Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: Isaiah (page 1 of 2)

YouTubevotional: Homeless Vets

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YouTubevotionals are designed to be used in personal devotion time, with small groups, youth groups, or Sunday school classes. To see other YouTubevotionals, click here

Introduction

In high school I remember learning that a high percentage of the homeless in the United States were Gulf War veterans. This shocked, and caused my deacon’s heart to ache. Similarly, my heart would ache win I would hear stories about veterans not getting the best of treatment from the Veterans Affairs. There are so many things that are often overlooked when it comes to our veterans. When we consider the time, the sacrifices, the injuries seen and unseen, they deserve better.

The television show, Beverly Hills, 90210 covered this topic in 1993. One of the characters, Brandon, meets a homeless vet on the beach one summer. The homeless man, Jack, served in the first Gulf War. When he returned home, he found himself homeless. Later in the season, Brandon meets Jack again in the midst of a massive rain storm. Brandon takes the man to a homeless shelter, but Jack is unable to assimilate. In response, Brandon takes Jack to his home to meet his family.

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Book Review: Burning Bush 2.0

51Eka19YuhL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Burning Bush 2.0: How Pop Culture Replaced the Prophet, Paul Asay, Abingdon Press, 2015

The title is what caught my eye. If you know me, or have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I like pondering the intersection of faith and pop culture. So, I was interested in Asay’s take, especially in his take on how pop culture has replaced the prophet.

In each chapter, Asay writes on a theme, weaving in different elements of pop culture. For example, one of the chapters deals with call (the burning bush connection) and Asay uses illustrations from various superhero films. Along the way, he makes valid points about why we should expand our thinking enough to hear what God may be saying to us through pop culture.

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Sermon: Children of the Light

The sermon I preached at Peakland United Methodist on Sunday, January 4, 2015.

Sermon: Yearning and Hoping

He Suffered

jesus_9087c“Look, my servant will succeed. He will be exalted and lifted very high. Just as many were appalled by you, he too appeared disfigured, inhuman, his appearance unlike that of mortals. (Isaiah 52:13-14, Common English Bible)

He was born into a broken world full of sin and hate. He grew learning and teaching that hate is not the way. He lived showing the world how love really works.

Because he loved us.

Yet, he was betrayed. He was arrested. He was denied. He was beaten. He was flogged. He was stripped. He was nailed to a cross.

He suffered.

Because he loved us.

Us – who betray and deny him.

Us – who beat others with his words; who flog those who disagree with us; who strip away the rights of the oppressed; who nail others to their crosses instead of picking up our own.

He suffered.

Because he loved us.

Even though we do not always love.

We chose hate over love. We chose malice words instead of words of respect.  We chose to ignore rather than to participate.

His generous act of sacrificial love was an act of justice.  He laid down his life so that we – who are broken and full of sin – may have eternal life.

And, yet, we have been shown love and justice, we continue to neglect love and abuse justice.

We turn the other cheek to avoid the piercing glare of the poor and the hungry; to turn away from the ringing of the hammer of systemic injustice; to demand forgiveness rather than to forgive.

He loves us.

Loving God, we give you thanks for your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lived and died so that we may have life. May your Holy Spirit dwell in us, around us, and through us as we strive to live this life we have been given as Christ lived his, with love and justice for all. Amen.

Guest Post: Lost in Suffering

by Erin Davidson 

Read Isaiah 50:4-9a.

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comObedient, loyal and steadfast, they’re all big, meaningful words, words that Jesus embodies.  They’re words for us as humans to strive to live and grow into.  As we move through Lent, we experience Jesus’ journey to the cross.  It wasn’t a pleasant one and no matter how much God could have told him about what would happen, Jesus, as a human, wouldn’t have been fully prepared.  Yet throughout this journey of suffering, Jesus remains obedient, loyal and steadfast.  Isaiah writes in this passage about a suffering servant, whether we interpret this servant as the children of Israel waiting to be delivered, or Jesus towards the end of his life, it’s a journey of obedience and God’s steadfastness.

