Tag Archives: Carolyn Roth Ministry

Advent Reflection from a Clergy

As I write this, I am mindful that we begin the season of Advent this Sunday, December 3rd.  I don’t think I fully understood the significance of this liturgical season until one Advent Sunday, some 23 years ago.  It was a gray, cold, bone chilling morning in Chicago, but I was warmed by the beauty of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church with its Gothic architecture, flawless stone carvings, candles casting light into dark corners with dancing flames, while the Skinner organ accompanying the Men & Boys Choir, led the congregation in a mournful yet robust singing of “Come, oh Come Emmanuel.”   I was the Celebrant that morning, and processed down the aisle behind the Thurifer, Crucifer, Torch Bearers, twenty or so choir members, and several acolytes.  I was fully vested in several layers of robes, complete with a magnificent purple chasuble, and great with child, my being seven months pregnant.  The historical events of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, recounted during Advent, from the Annunciation to the waiting for the birth of her child, connected me to Mary in a way that I had not experienced before.

Following the service, I was approached by a new comer, who tearfully told me that she was Roman Catholic, and that she began weeping when she saw me coming down the aisle, a pregnant priest in a chasuble  She explained that she had only seen male priests leading worship, and that she had been waiting for half a century to see a female priest at the altar, and a pregnant one was beyond her imagination.  We talked as Mothers, about that experience of being ‘great with child”, knowing that something mysterious and wonderful was growing within us, and waiting patiently and hopefully to see the face of our child.  We both understood that Advent and pregnancy are seasons when we practice waiting, when we are invited to savor our present state of being, when trust, patience, hope, fears, longings, and anticipation are emotions as well as experiences that teach and refine us both in Advent and in pregnancy.

The root of the word savor comes from the Latin word saporem which means to taste and is also the root of sapient which is the word for wisdom. I have discovered, that when I give myself over to the experience of savoring, wisdom emerges. Savoring calls for a kind of surrender, of letting go of my usual way of being; savoring calls me to taste slowness: I can’t savor quickly.  Savoring calls me to taste essentials: I can’t savor everything at once.  Savoring calls me to taste mindfulness: I can’t savor without being fully present.  Savoring is a practice of enjoying the waiting.

Waiting has never been easy; it can be a heavy burden, or boring, or anxiety producing, and our culture has little respect for the value of waiting, as we have come to expect fast food, Amazon prime, instant downloads, snapchat and text messages.  We are conditioned to want immediate action, responses, and results.  The liturgical season of Advent is a counter-cultural opportunity to practice waiting, preparing, savoring, and hopeful anticipation.  I often wonder, is there value in honoring Advent, as stores are stuffed with Christmas items prior to Halloween, Christmas tunes tinkle over the radio on Black Friday, and the bell ringers at the red Salvation Army kettles wish me a “Merry Christmas!”  I turn into a Grinch and say, “Advent Blessings.”

In spite of feeling like a salmon swimming upstream in the cultural river of consumerism, self-gratification, and the pattern of avoiding the dark parts of life with copious colored lights and tinsel glittering 24/7, I think there is a missed opportunity for spiritual growth, when we do not fully immerse ourselves in Advent.  To prepare and wait, stretches us and makes the awaited celebration of the birth of the Christ child, even more joyful.  Without fasting, feasting may become only gluttony.  As we fall prey to never-ending celebrations, we lose some of the thrill and jubilation that comes with the ending of a long wait, an anticipated arrival, a longed-for promise of our Savior.  Our human experience is made up of sorrow & Joy, fasting & feasting, lament & praise, and to skip the one, diminishes the richness of other.

I encourage you this Advent season, as I do each year, to intentionally savor these four weeks of preparing and waiting, by choosing some spiritual practices that will take you deeper into the darkness of the night, away from artificial light, so you might see the gift of the star light and moon shadow.  The long-suffering waiting of the birth of Jesus, like any baby, serves to heighten the wonder, amazement, and joyful celebration when the waiting is over, the Savior has arrived, and we can see the glory of God, in the face of the promised one.  Advent Blessings,  SEB+
The Rev. Susan E. Bentley
St. James Episcopal Church
4515 Delray St. NW
Roanoke, Virginia 24012
(540) 366-4157
SEB@rev.net

 

Advent Visit

During her pregnancy, Mary visited Elizabeth:

Gospel Reading –  Luke 1:39-56 NIV: At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Reflection: I’ve never been pregnant but many of you who are reading this have been. Can you imagine the mother of God visiting you during your pregnancy?

