2019 Advent Devotion 21

Home for Christmas

Who hasn’t heard Bing Crosby croon, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”? Even if you don’t call it up from your music source, you will inevitably hear it in a store or on the radio. It’s virtually unavoidable this time of year.

And while some may find it sappy, it’s actually quite poignant. The song was recorded in 1943 during World War II. The song was popular because it expressed the sentiments of soldiers stationed overseas during the war. They wanted to come home for Christmas but for most it would only be in their dreams. The song made the top 10.

In this song, home is described as the place where the “love light gleams.” When we think of home in this way, we realize that Christmas is about the love light of God gleaming on earth for everyone. Welcoming everyone. Inviting everyone home not only for the holidays but always. Jesus shows us what it means to make our home in God’s love. We are invited to live and grow and find our highest good in the unconditional, universal love of God.

Yes, we may experience that kind of love in our actual physical homes. And we ideally share that kind of love with our families. But that kind of home, that love, is what the church is about. Or it should be anyway. Church should always a place where the love light gleams; welcoming and accepting everyone. That is the message of Christmas. Divine love at home in humanity and made manifest in community, especially the community of the church.

So, I hope that church is on your agenda for the Christmas season. Home is waiting for you. And not just at Christmas. Whatever battles you are facing – in your daily life, in these challenging times, with your health, in your relationships, with your finances, with addiction – you can always come home to church where the love light is gleaming.

We spend our lives looking for home. We want to be at home. A place of love and comfort, acceptance and growth. May we find home wherever we live as well as in the faith community. May we see the love light gleaming. And may we shine that light for others. Amen.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Peace Prayer

Prayer for Peace
Delivered by Rev. Kim Wells
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Service
Sunday January 17, 2016
Maximo Presbyterian Church, St. Petersburg, FL

As we gather this day, we join our hearts in our desire for peace: Peace that is not just the absence of immediate threat, but peace in which justice reigns, all life is sacred, and the earth is revered.

We unite in our intention for peace rooted in human rights and civil rights for all people:
Where all live in safety and security,
all have meaningful work and fair pay,
where all are free to love, marry, and raise a family with whomever they choose,
where everyone has the opportunity to be creative,
and to enjoy recreation and self-determination,
where those who are vulnerable have access to needed resources.

We envision a world of peace where there is no discrimination and no privilege based on color, education, class, how you were born, language, or culture.

We gather our hearts in celebration of peace where all people thrive and flourish in a context of mutual respect and dignity. This is what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived for and died for. May we, too, live for this dream. And may we love peace so much that we, too, are willing to die for it. May it be so. Amen.

Prayer for the Pinellas County Commission 2/9/16

Prayer delivered by Rev. Kim Wells at the beginning of the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday Feb. 9, 2016.

Let us pray –

In these quiet moments we remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who reminded us that everyone can serve regardless of where we are on the social, educational, or economic spectrum. This is important because serving affirms human dignity and ennobles the human spirit.

In the call to service, King echoes the teachings of Jesus which invite people to find their highest good in serving the common good.

This day we give thanks for all who serve especially those who serve in government and through the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners. May all seek to create a society in which everyone, regardless of past or class, has the opportunity to serve; to make a positive, constructive contribution to the greater good.

So may we all learn to live together justly and in right relationship with one another and the Earth. Amen.

A Tribute – The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

The following eloquent remarks were made by the Rev. Francis X. Pirazzini, pastor of Bethany United Church of Christ, at the community memorial service for the late President John F. Kennedy, at First Evangelical United Brethren Church on Monday. [November 25, 1963] Printed in the Ephrata Review, Thursday Nov. 28, 1963 [Ephrata, PA]

We have gathered in this hour of national tragedy to mourn the death of the 35th president of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

A grieving nation pays tribute to a fallen president.

We still find it hard to believe that this young, courageous and dedicated man is dead.

We still find it hard to accept the fact that such violence as we have witnessed in Dallas, Texas, this weekend past, can occur in America.

The circumstances surrounding the president’s death leave us stunned.

But we are strengthened and sustained by the saving knowledge that though lost to loved ones and the the nation he served so devotedly – as soldier, legislator and chief executive – he is not lost to God the Father and that kingdom which knows no end.

We can be deeply thankful for  this faith, thankful not alone as we remember the late president, but also as we remember all those who have lived and died in the Lord.

Again we find strength and sustenance in the fact that people of nations around the world share in the grief of the people of the United States of America.

The expressions of sympathy come from everywhere upon the earth with a sincerity that brings tears to the eyes.

The cold war has never experienced such an invasion of warmth.

The death of the president has pierced the walls and curtains between America and other nations to the extent that we are momentarily experiencing a oneness with other peoples that can only be described as heavenly.

In Thailand flags fly at half mast.

In West Berlin thousands lined up to affix their signatures to a sympathetic statement.

In the Far East Buddhist leaders call people to prayer in the temples of that faith.

And so throughout the length and breadth of this planet the human family mourns with a oneness rarely experienced.

Let us pray to God that this oneness abides in great measure long after the remains of John F. Kennedy have been laid to rest.

We must also pray that his death makes a contribution toward the efforts for peace and harmony within our own nation.

God forbid that his blood has been spilled in vain.  God forbid that his death and the heartache surrounding it make no contribution toward the removal of the sicknesses and strife in our nation – sicknesses and strife rooted in racism, and in radicalism from the extreme right and the extreme left.

He battled against these three demons and, in a real sense, he died in the fight against them.

This is a time for Americans to recognize that underlying their differences there is a common belief in the equality of all men under God, in the right of freedom for all men under God, and in the democratic process of government.

The world is now witnessing at first hand demonstration of the oneness of the American people in these beliefs as members of both major parties in Congress, representing all parts of this land, profess their desire to support the new president in this critical hour, and refuse to give consideration to partisan concerns.

The world is also witnessing the faith in God which this nation professes.

From President Johnson on down, leader after leader has stated that in such an hour we must pray to God – God who is sovereign, God who is almighty, God who holds in his hands the destinies of men and nations.

Though for many of us this faith has not been clear, and this God more of a subjective than an objective reality, the death of the president has recalled us to the God who came in Jesus Christ some 1900 years ago.

It is significant that President Johnson dated his proclamation for a National Day of Mourning with the words, “in the year of our Lord 1963.”

We may respect the right of non-believers in this nation, respect them to the place where we are willing to remove from certain public institutions the necessity of their acknowledging a faith they do not share, but we do not forget our responsibility to preserve that faith in every way that we can, or this nations shall not endure.

The violence in Dallas this past weekend is indicative of the real sickness and the spiritual poverty which vitiate this nation’s life.

If our profession to be a people “under God” is to become a reality in greater measure, it is not ethical codes that we need but restoration to God through Jesus Christ.

President Kennedy, had he lived, was to close his address on Friday evening with the scriptural truth:  “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.”

It can be noted, then, that John F. Kennedy was a Christian of the Roman Catholic order.

Gone from the Church militant, he is not severed from the Church triumphant.

Man and nations pass away, but the kingdom of God stands forever.

“Neither death nor life. . . shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

By this faith we live.

By this faith we die.

By this faith we inherit eternity.

May God bless us all.