In Isaiah 50:1-3 God essentially asks rhetorically, “Did you really think I have forgotten you?  Did you really think that I’m unable or unwilling to deliver you from this?”  To which God then responds in verses 4-9 that a Savior will come.  Not only will this Savior come but God details some of the suffering he will have to endure.  Throughout it all, this Savior is obedient and loyal to God because he knows God will stay with him the entire time.

Sometimes we get lost in our own “suffering,” forgetting that God is always present with us on our journey.  I cannot imagine being tasked with the role that Jesus had; I also cannot imagine being such a faithful disciple.  However, Isaiah reminds me that God prepares disciples, giving us a “well-instructed tongue” to know the words to use, open ears to listen to those around us.  God equips us with everything needed for the journey ahead and in turn, we must listen and follow.

This year as you read through the stories of Lent, look for examples of obedience, loyalty, and steadfastness. Examine the characters of the story, the words they use, or when they don’t talk. Use their stories to guide how we live our lives as disciples.

Erin B. Davidson is a full time social worker and part time Day Camp Director at Camp Hanover in Mechanicsville, VA.

On His Little Shoulders

Read Luke 2:1-20.

Christmas Ponderings - devotions for the Christmas seasonThe waiting is over. The Child has been born. And we rejoice. A silent night has become a holy night. All is calm as all becomes bright with hope.

As we peek over the side of the cradle, and look at the Peace Child, we feel peace. God’s great kingdom begins with this child. And this child will have authority over that kingdom. For it is as Isaiah wrote, “Authority rests upon his shoulders.” (Isaiah 9:6)

It is the authority to heal the blind and the lame.

It is the authority to raise the dead.

It is the authority to forgive sins.

It is the authority that welcomes the poor and the oppressed. The outcast and the “other.”

It is this authority that will cause those in authority to question him and plot against him. It is this authority that will create tension in the religious and political realms. It is this authority that will be the cause of the greatest weight on his shoulders – that of the cross.

And it starts here, in this cradle, with these little, infant shoulders. It begins with God putting on flesh. It begins with the welcoming of the shepherds – the poorest and often despised in their day. It begins here in the lowliest of places. It begins in the stillness of the night. It begins in a most unexpected way.

This little infant has the authority to bring peace on earth.

And when we look around the world and see the places (read: the hearts) where Jesus reigns, we find peace. The abusive father who turns to Jesus’ authority instead of that of the bottle, finds peace. The sister who turns to Jesus’ authority instead of her own stubbornness, finds peace. The hateful speech of a neighbor who turns to Jesus’ authority instead of that of the tradition he claims, finds peace.

photo by K. Byrne

photo by K. Byrne

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of our greatest theologians of the 20th century, told a German-speaking congregation in Havana, Cuba on December 21, 1930 in a sermon:

But now it is true that in three days, Christmas will come once again. The great transformation will once again happen. God would have it so. Out of the waiting, hoping, longing world, a world will come in which the promise is given. All crying will be stilled. No tears shall flow. No lonely sorrow shall afflict us anymore, or threaten.

The great transformation will bring peace. And it starts at the cradle.

As we peek over the cradle this Christmas at the infant Christ, let us remember that the weight of the world with all of its brokenness and sin is on his little shoulders. As we peek into the cradle, and look into his eyes of love, remember that Jesus does not bring peace by force, but by invitation. When we invite Christ into the dark places (read: hearts), peace will follow.

No More Fussing

candles_9826cRead Isaiah 35:1-10.

When was the last time you got impatient? Was it at the store, standing in that long check-out line? Was it sitting in traffic, wondering why the light is green and nobody is moving? Was with your children, or with your parents?

This time of year, especially, I think we are more prone to get impatient. We are rushing and hurrying along to get everything in order. There are presents to be bought or ordered, presents to be wrapped, travel plans to be made, meals to be cooked, and on top of all that, because vacation time is coming, our work load seems to increase. And whenever we finally have a few moments of rest, there is someone or something that beckons our attention, and impatience sets in. And we fuss.