Layperson View of Advent

As a child growing up in Texas, I attended a non-liturgical church. My family and I were there every time the church doors were open. I became well versed in the Bible and was baptized. Looking back at my childhood church, it reminds me of   Texas’ seasons – not much changed throughout the year. But, then I began dating my future husband. He belonged to a liturgical church. What a difference! Banners, vestments, and altar cloths kept changing throughout the year. I experienced church seasons for the first time.

God had a great plan for the world before he laid its foundation. God determined to give his only Son to be the savior of the world. The first season in the church year is Advent, a season of waiting. In Advent, we look to the past and long for the future; it is a season of hope in the season of winter.

Like the Jewish people before us who waited for hundreds of years for Messiah to come, we look back to Christ’s first coming and forward to his second coming. By faith we can say with Simeon at Messiah’s first visit to the Temple, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in t he presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32 ESV).

By faith we believe with Paul about Christ’s second advent, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 ESV).

In nature, seasons occur in the same sequence year-after-year, i.e., winter, spring, summer, and fall. Although these four seasons have the same names, each year they are different. Not every fall is spectacularly gorgeous. Some winters are warm, while some springs are chilly. Thus, it is with the church calendar. The same cycle of seasons occurs year-after-year beginning the Advent; yet, the church seasons seem to change when, it is we who change.

Shortly after Dale and I got married, I constructed an Advent wreath for our new home and invited my mother for dinner. I was so proud of my home, my creativity, and my cooking. Almost immediately after my mother arrived, she pulled me aside and said, “Ann, that wreath is beautiful, but wouldn’t it be better to have red and green candles rather than that blue and pink?”

 Written by Ann Wolfer, St. John Lutheran Church, Roanoke, Virginia.

Advent Surprise???

In the Old Testament, God fore-told the advent of his son. Although many prophets wrote about events that mankind could watch for which would herald the birth and life of Messiah, Isaiah wrote more about Messiah than any other prophet. Isaiah prophesied during the latter half of the eighth century before the birth of Jesus, yet, his predictions about Jesus were amazingly accurate. Below are eight of Isaiah’s prophecies and how Jesus full-filled them in his life. Mathematically, the odds of an individual fulfilling eight prophecies are one in 100 trillion.

                Isaiah wrote that the coming Messiah would be born of a young virgin woman and Jesus would be called Immanuel which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9-6). Jesus was born from a virgin, Mary of Nazareth (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-35). In ancient times, names had meaning. Calling a child Immanuel identified that in the child, God was with mankind (Luke 1:35).

                Both Isaiah and Malachi wrote that before Jesus began his public ministry, a messenger would announce its start (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1). Often, in the Bible a messenger was an angel; but, in this instance the messenger was John the Baptist. Two gospel writers, Matthew and John, recorded that prior to the start of Jesus’ public ministry, John the Baptist preached and baptized in the wilderness of Judea and on the east side of the Jordan River (Matthew 3:1-3; John 1:23-28).

                Isaiah prophesizd that the Spirit of God would rest upon Jesus (Isaiah 11:2). This prophecy was full-filled when Jesus was baptized by John (Matthew 3:16-17). The Spirit of God descended in the form of a dove and landed on Jesus. A voice from heaven declared that Jesus was God’s son. Isaiah wrote that the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord was on his son (Isaiah 61:1). Jesus himself identified that he full-filled this Isaiah-prophecy when he read Isaiah’s writing in the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:21).

                Isaiah wrote that the coming Messiah’s ministry would honor Galilee and cause its people to see a great light (Isaiah 9:1-2). The province of Galilee was an outback region of the Roman Empire, where little happened of any note in the first century. Yet, Galilee was the region where Jesus spent most of his life. Likely, in the 21st century westernized individuals only know of first century Galilee because Jesus taught there. Thus, Isaiah’s prophecy was accurate.

