This week's author is Karen Ziel, Minister of Faith Formation and Leadership for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
Scripture: Isaiah 61:1-4 (CEB)The Lord God’s spirit is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me
to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim release for captives,
and liberation for prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and a day of vindication for our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for Zion’s mourners,
to give them a crown in place of ashes,
oil of joy in place of mourning,
a mantle of praise in place of discouragement.
They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,
planted by the Lord to glorify himself.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins;
they will restore formerly deserted places;
they will renew ruined cities,
places deserted in generations past.
Reflection:This third Sunday in Advent is traditionally marked by the single rose-colored candle on the Advent wreath and signifies joy. Today’s news (and yesterday’s and tomorrow’s) could easily overcome our joy if not for our relationship with the source of our joy, our Divine Creator. Distinct from happiness, joy is the work of the Spirit within us. More than a thought, it is pure emotion experienced within our entire being; soul, body and mind.
In this week’s lections, the prophet Isaiah and the Psalmist (126) each recall knowing joy in the past and summon joy for the future on behalf of the beloved community. Each writing of the Hebrew texts names brokenness and restoration. Each reminds us that as spiritual beings having a human experience*, we will know both brokenness and restoration, we will experience both sorrow and joy.
I have known brokenness and restoration. It is from these experiences deep within me that I was prompted to adopt a practice known as Six Word Stories. The practice and its affiliated website were developed by Pete Berg based on Hemingway’s famous challenge and first six-word story, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Such a powerful expression of brokenness and lost expectations. Beautiful in its brevity, it conveys so much.
This practice was introduced to me just a year ago. The colleague who introduced me to the practice named the motto of the United Church of Christ, That They All May Be One, as a six-word story.
I was intrigued and did some research. Soon I had adopted Six Word Stories in my prayer life. It has been a soul reviving restorative practice. It has challenged me to get to the essence of my prayers.
Here are a few of the Six Word Stories I find within these scripture texts and within my heart this season. They are pleas to restore our brokenness. They are a summons to our Divine Creator for both presence and care, action and intervention for the fate of the community hinges on our willingness to act, and ultimately, God’s too. May we know this season the fullness of joy, and hope, peace and love in God’s restorative work among us.
Our mouths ring forth with laughter.
Reap the harvest with joyful shouts!
Restore us to our better selves.
We cannot communicate in tweets; alone.
Complete love. Known by all. Shalom.
All made whole. Peace will reign.
*Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Prayer:Holy God, restore your people. Act. Amen
Special Prayer Requests:
- Those affected by wildfires in the Santa Barbara County are of California;
- those grieving after a school shooting in New Mexico left 3 dead on Dec. 7; and
- those grieving or suffering after an attack on U.N. peacekeeping forces in eastern Congo left 15 dead and over 50 wounded on Dec. 7.
- The family and friends of Rev. Betsy Bloomfield, retired pastor and long-time active member of the CT Conference, who died Nov. 13;
- the friends and family of Rev. Hugh Penney, paster Emeritus at South Church in New Britain, who died on Nov. 12;
- those grieving or suffering in the community around Rancho Tehama Reserve, in Northern California after a shooting on Nov. 14 left 6 dead and 8 wounded;
- those grieving or suffering after an earthquake struck along the border of Iran and Iraq, killing over 300 and injuring thousands on Nov. 12;
- those grieving or suffering after a shooting at a church in Texas where at least 26 were killed and at least 19 more were wounded on Nov. 5;
- the people of Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria caused massive devastation on Sept. 20;
- the millions of people currently worried about losing health insurance as the White House and Congress consider and enact changes to the current health care system;
- the thousands of child immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as their future becomes unclear after the President's announcement that the program will end in the near future;
- Mark Engstrom, member of the CT Conference Board of Directors, and his wife Nina, who are facing health issues;
- the community of Conway, MA, and the United Congregational Church, UCC, Conway after a tornado touched down on Feb. 25 causing significant structural damage;
- the people of South Sudan where nearly 1 million people are facing famine;
- the members and staff of Thompson Congregational Church after a fire severely damage the building on Dec. 29;
- Michael White, former Operations Manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who was diagnosed with colon cancer;
- Juliane Silver, the daughter of the Rev. Jim Silver of Middletown, who is in dire need of a liver transplant. We pray that a donor will come forward giving the gift of life and a portion of their liver to Juliane;
- Chacy Eveland, husband of the Rev. Marcia Eveland, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Ansonia, who has been moved to a full-time facility for care of dementia;
- the thousands of migrants worldwide who flee from violence and persecution in search of safety;
- our ecumenical partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea;
- the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
- the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
- this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism; and
- those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
First Church of Christ Congregational, UCC
Shea Zellweger – P
Sarah Bachenheimer – CE
Kweku Hammond-Donkoh - MM
First Congregational Church of Bethel
Rachel F. Beam – P
Ashley Drake – Y
Sheldon T. Smith - PE
First Church of Bethlehem, UCC
John B. Pelletier – P
Allan Kakowski - MM
First Congregational Church in Bloomfield
Edwin O. Ayala – IN
Dorine L. Decarli – CE
Eustace Straker - MM
Pamela Rose Vollinger - DT
Bolton Congregational Church of the UCC
Nicolette Lee Siragusa – P
Jessica Romeo - CE
Karen works in partnership with the team to guide congregations in self-assessment and discernment, and to provide or suggest effective programs for clergy and lay leadership development. Contact her to: Connect your congregation with the tools and...