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Active loving, serving life

by davesandel on January 4th, 2021

Monday, January 4, 2021                   (today’s lectionary)

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

The Eleventh Day of Christmas

Active loving, serving life

Beloved we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. We remain in him, and the way we know is from the Spirit whom he gave us. We belong to God.

As the Revolutionary War began, Elizabeth Bayley was born into a wealthy family in New York City. After she married, her equally wealthy Episcopalian husband William Seton died in Italy in 1809.  Mrs. Seton was twenty-nine years old, had five children, and found herself quickly in need. Italian Catholics provided help, and she became a Catholic herself.

Back in the US and full of God’s energy amid many difficulties and much anti-Catholic persecution, Elizabeth founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s (to be followed 127 years later by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity). After raising her five children, establishing schools, orphanages and hospitals along with managing her religious order, Mother Seton became the first citizen born in the United States to be named a saint.

At Grace in Austin yesterday, Pastor Matt Cassidy talked about Elijah. Like Elizabeth at times, like me at times, like all of us (“textbook!” Matt called it), Elijah ministered himself into the ground, then pushed all his friends away and complained that he was lonely. “I am the only one left!”

The Lord said to me, “You are my son. This day I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give.”

So God ministered to Elijah’s body and soul. Eat, drink and sleep, Elijah. Take a nap! Then get a little exercise, walk forty days to Mt. Sinai. On the famous mountain, while protecting Elijah in a cave, God sent hurricane winds, earthquake explosions and fierce fire. God sent them, yes, but he wasn’t IN them. At last a cool breeze sprang up, soft and gentle, whispering, nearly still. There it is … hear Him, see Her, taste Him, smell Her … feel God in that breeze? Listen in your spirit. Come out of the cave and sit in the sun. Listen to the still, small voice and be loved.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” And that exhausted Elijah guy said it again:  “I am the only one left.” Was his burnout complete? Was he extinguished?

But God said, “Well, no … you’re not.” Then he said, “I will bring you a friend,”and God guided Elijah to farm boy Elisha, who would soon take on the prophet’s mantle.  Not long after Elijah left the earth in a whirling fiery chariot, and this time, God WAS in the fire.

Serve the Lord with fear and trembling, then rejoice before him.

As we begin the year of 2021, it’s not just time to seize the DAY, it’s time to seize the YEAR. Relying on God’s confidence and hope, we can do just that. Of course we’ll encounter burn out if we do the work he calls us to. But we will be lifted up again when our courageous obedience turns us back to God to pray, eat, drink, sleep, exercise and pray some more. When I can’t sleep in the middle of the night, take the time to pray, right?

Matt reminded us that dead fish float easily downstream, and it’s the strong fired-up salmon who push their way upstream. Eat fewer donuts and more fruit. Say yes far more than no. We hear the most about the cost of covid to our bodies, but what about our souls? Nephesh, the Hebrew word for “soul,” calls us to be living, breathing, conscious beings sensitive to the nephesh around us, offering ourselves to each other, being God-with-skin-on here and now. So how do I respond to others? What do I think and feel, choose, decide and do?

The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light. On those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death, light has arisen. From that time on Jesus began to preach say, “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

Can I become forgetful of myself, watch and listen for the still, small voice of God in all the nephesh around me? It’s what I was made to do, so it’s only then that I find joy.

That’s the ticket. 2021 is here. Walk right in.

(1 John 3, Psalm 2, Matthew 4)

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