                According to Isaiah, the Messiah’s ministry would include miracles, such as giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, a fluent, clear tongue to individuals who stammered or were mute, and the lame individual would leap like a deer (Isaiah 32:3-4; Isaiah 35:5-6). Jesus cured the blind, deaf, dumb/mute, and the lame (Matthew 9:2-8; Matthew 9:28-32).

The eighth prophecy that Isaiah gave about the Messiah was that when he spoke listeners would hear, but, not understand what the Messiah said (Isaiah 6:9-10). Although Jesus didn’t begin his ministry speaking in parables (see Matthew chapters 5–7), after a time he taught almost exclusively in parables to full-fill prophecy, i.e., hard-hearted listeners wouldn’t understand him (Matthew 13:14-15; John 12:38-41).

                Reflection: Should Messiah’s birth and behaviors have been a surprise to the Jews?

Advent: Symbol of Christ’s Second Coming

Most of us are so busy thinking about preparation for Jesus’ first coming on December 25, that we forget that Advent symbolized his second and well as first coming. If you haven’t already the scripture in the preceding blog, do so before you begin this entry.

John the Baptist, a prophet, is credited with heralding the coming of Jesus, the Christ. Yet, John’s first appearance in the New Testament was a parable, not about Jesus’ first coming as a babe in a manger, but, about Jesus’ second coming in glory. Overall, John identified that Jesus was the Messiah and that he would come first as a savior. At the end of the ages, Jesus would come as judge to separate the righteous from the unrighteous. According to Matthew, this is what John said: ““His winnowing fan (shovel, fork) is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear out and clean His threshing floor and gather and store His wheat in His barn, but the chaff He will burn up with fire that cannot be put out” (Matthew 3:12 AMP).

In this parable, John used the familiar agricultural metaphor of separating good grains of wheat from useless chaff. John taught that when Jesus comes the second time, he will separate Godly believers from those with a superficial, or no, belief in God. In ancient Judea, wheat kernels (seed, grain) were separated from chaff (stalks, straw) on threshing floors. Generally, chaff was unusable except as fodder for livestock, if even for that.

John preached personal acknowledgement and repentance of sins followed by water baptism as an outward sign of repentance. Symbolically, the baptismal water washed sins away. But, John didn’t stop with a message of repentance and baptism. John exhorted those baptized to change their behavior and bear fruit consistence with repentance (Luke 3:8-14). When those baptized asked him what they should do, John’s answer wasn’t that they quit their jobs and dedicate their lives to prayer and evangelism. Rather, in their lives and current jobs they should act honorably, treat others fairly, and share with the less fortunate. For example, John told men with two tunics to give one to the man who had none. Soldiers should stop accusing people falsely and extorting money from them.

John spoke his parable on winnowing wheat soon after starting his ministry. Yet, John’s parable demonstrated a sure knowledge of different outcomes for the righteous versus the unrighteous. Both the wheat and the chaff had an eternal destination. One was in God’s storehouse and the other in unquenchable fire.

Reflection: Jesus isn’t going to accept any dirt, chaff, or straw in his barn. Where does that leave you?

 

(Meditation 8) Liturgy on Jesus’ Second Coming

“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:35-37 NIV).

Frequently, Psalm 108 is read in church services during the first two weeks in Advent. This psalm has a future orientation. Psalm 108 shows the power that Father God will give to Jesus at the second coming of Jesus. This psalm is often quoted or referenced in the New Testament. Here are its words:

Psalm 110 NIV: The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!” Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy splendor, your young men will come to you like dew from the morning’s womb. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. He will drink from a brook along the way, and so he will lift his head high.

Scripture, First Two Sundays of Advent 

Scripture readings for Advent are divided into two sections. On the first and second Sundays, Bible readings focus on the second coming of Jesus. The third and fourth Sundays center on the coming of the Christ child at Christmastide. Below are Scriptures read in some churches during the first and second Sundays of Advent:

Old Testament Reading – Malachi 3:1-4 NIV: “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.

Epistle Reading – 1 Thessalonians 3: 9-13 NIV: How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day, we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

Gospel Reading – Luke 21:25-36 NIV: There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. That summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.

Copyright 12/5/2020: Carolyn Adams Roth

Getting Started on Advent

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV)

November 29, 2020: The first day of Advent is the first day of a new Liturgical (or church) calendar and begins a four week period of preparation in anticipation of the nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The Advent Season is all about reflecting on how we can prepare our hearts and homes for Christ’s birth in the world as it is today.

