Monday, November 20, 2017

November 19, 2017 The Journey to Advent: The Silence of God

He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse – Malachi 4:3.

And so ends the Old Testament, on a note both of hopefulness and warning.  After the conclusion of that verse came a period of about 400 years when God is silent.  Known as the Intertestamental Period (the time between the Old and the New Testaments) it began with the conclusion of the prophet Malachi’s ministry (about 420 BC) and lasted until the early first century AD, when John the Baptist began his ministry.  This period is also referred to by variations of the phrase the silent years, because the prophetic witness of God to his people had grown silent.

As we continue the series of messages, The Journey to Advent, we will use a portion of Psalm 22 as our Scripture text.  Psalm 22 is a bit of a harrowing passage, made all the more so by Jesus quoting the first verse of that psalm as he hung on the cross.  The words, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me have become a template for scores of people as they have journeyed through their own time when God seemed to go quiet to them.

Psalm 22:1-11 –

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him.  Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.

That’s quite depressing, isn’t it?  Right now you might be thinking, thanks a lot for bringing me down Dave.  I was sure looking for some hope and inspiration today.  Thanks for getting my day and my week off to such a good start!  Well, I’m sorry to acknowledge that reality often intrudes into life.  Silence is tough, and silence is a companion to all of us at some point in life.  The fact that the people of God endured through about 400 years of silence made it all the more powerful when Advent, and the manger, finally arrived.

It is hard for us, I think, to talk about the silence that we often perceive from God.  It is difficult for us to tell someone, I feel like God is silent when I pray.  I pour out my heart to him and it’s as though there is no reply.  And it’s difficult to hear someone tell us they feel they are receiving nothing from God but silence.  We don’t know what to say, so we often tell them to cheer up, smile, and count your blessings, which is not very helpful.

Although it’s difficult to talk about that silence, let’s do so this morning.

I want to start by reminding you that –

Times of Silence Are Normal.

If you have been in, are currently in, or ever will be in a time of silence, a time when you hear or feel nothing from God, know this – you are not different; you are the norm.  There is nothing unusual about feeling as though God is silent.  Even Jesus, as expressed this, as he quoted the first verse of the 22nd psalm while on the cross – My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34).  How do you feel when you read the passage of Jesus saying those words?  It’s tough, and a more than a bit unnerving, isn’t it?

Here is something important to remember, however – what you feel is not reflective of reality.  We often equate our feelings with truth, such as when we say no one cares about me.  Has anyone here ever said that before?  Most of us have probably muttered that phrase before, or at least thought it, but it’s not true.  Of course we have others who care for us; what we feel is not always reflective of reality.

It’s easy for us to feel God’s presence when life is going well, but when life is not going well we wonder where God has gone.  Does he care about us?  Does he hear our prayers?  Never forget that truth is not tied to our emotions and the perception of reality they place upon us.  We too easily fall prey to the idea that unless things are always going well for us, unless our faith is always strong and without doubt, there is something wrong with us.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with us when we go through times of silence.  One of the great affirmations of faith is that God is always with us, whether or not we sense it, feel it, or even believe it.

I believe the need to be reassured of this is one of the reasons why people are increasingly interested in expressive, or emotion-based worship.  I am not being critical of that kind of worship when I say that, but merely making an observation.  Did you know that, worldwide, the fastest growing form of Christianity is Pentecostalism? In our own society, people are increasingly drawn to what I would call experiential worship; that is, worship that draws people in emotionally and places emphasis on the supernatural moving of God.  People want to feel something; they want to experience something, and so it is natural to be drawn to this type of worship.  But, again, I say that regardless of what we feel, God is always with us, God is always working on our behalf, and God always cares about us and loves us.  Whether or not you feel that to be true is beside the point, because our emotions do not reflect truth and reality, certainly not when it comes to the promises of God.

We Learn From the Silence.

The theologian Barbara Brown Taylor says of the difficult, silent moments that they hold more lessons…and that contrary to what many of us have long believed, it is sometimes in the bleakest void that God is nearest.  Too often, I believe, we give up when the silence comes, when in reality, if we could hold on a little longer we would enjoy the benefits and the blessings of discovering how God strengthens us during those times.  To cut short a time of silence might cause us to miss something very important that we might not otherwise learn.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t learn much from the blessed times of life, and I suspect that is true for most of us.  I wish I could learn from the blessed times, but I learn far more from the silent, difficult times.

