the Promised Land. They are to never forget the gracious God who called them out of slavery and gave them freedom. Yahweh is the God of their history. Twice a day they are to proclaim, “Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one.” The author does not deny that other gods may exist or that people may worship other so-called God but for the people of Israel Yahweh is the one for them. The success or failure of Israel’s future depends on their ability to keep the promises of God. They can’t keep the promises if they don’t know the promises. So, they retell the stories of God’s initiating love among them. The stories become absorbed into their daily lives. On the opposite side of the Jordan they may have different stories to tell but once they walk through the waters they have one story and it is the story of how God has rescued them and gave them a new beginning. This will forever be their story.

The same is true of each of us as followers of Jesus. When we come up from the waters of baptism, we forever have a new story to tell. Our life before may be filled with stories of defeat, darkness, and death but after baptism we have a new story to tell; a story of redemption and hope and new light. Through the waters of baptism we have been soaked in the story of God. We become a part of a magnificent narrative. It is a story that is connected to Abraham’s promise and Moses’ deliverance and David’s reign. It is a story of Rebecca’s struggle and Ruth’s commitment and Rahab’s boldness. The act of baptism is our own Exodus story. It is God calling us out of slavery and into freedom. It is our crossing over into God’s Promise Land. It can be said there is something in the water that changes our stories of death into stories of redemption. The something in the water is the grace of God. For this reason, we need to take opportunities to remember our baptism.

Through the waters of baptism we are brought into Christ’s holy Church. We are incorporated into God’s mighty act of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit. By reaffirming our faith we renew the promise declared at our baptism, acknowledge our part in God’s story, and affirm our commitment to Christ’s holy Church. As we begin a New Year take time to remember your baptism. Let’s remind ourselves that we are part of God’s story. If you are looking for a new story to define yourself by this year, let this be it. It is the greatest story ever told and you are invited to be a part of it. There is something in the water that allows us to redefine our story for all eternity.

 

 

Are You Going on any Bear Hunts in the New Year?

happy new yearWhen my kids were younger the choice bedtime book was We’re Going On a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. The classic book describes a family going through the elements of nature in search of a bear. On hiking trips we would turn the story into a fun game of searching for an imaginary bear. We have been chased by bears. But mostly our occasions were spent hunting bears.

Have you ever had one of those moments where you do something crazy and ask yourself in retrospect, “what was I thinking?” As a family hunting our imaginary bear, I tell myself this is crazy. Normal people don’t chase bears, they run away from them. But we also discover that the biggest risks bring the greatest opportunities. The greatest opportunities are the largest bears. I’m not a risk taker, but I have realized that taking no risks is the greatest risk of all.

God-given opportunities can be disguised as blood-thirsty bears. How we react when we encounter those bears will determine our destiny. We can cower in fear and run away from our greatest challenges. Or we can chase our God ordained purpose and seize it for all its worth.

Religious folks speak of sins of commission and omission. Sins of commission are those made up of the list of don’ts. The church spends a lot of energy on the sins of commission. However, there is also the sin of omission. This is those things that we should have and could have done. Just because you don’t do anything wrong does not mean that you actually have done anything right. Goodness is not the absent of badness.  Sometimes we are called to go on a bear hunt.  Go after opportunities. If we are going to discover our God-given purpose, live our God-given life, and use our God-given gifts we must be willing to chase the bears. Our greatest regrets in life will be missed opportunities. As you set out to make resolutions, ask yourself, “What bears in your life need to be chased?” What opportunities need to be taken? Let’s go into the New Year boldly declaring, “I’m going on a bear hunt, I’m going to catch a big one!”

 

The Promise of God (Guest Post: Dr. Donna Coffey)

advent devotions

Dr. Donna Coffey

Reinhardt University

“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” Luke 1:45

Christmas reminds us every year that God keeps his promises.   When the angel Gabriel told Mary she would conceive a child who would be the Son of the Most High, it was the fulfillment of a promise made in Isaiah 9:6: “For unto us a Child is born.”   Mary’s response was “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said.”

There are so many promises to all of us throughout Scripture.   God promises that He will always be with us, that He loves us, that He will never forsake us,  that He works in us for His good purpose, that He works even what the enemy means for evil to our good, that He will complete in us what He has begun.

Most importantly, God promises us an eternity in His presence and a day when He will reign over a New Heaven and a New Earth.   He promises us that His Kingdom lives within us now as we manifest Christ in the world and that ultimately we will live in it.

I have to ask myself, how often and how fully do I believe His promises?   Do I live my life in full confidence that they will come to pass, or do I implement “Plan B,” worrying, manipulating and controlling events just in case God doesn’t come through?

If I could live like Mary, in joyful acceptance and full confidence in the Good News that has been delivered to me, how different my life would be!

Lord, thank you for the Good News of your abiding love and grant us the courage to live in the boldness of your promises. Amen. 

