Dear Friends in Christ,
I stumbled upon something fun this week in my preparations for the Sunday service and wanted to share it with you. Augsburg Fortress, the publishing house of the ELCA, publishes a book called "Sundays and Seasons" which is a companion guide to aid in the planning of weekly worship. Not only does it provide the weekly readings, hymn and music suggestions, prayers, color schemes and acclamations, but it also gives you ideas to help you focus on the theme of the day. It is an indispensable tool. This week there was a fun reference to a very popular musical and film that I wanted to share with you. I found it very insightful and fits well with popular culture because many a favorite reality show is having a season finale this week.
God is not some ruthless heavenly spectator judging us as on reality television, relishing our failures, wishing to exchange us for a better or more attractive person, no curmudgeonly "Daddy Warbucks" in the sky. Rather, God comes to love us in Jesus, singularly living and accepting, seeking our trust, promising to be ever-present with us in the Holy Spirit. This Holy Advocate moves us even when we don't recognize its power, even when it seems "an unknown God" (Acts 17:23). Though we might battle an elemental loneliness, we have not been abandoned
The Gospel for this week talks about how Jesus does not leave us orphaned and he reminds us that the Holy Spirit dwells within us and therefore He is with us forever. The musical Annie is named for its central character, an orphan. Her story often contains caricatures, but it may be helpful for contrasting God's unconditional love with human brokenness as evidenced in troubled parents who cannot care for their children or demonstrating a kind of conditional love as orphans grow older and worry they are not "cute" enough for adoption. For Christians, tomorrow ("I love ya, tomorrow") holds hope for us as eschatological (concerned with the ultimate destiny) people, but we live through the "hard knock" of the present with the help of the Spirit.