We have, in too many ways, I think, a shallow faith in this country, and maybe in most of Western civilization.  It is a faith that tells us we must always live in blessing rather than silence, happiness rather than sadness, and assurance rather than doubt.  A lot of people live a good deal of life in the difficulties, and if we project a message that people who are in the silence and doubt are somehow deficient in their faith, they will become outcasts and exiles to the church, and many of them have become just that.

When I struggle through such moments, I like to read the psalms.  I like the psalms because they confront us with the full range of the human experience.  They are full not only of joy and blessing, but of anger, disappointment, and hurt.  The 23rd psalm is, for example, amazing in its understanding and acceptance of the shadow of death.  The 22nd psalm, a portion of which serves as our text this morning, certainly relates some very difficult emotions.

The times of silence also teach us something very important about life and it is this – we are so consumed with ever-present search for happiness and meaning that we see the times of silent as something to avoid at almost any cost.  In our culture we perpetuate a myth that happiness should be our constant in life, but that is not the case.  The search for happiness, however, becomes ever-consuming for many, many people, and they believe that it’s somewhere “out there,” as though it were a commodity that could be found and then installed in life.  Happiness, however, is not “out there.”  Happiness is not something we will find anywhere outside of ourselves, because happiness is the byproduct of how we live, and what the gospel teaches us is that living according to what God asks of us will bring happiness to us.

I believe that the silence also helps us to come to terms with our grief.  When I use the word grief, I don’t mean only the grief that comes with the loss of a loved one or friend.  Grief can also come from a job loss, a health change, children leaving home, the loss of our youth, a friend moving, or many other experiences.  When we think of grief in this more expansive way we realize it is always lurking just below the surface of life.  In fact, I have discovered that you don’t have to scratch very deeply into the surface of anyone’s life before some form of grief comes pouring out.  The times of silence confront us with our grief and places that grief squarely before us, where we must deal with it.  Without the silence, we probably would not confront and deal with that grief.

The silence of God does not equal the absence of God. 

I used to read a good deal of writings by skeptics and unbelievers, and I did so to help me better understand that point of view and to help me to formulate responses.  I read books from the pop culture skeptics such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens and the more classic skeptics, such as Bertrand Russell.  I came to a point where I stopped, however, because I found their logic and arguments very uncompelling, and because they succumbed to some very elementary traps of bad theology and logic.  One writer, for example, was very found of saying that absence of evidence means evidence of absence (Victor Stenger, God:  The Failed Hypothesis). If there is an absence of evidence of God, he wrote, that must mean there is an absence of God.  There are so many problems with that statement that if he had been a student in my class I would have given him a D- at best.  To begin with, he wrote what was a self-fulfilling statement, and then stumbled over a definition of evidence.  What constitutes evidence, and who gets to decide what is objective evidence, in particular?  The truth is, we all see what we want to see, to some extent, no matter how objective and scientific we might claim to be.  I don’t need anyone’s purported scientific evidence to prove to me that God is there, even in the most silent of times.  I choose to believe that God is there, whether or not I have proof and whether or not I hear anything back from the silence.

I walk early in the morning six days a week.  At this point in life I need to work a bit harder to stay in shape and to stay healthy.  One of the things I do as I walk is to turn that into a prayer time.  On these cold mornings my prayer is often please help me to get warm Lord!  One of the constant comments in my prayers during those walks is that I don’t expect a big or obvious answer, or even an answer I can see, comprehend, or understand.  I have some different expectations of God at this point in my life, and I have learned that’s okay.  I do at times wish that I would hear more obviously from God.  I wish I would get the big answer written across the sky, but I don’t.  I don’t, however, worry about it, I don’t feel troubled by it, and I don’t puzzle over it.

Before the Incarnation, before the manger – the time of God’s great crashing into history – was this long, 400-year stretch of God’s stillness and silence.  And though skeptics will quickly pounce upon any hint of silence as evidence of God’s absence, I find that to be shallow and unfortunate, and I fear that some people fall into their erroneous equation that silence equals absence. 

