What I'm Writing
On Friday, the second installment of the Hunger Games opened in theaters. The movie is the second of a series of books, which are aimed at teenage readers and have all three been best-sellers.
The Hunger Games is a way for a post-apocalyptic society ruled by elites to keep the native populace under control. The Games are televised spectacle that pits children against each other in arena, think The Voice only with children and spears. The winner of the game must vanquish not only rivals from other regions, but one of their own neighbors.
This second installment is less about the games and more about how a society begins to fight back and to rebel and to ferment into revolution. They call this episode: “Catching Fire.”
Now, what does this have to do with Sunday morning?
Perhaps not much, but as always when something seems to capture the American imagination it makes sense for people of faith to wonder a little about it.
This morning we will consider what God is looking for from each of us.
Or, said, another way, what sorts of things, choices, gifts, make God smile?
Advent and Christmas are nearly upon us, but before we get to that we have this season of Thanksgiving. We’ll dream into that space this morning.
This morning we are going to continue our exploration of the great biblical prophets, this time focusing on the works of Isaiah. Isaiah’s work comes to us as a single book, but scholars tell us this collection of poems, stories, rants, and rambles is more likely the result of a school of writers working over a span of time.
We typically turn to Isaiah during the period of Advent, that period of waiting and wanting that comes before Christmas time. However, Christmas is already in our collective shopping malls, big box stores, and on our radio stations.
Much of this is marketing and commerce, but this year, it seems to me, folks are yearning for the hope of Christmas in a way that feels different somehow. Perhaps, it’s the attendant stresses of a poor economy, the chill that settled upon the valley, but it seems like the soul of the nation is really waiting for hope to be born again.
Folks who know me, know, that I tend to be a lover of light and turn part bear, as the days grow shorter, to plagiarize a bit of Donald Hall, a favorite poet of mine.
Isaiah was a prophet, who stood between God and the people during a similar time of challenge and anticipation. Big things were happening in the life of the people of God and not all of them were good.
It is perhaps all the more remarkable that it is from this ground that we have some of very tender descriptions of God’s love. God is seen not just as a father, but as a mother comforting a wounded and challenged people.
This morning: we will celebrate that sense of being loved and comforted by God.
Last weekend, Americans spent over $27 million for the chance to watch a movie called Ender’s Game. Ender’s Game was, predictably these days, a popular novel, before it was a movie franchise.
The book is one that I’ve often seen set aside in bookstores for student’s summer reading. I’m not sure if kids actually read it, but I suspect it was at least assigned.
I came down with a whopper of a cold this week and in between sneezes and coughs I re-read this little story. I last read it during college, which is getting to be over 10 years ago now.
Briefly, the story is about a society that needs to combat an alien menace and they decide to use the brilliance of childhood imaginations in that effort. The book comes from a pre-Hunger Games time, when the children enter mock combat, which only occasionally ends in physical violence.
Why am I telling you this?
Our society today, collectively, has a very, very bleak imagination. I take the popular science fiction and fantasy stories of the day to be sort of a thermometer to gauge that place where our collective dreams and visions come from.
Today that place is very dark, populated by the walking dead, vampires, ghosts in the machine, children killing children, fallen empires, forgotten places, and broken dreams.
This morning, we will look at what it takes to keep the faith in such a world.
This morning we will discuss stewardship. This means we will be talking about two things your mother probably told you never to discuss in polite company: God and Money.
It’s no secret that our organization needs money to survive, money to pay salaries, to help keep the lights on, oil in the tanks, and host of other exciting and not so exciting needs for our organization.
It’s also no secret that our organization is one that is a struggling organization. We were hit hard by the Great Recession in 2009, and have yet to really bounce back financially.
I recently read an article that came into my news feed, which explained that this is a national problem. Giving to churches is now down to levels, society wide, last seen in the Great Depression.
So, things are tough.
However, there is good news and reason to be excited about the work we are about in places such as this, because in many ways the work we do here has never been more important. There are few places in life that offer hope, and hope, that comes not shaped like some consumable good.
To our credit, we here in this church have recognized the realities outside our door and are working to adapt to the changing needs and changing face of life in the world today.
While you are waiting, consider what it might be like to suddenly find yourself unburdened by these financial burdens we all carry? What would that look like?