Dr. Donna Coffey
Professor
Reinhardt University
Waleska, GA

A Stable Influence (Christmas Eve 2014 Sermon)

A stable influenceIn those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place whileQuirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2: 1 – 7

On May 23rd 1976, I entered this world at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, Georgia. As far as I know, my birth was uneventful. There was no bright glow over the hospital. No visit from the rich and famous. No angelic choir singing outside the maternity wing announcing my birth.

For the majority of us, our birth was ordinary. We were the product of two people in love. Our entrance into the world may have been a time of celebration for our parents and a few of their closest friends. But outside that small circle of influence, no one notices that another baby has been born. Our birth was so common that it simply went overlooked.

For others there is the “it is a miracle he/she is alive today” story. The doctor told your parents that you would not survive the birthing process. Somehow you had gotten yourself tangled up in the umbilical cord and you entered the world unconscious. As the nurses gather around praying for your first breath they exclaim, “She is a miracle.” Maybe, you started out as an “accident” but soon became the wonder child.

For most of us birth is the run of the mill another baby has been born story. But for a few “it is a miracle” has been added to the story of their origin. It is these stories that have grandmothers sitting around coffee tables declaring, “God must have created him for a special purpose,” “God must have a plan for her life.”

Two thousand years ago, off center stage a baby was born. In an obscure village on the outskirts of the Roman Empire a fearful teenage mother gives birth to a baby boy. Mary is exhausted but happy. She is concerned but hopeful. It all started nine months earlier with a visit from an angel. Her cousin told her she was carrying something special. Shepherds visit from the field to tell of angelic announcements and heavenly music announcing the birth of the God-child. Most people in the village of Bethlehem that first Christmas saw only another poor baby being born and requiring more tax money to Caesar. Yet, for those leaning toward the light, lamenting for God to come and redeem, they notice he is Emmanuel – God with us. For those longing for the extraordinary, this was no ordinary birth. This would be one of those stories that would have “he is a miracle created for a special purpose” written all over it.

Days later when Jesus is presented to the Lord in the temple, it is prophesied over him, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel” (Lk 2:34). We sing, “Mary did you know?” and the answer is “Yes,” she knows. She ponders all these things in her heart. A young Jewish woman is courageous enough to talk back to an angel, courageous enough to accept an unacceptable pregnancy at the risk of an honor killing. Yes, she knows. She knows this is no ordinary birth. When his beginnings are retold it will be said, “God must have a plan for this child.” God eternal she craddles in her arms.

This birth story redefines every other birth story. It makes every ordinary story become extraordinary. Through his life, death, and resurrection it must now be added to each of our stories, “God must have created her for a special purpose,” “God must have a plan for his life.” The birth of Jesus did not come so that things could be made a little better or a little more bearable. God came to redeem us rather than re-establish us. God came to resurrect us rather than reorder us. We spend our days looking to the heavens for a sign while all along heaven has come down. The extraordinary points to the ordinary and says, “See, God is among us!

Mary’s baby is God’s “yes” to the world. Mary’s baby is God’s promise that God has not given up on us. Mary’s baby is God’s reminder that God is for us. With every cry of Mary’s baby, God has joined God-self to our hopes and fears. In this birth story we have God’s promise that God will not stop until each of us has been embraced in God’s love. In the birth of Jesus we discover for ourselves that “he is a miracle,” ‘she is a miracle” has been attached to each of our stories.

Someone may have told you that you were an “accident” but God says, “You were no oops in His eyes.” The circumstances of your parents may have overshadowed your birth but you are here for a purpose. Your birth may include abandonment, hurt, and fear but I am here to tell you that “you were born for such a time as this.” The birth of Jesus redefines every other birth story to include purpose and meaning. On this night we celebrate God reaching out to all humankind. On this night we are reminded that none is written off, none despised, none too strange, too bad to have “God must have a plan for his/her life” attached to their life story.

Two thousand years ago God lit a light in a small obscure, out of the way village. That light is still trying to get our attention. If you miss it you may just miss the whole reason for your existence. Later, this baby born in Bethlehem would grow up and say, “I am the light of the world.” The gospel of John says,” The light shines in darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1: 5). Your life may be filled with a lot of darkness today. You may be feeling purposeless. You may be living in fear. You may feel that you are wandering in no man’s land. It is for you that Jesus was born. The announcement of his birth was given in the fields of the isolated, the disenfranchised, and the forgotten. God speaks Good News there. God brings joy there. The light shines in that darkness. God sends angels to those who have given up on God. No amount of darkness can put this light out. It is a light that shines our way into eternity.

This evening as you participate in the candle-lighting service let it be a reminder to you and those around you that you will not ignore the light of God’s love, grace, and mercy. As you light your candle from someone else’s let it serve as a reminder that God is with us as we are with others. As you light your candle let it service as a reminder that God is calling you to keep the candle bright in your corner of the world. Amen.