I’m going to offer you what will sound like a strange analogy, but hang in there with me.  I have become very curious about the fascination our culture has with zombies.  The Walking Dead has been a popular TV show for a number of seasons, there are other TV shows and movies, and there are zombie walks in Louisville.  What accounts for their popularity?  Is it a fascination with that genre of entertainment?  I tend to think it is this, and maybe you’ll think I’m weird for coming up with this example, but it’s just the way my brain works – I think it reflects that many people feel like a member of the walking dead.  They don’t feel anything.  They believe there is little life in them.  They feel like spiritual zombies, so they are drawn to that which reflects their feelings.  If that is true, and I believe that it is, it becomes even more important to tell people that silence does not mean that God is absent.

Psalm 22:4 says, in you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.  I believe that verse is very descriptive of our culture, as a number of the millennials can make that same affirmation.  They can affirm that their ancestors – my generation and others – put their trust in God and believed in deliverance, but they are not sure that they can place their trust in God, and much of the reason why is because they mistake silence with absence.

Let us proclaim that God is always there.  Let us proclaim that the silence is not God’s absence but a time for us to learn important spiritual truths.  Let us proclaim that God is with us always, that God is always working on our behalf, and that God will see us through every challenge and difficulty.  

Always.  Always.  Always!

Monday, November 13, 2017

November 12, 2017 The Journey to Advent: Why Chaos Never Wins

Last week I began a series of messages titled The Journey to Advent.  To explain a bit more about what this series is intended to do, it is this – as I mentioned last week, my idea is based on the Lessons and Carols service that we observe on Christmas Eve.  That service traces the length and breadth of Biblical history to show why the Incarnation was needed.  In this series, I hope to do the same, to demonstrate why advent and the manger was needed.  It lays the foundation for Advent, so to speak.

Last week we began our series with the story of Jacob wrestling through the night with God.  This week we will continue a bit along the same theme of wrestling, but today we will center on our culture’s wrestling with the chaos that seems to be so much a part of our lives; the chaos of violence, hatred, and uncertainty.  Sunday’s horrific shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas once again brings into sharp focus the terrible disease of chaos and violence that is now so epidemic in our culture.  What in the world is going on? we often ask each other, and ourselves.

This morning’s message is Why Chaos Never Wins.  I have two Scripture texts for this message, but originally had just one, which was a single verse from the book of Judges.  I thought the starkness of that verse really set the tone for one of the reasons why Advent was so needed, as it summed up a very chaotic period not only in the history of God’s people, but seems to speak for quite a bit of human history.  As the last verse of that book, it is a rather dreary and depressing summation of the state of things.  Upon reflection, however, it just seemed so depressingly negative to talk only about the difficult state of the world at that time and today.  I am not a negative person.  I believe in hope and optimism, so I can’t offer only bad news and negativity without the balance of hope.  After all, isn’t hope what we need?  Who needs more bad news and negativity?  The second, and longer Scripture text, then, is from the book of Revelation, a beautiful passage, one of my favorites and one that I often use at funerals.  I love the passage, and use it at funerals because it offers a great message of hope.  It is a powerful reminder of the thread of God’s work that weaves its way throughout history, making its way to the manger and the Incarnation and on through to the fulfillment of God’s bringing a new heaven and new earth, as spoken of in the book of Revelation.

So, this morning, I want to survey the past and current state of our world, which is a rather depressing historical state of affairs.  The verse from the book of Judges reminds us that chaos is nothing new, as it records a time when the social fabric was frayed and unraveling, and the overwhelming amount of chaos is plainly seen.  Now we see a great deal of chaos happening in parts of our world – through much of the Middle East, parts of Africa, portions of Latin and South America, and in segments of our own society as well.  But we will not wallow only in that portion of the message, as I will then offer a message of hope and good news as well.  Follow along, please, as I read the first of our Scripture texts for the morning.

