Devotions and Sermons

Fly Like An Eagle

February 13, 2013
Park Ave Christian Church
New York, New York

Isaiah 40:18-31

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles.
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Observing a holy Lent is a great challenge. It takes vision and courage, discipline and delight. In this forty day period of preparation for Easter, we practice spiritual disciplines including prayer, fasting, self-denial, Scripture reading, and serving the poor. The purpose of the rigor and ritual of Lent is actually to rest in God. As we slowly let go of our crutches, quiet our hearts, and allow God to speak into our lives, we leave space for grace to renew our strength to be vessels of God’s love in the world.

The short days and long darkness of winter may sap our energy and health, and the asceticism of a holy Lent may seem insurmountable. But Isaiah assures us that God never grows tired or weary (40:28). This is an astonishing acknowledgment of the infinite, loving energy of God, who never slumbers nor sleeps. Isaiah unveils a radical distinction between the Creator and creature. No matter how exhausted we are or how much we hurt, we know God will hold us up in our weakness.

We begin the season of Lent by receiving ashes as a symbol of our mortality. Lent calls us to come to terms with our finite existence, including our need for rest. We need to sleep at night. We need to “Remember the Sabbath and Keep it Holy” (Exodus 20:8-11). I challenge us to think of Lent as an extended Sabbath, in which we rest in the God who never grows tired and gives “strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (40:29). Being named Peter, I always identified with Peter Pan and wished I could fly, so Isaiah’s promise that “those who place their hope in the Lord will soar with wings of eagle,” is a thrilling image for me. If we rest this Lent and let the Lord renew our soul, come Easter, we will soar on the resurrected wings of Christ.

Prayer: God, please give us courage and creativity as we observe a holy Lent through self-examiniation, repentance and rest. May we place our hope in you, receive your spiritual riches, and mount up with eagle’s wings to fly into our divine purpose. We pray this in the name of our God who never grows weary and tired, but is an infinite font of love and life.

Watch and Wait

December 3, 2012
Park Ave Christian Church
New York, New York

Advent is a season of “watching and waiting” (Micah 7:7; Proverbs 8:24; Psalm 123). For what are we on the lookout? Or rather, for whom are we looking? In this season we mark the journey, closing in each day on our destination-an encounter with the long-expected Jesus, the Messiah, our Savior and Lord.

The English word Advent derives from the Latin adventus, meaning coming or arriving. It refers to the coming of Emmanuel, “God with us,” predicted by the Hebrew prophets. When Jesus arrives he too foretells the advent of the reign of God, a reign that will be marked by justice and righteousness.

“Justice and righteousness” is the most frequently used couplet in the Hebrew Bible. Together these two virtues are seen to be the foundations of God’s throne (Psalm 89:14). Isaiah, the great Hebrew prophet whose words lead us through Advent, also describes the Messiah sitting on the throne, “seeking justice, and hastening righteousness” (Isaiah 16:5, KJV).

Isaiah reminds us that our spiritual preparation in Advent is connected to the city in which we live. In the first chapter of his prophecy, Isaiah sets up a contrast between the faithful city and the unfaithful city (Isaiah 1:21-26). Isaiah laments, “How the faithful city has become a whore! She that was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her-but now murders!” (vs. 21). While this sober reminder is directed towards Jerusalem, it is a challenge for all cities.

What does it mean for New York City to be a faithful city? Isaiah’s depiction of unfaithful city leaders could be said about some of our city leaders: “Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not defend the orphan…and the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:23). Conscious of inequity, corruption and need, we must confess and repent, both individually and collectively, for the sins of ourselves and the sins of our city. Isaiah writes, “Zion will be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness” (Isaiah 1:27).

Let us also open our eyes to see the signs of the just and righteous Messiah, in those who are volunteering in the recovery effort after Hurricane Sandy, and in those who are working for a more just and sustainable New York. May we at the Park continue to discern creative ways that we can proclaim and embody God’s justice and righteousness, so we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our redeemer.