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A Kingdom of Peace

Read Isaiah 11:1-10

Advent Ponderings

We can all remember where we were when we heard about the terrorist attacks on 9/11. I was walking across campus at Randolph-Macon College. I had an early class that morning and was walking towards the library when I overheard other groups of students talking about the attack. I couldn’t believe it. And truthfully there was a part of me that didn’t believe it. I by-passed the library and went to my car. I turned the radio on and listened with a heavy heart to the news reports of airplanes flying into the World Trade Center buildings.

How could such a thing happen? How could there be so much hate in the world that hundreds of people would be killed?

College students who are freshmen this year were in the first grade when 9/11 happened. The only world they know is this post-9/11 world. A world where war is common. A world where politics are more important than people, no matter what side of the aisle you are on. A world where bullying and school shootings are the norm.

A world filled with violence.

In her book God’s Gift of Love, Donna Schaper writes, “From a world without love and without hope, nothing is possible, expect a repeat of the same injuries.” Injustice breeds injustice. Violence breeds violence. At some point the cycle of hate must stop. But how?

Nelson Mandela is an example of someone who ended the cycle of hate. After being a, at sometimes violent, leader against his government, and being imprisoned, something happened. He changed. When he emerged from his jail cell, he was a different man. A man filled with peace. He led his people to become united and to reconciliation.

Mandela made a difference in many ways, across many countries. And we argue that some of the changes were big and some of the changes were small. But they were changes. And they started within himself. He found peace in himself before he was able to lead others to find peace. Change towards peace does not always have to be by the pound. Change towards peace can be by the ounce. Ounce by ounce through prayer and contemplation, worship and Bible study, scheduled acts of mercy and random acts of kindness, we change ourselves, and make the world around us a better place.

Because love breeds love. Hope breeds hope. Justice breeds justice. And peace breeds peace.

Swords into Ploughshares

Read Isaiah 2:1-5.

Advent PonderingsThe image of beating swords into ploughshares is a common one, especially in the Bible. We read it here in Isaiah, as well as in Micah 4. Scholars think that both prophets had been exposed to this image from an older source, and used it out of familiarity.

On December 4, 1959, the Soviet Union gave the gift of a sculpture to the United Nations. The sculpture, created by Soviet artist Evgeny Vuchetich, is named “Let Us Beat Our Swords into Ploughshares,” and sits in the North Garden.

1959 is mostly known for the Cuban Revolution. Fidel Castro was their leader and as he rose in power, would become allies with Premier Khrushchev of the Soviet Union. This would make the United States nervous.  During the Cold War, the image of beating swords into ploughshares was often employed in discussions on the nuclear weapons race. War seemed inevitable.

It was common to live by the sword.

In Isaiah’s day, Judah and Jerusalem were in a place of political turmoil and were often under attack from other nations. In fact, throughout the book of Isaiah, we see that Judah was under attack from Assyria, Babylon, and Persia – some of the great world powers of their day.

And Isaiah delivers the call to his people to transform their swords into ploughshares. The sculpture in the United Nations garden depicts a man with a hammer beating a sword into a plough, transforming a weapon of war into a tool for peace. The plough was a basic farming tool. A tool that would give life.

Vuchetich_LetUsBeat_710

Isaiah’s call was to drop the weapons of death and pick up tools of life.

There have been many, many moments since the Cold War ended where war seemed – and was – inevitable. It is hard to imagine, in a post-9/11 world, that peace will ever be possible. And yet the promise in Isaiah is salvation is for all nations. Isaiah paints a picture of God’s wide justice that is available to all people of all nations. The Assyrians. The Babylonians. The Persians. The Cubans. And, yep, even the Soviet Union.

God’s justice and peace is for all people in all places.

The same promise – and the same call – comes to us this Advent. The promise of salvation through the life and death of Jesus Christ is for all people of all nations. And yet, in the midst of that promise, we are called to be peace-bearers in a war torn world. Our day to day actions and words should be those of peace and life, and not war and death.

Come, let us walk in the light.

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