Judges 21:25 –

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

Very often, that verse from Judges is one that is used as a basis for an oh woe is us kind of message.  I think you know how those kinds of sermons go – the world is in terrible shape.  When we were younger things were right, people lived right, and now we have thrown it all to the wind and we’re quickly going down the drain.  Basically, they are sermons that could be written by just putting together a bunch of sad, depressing Facebook posts.  Those types of messages overlook a few facts.  First of all, as we all should know – if we do not already know – that the good old days were not always that great.  We have selective memories when it comes to the past, and we too often idealize the past.  Every point in history has had its share of struggles and difficulties, and much of history has had incredibly difficult struggles.  That is not to minimize the troubles our world currently faces, certainly, but it is important to remember that we are so much better off than most people throughout the course of human history.  What is troubling, however, is that the consequences of our present chaos are greater than at any other point in history.  We are capable of destroying our world, and not just through a cataclysmic event brought about through weaponry, but through a much slower, but just as inevitable process, such as environmental degradation.

I want to trace the roots of our chaos to three things, and then speak to why that chaos will not win.

1.  Disillusionment.

I am not an alarmist, but I do believe there are alarm bells all around us, and one of the alarm bells is the amount of disillusionment that seems to overwhelm our society at the present time.  I am a member of the Baby Boomer generation, and one of the characteristics of our generation has been that of hope and optimism, especially in the 60s.  That hope and optimism became imperiled, first with the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.; was further weakened in our social struggles over the Vietnam War, Watergate, a stagnating economy, and other problems; which lead to the great sense of hope and optimism dissolving, and bringing many people to turn inward to their own lives.  In the following years, we have passed the growing pessimism on to new generations, and they have seen it deepen.  In the 80s, that disillusionment grew deeper when we witnessed scandal after scandal among televangelists, and then the disillusionment increased even more as we learned of the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.  Then, as we progressed into the 90s, our politics became ever more divisive, bringing us to the point where the divisions are now so deep that there is a growing inertia related to our ability to solve our larger problems.  I think we can say that all of our institutions have created a crisis of confidence within us.  It becomes tempting, then, to want to escape.  And what better way to escape than to go sit in a movie theater and forget the world for two hours.  But that reminds us of the overwhelming amount of harassment that has come to light.  All of this has led to what I sometimes call the Great Turning Inward, as many people have now turned further into their own lives in reaction to their disillusionment.  That disillusionment can then turn to –

2.  Hopelessness.

When disillusionment reaches a certain point hopelessness then sets in.  I fear that we have many, many people who are now at this point.  Many people have become so disillusioned that they believe the world will never get better, that things will never change, and they give up hope.  I have witnessed many people over the years who sink so deeply into disillusionment that they make their way into hopelessness.

When people arrive at the point of hopelessness, chaos increases, because too many people give up on seeking to make a difference in the lives of others.  The disillusionment and hopelessness then leads to what we now see in increasing amounts, and that is –

3.  Rage

We often talk about the amount of anger that is swirling around our culture, and there is a lot of anger.  It is not anger, however, that concerns me as much as the amount of rage that is present.  Anger and rage are different.  Anger can be good and even healthy at times.  We sometimes speak of righteous anger and righteous indignation.  Those are the kinds of anger that propel us into action, seeking to change the ills of society.  It is this kind of anger that we see all throughout the Scriptures.  In the Old Testament we read of the prophets, who, at times, expressed great anger at the injustices they witnessed.  The classic example, to me, is that of the prophet Nathan confronting David.  David, as we all know, had become involved with Bathsheba, and in order to be able to marry her he arranged to have her husband, Uriah, killed in battle.  There was, in this tragic story, much for Nathan to be angry about.

(1 The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor.
The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle,
but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die!
He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.
I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.
Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.
10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight.
12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”
13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”  II Samuel 12:1-13a)

In the New Testament, the classic example of righteous anger is Jesus cleansing the Temple (12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” Matthew 21:12-13).

In Ephesians 4:26 Paul reminds us in your anger do not sin.  Paul understood that there is a place for anger, but it should be tempered in a way that does not make situations worse.  There are many things in this world that ought to make us angry, such as injustice, violence, abuse, and the silence that allowed it to go unchecked.