This year Advent Sundays are November 29, December 6, December 13 and December 20. Advent ends with the start of the Christmas Season which begin December 25.

(Meditation 1) Getting Started on Church Seasons

Prayer:1 Loving God, I am reminded that there is a time for everything in life. Help me to look at each day this church year as a new opportunity to be your servant. Allow me to see you in the lives of those who surround me. Open my eyes to look at them as you do, with love and compassion, so I can give myself in love to them.

Blessed Jesus, as this church year progresses, I want you to be my companion. Teach me to overcome my sinful thoughts, my pride, and my selfishness. Open my heart to your forgiveness and strength. Lift me when I fall. Carry me when I am weak.

Holy Spirit, guide me into the way that leads to life. Make me sensitive to your promptings—eager for the presence and power of sanctifying grace. Allow me to be your ambassador wherever I go this church year. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen

Posted 11/16/2020, Carolyn Adams Roth

Superstition! Are You?

The Word of the Lord: Genesis 30.14-17: Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?” “Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.”

So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You must sleep with me,” she said. “I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he slept with her that night.

God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob another son.

Meditation: The patriarch Jacob married two sisters: Leah and Rachel. Leah birthed four sons, then stopped conceiving children. Rachel had no children even though Jacob spent his nights with her.

When Leah’s son brought mandrakes to his mother, Rachel proposed a trade to Leah: Jacob will spend the night with Leah in return for Leah giving Rachel the mandrakes. Leah agreed and gave the mandrakes to Rachel. Leah informed Jacob that per the agreement with Rachel, Jacob would spend the night with her.

Jacob appeared powerless in this Bible story. No questions or push-back from Jacob were recorded in the Bible. His wives dictated Jacob’s actions, at least in this episode.

Leah conceived another child as a result of Jacob spending the night with her. Acquiring and somehow using mandrakes didn’t result in Rachel conceiving.

The long mandrake root is shaped like two legs descending from a trunk. The root is most often associated with fertility and conception.

The story of Jacob’s wives and  mandrakes showed that both Leah and Rachel were superstitious. Before we are too critical of these two women, think about individuals today who read their horoscope daily. Believing that mandrakes promoted conception and that a horoscope foretells type of day are   attempts to circumvent God’s will. Both actions reflect a dependence on something other than the God of the universe.

Christians don’t believe in superstition or search for omens in the sky as with a horoscope. Christians have the Holy Spirit to instruct and guide them. God’s Word itself, the Bible, is our source of spiritual insight.

Reflection: Have you ever used superstitious behavior to achieve something you wanted? Why don’t you turn your problems over to God and allow him to handle them?

Copyright: 9/28/2020: Carolyn A. Roth

Live Long and Prosper

The Word of the Lord

Genesis 14.13:  Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshkol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram.

Genesis 18.1: The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre.

Meditation

Abram traveled through Canaan and settled at the great trees of Mamre near Hebron. The great trees at Mamre were most likely Palestinian oak trees. The oak trees would have provided shade for Abram’s tents and individuals in them.

In the Bible, oaks were associated with power, strength, and longevity in the sense of a long life. The great oaks of Mamre symbolized Abram’s long life. A Palestinian oak near Hebron, named Abraham’s Oak, is thought to be over 850 years old.

God promised that he will be with his servants through life, even into their old age and gray hairs (Psalms 71.18). Christians don’t have to worry about what they will do in retirement. They can use Abram as their role model. God called Abram to a new adventure when Abram was 75 years-of-age.

If you are retired, think about adventures you have  experienced since retirement. What are some of them? How did they enhance your life? Do you anticipate new adventures in your life going forward? Adventures can include ministering in your home church and community as well as travel.

The religious order that I belong to includes women in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. At monthly meetings, women report the numerous activities they are involved in. Each is totally excited by what she contributes to the church as well as to her community. An Israelite proverb is that the fear of the Lord adds length to life; but, the years of the wicked are cut short (Proverbs 10.27).

Reflection: Is having a long life important to you? How do you think a long life is related to fear of the Lord? Is a long life span more important that what you do with that life span?

Copyright 6/19/2020

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