I understand that I have painted a grim picture this morning, but as I said at the beginning, that is not where I want to leave us, so follow along as I read our second Scripture text for today –

Revelation 21:1-7 –

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.
Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

1.  Thought.

I very deliberately included the words thought and prayers this morning.  I have followed with interest, and some bewilderment, as the phrase – thoughts and prayers – has become somewhat of a flashpoint in recent months, as some people push back against the idea of thoughts and prayers in favor of action.  Now, here is what I think – I don’t think that to offer thoughts and prayers carries with it the automatic implication that nothing else is offered.  To offer our thoughts and prayers does not mean nothing else is being done or will be done.  That idea is indicative of the way in which we now turn everything into an either/or proposition.  Why would anyone think that offering thoughts and prayers automatically means nothing else is going to be done?  When someone replies to an offer of thoughts and prayers by saying something to the effect of thoughts and prayers aren’t enough; we need action, seems rather misguided and silly to me.  I understand that some of those who are responsible for making policy in our country use that phrase as a way of abdicating their responsibility, but for most people, offering thoughts and prayers is an instinctual reaction to demonstrate care and concern and to also demonstrate a sense of unity.  I can promise you that I always welcome the thoughts and prayers of others.  Please, offer all of the thoughts and prayers you want for me; I will happily receive them!

To counter chaos, we begin with the way in which we think, as Paul writes in Romans 12:2 that we should not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.  To renew our minds means we will not allow our thinking patterns to be shaped by disillusionment and hopelessness.  We will think about the care of others, we will think about them in their time of need and in their time of trial.  We will think about those who are hurting, those who are lonely, and those who are oppressed.  We will think, and we will pray.

2.  Prayer.

Obviously, prayer is not a magic formula.  I have, at times, seen people post messages that God is good because they have a new car.  Well, good for them for being able to drive a shiny, new car, but God is not good because someone has a new car, and prayer will not magically deliver a new car to your driveway.  God is good because, simply put, God is good.  It is God’s nature to be good, and God is good regardless of our circumstances or the condition of the world. 

I am absolutely sure that the people in First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas were praying as hard as they could when that gunman entered into that church, but sadly, not all of them survived?   Does that mean prayer does not work or that God is not good?  Absolutely not!  Free will means that there are times when innocent people will be victimized by the free will decisions of some people, but in spite of such tragedy prayer does matter, it does work, and God is good.

There is, I think, a lot of mystery about prayer, but I am convinced that one thing prayer should do is that it should open us up to the will of God, which should then lead us to –

3.  Action.

A friend of mine recently said that he is often asked about hope?  How in such a bad time as this can a person have hope?  That is a very good question, and one that many people do ask themselves these days.  He went on to say that he now thinks there is a better question, and that is what is right?  Prayer must lead us to action, to doing what is right.  Whatever we affirm about God and his goodness in our prayers is what we should emulate in our own lives.  If we pray for God to bring peace and justice, we ought to be working for peace and justice.  If we pray that God would reach people, we ought to be reaching out to those people.  It’s why our congregation – and other congregations – do what we do.  It’s why we go to the Diersen Center, the Serenity Center, and God’s Kitchen; it’s why we have Arriba Ninos; it’s why we have Sunday School; it’s why we have worship, and all the other things that we put our time and resources into.

The book of James reminds us that faith requires action, as James writes 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God.  Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.  20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.  25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead (James 2:14-26).

The writer of Judges wrote at a time of chaos; John wrote of his vision in Revelation at a time of chaos.  There is always chaos taking place.  Always.  But chaos does not – and cannot – win.  Chaos never wins.  It’s not that there is peace, and order, and faith, and hope, and love in the midst of chaos; there is chaos in the midst of goodness, and beauty, and order, and holiness.  Chaos does, and will continue, to win some battles and skirmishes, but it will not triumph!  I don’t say that as a pipe dream or in false hope, but in the promise of God.

Tanya has an interesting way of approaching her reading, especially when she reads fiction.  I have witnessed her, many times in bookstore, opening a book and reading the last page.  When I read fiction, I am completely different, as I will cover the words on the last page and only uncover them as needed to read each sentence.  I don’t want to read the end until I arrive at the very last word.  Tanya, however, does not want to read a book that does not end well.  In one sense, her approach is what we can do, especially when it comes to understanding the chaos does not win.  I can confidently proclaim that chaos will not win because I have read the end of the book.  The passage from Revelation that serves as one of our texts today reminds us that God is not only the author of the universe but the finisher as well.  Chaos will not determine how and when the world ends; God will.  God declares himself the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega.  Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet – the beginning and the end.

Do you believe that?  Do you believe that?  I do.  Chaos will not win – faith, hope, and love are the ultimate victors!